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´╗┐Title: Rivers of Ice
Author: Ballantyne, R. M. (Robert Michael), 1825-1894
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Rivers of Ice" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



RIVERS OF ICE, BY R.M. BALLANTYNE.



CHAPTER ONE.

THE ROVER'S RETURN.

On a certain summer morning, about the middle of the present century, a
big bluff man, of seafaring aspect, found himself sauntering in a
certain street near London Bridge.  He was a man of above fifty, but
looked under forty in consequence of the healthful vigour of his frame,
the freshness of his saltwater face, and the blackness of his shaggy
hair.

Although his gait, pilot-cloth coat, and pocketed hands proclaimed him a
sailor, there were one or two contradictory points about him.  A huge
beard and moustache savoured more of the diggings than the deep, and a
brown wide-awake with a prodigiously broad brim suggested the backwoods.

Pausing at the head of one of those narrow lanes which--running down
between warehouses, filthy little rag and bone shops, and low
poverty-stricken dwellings--appear to terminate their career, not
unwillingly, in the Thames, the sailor gazed before him with nautical
earnestness for a few seconds, then glanced at the corner house for a
name; found no name; cast his eyes up to the strip of blue sky overhead,
as if for inspiration; obtained none; planted his legs wide apart as if
he had observed a squall coming, and expected the lane to lurch
heavily--wrinkled his eyebrows, and pursed his lips.

"Lost yer bearin's, capp'n?" exclaimed a shrill pert voice at his side.

The seaman looked down, and beheld a small boy with a head like a
disorderly door-mat, and garments to match.  He stood in what may be
styled an imitative attitude, with his hands thrust into his ragged
pockets, his little legs planted wide apart, his cap thrust well back on
his head, and his eyebrows wrinkled.  He also pursed his lips to such an
extent that they resembled a rosebud in a dirty bush.

"Yes, imp," replied the seaman--he meant to have said "impudence," but
stopped at the first syllable as being sufficiently appropriate--"yes,
imp, I _have_ lost my bearings, and I'll give you a copper if you'll
help me to find 'em."

"Wot sort o' copper?" demanded the urchin, "there's three sorts of 'em,
you know, in this 'ere kingdom--which appears to be a queendom at
present--there's a farding and a ha'penny and a penny.  I mention it,
capp'n," he added apologetically, "in case you don't know, for you look
as if you'd come from furrin parts."

The seaman's look of surprise melted into a broad grin of amusement
while this speech was being fluently delivered.  At its conclusion he
pulled out a penny and held it up.

"Well, it ain't much," said the small boy, "and I ain't used to hire
myself out so cheap.  However, as you seem to be raither poorly off, I
don't mind if I lend you a hand for that.  Only, please, don't mention
it among your friends, as it would p'raps lower their opinion of you,
d'you see?  Now then w'ot d'you want to know?"

To this the "capp'n," still smiling at the small boy's precocious
insolence, replied that he was in search of an old woman who dwelt in a
small court styled Grubb's Court, so he was told, which lay somewhere in
that salubrious neighbourhood, and asked if he, the imp, knew of such a
place.

"Know's of it?  I should think I does.  W'y, I lives there.  It's right
down at the foot o' this 'ere lane, an' a wery sweet 'ristocratik spot
it is--quite a perninsular, bein' land, leastwise mud, a'most surrounded
by water, the air bein' 'ighly condoosive to the 'ealth of rats,
likewise cats.  As to old women, there's raither a broad sprinklin' of
'em in the court, rangin' from the ages of seventy to a hundred an
twenty, more or less, an' you'll take some time to go over 'em all,
capp'n, if you don't know your old woman's name."

"Her name is Roby--," said the seaman.

"O, Roby? ah," returned the small boy, looking sedately at the ground,
"let me see--yes, that's the name of the old 'ooman, I think, wot 'angs
out in the cabin, right-'and stair, top floor, end of the passage, w'ere
most wisiters flattens their noses, by consekince of there bein' no
light, and a step close to the door which inwariably trips 'em up.  Most
wisiters to that old 'ooman begins their acquaintance with her by
knocking at her door with their noses instead of their knuckles.  We
calls her place the cabin, 'cause the windows is raither small, and
over'angs the river."

"Well then, my lad," said the seaman, "clap a stopper on your tongue, if
you can, and heave ahead."

"All right, capp'n," returned the small boy, "foller me, an' don't be
frightened.  Port your helm a bit here, there's a quicksand in the
middle o' the track--so, steady!"

Avoiding a large pool of mud with which the head of the lane was
garnished, and which might have been styled the bathing, not to say
wallowing, quarters of the Grubb's Court juveniles, the small boy led
the bluff seaman towards the river without further remark, diverging
only once from the straight road for a few seconds, for the purpose of
making a furious rush at a sleeping cat with a yell worthy of a Cherokee
savage, or a locomotive whistle; a slight pleasantry which had the
double effect of shooting the cat through space in glaring convulsions,
and filling the small boy's mind with the placidity which naturally
follows a great success.

The lane presented this peculiarity, that the warehouses on its left
side became more and more solid and vast and tall as they neared the
river, while the shops and dwellings on its right became poorer, meaner,
and more diminutive in the same direction, as if there were some
mysterious connection between them, which involved the adversity of the
one in exact proportion to the prosperity of the other.  Children and
cats appeared to be the chief day-population of the place, and these
disported themselves among the wheels of enormous waggons, and the legs
of elephantine horses with an impunity which could only have been the
result of life-long experience.

The seaman was evidently unaccustomed to such scenes, for more than once
during the short period of his progress down the lane, he uttered an
exclamation of alarm, and sprang to the rescue of those large babies
which are supposed to have grown sufficiently old to become nursing
mothers to smaller babies--acts which were viewed with a look of pity by
the small boy, and called from him the encouraging observations, "Keep
your mind easy, capp'n; _they're_ all right, bless you; the hosses knows
'em, and wouldn't 'urt 'em on no account."

"This is Grubb's Court," said the boy, turning sharply to the right and
passing through a low archway.

"Thank 'ee, lad," said the seaman, giving him a sixpence.

The small boy opened his eyes very wide indeed, exclaiming, "Hallo!  I
say, capp'n, wot's this?" at the same time, however, putting the coin in
his pocket with an air which plainly said, "Whether you've made a
mistake or not, you needn't expect to get it back again."

Evidently the seaman entertained no such expectations, for he turned
away and became absorbed in the scene around him.

It was not cheering.  Though the summer sun was high and powerful, it
failed to touch the broken pavement of Grubb's Court, or to dry up the
moisture which oozed from it and crept up the walls of the surrounding
houses.  Everything was very old, very rotten, very crooked, and very
dirty.  The doorways round the court were wide open--always open--in
some cases, because of there being no doors; in other cases, because the
tenements to which they led belonged to a variety of families, largely
composed of children who could not, even on tiptoe, reach or manipulate
door-handles.  Nursing mothers of two feet high were numerous,
staggering about with nurslings of a foot and a half long.  A few of the
nurslings, temporarily abandoned by the premature mothers, lay
sprawling--in some cases squalling--on the moist pavement, getting over
the ground like large snails, and leaving slimy tracks behind them.
Little boys, of the "City Arab" type, were sprinkled here and there, and
one or two old women sat on door-steps contemplating the scene, or
conversing with one or two younger women.  Some of the latter were busy
washing garments so dirty, that the dirty water of old Father Thames
seemed quite a suitable purifier.

"Gillie," cried one of the younger women referred to, wiping the
soap-suds from her red arms, "come here, you bad, naughty boy.  W'ere
'ave you bin?  I want you to mind baby."

"W'y, mother," cried the small boy--who answered to the name of
Gillie--"don't you see I'm engaged?  I'm a-showin' this 'ere sea-capp'n
the course he's got to steer for port.  He wants to make the cabin of
old mother Roby."

"W'y don't you do it quickly, then?" demanded Gillie's mother, "you bad,
naughty, wicked boy.  Beg your parding, sir," she added, to the seaman,
"the boy 'an't got no sense, besides bein' wicked and naughty--'e ain't
'ad no train', sir, that's w'ere it is, all along of my 'avin' too much
to do, an' a large family, sir, with no 'usband to speak of; right up
the stair, sir, to the top, and along the passage-door straight before
you at the hend of it.  Mind the step, sir, w'en you gits up.  Go up
with the gentleman, you bad, wicked, naughty boy, and show--"

The remainder of the sentence became confused in distance, as the boy
and the seaman climbed the stair; but a continuous murmuring sound, as
of a vocal torrent, conveyed the assurance that the mother of Gillie was
still holding forth.

"'Ere it is," said the young pilot, pausing at the top of the staircase,
near the entrance to a very dark passage.  "Keep 'er 'ead as she goes,
but I'd recommend you to shorten sail, mind your 'elm, an 'ave the
anchor ready to let go."

Having thus accommodated his language to the supposed intelligence of
the seaman, the elfin youth stood listening with intense eagerness and
expectation as the other went into the passage, and, by sundry kicks and
bumps against wooden walls, gave evidence that he found the channel
intricate.  Presently a terrible kick occurred.  This was the seaman's
toe against the step, of which he had been warned, but which he had
totally forgotten; then a softer, but much heavier blow, was heard,
accompanied by a savage growl--that was the seaman's nose and forehead
against old Mrs Roby's portal.

At this, Gillie's expectations were realised, and his joy consummated.
With mischievous glee sparkling in his eyes, he hastened down to the
Court to exhibit his sixpence to his mother, and to announce to all whom
it might concern, that "the sea-capp'n had run his jib-boom slap through
the old 'ooman's cabin-door."



CHAPTER TWO.

THE SEAMAN TAKES THE "CABIN" BY SURPRISE AND STORM.

Without having done precisely what Gillie had asserted of him, our
seaman had in truth made his way into the presence of the little old
woman who inhabited "the cabin," and stood there gazing round him as if
lost in wonder; and well he might be, for the woman and cabin, besides
being extremely old, were exceedingly curious, quaint, and small.

The former was wrinkled to such an extent, that you could not have found
a patch of smooth skin large enough for a pea to rest on.  Her teeth
were all gone, back and front, and her nose, which was straight and
well-formed, made almost successful attempts to meet a chin which had
once been dimpled, but was now turned up.  The mouth between them wore a
benignant and a slightly humorous expression; the eyes, which were
bright, black, and twinkling, seemed to have defied the ravages of time.
Her body was much bent as she sat in her chair, and a pair of crutches
leaning against the chimney-piece suggested the idea that it would not
be much straighter if she stood up.  She was wrapped in a large, warm
shawl, and wore a high cap, which fitted so close round her little
visage, that hair, if any, was undistinguishable.

The room in which she sat resembled the cabin of a ship in more respects
than one.  It was particularly low in the root so low that the seaman's
hair touched it as he stood there looking round him; and across this
roof ran a great beam, from which hung a variety of curious ornaments,
such as a Chinese lantern, a Turkish scimitar, a New Zealand club, an
Eastern shield, and the model of a full-rigged ship.  Elsewhere on the
walls were, an ornamented dagger, a worsted-work sampler, a framed sheet
of the flags of all nations, a sou'-wester cap and oiled coat, a
telescope, and a small staring portrait of a sea-captain in his
"go-to-meeting" clothes, which looked very much out of keeping with his
staring sunburnt face, and were a bad fit.  It might have been a good
likeness, and was certainly the work of one who might have raised
himself to the rank of a Royal Academician if he had possessed
sufficient talent and who might have painted well if he had understood
the principles of drawing and colour.

The windows of the apartment, of which there were two very small square
ones, looked out upon the river, and, to some extent overhung it, so
that a man of sanguine temperament might have enjoyed fishing from them,
if he could have been content to catch live rats and dead cats.  The
prospect from these windows was, however, the best of them, being a wide
reach of the noble river, crowded with its stately craft, and cut up by
its ever-bustling steamers.  But the most noteworthy part of this room,
or "cabin," was the space between the two windows immediately over the
chimney-piece, which the eccentric old woman had covered with a large,
and, in some cases, inappropriate assortment of objects, by way of
ornament, each article being cleaned and polished to the highest
possible condition of which it was susceptible.  A group of five
photographs of children--three girls and two boys, looking amazed--
formed the centrepiece of the design; around these were five other
photographs of three young ladies and two young gentlemen, looking
conscious, but pleased.  The spaces between these, and every available
space around them, were occupied by pot-lids of various sizes, old and
battered, but shining like little suns; small looking-glasses, also of
various sizes, some square and others round; little strings of beads;
heads of meerschaums that had been much used in former days;
pin-cushions, shell-baskets, one or two horse-shoes, and iron-heels of
boots; several flat irons belonging to doll's houses, with a couple of
dolls, much the worse for wear, mounting guard over them; besides a host
of other nick-nacks, for which it were impossible to find names or
imagine uses.  Everything--from the old woman's cap to the uncarpeted
floor, and the little grate in which a little fire was making feeble
efforts to warm a little tea-kettle with a defiant spout--was
scrupulously neat, and fresh, and clean, very much the reverse of what
one might have expected to find in connection with a poverty-stricken
population, a dirty lane, a filthy court, a rickety stair, and a dark
passage.  Possibly the cause might have been found in a large and
much-worn family Bible, which lay on a small table in company with a
pair of tortoiseshell spectacles, at the old woman's elbow.

On this scene the nautical man stood gazing, as we have said, with much
interest; but he was too polite to gaze long.

"Your servant, missis," he said with a somewhat clumsy bow.

"Good morning, sir," said the little old woman, returning the bow with
the air of one who had once seen better society than that of Grubb's
Court.

"Your name is Roby, I believe," continued the seaman, advancing, and
looking so large in comparison with the little room that he seemed
almost to fill it.

The little old woman admitted that that was her name.

"My name," said the seaman, "is Wopper, tho' I'm oftener called Skipper,
also Capp'n, by those who know me."

Mrs Roby pointed to a chair and begged Captain Wopper to sit down,
which he did after bestowing a somewhat pointed glance at the chair, as
if to make sure that it could bear him.

"You was a nuss once, I'm told," continued the seaman, looking steadily
at Mrs Roby as he sat down.

"I was," answered the old woman, glancing at the photographs over the
chimney-piece, "in the same family for many years."

"You'll excuse me, ma'am," continued the seaman, "if I appear something
inquisitive, I want to make sure that I've boarded the right craft d'ee
see--I mean, that you are the right 'ooman."

A look of surprise, not unmingled with humour, beamed from Mrs Roby's
twinkling black eyes as she gazed steadily in the seaman's face, but she
made no other acknowledgment of his speech than a slight inclination of
her head, which caused her tall cap to quiver.  Captain Wopper,
regarding this as a favourable sign, went on.

"You was once, ma'am, I'm told, before bein' a nuss in the family of
which you've made mention, a matron, or somethin' o' that sort, in a
foundlin' hospital--in your young days, ma'am?"

Again Mrs Roby admitted the charge, and demanded to know, "what then?"

"Ah, jus' so--that's what I'm comin' to," said Captain Wopper, drawing
his large hand over his beard.  "You was present in that hospital,
ma'am, was you not, one dark November morning, when a porter-cask was
left at the door by some person unknown, who cut his cable and cleared
off before the door was opened,--which cask, havin' on its head two X's,
and bein' labelled, `This side up, with care,' contained two healthy
little babby boys?"

Mrs Roby, becoming suddenly grave and interested, again said, "I was."

"Jus' so," continued the captain, "you seem to be the right
craft--'ooman, I mean--that I'm in search of.  These two boys, who were
supposed to be brothers, because of their each havin' a brown mole of
exactly the same size and shape on their left arms, just below their
elbows, were named `Stout,' after the thing in which they was headed up,
the one bein' christened James, the other Willum?"

"Yes, yes," replied the little old woman eagerly, "and a sweet lovely
pair they was when the head of that barrel was took off, lookin' out of
the straw in which they was packed like two little cheruphims, though
they did smell strong of the double X, and was a little elevated because
of the fumes that 'ung about the wood.  But how do you come to know all
this, sir, and why do you ask?"

"Excuse me, ma'am," replied the sailor with a smile, which curled up his
huge moustache expressively,--"you shall know presently, but I must make
quite sure that I'm aboard of--that is to say, that you _are_ the right
'ooman.  May I ask, ma'am, what became of these two cheruphims, as
you've very properly named 'em?"

"Certainly," answered Mrs Roby, "the elder boy--we considered him the
elder, because he was the first took out of the barrel--was a stoodious
lad, and clever.  He got into a railway company, I believe, and became a
rich man--married a lady, I'm told,--and changed his name to Stoutley,
so 'tis said, not thinkin' his right name suitable to his circumstances,
which, to say truth, it wasn't, because he was very thin.  I've heard it
said that his family was extravagant, and that he went to California to
seek his brother, and look after some property, and died there, but I'm
not rightly sure, for he was a close boy, and latterly I lost all
knowledge of him and his family."

"And the other cheruphim, Willum," said the sailor, "what of him?"

"Ah!" exclaimed Mrs Roby, a flush suffusing her wrinkled countenance,
while her black eyes twinkled more than usual, "he was a jewel, _he_
was.  They said in the hospital that he was a wild good-for-nothing boy,
but _I_ never thought him so.  He was always fond of me--very fond of
me, and I of him.  It is true he could never settle to anythink, and at
last ran away to sea, when about twelve year old; but he didn't remain
long at that either, for when he got to California, he left his ship,
and was not heard of for a long time after that.  I thought he was dead
or drowned, but at last I got a letter from him, enclosing money, an'
saying he had been up at the noo gold-diggings, an' had been lucky, dear
boy, and he wanted to share his luck with me, an would never, never,
forget me; but he didn't need to send me money to prove that.  He has
continued to send me a little every year since then;--ah! it's many,
many years now,--ay, ay, many years."

She sighed, and looked wistfully at the spark of fire in the grate that
was making ineffectual attempts to boil the little tea-kettle with the
defiant spout; "but why," she continued, looking up suddenly, "why do
you ask about him?"

"Because I knew him," replied Captain Wopper, searching for something
which appeared to be lost in the depths of one of his capacious pockets.
"Willum Stout was a chum of mine.  We worked together at the Californy
gold-mines for many a year as partners, and, when at last we'd made what
we thought enough, we gave it up an' came down to San Francisco
together, an' set up a hotel, under the name of the `Jolly Tars,' by
Stout and Company.  I was the Company, ma'am; an', for the matter o'
that I may say I was the Stout too, for both of us answered to the Stout
or the Company, accordin' as we was addressed, d'ee see?  When Company
thought he'd made enough money to entitle him to a holiday, he came
home, as you see; but before leavin', Willum said to him, `Company, my
lad, w'en you get home, you'll go and see that old 'oom of the name of
Roby, whom I've often told you about.  She lives in Lunun, somewheres
down by the river in a place called Grubb's Court.  She was very good to
me, that old 'oom was, when she was young, as I've told you before.  You
go an' give her my blessin'--Willum's blessin'--and this here bag and
that there letter.'  `Yes,' says I, `Willum, I'll do it, my boy, as soon
as ever I set futt on British soil.'  I did set futt on British soil
this morning, and there's the letter; also the bag; so, you see, old
lady, I've kep' my promise."

Captain Wopper concluded by placing a small but heavy canvas bag, and a
much-soiled letter, in Mrs Roby's lap.

To say that the little old woman seized the letter with eager delight,
would convey but a faint idea of her feelings as she opened it with
trembling hands, and read it with her bright black eyes.

She read it half aloud, mingled with commentary, as she proceeded, and
once or twice came to a pause over an illegible word, on which occasions
her visitor helped her to the word without looking at the letter.  This
circumstance struck her at last as somewhat singular, for she looked up
suddenly, and said, "You appear, sir, to be familiar with the contents
of my letter."

"That's true, ma'am," replied Captain Wopper, who had been regarding the
old woman with a benignant smile; "Willum read it to me before I left,
a-purpose to enable me to translate the ill-made pot-hooks and hangers,
because, d'ee see, we were more used to handlin' the pick and shovel out
there than the pen, an' Willum used to say he never was much of a dab at
a letter.  He never wrote you very long ones, ma'am, I believe?"

Mrs Roby looked at the fire pensively, and said, in a low voice, as if
to herself rather than her visitor, "No, they were not long--never very
long--but always kind and sweet to me--very sweet--ay, ay, it's a long,
long time now, a long time, since he came to me here and asked for a
night's lodging."

"Did you give it him, ma'am?" asked the captain.  "Give it him!"
exclaimed Mrs Roby, with sudden energy, "of course I did.  The poor boy
was nigh starving.  How could I refuse him?  It is true I had not much
to give, for the family I was with as nuss had failed and left me in
great distress, through my savings bein' in their hands; and that's what
brought me to this little room long, long ago--ay, ay.  But no blame to
the family, sir, no blame at all.  They couldn't help failin', an' the
young ones, when they grew up, did not forget their old nuss, though
they ain't rich, far from it; and it's what they give me that enables me
to pay my rent and stay on here--God bless 'em."

She looked affectionately at the daguerreotypes which hung, in the midst
of the sheen and glory of pot-lids, beads, and looking-glasses, above
the chimney-piece.

"You gave him, meanin' Willum, nothing else, I suppose?" asked the
captain, with a knowing look; "such, for instance, as a noo suit of
clothes, because of his bein' so uncommon ragged that he looked as if he
had bin captured in a clumsy sort of net that it would not have been
difficult to break through and escape from naked; also a few shillin's,
bein' your last, to pay his way down to Gravesend, where the ship was
lyin', that you had, through interest with the owners, got him a berth
aboard?"

"Ah!" returned Mrs Roby, shaking her head and smiling gently, "I see
that William has told you all about it."

"He has, ma'am," replied Captain Wopper, with a decisive nod.  "You see,
out in the gold-fields of Californy, we had long nights together in our
tent, with nothin' to do but smoke our pipes, eat our grub, and spin
yarns, for we had no books nor papers, nothin' to read except a noo
Testament, and we wouldn't have had even that, ma'am, but for yourself.
It was the Testament you gave to Willum at partin', an' very fond of it
he was, bein' your gift.  You see, at the time we went to Californy,
there warn't many of us as cared for the Word of God.  Most of us was
idolaters that had run away from home, our chief gods--for we had many
of 'em--bein' named Adventure, Excitement and Gold; though there was
some noble exceptions, too.  But, as I was saying, we had so much time
on our hands that we recalled all our past adventures together over and
over again, and, you may be sure, ma'am, that your name and kindness was
not forgotten.  There was another name," continued Captain Wopper,
drawing his chair nearer the fire, crossing his legs and stroking his
beard as he looked up at the dingy ceiling, "that Willum often thought
about and spoke of.  It was the name of a gentleman, a clerk in the
Customs, I believe, who saved his life one day when he fell into the
river just below the bridge."

"Mr Lawrence," said the old woman, promptly.

"Ah!  Mr Lawrence; yes, that's the name," continued the Captain.
"Willum was very grateful to him, and bid me try to find him out and
tell him so.  Is he alive?"

"Dead," said Mrs Roby, shaking her head sadly.

The seaman appeared much concerned on hearing this.  For some time he
did not speak, and then said that he had been greatly interested in that
gentleman through Willum's account of him.

"Had he left any children?"

"Yes," Mrs Roby told him; "one son, who had been educated as a doctor,
and had become a sort of a city missionary, and was as pleasant a young
gentleman as she ever knew."

"So, then, you know him?" said the Captain.

"Know him!  I should think so.  Why, this is the district where he
visits, and a kind friend he is to the poor, though he _is_ bashful a
bit, an' seems to shrink from pushin' himself where he's not wanted."

"Not the less a friend to the poor on that account," thought Captain
Wopper; but he said nothing, and Mrs Roby went on:--

"You see, his father before him did a great deal for the poor in a quiet
way here, as I have reason to know, this district lying near his office,
and handy, as it were.  Long after the time when he saved Willum's life,
he married a sweet young creeter, who helped him in visitin' the poor,
but she caught fever among 'em and died, when their only son George was
about ten year old.  George had been goin' about with his mother on her
visits, and seemed very fond of her and of the people, dear child; and
after she died, he used to continue coming with his father.  Then he
went to school and college and became a young doctor, and only last year
he came back to us, so changed for the better that none of us would have
known him but for his kindly voice and fine manly-looking manner.  His
shyness, too, has stuck to him a little, but it does not seem to hinder
him now as it once did.  Ah!" continued Mrs Roby, in a sympathetic
tone, "it's a great misfortune to be shy."

She looked pensively at the little fire and shook her tall cap at it, as
if it or the defiant tea-kettle were answerable for something in
reference to shyness.

"Yes, it's a great misfortune to be shy," she repeated.  "Were you ever
troubled with that complaint, Captain Wopper?"

The Captain's moustache curled at the corners as he stroked his beard,
and said that really, on consideration, he was free to confess that he
never had been convicted of that sin.

Mrs Roby bestowed on him a look of admiration, and continued, "Well, as
I have said--"

She was interrupted at this point by the entrance of an active little
girl, with the dirtiest face and sweetest expression imaginable, with
garments excessively ragged, blue eyes that sparkled as they looked at
you, a mouth that seemed made for kissing, if only it had been clean,
and golden hair that would have fallen in clustering curls on her neck,
if it had not been allowed to twist itself into something like a yellow
door-mat which rendered a bonnet unnecessary.

Bestowing a glance of surprise on the seaman, but without uttering a
word, she went smartly to a corner and drew into the middle of the room
a round table with one leg and three feet, whose accommodating top
having been previously flat against the wall, fell down horizontal and
fixed itself with a snap.  On this the earnest little woman, quickly and
neatly, spread a fairish linen cloth, and proceeded to arrange thereon a
small tea-pot and cup and saucer, with other materials, for an early
tea.

"Two cups, Netta, my dear," said Mrs Roby.

"Yes, grannie," replied Netta, in a soft quick, little voice.

"Your grandchild?" asked the Captain.

"No; a neighbour's child, who is very kind to me.  She calls me grannie,
because I like it.  But, as I was saying," continued Mrs Roby, "young
Dr Lawrence came back last year and began to visit us in the old way,
intending to continue, he said, until he got a situation of some sort in
the colonies, I believe; but I do hope he'll not be obliged to leave us,
for he has bin a great blessin' to this neighbourhood, only he gets
little pay for his work, I fear, and appears to have little of his own
to live on, poor young man.--Now, Captain Wopper, you'll stop and have a
cup of tea with me.  I take it early, you see,--in truth, I make a sort
of dinner of it,--and we can have a talk about William over it.  I'm
proud to have a friend of his at my table, sir, I do assure you, though
it _is_ a poor one."

Captain Wopper accepted the invitation heartily, and thought, though he
said nothing, that it was indeed a poor table, seeing that the only food
on it besides the very weak tea in the wonderfully small pot, consisted
of one small loaf of bread.

"Netta," exclaimed Mrs Roby, with a look of surprise, "there's no
butter!  Go, fetch it, dear."

Mrs Roby was, or thought herself, a remarkably deep character.  She
spoke to Netta openly, but, in secret, bestowed a meaning glance on her,
and slipped a small coin into her hand.  The dirty, sweet-faced damsel
replied by a remarkably knowing wink--all of which by-play, with the
reason for it, was as clear to Captain Wopper as if it had been
elaborately explained to him.  But the Captain was a discreet man.  He
became deeply absorbed in daguerreotypes and sauce-pan lids above the
fireplace, to the exclusion of all else.

"You've forgotten the bag, ma'am," said the Captain, drawing his chair
nearer the table.

"So I have; dear me, what is it?" cried Mrs Roby, taking it up.  "It's
heavy."

"Gold!" said the Captain.

"Gold?" exclaimed the old nurse.

"Ay, nuggets," said the seaman, opening it and emptying its contents on
the table.

As the old nurse gazed on the yellow heap her black eyes glittered with
pleasure, as though they had derived additional lustre from the precious
metal, and she drew them towards her with a trembling, almost greedy,
motion, at sight of which Captain Wopper's countenance became troubled.

"And did Willie send this to me, dear boy?"

"He did, ma'am, hoping that it would be of use in the way of making your
home more comfortable, and enabling you to keep a better table."

He glanced uneasily round the poor room and at the small loaf as he
spoke, and the old woman observed the glance.

"It is very kind of him, very kind," continued Mrs Roby.  "What may it
be worth, now?"

"Forty pounds, more or less," answered the Captain.

Again the old woman's eyes sparkled greedily, and again the seaman's
countenance fell.

"Surely, ma'am," said the Captain, gravely, "things must be uncommon
dear in London, for you tell me that Willum has sent you a deal of money
in time past, but you don't seem to be much the better for it."

"Captain Wopper," said Mrs Roby, putting her hand lightly on the
Captain's arm as it lay on the table, and looking earnestly into his
face, "if you had not been an old and valued friend of my dear Willie--
which I learn that you are from his letter--I would have said your
remark was a rude one; but, being what you are, I don't mind telling you
that I save up every penny I can scrape together for little Netta White,
the girl that has just gone out to fetch the butter.  Although she's not
well cared for,--owing to her mother, who's a washerwoman, bein'
overburdened with work and a drunken husband,--she's one of the dearest
creeters I ever did see.  Bless you, sir, you'd be amazed if you knew
all the kind and thoughtful things that untrained and uncared for child
does, and never thinks she's doing anything more than other people.
It's all along of her mother's spirit, which is as good as gold.  Some
months ago Little Netta happened to be up here when I was at tea, and,
seeing the difficulty I had to move about with my old rheumatic limbs,
she said she'd come and set out my tea and breakfast for me; and she's
done it, sir, from that time to this, expecting nothing fur it, and
thinking I'm too poor to give her anything.  But she's mistaken,"
continued Mrs Roby, with a triumphant twinkle in her black eyes, "she
doesn't know that I've made a confidant of her brother Gillie, and give
him a sixpence now and then to give to his mother without telling where
he got it, and she doesn't know that I'm saving up to be able to leave
something to her when I'm called home--it can't be long, now; it can't
be long."

"Old 'ooman," cried Captain Wopper, whose face had brightened
wonderfully during this explanation, "give us your flip--your hand.  I
honour your heart, ma'am, and I've no respect whatever for your brain!"

"I'm not sure that that's a compliment," said Mrs Roby, with a smile.

Captain Wopper assured her with much solemnity that it might or might
not be a compliment, but it was a fact.  "Why, look here," said he, "you
go and starve yourself, and deny yourself all sorts of little comforts--
what then?  Why, you'll die long before your time, which is very like
taking the law into your own hands, ma'am, and then you won't leave to
Netta nearly as much as you might if you had taken care of yourself and
lived longer, and saved up after a reasonable fashion.  It's sheer
madness.  Why, ma'am, you're starving _now_, but I'll put a stop to
that.  Don't you mind, now, whether I'm rude or not.  You can't expect
anything else from an old gold-digger, who has lived for years where
there were no women except such as appeared to be made of mahogany, with
nothing to cover 'em but a coating of dirt and a blue skirt.  Besides,
Willum told me at parting to look after you and see that you wanted for
nothing, which I promised faithfully to do.  You've some regard for
Willum's wishes, ma'am?--you wouldn't have me break my promises to
Willum, would you?"

The Captain said this with immense rapidity and vigour, and finished it
with such a blow of his heavy fist on the little table that the cups and
plates danced, and the lid of the little tea-pot leaped up as if its
heart were about to come out of its mouth.  Mrs Roby was so taken by
surprise that she could not speak for a few seconds, and before she had
recovered sufficiently to do so, Little Netta came in with the butter.

"Now, ma'am," resumed the Captain, when the girl had retired, "here's
where it is.  With your leave I'll reveal my plans to you, and ask your
advice.  When I was about to leave Californy, Willum told me first of
all to go and find _you_ out, and give you that letter and bag of
nuggets, which I've done.  `Then,' says he, `Wopper, you go and find out
my brother Jim's widow, and give 'em my love an' dooty, and this letter,
and this bag of nuggets,'--said letter and bag, ma'am, bein' now in my
chest aboard ship.  `So,' says I, `Willum, I will--trust me.'  `I do,'
says he; `and, Wopper,' says he, `keep your weather eye open, my boy,
w'en you go to see 'em, because I've my suspicions, from what my poor
brother said on his deathbed, when he was wandering in his mind, that
his widow is extravagant.  I don't know,' Willum goes on to say, `what
the son may be, but there's that cousin, Emma Gray, that lives in the
house with 'em, _she's_ all right.  _She's_ corresponded with me, off
an' on, since ever she could write, and my brother bein' something lazy,
poor fellar, through havin' too much to do I fancy, got to throw all the
letter-writin' on her shoulders.  You take special note of _her_,
Wopper, and if it should seem to you that they don't treat her well, you
let me know.'  `Willum,' says I, `I will--trust me.'  `Well, then,' says
Willum, `there's one other individooal I want you to ferret out, that's
the gentleman--he must be an old gentleman now--that saved my life when
I was a lad, Mr Lawrence by name.  You try to find _him_ out and if you
can do him a good turn, do it.'  `Willum,' says I, `I'll do it--trust
me.'  `I do,' says he, `and when may I expect you back in Californy,
Wopper?'  `Willum,' says I, `that depends.'  `True,' says he, `it does.
Give us you're flipper, old boy, we may never meet again in these
terrestrial diggings.  Good luck to you.  Don't forget my last will an'
testimony as now expressed.'  `Willum,' says I, `I won't.'  So, ma'am, I
left Californy with a sacred trust, so to speak, crossed the sea, and
here I am."

At this point Captain Wopper, having warmed in his subject, took in at
one bite as much of the small loaf as would have been rather a heavy
dinner for Mrs Roby, and emptied at one gulp a full cup of her tea,
after which he stroked his beard, smiled benignantly at his hostess,
became suddenly earnest again, and went on--chewing as he spoke.

"Now, ma'am, I've three questions to ask: in the first place, as it's
not possible now to do a good turn to old Mr Lawrence, I must do it to
his son.  Can you tell me where he lives?"

Mrs Roby told him that it was in a street not far from where they sat,
in a rather poor lodging.

"Secondly, ma'am, can you tell me where Willum's sister-in-law lives,--
Mrs Stout, _alias_ Stoutley?"

"No, Captain Wopper, but I daresay Mr Lawrence can.  He knows 'most
everythink, and has a London Directory."

"Good.  Now, in the third place, where am I to find a lodging?"

Mrs Roby replied that there were plenty to be found in London of all
kinds.

"You haven't a spare room here, have you?" said the Captain, looking
round.

Mrs Roby shook her head and said that she had not; and, besides, that
if she had, it would be impossible for her to keep a lodger, as she had
no servant, and could not attend on him herself.

"Mrs Roby," said the Captain, "a gold-digging seaman don't want no
servant, nor no attendance.  What's up aloft?"

By pointing to a small trap-door in the ceiling, he rendered the
question intelligible.

"It's a garret, I believe," replied Mrs Roby, smiling; "but having no
ladder, I've never been up."

"You've no objection to my taking a look, have you?" asked the Captain.

"None in the world," replied the old woman.  Without more ado the seaman
rose, mounted on a chair, pushed open the trap-door, thrust his head and
shoulders through, and looked round.  Apparently the inspection was not
deemed sufficiently close, for, to the old woman's alarm and
inexpressible surprise, he seized the edges of the hole with his strong
hands, raised himself up, and finally disappeared in the regions above!
The alarm of the old woman was somewhat increased by the sound of her
visitor's heavy tread on the boards overhead as he stumbled about.
Presently his head appeared looking down through the trap.  In any
aspect, Captain Wopper's shaggy head was an impressive one; but viewed
in an upside-down position, with the blood running into it, it was
peculiarly striking.

"I say, old lady," he shouted, as if his position recalled the action
and induced the tones of a boatswain, "it'll do.  A capital berth, with
two portholes and a bunk."

The Captain's head disappeared, and immediately his legs took its place,
suggesting the outrageous idea that he had thrown a somersault.  Next
moment his huge body slid down, and he stood on the floor much flushed
and covered with dust.

"Now, old girl, is it to be?" he said, sitting down at the table.  "Will
you take me as a lodger, for better and for worse?  I'll fit up the
berth on the main-deck, and be my own servant as well as your's.  Say
the word."

"I can refuse nothing to Willie's friend," said old Mrs Roby, "but
really I--"

"Done, it's a bargain," interrupted the Captain, rising abruptly.  "Now,
I'll go visit young Mr Lawrence and Mrs Stoutley, and to-morrow I'll
bring my kit, take possession of my berth, and you and I shall sail in
company, I hope, and be messmates for some time to come."



CHAPTER THREE.

DIFFICULTIES AMONG THE SOCIAL SUMMITS.

In one of the many mansions of the "west end" of London, a lady reclined
one morning on a sofa wishing that it were afternoon.  She was a
middle-aged, handsome, sickly lady.  If it had been afternoon she would
have wished that it were evening, and if it had been evening she would
have wished for the morning; for Mrs Stoutley was one of those languid
invalids whose enjoyment appears to be altogether in the future or the
past, and who seem to have no particular duties connected with the
present except sighing and wishing.  It may be that this unfortunate
condition of mind had something to do with Mrs Stoutley's feeble state
of health.  If she had been a little more thoughtful about others, and
less mindful of herself, she might, perhaps, have sighed and wished
less, and enjoyed herself more.  At all events her doctor seemed to
entertain some such opinion, for, sitting in an easy chair beside her,
and looking earnestly at her handsome, worn-out countenance, he said,
somewhat abruptly, being a blunt doctor.

"You must go abroad, madam, and try to get your mind, as well as your
body, well shaken up."

"Why, doctor," replied Mrs Stoutley, with a faint smile; "you talk of
me as if I were a bottle of physic or flat ginger-beer."

"You are little better, silly woman," thought the doctor, but his innate
sense of propriety induced him only to say, with a smile, "Well, there
is at least this much resemblance between you and a bottle of flat
ginger-beer, namely, that both require to be made to effervesce a
little.  It will never do to let your spirits down as you have been
doing.  We must brighten up, my dear madam--not Brighton up, by the way,
we've had enough of Brighton and Bath, and such places.  We must get
away to the Continent this summer--to the Pyrenees, or Switzerland,
where we can breathe the fresh mountain air, and ramble on glaciers, and
have a thorough change."

Mrs Stoutley looked gently, almost pitifully at the doctor while he
spoke, as if she thought him a well-meaning and impulsive, but rather
stupid maniac.

"Impossible, my dear doctor," she said; "you know I could not stand the
fatigues of such a journey."

"Well, then," replied the doctor, abruptly, "you must stop at home and
die."

"Oh! what a shocking naughty man you are to talk so."

Mrs Stoutley said this, however, with an easy good-natured air, which
showed plainly that she did not believe her illness likely to have such
a serious termination.

"I will be still more naughty and shocking," continued the doctor,
resolutely, but with a twinkle in his eyes, "for I shall prescribe not
only a dose of mountain air, but a dose of mountain exercise, to be
taken--and the patient to be well shaken while taken--every morning
throughout the summer and autumn.  Moreover, after you return to
England, you must continue the exercise during the winter; and, in
addition to that, must have an object at the end of your walks and
drives--not shopping, observe, that is not a sufficiently out-of-door
object; nor visiting your friends, which is open to the same objection."

Mrs Stoutley smiled again at this, and said that really, if visiting
and shopping were forbidden, there seemed to be nothing left but museums
and picture-galleries.

To this the doctor retorted that although she might do worse than visit
museums and picture-galleries, he would prefer that she should visit the
diamond and gold fields of the city.

"Did you ever hear of the diamond and gold fields of London, Miss Gray?"
he said, turning to a plain yet pretty girl, who had been listening in
silence to the foregoing conversation.

"Never," answered Miss Gray, with a look of surprise.

Now, Miss Gray's look of surprise induces us to state in passing that
this young lady--niece, also poor relation and companion, to Mrs
Stoutley--possessed three distinct aspects.  When grave, she was
plain,--not ugly, observe; a girl of nineteen, with a clear healthy
complexion and nut-brown hair, cannot in any circumstances be ugly; no,
she was merely plain when grave.  When she smiled she was decidedly
pretty, and when she laughed she was captivating--absolutely
irresistible!  She seldom laughed, occasionally smiled, and was
generally grave.  There was something quite incomprehensible about her,
for she was not an unusually good girl, and by no means a dashing girl,
neither was she an intensely modest girl--and yet, plain Emma Gray had
perhaps driven more young men into a condition of drivelling imbecility
than any acknowledged beauty of the metropolis.

Observe, we say "perhaps," because we lay claim to no superhuman
knowledge in regard to such matters.

"They are rather extensive fields," continued the doctor, "scattered
here and there about the metropolis, but lying chiefly in the city and
on the banks of the Thames.  They comprise many picture-galleries, too,
and museums; the latter containing wonderful specimens of old bones and
fossil remains, filth, and miscellaneous abominations, in which the gold
and diamonds are imbedded--sometimes buried,--and the former being hung
with subjects--chiefly interiors--incomparably superior, in respect of
graphic power, to the works of Hogarth."

"Oh!  I know what you mean," said Miss Gray, with a little smile.

"Your wits are sharper than mine, Emma," said Mrs Stoutley, with a sigh
and a placid look.  "What _do_ you refer to, Doctor Tough?"

"I refer to those districts, madam, chiefly inhabited by the poor, where
there are innumerable diamonds and gold nuggets, some of which are being
polished, and a good many are glittering brightly, though not yet fixed
in their proper setting, while by far the greater number of them are
down in the earth, and useless in the meantime, and apt to be lost for
want of adventurous diggers.  They are splendid fields those of London,
and digging is healthful occupation--though it might not seem so at
first sight.  Did you ever visit the poor, Mrs Stoutley?"

With a slight elevation of her eyebrows, and the application of a
scent-bottle to her delicate nose, as if the question had suggested bad
smells, the lady said that--Well, yes, she had once visited a poor old
gardener who had been a faithful creature in the family of a former
friend, but that her recollection of that visit did not tend to induce a
wish for its repetition.

"H'm!" coughed the doctor, "well, the taste of physic is usually bad at
first, but one soon gets used to it, and the after effects, as you know,
are exceedingly beneficial.  I hope that when you visit the London
diggings you may find the truth of this; but it will be time enough to
speak of that subject when you return from rambling on the glaciers of
Switzerland, where, by the way, the dirt, rubbish, and wrack, called
moraines, which lie at the foot of the glaciers, will serve to remind
you of the gold-fields to which I have referred, for much of what
composes those moraines was once solid rock in a fixed position on the
heights, or glittering ice which reflected the sun's dazzling rays on
surrounding high life, though it lies low in the earth now.  To a lady
of your intelligence, madam, I need not expound my parable.  There are
many avalanches, great and small, in English society as well as among
the Swiss mountains; and, whether by gradual subsidence or a tremendous
rush, we must all find our places in the moraine at last."

"Really, doctor," said Mrs Stoutley, with a light laugh, "you seem to
have already wandered much among these moral moraines, and to have
acquired some of their ruggedness.  How _can_ you talk of such dismal
things to a patient?  But are you really in earnest about my going
abroad?"

"Indeed I am," replied the doctor, firmly, "and I advise you to begin
your preparations at once, for you must set out on your travels in less
than a month.  I lay the responsibility of seeing my orders carried into
effect on your shoulders, Miss Gray."

So saying, the doctor rose and took his leave.  Mrs Stoutley and her
niece immediately began to discuss the subject of Switzerland--the one
languidly, the other with animation.  It was plain enough that, although
the invalid protested to the doctor her inability to travel, she really
had no objection, perhaps felt some desire, to go abroad, for when Miss
Gray mentioned the fact that there was a difficulty in the shape of
insufficient funds, she replied with more warmth than usual--

"Now, Emma, what is the use of always bringing up that ridiculous idea?"

"No doubt, auntie," the maiden replied, "it is a little ridiculous to
run short of ready money, considering the style in which we live; but it
would be still more ridiculous, you know, to go to Switzerland without
the means of paying our expenses while there."

"What's that you say about expenses, cousin?" exclaimed a tall handsome
stripling who entered at the moment, and seated himself on the sofa at
his mother's feet.

"Oh, bother the expense!" he exclaimed, when the difficulty had been
explained to him, "it can't cost so much to spend a few months in
Switzerland,--besides, we can do it cheap, you know.  Didn't Mr
What's-his-name, our man of business, say that there was a considerable
balance at the banker's, and that if the What-d'ee-call-'em mines paid a
reasonable dividend, we should easily get over our difficulties?"

"He said something of that sort, I believe," replied Mrs Stoutley, with
a sigh.

"I rather think, cousin Lewis," said Emma, endeavouring to repress a
smile, "that he said there was an inconsiderable balance at the bankers,
and that _unless_ the Gorong mine paid a reasonable dividend, we
shouldn't easily get over our difficulties."

Both Lewis and his mother laughed at the quiet way in which this was
said, but, while both admitted that Emma's view of the matter might
perhaps be correct, Lewis held that there was no good reason for
supposing there would be any difficulty in the meantime in obtaining
from their "man-of-business" the paltry sum that was required for a
short tour on the Continent.  Indeed Mrs Stoutley regarded this
man-of-business as a mere sponge, who required only to be squeezed in
order to the production of what was desired, and the man-of-business
himself found it no easy matter to convince her that she held erroneous
views on this subject, and that at her present rate of progress, she
would, to use the doctor's glacial simile, very soon topple from the
pinnacle of fashion, on which she sat, and fall with the crash of a
social avalanche into the moraine of ruin.

"What a wise little woman you are, cousin Emma," said Lewis, gaily.
"You ought to have been bred to the law, or trained an accountant.
However, we won't be guided by your advice just now, first, because the
doctor has _ordered_ mother abroad for her health, which is our chief
consideration; and, second, because I wish of all things to see
Switzerland, and climb Mont Blanc.  Besides, we are not so poor as you
think, and I hope to add a little to our general funds in a day or two.
By the way, can you lend me ten pounds just now, mother?"

"Why do you want it?" asked Mrs Stoutley, sternly, as if she meant to
refuse, but at the same time opening her purse.

"Don't ask me just now.  I will repay you tomorrow, with interest and
shall then explain."

With an easy, languid smile, the carelessly amiable invalid handed her
last ten-pound note to her hopeful son, who had just transferred it to
his pocketbook, when a footman entered and presented a scrap of dirty
paper, informing his lady that the person who sent up the "card" desired
to see her.

"What is this?" said Mrs Stoutley, holding the paper gingerly with the
tips of her fingers, "Wip--Wap--Wopper!  What is Wopper?  Is the person
a man or a woman?"

The footman, who, although well-bred, found it difficult to restrain a
smile, intimated that the person was a man, and added, that he said he
had come from California, and wanted to see Mrs Stoutley very
particularly.

On hearing this, the lady's manner changed at once, and, with more
animation than she had yet exhibited, she desired that he should be
shown in.

With his large wide-awake in one hand, and a canvas bag in the other,
Captain Wopper entered the drawing-room, and looked around him with a
beaming and rather bashful smile.

"Mrs Stoutley, I believe," he said, advancing, "and Miss Emma Gray, I
suppose," he added, turning with a beaming glance towards the young
lady.

Mrs Stoutley admitted that he was right, and expressed some surprise
that he, a perfect stranger, should be so well acquainted with their
names.

"I am indeed a stranger personally, ma'am," said Captain Wopper,
smoothing the hair down on his rugged brow, "but I may be said to know
you pretty well, seeing that I have for many years been the friend and
messmate of your late husband's brother in Californy."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Mrs Stoutley, with increasing animation, as she
rose and held out her hand; "any friend of my brother-in-law is heartily
welcome.  Be seated, Mr Wopper, and let me hear about him.  He was very
kind to my dear husband during his last illness--very kind.  I shall
never forget him."

"No doubt he was," said the Captain, accepting the chair which Emma Gray
handed to him, with looks of great interest.  "Thank 'ee, Miss.  Willum
Stout--excuse my familiarity, ma'am, I always called him Willum, because
we was like brothers--more than brothers, I may say, an' very friendly.
Yes, Willum Stout _was_ kind to his brother in his last days.  It would
have bin shame to him if he hadn't for your husband, ma'am, was kind to
Willum, an' he often said to me, over the camp-fires in the bush, that
he'd never forget _his_ kindness.  But it's over now," continued the
seaman in a sad tone, "an' poor Willum is left alone."

"Is my uncle _very_ poor?" asked Lewis, who had been paying more
attention to the appearance of their rugged visitor than to what he had
said.

"Ay, _very_ poor," replied the seaman, "as regards near relations,
leastwise such as he has seen and known in former days, but he an't poor
as regards gold.  He's got lots of that.  He and I worked not far from
each other for years, an' he used to hit upon good claims somehow, and
shovelled up the nuggets like stones."

"Indeed!  I wish he'd send a few of them this way," exclaimed Lewis,
with a careless laugh.

"No doubt he might do so, young man, if he knew you were in need of 'em,
but your father gave him to understand that his family was rich."

"Rich!" exclaimed Lewis, with a smile, in which there was a touch of
contempt.  "Well, yes, we were rich enough once, but when my father was
away these wretched mines became--"

"Lewie!" exclaimed his mother, hastily, "what nonsense you do talk!
Really, one would think from your account that we were paupers."

"Well, mother, so we are--paupers to this extent at least, that we can't
afford to take a run to Switzerland, though ordered to do so for your
health, because we lack funds."

Lewis said this half petulantly, for he had been a "spoilt child," and
might probably have been by that time a ruined young man, but for the
mercy of his Creator, who had blessed him with an amiable disposition.
He was one of those youths, in short, of whom people say that they can't
be spoiled, though fond and foolish parents do their best to spoil them.

"You mis-state the case, naughty boy," said Mrs Stoutley, annoyed at
being thus forced to touch on her private affairs before a stranger.
"No doubt our ready cash is what our man-of-business calls `locked up,'
but that, you know, is only a matter of temporary inconvenience, and
cannot last long."

As Mrs Stoutley paused and hesitated, their visitor placed on the table
a canvas bag, which, up to this point he had rested on one knee.

"This bag," he said, "of nuggets, is a gift from Willum.  He desired me
to deliver it to you, Miss Gray, as a _small_ acknowledgment of your
kindness in writin' so often to him.  He'd have bought you a silk gown,
or a noo bonnet, so he said, but wasn't sure as to your taste in such
matters, and thought you'd accept the nuggets and buy it for yourself.
Leastwise, that's somethin' like the speech Willum tried to tell me to
deliver, but he warn't good at speech-makin' no more than I at
remembrin', and hoped you'd take the will for the deed."

With a flush of surprise and pleasure, Emma Gray accepted both the will
and the deed, with many expressions of gratitude, and said, that as she
did not require either a silk dress or a bonnet just then, she would
invest her little fortune; she would lend it at high interest, to a lady
under temporary inconvenience, who was ordered by her doctor to
Switzerland for the benefit of her health.  To this Mrs Stoutley
protested very earnestly that the lady in question would not accept the
loan on any consideration; that it must not be diverted from its
destined use, but be honestly expended on silk-dresses and new bonnets.
To which Emma replied, that the destiny of the gift, with interest (she
was very particular on that head), should be fulfilled in good time, but
that meanwhile it must be lent out.

In the midst of a cross-fire of this kind the bag was opened, and its
contents poured on the table, to the immense admiration of all the
company, none of whom had, until that day, beheld gold in its native
condition.

"How much may it be worth, Mr Wopper?" asked Lewis, weighing one of the
largest lumps.

"About two hundred pound, I should say, more or less," replied the
seaman.

"Indeed!" exclaimed the youth in surprise--an exclamation which was
echoed by his mother and cousin in modified tones.

While they sat thus toying with the lumps of gold, the conversation
reverted to the sender of it, and the Captain told such entertaining
anecdotes of bush life, in all of which "Uncle Willum" had been an
actor, that the afternoon arrived before Mrs Stoutley had time to wish
for it.  They also talked of the last illness of the deceased father of
the family; and when it came out that Captain (they had found out by
that time that their visitor had been a skipper, and, by courtesy, a
captain), had assisted "Willum" in nursing Mr Stoutley, and had
followed him to the grave, Mrs Stoutley's gratitude was such that she
insisted on her visitor staying to dinner.

"Thank 'ee, ma'am," he said, "I've dined.  I always dines at one o'clock
if I can manage it."

"But we don't dine till eight," said the lady, "so it will just suit for
your supper."

"Do come," said Emma Gray, "we shall be quite alone, and shall have a
great spinning of yarns over Uncle William and the gold-fields."

"Well, I don't mind if I do," said the Captain, "but before supper I
must go to the docks for my kit and settle my lodgings."

"I am going to the Strand, and shall be happy to give you a lift," said
Lewis.

The Captain accepted the offer, and as they drove along, he and his
young friend became very intimate, insomuch that Lewis, who was
lighthearted, open, and reckless, let him into his confidence, and spoke
quite freely about his mother's difficulties.  It is only justice to add
that the Captain did not encourage him in this.  When, however, the
youth spoke of himself, he not only encouraged him, but drew him out.
Among other things, he drew out of him the fact that he was in the habit
of gambling, and that he fully expected--if his usual luck attended
him--to assist in adding to the fund which was to take the family
abroad.

The Captain looked at the handsome stripling for a few seconds in silent
surprise.

"You don't mean to tell me," he said slowly, "that you gamble?"

"Indeed I do," replied Lewis, with a bland smile, and something of a
twinkle in his eye.

"For money?" asked the Captain.

"For money," assented the youth; "what have you to say against it?"

"Why, I've to say that it's mean."

"That's strong language," said Lewis, flushing.

"It an't strong enough by a long way," returned the Captain, with
indignation, "it's more than mean, it's contemptible; it's despicable."

The flush on Lewis's face deepened, and he looked at his companion with
the air of one who meditates knocking another down.  Perhaps the massive
size and strength of the Captain induced him to change his mind.  It may
be that there occurred to him the difficulty--if not impossibility--of
knocking down a man who was down already, and the want of space in a cab
for such violent play of muscle.  At all events he did nothing, but
looked "daggers."

"Look 'ee here, my lad," continued the Captain, laying his huge hand on
his companion's knee, and gazing earnestly into his face, "I don't mean
for to hurt your feelin's by sayin' that _you_ are mean, or
contemptible, or despicable, for I don't suppose you've thought much
about the matter at all, and are just following in the wake of older men
who ought to know better; but I say that the _thing_--gambling for
money--is the meanest thing a man can do, short of stealing.  What does
it amount to?  Simply this--I want another man's money, and the other
man wants mine.  We daren't try open robbery, we would be ashamed of
that; we're both too lazy to labour for money, and labour doesn't bring
it in fast enough, therefore we'll go _play_ for it.  I'll ask him to
submit to be robbed by me on condition that I submit to be robbed by
him; and which is to be the robbed, and which the robber, shall depend
on the accidental turn of a dice, or something equally trifling--"

"But I don't gamble by means of dice," interrupted Lewis, "I play, and
bet, on billiards, which is a game of skill, requiring much practice,
judgment, and thought."

"That makes no odds, my lad," continued the Captain.  "There is no
connection whatever between the rolling of a ball and the taking away of
a man's money, any more than there is between the turning of a dice and
the taking of a man's money.  Both are dishonourable subterfuges.  They
are mere blinds put up to cover the great and mean fact, which is, that
I want to get possession of my neighbour's cash."

"But, Captain," retorted Lewis, with a smile--for he had now entered
into the spirit of the argument--"you ignore the fact that while I try
to win from my friend, I am quite willing that my friend should try to
win from me."

"Ignore it? no!" cried Captain Wopper.  "Putt it in this way.  Isn't it
wrong for me to have a longing desire and itching fingers to lay hold of
_your_ cash?"

"Well, put in that simple form," said Lewis, with a laugh, "it certainly
is."

"And isn't it equally wrong for you to have a hungering and thirsting
after _my_ cash?"

"Of course that follows," assented Lewis.

"Well, then," pursued the Captain, "can any agreement between you and
me, as to the guessing of black or white or the turning of dice or
anything else, make a right out of two wrongs?"

"Still," said Lewis, a little puzzled, "there is fallacy somewhere in
your argument.  I cannot see that gambling is wrong."

"Mark me, my lad," returned the Captain, impressively, "it is no
sufficient reason for the doing of a thing that you _cannot see_ it to
be wrong.  You are not entitled to do anything unless you _see_ it to be
right.  But there are other questions connected with gambling which
renders it doubly mean--the question, for instance, whether a man is
entitled to risk the loss of money which he calls his own, but which
belongs to his wife and children as much as to himself.  The mean
positions, too, in which a gambler places himself, are numerous.  One of
these is, when a rich man wins the hard-earned and much-needed gains of
a poor one."

"But one is not supposed to know anything about the affairs of those
from whom one wins," objected Lewis.

"All the more reason," replied Captain Wopper, "why a man should never
gamble, lest, unwittingly, he should become the cause of great
suffering--it might be, of death."

Still Lewis "could not see" the wrong of gambling, and the discussion
was cut short by the sudden stopping of the cab at a door in the Strand,
over which hung a lamp, on which the Captain observed the word
"Billiards."

"Well, ta-ta, old fellow," said Lewis, gaily, as he parted from his new
friend, "we'll finish the argument another day.  Meanwhile, don't forget
the hour--eight, sharp."



CHAPTER FOUR.

SHOWS HOW THE CAPTAIN CAME TO AN ANCHOR, AND CONCEIVED A DEEP DESIGN.

When Captain Wopper parted from his young friend, he proceeded along the
Strand in an unusually grave mood, shaking his head to such a degree, as
he reflected on the precocious wickedness of the rising generation, that
a very ragged and pert specimen of that generation, observing his
condition, gravely informed him that there was an hospital for
incurables in London, which took in patients with palsy and St. Wituses'
dance werry cheap.

This recalled him from the depths of sorrowful meditation, and induced
him to hail a cab, in which he drove to the docks, claimed his chest--a
solid, seamanlike structure, reminding one of the wooden walls of Old
England--and returned with it to the head of the lane leading to Grubb's
Court.  Dismissing the cab, he looked round for a porter, but as no
porter appeared, the Captain, having been accustomed through life to
help himself, and being, as we have said, remarkably strong, shouldered
the nautical chest, and bore it to the top of Mrs Roby's staircase.

Here he encountered, and almost tumbled over, Gillie White, who saluted
him with--

"Hallo! ship aho-o-oy! starboard hard! breakers ahead!  Why, Capp'n,
you've all but run into me!"

"Why don't you show a light then," retorted the Captain, "or blow your
steam-whistle, in such a dark hole?  What's that you've got in your
arms?"

"The baby," replied Gillie.

"What baby?" demanded the Captain.

"_Our_ baby, of course," returned the imp, in a tone that implied the
non-existence of any other baby worth mentioning.  "I brought it up to
show it to the sick 'ooman next door but one to Mrs Roby's cabin.
She's very sick, she is, an' took a great longing to see our baby, cos
she thinks it's like what her son was w'en _he_ was a baby.  If he ever
was, he don't look much like one now, for he's six-feet nothin' in his
socks, an' drinks like a fish, if he don't do nothin' wuss.  Good-night
Capp'n.  Baby'll ketch cold if I keep on jawin' here.  Mind your weather
eye, and port your helm when you reach the landin'.  If you'll take the
advice of a young salt, you'll clew up your mainsail an' dowse some of
your top-hamper--ah!  I thought so!"

This last remark, delivered with a broad grin of delight, had reference
to the fact that the Captain had run the corner of his chest against the
low roof of the passage with a degree of violence that shook the whole
tenement.

Holding his breath in hopeful anticipation, and reckless of the baby's
"ketching cold," the small boy listened for more.  Nor was he
disappointed.  In his progress along the passage Captain Wopper, despite
careful steering, ran violently foul of several angles and beams, each
of which mishaps sent a quiver through the old house, and a thrill to
the heart of Gillie White.  In his earnest desire to steer clear of the
sick woman's door, the luckless Captain came into collision with the
opposite wall, and anxiety on this point causing him to forget the step
on which he had "struck" once before, he struck it again, and was
precipitated, chest and all, against Mrs Roby's door, which,
fortunately for itself, burst open, and let the avalanche of chest and
man descend upon Mrs Roby's floor.

Knowing that the climax was now reached, the imp descended the stair
filled with a sort of serene ecstasy, while Captain Wopper gathered
himself up and sat down on his nautical portmanteau.

"I tell 'ee what it is, old 'ooman," said he, stroking his beard, "the
channel into this port is about the wust I ever had the ill-luck to
navigate.  I hope I didn't frighten 'ee?"

"Oh, dear no!" replied Mrs Roby, with a smile.

To say truth, the old woman seemed less alarmed than might have been
expected.  Probably the noise of the Captain's approach, and previous
experience, had prepared her for some startling visitation, for she was
quite calm, and a humorous twinkle in her eyes seemed to indicate the
presence of a spirit somewhat resembling that which actuated Gillie
White.

"Well, that's all right," said the Captain, rising and pushing up the
trap-door that led to his private berth in the new lodging; "and now,
old lady, havin' come to an anchor, I must get this chest sent aloft as
fast as I can, seein' that I've to clean myself an' rig out for a dinner
at eight o'clock at the west end."

"Dear me," said Mrs Roby, in surprise, "you must have got among people
of quality."

"It won't be easy to hoist it up," said the Captain, ignoring the
remark, and eyeing the chest and trap-door in the roof alternately.

Just then a heavy step was heard in the passage; and a young man of
large and powerful frame, with a gentle as well as gentlemanly
demeanour, appeared at the door.

"Come in--come in," said Mrs Roby, with a bright look, "this is only my
new lodger, a friend of dear Wil--"

"Why, bless you, old 'ooman," interrupted Captain Wopper, "_he_ knows me
well enough.  I went to him this morning and got Mrs Stoutley's
address.  Come in, Dr Lawrence.  I may claim to act the host here now
in a small way, perhaps, and bid visitors welcome--eh!  Mrs Roby?"

"Surely, surely," replied the old woman.

"Thank you both for the welcome," said the visitor with a pleasant
smile, as he shook hands with Mrs Roby.  "I thought I recognised your
voice, Captain Wopper, as you passed Mrs Leven's door, and came out to
see how you and my old friend here get on together."

"Is she any better to-night, sir?" asked Mrs Roby, anxiously.

Lawrence shook his head sadly and said she was no better, and that he
feared she had little chance of getting better while her dissipated son
dwelt under the same roof with her.  "It is breaking her heart," he
added, "and, besides that, the nature of her disease is such that
recovery is impossible unless she is fed on the most generous diet.
This of course she cannot have, because she has no means of her own.
Her son gambles away nearly all his small salary, and she refuses to go
to an hospital lest her absence should be the removal of the last
restraining link between him and destruction.  It is a very sad case--
very."

Captain Wopper was struck with this reference to gambling coming so soon
after his recent conversation on that subject, and asked if there were
no charitable societies or charitable people in London who would help in
a case so miserable.

Yes, there were plenty of charitable institutions, Lawrence told him,
but he feared that this woman had no special claim on any of them, and
her refusal to go to an hospital would tell against her.  There were
also, he said, plenty of charitable people, but all of those he happened
to be acquainted with had been appealed to by him so often that he felt
ashamed to try them again.  He had already given away as much of his own
slender means as he could well spare, so that he saw no way out of the
difficulty; but he had faith in Providential supervision of human
affairs, and he believed that a way would yet be opened up.

"You're right, sir--right," said Captain Wopper, with emphasis, while he
looked earnestly into the face of the young doctor.  "This world wasn't
made to be kicked about like a foot-ball by chance, or circumstances, or
anything of the sort.  Look 'ee here, sir; it has bin putt into my heart
to feel charitable leanings, and a good bit o' cash has bin putt into my
pocket, so that, bein' a lone sort o' man, I don't have much use for it.
That's on the one hand.  On the other hand, here are you, sir, the son
of a friend o' my chum Willum Stout, with great need of aid from
charitable people, an' here we two are met together--both ready for
action.  Now, I call that a Providential arrangement, so please putt me
down as one of your charitable friends.  It's little I can boast of in
that way as yet but it's not too late to begin.  I've long arrears to
pull up, so I'll give you that to begin with.  It'll help to relieve
Mrs Leven in the meantime."

As he spoke, the Captain drew a black pocketbook from his breast pocket
and, taking a piece of paper therefrom, placed it in the doctor's hands.

"This is a fifty-pound note!" said Lawrence, in surprise.

"Well, what then?" returned the Captain.  "You didn't expect a
thousand-pound note, did you?"

"Not quite that," replied Lawrence, laughing, "but I thought that
perhaps you had made a mistake."

"Ah! you judged from appearances, young man.  Don't you git into the way
of doin' that, else you'll be for ever sailin' on the wrong tack.  Take
my advice, an' never look as if you thought a man gave you more than he
could afford.  Nobody never does that."

"Far be it from me," returned Lawrence, "to throw cold water on generous
impulses.  I accept your gift with thanks, and will gladly put you on my
list.  If you should find hereafter that I pump you rather hard, please
to remember that you gave me encouragement to do so."

"Pump away, sir.  When you've pumped dry, I'll tell you!"

"Well," said Lawrence, rising, "I'll go at once and bring your
liberality into play; and, since you have done me so good a turn,
remember that you may command my services, if they can ever be of any
use to you."

The Captain cast a glance at the trap-door and the chest.

"Well," said he, "I can scarcely ask you to do it professionally, but if
you'd lend a hand to get this Noah's ark o' mine on to the upper deck,
I'd--"

"Come along," cried Lawrence, jumping up with a laugh, and seizing one
end of the "ark."

Captain Wopper grasped the other end, and, between them, with much
puffing, pushing, and squeezing, they thrust the box through the trap to
the upper regions, whither the Captain followed it by means of the same
gymnastic feat that he performed on his first ascent.  Thrusting his
head down, he invited the doctor to "come aloft," which the doctor did
in the same undignified fashion, for his gentle manner and spirit had
not debarred him from the practice and enjoyment of manly exercises.

"It's a snug berth, you see," said the Captain, stumbling among the
dusty lumber, and knocking his head against the beams, "wants cleaning
up, tho', and puttin' to rights a bit, but I'll soon manage that; and
when I git the dirt and cobwebs cleared away, glass putt in the
port-holes, and a whitewash on the roof and walls, it'll be a cabin fit
for an admiral.  See what a splendid view of the river!  Just suited to
a seafarin' man."

"Capital!" cried Lawrence, going down on his knees to obtain the view
referred to.  "Rather low in the roof, however, don't you think?"

"Low? not at all!" exclaimed the Captain.  "It's nothin' to what I've
been used to on the coastin' trade off Californy.  Why, I've had to live
in cabins so small that a tall man couldn't keep his back straight when
he was sittin' on the lockers; but we didn't _sit_ much in 'em; we was
chiefly used to go into 'em to lie down.  This is a palace to such
cabins."

The doctor expressed satisfaction at finding that his new "charitable
contributor" took such enlarged views of a pigeon-hole, and, promising
to pay him another visit when the "cabin" should have been put to
rights, said good-bye, and went to relieve the wants of the sick woman.

As the captain accompanied him along the passage, they heard the voice
and step of poor Mrs Leven's dissipated son, as he came stumbling and
singing up the stair.

He was a stout good-looking youth, and cast a half impudent half
supercilious look at Captain Wopper on approaching.  He also bestowed a
nod of careless recognition on Dr Lawrence.

Thinking it better to be out of the way, the Captain said good-bye again
to his friend, and returned to the cabin, where he expressed to Mrs
Roby the opinion that, "that young feller Leven was goin' to the dogs at
railway speed."

Thereafter he went "aloft," and, as he expressed it, "rigged himself
out," in a spruce blue coat with brass buttons; blue vest and trousers
to match; a white dicky with a collar attached and imitation carbuncle
studs down the front.  To these he added a black silk neckerchief tied
in a true sailor's knot but with the ends separated and carefully tucked
away under his vest to prevent their interfering with the effulgence of
the carbuncle studs; a pair of light shoes with a superabundance of new
tie; a green silk handkerchief, to be carried in his hat, for the
purpose of mopping his forehead when warm, and a red silk ditto to be
carried in his pocket for the benefit of his nose.  In addition to the
studs, Captain Wopper wore, as ornaments, a solid gold ring, the rude
workmanship of which induced the belief that he must have made it
himself, and a large gold watch, with a gold chain in the form of a
cable, and a rough gold nugget attached to it in place of a seal or key.
We class the watch among simple ornaments because, although it went--
very demonstratively too, with a loud self-asserting tick--its going was
irregular and uncertain.  Sometimes it went too slow without apparent
cause.  At other times it went too fast without provocation.  Frequently
it struck altogether, and only consented to resume work after a good
deal of gentle and persuasive threatening to wind it the wrong way.  It
had chronic internal complaints, too, which produced sundry ominous
clicks and sounds at certain periods of the day.  These passed off,
however, towards evening.  Occasionally such sounds rushed as it were
into a sudden whirr and series of convulsions, ending in a dead stop,
which was an unmistakeable intimation to the Captain that something
vital had given way; that the watch had gone into open mutiny, and
nothing short of a visit to the watchmaker could restore it to life and
duty.

"I'm off now," said the Captain, descending when he was fully "rigged."
"What about the door-key, mother?--you've no objection to my calling you
mother, have you?"

"None whatever, Captain," replied Mrs Roby, with a pleasant smile, "an
old friend of William may call me whatever he pleases--short," she added
after momentary pause, "of swearin'."

"Trust me, I'll stop short of that.  You see, old lady, I never know'd a
mother, and I should like to try to feel what it's like to have one.
It's true I'm not just a lad, but you are old enough to be my mother for
all that, so I'll make the experiment.  But what about the key of the
door, mother?  I can't expect you to let me in, you know."

"Just lock it, and take the key away with you," said Mrs Roby.

"But what if a fire should break out?" said the Captain, with a look of
indecision.

"I'm not afraid of fire.  We've got a splendid brigade and plenty of
fire-escapes, and a good kick from a fireman would open my door without
a key."

"Mother, you're a trump!  I'll lock you in and leave you with an easy
mind--"

He stopped abruptly, and Mrs Roby asked what was the matter.

"Well, it's what I said about an easy mind that threw me all aback,"
replied the Captain, "for to tell 'ee the truth, I haven't got an easy
mind."

"Not done anything wicked, I hope?" said Mrs Roby, anxiously.

"No, no; nothin' o' that sort; but there _is_ somethin' lyin' heavy on
my mind, and I don't see why I shouldn't make a confidant o' you, bein'
my mother, d'ee see; and, besides, it consarns Willum."

The old woman looked eagerly at her lodger as he knitted his brows in
perplexity and smoothed down his forelock.

"Here's where it is," he continued, drawing his chair closer to that of
Mrs Roby; "when Willum made me his exikooter, so to speak, he said to
me, `Wopper,' says he, `I'm not one o' them fellers that holds on to his
cash till he dies with it in his pocket.  I've got neither wife nor
chick, as you know, an' so, wot I means to do is to give the bulk of it
to them that I love while I'm alive--d'ee see?'  `I do, Willum,' says I.
`Well then,' says he, `besides them little matters that I axed you to
do for me, I want you to take partikler notice of two people.  One is
the man as saved my life w'en I was a youngster, or, if he's dead, take
notice of his child'n.  The other is that sweet young creeter, Emma
Gray, who has done the correspondence with me so long for my poor
brother.  You keep a sharp look-out an' find out how these two are off
for money.  If Emma's rich, of course it's no use to give her what she
don't need, and I'll give the most of what I've had the good fortune to
dig up here to old Mr Lawrence, or his family, for my brother's widow,
bein' rich, don't need it.  If both Emma and Lawrence are rich, why
then, just let me know, and I'll try to hit on some other plan to make
away with it, for you know well enough I couldn't use it all upon myself
without going into wicked extravagance, and my dear old Mrs Roby
wouldn't know what to do with so much cash if I sent it to her.  Now,
you promise to do this for me?' says he.  `Willum,' says I, `I do.'"

"Now, mother," continued the Captain, "what troubles me is this, that
instead o' findin' Miss Emma rich, and Mr Lawrence poor, or _wice
wersa_, or findin' 'em both rich, I finds 'em both poor.  That's where
my difficulty lies."

Mrs Roby offered a prompt solution of this difficulty by suggesting
that William should divide the money between them.

"That would do all well enough," returned the Captain, "if there were no
under-currents drivin' the ship out of her true course.  But you see,
mother, I find that the late Mr Stoutley's family is also poor--at
least in difficulties--although they live in great style, and _seem_ to
be rich; and from what I heard the other day, I know that the son is
given to gamblin', and the mother seems to be extravagant, and both of
'em are ready enough to sponge on Miss Emma, who is quite willin'--far
too willin'--to be sponged upon, so that whatever Willum gave to her
would be just thrown away.  Now the question is," continued the Captain,
looking seriously at the kettle with the defiant spout, "what am I to
advise Willum to do?"

"Advise him," replied Mrs Roby, promptly, "to give _all_ the money to
Dr Lawrence, and get Dr Lawrence to marry Miss Gray, and so they'll
both get the whole of it."

A beaming smile crossed the Captain's visage.

"Not a bad notion, mother; but what if Dr Lawrence, after gettin' the
money, didn't want to marry Miss Gray?"

"Get him to marry her first and give the money afterwards," returned
Mrs Roby.

"Ay, that might do," replied the Captain, nodding slowly, "only it may
be that a man without means may hesitate about marryin' a girl without
means, especially if he didn't want _her_, and she didn't want _him_.  I
don't quite see how to get over all these difficulties."

"There's only one way of getting over them," said Mrs Roby, "and that
is, by bringin' the young people together, and givin' 'em a chance to
fall in love."

"True, true, mother, but, so far as I know, Dr Lawrence don't know the
family.  We couldn't," said the Captain, looking round the room,
dubiously, "ask 'em to take a quiet cup of tea here with us--eh?  You
might ask Dr Lawrence, as your medical man, and I might ask Miss Emma,
as an old friend of her uncle, quite in an off-hand way, you know, as if
by chance.  They'd never see through the dodge, and would fall in love
at once, perhaps--eh?"

Captain Wopper said all this in a dubious tone, looking at the defiant
kettle the while, as if propitiating its favourable reception of the
idea, but it continued defiant, and hissed uncompromisingly, while its
mistress laughed outright.

"You're not much of a match-maker, I see," she said, on recovering
composure.  "No, Captain, it wouldn't do to ask 'em here to tea."

"Well, well," said the Captain, rising, "we'll let match-makin' alone
for the present.  It's like tryin' to beat to wind'ard against a
cyclone.  The best way is to square the yards, furl the sails, and scud
under bare poles till it's over.  It's blowin' too hard just now for me
to make headway, so I'll wear ship and scud."

In pursuance of this resolve, Captain Wopper put on his wide-awake,
locked up his mother, and went off to dine at the "west end."



CHAPTER FIVE.

IN WHICH SEVERAL IMPORTANT MATTERS ARE ARRANGED, AND GILLIE WHITE
UNDERGOES SOME REMARKABLE AND HITHERTO UNKNOWN EXPERIENCES.

It is not necessary to inflict on the reader Mrs Stoutley's dinner in
detail; suffice it to say, that Captain Wopper conducted himself, on the
whole, much more creditably than his hostess had anticipated, and made
himself so entertaining, especially to Lewis, that that young gentleman
invited him to accompany the family to Switzerland, much to the
amusement of his cousin Emma and the horror of his mother, who, although
she enjoyed a private visit of the Captain, did not relish the thought
of his becoming a travelling companion of the family.  She pretended not
to hear the invitation given, but when Lewis, knowing full well the
state of her mind, pressed the invitation, she shook her head at him
covertly and frowned.  This by-play her son pretended not to see, and
continued his entreaties, the Captain not having replied.

"Now, do come with us, Captain Wopper," he said; "it will be such fun,
and we should all enjoy you _so_ much--wouldn't we, Emma?"  ("Yes,
indeed," from Emma); "and it would just be suited to your tastes and
habits, for the fine, fresh air of the mountains bears a wonderful
resemblance to that of the sea.  You've been accustomed no doubt to
climb up the shrouds to the crosstrees; well, in Switzerland, you may
climb up the hills to any sort of trees you like, and get shrouded in
mist, or tumble over a precipice and get put into your shroud
altogether; and--"

"Really, Lewie, you ought to be ashamed of making such bad puns,"
interrupted his mother.  "Doubtless it would be very agreeable to have
Captain Wopper with us, but I am quite sure it would be anything but
pleasant for him to travel through such a wild country with such a wild
goose as you for a companion."

"You have modestly forgotten yourself and Emma," said Lewis; "but come,
let the Captain answer for himself.  You know, mother, it has been your
wish, if not your intention, to get a companion for me on this trip--a
fellow older than myself--a sort of travelling tutor, who could teach me
something of the geology and botany of the country as we went along.
Well, the Captain is older than me, I think, which is one of the
requisites, and he could teach me astronomy, no doubt, and show me how
to box the compass; in return for which, I could show him how to box an
adversary's nose, as practised by the best authorities of the ring.  As
to geology and botany, I know a little of these sciences already, and
could impart my knowledge to the Captain, which would have the effect of
fixing it more firmly in my own memory; and every one knows that it is
of far greater importance to lay a good, solid groundwork of education,
than to build a showy, superficial structure, on a bad foundation.
Come, then, Captain, you see your advantages.  This is the last time of
asking.  If you don't speak now, henceforth and for ever hold your
tongue."

"Well, my lad," said the Captain, with much gravity, "I've turned the
thing over in my mind, and since Mrs Stoutley is so good as to say it
would be agreeable to her, I think I'll accept your invitation!"

"Bravo!  Captain, you're a true blue; come, have another glass of wine
on the strength of it."

"No wine, thank 'ee," said the Captain, placing his hand over his glass,
"I've had my beer; and I make it a rule never to mix my liquor.  Excuse
me, ma'am," he continued, addressing his hostess, "your son made mention
of a tooter--a travellin' tooter; may I ask if you've provided yourself
with one yet!"

"Not yet," answered Mrs Stoutley, feeling, but not looking, a little
surprised at the question, "I have no young friend at present quite
suited for the position, and at short notice it is not easy to find a
youth of talent willing to go, and on whom one can depend.  Can you
recommend one?"

Mrs Stoutley accompanied the question with a smile, for she put it in
jest.  She was, therefore, not a little surprised when the Captain said
promptly that he could--that he knew a young man--a doctor--who was just
the very ticket (these were his exact words), a regular clipper, with
everything about him trim, taut, and ship-shape, who would suit every
member of the family to a tee!

A hearty laugh from every member of the family greeted the Captain's
enthusiastic recommendation, and Emma exclaimed that he must be a most
charming youth, while Lewis pulled out pencil and note-book to take down
his name and address.

"You are a most valuable friend at this crisis in our affairs," said
Lewis, "I'll make mother write to him immediately."

"But have a care," said the Captain, "that you never mention who it was
that recommended him.  I'm not sure that he would regard it as a
compliment.  You must promise me that."

"I promise," said Lewis, "and whatever I promise mother will fulfil, so
make your mind easy on that head.  Now, mother, I shouldn't wonder if
Captain Wopper could provide you with that other little inexpensive
luxury you mentioned this morning.  D'you think you could recommend a
page?"

"What's a page, lad?"

"What! have you never heard of a page--a page in buttons?" asked Lewis
in surprise.

"Never," replied the Captain, shaking his head.

"Why, a page is a small boy, usually clad in blue tights, to make him
look as like a spider as possible, with three rows of brass buttons up
the front of his jacket--two of the rows being merely ornamental, and
going over his shoulders.  He usually wears a man's hat for the sake of
congruity, and is invariably as full of mischief as an egg is of meat.
Can you find such an article?"

"Ha!" exclaimed the Captain.  "What is he used for?"

"Chiefly for ornament, doing messages, being in the way when not wanted,
and out of the way when required."

"Yes," said the Captain, meditatively, "I've got my eye--"

"Your weather eye?" asked Lewis.

"Yes, my _weather_ eye, on a lad who'll fit you."

"To a tee?" inquired Emma, archly.

"To a tee, miss," assented the Captain, with a bland smile.

Lewis again pulled out his note-book to enter the name and address, but
the Captain assured him that he would manage this case himself; and it
was finally settled--for Lewis carried everything his own way, as a
matter of course--that Dr George Lawrence was to be written to next
day, and Captain Wopper was to provide a page.

"And you'll have to get him and yourself ready as fast as possible,"
said the youth in conclusion, "for we shall set off as soon as my
mother's trunks are packed."

Next morning, while Captain Wopper was seated conversing with his old
landlady at the breakfast-table--the morning meal having been just
concluded--he heard the voice of Gillie White in the court.  Going to
the end of the passage, he ordered that imp to "come aloft."

Gillie appeared in a few seconds, nodded patronisingly to old Mrs Roby,
hoped she was salubrious, and demanded to know what was up.

"My lad," said the Captain--and as he spoke, the urchin assumed an awful
look of mock solemnity.

"I want to know if you think you could behave yourself if you was to
try?"

"Ah!" said Gillie, with the air of a cross-examining advocate, "the
keewestion is not w'ether I could behave myself if I wos to try, but,
w'ether I _think_ I could.  Well, ahem! that depends.  I think I could,
now, if there was offered a very strong indoocement."

"Just so, my lad," returned the Captain, nodding, "that's exactly what I
mean to offer.  What d'ee say to a noo suit of blue tights, with three
rows brass buttons; a situation in a respectable family; a fair wage; as
much as you can eat and drink; and a trip to Switzerland to begin with?"

While the Captain spoke, the small boy's eyes opened wider and wider,
and his month followed suit, until he stood the very picture of
astonishment.

"You _don't_ mean it?" he exclaimed.

"Indeed I do, my lad."

"Then _I'm_ your man," returned the small boy emphatically, "putt me
down for that sitooation; send for a lawyer, draw up the articles,
_I'll_ sign 'em right _off_, and--"

"Gillie, my boy," interrupted the Captain, "one o' the very first things
you have to do in larnin' to behave yourself is to clap a stopper on
your tongue--it's far too long."

"All right, Capp'n," answered the imp, "I'll go to Guy's Hospital
d'rectly and 'ave three-fourths of it ampitated."

"Do," said the Captain, somewhat sternly, "an' ask 'em to attach a brake
to the bit that's left.

"Now, lad," he continued, "you've got a very dirty face."

Gillie nodded, with his lips tightly compressed to check utterance.

"And a very ragged head of hair," he added.

Again Gillie nodded.

The Captain pointed to a basin of water which stood on a chair in a
corner of the room, beside which lay a lump of yellow soap, a comb, and
a rough jack-towel.

"There," said he, "go to work."

Gillie went to work with a will, and scrubbed himself to such an extent,
that his skin must undoubtedly have been thinner after the operation.
The washing, however, was easy compared with the combing.  The boy's mop
was such a tangled web, that the comb at first refused to pass through
it; and when, encouraged by the Captain, the urchin did at last succeed
in rending its masses apart various inextricable bunches came away
bodily, and sundry teeth of the comb were left behind.  At last,
however, it was reduced to something like order, to the immense
satisfaction of Mrs Roby and the Captain.

"Now," said the latter, "did you ever have a Turkish bath?"

"No--never."

"Well, then, come with me and have one.  Have you got a cap?"

"Hm--never mind, come along; you're not cleaned up yet by a long way;
but we'll manage it in course of time."

As the Captain and his small _protege_ passed along the streets, the
former took occasion to explain that a Turkish bath was a species of
mild torture, in which a man was stewed alive, and baked in an oven, and
par-boiled, and scrubbed, and pinched, and thumped (sometimes black and
blue), and lathered with soap till he couldn't see, and heated up to
seven thousand and ten, Fahrenheit and soused with half-boiling water,
and shot at with cold water--or shot into it, as the case might be--and
rolled in a sheet like a mummy, and stretched out a like corpse to cool.
"Most men," he said, "felt gaspy in Turkish baths, and weak ones were
alarmed lest they should get suffocated beyond recovery; but strong men
rather enjoy themselves in 'em than otherwise."

"Hah!" exclaimed the imp, "may I wentur' to ax, Capp'n, wot's the effect
on _boys_?"

To this the Captain replied that he didn't exactly know, never having
heard of boys taking Turkish baths.  Whereupon Gillie suggested, that if
possible he might have himself cleaned in an ordinary bath.

"Impossible, my lad," said the Captain, decidedly.  "No or'nary bath
would clean you under a week, unless black soap and scrubbin' brushes
was used.

"But don't be alarmed, Gillie," he added, looking down with a twinkle in
his eyes, "I'll go into the bath along with you.  We'll sink or swim
together, my boy, and I'll see that you're not overdone.  I'm rather
fond of them myself, d'ee see, so I can recommend 'em from experience."

Somewhat reassured by this, though still a little uneasy in his mind,
the imp followed his patron to the baths.

It would have been a sight worth seeing, the entrance of these two into
the temple of soap-and-water.  To see Gillie's well-made, but very
meagre and dirty little limbs unrobed; to see him decked out with the
scrimpest possible little kilt, such as would, perhaps, have suited the
fancy of a Fiji islander; to see his gaze of undisguised admiration on
beholding his companion's towering and massive frame in the same
unwonted costume, if we may so style it; to see the intensifying of his
astonishment when ushered into the _first_ room, at beholding six or
seven naked, and apparently dead men, laid round the walls, as if ready
for dissection; to see the monkey-like leap, accompanied by a squeal,
with which he sprang from a hot stone-bench, having sat down thereon
before it had been covered with a cloth for his reception; to see the
rapid return of his self-possession in these unusual circumstances, and
the ready manner in which he submitted himself to the various
operations, as if he had been accustomed to Turkish baths from a period
long prior to infancy; to see his horror on being introduced to the
hottest room, and his furtive glance at the door, as though he meditated
a rush into the open air, but was restrained by a sense of personal
dignity; to see the ruling passion strong as ever in this (he firmly
believed) his nearest approach to death, when, observing that the man
next to him (who, as it were, turned the corner from him) had raised
himself for a moment to arrange his pillow, he (Gillie) tipped up the
corner of the man's sheet, which hung close to his face in such a manner
that he (the man), on lying down again, placed his bare shoulder on the
hot stone, and sprang up with a yell that startled into life the whole
of the half-sleeping establishment with the exception of the youth on
the opposite bench, who, having noticed the act, was thrown into
convulsions of laughter, much to the alarm of Gillie, who had thought he
was asleep and feared that he might "tell;"--to see him laid down like a
little pink-roll to be kneaded, and to hear him remark, in a calm voice,
to the stalwart attendant that he might go in and win and needn't be
afraid of hurting him; to observe his delight when put under the warm
"douche," his gasping shriek when unexpectedly assailed with the
"cold-shower," and his placid air of supreme felicity when wrapped up
like a ghost in a white sheet, and left to dry in the cooling-room--to
see and hear all this, we say, would have amply repaid a special journey
to London from any reasonable distance.  The event, however, being a
thing of the past and language being unequal to the description, we are
compelled to leave it all to the reader's imagination.



CHAPTER SIX.

A LESSON TAUGHT AND LEARNED.

Two days after the events narrated in the last chapter, rather late in
the evening, Dr George Lawrence called at "the cabin" in Grubb's Court,
and found the Captain taking what he called a quiet pipe.

"I have been visiting poor Mrs Leven," he said to Mrs Roby, sitting
down beside her, "and I fear she is a good deal worse to-night.  That
kind little woman, Netta White, has agreed to sit by her.  I'm sorry
that I shall be obliged to leave her at such a critical stage of her
illness, but I am obliged to go abroad for some time."

"Goin' abroad, sir!" exclaimed Mrs Roby in surprise, for the Captain
had not yet told her that Lawrence was to be of the party, although he
had mentioned about himself and Gillie White.

"Yes, I'm going with Mrs Stoutley's family for some weeks to
Switzerland."

Captain Wopper felt that his share in the arrangements was in danger of
being found out.  He therefore boldly took the lead.

"Ah!  _I_ know all about that, sir."

"Indeed?" said Lawrence.

"Yes, I dined the other day with Mrs Stoutley; she asked _me_ also to
be of the party, and I'm going."

Lawrence again exclaimed, "Indeed!" with increasing surprise, and added,
"Well, now, that _is_ a strange coincidence."

"Well, d'ee know," said the Captain, in an argumentative tone, "it don't
seem to me much of a coincidence.  You know she had to git some one to
go with her son, and why not you, sir, as well as any of the other young
sawbones in London?  If she hadn't got you she'd have got another, and
that would have been a coincidence to _him_, d'ee see?  Then, as to me,
it wasn't unnatural that she should take a fancy to the man that nussed
her dyin' husband, an' was chum to her brother-in-law; so, you see,
that's how it came about and I'm very glad to find, sir, that we are to
sail in company for a short time."

Lawrence returned this compliment heartily, and was about to make some
further remark, when little Netta White rushed into the room with a
frightened look and pale cheeks, exclaiming, "Oh, Dr Lawrence, sir,
she's _very_ ill.  I think she's dying."

Without waiting for a reply, the child ran out of the room followed by
Lawrence and Mrs Roby, who was assisted by the Captain--for she walked
with great difficulty even when aided by her crutches.  In a few seconds
they stood beside Mrs Leven's bed.  It was a lowly bed, with scant and
threadbare coverings, and she who lay on it was of a lowly spirit--one
who for many years had laid her head on the bosom of Jesus, and had
found Him, through a long course of poverty and mental distress, "a very
present help in trouble."

"I fear that I'm very ill," she said, faintly.

"No doubt you feel rather low just now," said the doctor, "but that is
very much owing to your having lived so long on insufficient diet.  I
will give you something, however, which will soon pull you up a bit.
Come, cheer up.  Don't let your spirits get so low."

"Yes," she murmured, "I _am_ brought very low, but the Lord will lift me
up.  He is my strength and my Redeemer."

She clasped her hands with difficulty, and shut her eyes.

A silence followed, during which Captain Wopper drew Lawrence into the
passage.

"D'you think she is near her end, doctor?"

"She looks very like it," replied the doctor.  "There is a possibility
that she might recover if the right medicine could be found, namely,
ease of mind; but her dissipated son has robbed her of that, and is the
only one who can give it back to her--if indeed he has the power left
now.  She is dying of what is unprofessionally styled a broken heart.
It is unfortunate that her son is not with her at present."

"Does no one know where to find him?" asked the Captain.

"I fear not," replied the doctor.

"Please, sir, I think _I_ know," said a subdued voice behind them.

It was that of Gillie White, who had drawn near very silently, being
overawed by the sad scene in the sick-room.

"Do you, my lad? then get along as fast as you can and show me the way,"
said the Captain, buttoning up his pilot-coat.  "I'll bring him here
before long, doctor, if he's to be found."

In a few minutes the Captain and Gillie were at the head of the lane,
where the former hailed a passing cab, bade the boy jump in, and
followed him.

"Now, my lad, give the address," said the Captain.

"The Strand," said the boy, promptly.

"What number, sir?" asked the cabman, looking at the Captain.

"Right on till I stop you," said Gillie, with the air of a
commander-in-chief--whom in some faint manner he now resembled, for he
was in livery, being clothed in blue tights and brass buttons.

In a short time Gillie gave the order to pull up, and they got out in
front of a brilliantly-lighted and open door with a lamp above it, on
which was written the word Billiards.  The Captain observed that it was
the same door as that at which he had parted from Lewis Stoutley some
days before.

Dismissing the cab and entering, they quickly found themselves in a
large and well-lighted billiard-room, which was crowded with men of all
ages and aspects, some of whom played, others looked on and betted, a
good many drank brandy and water, and nearly all smoked.  It was a
bright scene of dissipation, where many young men, deceiving themselves
with the idea that they went merely to practise or to enjoy a noble game
of skill, were taking their first steps on the road to ruin.

The Captain, closely attended by Gillie, moved slowly through the room,
looking anxiously for Fred Leven.  For some time they failed to find
him.  At last a loud curse, uttered in the midst of a knot of
on-lookers, attracted their attention.  It was followed by a general
laugh, as a young man, whose dishevelled hair and flushed face showed
that he had been drinking hard, burst from among them and staggered
towards the door.

"Never mind, Fred," shouted a voice that seemed familiar to the Captain,
"you'll win it back from me next time."

Ere the youth had passed, the Captain stepped forward and laid his hand
on his arm.

Fred uttered a savage growl, and drew back his clenched hand as if to
strike, but Captain Wopper's size and calm look of decision induced him
to hold his hand.

"What d'you mean by interrupting me?" he demanded, sternly.

"My lad," said the Captain, in a low, solemn voice, "your mother is
dying, come with me.  You've no time to lose."

The youth's face turned ashy pale, and he passed his hand hastily across
his brow.

"What's wrong?" exclaimed Lewis Stoutley, who had recognised the
Captain, and come forward at the moment.

"Did he lose his money to _you_?" asked the Captain, abruptly.

"Well, yes, he did," retorted Lewis, with a look of offended dignity.

"Come along, then, my lad.  I want _you_ too.  It's a case of life an'
death.  Ask no questions, but come along."

The Captain said this with such an air of authority, that Lewis felt
constrained to obey.  Fred Leven seemed to follow like one in a dream.
They all got into a cab, and were driven back to Grubb's Court.

As they ascended the stair, the Captain whispered to Lewis, "Keep in the
background, my lad.  Do nothing but look and listen."

Another moment and they were in the passage, where Lawrence stopped
them.

"You're almost too late, sir," he said to Fred, sternly.  "If you had
fed and clothed your mother better in time past, she might have got over
this.  Fortunately for her, poor soul, some people, who don't gamble
away their own and their parents' means, have given her the help that
you have refused.  Go in, sir, and try to speak words of comfort to her
_now_."

He went in, and fell on his knees beside the bed.

"Mother!" he said.

Fain would he have said more, but no word could he utter.  His tongue
seemed to cleave to the roof of his mouth.  Mrs Leven opened her eyes
on hearing the single word, and her cheek flushed slightly as she seized
one of his hands, kissed it and held it to her breast.  Then she looked
earnestly, and oh! so anxiously, into his face, and said in a low
tone:--

"Fred, dear, are you so--"

She stopped abruptly.

"Yes, yes," cried her son, passionately; "yes, mother, I'm sober _now_!
Oh mother, dearest, darling mother, I am guilty, guilty; I have sinned.
Oh forgive, forgive me!  Listen, listen!  I am in earnest now, my
mother.  Think of me as I used to be long ago.  Don't shut your eyes.
Look at me, mother, look at Fred."

The poor woman looked at him with tears of gladness in her eyes.

"God bless you, Fred!" she murmured.  "It is long, long, since you spoke
like that.  But I knew you would.  I have always expected that you
would.  Praise the Lord!"

Fred tried to speak, and again found that he could not, but the fountain
of his soul was opened.  He laid his face on his mother's hand and
sobbed bitterly.

Those who witnessed this scene stood as if spellbound.  As far as sound
or motion went these two might have been in the room alone.  Presently
the sound of sobbing ceased, and Fred, raising his head, began gently to
stroke the hand he held in his.  Sometime in his wild career, he knew
not when or where, he had heard it said that this slight action had
often a wonderful power to soothe the sick.  He continued it for some
time.  Then the doctor advanced and gazed into the invalid's
countenance.

"She sleeps," he said, in a low tone.

"May I stay beside her?" whispered Fred.

Lawrence nodded assent, and then motioning to the others to withdraw,
followed them into Mrs Roby's room, where he told them that her
sleeping was a good sign, and that they must do their best to prevent
her being disturbed.

"It won't be necessary for any one to watch.  Her son will prove her
best attendant just now; but it may be as well that some one should sit
up in this room, and look in now and then to see that the candle doesn't
burn out, and that all is right.  I will go now, and will make this my
first visit in the morning."

"Captain Wopper," said Lewis Stoutley, in a subdued voice, when Lawrence
had left, "I won this ten-pound note to-night from Fred.  I--I robbed
him of it.  Will you give it to him in the morning?"

"Yes, my lad, I will," said the Captain.

"And will you let me sit up and watch here tonight?"

"No, my lad, I won't.  I mean to do that myself."

"But do let me stay an hour or so with you, in case anything is wanted,"
pleaded Lewis.

"Well, you may."

They sat down together by the fireside, Mrs Roby having lain down on
her bed with her clothes on, but they spoke never a word; and as they
sat there, the young man's busy brain arrayed before him many and many a
scene of death, and sickness, and suffering, and sorrow, and madness,
and despair, which, he knew well from hearsay (and he now believed it),
had been the terrible result of gambling and drink.

When the hour was past, the Captain rose and said, "Now, Lewis, you'll
go, and I'll take a look at the next room."

He put off his shoes and went on tiptoe.  Lewis followed, and took a
peep before parting.

Fred had drawn three chairs to the bedside and lain down on them, with
his shoulders resting on the edge of the bed, so that he could continue
to stroke his mother's hand without disturbing her.  He had continued
doing so until his head had slowly drooped upon the pillow; and there
they now lay, the dissipated son and the humble Christian mother,
sleeping quietly together.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

THE GREAT WHITE MOUNTAIN.

We are in Switzerland now; in the "land of the mountain and the flood"--
the land also of perennial ice and snow.  The solemn presence of the
Great White Mountain is beginning to be felt.  Its pure summit was first
seen from Geneva; its shadow is now beginning to steal over us.

We are on the road to Chamouni, not yet over the frontier, in a carriage
and four.  Mrs Stoutley, being a lady of unbounded wealth, always
travels post in a carriage and four when she can manage to do so, having
an unconquerable antipathy to railroads and steamers.  She could not
well travel in any other fashion here, railways not having yet
penetrated the mountain regions in this direction, and a mode of
ascending roaring mountain torrents in steamboats not having yet been
discovered.  She might, however, travel with two horses, but she prefers
four.  Captain Wopper, who sits opposite Emma Gray, wonders in a quiet
speculative way whether "the Mines" will produce a dividend sufficient
to pay the expenses of this journey.  He is quite disinterested in the
thought, it being understood that the Captain pays his own expenses.

But we wander from our text, which is--the Great White Mountain.  We are
driving now under its shadow with Mrs Stoutley's party, which, in
addition to the Captain and Miss Gray, already mentioned, includes young
Dr George Lawrence and Lewis, who are on horseback; also Mrs
Stoutley's maid (Mrs Stoutley never travels without a maid), Susan
Quick, who sits beside the Captain; and Gillie White, _alias_ the Spider
and the Imp, who sits beside the driver, making earnest but futile
efforts to draw him into a conversation in English, of which language
the driver knows next to nothing.

But to return: Mrs Stoutley and party are now in the very heart of
scenery the most magnificent; they have penetrated to a great
fountain-head of European waters; they are surrounded by the cliffs, the
gorges, the moraines, and are not far from the snow-slopes and
ice-fields, the couloirs, the seracs, the crevasses, and the
ice-precipices and pinnacles of a great glacial world; but not one of
the party betrays the smallest amount of interest, or expresses the
faintest emotion of surprise, owing to the melancholy fact that all is
shrouded in an impenetrable veil of mist through which a thick fine rain
percolates as if the mountain monarch himself were bewailing their
misfortunes.

"Isn't it provoking?" murmured Mrs Stoutley drawing her shawl closer.

"Very," replied Emma.

"Disgusting!" exclaimed Lewis, who rode at the side of the carriage next
his cousin.

"It might be worse," said Lawrence, with a grim smile.

"Impossible," retorted Lewis.

"Come, Captain, have you no remark to make by way of inspiring a little
hope?" asked Mrs Stoutley.

"Why, never havin' cruised in this region before," answered the Captain,
"my remarks can't be of much value.  Hows'ever, there _is_ one idea that
may be said to afford consolation, namely, that this sort o' thing can't
last.  I've sailed pretty nigh in all parts of the globe, an' I've
invariably found that bad weather has its limits--that after rain we may
look for sunshine, and after storm, calm."

"How cheering!" said Lewis, as the rain trickled from the point of his
prominent nose.

At that moment Gillie White, happening to cast his eyes upward, beheld a
vision which drew from him an exclamation of wild surprise.

They all looked quickly in the same direction, and there, through a rent
in the watery veil, they beheld a little spot of blue sky, rising into
which was a mountain-top so pure, so faint so high and inexpressibly far
off, yet so brilliant in a glow of sunshine, that it seemed as if heaven
had been opened, and one of the hills of Paradise revealed.  It was the
first near view that the travellers had obtained of these mountains of
everlasting ice.  With the exception of the exclamations "Wonderful!"
"Most glorious!" they found no words for a time to express their
feelings, and seemed glad to escape the necessity of doing so by
listening to the remarks of their driver, as he went into an elaborate
explanation of the name and locality of the particular part of Mont
Blanc that had been thus disclosed.

The rent in the mist closed almost as quickly as it had opened, utterly
concealing the beautiful vision; but the impression it had made, being a
first and a very deep one, could never more be removed.  The travellers
lived now in the faith of what they had seen.  Scepticism was no longer
possible, and in this improved frame of mind they dashed into the
village of Chamouni--one of the haunts of those whose war-cry is
"Excelsior!"--and drove to the best hotel.

Their arrival in the village was an unexpected point of interest to many
would-be mountaineers, who lounged about the place with macintoshes and
umbrellas, growling at the weather.  Any event out of the common forms a
subject of interest to men who wait and have nothing to do.  As the
party passed them, growlers gazed and speculated as to who the
new-comers might be.  Some thought Miss Gray pretty; some thought
otherwise--to agree on any point on such a day being, of course,
impossible.  Others "guessed" that the young fellows must be uncommonly
fond of riding to "get on the outside of a horse" in such weather; some
remarked that the "elderly female" seemed "used up," or "_blasee_," and
all agreed--yes, they _did_ agree on this point--that the thing in blue
tights and buttons beside the driver was the most impudent-looking
monkey the world had ever produced!

The natives of the place also had their opinions, and expressed them to
each other; especially the bronzed, stalwart sedate-looking men who hung
about in knots near the centre of the village, and seemed to estimate
the probability of the stout young Englishmen on horseback being likely
to require their services often--for these, said the driver, were the
celebrated guides of Chamouni; men of bone and muscle, and endurance and
courage; the leaders of those daring spirits who consider--and justly
so--the ascent to the summit of Mont Blanc, or Monte Rosa, or the
Matterhorn, a feat; the men who perform this feat it may be, two or
three times a week--as often as you choose to call them to it, in fact--
and think nothing of it; the men whose profession it is to risk their
lives every summer from day to day for a few francs; who have become so
inured to danger that they have grown quite familiar with it, insomuch
that some of the reckless blades among them treat it now and then with
contempt, and pay the penalty of such conduct with their lives.

Sinking into a couch in her private sitting-room, Mrs Stoutley resigned
herself to Susan's care, and, while she was having her boots taken off,
said with a sigh:--

"Well, here we are at last.  What do you think of Chamouni, Susan?"

"Rather a wet place, ma'am; ain't it?"

With a languid smile, Mrs Stoutley admitted that it was, but added, by
way of encouragement that it was not always so.  To which Susan replied
that she was glad to hear it, so she was, as nothink depressed her
spirits so much as wet and clouds, and gloom.

Susan was a pretty girl of sixteen, tall, as well as very sedate and
womanly, for her age.  Having been born in one of the midland counties,
of poor, though remarkably honest, parents, who had received no
education themselves, and therefore held it to be quite unnecessary to
bestow anything so useless on their daughter, she was, until very
recently, as ignorant of all beyond the circle of her father's homestead
as the daughter of the man in the moon--supposing no compulsory
education-act to be in operation in the orb of night.  Having passed
through them, she now knew of the existence of France and Switzerland,
but she was quite in the dark as to the position of these two countries
with respect to the rest of the world, and would probably have regarded
them as one and the same if their boundary-line had not been somewhat
deeply impressed upon her by the ungallant manner in which the Customs
officials examined the contents of her modest little portmanteau in
search, as Gillie gave her to understand, of tobacco.

Mrs Stoutley had particularly small feet, a circumstance which might
have induced her, more than other ladies, to wear easy boots; but owing
to some unaccountable perversity of mental constitution, she deemed this
a good reason for having her boots made unusually tight.  The removal of
these, therefore, afforded great relief, and the administration of a cup
of tea produced a cheering reaction of spirits, under the influence of
which she partially forgot herself, and resolved to devote a few minutes
to the instruction of her interestingly ignorant maid.

"Yes," she said, arranging herself comfortably, and sipping her tea,
while Susan busied herself putting away her lady's "things," and
otherwise tidying the room, "it does not always rain here; there is a
little sunshine sometimes.  By the way, where is Miss Gray?"

"In the bedroom, ma'am, unpacking the trunks."

"Ah, well, as I was saying, they have a little sunshine sometimes, for
you know, Susan, people _must_ live, and grass or grain cannot grow
without sunshine, so it has been arranged that there should be enough
here for these purposes, but no more than enough, because Switzerland
has to maintain its character as one of the great refrigerators of
Europe."

"One of the what, ma'am?"

"Refrigerators," explained Mrs Stoutley; "a refrigerator, Susan, is a
freezer; and it is the special mission of Switzerland to freeze nearly
all the water that falls on its mountains, and retain it there in the
form of ice and snow until it is wanted for the use of man.  Isn't that
a grand idea?"

The lecturer's explanation had conveyed to Susan's mind the idea of the
Switzers going with long strings of carts to the top of Mont Blanc for
supplies of ice to meet the European demand, and she admitted that it
_was_ a grand idea, and asked if the ice and snow lasted long into the
summer.

"Long into it!" exclaimed her teacher.  "Why, you foolish thing, its
lasts all through it."

"Oh indeed, ma'am!" said Susan, who entertained strong doubts in her
heart as to the correctness of Mrs Stoutley's information on this
point.

"Yes," continued that lady, with more animation than she had experienced
for many months past, so invigorating was the change of moral atmosphere
induced by this little breeze of instruction; "yes, the ice and snow
cover the hills and higher valleys for dozens and dozens of miles round
here in all directions, not a few inches deep, such as we sometimes see
in England, but with thousands and millions of tons of it, so that the
ice in the valleys is hundreds of feet thick, and never melts away
altogether, but remains there from year to year--has been there, I
suppose, since the world began, and will continue, I fancy, until the
world comes to an end."

Mrs Stoutley warmed up here, to such an extent that she absolutely
flushed, and Susan, who had heretofore regarded her mistress merely as a
weakish woman, now set her down, mentally, as a barefaced story-teller.

"Surely, ma'am," she said, with diffidence, "ice and snow like that
doesn't fill _all_ the valleys, else we should see it, and find it
difficult to travel through 'em; shouldn't we, ma'am?"

"Silly girl!" exclaimed her preceptress, "I did not say it filled _all_
the valleys, but the _higher_ valleys--valleys such as, in England and
Scotland, would be clothed with pasturage and waving grain, and dotted
with cattle and sheep and smiling cottages."

Mrs Stoutley had by this time risen to a heroic frame, and spoke
poetically, which accounts for her ascribing risible powers to cottages.

"And thus you see, Susan," she continued, "Switzerland is, as it were, a
great ice-tank, or a series of ice-tanks, in which the ice of ages is
accumulated and saved up, so that the melting of a little of it--the
mere dribbling of it, so to speak--is sufficient to cause the continuous
flow of innumerable streams and of great rivers, such as the Rhone, and
the Rhine, and the Var."

The lecture received unexpected and appropriate illustration here by the
sudden lifting of the mists, which had hitherto blotted out the
landscape.

"Oh, aunt!" exclaimed Emma, running in at the moment, "just look at the
hills.  How exquisite!  How much grander than if we had seen them quite
clear from the first!"

Emma was strictly correct, for it is well known that the grandeur of
Alpine scenery is greatly enhanced by the wild and weird movements of
the gauze-like drapery with which it is almost always partially
enshrouded.

As the trio stood gazing in silent wonder and admiration from their
window, which, they had been informed, commanded a view of the summit of
Mont Blanc, the mist had risen like a curtain partially rolled up.  All
above the curtain-foot presented the dismal grey, to which they had been
too long accustomed, but below, and, as it were, far behind this
curtain, the mountain-world was seen rising upwards.

So close were they to the foot of the Great White Monarch, that it
seemed to tower like a giant-wall before them; but this wall was varied
and beautiful as well as grand.  Already the curtain had risen high
enough to disclose hoary cliffs and precipices, with steep grassy slopes
between, and crowned with fringes of dark pines; which latter, although
goodly trees, looked like mere shrubs in their vast setting.  Rills were
seen running like snowy veins among the slopes, and losing themselves in
the masses of _debris_ at the mountain-foot.  As they gazed, the curtain
rose higher, disclosing new and more rugged features, on which shone a
strange, unearthly light--the result of shadow from the mist and
sunshine behind it--while a gleam of stronger light tipped the curtain's
under-edge in one direction.  Still higher it rose!  Susan exclaimed
that the mountain was rising into heaven; and Emma and Mrs Stoutley,
whose reading had evidently failed to impress them with a just
conception of mountain-scenery, stood with clasped hands in silent
expectancy and admiration.  The gleam of stronger light above referred
to, widened, and Susan almost shrieked with ecstasy when the curtain
seemed to rend, and the gleam resolved itself into the great Glacier des
Bossons, which, rolling over the mountain-brow like a very world of ice,
thrust its mighty tongue down into the valley.

From that moment Susan's disbelief in her lady's knowledge changed into
faith, and deepened into profound veneration.

It was, however, only a slight glimpse that had been thus afforded of
the ice-world by which they were surrounded.  The great ice-fountain of
those regions, commencing at the summit of Mont Blanc, flings its ample
waves over mountain and vale in all directions, forming a throne on
which perpetual winter reigns, and this glacier des Bossons, which
filled the breasts of our travellers with such feelings of awe, was but
one of the numerous rivers which flow from the fountain down the gorges
and higher valleys of the Alps, until they reach those regions where
summer heat asserts itself, and checks their further progress in the
form of ice by melting them.

"Is it possible," said Emma, as she gazed at the rugged and riven mass
of solid ice before her, "that a glacier really _flows_?"

"So learned men tell us, and so we must believe," said Mrs Stoutley.

"Flows, ma'am?" exclaimed Susan, in surprise.

"Yes, so it is said," replied Mrs Stoutley, with a smile.

"But we can see, ma'am, by lookin' at it, that it _don't_ flow; can't
we, ma'am?" said Susan.

"True, Susan, it does not seem to move; nevertheless scientific men tell
us that it does, and sometimes we are bound to believe against the
evidence of our senses."

Susan looked steadily at the glacier for some time; and then, although
she modestly held her tongue, scientific men fell considerably in her
esteem.

While the ladies were thus discussing the glacier and enlightening their
maid, Lewis, Lawrence, and the Captain, taking advantage of the improved
state of the weather, had gone out for a stroll, partly with a view, as
Lewis said, to freshen up their appetites for dinner--although, to say
truth, the appetites of all three were of such a nature as to require no
freshening up.  They walked smartly along the road which leads up the
valley, pausing, ever and anon, to look back in admiration at the
wonderful glimpses of scenery disclosed by the lifting mists.  Gradually
these cleared away altogether, and the mountain summits stood out well
defined against the clear sky.  And then, for the first time, came a
feeling of disappointment.

"Why, Lawrence," said Lewis, "didn't they tell us that we could see the
top of Mont Blanc from Chamouni?"

"They certainly did," replied Lawrence, "but I can't see it."

"There are two or three splendid-looking peaks," said Lewis, pointing up
the valley, "but surely that's not the direction of the top we look
for."

"No, my lad, it ain't the right point o' the compass by a long way,"
said the Captain; "but yonder goes a strange sail a-head, let's overhaul
her."

"Heave a-head then, Captain," said Lewis, "and clap on stun's'ls and
sky-scrapers, for the strange sail is making for that cottage on the
hill, and will get into port before we overhaul her if we don't look
sharp."

The "strange sail" was a woman.  She soon turned into the cottage
referred to, but our travellers followed her up, arranging, as they drew
near, that Lawrence, being the best French scholar of the three (the
Captain knowing nothing whatever of the language), should address her.

She turned out to be a very comely young woman, the wife, as she
explained, of one of the Chamouni guides, named Antoine Grennon.  Her
daughter, a pretty blue-eyed girl of six or so, was busy arranging a
casket of flowers, and the grandmother of the family was engaged in that
mysterious mallet-stone-scrubbing-brush-and-cold-water system, whereby
the washerwomen of the Alps convert the linen of tourists into shreds
and patches in the shortest possible space of time.

After some complimentary remarks, Lawrence asked if it were possible to
see the summit of Mont Blanc from where they stood.

Certainly it was; the guide's pretty wife could point it out and
attempted to do so, but was for a long time unsuccessful, owing to the
interference of preconceived notions--each of our travellers having set
his heart upon beholding a majestic peak of rugged rock, mingled,
perhaps, with ice-blocks and snow.

"Most extraordinary," exclaimed the puzzled Captain, "I've squinted
often enough at well-known peaks when on the look-out for landmarks from
the sea, an' never failed to make 'em out.  Let me see," he added,
getting behind the woman so as to look straight along her outstretched
arm, "no, _I_ can't see it.  My eyes must be giving way."

"Surely," said Lawrence, "you don't mean that little piece of smooth
snow rising just behind the crest of yonder mountain like a bit of
rounded sugar?"

"Oui, monsieur"--that was precisely what she meant; _that_ was the
summit of Mont Blanc.

And so, our three travellers--like many hundreds of travellers who had
gone before them, and like many, doubtless, who shall follow--were
grievously disappointed with their first view of Mont Blanc!  They
lived, however to change their minds, to discover that the village of
Chamouni lies too close to the toe of the Great White Mountain to permit
of his being seen to advantage.  One may truly see a small scrap of the
veritable top from Chamouni, but one cannot obtain an idea of what it is
that he sees.  As well might a beetle walk close up to the heel of a
man, and attempt from that position to form a correct estimate of his
size; as well might one plant himself two inches distant from a large
painting and expect to do it justice!  No, in order to understand Mont
Blanc, to "realise" it, to appreciate it adequately, it requires that we
should stand well back, and get up on one of the surrounding heights,
and make the discovery that as _we_ rise _he_ rises, and looks vaster
and more tremendous the further off we go and the higher up we rise,
until, with foot planted on the crest of one of the neighbouring giants,
we still look up, as well as down, and learn--with a feeling of deeper
reverence, it may be, for the Maker of the "everlasting hills"--that the
grand monarch with the hoary head does in reality tower supreme above
them all.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

INTRODUCES THE READER TO VARIOUS PERSONAGES, AND TOUCHES ON GLACIERS.

At this time our travellers, having only just been introduced to the
mountain, had a great deal to hear and see before they understood him.
They returned to the hotel with the feeling of disappointment still upon
them, but with excellent appetites for dinner.

In the _Salle a manger_ they met with a miscellaneous assortment of
tourists.  These, of whom there were above thirty, varied not only as to
size and feature, but as to country and experience.  There were veteran
Alpine men--steady, quiet, bronzed-looking fellows, some of them--who
looked as if they had often "attacked" and conquered the most dangerous
summits, and meant to do so again.  There were men, and women too, from
England, America, Germany, France, and Russia.  Some had been at
Chamouni before, and wore the self-possessed air of knowledge; others
had obviously never been there before, and were excited.  Many were full
of interest and expectation, a few, chiefly very young men, wore a
_blase_, half-pitiful, half-patronising air, as though to say, "that's
right, good people, amuse yourselves with your day-dreams while you may.
_We_ have tried a few weeks of this sort of thing, and have done a
summit or two; in imagination we have also been up Mont Blanc and Monte
Rosa, and the Matterhorn, and a few of the Hymalaya peaks, and most of
the mountains in the moon, and several of the fixed stars, and--haw--are
now rather boa-ord with it all than otherwise!"  There were men who had
done much and who said little, and men who had done little and who spoke
much.  There were "ice-men" who had a desire to impart their knowledge,
and would-be ice-men who were glad to listen.  Easy-going men and women
there were, who flung the cares of life behind them, and "went in," as
they said, for enjoyment; and who, with abounding animal spirits, a dash
of religious sentiment, much irrepressible humour and fun, were really
pleasant objects to look at, and entertaining companions to travel with.
Earnest men and women there were, too, who gathered plants and insects,
and made pencil-sketches and water-colour drawings during their rambles
among mountains and valleys, and not a few of whom chronicled faithfully
their experiences from day to day.  There was a Polish Count, a tall,
handsome, middle-aged, care-worn, anxious-looking man, who came there,
apparently in search of health, and who was cared for and taken care of
by a dark-eyed little daughter.  This daughter was so beautiful, that it
ought to have made the Count well--so thought most of the young men--
simply to look at her!  There was a youthful British Lord, who had come
to "do" Mont Blanc and a few other peaks.  He was under charge of a
young man of considerable experience in mountaineering, whose chief
delight seemed to be the leading of his charge to well-known summits by
any other and more difficult tracks than the obvious and right ones,
insomuch that Lewis Stoutley, who had a tendency to imprudent remark,
said in his hearing that he had heard of men who, in order to gain the
roof of a house, preferred to go up by the waterspout rather than the
staircase.  There was an artist, whom Lewis--being, as already observed,
given to insolence--styled the mad artist because he was enthusiastic in
his art, galvanic in his actions, and had large, wild eyes, with long
hair, and a broad-brimmed conical hat.  Besides these, there was a
Russian Professor, who had come there for purposes of scientific
investigation, and a couple of German students, and a Scotch man of
letters, whose aim was general observation, and several others, whose
end was simply seeing the world.

In the arrangements of the table, Captain Wopper found himself between
Emma Gray and the Polish Count, whose name was Horetzki.  Directly
opposite to him sat Mrs Stoutley, having her son Lewis on her right,
and Dr Lawrence on her left.  Beside the Count sat his lovely little
daughter Nita, and just opposite to her was the mad artist.  This
arrangement was maintained throughout the sojourn of the various parties
during their stay at Chamouni.  They did, indeed, shift their position
as regarded the table, according to the arrival or departure of
travellers, but not in regard to each other.

Now it is an interesting, but by no means surprising fact, that Cupid
planted himself in the midst of this party, and, with his fat little
legs, in imminent danger of capsizing the dishes, began to draw his bow
and let fly his arrows right and left.  Being an airy sprite, though
fat, and not at any time particularly visible, a careless observer might
have missed seeing him; but to any one with moderate powers of
observation, he was there, straddling across a dish of salad as plain as
the salt-cellar before Captain Wopper's nose.  His deadly shafts, too,
were visibly quivering in the breasts of Lewis Stoutley, George
Lawrence, and the mad artist.  Particularly obvious were these shafts in
the case of the last, who was addicted to gazing somewhat presumptuously
on "lovely woman" in general, from what he styled an artistic point of
view--never from any other point of view; of course not.

Whether or not Cupid had discharged his artillery at the young ladies,
we cannot say, for they betrayed no evidence of having been wounded.  In
their case, he must either have missed his aim, or driven his shafts
home with such vigour, that they were buried out of sight altogether in
their tender hearts.  It is probable that not one member of that
miscellaneous company gave a thought at that time to the wounded men,
except the wounded men themselves, so absorbing is the love of food!
The wounded were, however, sharp-set in all respects.  They at once
descried each other's condition, and, instead of manifesting sympathy
with each other, were, strange to say, filled with intense jealousy.
This at least is true of the younger men.  Lawrence, being somewhat
older, was more secretive and self-possessed.

At first Captain Wopper, having declined a dish of cauliflower because
it was presented _alone_, and having afterwards accepted a mutton chop
_alone_, with feelings of poignant regret that he had let the
cauliflower go by, was too busy to observe what the heathen-mythological
youngster was doing.  Indeed, at most times, the said youngster might
have discharged a whole quiver of arrows into the Captain's eyes without
his being aware of the attack; but, at the present time, the Captain, as
the reader is aware, was up to the eyes in a plot in which Cupid's aid
was necessary; he had, as it were, invoked the fat child's presence.
When, therefore, he had got over the regrets about the cauliflower, and
had swallowed the mutton-chop, he began to look about him--to note the
converse that passed between the young men, and the frequent glances
they cast at the young women.

It was not the first time that the Captain had, so to speak, kept his
weather-eye open in regard to the affection which he had made up his
mind must now have been awakened in the breasts of George Lawrence and
Emma Gray; but hitherto his hopes, although sanguine, had not received
encouragement.  Though polite and respectful to each other, they were by
no means tender; altogether, they acted quite differently from what the
Captain felt that he would have done in similar circumstances.  A
suspicion had even crossed the poor seaman's mind that Emma was in love
with her handsome and rattling cousin Lewis; but anxiety on this head
was somewhat allayed by other and conflicting circumstances, such as
occasional remarks by Lewis, to the effect that Emma was a goose, or a
pert little monkey, or that she knew nothing beyond house-keeping and
crochet, and similar compliments.  Now, however, in a certain animated
conversation between Lawrence and Emma, the designing seaman thought he
saw the budding of his deep-laid plans, and fondly hoped ere long to
behold the bud developed into the flower of matrimony.  Under this
conviction he secretly hugged himself, but in the salon, that evening,
he opened his arms and released himself on beholding the apparently
fickle Lawrence deeply engaged in converse with the Count Horetzki, to
whose pretty daughter, however, he addressed the most of his remarks.

The Captain, being a blunt honest, straightforward man, could not
understand this state of matters, and fell into a fit of abstracted
perplexity on the sofa beside Mrs Stoutley, who listened listlessly to
the Russian Professor as he attempted to explain to her and Emma the
nature of a glacier.

"Well, I don't understand it at all," said Mrs Stoutley, at the end of
one of the Professor's most lucid expositions.

We may remark, in passing, that the Professor, like many of his
countrymen, was a good linguist and spoke English well.

"Not understand it!" he exclaimed, with a slight elevation of his
eyebrows.  "My dear madam, it is most plain, but I fear my want of good
English does render me not quite intelligible."

"Your English is excellent," replied Mrs Stoutley, with a smile, "but I
fear that my brain is not a sufficiently clear one on such matters, for
I confess that I cannot understand it.  Can you, Captain Wopper?"

"Certainly not, ma'am," answered the Captain, thinking of the fickle
Lawrence; "it takes the wind out of my sails entirely."

"Indeed!" said the Professor.  "Well, do permit me to try again.  You
understand that all the mountain-tops and elevated plateaus, for many
miles around here, are covered with ice and snow."

"Oh!" exclaimed the Captain, awaking to the fact that his answer was not
relevant; "may I ax what is the particular pint that puzzles you,
ma'am?"

Emma laughed aloud at this, and coughed a little to conceal the fact.
She was rather easily taken by surprise with passing touches of the
ludicrous, and had not yet acquired the habit of effectually suppressing
little explosions of undertoned mirth.

"The thing that puzzles me," said Mrs Stoutley, "is, that glaciers
should _flow_, as I am told they do, and yet that they should be as hard
and brittle as glass."

"Ah, well, yes, just so, h'm!" said the Captain, looking very wise;
"that is exactly the pint that I want to know myself; for no man who
looks at the great tongue of that glacier day Bossung--"

"Des Bossons," said the Professor, with a bland smile.

"Day Bossong," repeated the Captain, "can deny that it is marked with
all the lines, and waves, an eddies of a rollin' river, an' yet as
little can they deny that it seems as hard-and-fast as the rock of
Gibraltar."

The Professor nodded approvingly.

"You are right, Captain Whipper--"

"Wopper," said the Captain, with a grave nod.

"Wopper," repeated the Professor, "the glacier des Bossons, like all the
other glaciers, seems to remain immovable, though in reality it flows--
ever flows--downward; but its motion is so slow, that it is not
perceptible to the naked eye.  Similarly, the hour-hand of a watch is to
appearance motionless.  Do you want proof?  Mark it just now; look again
in quarter of an hour, and you see that it has moved.  You are
convinced.  It is so with the glacier.  Mark him to-day, go back
to-morrow--the mark has changed.  Some glaciers flow at the rate of two
and three feet in the twenty-four hours."

"Yes, but _how_ do they flow, being so brittle?" demanded Mrs Stoutley.

"Ay, that's the pint, Professor," said the Captain, nodding, "_how_ do
they flow, bein' made of hard and brittle ice?"

"Why, by rolling higgledy-piggledy over itself of course," said Lewis,
flippantly, as he came up and sat down on the end of the sofa, being out
of humour with himself and everybody in consequence of having utterly
failed to gain the attention of Nita Horetzki, although he had made
unusually earnest efforts to join in conversation with her father.
Owing to somewhat similar feelings, the artist had flung himself into a
chair, and sat glaring at the black fireplace with a degree of
concentration that ought to have lighted the firewood therein.

"The cause of a glacier flowing," said the Professor, "has long been a
disputed point.  Some men of science have held that it is the pressure
of ice and snow behind it which causes it to flow.  They do not think
that it flows like water, but say it is forced from behind, and crushed
through gorges and down valleys, as it were, unwillingly.  They say
that, if left alone, as they now are, without additions, from this time
forward, glaciers would no longer move; they would rest, and slowly melt
away; that their motion is due to the fact that there are miles and
miles of snow-fields, thousands of feet deep, on the mountain-tops and
in the gorges, to which fresh snows are added every winter, so that the
weight of what is behind, slipping off the slopes and falling from the
cliffs, crushes down and forward that which is below; thus glaciers
cannot choose but advance."

"Ay, ay," said the Captain, "no doubt no doubt that may be so; but why
is it that, bein' as brittle as glass, a glacier don't come rumblin' and
clatterin' down the valleys in small hard bits, like ten thousand
millions of smashed-up chandeliers?"

"Ay, there's the rub," exclaimed Lewis; "what say you to that?"

"Ha!" exclaimed the Professor, again smiling blandly, "there you have
touched what once was, and, to some philosophers it seems, still is, the
great difficulty.  By some great men it has been held that glacier ice
is always in a partially soft, viscid, or semi-fluid condition, somewhat
like pitch, so that, although _apparently_ a solid, brittle, and rigid
body, it flows sluggishly in reality.  Other philosophers have denied
this theory, insisting that the ice of glaciers is _not_ like pitch, but
like glass, and that it cannot be squeezed without being broken, nor
drawn without being cracked.  These philosophers have discovered that
when ice is subjected to great pressure it melts, and that, when the
pressure is removed, the part so melted immediately freezes again--hence
the name regelation, or re-freezing, is given to the process.  Thus a
glacier, they say, is in many places being continually melted and
continually and instantaneously re-frozen, so that it is made to pass
through narrow gorges, and to open out again when the enormous pressure
has been removed.  But this theory of regelation, although
unquestionably true, and although it exercises _some_ influence on
glacier motion, does not, in my opinion, alone account for it.  The
opinion which seems to be most in favour among learned men--and that
which I myself hold firmly--is, the theory of the Scottish Professor
Forbes, namely, that a glacier is a semi-fluid body, it is largely
impregnated throughout its extent with water, its particles move round
and past each other--in other words, it flows in precisely the same
manner as water, the only difference being that it is not quite so
fluid; it is sluggish in its flow, but it certainly models itself to the
ground over which it is forced by its own gravity, and it is only rent
or broken into fragments when it is compelled to turn sharp angles, or
to pass over steep convex slopes.  Forbes, by his careful measurements
and investigations, proved incontestably that in some glaciers the
central portion travelled down its valley at double or treble the rate
of its sides, without the continuity of the mass being broken.  In small
masses, indeed, glacier-ice is to all appearance rigid, but on a large
scale it is unquestionably ductile."

"Has the theory of regelation been put to the proof?" asked Lewis, with
a degree of interest in glaciers which he had never before felt.

"It has," answered the Professor.  "An experimentalist once cut a bar of
solid ice, like to a bar of soap in form and size, from a glacier.  To
this an iron weight of several pounds was suspended by means of a very
fine wire, which was tied round the bar.  The pressure of the wire
melted the ice under it; as the water escaped it instantly re-froze
above the wire; thus the wire went on cutting its way through the bar,
and the water went on freezing, until at last the weight fell to the
ground, and left the bar as solid and entire as if it had never been
cut."

"Well, now," said Captain Wopper, bringing his hand down on his thigh
with a slap that did more to arouse Mrs Stoutley out of her languor
than the Professor's lecture on glacier ice, "I've sailed round the
world, I have, an' seen many a strange sight, and what I've got to say
is that I'll believe that when I _see_ it."

"You shall see it soon then, I hope," said the Professor, more blandly
than ever, "for I intend to verify this experiment along with several
others.  I go to the Mer de Glace, perhaps as far as the Jardin,
to-morrow.  Will you come?"

"What may the Jardang be?" asked the Captain.

"Hallo! monkey, what's wrong?" said Lewis to Emma, referring to one of
the undertoned safety-valves before mentioned.

"Nothing," replied Emma, pursing her little lips till they resembled a
cherry.

"The Jardin, or garden," said the Professor, "is a little spot of
exquisite beauty in the midst of the glaciers, where a knoll of green
grass and flowers peeps up in the surrounding sterility.  It is one of
the regular excursions from Chamouni."

"Can ladies go?" asked Lewis.

"Young and active ladies can," said the Professor, with his blandest
possible smile, as he bowed to Emma.

"Then, we'll all go together," cried Lewis, with energy.

"Not all," said Mrs Stoutley, with a sigh, "I am neither young nor
active."

"Nonsense, mother, you're quite young yet, you know, and as active as a
kitten when you've a mind to be.  Come, we'll have a couple of porters
and a chair to have you carried when you knock up."

Notwithstanding the glowing prospects of ease and felicity thus opened
up to her, Mrs Stoutley resolutely refused to go on this excursion, but
she generously allowed Emma to go if so disposed.  Emma, being disposed,
it was finally arranged that, on the following day, she, the Captain,
Lewis, and Lawrence, with Gillie White as her page, should proceed up
the sides of Mont Blanc with the man of science, and over the Mer de
Glace to the Jardin.



CHAPTER NINE.

A SOLID STREAM.

There is a river of ice in Switzerland, which, taking its rise on the
hoary summit of Mont Blanc, flows through a sinuous mountain-channel,
and terminates its grand career by liquefaction in the vale of Chamouni.
A mighty river it is in all respects, and a wonderful one--full of
interest and mystery and apparent contradiction.  It has a grand volume
and sweep, varying from one to four miles in width, and is about twelve
miles long, with a depth of many hundreds of feet.  It is motionless to
the eye, yet it descends into the plain continually.  It is hard and
unyielding in its nature, yet it flows as really and steadily, if not
with as lithe a motion, as a liquid river.  It is _not_ a half solid
mass like mud, which might roll slowly down an incline; it is solid,
clear, transparent, brittle ice, which refuses to bend, and cracks
sharply under a strain; nevertheless, it has its waves and rapids,
cross-currents, eddies, and cascades, which, seen from a moderate
distance, display all the grace and beauty of flowing water--as if a
grand river in all its varied parts, calm and turbulent, had been
actually and suddenly arrested in its course and frozen to the bottom.

It is being melted perpetually too.  The fierce sun of summer sends
millions of tiny streamlets down into its interior, which collect,
augment, cut channels for themselves through the ice, and finally gush
into the plain from its lower end in the form of a muddy river.  Even in
winter this process goes on, yet the ice-river never melts entirely
away, but holds on its cold, stately, solemn course from year to year--
has done so for unknown ages, and will probably do so to the end of
time.  It is picturesque in its surroundings, majestic in its motion,
tremendous in its action, awful in its sterility, and, altogether, one
of the most impressive and sublime works of God.

This gigantic glacier, or stream of ice, springing, as it does, from the
giant-mountain of Europe, is appropriately hemmed in, and its mighty
force restrained, by a group of Titans, whose sharp aiguilles, or
needle-like peaks, shoot upward to a height little short of their
rounded and white-headed superior, and from whose wild gorges and riven
sides tributary ice-rivers flow, and avalanches thunder incessantly.
Leaving its cradle on the top of Mont Blanc, the great river sweeps
round the Aiguille du Geant; and, after receiving its first name of
Glacier du Geant from that mighty obelisk of rock, which rises 13,156
feet above the sea, it passes onward to welcome two grand tributaries,
the Glacier de Lechaud, from the rugged heights of the Grandes Jorasses,
and the Glacier du Talefre from the breast of the Aiguille du Talefre
and the surrounding heights.  Thus augmented, the river is named the Mer
de Glace, or sea of ice, and continues its downward course; but here it
encounters what may be styled "the narrows," between the crags at the
base of the Aiguille Charmoz and Aiguille du Moine, through which it
steadily forces its way, though compressed to much less than half its
width by the process.  In one place the Glacier du Geant is above eleven
hundred yards wide; that of the Lechaud is above eight hundred; that of
Talefre above six hundred--the total, when joined, two thousand five
hundred yards; and this enormous mass of solid ice is forced through a
narrow neck of the valley, which is, in round numbers, only _nine
hundred_ yards wide!  Of course the ice-river must gain in depth what it
loses in breadth in this gorge, through which it travels at the rate of
twenty inches a day.  Thereafter, it tumbles ruggedly to its termination
in the vale of Chamouni, under the name of the Glacier des Bois.

The explanation of the causes of the rise and flow of this ice-river we
will leave to the genial and enthusiastic Professor, who glories in
dilating on such matters to Captain Wopper, who never tires of the
dilations.

Huge, however, though this glacier of the Mer de Glace be, it is only
one of a series of similar glaciers which constitute the outlets to that
vast reservoir of ice formed by the wide range of Mont Blanc, where the
snows of successive winters are stored, packed, solidified, and
rendered, as it were, self-regulating in their supplies of water to the
plains.  And the Mont Blanc range itself is but a portion of the great
glacial world of Switzerland, the area occupied by which is computed at
900 square miles.  Two-thirds of these send their waters to the sea
through the channel of the Rhine.  The most extensive of these glaciers
is the Aletsch glacier, which is fifteen miles in length.  It is said
that above six hundred distinct glaciers have been reckoned in
Switzerland.

This, good reader, is but a brief reference to the wonders of the
glacial world.  It is but a scratching of the surface.  There is a very
mine of interesting, curious, and astonishing facts below the surface.
Nature is prodigal of her information to those who question her closely,
correctly, and perseveringly.  Even to those who observe her carelessly,
she is not altogether dumb.  She is generous; and the God of Nature has
caused it to be written for our instruction that, "His works are
wonderful, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein."

We may not, however, prolong our remarks on the subject of ice-rivers at
this time.  Our travellers at Chamouni are getting ready to start, and
it is our duty at present to follow them.



CHAPTER TEN.

THE FIRST EXCURSION.

"A Splendid morning!" exclaimed Dr George Lawrence, as he entered the
_Salle a manger_ with an obviously new alpenstock in his hand.

"Jolly!" replied Lewis Stoutley, who was stooping at the moment to
button one of his gaiters.

Lewis was addicted to slang, not by any means an uncommon characteristic
of youth!

"The man," he said, with some bitterness, "who invented big buttons and
little button-holes should have had his nose skewered with a
button-hook.  He was an ass!"

In order to relieve his feelings and accomplish his ends, Lewis
summarily enlarged the holes with his penknife.

"And _round_ buttons, too," he said, indignantly; "what on earth was the
use of making round buttons when flat ones had been invented?  A big
hole and a flat button will hold against anything--even against Scotch
whins and heather.  There, now, that abominable job is done."

"You are fond of strong language, Lewie," said Lawrence, as he examined
the spike at the end of his alpenstock.

"I am.  It relieves my feelings."

"But don't you think it weakens your influence on occasions when nothing
but strong language will serve?  You rob yourself of the power, you
know, to increase the force of it."

"Oh bother! don't moralise, man, but let's have your opinion of the
weather, which is an all-important subject just now."

"I have already given my opinion as to that," said Lawrence, "but here
comes one who will give us an opinion of value.--He is in capital time."

"Good morning, Antoine."

Their guide for the day, Antoine Grennon, a fine stalwart specimen of
his class, returned the salutation, and added that it was a very fine
morning.

"Capital, isn't it?" cried Lewis, cheerfully, for he had got over the
irritation caused by the buttons.  "Couldn't be better; could it?"

The guide did not admit that the weather could not be better.

"You look doubtful, Antoine," said Lawrence.  "Don't you think the day
will keep up?"

"Keep up!" exclaimed Lewis; "why, the sky is perfectly clear.  Of course
it will.  I never saw a finer day, even in England.  Why do you doubt
it, Antoine?"

The guide pointed to a small cloud that hung over the brow of one of the
higher peaks.

"Appearances are sometimes deceitful in this country," he said.  "I
don't doubt the fineness of the day at present, but--"

He was interrupted here by the sudden and noisy entrance of Captain
Wopper and the Professor, followed by the mad artist, whose name, by the
way, was Slingsby.

"No, no," said the Captain to the Professor, with whom he had already
become very intimate, "it won't do to part company.  If the Jardang is
too far for the ladies, we will steer for the Mairdyglass, an' cross
over to the what's-'is-name--"

"Chapeau," said the Professor.

"Ah! the shappo," continued the Captain, "and so down by the glacier dez
boys--"

"The what?" asked Lewis, with a half-suppressed smile.

"The glacier dez boys, youngster," repeated the Captain, stoutly.

"Oh, I see; you mean the Glacier des Bois?" said Lewis, suppressing the
smile no longer.

"What I mean, young man," said the Captain, sternly, "is best known to
myself.  You and other College-bred coxcombs may call it day bwa, if you
like, but I have overhauled the chart, and there it's spelt d-e-s, which
sounds dez, and b-o-i-s, which seafarin' men pronounce boys, so don't go
for to cross my hawse again, but rather join me in tryin' to indooce the
Professor to putt off his trip to the Jardang, an' sail in company with
us for the day."

"I will join you heartily in that," said Lewis, turning to the man of
science, who stood regarding the Captain with an amiable smile, as a
huge Newfoundland dog might regard a large mastiff; "but why is our
proposed excursion to the Jardin to be altered?"

"Because," said the Professor, "your amiable sister--I beg pardon,
cousin--with that irresistible power of suasion which seems inherent in
her nature, has prevailed on Mademoiselle Horetzki to join the party,
and Mademoiselle is too delicate--sylph-like--to endure the fatigues of
so long an excursion over the ice.  Our worthy guide suggests that it
would afford more pleasure to the ladies--and of course, therefore, to
the gentlemen--if you were to make your first expedition only to the
Montanvert which is but a two hours' climb from Chamouni, picnic there,
cross the Mer de Glace, which is narrow at that point, and descend again
to Chamouni by the side of the Glacier des Bois, where you can behold
the great moraines, and also the source of the river Arveiron.  This
would be a pleasant and not too fatiguing round, and I, who might
perhaps be an encumbrance to you, will prosecute my inquiries at the
Jardin alone."

"Impossible," exclaimed Lewis, "the Captain is right when he observes
that we must not part company.  As my mother says, we are a giddy crew,
and will be the better of a little scientific ballast to keep us from
capsizing into a crevasse.  Do come, my dear sir, if it were only out of
charity, to keep us in order."

To this entreaty Lawrence and the artist added their persuasions, which
were further backed by the eloquence of Emma Gray and Nita Horetzki, who
entered at the moment radiant with the flush of life's dawning day, and
irresistible in picturesque mountain attire, the chief characteristics
of which consisted in an extensive looping up of drapery, and an
ostentatious display of those staffs called alpenstocks, five feet long,
tipped with chamois horn, which are an indispensable requisite in Alpine
work.

"Oh! you _muss_ go," said Nita, in silvery tones and disjointed English.
"If you go not, monsieur, _I_ go not!"

"That of course decides the question, Mademoiselle," said the gallant
Professor, with one of his blandest smiles, "I shall accompany you with
pleasure.  But I have one little request to make.  My time at Chamouni
is short; will you permit me, on arriving at the Mer de Glace, to
prosecute my inquiries?  I am here to ask questions of Nature, and must
do so with perseverance and patience.  Will you allow me to devote more
of my attention to _her_ than to yourself?"

"H'm! well--what you say, Mademoiselle Gray?" demanded Nita, with an
arch look at her companion.  "Is the Professor's request reasonable?"

To this Emma replied that as Nature was, upon the whole, a more
important lady than either of them, she thought it _was_ reasonable;
whereupon the Professor agreed to postpone his visit to the Jardin, and
devote his day to fixing stakes and making observations on the Mer de
Glace, with a view to ascertaining the diurnal rate of speed at which
the glacier flowed.

"You spoke of putting certain questions to Nature, Professor," said
Lawrence, when the party were slowly toiling up the mountain-side.
"Have they not already been put to her, and satisfactorily answered some
time ago?"

"They have been put," replied the Professor, "by such learned men as
Saussure, Agassiz, Rendu, Charpentier, and by your own countryman
Forbes, and others, and undoubtedly their questions have received
distinct answers, insomuch that our knowledge of the nature and action
of glacial ice is now very considerable.  But, my dear sir, learned men
have not been agreed as to what Nature's replies mean, nor have they
exhausted the subject; besides, no true man of science is quite
satisfied with merely hearing the reports of others, he is not content
until he has met and conversed with Nature face to face.  I wish,
therefore, to have a personal interview with her in these Alps, or
rather," continued the Professor, in a more earnest tone, "I do wish to
see the works of my Maker with my own eyes, and to hear His voice with
the ears of my own understanding."

"Your object, then, is to verify, not to discover?" said Lawrence.

"It is both.  Primarily to verify; but the man of science always goes
forth with the happy consciousness that the mine in which he proposes to
dig is rich in gems, and that, while seeking for one sort, he may light
upon another unexpectedly."

"When Captain Wopper turned up yonder gem, he lit on one which, if not
of the purest water, is unquestionably a brilliant specimen of the class
to which it belongs," said Lewis, coming up at that moment, and pointing
to a projection in the somewhat steep part of the path up which they
were winding.

The gem referred to was no other than our friend Gillie White.  That
hilarious youth, although regenerated outwardly as regards blue cloth
and buttons, had not by any means changed his spirit since fortune began
to smile on him.  Finding that his mistress, being engaged with her
dark-eyed friend, did not require his services, and observing that his
patron, Captain Wopper, held intercourse with the guide--in broken
English, because he, the guide, also spoke broken English--that Lawrence
and the Professor seemed capable of entertaining each other, that Lewis
and the artist, although dreadfully jealous of each other, were fain to
hold social intercourse, the ladies being inseparable, and that he,
Gillie, was therefore left to entertain himself he set about amusing
himself to the best of his power by keeping well in rear of the party
and scrambling up dangerous precipices, throwing stones at little birds,
charging shrubs and stabbing the earth with Emma's alpenstock,
immolating snails, rolling rocks down precipitous parts of the hill, and
otherwise exhibiting a tendency to sport with Nature--all of which he
did to music whistled by himself, and in happy forgetfulness of
everything save the business in hand.  He was engaged in some apparently
difficult piece of fancy work, involving large boulders, when Lewis drew
attention to him.

"What can the imp be up to?" he said.

"Most likely worrying some poor reptile to death," said the artist,
removing his conical wideawake and fanning himself therewith.  (Mr
Slingsby was very warm, his slender frame not being equal to his
indomitable spirit.)

"I think he is trying to break your alpenstock, Emma," observed Lewis.

There seemed to be truth in this, for Gillie, having fixed the staff as
a lever, was pulling at it with all his might.  The projection of rock
on which he stood, and which overhung the zigzag road, was partially
concealed by bushes, so that the precise intention of his efforts could
not be discovered.

At that moment Antoine, the guide, turned to see what detained the
party, and instantly uttered a loud shout of alarm as he ran back to
them.

The warning or remonstrance came too late.  Gillie had loosened an
enormous rock which had been on the point of falling, and with a throb
of exultation, which found vent in a suppressed squeal, he hurled a
mass, something about the size and weight of a cart of coals, down the
precipice.

But the current of Gillie's feelings was rudely changed when a shriek
from the ladies, and something between a roar and a yell from the
gentlemen, told that they had observed a man with a mule, who, in
ascending from the valley, had reached a spot which lay in the direct
line of the miniature avalanche; and when the muleteer, also observing
the missile, added a hideous howl to the chorus, the poor urchin shrank
back appalled.  The rock struck the track directly behind the mule with
a force which, had it been expended only six inches more to the right,
would have driven that creature's hind legs into the earth as if they
had been tenpenny nails; it then bounded clear over the next turning of
the track, crashed madly through several bushes, overturned five or six
trees, knocked into atoms a sister rock which had taken the same leap
some ages before, and finally, leaving behind it a grand tail of dust
and _debris_, rolled to its rest upon the plain.

At the first symptom of the danger, Captain Wopper had rushed towards
the culprit.

"Rascal!" he growled between his teeth, as he seized Gillie by the nape
of the neck, lifted him almost off his legs, and shook him, "d'ee see
what you've done?"

He thrust the urchin partially over the precipice, and pointed to the
man and the mule.

"Please, I _haven't_ done it," pleaded Gillie.

"But you did your best to--you--you small--there!"

He finished off the sentence with an open-handed whack that aroused the
echoes of Mont Blanc, and cast the culprit adrift.

"Now, look 'ee, lad," said the Captain, with impressive solemnity, "if
you ever go to chuck stones like that over the precipices of this here
mountain again, I'll chuck you over after 'em.  D'ee hear?"

"Yes, Cappen," grumbled Gillie, rubbing himself, "but if you do, it's
murder.  No jury of Englishmen would think of recommendin' you to mercy
in the succumstances.  You'd be sure to swing--an' I--I could wish you a
better fate."

The Captain did not wait to hear the boy's good wishes, but hastened to
rejoin his friends, while Gillie followed in rear, commenting audibly on
the recent incident.

"Well, well," he said, thrusting both hands deep into bush
trouser-pockets, according to custom when in a moralising frame of mind,
"who'd a thought it, Gillie White, that you'd 'ave bin brought all the
way from London to the Halps to make such a close shave o' committin'
man-slaughter to say nothin' of mule-slaughter, and to git whacked by
your best friend?  Oh!  Cappen, Cappen, I couldn't 'ave believed it of
you if I 'adn't felt it.  But, I say, Gillie, _wasn't_ it a big 'un?
Ha! ha!  The Cappen threatened to chuck me over the precipice, but I've
chucked over a wopper that beats _him_ all to sticks.  Hallo!  I say
that's worthy of _Punch_.  P'r'aps I'll be a contributor to it w'en I
gets back from Zwizzerland, if I ever does get back, vich is by no means
certain.  Susan, my girl, I'll 'ave summat to enliven you with this
evenin'."

We need scarcely say that this last remark had reference to Mrs
Stoutley's maid, with whom the boy had become a great favourite.  Indeed
the regard was mutual, though there was this difference about it, that
Susan, being two years older than Gillie, and tall as well as womanly
for her age, looked upon the boy as a precocious little oddity, whereas
Gillie, esteeming himself a man--"all but"--regarded Susan with the
powerful feelings of a first affection.

From this, and what has been already said, it will be apparent to our
fair readers that Cupid had accompanied Mrs Stoutley's party to
Chamouni, with the intention apparently of amusing himself as well as
interfering with Captain Wopper's matrimonial designs.

The road to the Montanvert is a broad and easy bridle-path, which, after
leaving the valley, traverses a pine-forest in its ascent and becomes in
places somewhat steep.  Here and there a zigzag is found necessary, and
in several places there are tracks of avalanches.  About half-way up
there is a spring named the Caillet which was shaded by trees in days of
yore, but the avalanches have swept these away.  Beside the spring of
pure water there was a spring of "fire-water," in a hut where so-called
"refreshments" might also be obtained.  As none of our party deemed it
necessary to stimulate powers, which, at that time of the day, were
fresh and vigorous, they passed this point of temptation without
halting.

Other temptations, however, were not so easily resisted.  The Professor
was stopped by rocky stratifications, the ladies were stopped by flowers
and views, the younger gentlemen were of course stopped by the ladies,
and the mad artist was stopped by everything.  Poor Mr Slingsby, who
had been asked to join the party, in virtue of his being a friend of the
Count, and, therefore, of Nita, was so torn by the conflict resulting
from his desire to cultivate Nita, and cut out Lewis and Lawrence, and
his desire to prosecute his beloved art, that he became madder than
usual.  "Splendid foregrounds" met him at every turn; "lovely
middle-distances" chained him in everywhere; "enchanting backgrounds"
beset him on all sides; gorgeous colours dazzled him above and below;
and Nita's black eyes pierced him continually through and through.  It
was terrible!  He was constantly getting into positions of danger--going
out on ledges to obtain particular views, rolling his large eyes,
pulling off his hat and tossing back his long hair, so as to drink in
more thoroughly the beauties around him, and clambering up precipices to
fetch down bunches of wild flowers when Nita chanced to express the most
distant allusion to, or admiration of, them.

"He will leave his bones in one crevasse!" growled Antoine, on seeing
him rush to a point of vantage, and, for the fiftieth time, squat down
to make a rapid sketch of some "exquisite bit" that had taken his fancy.

"'Tis of no use," he said, on returning to his friends, "I cannot
sketch.  The beauties around me are too much for me."

He glanced timidly at Nita, who looked at him boldly, laughed, and
advised him to shut his eyes, so as not to be distracted with such
beauties.

"Impossible; I cannot choose but look.  See," he said, pointing backward
to their track, "see what a lovely effect of tender blue and yellow
through yonder opening--"

"D'you mean Gillie?" asked Lewis, with a quiet grin, as that reckless
youth suddenly presented his blue coat and yellow buttons in the very
opening referred to.

The laugh called forth by this was checked by the voice of Captain
Wopper, who was far in advance shouting to them to come on.

A few minutes more, and the whole party stood on the Montanvert beside
the small inn which has been erected there for the use of summer
tourists, and from which point the great glacier broke for the first
time in all its grandeur, on their view.

Well might Emma and Nita stand entranced for some time, unable to find
utterance to their feelings, save in the one word--wonderful!  Even
Slingsby's mercurial spirit was awed into silence, for, straight before
them, the white and frozen billows of the Mer de Glace stretched for
miles away up into the gorges of the giant hills until lost in and
mingled with the clouds of heaven.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

The Pursuit of Science under Difficulties.

After the first burst of enthusiasm and interest had abated, the
attention of the party became engrossed in the proceedings of the
Professor, who, with his assistants, began at once to adjust his
theodolite, and fix stakes in the ice.  While he was thus engaged,
Captain Wopper regarded the Mer de Glace with a gaze of fixedness so
intense as to draw on him the attention and arouse the curiosity of his
friends.

"D'you see anything curious, Captain?" asked Emma, who chanced to stand
beside him.

"Coorious--eh?" repeated the Captain slowly, without altering his gaze
or adding to his reply.

"Monsieur le Capitaine is lost in consternation," said Nita, with a
smile.

"I think, Miss Horetzki," said Lewis, "that you probably mean
_admiration_."

"How you knows w'at I mean?" demanded Nita, quickly.

"Ha! a very proper and pertinent question," observed Slingsby, in an
audible though under tone.

"I nevair do put _pertinent_ questions, sir," said Nita, turning her
black eyes sharply, though with something of a twinkle in them, on the
mad artist.

Poor Slingsby began to explain, but Nita cut him short by turning to
Lewis and again demanding, "How you knows w'at I mean?"

"The uniform propriety of your thoughts, Mademoiselle," replied Lewis,
with a continental bow, and an air of pretended respect, "induces me to
suppose that your words misinterpret them."

Nita's knowledge of English was such that this remark gave her only a
hazy idea of the youth's meaning; she accepted it, however, as an
apologetic explanation, and ordered him to awaken the Captain and find
out from him what it was that so riveted his attention.

"You hear my orders," said Lewis, laying his hand with a slap on the
Captain's shoulder.  "What are you staring at?"

"Move!" murmured the Captain, returning as it were to consciousness with
a long deep sigh, "it don't move an inch."

"_What_ does not move?" said Lawrence, who had been assisting to adjust
the theodolite, and came forward at the moment.

"The ice, to be sure," answered the Captain.  "I say, Professor, do 'ee
mean to tell me that the whole of that there Mairdy-glass is movin'?"

"I do," answered the Professor, pausing for a minute in his
arrangements, and looking over his spectacles at the Captain with an
amused expression.

"Then," returned the Captain, with emphasis, "I think you'll find that
you're mistaken."

"Ha!  Captain Weeper--"

"Wopper," said the Captain.

"Wopper," repeated the Professor, "you are not the first who has
expressed disbelief in what he cannot see, and you will assuredly not be
the last; but if you will wait I will convince you."

"Very good," replied the Captain, "I'm open to conviction."

"Which means," said Lewis, "that you have nailed your colours to the
mast, and mean to die rather than give in."

"No doubt," said the Captain, paying no attention to the last remark, "I
see, _and_ believe, that at some time or other the ice here must have
been in a flowin' state.  I'm too well aware o' the shape of waves an'
eddies, cross-currents and ripples, to doubt or deny that but any man
with half an eye can see that it's anchored hard and fast _now_.  I've
looked at it without flinchin' for good ten minutes, and not the
smallest sign of motion can I detect."

"So might you say of the hour-hand of a watch," observed Lawrence.

"Not at all," retorted the Captain, becoming argumentative.  "I look at
the hour-hand of a watch for ten minutes and don't see it move, but I
_do_ see that it has in reality passed over a very small but appreciable
space in that time."

"Just so," said the Professor, "I will ere long show you the same thing
in regard to the ice."

"I'll bet you ten thousand pounds you don't," returned the Captain, with
an assured nod.

"Colours nailed!" said Lewis; "but I say, Captain," he added,
remonstratively, "I thought you were a sworn enemy to gambling.  Isn't
betting gambling?"

"It is, young man," answered the Captain, "but I always bet ten thousand
pounds sterling, which I never mean to pay if I lose, nor to accept if I
win--and that is _not_ gambling.  Put that in your pipe and smoke it;
and if you'll take my advice, you'll go look after your friend Slingsby,
who is gambolling up yonder in another fashion that will soon bring him
to grief if he's not stopped."

All eyes were turned towards the mad artist, who, finding that his
advances to Mademoiselle Nita were not well received, had for the time
forsaken her, and returned to his first (and professional) love.  In
wooing her, he had clambered to an almost inaccessible cliff from which
he hoped to obtain a very sketchable view of the Mer de Glace, and, when
Captain Wopper drew attention to him, was making frantic efforts to
swing himself by the branch of a tree to a projecting rock, which was so
slightly attached to its parent cliff that his weight would in all
probability have hurled it and himself down the precipice.

The remonstrative shouts of his friends, however, induced him to desist,
and he sat down to work in a less perilous position.

Meanwhile the Professor, having completed his preliminary preparations,
ordered his assistants to go and "fix the stakes in the ice."

It had been arranged that while the scientific experiments were in
progress, the young ladies should ramble about the neighbourhood in
search of flowers and plants, under the care of Lewis, until two
o'clock, at which hour all were to assemble at the Montanvert hotel for
luncheon, Captain Wopper and Lawrence resolving to remain and assist, or
at least observe, the Professor.  The former, indeed, bearing in mind
his great and ruling wish even in the midst of scientific doubt and
inquiries, had suggested that the latter should also accompany the
ladies, the country being somewhat rugged, and the ladies--especially
Miss Emma--not being very sure-footed; but Lawrence, to his
disappointment, had declined, saying that the ladies had a sufficient
protector in the gallant Lewis, and that Miss Emma was unquestionably
the surest-footed of the whole party.

Lawrence therefore remained, and, at the Professor's request,
accompanied the party who were to fix the stakes on the ice.

As this operation was attended with considerable difficulty and some
danger, we will describe the process.

Finding that the spot which he had first chosen for his observations was
not a very good one, the Professor changed his position to a point
farther down on the steep sloping rocks that form the left bank of the
Glacier des Bois.  Here the theodolite was fixed.  This instrument as
even our young readers may probably know, is a small telescope attached
to a stand with three long legs, and having spirit-levels, by means of
which it can be fixed in a position, if we may say so, of exact flatness
with reference to the centre of the earth.  Within the telescope are two
crossed hairs of a spider's-web, so fine as to be scarcely visible to
the naked eye, and so arranged that their crossing-point is exactly in
the centre of the tube.  By means of pivots and screws the telescope can
be moved up or down, right or left, without in the smallest degree
altering the flatness or position of its stand.  On looking through the
telescope the delicate threads can be distinctly seen, and the point
where they cross can be brought to bear on any distant object.

Having fixed the instrument on the rocks quite clear of the ice, the
Professor determined the direction of a supposed line perpendicular to
the axis of the glacier.  He then sought for a conspicuous and
well-defined object on the opposite side of the valley, as near as
possible to that direction.  In this he was greatly helped by Captain
Wopper, who, having been long accustomed to look-out with precision at
sea, found it not very difficult to apply his powers on land.

"There's a good land-mark, Professor," he said, pointing towards a
sharply-cut rock, "as like the Dook of Wellington's nose as two peas."

"I see it," said the Professor, whose solid and masculine countenance
was just the smallest possible degree flushed by the strong
under-current of enthusiasm with which he prosecuted his experiments.

"You couldn't have a better object than the pint o' that," observed the
Captain, whose enthusiasm was quite as great as, and his excitement much
greater than, that of the Professor.

Having carefully directed the telescope to the extreme point of the
"Dook's" nose, the Professor now ordered one of his assistants to go on
the glacier with a stake.  Lawrence descended with him, and thus planted
his foot on glacier-ice for the first time, as Lewis afterwards
remarked, in the pursuit scientific knowledge.

While they were clambering slowly down among the loose boulders and
_debris_ which had been left by the glacier in previous years, the
Professor carefully sketched the Duke of Wellington's nose with the
rocks, etcetera, immediately around it, in his notebook, so that it
might be easily recognised again on returning to the spot on a future
day.

The assistant who had been sent out with the first stake proved to be
rather stupid, so that it was fortunate he had been accompanied by
Lawrence, and by the guide, Antoine Grennon, who stirred up his
perceptions.  By rough signalling he was made to stand near the place
where the first stake was to be driven in.  The telescope was then
lowered, and the man was made, by signals, to move about and plant his
stake here and there in an upright position until the point of
intersection of the spider's threads fell exactly on the bottom of the
stake.  A pre-arranged signal was then made, and at that point an auger
hole was bored deep into the ice and the stake driven home.

"So much for number one," said Captain Wopper, with a look of
satisfaction.

"They won't fix the other ones so easily," observed the Professor,
re-examining the stake through the telescope with great care.

He was right in this.  The first stake had been planted not far from the
shore, but now Lawrence and his party had to proceed in a straight line
over the glacier, which, at this steep portion of its descent into the
Vale of Chamouni, was rent, dislocated, and tortured, to such an extent
that it was covered with huge blocks and pinnacles of ice, and seamed
with yawning crevasses.  To clamber over some of the ice-ridges was
almost impossible, and, in order to avoid pinnacles and crevasses, which
were quite impassable, frequent _detours_ had to be made.  If the object
of the ice-party had merely been to cross the glacier, the difficulties
would not have been great; but the necessity of always returning to the
straight line pointed out by the inexorable theodolite, led them into
positions of considerable difficulty.  To the inexperienced Lawrence
they also appeared to be positions of great danger, much to the
amusement of Antoine, who, accustomed as he was to the fearful
ice-slopes and abysses of the higher regions, looked upon this work as
mere child's play.

"You'll come to have a different notion of crevasses, sir," he said,
with a quiet smile, "after you've bin among the seracs of the Grand
Mulet, and up some of the couloirs of Monte Rosa."

"I doubt it not, Antoine," said Lawrence, gazing with feelings of awe
into a terrible split in the ice, whose beautiful light-blue sides
deepened into intense blackness as they were lost to vision in an abyss,
out of which arose the deep-toned gurgling of sub-glacial streams; "but
you must not forget that this is quite new to me, and my feet are not
yet aware of the precise grip with which they must hold on to so
slippery a foundation."

It was in truth no discredit to Lawrence that he felt a tendency to
shrink from edges of chasms which appeared ready to break off, or walked
with caution on ice-slopes which led to unfathomable holes, for the said
slopes, although not steep, were undoubtedly slippery.

After much clambering, a ridge was at length gained, on which the second
stake was set up, and then the party proceeded onwards to fix the third;
but now the difficulties proved to be greater than before.  A huge block
of ice was fixed upon as that which would suit their purpose, but it
stood like a peninsula in the very midst of a crevasse, and connected
with the main body of ice by a neck which looked as sharp as a knife on
its upper edge, so that none but tight-rope or slack-wire dancers could
have proceeded along it; and even such performers would have found the
edge too brittle to sustain them.

"You'll have to show, Monsieur, some of your mountaineer skill here?"
said the man who carried the stakes to Antoine.

He spoke in French, which Lawrence understood perfectly.  We render it
as nearly as possible into the counterpart English.

Antoine at once stepped forward with his Alpine axe, and, swinging it
vigorously over his head, cut a deep notch on the sloping side of the
neck of ice.  Beyond it he cut a second notch.  No man--not even a
monkey--could have stood on the glassy slope which descended into the
abyss at their side; but Antoine, putting one foot in the first notch,
and the other in the second, stood as secure as if he had been on a flat
rock.  Again he swung his axe, and planted his foot in a third notch,
swinging his axe the instant it was fixed for the purpose of cutting the
fourth.  Thus, cut by cut and step by step, he passed over to the block
of ice aimed at.  It was but a short neck.  A few notches were
sufficient, yet without an axe to cut these notches, the place had been
absolutely impassable.  It was by no means a "dangerous" place,
according to the ideas of Alpine mountaineers, nevertheless a slip, or
the loss of balance, would have been followed by contain death.  Antoine
knew this, and, like a wise guide, took proper precautions.

"Stay, sir," he said, as Lawrence was screwing up his courage to follow
him, "I will show you another piece of Alpine practice."

He returned as he spoke, and, unwinding a coil of rope which he carried,
fastened one end thereof round his waist.  Allowing a few feet of
interval, he then fastened the rope round Lawrence's waist, and the
assistants with the stakes--of whom there were two besides the man
already referred to--also attached themselves to the rope in like
manner.  By this means they all passed over with comparative security,
because if any one of them had chanced to slip, the others would have
fixed the points of their axes and alpenstocks in the ice and held on
until their overbalanced comrade should have been restored to his
position.

On gaining the block, however, it was found that the line communicating
with the theodolite on the one hand, and the Dook's nose on the other,
just missed it.  The Professor's signals continued to indicate "more to
the left," (_his_ left, that is) until the stake-driver stood on the
extreme edge of the crevasse, and his comrades held on tight by the rope
to prevent him from falling over.  Still the professor indicated "more
to the left!"

As "more to the left" implied the planting of the stake in atmospheric
air, they were fain to search for a suitable spot farther on.

This they found, after some scrambling, on a serrated ridge whose edge
was just wide and strong enough to sustain them.  Here the exact line
was marked, but while the hole was being bored, an ominous crack was
heard ascending as if from the heart of the glacier.

"What was that?" said Lawrence, turning to the guide with a quick
surprised look.

"Only a split in the ice somewhere.  It's a common sound enough, as you
might expect in a mass that is constantly moving," replied Antoine,
looking gravely round him, "but I can't help thinking that this lump of
ice, with crevasses on each side, is not the best of all spots for
fixing a stake.  It isn't solid enough."

As he spoke, another crash was heard, not quite so loud as the last and
at the same moment the whole mass on which the party stood slid forward
a few inches.  It seemed as if it were about to tumble into the very
jaws of the crevasse.  With the natural instinct of self-preservation
strong upon him, Lawrence darted across the narrow ridge to the firm ice
in rear, dispensing entirely with that extreme caution which had marked
his first passage over it.  Indeed the tight-rope and slack-wire dancers
formerly referred to could not have performed the feat with greater
lightness, rapidity, and precision.  The stake-drivers followed him with
almost similar alacrity.  Even the guide retraced his steps without
further delay than was necessary to permit of his picking up the stakes
which their proper custodians had left behind in their alarm--for they
were not guides, merely young and inexperienced porters.

"For shame, lads," said Antoine, laughing and shaking his head, "you'll
be but bad specimens of the men of Chamouni if you don't learn more
coolness on the ice."

One would have thought that coolness on the ice was an almost
unavoidable consequence of the surrounding conditions, yet Lawrence
seemed to contradict the idea, for his face appeared unusually warm as
he laughed and said:--

"The shame lies with me, Antoine, for I set them the example, and all
history goes to prove that even brave men are swept away under the
influence of a panic which the act of one cowardly man may produce."

As Lawrence spoke in French, the porters understood and appreciated his
defence of them, but Antoine would by no means encourage the fallacy.

"It is not cowardly, sir," he said, "to spring quickly out of a danger
that one don't understand the nature of, but the young men of Chamouni
have, or ought to have, a good understanding of the nature of ice, and
the danger should be great indeed that would necessitate the leaving of
their tools behind them."

A roar like that of a bull of Bashan, or a boatswain, here interrupted
the conversation.

"Don't plant your post the-r-r-re," shouted Captain Wopper from the
banks of the ice-river, "the Professor says the ice ain't firm enough.
Heave ahead--to where its ha-a-ard an' fa-a-ast."

"Ay, ay, sir," shouted Lawrence, with nautical brevity, in reply.

The next stake was accordingly fixed on a part of the ice which was
obviously incapable of what might be called a local slip, and which
must, if it moved at all, do so in accordance with the movements of the
entire glacier.

Thus one by one the stakes were planted in a perfectly straight line, so
that when Captain Wopper was requested by the Professor to look through
the telescope--which he did with a seaman's readiness and precision--he
observed that all the stakes together appeared to form but one stake,
the bottom of which was touched on one side of the Mer de Glace by the
centre-point of the crossed threads, and, on the other, by the extreme
point of the "Dook" of Wellington's nose.  The last stake had been fixed
not many yards distant from the opposite bank of the glacier.

"Now," said the Professor, with a deep sigh of satisfaction when all
this was accomplished and noted, "we will go have our luncheon and
return hither to-morrow to observe the result of our experiments.  But
first we must fix the exact position of our theodolite, for unless it
occupies to a hair's-breadth to-morrow the same position which it
occupies to-day, the result will be quite inconclusive."

So saying, the man of science took a little line and plummet from his
pocket, which he hung under the theodolite, and the spot where the
plummet touched the ground was carefully marked by a small stake driven
quite down to its head.

Thereafter an attempt was made to gather together the scattered party,
but this was difficult.  Owing to various causes several members of it
had become oblivious of time.  Emma had forgotten time in the pursuit of
wild-flowers, of which she was excessively fond, partly because she had
learned to press and classify and write their proper names under them,
but chiefly because they were intrinsically lovely, and usually grew in
the midst of beautiful scenery.  Nita had forgotten it in the pursuit of
Emma, of whom she had become suddenly and passionately fond, partly
because she possessed a loving nature, but chiefly because Emma was her
counterpart.  Lewis had forgotten it in pursuit of Nita, of whom he had
become extremely fond, partly because she was pretty and pert, but
chiefly because he--he--well, we cannot say precisely why, seeing that
he did not inform us, and did not himself appear clearly to know.
Slingsby had forgotten it in the ardent effort to reproduce on paper and
with pencil, a scene so magnificent that a brush dipped in the rainbow
and applied by Claude or Turner would have utterly failed to do it
justice; and last, as well as least, Gillie White had forgotten it in
the pursuit of general knowledge, in which pursuit he had used his
alpenstock effectively in opening up everything, stabbing, knocking
down, uprooting, overturning, and generally shattering everything that
was capable of being in any degree affected by the physical powers and
forces at his command.  There can be no doubt whatever that if Gillie
White had been big and strong enough, Mont Blanc itself would have
succumbed that day to his inquiring mind, and the greatest ice-reservoir
of Europe would have been levelled with the plain.  As it was, he merely
levelled himself, after reaching the point of exhaustion, and went to
sleep on the sunny side of a rock, where he was nearly roasted alive
before being aroused by the shouts of Captain Wopper.

At last, however, the party assembled at the Montanvert, where, amid
interjectional accounts of the various incidents and adventures of the
forenoon, strength was recruited for the subsequent operations of the
day.  These, however, were only matters of amusement.  The Professor,
remarking jocosely that he now cast science to the dogs and cats (which
latter he pronounced cawts), sent his instruments back to Chamouni, and,
with the zest of a big boy let loose from school, crossed the Mer de
Glace to the Chapeau.

This feat was by no means so difficult as that which had been
accomplished by Lawrence.  It will be remembered that the spot selected
for measurement had been at the steep and rugged part of the ice-river
styled the Glacier des Bois, below the Montanvert.  The ordinary
crossing-place lay considerably higher up, just opposite to the inn.
The track had been marked out over the easiest and flattest part of the
ice, and levelled here and there where necessary for the special benefit
of tourists.  Still man--even when doing his worst in the way of making
rough places plain, and robbing nature of some of her romance--could not
do much to damage the grandeur of that impressive spot.  His axe only
chipped a little of the surface and made the footing secure.  It could
not mar the beauty of the picturesque surroundings, or dim the sun's
glitter on the ice-pinnacles, or taint the purity of these delicate blue
depths into which Emma and Nita gazed for the first time with admiration
and surprise while they listened to the mysterious murmurings of
sub-glacial waters with mingled feelings of curiosity and awe.

Full of interest they traversed the grand unfathomable river of ice,--
the product of the compressed snows of innumerable winters,--and,
reaching the other side in less than an hour, descended the Chapeau
through the terminal moraine.

Those who have not seen it can form but a faint conception of the
stupendous mass of _debris_ which is cut, torn, wrenched, carried,
swept, hurled, rolled, crushed, and ground down by a glacier from the
mountain-heights into the plain below.  The terminal moraine of the Mer
de Glace is a whole valley whose floor and sides are not only quite, but
deeply, covered with rocks of every shape and size, from a pebble the
size of a pea, to a boulder as large as a cottage, all strewn, piled,
and heaped together in a wild confusion that is eminently suggestive of
the mighty force which cast them there.

"To me there do seem something dreadful as well as grand in it," said
Nita, as she sat down on a boulder beside Emma, near the lower end of
the chaotic valley.

"It is, indeed, terrible," answered Emma, "and fills me with wonder when
I think that frozen water possesses power so stupendous."

"And yet the same element," said the Professor, "which, when frozen,
thus rends the mountains with force irresistible, when melted flows
through the land in gentle fertilising streams.  In both forms its power
is most wonderful."

"Like that of Him who created it," said Emma, in a low tone.

The party stood on the margin of a little pond or lakelet that had
collected in the midst of the _debris_, and which, by reflecting the
clear sky and their figures, with several large boulders on its margin,
gave point and a measure of softness to the otherwise confused and
rugged scene.  While they stood and sat rapt in silent contemplation of
the tongue of the Mer de Glace, at whose tip was the blue ice-cave
whence issued the Arveiron, a lordly eagle rose from a neighbouring
cliff and soared grandly over their heads, while a bright gleam of the
sinking sun shot over the white shoulders of Mont Blanc and lit up the
higher end of the valley, throwing the lower part into deeper shade by
contrast.

"There is a warning to us," said Lewis, whose chief interest in the
scene lay in the reflection of it that gleamed from Nita Horetzki's
eyes.

"Which is the warning," asked Slingsby, "the gleam of sunshine or the
eagle?"

"Both, for while the sun is going to bed behind the snow, the eagle is
doubtless going home to her eyrie, and Antoine tells me that it is full
three miles from this spot to our hotel in Chamouni."

It did not take them long to traverse that space, and ere long, like the
eagle and the sun, the whole party had retired to rest--the younger
members, doubtless, to dreamless slumber; the Professor and the Captain,
probably, to visions of theodolites and ice.

Although, however, these worthies must needs await the coming day to
have their scientific hopes realised, it would be cruel to keep our
patient reader in suspense.  We may therefore note here that when, on
the following day, the theodolite was re-fixed, and the man of science
and his amateur friend had applied their respective eyes to the
telescope, they were assured beyond a doubt that the stakes _had moved_,
some more and some less, while the "Dook's nose," of course, remained
hard and fast as the rock of which it was composed.  The stakes had
descended from about one to three feet during the twenty-four hours--
those near the edge having moved least and those near the centre of the
ice-river's flow having moved farthest.

Of course there was a great deal of observing with the theodolite, and
careful measuring as well as scrambling on the ice, similar to that of
the previous day; but the end of the whole was that the glacier was
ascertained to have flowed, definitely and observably down its channel,
there could be no doubt whatever about that; the thing had been clearly
proved, therefore the Professor was triumphant and the Captain, being a
reasonable man, was convinced.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

IN WHICH GILLIE IS SAGACIOUS, AN EXCURSION IS UNDERTAKEN, WONDROUS
SIGHTS ARE SEEN, AND AVALANCHES OF MORE KINDS THAN ONE ARE ENCOUNTERED.

"Susan," said Gillie, one morning, entering the private apartment of
Mrs Stoutley's maid with the confidence of a privileged friend,
flinging himself languidly into a chair and stretching out his little
legs with the air of a rather used-up, though by no means discontented,
man, "Susan, this is a coorious world--wery coorious--the most coorious
I may say that I ever come across."

"I won't speak a word to you, Gillie," said Susan, firmly, "unless you
throw that cigar out of the window."

"Ah, Susan, you would not rob me of my mornin' weed, would you?"
remonstrated Gillie, puffing a long cloud of smoke from his lips as he
took from between them the end of a cigar that had been thrown away by
some one the night before.

"Yes, I would, child, you are too young to smoke."

"Child!" repeated Gillie, in a tone of reproach, "too young!  Why,
Susan, there's only two years between you an' me--that ain't much, you
know, at _our_ time of life."

"Well, what then?  _I_ don't smoke," said Susan.

"True," returned Gillie, with an approving nod, "and, to say truth, I'm
pleased to find that you don't.  It's a nasty habit in women."

"It's an equally nasty habit in boys.  Now, do as I bid you directly."

"When a man is told by the girl he loves to do anythink, he is bound to
do it--even if it wor the sheddin' of his blood.  Susan, your word is
law."

He turned and tossed the cigar-end out of the window.  Susan laughingly
stooped, kissed the urchin's forehead, and called him a good boy.

"Now," said she, "what do you mean by sayin' that this is a curious
world?  Do you refer to this part of it, or to the whole of it?"

"Well, for the matter of that," replied Gillie, crossing his legs, and
folding his hands over his knee, as he looked gravely up in Susan's
pretty face, "I means the whole of it, _this_ part included, and the
people in it likewise.  Don't suppose that I go for to exclude myself.
We're all coorious, every one on us."

"What! me too?"

"You? w'y, you are the cooriousest of us all, Susan, seeing that you're
only a lady's-maid when you're pretty enough to have been a lady--a
dutchess, in fact, or somethin' o' that sort."

"You are an impudent little thing," retorted Susan, with a laugh; "but
tell me, what do you find so curious about the people up-stairs?"

"Why, for one thing, they seem all to have falled in love."

"That's not very curious is it?" said Susan, quietly; "it's common
enough, anyhow."

"Ah, some kinds of it, yes," returned Gillie, with the air of a
philosopher, "but at Chamouni the disease appears to have become
viroolent an' pecoolier.  There's the Capp'n, _he's_ falled in love wi'
the Professor, an' it seems to me that the attachment is mootooal.  Then
Mister Lewis has falled in love with Madmysell Nita Hooray-tskie (that's
a sneezer, ain't it), an' the mad artist, as Mister Lewis call him, has
falled in love with her too, poor feller, an' Miss Nita has falled in
love with Miss Emma, an Miss Emma, besides reciprocatin' that passion,
has falled in love with the flowers and the scenery--gone in for it
wholesale, so to speak--and Dr Lawrence, _he_ seems to have falled in
love with everybody all round; anyhow everybody has falled in love with
_him_, for he's continually goin' about doin' little good turns wherever
he gits the chance, without seemin' to intend it, or shovin' hisself to
the front.  In fact I do think he _don't_ intend it, but only can't help
it; just the way he used to be to my old mother and the rest of us in
Grubb's Court.  And I say, Susan," here Gillie looked very mysterious,
and dropped his voice to a whisper, "Miss Emma has falled in love with
_him_."

"Nonsense, child! how is it possible that _you_ can tell that?" said
Susan.

The boy nodded his head with a look of preternatural wisdom, and put his
forefinger to the side of his nose.

"Ah," said he, "yes, I can't explain _how_ it is that I knows it, but I
_do_ know it.  Bless you, Susan, I can see through a four-inch plank in
thick weather without the aid of a gimlet hole.  You may believe it or
not, but I know that Miss Emma has falled in love with Dr Lawrence, but
whether Dr Lawrence has failed in love with Miss Emma is more than I
can tell.  That plank is at least a six-inch one, an' too much for my
wision.  But have a care, Susan, don't mention wot I've said to a single
soul--livin' or dead.  Miss Emma is a modest young woman, she is, an'
would rather eat her fingers off, rings and all, than let her feelin's
be known.  I see that 'cause she fights shy o' Dr Lawrence, rather too
shy of 'im, I fear, for secrecy.  Why he doesn't make up to _her_ is a
puzzle that _I_ don't understand, for she'd make a good wife, would Miss
Emma, an' Dr Lawrence may live to repent of it, if he don't go in and
win."

Susan looked with mingled surprise and indignation at the precocious
little creature who sat before her giving vent to his opinions as coolly
as if he were a middle-aged man.  After contemplating him for a few
moments in silence, she expressed her belief that he was a conceited
little imp, to venture to speak of his young mistress in that way.

"I wouldn't do it to any one but yourself, Susan," he said, in no wise
abashed, "an' I hope you appreciate my confidence."

"Don't talk such nonsense, child, but go on with what you were speaking
about," rejoined Susan, with a smile, to conceal which she bent down her
head as she plied her needle briskly on one of Emma's mountain-torn
dresses.

"Well, where was I?" continued Gillie, "ah, yes.  Then, Lord
what's-'is-name, _he's_ falled in love with the mountain-tops, an' is
for ever tryin' to get at 'em, in which he would succeed, for he's a
plucky young feller, if it worn't for that snob--who's got charge of
'im--Mister Lumbard--whose pecooliarity lies in preferrin' every wrong
road to the right one.  As I heard Mr Lewis say the other day, w'en I
chanced to be passin' the keyhole of the sallymanjay, `he'd raither go
up to the roof of a 'ouse by the waterspout than the staircase,' just
for the sake of boastin' of it."

"And is Mr Lumbard in love with any one?" asked Susan.

"Of course he is," answered Gillie, "he's in love with hisself.  He's
always talkin' of hisself, an' praisin' hisself, an' boastin' of hisself
an' what he's done and agoin' to do.  He's plucky enough, no doubt, and
if there wor a lightnin'-conductor runnin' to top of Mount Blang, I do
b'lieve he'd try to--to--lead his Lordship up _that_; but he's too fond
of talkin' an' swaggerin' about with his big axe, an' wearin' a coil of
rope on his shoulder when he ain't goin' nowhere.  Bah!  I don't like
him.  What do you think, Susan, I met him on the road the other evenin'
w'en takin' a stroll by myself down near the Glassyer day Bossong, an' I
says to him, quite in a friendly way, `bong joor,' says I, which is
French, you know, an' what the natives here says when they're in good
humour an' want to say `good-day,' `all serene,' `how are you off for
soap?' an' suchlike purlitenesses.  Well, would you believe it, he went
past without takin' no notice of me whatsumdever."

"How _very_ impolite," said Susan, "and what did you do?"

"Do," cried Gillie, drawing himself up, "why, I cocked my nose in the
air and walked on without disdainin' to say another word--treated 'im
with suvrin contempt.  But enough of _him_--an' more than enough.  Well,
to continue, then there's Missis Stoutley, she's falled in love too."

"Indeed?"

"Yes, with wittles.  The Count Hur--what's-'is-name, who's always doin'
the purlite when he's not mopin', says it's the mountain hair as is
agreein' with her, but I think its the hair-soup.  Anyhow she's more
friendly with her wittles here than she ever was in England.  After
comin' in from that excursion where them two stout fellers carried her
up the mountains, an' all but capsized her and themselves, incloodin'
the chair, down a precipice, while passin' a string o' mules on a track
no broader than the brim of Mister Slingsby's wide-awake, she took to
her wittles with a sort of lovin' awidity that an't describable.  The
way she shovelled in the soup, an' stowed away the mutton chops, an'
pitched into the pease and taters, to say nothing of cauliflower and
cutlets, was a caution to the billions.  It made my mouth water to look
at her, an' my eyes too--only that may have had somethin' to do with the
keyhole, for them 'otels of Chamouni are oncommon draughty.  Yes,"
continued Gillie, slowly, as if he were musing, "she's failed in love
with wittles, an' it's by no means a misplaced affection.  It would be
well for the Count if he could fall in the same direction.  Did you ever
look steadily at the Count, Susan?"

"I can't say I ever did; at least not more so than at other people.
Why?"

"Because, if you ever do look at him steadily, you'll see care a-sittin'
wery heavy on his long yeller face.  There's somethin' the matter with
that Count, either in 'is head or 'is stummick, I ain't sure which; but,
whichever it is, it has descended to his darter, for that gal's face is
too anxious by half for such a young and pretty one.  I have quite a
sympathy, a sort o' feller-feelin', for that Count.  He seems to me the
wictim of a secret sorrow."

Susan looked at her small admirer with surprise, and then burst into a
hearty laugh.

"You're a queer boy, Gillie."

To an unsophisticated country girl like Susan Quick, the London
street-boy must indeed have seemed a remarkable being.  He was not
indeed an absolute "Arab," being the son of an honest hardworking
mother, but being also the son of a drunken, ill-doing father, he had,
in the course of an extensive experience of bringing his paternal parent
home from gin-palaces and low theatres, imbibed a good deal of the
superficial part of the "waif" character, and, but for the powerful and
benign influence of his mother, might have long ago entered the ranks of
our criminal population.  As it was, he had acquired a knowledge of "the
world" of London--its thoughts, feelings, and manners--which rendered
him in Susan's eyes a perfect miracle of intelligence; and she listened
to his drolleries and precocious wisdom with open-mouthed admiration.
Of course the urchin was quite aware of this, and plumed himself not a
little on his powers of attraction.

"Yes," continued Gillie, without remarking on Susan's observation that
he was a "queer boy," for he esteemed that a compliment "the Count is
the only man among 'em who hasn't falled in love with nothink or nobody.
But tell me, Susan, is _your_ fair buzzum free from the--the tender--
you know what?"

"Oh! yes," laughed the maid, "quite free."

"Ah!" said Gillie, with a sigh of satisfaction, "then there's hope for
_me_."

"Of course there is plenty of hope," said Susan, laughing still more
heartily as she looked at the thing in blue and buttons which thus
addressed her.

"But now, tell me, where are they talking of going to-day?"

"To the Jardang," replied Gillie.  "It was putt off to please the young
ladies t'other day, and now it's putt on to please the Professor.  It
seems to me that the Professor has got well to wind'ard of 'em all--as
the Cappen would say; he can twirl the whole bilin' of 'em round his
little finger with his outlandish talk, which I believe is more than
half nonsense.  Hows'ever, he's goin' to take 'em all to the Jardang, to
lunch there, an' make some more obserwations and measurements of the
ice.  Why he takes so much trouble about sitch a trifle, beats _my_
understandin'.  If the ice is six feet, or six hundred feet thick, what
then?  If it moves, or if it don't move, wot's the odds, so long as yer
'appy?  If it _won't_ move, w'y don't they send for a company of London
bobbies and make 'em tell it to `move on,' it couldn't refuse, you know,
for nothin' can resist that.  Hows'ever, they are all goin' to foller
the lead of the Professor again to-day--them that was with 'em last
time--not the Count though, for I heard him say (much to the distress
apperiently of his darter) that he was goin' on business to Marteeny,
over the Tait Nwar, though what that is _I_ don't know--a mountain, I
suppose.  They're all keen for goin' _over_ things in this country, an'
some of 'em goes _under_ altogether in the doin' of it.  If I ain't
mistaken, that pleasant fate awaits Lord what's-'is-name an' Mr
Lumbard, for I heard the Cappen sayin', just afore I come to see you,
that he was goin' to take his Lordship to the main truck of Mount Blang
by way of the signal halliards, in preference to the regular road."

"Are the young ladies going?" asked Susan.

"Of course they are, from w'ich it follers that Mr Lewis an' the mad
artist are goin' too."

"And Mrs Stoutley?" asked Susan.

"_No_; it's much too far and difficult for her."

"Gillie, Gillie!" shouted a stentorian voice at this point in the
conversation.

"Ay, ay, Cappen," yelled Gillie, in reply.  Rising and thrusting his
hands into his pockets, he sauntered leisurely from the room,
recommending the Captain, in an undertone, to save his wind for the
mountainside.

Not long afterwards, the same parties that had accompanied the Professor
to the Montanvert were toiling up the Mer de Glace, at a considerable
distance above the scene of their former exploits, on their way to the
Jardin.

The day was all that could be desired.  There were a few clouds, but
these were light and feathery; clear blue predominated all over the sky.
Over the masses of the Jorasses and the peaks of the Geant, the
Aiguille du Dru, the slopes of Mont Mallet, the pinnacles of Charmoz,
and the rounded white summit of Mont Blanc--everywhere--the heavens were
serene and beautiful.

The Jardin, towards which they ascended, lies like an island in the
midst of the Glacier du Talefre.  It is a favourite expedition of
travellers, being a verdant gem on a field of white--a true oasis in the
desert of ice and snow--and within a five hours' walk of Chamouni.

Their route lay partly on the moraines and partly over the surface of
the glacier.  On their previous visit to the Mer de Glace, those of the
party to whom the sight was new imagined that they had seen all the
wonders of the glacier world.  They were soon undeceived.  While at the
Montanvert on their first excursion, they could turn their eyes from the
sea of ice to the tree-clad slopes behind them, and at the Chapeau could
gaze on a splendid stretch of the Vale of Chamouni to refresh their eyes
when wearied with the rugged cataract of the Glacier des Bois; but as
they advanced slowly up into the icy solitudes, all traces of the softer
world were lost to view.  Only ice and snow lay around them.  Ice under
foot, ice on the cliffs, ice in the mountain valleys, ice in the higher
gorges, and snow on the summits,--except where these latter were so
sharp and steep that snow could not find a lodgment.  There was nothing
in all the field of vision to remind them of the vegetable world from
which they had passed as if by magic.  As Lewis remarked, they seemed to
have been suddenly transported to within the Arctic circle, and got lost
among the ice-mountains of Spitzbergen or Nova Zembla.

"It is magnificent!" exclaimed Nita Horetzki with enthusiasm, as she
paused on the summit of an ice-ridge, up the slippery sides of which she
had been assisted by Antoine Grennon, who still held her little hand in
his.

Ah, thoughtless man! he little knew what daggers of envy were lacerating
the heart of the mad artist who would have given all that he possessed--
colour-box and camp-stool included--to have been allowed to hold that
little hand even for a few seconds!  Indeed he had, in a fit of
desperation, offered to aid her by taking the other hand when half-way
up that very slope, but had slipped at the moment of making the offer
and rolled to the bottom.  Lewis, seeing the fate of his rival, wisely
refrained from putting himself in a false position by offering any
assistance, excusing his apparent want of gallantry by remarking that if
he were doomed to slip into a crevasse he should prefer not to drag
another along with him.  Antoine, therefore, had the little hand all to
himself.

The Professor, being a somewhat experienced ice-man, assisted Emma in
all cases of difficulty.  As for the Captain, Gillie, and Lawrence, they
had quite enough to do to look after themselves.

"How different from what I had expected," said Emma, resting a hand on
the shoulder of Nita; "it is a very landscape of ice."

Emma's simile was not far-fetched.  They had reached a part of the
glacier where the slope and the configuration of the valley had caused
severe strains on the ice in various directions, so that there were not
only transverse crevasses but longitudinal cracks, which unitedly had
cut up the ice into blocks of all shapes and sizes.  These, as their
position shifted, had become isolated, more or less,--and being
partially melted by the sun, had assumed all sorts of fantastic shapes.
There were ice-bridges, ice-caves, and ice obelisks and spires, some of
which latter towered to a height of fifty feet or more; there were also
forms suggestive of cottages and trees, with here and there real
rivulets rippling down their icy beds, or leaping over pale blue ledges,
or gliding into blue-green lakes, or plunging into black-blue chasms.
The sun-light playing among these silvery realms--glinting over edges
and peaks, blazing on broad masses, shimmering through semi-transparent
cliffs, and casting soft grey shadows everywhere--was inexpressibly
beautiful, while the whole, looming through a thin golden haze, seemed
to be of gigantic proportions.

It seemed as if the region of ice around them must at one time have been
in tremendous convulsions, but the Professor assured them that this was
not the case, that the formation of crevasses and those confused heaps
of ice called _seracs_ was a slow and prolonged process.  "Doubtless,"
he said, "you have here and there the wild rush of avalanches, and
suchlike convulsions, but the rupture of the great body of the ice is
gradual.  A crevasse is an almost invisible crack at first.  It yawns
slowly and takes a long time to open out to the dimensions and confusion
which you see around."

"What are those curious things?" asked Nita, pointing to some forms
before her.

"They look like giant mushrooms," said Captain Wopper.

"They are ice-tables," answered Antoine.

"Blocks of stone on the top of cones of ice," said the Professor.
"Come, we will go near and examine one."

The object in question was well suited to cause surprise, for it was
found to be an enormous flat mass of rock, many tons in weight, perched
on a pillar of ice and bearing some resemblance to a table with a
central leg.

"Now," said Captain Wopper emphatically, "that _is_ a puzzler.  How did
it ever get up there?"

"I have read of such tables," said Lawrence.

"They are the result of the sun's action, I believe."

"Oh, it's all very well, Lawrence," said Lewis, with a touch of sarcasm,
"to talk in a vague way about the sun's action, but it's quite plain,
even to an unphilosophical mind like mine, that the sun can't lift a
block of stone some tons in weight and clap it on the top of a pillar of
ice about ten feet high."

"Nevertheless the sun has done it," returned Lawrence.  "Am I not right
Professor?"

The man of science, who had listened with a bland smile on his broad
countenance, admitted that Lawrence was right.

"At first," he said, "that big stone fell from the cliffs higher up the
valley, and it has now been carried down thus far by the ice.  During
its progress the sun has been shining day by day and melting the surface
of the ice all round, with the exception of that part which was covered
by the rock.  Thus the general level of the ice has been lowered and the
protected portion left prominent with its protector on the top.  The
sides of the block of ice on which the rock has rested have also melted
slowly, reducing it to the stalk or pillar which you now see.  In time
it will melt so much that the rock will slide off, fall on another part
of the ice, which it will protect from the sun as before until another
stem shall support it, and thus it will go on until it tumbles into a
crevasse, reaches the under part of the glacier, perhaps there gets
rolled and rounded into a boulder, and finally is discharged, many years
hence, it may be, into the terminal moraine; or, perchance, it may get
stranded on the sides of the valley among the _debris_ or rubbish which
we call the lateral moraine."

As the party advanced, new, and, if possible; still more striking
objects met the eye, while mysterious sounds struck the ear.  Low
grumbling noises and gurglings were heard underfoot, as if great
boulders were dropping into buried lakes from the roofs of sub-glacial
caverns, while, on the surface, the glacier was strewn here and there
with _debris_ which had fallen from steep parts of the mountains that
rose beside them into the clouds.  Sudden rushing sounds--as if of
short-lived squalls, in the midst of which were crashes like the thunder
of distant artillery--began now to attract attention, and a feeling of
awe crept into the hearts of those of the party who were strangers to
the ice-world.  Sounds of unseen avalanches, muffled more or less
according to distance, were mingled with what may be called the shots of
the boulders, which fell almost every five minutes from the Aiguille
Verte and other mountains, and there was something deeply impressive in
the solemn echoes that followed each deep-toned growl, and were repeated
until they died out in soft murmurs.

As the party crossed an ice-plain, whose surface was thickly strewn with
the wreck of mountains, a sense of insecurity crept into the feelings of
more than one member of it but not a word was said until a sudden and
tremendous crash, followed by a continuous roar, was heard close at
hand.

"An avalanche!" shouted Slingsby, pointing upwards, and turning back
with the evident intention to fly.

It did indeed seem the wisest thing that man or woman could do in the
circumstances, for, high up among the wild cliffs, huge masses of rock,
mingled with ice, dirt, water, and snow, were seen rushing down a
"couloir," or steep gully, straight towards them.

"Rest tranquil where you are," said the guide, laying his hand on the
artist's arm; "the couloir takes a bend, you see, near the bottom.
There is no danger."

Thus assured, the whole of the party stood still and gazed upward.

Owing to the great height from which the descending mass was pouring,
the inexperienced were deceived as to the dimensions of the avalanche.
It seemed at first as if the boulders were too small to account for the
sounds created, but in a few seconds their real proportions became more
apparent, especially when the whole rush came straight towards the spot
on which the travellers stood with such an aspect of being fraught with
inevitable destruction, that all of them except the guide shrank
involuntarily backwards.  At this crisis the chaotic mass was driven
with terrible violence against the cliffs to the left of the couloir,
and bounding, we might almost say fiercely, to the right, rushed out
upon the frozen plain about two hundred yards in advance of the spot on
which they stood.

"Is there not danger in being so close to such places?" asked Lewis,
glancing uneasily at Nita, whose flashing eyes and heightened colour
told eloquently of the excitement which the sight had aroused in her
breast.

"Not much," answered the Professor, "no doubt we cannot be said to be in
a place of absolute safety, nevertheless the danger is not great,
because we can generally observe the avalanches in time to get out of
the way of spent shots; and, besides, if we run under the lea of such
boulders as _that_, we are quite safe, unless it were to be hit by one
pretty nearly as large as itself."  He pointed as he spoke to a mass of
granite about the size of an omnibus, which lay just in front of them.
"But I see," he added, laughing, "that Antoine thinks this is not a
suitable place for the delivery of lectures; we must hasten forward."

Soon they surmounted the steeps of the Glacier du Talefre, and reached
the object of their desire, the Jardin.

It is well named.  A wonderful spot of earth and rock which rises out of
the midst of a great basin of half-formed ice, the lower part being
covered with green sward and spangled with flowers, while the summit of
the rock forms a splendid out-look from which to view the surrounding
scene.

Here, seated on the soft grass--the green of which was absolutely
delicious to the eyes after the long walk over the glaring ice--the
jovial Professor, with a sandwich in one hand and a flask of _vin
ordinaire_ in the other, descanted on the world of ice.  He had a
willing audience, for they were all too busy with food to use their
tongues in speech, except in making an occasional brief demand or
comment.

"Glorious!" exclaimed the Professor.

"Which, the view or the victuals?" asked Lewis.  "Both," cried the
Professor, helping himself to another half-dozen sandwiches.

"Thank you--no more at present," said Nita to the disappointed Slingsby,
who placed the rejected limb of a fowl on his own plate with a deep
sigh.

"Professor," said Nita, half-turning her back on the afflicted artist,
"how, when, and where be all this ice formed?"

"A comprehensive question!" cried the Professor.  "Thank you--yes, a
wing and a leg; also, if you can spare it, a piece of the--ah! so, you
are right.  The whole fowl is best.  I can then help myself.  Miss Gray,
shall I assist you to a--no?  Well, as I was about to remark, in reply
to your comprehensive question, Mademoiselle, this basin, in which our
Jardin lies, may be styled a mighty collector of the material which
forms that great tributary of the Mer de Glace, named the Glacier du
Talefre.  This material is called neve."

"An' what's nevy?" asked Captain Wopper, as well as a full mouth would
allow him.

"Neve," replied the Professor, "is snow altered by partial melting, and
freezing, and compression--snow in the process of being squeezed into
ice.  You must know that there is a line on all high mountains which is
called the snow-line.  Above this line, the snow that falls each year
_never_ disappears; below it the snow, and ice too, undergoes the
melting process continually.  The portion below the snow-line is always
being diminished; that above it is always augmenting; thus the loss of
the one is counterbalanced by the gain of the other; and thus the
continuity of glaciers is maintained.  That part of a glacier which lies
above the snow-line is styled neve; it is the fountain-head and source
of supply to the glacier proper, which is the part that lies below the
snow-line.  Sometimes, for a series of years, perhaps, the supply from
above is greater than the diminution below, the result being that the
snout of a glacier advances into its valley, ploughs up the land, and
sometimes overturns the cottages.  [See Note 1.] On the other hand the
reverse process goes on, it may be for years, and a glacier recedes
somewhat, leaving a whole valley of _debris_, or terminal moraine, which
is sometimes, after centuries perhaps, clothed with vegetation and
dotted with cottages."

"This basin, or collector of neve, on whose beautiful oasis I have the
felicity to lunch in such charming society (the jovial Professor bowed
to the ladies), is, according to your talented Professor Forbes (he
bowed to Lawrence), about four thousand two hundred yards wide, and all
the ice it contains is, farther down, squeezed through a gorge not more
than seven hundred yards wide, thus forming that grand ice-cascade of
the Talefre which you have seen on the way hither.  It is a splendid, as
well as interesting amphitheatre, for it is bounded, as you see, on one
side by the Grandes Jorasses, on the other by Mont Mallet, while
elsewhere you have the vast plateau whence the Glacier du Geant is fed;
the Aiguille du Geant, the Aiguille Noire, the Montagnes Mandites, and
Mont Blanc.  Another wing, if you please--ah, finished?  No matter, pass
the loaf.  It will do as well."

The Professor devoted himself for some minutes in silence to the loaf,
which was much shorn of its proportions on leaving his hand.  Like many
great men, he was a great eater.  The fires of intellect that burned
within him seemed to require a more than ordinary supply of fuel.  He
slept, too, like an infant Hercules, and, as a natural consequence,
toiled like a giant when awake.

Little Gillie White regarded him with feelings of undisguised awe,
astonishment and delight, and was often sorely perplexed within himself
as to whether he or Captain Wopper was the greater man.  Both were
colossal in size and energetic in body, and both were free and easy in
manners, as well as good-humoured.  No doubt, as Gillie argued with
himself (and sometimes with Susan), the Professor was uncommon larned
an' deep, but then the Captain had a humorous vein, which fully
counterbalanced that in Gillie's estimation.

The philosophic urchin was deeply engaged in debating this point with
himself, and gazing open-mouthed at the Professor, when there suddenly
occurred an avalanche so peculiar and destructive that it threw the
whole party into the utmost consternation.  While removing a pile of
plates, Gillie, in his abstraction, tripped on a stone, tumbled over the
artist, crushed that gentleman's head into Nita's lap, and, descending
head foremost, plates and all, into the midst of the feast, scattered
very moraine of crockery and bottles all round.  It was an appalling
smash, and when the Captain seized Gillie by the back of his trousers
with one hand and lifted him tenderly out of the midst of the _debris_,
the limp way in which he hung suggested the idea that a broken bottle
must have penetrated his vitals and finished him.

It was not so, however.  Gillie's sagacity told him that he would
probably be wounded if he were to move.  He wisely, therefore, remained
quite passive, and allowed himself to be lifted out of danger.

"Nobody hurt, I 'ope," he said, on being set on his legs; "it was a
awk'ard plunge."

"Awk'ard? you blue spider," cried the Captain; "you deserve to be
keel-hauled, or pitched into a crevasse.  Look alive now, an' clear up
the mess you've made."

Fortunately the feast was about concluded when this _contretemps_
occurred, so that no serious loss was sustained.  Some of the gentlemen
lighted their pipes and cigars, to solace themselves before commencing
the return journey.  The ladies went off to saunter and to botanise, and
Slingsby attempted to sketch the scenery.

And here again, as on the previous excursion, Captain Wopper received a
chill in regard to his matrimonial hopes.  When the ladies rose, Lewis
managed to engage Nita in an interesting conversation on what he styled
the flora of central Europe, and led her away.  Emma was thus left
without her companion.  Now, thought the Captain, there's your chance,
Dr Lawrence, go in and win!  But Lawrence did not avail himself of the
chance.  He suffered Emma to follow her friend, and remained behind
talking with the Professor on the vexed subject of the cause of glacial
motion.

"Most extraor'nary," thought the Captain, somewhat nettled, as well as
disappointed.  "What can the youngster mean?  She's as sweet a gal as a
fellow would wish to see, an' yet he don't pay no more attention to her
than if she was an old bumboat 'ooman.  Very odd.  Can't make it out
nohow!"

Captain Wopper was not the first, and will _certainly_ not be the last,
to experience difficulty in accounting for the conduct of young men and
maidens in this world of cross-currents and queer fancies.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  Such is actually true at the present time of the Gorner
glacier, which has for a long time been advancing, and, during the last
sixty years or so, has overturned between forty and fifty chalets.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

SHOWS WHAT DANGERS MAY BE ENCOUNTERED IN THE PURSUIT OF ART AND SCIENCE.

Who has not experienced the almost unqualified pleasure of a walk, on a
bright beautiful morning, before breakfast?  How amply it repays one for
the self-denying misery of getting up!  We say misery advisedly, for it
is an undoubted, though short-lived, agony, that of arousing one's
inert, contented, and peaceful frame into a state of activity.  There is
a moment in the daily life of man--of some men, at least--when heroism
of a very high stamp is displayed; that moment when, the appointed hour
of morning having arrived, he thrusts one lethargic toe from under the
warm bed-clothes into the relatively cold atmosphere of his chamber.  If
the toe is drawn back, the man is nobody.  If it is thrust further out,
and followed up by the unwilling body, the man is a hero!  The agony,
however, like that of tooth-drawing, is soon over, and the delightful
commendations of an approving conscience are superadded to the pleasures
of an early morning walk.

Such pleasures were enjoyed one morning by Emma Gray and Nita Horetzki
and Lewis Stoutley, when, at an early hour, they issued from their
hotel, and walked away briskly up the Vale of Chamouni.

"I say, Emma, isn't it a charming, delicious, and outrageously
delightful day!" exclaimed Lewis.

Although the young man addressed himself to his cousin, who walked on
his left, he glanced at Nita, who walked on his right, and thus, with a
sense of justice peculiarly his own, divided his attentions equally
between them.

"You are unusually enthusiastic, cousin," said Emma, with a laugh.  "I
thought you said last night that weather never affected you?"

"True, but there is more than weather here, there is scenery, and--and
sunshine."

"Sunshine?" repeated Nita, lifting her large orbs to his face with a
look of surprise, for although the sun may be said to have risen as
regards the world at large, it had not yet surmounted the range of Mont
Blanc, or risen to the inhabitants of Chamouni.  "I not see it; where is
the sunshine?"

"There!" exclaimed Lewis, mentally, as he gazed straight down into her
wondering orbs, and then added aloud, as he swept his arm aloft with a
mock-heroic air, "behold it gleaming on the mountain-ridges."

There is no doubt that the enthusiasm of Lewis as to the weather,
scenery, and sunshine would have been much reduced, perhaps quenched
altogether, if Nita had not been there, for the youth was steeped in
that exquisite condition termed first love,--the very torments incident
to which are moderated joys,--but it must not be supposed that he
conducted himself with the maudlin sentimentality not unfrequently
allied to that condition.  Although a mischievous and, we are bound to
admit, a reckless youth, he was masculine in his temperament, and
capable of being deeply, though not easily, stirred into enthusiasm.  It
was quite in accordance with this nature that his jesting tone and
manner suddenly vanished as his gaze became riveted on the ridge to
which he had carelessly directed attention.  Even Nita was for a moment
forgotten in the sight that met his eyes, for the trees and bushes which
crowned the ridge were to all appearance composed of solid fire!

"Did you ever see anything like that before Emma?" he asked, eagerly.

"Never; I have seen sunrises and sunsets in many parts of our own land,
but nothing at all like that; what _can_ be the cause of it?"

There was good reason for the wonder thus called forth, for the light
was not on the trees but _behind_ them.  The sun had not quite risen,
but was very near the summit of the ridge, so that these trees and
bushes were pictured, as it were, against the brightest part of the
glowing sky.  In such circumstances we are taught by ordinary experience
that objects will be unusually dark, but these trees were incomparably
brighter than the glowing sky itself.  It was not that their mere edges
were tipped with fire, but their entire substance, even to the central
core of the pine-stems, was to all appearance made of pure light, as if
each tree and shrub had been made of steel raised to a condition of
intense white heat.  No shining of the sun through or upon trees can
convey the slightest idea of the sight.  It was something absolutely new
to our travellers, and roused their astonishment as well as wonder to
the highest pitch.

"Oh!" exclaimed Nita, clasping her hands with a force peculiar to her
demonstrative nature, "how wonderful!  How I do wish the Professor was
here to tell us how and what it be."

That evening the Professor, who had observed the phenomenon more than
once, told them all he knew about it.  There were differences of
opinion, he said, as to the cause, for men of physical science, not less
than doctors, were prone to differ.  For himself, he had only noted the
facts and knew not the cause.  The luminous trees appeared only at that
part of the ridge where the sun was _just going_ to rise--elsewhere the
trees were projected as dark objects, in the usual way, against the
bright sky.  Not only were the trees thus apparently self-luminous, but
when birds chanced to be flying amongst them, they had the appearance of
sparks of molten silver flitting to and fro.  See Note 1.

"But you have not yet told me, ladies," said Lewis, as they resumed
their walk, "what has induced you to indulge in so early a ramble
to-day?"

"Can you not imagine," said Nita, "that it is the love of Nature?"

"Undoubtedly I can; but as this is the first time since we came that you
have chosen to display a love for Nature before breakfast, I may be
forgiven for supposing there is another and no doubt secondary cause."

"You are right," said Emma; "were you not present last night when we
discussed our plans for to-day?"

"No, he was in the verandah," interposed Nita, with an arch smile,
"indulging that savage and unintellectual taste you call smoking."

"Ah, Mademoiselle, be not too severe.  It may not, indeed, be styled an
intellectual pursuit, but neither, surely, can it be called savage,
seeing that it softens and ameliorates the rugged spirit of man."

"It is savage," returned Nita, "because you do not encourage ladies to
join you in it."

"Pardon me, Mademoiselle," cried Lewis, pulling out his cigar-case,
"nothing would gratify me more than your acceptance of--"

"Insult me not, Monsieur," said Nita, with a toss of her pretty little
head, "but reply to your cousin's question."

"Ah, to be sure, well--let me see, what was it?  Was I present when the
plans for the day were arranged?  Yes I was, but I missed the first part
of the conversation, having been, as Mademoiselle Horetzki truly
observes, occupied with that--a--"

"Savage habit," interposed Nita.

"Savage habit," said Lewis, "the savage element of which I am willing to
do away with at a moment's notice when desired.  I merely heard that the
professor had fixed to go on the glacier for the purpose of measuring
it, as though it were a badly clad giant, and he a scientific tailor who
had undertaken to make a top-coat for it.  I also heard that you two had
decided on a walk before breakfast, and, not caring to do tailoring on
the ice, I begged leave to join you--therefore I am here."

"Ah, you prefer woman's society and safety to manly exercise and
danger!" said Nita.

Although Lewis was, as we have said, by no means an effeminate youth, he
was at that age when the male creature shrinks from the slightest
imputation of a lack of manliness.  He coloured, therefore, as he
laughingly replied that in his humble opinion his present walk involved
the manly exercise of moral courage in withstanding shafts of sarcasm,
which were far more dangerous in his eyes than hidden crevasses or
flying boulders.

"But you both forget," interposed Emma, "that I have not yet explained
the object of our morning walk."

"True, cousin, let us have it."

"Well," continued Emma, "when you were engages in your `savage'
indulgence, a difficulty stood in the way of the Professor's plans,
inasmuch as our guide Antoine had asked and obtained leave to absent
himself a couple of days for the purpose of taking his wife and child
over the country to pay a short visit to a relative in some valley, the
name of which I forget.  Antoine had said that he would be quite willing
to give up his leave of absence if a messenger were sent to inform his
wife of his change of plan, and to ask a certain Baptist Le Croix, who
lives close beside her, to be her guide.  As we two did not mean to join
the ice-party, we at once offered to be the messengers.  Hence our
present expedition at so early an hour.  After seeing Madame Antoine
Grennon and having breakfast we mean to spend the day in sketching."

"May I join you in this after-portion of the day's work?" asked Lewis.
"I may not, indeed, claim to use the pencil with the facility of our
friend Slingsby, but I am not altogether destitute of a little native
talent in that way.  I will promise to give you both as many cigars as
you choose, and will submit my sketches to Mademoiselle's criticism,
which will be incurring extreme danger."

"Well, you may come," said Nita, with a condescending nod, "but pray
fulfil the first part of your promise, give me the cigars."

Lewis drew them out with alacrity, and laughingly asked, "how many?"

"All of them; the case also."

In some surprise the youth put the cigar-case into her hand, and she
immediately flung it into a neighbouring pool.

"Ah, how cruel," said Lewis, putting on a most forlorn look, while Emma
gave vent to one of her subdued little explosions of laughter.

"What! is our society not enough for Monsieur?" asked Nita, in affected
surprise.

"_More_ than enough," replied Lewis, with affected enthusiasm.

"Then you can be happy without your cigars," returned Nita.

"Perfectly happy," replied Lewis, taking a small case from his pocket,
from which he extracted a neat little meerschaum pipe, and began to fill
it with tobacco.

Again Emma had occasion to open the safety-valve of another little
explosive laugh; but before anything further could be said, they came in
sight of Antoine Grennon's cottage.

It was prettily situated beneath a clump of pines.  A small stream,
spanned by a rustic bridge, danced past it.  Under the shadow of the
bridge they saw Madame engaged in washing linen.  She had a washing-tub,
of course, but instead of putting the linen into this she put herself in
it, after having made an island of it by placing it a few inches deep in
the stream.  Thus she could kneel and get at the water conveniently
without wetting her knees or skirts.  On a sloping slab of wood she
manipulated the linen with such instrumentality as cold water, soap, a
wooden mallet and a hard brush.  Beside her, in a miniature tub, her
little daughter conducted a miniature washing.

The three travellers, looking over the bridge, could witness the
operation without being themselves observed.

"It is a lively process," remarked Lewis, as Madame seized a mass of
linen with great vigour, and caused it to fall on the sloping plank with
a sounding slap.

Madame was an exceedingly handsome and well-made woman, turned thirty,
and much inclined to _embonpoint_.  Her daughter was turned three, and
still more inclined to the same condition.  Their rounded, well-shaped,
and muscular arms, acted very much in the same way, only Madame's vigour
was a good deal more intense and persistent--too much so, perhaps, for
the fabrics with which she had to deal; but if the said fabrics
possessed the smallest degree of consciousness, they could not have had
the heart to complain of rough treatment from such neat though strong
hands, while being smiled upon by such a pretty, though decisive
countenance.

"It is dreadfully rough treatment," said Emma, whose domestic-economical
spirit was rather shocked.

"Terrible!" exclaimed Nita, as Madame gripped another article of apparel
and beat it with her mallet as though it had been the skull of her
bitterest enemy, while soap-suds and water spurted from it as if they
had been that enemy's brains.

"And she washes, I believe, for our hotel," said Emma, with a slightly
troubled expression.  Perhaps a thought of her work-box and buttons
flashed across her mind at the moment.

"You are right," said Lewis, with a pleased smile.

"I heard Antoine say to Gillie, the other day, that his wife washed a
large portion of the hotel linen.  No doubt some of ours is amongst it.
Indeed I am sure of it," he added, with a look of quiet gravity, as
Madame Grennon seized another article, swished it through the water,
caused it to resound on the plank, and scrubbed it powerfully with soap;
"that a what's-'is-name, belongs to me.  I know it by the cut of its
collar.  Formerly, I used to know it chiefly by its fair and fragile
texture.  I shall know it hereafter as an amazing illustration of the
truth of the proverb, that no one knows what he can stand till he is
tried.  The blows which she is at present delivering to it with her
mallet, are fast driving all preconceived notions in regard to linen out
of my head.  Scrubbing it, as she does now, with a hard brush, against
the asperities of the rough plank, and then twisting it up like a
roly-poly prior to swishing it through the water a second time, would
once have induced me to doubt the strength of delicate mother-of-pearl
buttons and fine white thread.  I shall doubt no longer."

As he said so, Madame Grennon chanced to look up, and caught sight of
the strangers.  She rose at once, and, forsaking her tub, advanced to
meet them, the curly-haired daughter following close at her heels, for,
wherever her mother went she followed, and whatever her mother did she
imitated.

The object of the visit was soon explained, and the good woman led the
visitors into her hut where Baptist Le Croix chanced to be at the time.

There was something very striking in the appearance of this man.  He was
a tall fine-looking fellow, a little past the prime of life, but with a
frame whose great muscular power was in no degree abated.  His face was
grave, good-natured, and deeply sunburnt; but there was a peculiarly
anxious look about the eyes, and a restless motion in them, as if he
were constantly searching for something which he could not find.

He willingly undertook to conduct his friend's wife and child to the
residence of their relative.

On leaving the hut to return to Chamouni, Madame Grennon accompanied her
visitors a short way, and Nita took occasion, while expressing
admiration of Baptist's appearance, to comment on his curiously anxious
look.

"Ah!  Mademoiselle," said Madame, with a half sad look, "the poor man is
taken up with a strange notion--some people call it a delusion--that
gold is to be found somewhere here in the mountains."

"Gold?" cried Nita, with such energy that her companions looked at her
in surprise.

"Why, Nita," exclaimed Emma, "your looks are almost as troubled and
anxious as those of Le Croix himself."

"How strange!" said Nita, musing and paying no attention to Emma's
remark.  "Why does he think so?"

"Indeed, Mademoiselle, I cannot tell; but he seems quite sure of it, and
spends nearly all his time in the mountains searching for gold, and
hunting the chamois."

They parted here, and for a time Lewis tried to rally Nita about what he
styled her sympathy with the chamois-hunter, but Nita did not retort
with her wonted sprightliness; the flow of her spirits was obviously
checked, and did not return during their walk back to the hotel.

While this little incident was enacting in the valley, events of a far
different nature were taking place among the mountains, into the
solitudes of which the Professor, accompanied by Captain Wopper,
Lawrence, Slingsby, and Gillie, and led by Antoine, had penetrated for
the purpose of ascertaining the motion of a huge precipice of ice.

"You are not a nervous man, I think," said the Professor to Antoine as
they plodded over the ice together.

"No, Monsieur, not very," answered the guide, with a smile and a sly
glance out of the corners of his eyes.  Captain Wopper laughed aloud at
the question, and Gillie grinned.  Gillie's countenance was frequently
the residence of a broad grin.  Nature had furnished him with a keen
sense of the ludicrous, and a remarkably open countenance.  Human beings
are said to be blind to their own peculiarities.

If Gillie had been an exception to this rule and if he could have, by
some magical power, been enabled to stand aside and look at his own
spider-like little frame, as others saw it, clad in blue tights and
buttons, it is highly probable that he would have expired in laughing at
himself.

"I ask the question," continued the Professor, "because I mean to
request your assistance in taking measurements in a somewhat dangerous
place, namely, the ice-precipice of the Tacul."

"It is well, Monsieur," returned the guide, with another smile, "I am a
little used to dangerous places."

Gillie pulled his small hands out of the trouser-pockets in which he
usually carried them, and rubbed them by way of expressing his gleeful
feelings.  Had the sentiment which predominated in his little mind been
audibly expressed, it would probably have found vent in some such phrase
as, "won't there be fun, neither--oh dear no, not by no means."  To him
the height of happiness was the practice of mischief.  Danger in his
estimation meant an extremely delicious form of mischief.

"Is the place picturesque as well as dangerous?" asked Slingsby, with a
wild look in his large eyes as he walked nearer to the Professor.

"It is; you will find many aspects of ice-formation well worthy of your
pencil."

It is due to the artist to say that his wildness that morning was not
the result only of despair at the obvious indifference with which Nita
regarded him.  It was the combination of that wretched condition with a
heroic resolve to forsake the coy maiden and return to his first love--
his beloved art--that excited him; and the idea of renewing his devotion
to her in dangerous circumstances was rather congenial to his savage
state of mind.  It may be here remarked that Mr Slingsby, besides being
an enthusiastic painter, was an original genius in a variety of ways.
Among other qualities he possessed an inventive mind, and, besides
having had an ice-axe made after a pattern of his own,--which was
entirely new and nearly useless,--he had designed a new style of belt
with a powerful rope having a hook attached to it, with which he
proposed, and actually managed, to clamber up and down difficult places,
and thus attain points of vantage for sketching.  Several times had he
been rescued by guides from positions of extreme peril, but his daring
and altogether unteachable spirit had thrown him again and again into
new conditions of danger.  He was armed with his formidable belt and
rope on the present excursion, and his aspect was such that his friends
felt rather uneasy about him, and would not have been surprised if he
had put the belt round his neck instead of his waist, and attempted to
hang himself.

"Do you expect to complete your measurements to-day?" asked Lawrence,
who accompanied the Professor as his assistant.

"Oh no.  That were impossible.  I can merely fix my stakes to-day and
leave them.  To-morrow or next day I will return to observe the result."

The eastern side of the Glacier du Geant, near the Tacul, at which they
soon arrived, showed an almost perpendicular precipice about 140 feet
high.  As they collected in a group in front of that mighty pale-blue
wall, the danger to which the Professor had alluded became apparent,
even to the most inexperienced eye among them.  High on the summit of
the precipice, where its edge cut sharply against the blue sky, could be
seen the black boulders and _debris_ of the lateral moraine of the
glacier.  The day was unusually warm, and the ice melted so rapidly that
parts of this moraine were being sent down in frequent avalanches.  The
rustle of _debris_ was almost incessant, and, ever and anon, the rustle
rose into a roar as great boulders bounded over the edge, and, after
dashing portions of the ice-cliffs into atoms, went smoking down into
the chaos below.  It was just beyond this chaos that the party stood.

"Now, Antoine," said the Professor, "I want you to go to the foot of
that precipice and fix a stake in the ice there."

"Well, Monsieur, it shall be done," returned the guide, divesting
himself of his knapsack and shouldering his axe and a stake.

"Meanwhile," continued the Professor, "I will watch the falling _debris_
to warn you of danger in time, and the direction in which you must run
to avoid it.  My friend Lawrence, with the aid of Captain Wopper, will
fix the theodolite on yonder rocky knoll to our left."

"Nothin' for you an' me to do," said Gillie to the artist; "p'r'aps we'd
better go and draw--eh?"

Slingsby looked at the blue spider before him with an amused smile, and
agreed that his suggestion was not a bad one, so they went off together.

While Antoine was proceeding to the foot of the ice-cliffs on his
dangerous mission, the Professor observed that the first direction of a
falling stone's bound was no sure index of its subsequent motion, as it
was sent hither and thither by the obstructions with which it met.  He
therefore recalled the guide.

"It won't do, Antoine, the danger is too great."

"But, Monsieur, if it is necessary--"

"But it is not necessary that _you_ should risk your life in the pursuit
of knowledge.  Besides, I must have a stake fixed half-way up the face
of that precipice."

"Ah, Monsieur," said Antoine, with an incredulous smile, "that is not
possible!"

To this the Professor made no reply, but ordered his guide to make a
detour and ascend to the upper edge of the ice-precipice for the purpose
of dislodging the larger and more dangerous blocks of stone there, and,
after that, to plant a stake on the summit.

This operation was not quickly performed.  Antoine had to make a long
detour to get on the glacier, and when he did reach the moraine on the
top, he found that many of the most dangerous blocks lay beyond the
reach of his axe.  However, he sent the smaller _debris_ in copious
showers down the precipice, and by cleverly rolling some comparatively
small boulders down upon those larger ones which lay out of reach, he
succeeded in dislodging many of them.  This accomplished, he proceeded
to fix the stake on the upper surface of the glacier.

While he was thus occupied, the Professor assisted Lawrence in fixing
the theodolite, and then, leaving him, went to a neighbouring heap of
_debris_ followed by the Captain, whom he stationed there.

"I want you," he said, "to keep a good look-out and warn me as to which
way I must run to avoid falling rocks.  Antoine has dislodged many of
them, but some he cannot reach.  These enemies must be watched."

So saying, the Professor placed a stake and an auger against his breast,
buttoned his coat over them, and shouldered his axe.

"You don't mean to say that you're agoing to go under that cliff?"
exclaimed the Captain, in great surprise, laying his hand on the
Professor's arm and detaining him.

"My friend," returned the man of science, "do not detain me.  Time is
precious just now.  You have placed yourself under my orders for the
day, and, being a seaman, must understand the value of prompt obedience.
Do as I bid you."

He turned and went off at a swinging pace towards the foot of the
ice-cliff, while the Captain, in a state of anxiety, amounting almost to
consternation, sat down on a boulder, took off his hat, wiped his heated
brow, pronounced the Professor as mad as a March hare, and prepared to
discharge his duties as "the look-out."

Although cool as a cucumber in all circumstances at sea, where he knew
every danger and how to meet or avoid it, the worthy Captain now almost
lost self-control and became intensely agitated and anxious, insomuch
that he gave frequent and hurried false alarms, which he no less
hurriedly attempted to correct, sometimes in nautical terms, much to the
confusion of the Professor.

"Hallo! hi! look out--starboard--sta-a-arboard!" he shouted wildly, on
beholding a rock about the size of a chest of drawers spring from the
heights above and rush downward, with a smoke of ice-dust and _debris_
following, "quick! there! no! _port_!  Port!  I say it's--"

Before he could finish the sentence, the mass had fallen a long way to
the right of the Professor, and lay quiet on the ice not far from where
the Captain stood.

In spite of the interruptions thus caused, the lower stake was fixed in
a few minutes.  The Professor then swung his axe vigorously, and began
to cut an oblique stair-case in the ice up the sheer face of the
precipice.

In some respects the danger to the bold adventurer was now not so great
because, being, as it were, flat against the ice-cliffs, falling rocks
were more likely, by striking some projection, to bound beyond him.
Still there was the danger of deflected shots, and when, by cutting a
succession of notches in which to place one foot at a time, he had
ascended to the height of an average three-storey house, the danger of
losing his balance or slipping a foot became very great indeed.  But the
man of science persevered in doing what he conceived to be his duty with
as much coolness as if he were the leader of a forlorn hope.  Following
the example of experienced ice-men on steep places, he took good care to
make the notches or steps slope a little inwards, never lifted his foot
from one step until the next was ready, and never swung his axe until
his balance was perfectly secured.  Having gained a height of about
thirty feet, he pierced a hole with his auger, fastened a stake in it,
and descended amid a heavy cannonade of boulders and a smart fire of
smaller _debris_.

During the whole proceeding Lawrence directed his friend as to the
placing of the stake, and watched with surprise as well as anxiety,
while Captain Wopper kept on shouting unintelligible words of warning in
a state of extreme agitation.  The guide returned just in time to see
this part of the work completed, and to remonstrate gravely with the
Professor on his reckless conduct.

"`All's well that ends well,' Antoine, as a great poet says," replied
the Professor, with one of his most genial smiles.  "We must run some
risk in the pursuit of scientific investigation.  Now then, Lawrence, I
hope you have got the three stakes in the same line--let me see."

Applying his eye to the theodolite, he found that the stakes were in an
exactly perpendicular line, one above another.  He then carefully marked
the spot occupied by the instrument and thus completed his labours for
that time.

We may add here in passing that next day he returned to the same place,
and found that in twenty-four hours the bottom stake had moved downwards
a little more than two inches, the middle stake had descended a little
more than three, and the upper stake exactly six inches.  Thus he was
enabled to corroborate the fact which had been ascertained by other men
of science before him, that glacier-motion is more rapid at the top than
at the bottom, where the friction against its bed tends to hinder its
advance, and that the rate of flow increases gradually from the bottom
upwards.

While these points of interest were being established, our artist was
not less earnestly engaged in prosecuting his own peculiar work, to the
intense interest of Gillie, who, although he had seen and admired many a
picture in the London shop-windows, had never before witnessed the
actual process by which such things are created.

Wandering away on the glacier among some fantastically formed and
towering blocks or obelisks of ice, Mr Slingsby expressed to Gillie his
admiration of their picturesque shapes and delicate blue colour, in
language which his small companion did not clearly understand, but which
he highly approved of notwithstanding.

"I think this one is worth painting," cried Slingsby, pausing and
throwing himself into an observant attitude before a natural arch, from
the roof of which depended some large icicles; "it is extremely
picturesque."

"I think," said Gillie, with earnest gravity, "that yonder's one as is
more picturesker."

He had carefully watched the artist's various observant attitudes, and
now threw himself into one of these as he pointed to a sloping obelisk,
the size of an average church-steeple, which bore some resemblance to
the leaning-tower of Pisa.

"You are right, boy; that is a better mass.  Come, let us go paint it."

While walking towards it, Gillie asked how such wild masses came to be
made.

"I am told by the Professor," said Slingsby, "that when the ice cracks
across, and afterwards lengthwise, the square blocks thus formed get
detached as they descend the valley, and assume these fantastic forms."

"Ah! jis so.  They descends the walley, does they?"

"So it is said."

Gillie made no reply, though he said in his heart, "you won't git me to
swaller _that_, by no manner of means."  His unbelief was, however,
rebuked by the leaning-tower of Pisa giving a terrible rend at that
moment, and slowly bending forward.  It was an alarming as well as grand
sight, for they were pretty near to it.  Some smaller blocks of ice that
lay below prevented the tower from being broken in its fall.  These were
crushed to powder by it, and then, as if they formed a convenient
carriage for it, the mighty mass slid slowly down the slope for a few
feet.  It was checked for a moment by another block, which, however,
gave way before the great pressure, fell aside and let it pass.  The
slope was slight at the spot so that the obelisk moved slowly, and once
or twice seemed on the point of stopping, but as if it had become
endowed with life, it made a sudden thrust, squeezed two or three
obstacles flat, turned others aside, and thus wound its way among its
fellows with a low groaning sound like some sluggish monster of the
antediluvian world.  Reaching a steeper part of the glacier, on the
ridge of which it hung for a moment, as if unwilling to exert itself, it
seemed to awake to the reality of its position.  Making a lively rush,
that seemed tremendously inconsistent with its weight, it shot over the
edge of a yawning crevasse, burst with a thunderclap on the opposite
ice-cliff, and went roaring into the dark bowels of the glacier, whence
the echoes of its tumbling masses, subdued by distance, came up like the
mutterings of evil spirits.

Gillie viewed this wondrous spectacle with an awe-stricken heart, and
then vented his feelings in a prolonged yell of ecstasy.

"Ain't it splendid, sir?" he cried, turning his glowing eyes on
Slingsby.

"Majestic!" exclaimed the artist, whose enthusiasm was equal to that of
his companion, though not quite so demonstrative.

"Raither spoiled your drawin', though, ain't it, sir?"

"Yonder is something quite as good, if not better," said Slingsby.

He pointed, as he spoke, to a part of the crevasse higher up on the
glacier, where a projecting cave of snow overhung the abyss.  From the
under-surface of this a number of gigantic icicles hung, the lower
points of the longer ones almost lost in the blue depths.  A good
position from which to sketch it, however, was not easily reached, and
it was only by getting close to the edge of the crevasse that the
persevering artist at length attained his object.  Here he sat down on
his top-coat, folded several times to guard him from the cold ice,
spread out his colour-box and sketching-block, and otherwise made
himself comfortable, while Gillie sat down beside him on his own cap,
for want of a better protector.

Had these two enthusiasts known the nature of their position, they would
have retired from it precipitately with horror, for, ignorant of almost
everything connected with glaciers, they had walked right off the solid
ice and seated themselves on a comparatively thin projecting ledge of
snow which overhung the crevasse.  Thus they remained for some time
enjoying themselves, with death, as it were, waiting for them
underneath!  What rendered their position more critical was the great
heat of the day, which, whatever might be the strength of the sustaining
ledge, was reducing its bulk continually.

After having sketched for some time, the artist thought it advisable to
see as far down into the crevasse as possible, in order to put in the
point of the longest icicle.  The better to do this, he unwound his rope
from his waist and flung it on the ice by his side, while he lay down on
his breast and looked over the edge.  Still he did not perceive the
danger of his position, and went on sketching diligently in this awkward
attitude.

Now it was a melancholy fact that Master Gillie's interest in art or
science was short-lived, though keen.  He soon tired of watching his
companion, and began to look about him with a view to mischief.  Not
seeing anything specially suggestive, he thought of aiding the
operations of nature by expediting the descent of some neighbouring
boulders from their positions on ice-blocks.  He intimated his intention
to Slingsby, but the artist was too much engrossed to give heed to him.
Just as he was rising, Gillie's eye fell on the rope, and a happy
thought struck him.  To carry striking thoughts into immediate execution
was a marked feature of the boy's character.  He observed that one end
of the rope was attached to Mr Slingsby's belt.  Taking up the hook at
the other end, he went with it towards a large boulder, drawing the rope
after him with extreme care, for fear of arousing his companion by a
tug.  He found that, when fully stretched, it was just long enough to
pass round the rock.  Quickly fastening it, therefore, by means of the
hook, he walked quietly away.

He did not exhibit much excitement while doing this.  It was, after all,
but a trifling jest in his esteem, as the only result to be hoped for
would be the giving of a surprise by the little tug which might perhaps
be experienced by the artist on rising.

Thereafter, Gillie sent innumerable ice-blocks to premature destruction,
and enjoyed the work immensely for a time, but, having exploratory
tendencies, he soon wandered about among obelisks and caverns until he
found himself underneath the ice-cliff on which his friend was seated.
Then, as he looked up at the overhanging ledge from which gigantic
icicles were hanging, a shock of alarm thrilled his little breast.  This
was increased by the falling of one of the icicles, which went like a
blue javelin into the crevasse beside him.  Gillie thought of shouting
to warn Mr Slingsby of his danger, but before he could do so he was
startled by an appalling yell.  At the same moment part of the ice
overhead gave way, and he beheld the artist descending.  He was stopped
with a sudden jerk, as the rope tightened, and remained suspended in the
air, while his coat and colour-box accompanied icicles and snow-blocks
into the abyss below.  A second later and the struggling artist's head
appeared to fall off, but it was only his hat.

Gillie had by this time recovered himself so far as to be able to add
his piercing shrieks for help to the cries of the artist, and well was
it that day for Mr Slingsby that Gillie had, since the years of
infancy, practised his lungs to some purpose in terrifying cats and
defying "Bobbies" in the streets of London.

"Oh, sir! sir!--I say--hi!" he cried, panting and glaring up.

"Eh? what?  Hah!" gasped Slingsby, panting and glaring down.

"Don't kick like that sir; pray don't," cried Gillie in agonised tones,
"you'll start the boulder wot yer fast to, if you don't keep still."

"Oh!" groaned the artist and instantly hung limp and motionless, in
which condition he remained while Gillie ran towards the place where he
had left the rest of the party, jumping and slipping and falling and
yelling over the ice like a maniac in blue and buttons!

"D'ee hear that?" exclaimed Captain Wopper with a startled look, as he
and his companions busied themselves packing up their instruments.

Antoine Grennon heard it but made no reply.  He was familiar with cries
of alarm.  Turning abruptly he dashed off at full speed in the direction
whence the cries came.  The Captain and Professor instantly followed;
Lawrence overtook and passed them.  In a few minutes they met the
terrified boy, who, instead of waiting for them and wasting time by
telling what was wrong, turned sharp round, gave one wild wave of his
hand, and ran straight back to the ledge from which poor Slingsby hung.
Stout willing arms were soon pulling cautiously on the rope, and in a
few minutes more the artist lay upon the safe ice, almost speechless
from terror, and with a deadly pallor on his brow.

Strange to say the indomitable artist had held on tight to his
sketch-book, possibly because it was almost as dear to him as life, but
more probably because of that feeling which induces a drowning man to
clutch at a straw.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  We ourselves had the satisfaction of witnessing this wonderful
and beautiful phenomenon before having read or heard of it, while on a
trip from Chamouni to Martigny over the Tete Noire.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

THE GRAND ASCENT BEGUN.

Mrs Stoutley, reposing at full length on a sofa in the salon one
evening, observed to the Count Horetzki that she really could not
understand it at all; that it seemed to her a tempting of Providence to
risk one's life for nothing, and that upon the whole she thought these
excursions on glaciers were very useless and foolish.

The salon was full of people grouped in little knots, fighting the
battles of the day o'er again, playing backgammon and chess, or poring
over maps and guide-books.

"It does indeed seem foolish," answered the Count whose native
politeness induced him always to agree with ladies when possible, "and
as far as any practical purpose is served I should think it useless.
Nevertheless it seems to afford amusement to many people, and amusement,
in some form or other, would appear to be almost necessary to our happy
existence."

"True," replied Mrs Stoutley, languidly, "but people ought to content
themselves with quiet and safe amusements.  How ridiculous it is to find
pleasure in climbing ice-precipices, and leaping over crevasses, and
sitting under shower-baths of boulder-stones.  I'm sure that _I_ could
not find pleasure in such pranks even if I were to make the effort.  How
much better to seek and find enjoyment in wandering with a book through
shady forests and gathering wild-flowers!  Don't you agree with me,
Count?"

The Count's usually grave and anxious visage relaxed into a smile as he
protested that he agreed with her entirely.  "At the same time," he
added, "there does appear to be some sort of aspiring tendency in the
young and strong, to attempt the repression of which would seem to be
useless, even if desirable.  Do you know, Madame, while on a voyage some
years ago I saw a boy who used to dive off the fore-yard-arm into the
sea, and who went regularly every morning before breakfast to the
main-mast-head and sat on that button-like piece of wood called the
truck?"

"How very reckless," said Mrs Stoutley, "and how shamefully regardless
of the feelings of his mother, for of course if he had a mother, and if
she were a woman of right feeling, she must have been horrified!"

"I am afraid, Madame, that you would have esteemed her a lady of wrong
feeling, for she applauded her boy, and used to say that if he only took
care to acquire as much moral as he had physical courage, so as to
become as brave and bold a soldier of the Cross as he was sure to be of
the Crown, he would resemble his own father, who was the best and
bravest man that ever lived."

"How strange!" murmured Mrs Stoutley, "such inconsistencies!  But there
does seem to be a considerable number of masculine women in the world,
who encourage what we call muscular Christianity."

"Yes, there are indeed strange inconsistencies around us," returned the
Count.  "You have, however, mistaken the character of this particular
mother, for she was the reverse of masculine, being delicate, and
tender-hearted, and refined, and ladylike, while her boy was bold as a
lion--yet obedient and gentle to her as a lamb.  He afterwards became a
soldier, and on the occasion of a wild storm on the east coast of
England he swam off to a wreck with a rope, when no man in the place
could be got to do it for love or money, and was the means of rescuing
four women and six men, in accomplishing which, however, he lost his
life."

"Oh, how shocking! how _very_ sad!" said Mrs Stoutley, startled into
animation by the suddenness of the revelation, "and how different it
might have been if the youth had been trained to gentler amusements.  He
might have been alive now."

"Yes," returned the Count, "and the four women and six men might have
been dead!  But here come two friends who are better able to give an
opinion on the point than I am."

"What may the pint be?" asked Captain Wopper, with a genial smile, as if
he were ready to tackle anything from a pint of beer to a "pint" of the
compass.  "Only state your case, Mrs Stoutley, an' the Professor here,
he'll act the judge, an' I'll be the jury."

"The jury is too small," said Lewis, coming up at that moment.

"Small, young man!" repeated the Captain, with feigned surprise, as he
drew himself up to his full height and squared his broad shoulders.

"Not physically, but numerically," retorted Lewis, with a laugh--"ho!
Emma, Miss Horetzki, Lawrence, Slingsby," he called to the quartette,
who sat chatting in a bay window, "you are hereby summoned to act on a
jury.  Come along and have yourselves impaled--I mean to say
impannelled.  A most important case, just going on for trial."

"What is the nature of the case?" asked Lawrence, as they all came
forward and sat down in a semicircle before Mrs Stoutley.

"It han't got no natur--it's unnateral altogether," said the Captain,
who had just heard it briefly stated by the Count.

"Hallo! are you appointed public prosecutor?" demanded Lewis.

"Yes, I am," retorted the Captain, "I've appinted myself public
persecuter, Lord Advocate, Lord High Commissioner to the Woolsack, an'
any other legal an' illegal character ye choose to name.  So you clap a
stopper on yer muzzle, youngster, while I state the case.  Here is Mrs
Stoutley, my lords, ladies, and gentlemen, who says that climbin', an'
gaugin', and glaciers is foolish and useless.  That's two counts which
the Count here (nothin' personal meant) says the prisoner was guilty of.
We'll go in an' win on the last count, for if these things ain't
useless, d'ee see, they can't be foolish.  Well, the question is,
`Guilty or not guilty?'"

"Guilty!" replied Mrs Stoutley, with an amused smile.

"Hear! hear!" from Slingsby.

"Silence in the Court!" from Lewis.

"I'm afraid," said the Professor, "that our forms of legal procedure are
somewhat irregular."

"Never mind that, Professor," said the Captain, "you go ahead an' prove
the prisoner wrong.  Take the wind out of her sails if 'ee can."

The Professor smiled blandly, and began in jest; but his enthusiastic
spirit and love of abstract truth soon made him argue in earnest.

"Oh, that's all very well," said Mrs Stoutley, interrupting him, "but
what possible use can there be in knowing the rate of speed at which a
glacier flows?  What does it matter whether it flows six, or sixty, or
six hundred feet in a day?"

"Matter!" cried Lewis, before the Professor could reply, "why, it
matters very much indeed.  I can prove it.  Our excellent guide Antoine
told me of a man who fell into a crevasse high up on the Glacier des
Bossons, and was of course lost; but about forty years afterwards the
part of the glacier into which he fell had descended into the valley,
and the body of the man was found--at least portions of it were found
here and there.  This, as you are all aware, is a well-known fact.  Bear
in mind, in connection with this, that all glaciers do not travel at the
same rate, nor all parts of a glacier at an equal rate.  Now, suppose
that you were to lose a gold watch or a diamond ring in a crevasse, the
value of which might be incalculable in consequence of being a gift from
some beloved one, would it not be a matter of the last importance to
know exactly the rate at which the said crevasse travelled, so that you
or your grandchildren might return at the precise time and claim the
property?"

"Don't talk nonsense, Lewie," said his mother.

"No doubt," said the Professor, laughing, "my young friend's
illustration is to the point, and I fear that I cannot give you anything
more definite to prove the value of glacial measurements and
observations.  I must rest my proof on the abstract truth that _all_
knowledge is desirable, and ought to be sought after for its own sake,
as being the means whereby we shall come better to know the good and
wise Creator, `whom to know,' as His own Word says, `is life eternal'
But I can give you distinct proof, in a somewhat analogous case, of good
resulting from knowledge which was eagerly pursued and acquired without
the searcher having the slightest idea as to the use to which his
knowledge would be ultimately put.  You have doubtless heard of Captain
Maury, of the United States Navy?"

"Oh yes," replied Mrs Stoutley, "he who writes that charming book, the
Physical Geography of the Sea, or some such title.  My son is a great
admirer of that work.  I tried to read it to please him, but I must
confess that I could not go far into it.  It seemed to me an endless and
useless search after currents of wind and water."

"I see you must have missed the very illustrations which I am about to
cite, for they are given in his book--one of the most interesting I ever
read, and not the less interesting that its author distinguishes a
connection between the Creator's Word and His works.  You know that
Captain Maury's investigations of currents of wind and water were
conducted wisely, and on a vast scale.  Nautical men of many nations
sent in their `logs' to him, and he patiently collected and collated all
the facts observed in all parts of the ocean."

"Yes, and quite useless knowledge, it appears to me," said Mrs
Stoutley.

"Well, we shall see," returned the Professor.  "There was once a
terrible storm on the Atlantic, and a vessel with troops on board was so
disabled as to be left at last a helpless log upon the sea.  She was
passed by other vessels, but these could render no assistance, owing to
the raging storm.  They, however, took note of the latitude and
longitude of the wreck, and reported her on arriving at New York.  A
rescue-ship was at once ordered to search for her, but, before sailing,
Captain Maury was applied to for instructions how they should proceed.
The man of science was seated in his study, had probably scarce observed
the storm, and knew nothing about the wreck save her position, as
observed at a certain date.  Why, therefore, we might ask; apply to him?
Just because he sat at the fountain-head of such knowledge as was
needed.  He had long studied, and well knew, the currents of the ocean,
their direction and their rate of progress at specified times and
particular places.  He prepared a chart and marked a spot at, or near
which, the wreck, he said, would probably be found.  The wreck _was_
found--not indeed by the rescue-ship, but by another vessel, _at the
very spot indicated_--and the surviving crew and troops were saved.  So,
in like manner, the study of truth regarding currents of air has led us
to knowledge which enables mariners to escape the Atlantic
Sargasso-sea--"

"Ha! the Doldrums," growled Captain Wopper, as if he had a special and
bitter hatred of that sea.  "Yes, the Doldrums, or Sargasso-sea, where
ships used to be detained by long, vexatious calms, and islands of
floating sea-weed, but which now we escape, because studious men have
pointed out, that by sailing to one side of that sea you can get into
favourable breezes, avoid the calm regions, and thus save much time."

"Now, Madame," said Captain Wopper, "are you convinced?"

"Not quite," replied Mrs Stoutley, with a baffled look; "but, I
suppose, on the strength of this, and similar reasons, you intend to
ascend Mont Blanc to-morrow?"

"We do," said the Professor.  "I intend to go for the purpose of
attempting to fix a thermometer on the summit, in order to ascertain, if
possible, the winter temperature."

"And pray, for what purpose?" said Mrs Stoutley with a touch of
sarcasm, "does Dr Lawrence intend to go?"

"For the purpose of seeing the magnificent view, and of testing the
lungs and muscles, which are now, I think, sufficiently trained to
enable me to make the ascent with ease," replied the doctor, promptly.

"_I_ go to assist the Professor," said Captain Wopper.

"And I," said Lewis, "intend to go for fun; so you see, mother, as our
reasons are all good, you had better go to bed, for it's getting late."

Mrs Stoutley accepted the suggestion, delivered a yawn into her
pocket-handkerchief, and retired, as she remarked, to ascend Mont Blanc
in dreams, and thus have all the pleasure without the bodily fatigue.

We are on the sides of the mountain monarch now, slowly wending our way
through the sable fringe of pines that ornaments the skirt of his white
mantle.  We tramp along very slowly, for Antoine Grennon is in front and
won't allow us to go faster.  To the impatient and youthful spirits of
Lawrence and Lewis, the pace appears ridiculously slow, and the latter
does not hesitate to make audible reference in his best French to the
progress of snails, but Antoine is deaf to such references.  One might
fancy that he did not understand bad French, but for the momentary
twinkle in his earnest eyes.  But nothing will induce him to mend his
pace, for well does he know that the ascent of Mont Blanc is no trifle;
that even trained lungs and muscles are pretty severely taxed before the
fifteen thousand seven hundred and eighty feet of perpendicular height
above the sea-level is placed below the soles of the feet.  He knows,
also, from long experience, that he who would climb a mountain well, and
use his strength to advantage, must begin with a slow, leisurely pace,
as if he were merely out for a saunter, yet must progress with steady,
persevering regularity.  He knows, too, that young blood is prone to
breast a mountain with head erect and spanking action, and to descend
with woeful countenance and limp limbs.  It must be restrained, and
Antoine does his duty.

The ascent of Mont Blanc cannot be accomplished in one day.  It is
therefore necessary to sleep at a place named the Grands Mulets, from
which a fresh start is made for the summit at the earliest hours of
morning on the second day.  Towards this resting-place our travellers
now directed their steps.

The party consisted of the Professor, Captain Wopper, Lewis, Lawrence,
and Slingsby, headed by their trusty guide, besides three porters with
knapsacks containing food, wine, etcetera.  One of these latter was the
chamois-hunter, Baptist Le Croix.  He brought up the rear of the party,
and all proceeded in single file, each, like the North American Indian,
treading in his predecessor's footsteps.

Passing from the dark fringe of pines they emerged upon a more open
country where the royal robe was wrought with larch and hazel, bilberry,
and varied underwood, and speckled with rhododendrons and other flowers
on a ground of rich brown, green, and grey.  Steadily upwards, over the
Glacier des Bossons, they went, with airy cloudlets floating around
them, with the summit at which they aimed, the Dome du Gouter, and the
Aiguille du Gouter in front, luring them on, and other giant Aiguilles
around watching them.  Several hours of steady climbing brought them to
the Pierre l'Echelle, where they were furnished with woollen leggings to
protect their legs from the snow.  Here also they procured a ladder and
began the tedious work of traversing the glaciers.  Hitherto their route
had lain chiefly on solid ground--over grassy slopes and along rocky
paths.  It was now to be confined almost entirely to the ice, which they
found to be cut up in all directions with fissures, so that great
caution was needed in crossing crevasses and creeping round slippery
ridges, and progress was for some time very slow.

Coming to one of the crevasses which was too wide to leap, the ladder
was put in requisition.  The iron spikes with which one end of it was
shod were driven firmly into the ice at one side of the chasm and the
other end rested on the opposite side.

Antoine crossed first and then held out his hand to the Professor, who
followed, but the man of science was an expert ice-man, and in another
moment stood at the guide's side without having required assistance.
Not so Captain Wopper.

"I'm not exactly a feather," he said, looking with a doubtful expression
at the frail bridge.

"It bore me well enough, Captain," said the Professor with a smile.

"That's just what it didn't," replied the Captain, "it seemed to me to
bend too much under you; besides, although I'm bound to admit that
you're a good lump of a man, Professor, I suspect there's a couple of
stones more on me than on you.  If it was only a rope, now, such as I've
bin used to, I'd go at it at once, but--"

"It is quite strong enough," said the guide confidently.

"Well, here goes," returned the mariner, "but if it gives way, Antoine,
I'll have you hanged for murder."

Uttering this threat he crossed in safety, the others followed, and the
party advanced over a part of the glacier which was rugged with mounds,
towers, obelisks, and pyramids of ice.  For some time nothing serious
interrupted their progress until they came to another wide crevasse,
when it was found, to the guide's indignation, that the ladder had been
purposely left behind by the porter to whom it had been intrusted, he
being under the impression that it would not be further required.

"Blockhead!" cried the Professor, whose enthusiastic spirit was easily
roused to indignation, "it was your duty to carry it till ordered to lay
it down.  You were hired to act, sir, not to think.  Obedience is the
highest virtue of a servant!  Shall we send him back for it?" he said,
turning to Antoine with a flushed countenance.

"Not now, Monsieur," answered the guide, "it would create needless
delay.  We shall try to work round the crevasse."

This they did by following its edge until they found a part where
crossing was possible, though attended with considerable danger in
consequence of the wedge-like and crumbling nature of the ice.

Hoping that such a difficulty would not occur again they pushed on, but
had not gone far when another, and still more impassable, fissure
presented itself.

"How provoking, couldn't we jump it?" said Lewis, looking inquiringly
into the dark-blue depths.

"Pr'aps _you_ might, youngster, with your half fledged spider-legs,"
said the Captain, "but you'll not catch fourteen-stun-six goin' over
_that_ with its own free will.  What's to be done now, Antoine?"

The guide, after looking at the crevasse for a few minutes, said that
the next thing to be done was to look for a snow-bridge, which he had no
doubt would be found somewhere.  In search of this he scattered the
whole party, and in a few minutes a loud shout from the chamois-hunter
told that he had been successful.  The members of the party at once
converged towards him, but found that the success was only partial.  He
had indeed found a part of the crevasse, which, during some of the wild
storms so frequent on the mountain, had been bridged over by a
snow-wreath, but the central part of the bridge had given way, and it
was thus divided by a gap of about a foot wide.  This would have been
but a small and insignificant step to take had the substance been solid,
but although the ice on one side was strong the opposite edge was
comparatively soft snow, and not much more than a foot thick.  The
chamois-hunter, being the lightest of the party, was called to the front
and ordered to test the strength of the frail bridge, if bridge it could
be called.

"Why, he might as well try to step on a bit of sea-foam," said the
Captain in surprise.

Lawrence, Lewis, and Slingsby, having as yet had no experience of such
places, expressed, or held a similar opinion, but the Professor bade
them wait and see.

Baptist, throwing off his pack, and fastening a rope round his waist,
which his comrades held, advanced to the extreme edge of the ice, and
with his long-handled axe, gently patted the snow on the opposite side.
The surface yielded, and it seemed as if even that small weight would
break the lump _off_, but the operation consolidated the mass in a few
minutes, by reason of what the Professor termed "regelation."  He then
stepped tenderly on it, crossed over, and drew the rope after him.
Antoine followed next, and in a few minutes the whole party was safe on
the other side.

"Dr Lawrence," said Slingsby, in a low grave tone, as they walked along
after this, "if we ever see Chamouni again I shall be surprised."

"Indeed?" returned Lawrence, with a short laugh, "I don't take quite so
gloomy a view of our case.  Don't you think that the free and easy,
quiet look of our guide and porters indicates that such work looks more
dangerous than it really is?"

"I don't know that," said the artist, shaking his head, "when men get
thoroughly accustomed to danger they become foolhardy, and don't realise
it.  I think it sheer madness to cross such places."

Lewis, who overheard the conversation, could scarce refrain from a burst
of laughter.

"Upon my word, Slingsby," said he, "such observations come strangely
from the lips of a man, who only a day or two ago was caught sketching
on a snow-wreath over the edge of a crevasse."

"Ah, but I didn't know it," retorted the other, "and even if I _had_
known it, the ledge of snow was immensely stronger than that on which we
have just stood."

At this point the conversation was interrupted by the guide stopping and
saying that it was now necessary to tie the party together.

They had reached those higher parts of the glacier where snow frequently
falls and covers, to some extent the narrower crevasses, thus, by
concealing them, rendering them extremely dangerous traps.  It therefore
became necessary to attach the various members of the party together by
means of a rope, which, passing round their waists, with a few feet
between each, enabled them to rescue any one who should chance to break
through.

Thus, in a string, they advanced, and had scarcely proceeded a hundred
yards when a surprised "hallo!" from Captain Wopper arrested them.  He
had sunk up to the knees in snow.  A "hallo!" of alarm instantly
succeeded.  He was waist deep.  A stentorian yell followed:

"Ho! hallo! hi!--avast!  Hold on there abaft!  My legs are waublin' in
nothin'!"

His great weight had indeed nearly plunged him into a hidden crevasse,
over which those who preceded him had passed in safety.  If the Captain
had stood alone that crevasse would certainly have been his grave, but
his friends held him tight, and in a few seconds he was dragged out of
danger.

"Well, well," he said, wiping some large drops of perspiration from his
brow, as he stood on the other side of the chasm, "land-lubbers talk
about seafarin' men havin' nothin' but a plank between them an' death,
but to my thinkin' the rottenest plank that ever was launched is
absolute safety compared to `a snow-wreath.'"

"Ah!  Captain," said the Professor, laughing, "you think so just now
because you're not used to it.  In a few weeks you'll hold a different
opinion."

"May be so," replied the Captain quietly, "but it don't feel so--heave
ahead, my hearties!"

Thus encouraged the party proceeded with caution, the guide sounding the
snow at each step with his long axe-handle as he moved in advance.

Slowly they mounted higher and higher, occasionally meeting with, but
always overcoming, difficulties, until towards evening they reached the
little log cabin on the Grands Mulets, not sorry to find in it a
sufficient though humble resting-place for the night.

Here they proceeded to make themselves comfortable.  Some firewood had
been carried up by the porters, with which a fire was kindled, wet
garments were hung up to dry, and hot coffee was prepared, while the sun
sank in a gorgeous world of amber and crimson fire.

One by one the stars came out and gradually twinkled into brilliancy,
until at last the glorious host of heaven shone in the deepening sky
with an intensity of lustre that cannot be described, contrasting
strangely with the pallid ghostly aspect of the surrounding snow-fields.
These were the only trace of earth that now remained to greet the eyes
of our travellers when they looked forth from the door of the little
hut.  Besides being calm and beautiful, the night was intensely cold.
There is this peculiarity, on Alpine mountain tops, that when the sun's
last rays desert them the temperature falls abruptly, there being little
or nothing of earth or rock to conserve the heat poured out during the
day.  The mountaineers, therefore, soon after night closed in, found it
necessary to shut the door of their cabin, where they roused up the
fire, quaffed their steaming coffee, and smoked their pipes, in joyful
anticipation of the coming day.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

THE GRAND ASCENT CONTINUED AND COMPLETED.

Need we say that the younger of our adventurers--for such they may truly
be styled--felt a tendency to "spin yarns," as Captain Wopper expressed
it, till a late hour that night, as they sat round the fire at the
Grands Mulets?

During this enjoyable period, Lawrence and Lewis made themselves better
acquainted with Baptist Le Croix, the chamois-hunter, whose quiet,
gentle, and unobtrusive manner was very attractive to them.  Many an
anecdote did he relate of adventures among the Alpine peaks and passes
while pursuing the chamois, or guiding travellers on their way, and it
is probable that he might have roamed in spirit among his beloved
haunts--eagerly followed in spirit by the young men--if he had not been
called to order by the guide, who, remembering the hard work that lay
before them on the morrow, suggested repose.  The profound silence that
soon reigned in the hut was broken only by an occasional long-drawn
sigh.  Even Captain Wopper was quiet, having been so powerfully
influenced by fresh mountain air and exercise as to have forgotten or
foregone his ordinary and inveterate snore.

There is something peculiarly disagreeable in being awakened, when one
is very tired and sleepy, about two minutes after one has dropped into a
profound refreshing slumber; and the annoyance is severely aggravated
when it is caused by the wanton act of one of whom we had expected
better things.

So, in a hazy way, thought Lewis Stoutley when he felt a hand laid on
his shoulder, and heard the voice of Antoine Grennon.

"Monsieur!  Monsieur!" said the guide.

"G-t--long.  D-n borer me," murmured Lewis, in tones so sleepy that the
dash of crossness was barely perceptible.

"It is time to rise, sir," persisted Antoine.

"'Mposs'ble--'v jus' b'n two min'ts sl-e--"

A profound sigh formed an eloquent peroration to the sentence.

A loud laugh from his companions, who were already up and getting ready,
did more than the guide's powers of suasion to arouse the heavy sleeper.
He started to a sitting posture, stared with imbecile surprise at the
candle which dimly lighted the cabin, and yawned vociferously.

"What a sleeper you are, Lewie!" said Lawrence, with a laugh, as, on his
knees before the fire, he busied himself in preparing coffee for the
party.

"And such a growler, too, when any one touches you," observed Slingsby,
buttoning on his leggings.

"Sleeper! growler!" groaned Lewis, "you've only given me five minutes in
which to sleep or growl."

"Ah, the happy obliviousness of youth!" said the Professor, assisting
one of the porters to strap up the scientific instruments, "you have
been asleep four hours at least.  It is now past one.  We must start in
less than an hour, so bestir yourself--and pray, Dr Lawrence, make
haste with that coffee."

The doctor was by no means slow in his operations, but the difficulties
in his way delayed him.  At such a height, and in such a frozen region,
the only mode of procuring water was to place a panful of snow on the
fire; and, no matter how full the pan might be stuffed with it, this
snow, when melted, was reduced to only a very small quantity of water;
more snow had, therefore, to be added and melted, so that much time was
spent before the boiling point was reached.  Patience, however, was at
last rewarded with a steaming draught, which, with bread and ham, did
more than fire towards warming their chill bodies.

Outside, the scene was still exquisitely calm and beautiful.  The stars
appeared to have gathered fresh brilliancy and to have increased in
number during the night.  Those of them near the horizon, as the
Professor pointed out, twinkled energetically, as if they had just
risen, and, like Lewis, were sleepy, while those in the zenith shone
with steady lustre, as if particularly wide awake to the doings of the
presumptuous men who were climbing so much nearer than usual to their
habitation in the sky.  One star in particular gleamed with a sheen that
was pre-eminently glorious--now it was ruby red, now metallic blue, anon
emerald green.  Of course, no sunlight would tinge the horizon for
several hours, but the bright moon, which had just risen, rolled floods
of silver over the snowy wastes, rendering unnecessary the lantern which
had been provided to illumine their upward path.

The party, having been tied together with a rope as on the previous day,
set forth in line over the snow, each following the other, and soon they
were doing battle with the deep crevasses.  The nature of the ice
varied, of course, with the form of the mountain, sometimes presenting
rugged and difficult places, in which, as the Captain put it, they got
among breakers and had to steer with caution, at other times presenting
comparatively level plains of snow over which all was "plain sailing,"
but the movement was upwards--ever upwards--and, as the day advanced,
felt so prolonged that, at last, as Slingsby said, the climbing motion
grew into a confirmed habit.  Meanwhile the old world sank steadily
below them, and, seen from such an elevation in the pale moonlight, lost
much of its familiar look.

Even sounds appeared gradually to die out of that mysterious region, for
when they chanced to pause for a moment to recover breath, or to gaze
downward, each appeared unwilling to break the excessive stillness, and
all seemed to listen intently, as it were, to the soundlessness around--
hearing nought, however, save the beating of their own pulsations.  In
such a spot, if unaccompanied by guide or friend, one might perhaps
realise, more than in other parts of earth, the significance of the
phrase, "Alone with God."

As dawn approached, Lewis, who had taken care to have himself placed
next to Baptist Le Croix, renewed his converse in reference to
chamois-hunting, and made arrangements to accompany the hunter on one of
his expeditions.

"Is that your sole occupation?" he asked, as the party entered upon a
somewhat level snow-field.

"That and assisting travellers," answered Baptist.

"By the way," said Lewis, in a careless tone, "they tell me that gold is
to be found in some parts of these mountains.  Is that true?"

If the youth's back had not been towards the hunter, who walked behind
him, he might have seen that this question was received with a startled
look, and that a strange gleam shot from the man's eyes.  The question
was repeated before he answered it.

"Yes," said he, in a low voice, "they say it is to be found--but I have
never found it."

"Have you sought much for it?"

"I have sought for it."

The answer was not given promptly, and Lewis found, with some surprise,
that the subject appeared to be distasteful to the hunter.  He therefore
dropped it and walked on in silence.

Walking at the time was comparatively easy, for a sharp frost had
hardened the surface of the snow, and the gem-like lights of heaven
enabled them to traverse valleys of ice, clamber up snow-slopes and
cross crevasses without danger, except in one or two places, where the
natural snow-bridges were frail and the chasms unusually wide.

At one of these crevasses they were brought to a complete standstill.
It was too wide to be leaped, and no bridge was to be found.  The
movements of a glacier cause the continual shifting of its parts, so
that, although rugged or smooth spots are always sure to be found at the
same parts of the glacier each year, there is, nevertheless, annual
variety in minute detail.  Hence the most expert guides are sometimes
puzzled as to routes.

The crevasse in question was a new one, and it was Antoine's first
ascent of Mont Blanc for that year, so that he had to explore for a
passage just as if he had never been there before.  The party turned to
the left and marched along the edge of the chasm some distance, but no
bridge could be found.  The ice became more broken up, smaller crevasses
intersected the large one, and at last a place was reached where the
chaos of dislocation rendered further advance impossible.

"Lost your bearin's, Antoine?" asked Captain Wopper.

"No; I have only got into difficulties," replied the guide, with a quiet
smile.

"Just so--breakers ahead.  Well, I suppose you'll 'bout ship an' run
along the coast till we find a channel."

This was precisely what Antoine meant to do, and did, but it was not
until more than an hour had been lost that a safe bridge was found.
When they had crossed, the configuration of the ice forced them to adopt
a route which they would willingly have avoided.  A steep incline of
snow rose on their right, on the heights above which loose ice-grags
were poised as if on the point of falling.  Indeed, two or three tracks
were passed, down which, probably at no distant period, some of these
avalanches had shot.  It was nervous work passing under them.  Even
Antoine looked up at them with a grave, inquiring glance, and hastened
his pace as much as was consistent with comfort and dignity.

Soon after this the sun began to rise, and the upper portions of the
snow were irradiated with pink splendour, but to our travellers he had
not yet risen, owing to the intervening peaks of the Aiguille du Midi.
In the brightening light they emerged upon a plain named the Petit
Plateau, which forms a reservoir for the avalanches of the Dome du
Goute.  Above them rose the mountain-crest in three grand masses,
divided from each other by rents, which exposed that peculiar stratified
form of the glacier caused by the annual bedding of the snow.  From the
heights, innumerable avalanches had descended, strewing the spot where
they stood with huge blocks of ice and masses of rock.

Threading their way through these impediments was a matter not only of
time, but of difficulty, for in some parts the spaces between the
boulders and blocks were hollow, and covered with thin crusts of snow,
which gave way the instant a foot was set on them, plunging up to their
waists the unfortunates who trod there, with a shock which usually
called forth shouts of astonishment not unmingled with consternation.

"Here, then, we draw near to the grand summit," said the Professor,
pointing to the snow-cliffs on the right, "whence originates the
ice-fountain that supplies such mighty ice-rivers as the Glacier des
Bossons and the Mer de Glace."

"Oui, Monsieur," replied Antoine, smiling, "we _draw_ near, but we are
not yet near."

"We are nearer to the summit however, than we are to the plain,"
retorted the Professor.

"Truly, yes," assented the guide.

"I should think no one could doubt that," observed Slingsby, looking
upwards.

"It looks quite near now," said Lewis.

"Not so near, however, as you think, and as you shall find," rejoined
the guide, as they resumed their upward march.

This was indeed true.  Nothing is more deceptive to an inexperienced eye
than the apparent distance of a high mountain-top.  When you imagine
that the plain below is miles and miles away, and the peak above close
at hand, you find, perhaps, on consulting your watch, that the plain
cannot be very far distant, and that the greater part of your work still
lies before you.  It requires no small amount of resolution to bear up
against the depression of spirit caused by frequent mistakes in this
matter.

Owing to the increasing height and power of the sun, the snow beyond the
Petit Plateau soon became soft, and the steepness of the ascent
increasing, their advance became slower, and their work much more
laborious.  A pleasant break was, however, at hand, for, on reaching the
Grand Plateau, they were cheered by the sun's rays beaming directly on
them, and by the information that they had at length reached their
breakfast-point.

It may not be a very romantic, but it is an interesting fact, that the
joys connected with intellectual and material food are intimately
blended.  Man, without intellectual food, becomes a "lower animal."
What intellectual man is without material food, even for part of a day,
let those testify who have had the misfortune to go on a pic-nic, and
discover that an essential element of diet had been forgotten.  It is
not merely that food is necessary to maintain our strength; were that
so, a five minutes' pause, or ten at the outside, would suffice, in
Captain Wopper's phraseology, to take in cargo, or coal the human
engine; but we "_rejoice_ in food," and we believe that none enjoy it so
much as those whose intellectual appetite is strong.  If any doubters of
these truths had witnessed the Professor and his friends at breakfast
that morning on the Grand Plateau, they must have infallibly been
convinced.

"What a gourmand he is!" whispered Lewis to the Captain, in reference to
the man of science, "and such a genial outflow of wit to correspond with
his amazing indraught of wittles."

The Captain's teeth were at the moment fixed with almost tigerish
ferocity in a chicken drumstick, but the humour and the amazing
novelty--to say nothing of the truth--of Lewis's remark made him remove
the drumstick, and give vent to a roar of laughter that shook the very
summit of Mont Blanc--at all events the Professor said it did, and he
was a man who weighed his words and considered well his sentiments.

"Do not imagine that I exaggerate," he said, as distinctly as was
compatible with a very large mouthful of ham and bread, "sound is a
motion of vibration, not of translation.  That delightfully sonorous
laugh emitted by Captain Wopper (pass the wine, Slingsby--thanks) was an
impulse or push delivered by his organs of respiration to the particles
of air in immediate contact with his magnificent beard.  The impulse
thus given to the air was re-delivered or passed on, not as I pass the
mutton to Dr Lawrence (whose plate is almost empty), but by each
particle of air passing the impulse to its neighbour; thus creating an
aerial wave, or multitude of waves, which rolled away into space.  Those
of the waves which rolled in the direction of Mont Blanc communicated
their vibrations to the more solid atoms of the mountain, these passed
the motion on to each other, of course with slight--inconceivably
slight--but actual force, and thus the tremor passed entirely through
the mountain, out on the other side, greatly diminished in power no
doubt, and right on throughout space.--Hand me the bread, Lewis, and
don't sit grinning there like a Cheshire cat with tic-douloureux in its
tail."

At this Slingsby laughed and shook the mountain again, besides
overturning a bottle of water, and upsetting the gravity of Antoine
Grennon, who chanced to be looking at him; for the artist's mouth, being
large, and also queerly shaped, appeared to the guide somewhat
ludicrous.  Sympathy, like waves of sound, is easily transmitted.  Thus,
on the Captain making to Antoine the very simple remark that the
"mootong was mannyfeek," there was a general roar that ought to have
brought Mont Blanc down about their ears.  But it didn't--it only shook
him.  Laughter and sympathy combined improve digestion and strengthen
appetite.  Thus the Professor's brilliant coruscations, and the
appreciative condition of his audience, created an enjoyment of that
morning's meal which was remembered with pleasure long after the event,
and induced an excessive consumption of food, which called forth the
remonstrances of the guide, who had to remind his uproarious flock that
a portion must be reserved for the descent.  To the propriety of this
Lewis not only assented, but said that he meant to continue the ascent,
and rose for that purpose, whereupon the Doctor said that he dissented
entirely from the notion that bad puns increased the hilarity of a
party, and the Captain, giving an impulse to the atmosphere with his
respiratory organs, produced the sound "Avast!" and advised them to clap
a stopper in their potato-traps.

Even at these sallies they all laughed--proving, among other things,
that mountain air and exercise, combined with intellectual and physical
food, are conducive to easy-going good humour.

It is not impossible that the tremors to which Mont Blanc had been
subjected that morning had put him a little out of humour, for our
mountaineers had scarcely recommenced their upward toil when he shrouded
his summit in a few fleecy clouds.  The guide shook his head at this.

"I fear the weather won't hold," he said.

"Won't hold!" exclaimed the Captain, "why, it's holdin' now as hard as
it can grip."

"True," observed the Professor; "but weather in these regions is apt to
change its mood rather suddenly."

"Yet there seems to me no sign of an unfavourable change," said
Lawrence, looking up at the blue and almost cloudless sky.

"Fleecy clouds are fleeting at times," returned the Professor, pointing
to the summit which again showed its cap of clear dazzling white, "but
at other times they are indicative of conditions that tend to storm.
However, we must push on and hope for the best."

They did push on accordingly, and all, except the guide, had no
difficulty in "hoping."  As they passed over the Plateau the sun poured
floods of light on the snow, from the little crystals of which it shone
with prismatic colours, as though the place had been strewn with
diamonds.  The spirit of levity was put to flight by this splendid
spectacle, and the feelings of the travellers were deepened to solemnity
when the guide pointed to a yawning crevasse into which, he said, three
guides were hurled by an avalanche in the year 1820.  He also related
how, on one occasion, a party of eleven tourists perished, not far from
where they then stood, during a terrible storm, and how an English lady
and her guide were, at another time, lost in a neighbouring crevasse.

By this time all except the chief among the surrounding heights were
beginning to look insignificant by comparison, and the country assumed a
sort of rugged flatness in consequence of being looked down upon from
such an elevation.  Passing the Grand Plateau they reached a steep
incline, which rose towards a tremendous ice-precipice.  From the upper
edge of this there hung gigantic icicles.  Up the incline they went
slowly, for the crust of the snow broke down at every step, and the
Captain, being heavy, began to show symptoms of excessive heat and
labouring breath, but he grew comparatively cool on coming to a
snow-bridge which had to be passed in order to get over a crevasse.

"It'll never bear my weight," he said, looking doubtfully at the frail
bridge, and at the blue gulf, which appeared to be a bottomless pit.

Antoine, however, thought it might prove strong enough.  He patted the
snow gently, as on previous occasions of a similar kind, and advanced
with caution, while his followers fixed their heels in the snow, and
held tight to the rope to save him if he should break through.  He
passed in safety, and the others followed, but new difficulties awaited
them on the other side.  Just beyond this bridge they came to a slope
from which the snow had been completely swept, leaving the surface of
hard ice exposed.  It was so steep that walking on it was impossible.
Antoine, therefore, proceeded to cut steps along its face.  Two swings
of his ponderous mountain-axe were sufficient to cut each step in the
brittle ice, and in a few minutes the whole party were on the slope,
every man having a coil of the rope round his waist, while, with the
spike of his alpenstock driven firmly into the ice, he steadied himself
before taking each successive step.

There would have been no difficulty in crossing such a slope if its base
had terminated in snow, but as it went straight down to the brow of an
ice-precipice, and then abruptly terminated in a cornice, from which the
giant icicles, before mentioned, hung down into an unfathomable abyss,
each man knew that a false step, a slip, or the loss of balance, might
result in the instant destruction of the whole party.  They moved
therefore very slowly, keeping their eyes steadily fixed on their feet.

The mercurial temperament of Mr Slingsby was severely tried at this
point.  His desire to look up and revel in the beauties of nature around
him proved too strong a temptation.  While gazing with feelings of awe
at the terrible edge or cornice below he became, for the first time,
fully alive to his situation,--the smallness of the step of ice on which
he stood, the exceeding steepness of the glassy slope below, the dread
abyss beyond!  He shut his eyes; a giddy feeling came over him--a rush
of horror.

"Take care, Monsieur!" was uttered in a quick, deep tone, behind him.

It was the warning voice of Le Croix, who observed his condition.

The warning came too late.  Slingsby wavered, threw up his arms,
slipped, and fell with an appalling shriek.

Le Croix, however, was prepared.  In an instant he had fixed his staff
and heels firmly, and had leaned well back to resist the pull.  The
porter in front was not less prompt; the stout rope stood the strain;
and in another moment the artist was restored to his position, panting,
pale, and humbled.

A few minutes sufficed to restore his confidence sufficiently to admit
of his proceeding, and, with many warnings to be more cautious, the
advance was continued.

Up to this point the weather had favoured them, but now Mont Blanc
seemed as if inclined to resent the free and easy way in which these men
of mingled muscle and science had attacked his crown.  He drew several
ominous clouds around him, and shook out a flood of hoary locks from his
white head, which, caught up by a blast, created apparently for the
purpose, were whirled aloft in wild confusion, and swooped down upon the
mountaineers with bitter emphasis, in the form of snow-drift, as if they
had come direct from Captain Wopper's favourite place of reference,--
Nova Zembla.  Coats, which had hitherto been carried on the arm or
thrown open, were put on and buttoned, and heads were bent to meet the
blast and repel the snow-drift.  Little was said, save a murmured doubt
by Antoine as to the possibility of gaining the summit, even although
they were now so near it, for the day was far spent by that time, and
the rugged nature of the route over they had passed, precluded the
possibility of a rapid return to the hut at the Grands Mulets.  They
pushed steadily on, however, for the Professor was anxious to bury his
thermometer in the snow at the top; the guide was anxious to maintain
his credit for perseverance; and the others were anxious to be able to
say they had reached the highest height in Europe.

In any weather the ascent of Mont Blanc requires somewhat more than the
average share of physical vigour and perseverance; in bad weather it
demands unusual strength and resolution.  When, therefore, a severe
storm of wind arose, most of the party began to show symptoms of
distress.  The labour of ascending, being coupled with that of forcing
way against the blast, was very exhausting to the muscles, while the
extreme cold reduced the physical energy and cooled the most sanguine
spirit.  Antoine alone seemed to be proof against all influences, but
the responsibility lying on him clouded his usually open countenance
with a careworn expression.  Prudence counselled immediate return.
Ambition, as they were now so near the top, urged prolonged effort.  The
guide expressed his anxieties, but meeting with no response, followed
the dictates of his feelings, and pushed on.

Like pillars of living snow they toiled patiently upwards.  Breath
became too precious to waste in words.  They advanced in silence.  The
wind howled around them, and the snow circled in mad evolutions, as if
the demon of wintry storms dwelt there, and meant to defend his citadel
to the "bitter end."  There are two rocks near the summit, which crop
through the ice like rugged jewels in the monarch's diadem.  The lower
is named the Petits Mulets, the upper the Derniers Roches.  On reaching
the latter of these they paused a few moments to rest.  A feeling of
certainty that the end would be gained now began to prevail, but the
guide was a little alarmed, and the Professor horrified, on looking at
their companions' faces, to observe that they were pinched, haggard, and
old-looking, as if they all had aged somewhat during the last few hours!
Captain Wopper's rubicund visage was pale, and his nose blue; the face
of Lewis was white all over, and drawn, as if he were suffering pain;
Dr Lawrence's countenance was yellow, and Slingsby's was green.  The
Professor himself was as bad as his comrades, and the porters were no
better.

"We shan't be beaten now," said the man of science, with a ghastly
smile.

"Go 'head! nev'r s'die s'l'ng's th'r's shot 'n th' locker!" replied the
Captain, in the tone of a man who would rather avoid speaking, if
possible.

"What a face you've got, Stoutley!" said the artist.

"You're another!" replied Lewis, with a horrible grin.

"Allons!" exclaimed the guide, bending once more against the storm.

Once, for a few minutes, the wind ceased and the clouds lifted.  Captain
Wopper uttered a cheer, and rushed forward in advance of the guide, took
off his hat and threw it into the air.  They had reached the round
summit without being aware of it.  They stood 15,781 feet above the
sea-level!  No envious peak rose above their heads.  The whole world lay
below them, bathed, too, in bright sunshine, for the storm, which had so
suddenly swooped upon them, was confined, like an elemental body-guard,
to the head of the mountain-king.  But, clear though it was at the
moment, they were too high in the air to see anything quite distinctly,
yet this hazy aspect had a charm of its own, for it increased the
feeling and idea of vastness in connection with surrounding space.
Around, and now beneath, stood the mountain nobility of the land,
looking, however, somewhat reduced in size and majesty, as seen from the
royal presence.

Scarcely had the mountaineers assembled and glanced at the wondrous
panorama, when the envious clouds swooped down again and mingled with
the snow-drift which once more rose to meet them.

"We must be quick, Monsieur," said Antoine, taking a shovel from one of
the porters, while Le Croix grasped another.  "Where shall we dig?"

The Professor fixed on a spot, and, while the grave of the thermometer
was being dug, a plaid was set up on a couple of alpenstocks, in the
shelter of which the others consumed the bread and wine that had been
saved from breakfast.  It did them little good, however; the cold was
too intense.  The Captain's beard was already fringed with icicles, and
the whiskers of those who had them were covered with hoar-frost, while
the breath issued from their mouths like steam.  Before the thermometer
was buried all had risen, and were endeavouring to recover heat by
rubbing their hands, beating their arms across their breasts, and
stamping violently.

"Come," said the Professor, quickly, when the work was done, "we must
start at once."

"Oui, Monsieur," assented the guide, and, without more words, the whole
party began to descend the mountain at a run.

There was cause for haste.  Not only did the storm increase in violence,
but evening drew on apace, and all of them were more or less exhausted
by prolonged muscular exertion and exposure to severe cold.

Suddenly, having gone a considerable way down the mountain, they emerged
from fog and snow-drift into blazing sunshine!  The strife of elements
was confined entirely to the summit.  The inferior ice-slopes and the
valleys far below were bathed in the golden glories of a magnificent
sunset and, before they reached the huts at the Grands Mulets, they had
passed from a condition of excessive cold to one of extreme heat,
insomuch that the Captain and Professor were compelled to walk with
their coats slung over their shoulders, while perspiration streamed from
their bare brows.

That night the party slept again at the Grands Mulets, and next day they
reached Chamouni, fagged, no doubt, and bearing marks of mountaineering
in the shape of sun-burnt cheeks and peeled noses, but hearty,
nevertheless, and not a little elated with their success in having
scaled the mighty sides and the hoary summit of Mont Blanc.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

TELLS HOW LEWIS DISTINGUISHED HIMSELF.

Seated one morning on an easy chair in Susan Quick's apartment and
swinging his little blue legs to and fro in a careless, negligent
manner, Gillie White announced it as his opinion that Mister Lewis had
gone, or was fast going, mad.

"Why do you think so?" asked Susan, with a smile, looking up for a
moment from some portion of Lewis's nether integuments, which Mont Blanc
had riven almost to shreds.

"W'y do I think so?" repeated Gillie; "w'y, cos he's not content with
havin' busted his boots an' his clo'se, an' all but busted hisself, in
goin' to the top o' Mont Blang an' Monty Rosa, an' all the other
Monty-thingumbobs about but he's agoin' off to day with that queer fish
Laycrwa to hunt some where up above the clouds--in among the stars, I
fancy--for shamwas."

"Indeed!" said Susan, with a neat little laugh.

"Yes, indeed.  He's mountain-mad--mad as a Swiss March hare, if not
madder--By the way, Susan, wot d'ee think o' the French?"

Gillie propounded this question with the air of a philosopher.

"D'you mean French people?"

"No; I means the French lingo, as my friend Cappen Wopper calls it."

"Well, I can't say that I have thought much about it yet.  Missis keeps
me so busy that I haven't time."

"Ah!" said Gillie, "you're wastin' of precious opportoonities, Susan.
I've bin a-studdyin' of that lingo myself, now, for three weeks--off and
on."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Susan, with an amused glance, "and what do _you_
think of it?"

"Think of it!  I think it's the most outrageous stuff as ever was.  The
man who first inwented it must 'ave 'ad p'ralersis o' the brain, besides
a bad cold in 'is 'ead, for most o' the enns an' gees come tumblin'
through the nose, but only git half out after all, as if the speaker was
afraid to let 'em go, lest he shouldn't git hold of 'em again.  There's
that there mountain, now.  They can't call it Mont Blang, with a good
strong out-an'-out bang, like a Briton would do, but they catches hold
o' the gee when it's got about as far as the bridge o' the nose, half
throttles it and shoves it right back, so that you can scarce hear it at
all.  An' the best joke is, there ain't no gee in the word at all!"

"No?" said Susan, in surprise.

"No," repeated Gillie.  "I've bin studdyin' the spellin' o' the words in
shop-winders an' posters, an', would you b'lieve it, they end the word
Blang with a _c_."

"You don't say so!"

"Yes I do; an' how d'ee think they spell the name o' that feller
Laycrwa?"

"I'm sure I don't know," answered Susan.

"They spells it," returned Gillie, with a solemn look, "L-e-c-r-o-i-x.
Now, if _I_ had spelt it that way, I'd have pronounced it Laycroiks.
Wouldn't you?"

"Well, yes, I think I should," said Susan.

"It seems to me," continued Gillie, "that they goes on the plan of
spellin' one way an' purnouncin' another--always takin' care to choose
the most difficult way, an' the most unnatt'ral, so that a feller has no
chance to come near it except by corkin' up one nostril tight, an'
borin' a small extra hole in the other about half-way up.  If you was to
mix a sneeze with what you said, an' paid little or no attention to the
sense, p'raps it would be French--but I ain't sure.  I only wish you
heard Cappen Wopper hoistin' French out of hisself as if he was a wessel
short-handed, an' every word was a heavy bale.  He's werry shy about it,
is the Cappen, an' wouldn't for the world say a word if he thought any
one was near; but when he thinks he's alone with Antoine--that's our
guide, you know--he sometimes lets fly a broadside o' French that
well-nigh takes my breath away."

The urchin broke into a laugh here at the memory of the Captain's
efforts to master what he styled a furrin' tongue, but Susan checked him
by saying slily, "How could you know, Gillie, if the Captain was _alone_
with Antoine?"

"Oh, don't you know," replied Gillie, trying to recover his gravity,
"the Cappen he's wery fond o' me, and I like to gratify his feelin's by
keepin' near him.  Sometimes I keep so near--under the shadow of his
huge calf d'ee see--that he don't observe me on lookin' round; an',
thinkin' he's all alone, lets fly his French broadsides in a way that
a'most sends Antoine on his beam-ends.  But Antoine is tough, he is.  He
gin'rally says, `I not un'r'stan' English ver' well,' shakes his head
an' grins, but the Cappen never listens to his answers, bein' too busy
loadin' and primin' for another broadside."

The man to whom he referred cut short the conversation at this point by
shouting down the stair:--

"Hallo!  Gillie, you powder-monkey, where are my shoes?"

"Here they are, Cappen, all ready; fit to do dooty as a lookin'-glass to
shave yerself," cried the "powder-monkey," leaping up and leaving the
room abruptly.

Gillie's opinion in regard to the madness of Lewis was shared by several
of his friends above stairs.  Doctor Lawrence, especially, felt much
anxiety about him, having overheard one or two conversations held by the
guides on the subject of the young Englishman's recklessness.

"Really, Lewis," said the Doctor, on one occasion, "you _must_ listen to
a lecture from me, because you are in a measure under my charge."

"I'm all attention, sir," said Lewis meekly, as he sat down on the edge
of his bed and folded his hands in his lap.

"Well then, to begin," said the Doctor, with a half-serious smile, "I
won't trouble you with my own opinion, to which you attach no weight--"

"Pardon me, Lawrence, I attach great weight to it--or, rather, it has so
much weight that I can scarcely bear it."

"Just so, and therefore you shan't have it.  But you must admit that the
opinion of a good guide is worth something.  Now, I heard Antoine
Grennon the other day laying down some unquestionable principles to the
Professor--"

"What! lecturing the Professor?" interrupted Lewis, "how very
presumptuous."

"He said," continued the Doctor, "that the dangers connected with the
ascent of these Swiss mountains are _real_, and, unless properly
provided against, may become terrible, if not fatal.  He instanced your
own tendency to go roving about among the glaciers _alone_.  With a
comrade or a guide attached to you by a rope there is no danger worth
speaking of, but it must be as clear to you as it is to me that it when
out on the mountains alone, you step on a snow-covered crevasse and
break through, your instant death is inevitable."

"Yes, but," objected Lewis, with that unwillingness to be convinced
which is one of the chief characteristics of youth, "I always walk, when
_alone_ on the glaciers, with the utmost caution, sounding the snow in
front of me with the long handle of my axe at every step as I go."

"If the guides do not find this always a sufficient protection for
themselves, by what amazing power of self-sufficiency do you persuade
yourself that it is sufficient for _you_?" demanded Lawrence.

"Your question suffices, Doctor," said Lewis, laughing; "go on with your
lecture, I'm all attention and, and humility."

"Not my lecture," retorted Lawrence, "the guide's.  He was very strong,
I assure you, on the subject of men going on the high glaciers _without
a rope_, or, which comes to the same thing, _alone_, and he was not less
severe on those who are so foolhardy, or so ignorant, as to cross steep
slopes of ice on new-fallen snow.  Nothing is easier, the new snow
affording such good foothold, as you told us the other day when
describing your adventures under the cliffs of Monte Rosa, and yet
nothing is more dangerous, says Antoine, for if the snow were to slip,
as it is very apt to do, you would be smothered in it, or swept into a
crevasse by it.  Lives are lost in the Alps _every year_, I am told,
owing to indifference to these two points.  The guides say--and their
opinions are corroborated by men of science and Alpine experience--that
it is dangerous to meddle with any slope exceeding 30 degrees for
several days after a heavy fall, and yet it is certain that slopes
exceeding this angle are traversed annually by travellers who are
ignorant, or reckless, or both.  Did you not say that the slope which
you crossed the other day was a steeper angle than this, and the snow on
it not more than twenty-four hours' old?"

"Guilty!" exclaimed Lewis, with a sigh.

"I condemn you, then," said Lawrence, with a smile, "to a continuation
of this lecture, and, be assured, the punishment is much lighter than
you deserve.  Listen:--There are three unavoidable dangers in Alpine
climbing--"

"Please don't be long on each head," pleaded Lewis, throwing himself
back in his bed, while his friend placed the point of each finger of his
right hand on a corresponding point of the left, and crossed his legs.

"I won't.  I shall be brief--brief as your life is likely to be if you
don't attend to me.  The three dangers are, as I have said, unavoidable;
but two of them may be guarded against; the other cannot.  First, there
is danger from _falling rocks_.  This danger may be styled positive.  It
hangs over the head like the sword of Damocles.  There is no avoiding it
except by not climbing at all, for boulders and ice-blocks are perched
here, and there, and everywhere, and no one can tell the moment when
they shall fall.  Secondly, there is danger from crevasses--the danger
of tumbling into one when crossing a bridge of snow, and the danger of
breaking through a crust of snow which conceals one.  This may be called
a negative danger.  It is reduced to almost nothing if you are tied to
your comrade by a rope, and if the leader sounds with his staff as he
walks along; but it changes from a negative to a positive danger to the
man who is so mad as to go out _alone_.  Thirdly, there is danger from
new snow on steep slopes, which is positive if you step on it when
recently fallen, and when the slope is very steep; but is negative when
you allow sufficient time for it to harden.  While, however, it is
certain that many deaths occur from these three dangers being neglected,
it is equally true that the largest number of accidents which occur in
the Alps arise chiefly from momentary indiscretions, from false steps,
the result of carelessness or self-confidence, and from men attempting
to do what is beyond their powers.  Men who are too old for such
fatigue, and men who, though young, are not sufficiently strong, usually
come to grief.  I close my lecture with a quotation from the writings of
a celebrated mountaineer--`In all cases the man rather than the mountain
is at fault.'"

"There is truth in what you say," observed Lewis, rising, with a yawn.

"Nay, but," returned his friend, seriously, "your mother, who is made
very anxious by your reckless expeditions, begged me to impress these
truths on you.  Will you promise me, like a good fellow, to consider
them?"

"I promise," said Lewis, becoming serious in his turn, and taking his
friend's hand; "but you must not expect sudden perfection to be
exemplified in me.--Come, let's go have a talk with Le Croix about his
projected expedition after the chamois."

Up in the mountains now,--above some of the clouds undoubtedly, almost
'mong the stars, as Gillie put it,--Lewis wanders in company with
Baptist Le Croix, half-forgetful of his promise to Lawrence.  Below them
lies a world of hills and valleys; above towers a fairy-land of ice,
cliff, and cloud.  No human habitation is near.  The only indications of
man's existence are so faint, and so far off in the plains below, that
houses are barely visible, and villages look like toys.  A sea of cloud
floats beneath them, and it is only through gaps in this sea that the
terrestrial world is seen.  Piercing through it are the more prominent
of the Alpine peaks--the dark tremendous obelisk of the Matterhorn
towering in one direction, the not less tremendous and far grander head
of Mont Blanc looming in another.  The sun shines brightly over all,
piercing and rendering semi-transparent some of the clouds, gilding the
edges and deepening the shadows of others.

"Do you see anything, Le Croix?" asked Lewis, as he reclined on a narrow
ledge of rock recovering breath after a fatiguing climb, while his
comrade peered intently through a telescope into the recesses of a dark
mountain gorge that lay a little below them.

For some moments the hunter made no reply.  Presently he closed the
glass, and, with an air of satisfaction, said, "Chamois!"

"Where?" asked Lewis, rising eagerly and taking the glass.

Le Croix carefully pointed out the spot but no effort on the part of the
inexperienced youth could bring anything resembling the light and
graceful form of a chamois into the field of vision.

"Never mind, Le Croix," he said, quickly returning the glass and picking
up his rifle; "come along, let's have at them."

"Softly," returned the hunter; "we must get well to leeward of them
before we can venture to approach."

"Lead where you will; you'll find me a quiet and unquestioning
follower."

The hunter at once turned, and, descending the mountain by a precipice
which was so steep that they had in some places to drop from ledge to
ledge, at last gained a position where the light air, that floated but
scarce moved the clouds, came direct from the spot where the chamois
lay.  He then turned and made straight towards them.  As they advanced
the ground became more rugged and precipitous, so that their progress
was unavoidably slow, and rendered more so by the necessity that lay on
them of approaching their game without noise.

When they had reached a spot where a sheer precipice appeared to render
further progress impossible, the hunter stopped and said in a low tone,
"Look, they are too far off; a bullet could not reach them."

Lewis craned his neck over the cliff, and saw the chamois grazing
quietly on a small patch of green that lay among brown rocks below.

"What's to be done?" he asked anxiously.  "Couldn't we try a long shot?"

"Useless.  Your eyes are inexperienced.  The distance is greater than
you think."

"What, then, shall we do?"

Le Croix did not answer.  He appeared to be revolving some plan in his
mind.  Turning at last to his companion, he said--

"I counsel that you remain here.  It is a place near to which they must
pass if driven by some one from below.  I will descend."

"But how descend?" asked Lewis.  "I see no path by which even a goat
could get down."

"Leave that to me," replied the hunter.  "Keep perfectly still till you
see them within range.  Have your rifle ready; do not fire in haste;
there will be time for a slow and sure aim.  Most bad hunters owe their
ill-luck to haste."

With this advice Le Croix crept quietly round a projecting rock, and,
dropping apparently over the precipice, disappeared.

Solitude is suggestive.  As long as his companion was with him, Lewis
felt careless and easy in mind, but now that he was left alone in one of
the wildest and grandest scenes he had yet beheld, he became solemnised,
and could not help feeling, that without his guide he would be very
helpless in such a place.  Being alone in the mountains was not indeed
new to him.  As we have already said, he had acquired the character of
being much too reckless in wandering about by himself; but there was a
vast difference between going alone over ground which he had traversed
several times with guides in the immediate neighbourhood of Chamouni,
and being left in a region to which he had been conducted by paths so
intricate, tortuous, and difficult, that the mere effort to trace back
in memory even the last few miles of the route confused him.

There was a mysterious stillness, too, about everything around him; and
the fogs, which floated in heavy masses above and below, gave a
character of changeful wildness to the scenery.

"What a place to get lost in and benighted!" he thought.  Then his mind,
with that curious capacity for sudden flight, which is one of the chief
characteristics of thought, leaped down the precipices, up which he had
toiled so slowly, sped away over hill and dale, and landed him in
Chamouni at the feet of Nita Horetzki.  Once there, he had no desire to
move.  He kept looking steadily in her pretty face, speculated as to the
nature of the charm that rendered it so sweet, wondered what was the
cause of the lines of care that at times rippled her smooth white brow,
longed to become the sharer of her grief, and her comforter, and
pondered the improbability of his ever being in a position to call her
Nita--darling Nita--sweetest Nita--exquisite Nita!  He was still engaged
in creating adjectives at Chamouni when he was brought suddenly back to
the Alpine heights by the sound of a shot.  It was repeated in a hundred
echoes by the surrounding cliffs, as he seized his rifle and gazed over
the precipice.

A puff of smoke, hanging like a cloudlet, guided his eyes.  Not far in
front of it he saw the fawn-like form of a chamois stretched in death
upon the ground, while two others were seen bounding with amazing
precision and elasticity over the rocks towards him.

He turned at once to an opening among the rocks at his right, for, even
to his unpractised eye, it was obviously impossible that anything
without wings could approach him in front or at his left.

Coolness and promptitude were characteristics of the youth; so that he
sat crouching with the rifle, resting in the palm of his left hand, over
one knee, as motionless as if he had been chiselled from the rock
against which he leaned; but his natural coolness of deportment could
not prevent, though it concealed, a throbbing of anxiety lest the game
should pass out of reach, or behind rocks, which would prevent his
seeing it.  For an instant he half-rose, intending to rush to some more
commanding elevation, but remembering the parting advice of Le Croix, he
sank down again and remained steady.

Scarcely had he done so when the clatter of bounding hoofs was heard.
He knew well that the open space, across which he now felt sure the
chamois must pass, was only broad enough to afford the briefest possible
time for an aim.  He raised the rifle more than half-way to the
shoulder.  Another instant and a chamois appeared like an arrow shooting
athwart the hill-side before him.  He fired, and missed!  The bullet,
however, which had been destined for the heart of the first animal, was
caught in the brain of that which followed.  It sprang high into the
air, and, rolling over several times, lay stretched at full length on
the rocks.

We need not pause to describe the rejoicing of the young sportsman over
his first chamois, or to detail Lecroix's complimentary observations
thereon.

Having deposited their game in a place of safety, the hunter suggested
that, as there was no chance of their seeing any more in that locality,
it would be well to devote the remainder of the day to exploring the
higher slopes of a neighbouring glacier, for, familiar as he was with
all the grander features of the region, there were some of the minuter
details, he said, with which he was unacquainted.

Lewis was a little surprised at the proposal, but, being quite satisfied
with his success, and not unwilling to join in anything that smacked of
exploration, he readily assented; and, ere long, the two aspiring
spirits were high above the spot where the chamois had fallen, and
struggling with the difficulties of couloir and crevasse.

Before quitting the lower ground, they had deposited their game and
rifles in a cave well known to Le Croix, in which they intended to pass
the night, and they now advanced armed only with their long-handled
Alpine hatchets, without which implements it is impossible to travel
over glaciers.

Being both of them strong in wind and limb, they did not pause often to
rest, though Lewis occasionally called a momentary halt to enjoy the
magnificent prospect.  During one of these pauses a dark object was seen
moving over the ice far below them.

Le Croix pointed to it, and said that it approached them.

"What is it--a crow?" asked Lewis.

"More like a man; but it is neither," returned the hunter, adjusting his
telescope; "yes, it is, as I fancied, a chamois."

"Then it cannot have seen us," said Lewis, "else it would not approach."

"Nay, it approaches because it has seen us.  It mistakes us for
relatives.  Let us sit down to deceive it a little."

They crouched beside a piece of ice, and the chamois advanced, until its
pretty form became recognisable by the naked eye.  Its motions, however,
were irregular.  It was evidently timid.  Sometimes it came on at full
gallop, then paused to look, and uttered a loud piping sound, advancing
a few paces with caution, and pausing to gaze again.  Le Croix replied
with an imitative whistle to its call.  It immediately bounded forward
with pleasure, but soon again hesitated, and stopped.  At last it seemed
to become aware of its mistake, for, turning at a tangent, it scoured
away over the ice like wind swooping down from the mountain-summits,
bounded over the crevasses like an india-rubber ball, and was quickly
out of sight.

While gazing with profound interest at this graceful creature, the
explorers were not at first aware that a dark mass of inky cloud was
rapidly bearing down on them, and that one of those wild storms which
sweep frequently over the high Alps seemed to be gathering.

"We must make haste, if we would gain the shelter of our cave," said Le
Croix, rising.

As he spoke, a low rumbling sound was heard behind them.  They turned
just in time to see a small avalanche of rocks hopping down the cliffs
towards them.  It was so far off, and looked such an innocent rolling of
pebbles, that Lewis regarded it as an insignificant phenomenon.  His
companion formed a better estimate of its character, but being at least
five hundred yards to one side of the couloir or snow-slope, down which
it rushed, he judged that they were safe.  He was mistaken.  Some of the
largest stones flew past quite near them, several striking the glacier
as they passed, and sending clouds of ice-dust over them, and one, as
large as a hogshead, bounding, with awful force, straight over their
heads.

They turned instantly to hasten from so dangerous a spot, but were
arrested by another and much louder rumbling sound.

"Quick, fly, Monsieur!" exclaimed Le Croix, setting his young companion
the example.

Truly there was cause for haste.  A sub-glacial lake among the heights
above had burst its icy barriers, and, down the same couloir from which
the smaller avalanche had sprung, a very ocean of boulders, mud, ice,
and _debris_ came crashing and roaring with a noise like the loudest
thunder, with this difference, that there was no intermission of the
roar for full quarter of an hour; only, at frequent intervals, a series
of pre-eminent peals were heard, when boulders, from six to ten feet in
diameter, met with obstacles, and dashed them aside, or broke themselves
into atoms.

Our hunters fled for their lives, and barely gained the shelter of a
giant boulder, when the skirts of the hideous torrent roared past leaped
over an ice-cliff, and was swallowed up by the insatiable crevasses of
the glacier below.  For several minutes after they had reached, and
stood panting in, a position of safety, they listened to the thunderous
roar of Alpine artillery, until it died slowly away--as if unwillingly--
in the light pattering of pebbles.

Gratitude to the Almighty for deliverance from a great danger was the
strongest feeling in the heart of the chamois-hunter.  Profound
astonishment and joy at having witnessed such an amazing sight,
quickened the pulse of Lewis.

"That was a narrow escape, Le Croix?"

"It was.  I never see such a sight without a shudder, because I lost a
brother in such an avalanche.  It was on the slopes of the Jungfrau.  He
was literally broken to fragments by it."

Lewis expressed sympathy, and his feelings were somewhat solemnised by
the graphic recital of the details of the sad incident with which the
hunter entertained him, as they descended the mountain rapidly.

In order to escape an impending storm, which was evidently brewing in
the clouds above, Lewis suggested that they should diverge from the
route by which they had ascended, and attempt a short cut by a steeper
part of the mountains.

Le Croix looked round and pondered.  "I don't like diverging into
unknown parts when in a hurry, and with the day far spent," he said.
"One never knows when a sheer precipice will shut up the way in places
like this."

The youth, however, was confident, and the man of experience was too
amiable and yielding.  There was also urgent reason for haste.  It was
therefore decided that the steeper slopes should be attempted.

They began with a glissade.  A very steep snow-slope happened to be
close at hand.  It stretched uninterruptedly down several hundred feet
to one of the terraces, into which the precipitous mountainside at that
place was cut.

"Will you try?" asked Le Croix, looking doubtfully at his companion.

"Of course I will," replied Lewis, shortly.  "Where you choose to go I
will follow."

"Have you ever done such work before?"

"Yes, often, though never on quite so steep or long a slope."

Le Croix was apparently satisfied.  He sat down on the summit of the
slope, fixed the spiked end of his axe in the snow, resting heavily on
the handle, in order to check his descent, and hitched himself forward.

"Keep steady and don't roll over," he cried, as he shot away.  The snow
rose and trailed like a white tail behind him.  His speed increased
almost to that of an avalanche, and in a few seconds he was at the
bottom.

Lewis seated himself in precisely the same manner, but overbalanced
himself when halfway down, swung round, lost self-command, let slip his
axe, and finally went head over heels, with legs and arms flying wildly.

Le Croix, half-expecting something of the kind, was prepared.  He had
re-ascended the slope a short way, and received the human avalanche on
his right shoulder, was knocked down violently as a matter of course,
and the two went spinning in a heap together to the bottom.

"Not hurt, I hope?" cried Lewis, jumping up and looking at his comrade
with some anxiety.

"No, Monsieur," replied Le Croix, quietly, as he shook the snow from his
garments--"And you?"

"Oh!  I'm all right.  That was a splendid beginning.  We shall get down
to our cave in no time at this rate."

The hunter shook his head.  "It is not all glissading," he said, as they
continued the descent by clambering down the face of a precipice.

Some thousands of feet below them lay the tortuous surface of a glacier,
on which they hoped to be able to walk towards their intended
night-bivouac, but the cliffs leading to this grew steeper as they
proceeded.  Some hours' work was before them ere the glacier could be
reached, and the day was already drawing towards its close.  A feeling
of anxiety kept them both silent as they pushed on with the utmost
possible speed, save when it was necessary for one to direct the other
as to his foothold.

On gaining each successive ledge of the terraced hill-side, they walked
along it in the hope of reaching better ground, or another snow-slope;
but each ledge ended in a precipice, so that there was no resource left
but to scramble down to the ledge below to find a similar
disappointment.  The slopes also increased, rather than decreased, in
steepness, yet so gradually, that the mountaineers at last went dropping
from point to point down the sheer cliffs without fully realising the
danger of their position.  At a certain point they came to the head of a
slope so steep, that the snow had been unable to lie on it, and it was
impossible to glissade on the pure ice.  It was quite possible, however,
to cut foot-holes down.  Le Croix had with him a stout Manilla rope of
about three hundred feet in length.  With this tied round his waist, and
Lewis, firmly planted, holding on to it, he commenced the staircase.
Two blows sufficed for each step, yet two hours were consumed before the
work was finished.  Re-ascending, he tied the rope round Lewis, and thus
enabled him to descend with a degree of confidence which he could not
have felt if unattached.  Le Croix himself descended without this moral
support, but, being as sure-footed as a chamois, it mattered little.

Pretty well exhausted by their exertions, they now found themselves at
the summit of a precipice so perpendicular and unbroken, that a single
glance sufficed to convince them of the utter impossibility of further
descent in that quarter.  The ledge on which they stood was not more
than three feet broad.  Below them the glacier appeared in the fading
light to be as far off as ever.  Above, the cliffs frowned like
inaccessible battlements.  They were indeed like flies clinging to a
wall, and, to add to their difficulties, the storm which had threatened
now began in earnest.

A cloud as black as pitch hung in front of them.  Suddenly, from its
heart, there gushed a blinding flash of lightning, followed, almost
without interval, by a crash of thunder.  The echoes took up the sounds,
hurling them back and forward among the cliffs as if cyclopean mountain
spirits were playing tennis with boulders.  Rain also descended in
torrents, and for some time the whole scene became as dark as if
overspread with the wing of night.

Crouching under a slight projection of rock, the explorers remained
until the first fury of the squall was over.  Fortunately, it was as
short-lived as violent, but its effects were disagreeable, for cataracts
now poured on them as they hurried along the top of the precipice vainly
looking for a way of escape.  At last, on coming to one of those checks
which had so often met them that day, Le Croix turned and said--

"There is no help for it, Monsieur, we must spend the night here."

"Here!" exclaimed Lewis, glancing at the cliffs above and the gulf
below.

"It is not a pleasant resting-place," replied the hunter, with a sad
smile, "but we cannot go on.  It will be quite dark in half an hour,
when an effort to advance would insure our destruction.  The little
light that remains must be spent in seeking out a place to lie on."

The two men, who were thrown thus together in such perilous
circumstances, were possessed of more than average courage, yet it would
be false to say that fear found no place in their breasts.  On the
contrary, each confessed to the other the following day that his heart
had sunk within him as he thought of the tremendous cliffs against which
they were stuck, with descent and ascent equally impossible, a narrow
ledge on the precipice-edge for their bed, and a long, wild night before
them.  Cowardice does not consist in simple fear.  It consists in the
fear of trifles; in unreasonable fear, and in such fear as incapacitates
a man for action.  The situation of our explorers was not one of slight
danger.  They had the best of reason for anxiety, because they knew not
whether escape, even in daylight, were possible.  As to incapacity for
action, the best proof that fear had not brought them to that condition
lay in the fact, that they set about preparations for spending the night
with a degree of vigour amounting almost to cheerfulness.

After the most careful survey, only one spot was found wider than the
rest of the ledge, and it was not more than four feet wide, the
difference being caused by a slight hollow under the rock, which thus
might overhang them--one of them at least--and form a sensation of
canopy.  At its best, a bed only four feet wide is esteemed narrow
enough for one, and quite inadequate for two, but when it is considered
that the bed now selected was of hard granite, rather round-backed than
flat, with a sheer precipice descending a thousand feet, more or less,
on one side of it, and a slope in that direction, there will be no
difficulty in conceiving something of the state of mind in which Lewis
Stoutley and Baptist Le Croix lay down to repose till morning in wet
garments, with the thermometer somewhere between thirty-two and zero,
Fahrenheit.

To prevent their rolling off the ledge when asleep, they built on the
edge of the cliff a wall of the largest loose stones they could find.
It was but an imaginary protection at best, for the slightest push sent
some of the stones toppling over, and it necessarily curtailed the
available space.  No provisions, save one small piece of bread, had been
brought, as they had intended returning to their cave to feast
luxuriously.  Having eaten the bread, they prepared to lie down.

It was agreed that only one at a time should sleep; the other was to
remain awake, to prevent the sleeper from inadvertently moving.  It was
also arranged, that he whose turn it was to sleep should lie on the
inner side.  But here arose a difference.  Le Croix insisted that Lewis
should have the first sleep.  Lewis, on the other hand, declared that he
was not sleepy; that the attempt to sleep would only waste the time of
both, and that therefore Le Croix should have the first.

The contention was pretty sharp for a time, but the obstinacy of the
Englishman prevailed.  The hunter gave in, and at once lay down straight
out with his face to the cliff, and as close to it as he could squeeze.
Lewis immediately lay down outside of him, and, throwing one arm over
his Lecroix's broad chest gave him a half-jocular hug that a bear might
have enjoyed, and told him to go to sleep.  In doing this he dislodged a
stone from the outer wall, which went clattering down into the dark
gulf.

Almost immediately the deep, regular breathing of the wearied hunter
told that he was already in the land of Nod.

It was a strange, romantic position; and Lewis rejoiced, in the midst of
his anxieties, as he lay there wakefully guarding the chamois-hunter
while he slept.  It appeared to Lewis that his companion felt the need
of a guardian, for he grasped with both hands the arm which he had
thrown round him.

How greatly he wished that his friends at Chamouni could have even a
faint conception of his position that night!  What would Lawrence have
thought of it?  And the Captain,--how would _he_ have conducted himself
in the circumstances?  His mother, Emma, the Count, Antoine, Gillie,
Susan--every one had a share in his thoughts, as he lay wakeful and
watching on the giddy ledge--and Nita, as a great under-current like the
sub-glacial rivers, kept flowing continually, and twining herself
through all.  Mingled with these thoughts was the sound of avalanches,
which ever and anon broke in upon the still night with a muttering like
distant thunder, or with a startling roar as masses of ice tottered over
the brinks of the cascades, or boulders loosened by the recent rain lost
their hold and involved a host of smaller fry in their fall.  Twining
and tying these thoughts together into a wild entanglement quite in
keeping with the place, the youth never for one moment lost the sense of
an ever present and imminent danger--he scarce knew what--and the
necessity for watchfulness.  This feeling culminated when he beheld Nita
Horetzki suddenly appear standing close above him on a most
dangerous-looking ledge of rock!

Uttering a loud cry of alarm he sought to start up, and in so doing sent
three-quarters of the protecting wall down the precipice with an
appalling rush and rumble.  Unquestionably he would have followed it if
he had not been held by the wrist as if by a vice!

"Hallo! take care, Monsieur," cried Le Croix, in a quick anxious tone,
still holding tightly to his companion's arm.

"Why! what?  Le Croix--I saw--I--I--saw--Well, well--I do really believe
I have been--I'm ashamed to say--"

"Yes, Monsieur, you've been asleep," said the hunter, with a quiet
laugh, gently letting go his hold of the arm as he became fully
persuaded that Lewis was by that time quite awake and able to take care
of himself.

"Have you been asleep too?" asked Lewis.

"Truly, no!" replied the hunter, rising with care, "but you have had
full three hours of it, so it's my turn now."

"You don't say so!" exclaimed Lewis.

"Indeed I do; and now, please, get next the cliff and let me lie
outside, so that I may rest with an easy mind."

Lewis opposed him no longer.  He rose, and they both stood up to stamp
their feet and belabour their chests for some time--the cold at such a
height being intense, while their wet garments and want of covering
rendered them peculiarly unfitted to withstand it.  The effort was not
very successful.  The darkness of the night, the narrowness of their
ledge, and the sleepiness of their spirits rendering extreme caution
necessary.

At last the languid blood began to flow; a moderate degree of warmth was
restored, and, lying down again side by side in the new position, the
hunter and the student sought and found repose.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

DANGER AND DEATH ON THE GLACIER.

Daylight--blessed daylight!  How often longed for by the sick and weary!
How imperfectly appreciated by those whose chief thoughts and
experiences of night are fitly expressed by the couplet:--

  "Bed, bed, delicious bed,
  Haven of rest for the weary head."

Daylight came at last, to the intense relief of poor Lewis, who had
become restless as the interminable night wore on, and the cold seemed
to penetrate to his very marrow.  Although unable to sleep, however, he
lay perfectly still, being anxious not to interrupt the rest of his
companion.  But Le Croix, like the other, did not sleep soundly; he
awoke several times, and, towards morning, began to dream and mutter
short sentences.

At first Lewis paid no attention to this, but at length, becoming weary
of his own thoughts, he set himself with a half-amused feeling to
listen.  The amusement gave place to surprise and to a touch of sadness
when he found that the word `gold' frequently dropped from the sleeper's
lips.

"Can it be," he thought, "that this poor fellow is really what they say,
a half-crazed gold-hunter?  I hope not.  It seems nonsensical.  I never
heard of there being gold in these mountains.  Yet it may be so, and too
much longing after gold is said to turn people crazy.  I shouldn't
wonder if it did."

Thoughts are proverbial wanderers, and of a wayward spirit, and not easy
of restraint.  They are often very honest too, and refuse to flatter.
As the youth lay on his back gazing dreamily from that giddy height on
the first faint tinge of light that suffused the eastern sky, his
thoughts rambled on in the same channel.

"Strange, that a chamois-hunter should become a gold-hunter.  How much
more respectable the former occupation, and yet how many gold-hunters
there are in the world!  Gamblers are gold-hunters; and I was a gambler
once!  Aha!  Mr Lewis, the cap once fitted you!  Fitted, did I say?  It
fits still.  Have I not been playing billiards every night nearly since
I came here, despite Captain Wopper's warnings and the lesson I got from
poor Leven?  Poor Leven indeed! it's little gold that he has, and _I_
robbed him.  However, I paid him back, that's one comfort, and my stakes
now are mere trifles--just enough to give interest to the game.  Yet,
shame on you, Lewie; can't you take interest in a game for its own sake?
The smallest coin staked involves the spirit of gambling.  You
shouldn't do it, my boy, you know that well enough, if you'd only let
your conscience speak out.  And Nita seems not to like it too--ah, Nita!
She's as good as gold--as good! ten million times better than the
finest gold.  I wonder why that queer careworn look comes over her angel
face when she hears me say that I've been having a game of billiards?  I
might whisper some flattering things to myself in reference to this,
were it not that she seems just as much put out when any one else talks
about it.  Ah, Nita!"

It is unnecessary to follow the youth's thoughts further, for, having
got upon Nita, they immediately ceased their wayward wandering practices
and remained fixed on that theme.

Soon afterwards, the light being sufficient the mountaineers rose and
continued their descent which was accomplished after much toil and
trouble, and they proceeded at a quick pace over the glacier towards the
place where the chamois had been left the previous day.

"Why are you so fond of gold, Le Croix?" said Lewis, abruptly, and in a
half-jesting tone, as they walked along.

The hunter's countenance flushed deeply, and he turned with a look of
severity towards his companion.

"Who said that I was fond of it?"

"A very good friend of mine," replied Lewis, with a light laugh.

"He can be no friend of mine," returned the hunter, with contracted
brows.

"I'm not so sure of that," said the other; "at least if you count
_yourself_ a friend.  You whispered so much about gold in your dreams
this morning that I came to the conclusion you were rather fond of it."

The expression of the hunter changed completely.  There seemed to be a
struggle between indignation and sorrow in his breast as he stopped,
and, facing his companion, said, with vehemence--

"Monsieur, I do not count _myself_ a friend.  I have ever found _self_
to be my greatest enemy.  The good God knows how hard I have fought
against self for years, and how often--oh, how often--I have been beaten
down and overcome.  God help me.  It is a weary struggle."

Lecroix's countenance and tones changed as rapidly as the cloud-forms on
his own mountain peaks.  His last words were uttered with the deepest
pathos, and his now pale face was turned upward, as if he sought for
hope from a source higher than the "everlasting hills."  Lewis was
amazed at the sudden burst of feeling in one who was unusually quiet and
sedate, and stood looking at him in silence.

"Young man," resumed the hunter, in a calmer tone, laying his large
brown hand impressively on the youth's shoulder, "you have heard aright.
I have loved gold too much.  If I had resisted the temptation at the
first I might have escaped, but I _shall_ yet be saved, ay, despite of
self, for there is a Saviour!  For years I have sought for gold among
these mountains.  They tell me it is to be found there, but I have never
found it.  To-day I intended to have visited yonder yellow cliffs high
up on the shoulder of the pass.  Do you see them?"

He pointed eagerly, and a strange gleam was in his blue eyes as he went
on to say rapidly, and without waiting for an answer--

"I have not yet been up there.  It looks a likely place--a very likely
place--but your words have turned me from my purpose.  The evil spirit
is gone for to-day--perhaps for ever.  Come," he added, in a tone of
firm determination, "we will cross this crevasse and hasten down to the
cave."

He wrenched himself round while he spoke, as if the hand of some
invisible spirit had been holding him, and hurried quickly towards a
wide crevasse which crossed their path at that place.

"Had we not better tie ourselves together before attempting it?"
suggested Lewis, hastening after him.

Le Croix did not answer, but quickened his pace to a run.

"Not there!" exclaimed Lewis, in sudden alarm.  "It is almost too wide
for a leap, and the snow on the other side overhangs.  Stop! for God's
sake--not there!"

He rushed forward, but was too late.  Le Croix was already on the brink
of the chasm; next moment, with a tremendous bound, he cleared it, and
alighted on the snow beyond.  His weight snapped off the mass, his arms
were thrown wildly aloft, and, with a shout, rather than a cry, he fell
headlong into the dark abyss!

Horror-stricken, unable to move or cry out Lewis stood on the edge.
From far down in the blue depths of the crevasse there arose a terrible
sound, as if of a heavy blow.  It was followed by the familiar rattling
of masses of falling ice, which seemed to die away in the profound heart
of the glacier.

The "weary struggle" had come to an end at last.  The chamois-hunter had
found a tomb, like too many, alas! of his bold-hearted countrymen, among
those great fields of ice, over which he had so often sped with sure
foot and cool head in days gone by.

Lewis was as thoroughly convinced that his late comrade was dead, as if
he had seen his mangled corpse before him, but with a sort of passionate
unbelief he refused to admit the fact.  He stood perfectly motionless,
as if transfixed and frozen, in the act of bending over the crevasse.
He listened intently and long for a sound which yet he knew could never
come.  An oppressive, sickening silence reigned around him, which he
suddenly broke with a great and terrible cry, as, recovering from his
stupor, he hurried wildly to and fro, seeking for some slope by which he
might descend to the rescue of his friend.

Vainly he sought.  Both walls of the crevasse were sheer precipices of
clear ice.  At one spot, indeed, he found a short slope, and, madly
seizing his axe, he cut foot-holds down it, descending, quite regardless
of danger, until the slope became too perpendicular to admit of farther
progress.  Struck then with alarm for himself, he returned cautiously to
the top, while beads of cold perspiration stood on his pale brow.  A few
minutes more, and he became sufficiently calm to realise the fact that
poor Le Croix was indeed beyond all hope.  As the truth was forced into
his heart he covered his face with his hands and wept bitterly.

It was long ere the passionate burst of feeling subsided.  Lewis was
very impressionable, and his young heart recoiled in agony from such a
shock.  Although the hunter had been to him nothing but a pleasant
guide, he now felt as if he had lost a friend.  When his mind was
capable of connected thought he dwelt on the unfortunate man's kindly,
modest, and bold disposition, and especially on the incidents of the
previous night, when they two had lain side by side like brothers on
their hard couch.

At last he rose, and, with a feeling of dead weight crushing his spirit
began to think of continuing his descent.  He felt that, although there
was no hope of rescuing life, still no time should be lost in rousing
the guides of Chamouni and recovering, if possible, the remains.

Other thoughts now came upon him with a rush.  He was still high up
among the great cliffs, and alone!  The vale of Chamouni was still far
distant, and he was bewildered as to his route, for, in whatever
direction he turned, nothing met his eye save wildly-riven glaciers or
jagged cliffs and peaks.  He stood in the midst of a scene of savage
grandeur, which corresponded somewhat with his feelings.

His knowledge of ice-craft, if we may use the expression, was by that
time considerable, but he felt that it was not sufficient for the work
that lay before him; besides, what knowledge he possessed could not make
up for the want of a companion and a rope, while, to add to his
distress, weakness, resulting partly from hunger, began to tell on him.

Perhaps it was well that such thoughts interfered with those that
unmanned him, for they served to rouse his spirit and nerve him to
exertion.  Feeling that his life, under God, depended on the wisdom,
vigour, and promptitude of his actions during the next few hours, he
raised his eyes upward for a moment, and, perhaps for the first time in
his life, asked help and guidance of his Creator, with the feeling
strong upon him that help and guidance were sorely needed.

Almost at the commencement of his descent an event occurred which taught
him the necessity of extreme caution.  This was the slipping of his axe.
He had left the fatal crevasse only a few hundred yards behind him,
when he came to a fracture in the ice that rendered it impossible to
advance in that direction any longer; he therefore turned aside, but was
met by a snow slope which terminated in another yawning crevasse.  While
standing on the top of this, endeavouring to make up his mind as to the
best route to be followed, he chanced to swing his axe carelessly and
let it fall.  Instantly it turned over the edge, and shot like an arrow
down the slope.  He was ice-man enough to know that the loss of his axe
in such circumstances was equivalent to the signing of his death-warrant
and his face flushed with the gush of feeling that resulted from the
accident.  Fortunately, the head of the weapon caught on a lamp of ice
just at the edge of the crevasse, and the handle hung over it.
Something akin to desperation now took possession of the youth.  The
slope _was_ far too steep to slide down.  Not having his axe, it was
impossible to cut the necessary steps.  In any case it was excessively
dangerous, for, although the snow was not new, it lay on such an incline
that the least weight on it might set it in motion, in which case
inevitable death would have been the result.  The case was too critical
to admit of delay or thought.  At all hazards the axe must be recovered.
He therefore lay down with his face to the slope, and began to kick
foot-holds with the toe of his boots.  It was exceedingly slow and
laborious work, for he dared not to kick with all his force, lest he
should lose his balance, and, indeed, he only retained it by thrusting
both arms firmly into the upper holes and fixing one foot deep in a
lower hole, while with the other he cautiously kicked each new step in
succession.  At last, after toiling steadily thus for two hours, he
regained his axe.

The grip with which he seized the handle, and the tender feeling with
which he afterwards laid it on his shoulder, created in him a new idea
as to the strange affection with which man can be brought to regard
inanimate objects, and the fervency with which he condemned his former
flippancy, and vowed never more to go out on the high Alps alone, formed
a striking commentary on the adage, "Experience teaches fools!"

For some time after this Lewis advanced with both speed and caution.  At
each point of vantage that he reached he made a rapid and careful survey
of all the ground before him, decided on the exact route which he should
take, as far as the eye could range, and then refused every temptation
to deviate from it save when insurmountable obstacles presented
themselves in the shape of unbridged crevasses or sheer ice-precipices.
Such obstacles were painfully numerous, but by indomitable perseverance,
and sometimes by a desperate venture, he overcame them.

Once he got involved in a succession of crevasses which ran into each
other, so that he found himself at last walking on the edge of a wedge
of ice not a foot broad, with unfathomable abysses on either side.  The
wedge terminated at last in a thin edge with a deep crevasse beyond.  He
was about to retrace his steps--for the tenth time in that place--when
it struck him that if he could only reach the other side of the crevasse
on his right, he might gain a level patch of ice that appeared to
communicate with the sounder part of the glacier beyond.  He paused and
drew his breath.  It was not much of a leap.  In ordinary circumstances
he could have bounded over it like a chamois, but he was weak now from
hunger and fatigue; besides which, the wedge on which he stood was
rotten, and might yield to his bound, while the opposite edge seemed
insecure and might fail him, like the mass that had proved fatal to Le
Croix.

He felt the venture to be desperate, but the way before him was yet very
long, and the day was declining.  Screwing up his courage he sprang
over, and a powerful shudder shook his frame when he alighted safe on
the other side.

Farther down the glacier he came to a level stretch, and began to walk
with greater speed, neglecting for a little the precaution of driving
the end of his axe-handle into the snow in front at each step.  The
result was, that he stepped suddenly on the snow that concealed a narrow
crevasse.  It sank at once, sending something like a galvanic shock
through his frame.  The shock effected what his tired muscles might have
failed to accomplish.  It caused him to fling himself backward with
cat-like agility, and thus he escaped narrowly.  It is needless to say
that thereafter he proceeded with a degree of care and caution that
might have done credit even to a trained mountaineer.

At last Lewis found it necessary to quit the glacier and scale the
mountains by way of a pass which led into the gorge from which he hoped
to reach the vale of Chamouni.  He was in great perplexity here, for,
the aspect of the country being unfamiliar to his eye, he feared that he
must have lost his way.  Nothing but decision, however, and prompt
action could serve him now.  To have vacillated or retraced part of his
steps, would have involved his spending a second night among the icy
solitudes without shelter; and this he felt, fatigued and fasting as he
was, would have been quite beyond his powers of endurance.  He therefore
crossed the bergschrund, or crevasse between the glacier and the cliffs,
on a snow-bridge, faced the mountain-side once more, and, toiling
upwards, reached the summit of the pass a little before sunset.
Fortunately the weather continued fine, and the country below appeared
much less rugged than that over which he had passed, but he had not yet
got clear of difficulties.  Just below him lay the longest ice-slope, or
couloir, he had hitherto encountered.  The snow had been completely
swept off its surface, and it bore evidence of being the channel down
which rushed the boulders and obelisks of ice that strewed the plain
below.  To reach that plain by any other route would have involved a
circuit of unknown extent.  The risk was great but the danger of delay
was greater.  He swung the heavy axe round his head, and began at once
the tedious process of cutting steps.  Being an apt scholar, he had
profited well from the lessons taught by Le Croix and others.  Quick,
yet measured and firm, was each stroke.  A forced calmness rested on his
face, for, while the ice-blocks above, apparently nodding to their fall,
warned him to make haste, the fear of slipping a foot, or losing
balance, compelled him to be very cautious.  In such a case, a rope
round the waist and a friend above would have been of inestimable value.

When about two-thirds of the way down, the exhausted youth was forced to
stop for a few seconds to rest.  Just then several pieces of ice, the
size of a man's head, rushed down the couloir and dashed close past him.
They served to show the usual direction of an avalanche.  Fearing they
were the prelude to something worse, he quickly cut his way to the side
of the couloir.  He was not a moment too soon.  Glancing up in alarm, he
saw the foundations of one of the largest ice-masses give way.  The top
bent over slowly at first, then fell forward with a crash and broke into
smaller fragments, which dashed like lightning down the slope, leaping
from side to side, and carrying huge rocks and masses of _debris_ to the
plain with horrible din.

Poor Lewis felt his spirit and his body shrink.  He had, however, chosen
his position well.  Nothing save a cloud of dust and snow reached him,
but the part of the slope down which he had passed was swept clean as
with the besom of destruction.  It was an awful ordeal for one so young
and inexperienced, for the risk had to be encountered again.  "The
sooner the better," thought he, and immediately swayed aloft his axe
again, lifting, as he did so, his heart to his Maker for the second time
that day.  A few minutes more, and he stood at the foot of the couloir.

Without a moment's pause he hurried on, and finally reached the lower
slopes of the mountains.  Here, to his inexpressible joy and
thankfulness, he fell in with a sheep-track, and, following it up, was
soon on the high-road of the valley.  But it was not till far on in the
night that he reached Chamouni, scarce able to drag himself along.

He went straight to the Bureau of Guides, where a profound sensation was
created by the sad tidings which he brought.  Antoine Grennon happened
to be there, and to him Lewis told his sad tale, at the same time
eagerly suggesting that an immediate search should be made for the body,
and offering to go back at once to guide them to the scene of the
accident.  Antoine looked earnestly in the youth's face.

"Ah, Monsieur," he said, shaking his head, "you are not fit to guide any
one to-night.  Besides, I know the place well.  If poor Le Croix has
fallen into that crevasse, he is now past all human aid."

"But why not start at once?" said Lewis, anxiously, "if there is but the
merest vestige of a chance--"

"There is no chance, Monsieur, if your description is correct; besides,
no man could find the spot in a dark night.  But rest assured that we
will not fail to do our duty to our comrade.  A party will start off
within an hour, proceed as far as is possible during the night, and, at
the first gleam of day, we will push up the mountains.  We need no one
to guide us, but you need rest.  Go, in the morning you may be able to
follow us."

We need scarcely say that the search was unavailing.  The body of the
unfortunate hunter was never recovered.  In all probability it still
lies entombed in the ice of the great glacier.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

A MYSTERY CLEARED UP.

"Is Nita unwell, Emma?" asked Lewis early one morning, not long after
the sad event narrated in the last chapter.

"I think not.  She is merely depressed, as we all are, by the melancholy
death of poor Le Croix."

"I can well believe it," returned Lewis.  "Nevertheless, it seems to me
that her careworn expression and deep despondency cannot be accounted
for by that event."

"You know that her father left last week very suddenly," said Emma.
"Perhaps there may be domestic affairs that weigh heavily on her.  I
know not, for she never refers to her family or kindred.  The only time
I ventured to do so she appeared unhappy, and quickly changed the
subject."

The cousins were sauntering near their hotel and observed Dr Lawrence
hurry from the front door.

"Hallo!  Lawrence," called out Lewis.

"Ah! the very man I want," exclaimed the Doctor, hastening to join them,
"do you know that Miss Horetzki is ill?"

"How strange that we should just this moment have referred to her
looking ill!  Not seriously ill, I trust," said Emma, with a troubled
look in her sympathetic eyes.

"I hope not, but her case puzzles me more than any that I have yet met
with.  I fancy it may be the result of an overstrained nervous system,
but there appears no present cause for that.  She evidently possesses a
vigorous constitution, and every one here is kind to her--her father
particularly so.  Even if she were in love, which she doesn't seem to be
(a faint twinkle in the Doctor's eye here), that would not account for
her condition."

"I can't help thinking," observed Lewis, with a troubled look, "that her
father is somehow the cause of her careworn looks.  No doubt he is very
kind to her in public, but may there not be a very different state of
things behind the scenes?"

"I think not.  The Count's temper is gentle, and his sentiments are
good.  If he were irascible there might be something behind the scenes,
for when restraint is removed and temper gets headway, good principles
may check but cannot always prevent unkindness.  Now, Emma, I have
sought you and Lewis to ask for counsel.  I do not say that Nita is
seriously ill, but she is ill enough to cause those who love her--as I
know you do--some anxiety.  It is very evident to me, from what she
says, that she eagerly desires her father to be with her, and yet when I
suggest that he should be sent for, she nervously declines to entertain
the proposal.  If this strange state of mind is allowed to go on, it
will aggravate the feverish attack from which she now suffers.  I wish,
therefore, to send for the Count without letting her know.  Do you think
this a wise step?"

"Undoubtedly; but why ask such a question of me?" said Emma, with a look
of surprise.

"First, because you are Nita's friend--not perhaps, a friend of long
standing, but, if I mistake not, a very loving one; and, secondly, as
well as chiefly, because I want you to find out from her where her
father is at present, and let me know."

"There is something disagreeably underhand in such a proceeding,"
objected Emma.

"You know that a doctor is, or ought to be, considered a sort of pope,"
returned Lawrence.  "I absolve you from all guilt by assuring you that
there is urgent need for pursuing the course I suggest."

"Well, I will at all events do what I can to help you," said Emma.
"Shall I find her in her own room?"

"Yes, in bed, attended, with Mrs Stoutley's permission, by Susan Quick.
Get rid of the maid before entering on the subject."

In a few minutes Emma returned to the Doctor, who still walked up and
down in earnest conversation with Lewis.  She had succeeded, she said,
in persuading Nita to let her father be sent for, and the place to which
he had gone for a few days was Saxon, in the Rhone valley.  The Count's
address had also been obtained, but Nita had stipulated that the
messenger should on no account disturb her father by entering the house,
but should send for him and wait outside.

"Strange prohibition!" exclaimed Lawrence.  "However, we must send off a
messenger without delay."

"Stay," said Lewis, detaining his friend; "there seems to be delicacy as
well as mystery connected with this matter, you must therefore allow me
to be the messenger."

Lawrence had no objection to the proposal, and in less than an hour
Lewis, guided by Antoine Grennon, was on the road to Martigny by way of
the celebrated pass of the Tete-Noire.

The guide was one of Nature's gentlemen.  Although low in the social
scale, and trained in a rugged school, he possessed that innate
refinement of sentiment and feeling--a gift of God sometimes transmitted
through a gentle mother--which makes a true gentleman.  Among men of the
upper ranks this refinement of soul may be counterfeited by the
superficial polish of manners; among those who stand lower in the social
scale it cannot be counterfeited at all, but still less can it be
concealed.  As broadcloth can neither make nor mar a true gentleman, so
fustian cannot hide one.  If Antoine Grennon had been bred "at Court,"
and arrayed in sumptuous apparel, he could not have been more
considerate than he was of the feelings and wishes of others, or more
gentle, yet manly, in his demeanour.

If, on an excursion, you wished to proceed in a certain direction,
Antoine never suggested that you should go in another, unless there were
insurmountable difficulties in the way.  If you chanced to grow weary,
you could not have asked Antoine to carry your top-coat, because he
would have observed your condition and anticipated your wishes.  If you
had been inclined to talk he would have chatted away by the hour on
every subject that came within the range of his knowledge, and if you
had taken him beyond his depth, he would have listened by the hour with
profound respect, obviously pleased, and attempting to understand you.
Yet he would not have "bored" you.  He possessed great tact.  He would
have allowed you to lead the conversation, and when you ceased to do so
he would have stopped.  He never looked sulky or displeased.  He never
said unkind things, though he often said and did kind ones, and, with
all that, was as independent in his opinions as the whistling wind among
his native glaciers.  In fact he was a prince among guides, and a
pre-eminently unselfish man.

Heigho! if all the world--you and I, reader, included--bore a stronger
resemblance to Antoine Grennon, we should have happy times of it.  Well,
well, don't let us sigh despairingly because of our inability to come up
to the mark.  It is some comfort that there are not a few such men about
us to look up to as exemplars.  We know several such, both men and
women, among our own friends.  Let's be thankful for them.  It does us
good to think of them!

From what we have said, the reader will not be surprised to hear that,
after the first words of morning salutation, Lewis Stoutley walked
smartly along the high road leading up the valley of Chamouni in perfect
silence, with Antoine trudging like a mute by his side.

Lewis was too busy with his thoughts to speak at first.  Nita's illness,
and the mystery connected somehow with the Count, afforded food not only
for meditation, but anxiety, and it was not until the town lay far
behind them that he looked at his guide, and said:--

"The route over the Tete-Noire is very grand, I am told?"

"Very grand, Monsieur--magnificent!"

"You are well acquainted with it, doubtless?"

"Yes; I have passed over it hundreds of times.  Does Monsieur intend to
make a divergence to the Col de Balme?"

"No; I have urgent business on hand, and must push on to catch the
railway.  Would the divergence you speak of take up much time?  Is the
Col de Balme worth going out of one's way to see?"

"It is well worthy of a visit," said the guide, replying to the last
query first, "as you can there have a completely uninterrupted view--one
of the very finest views of Mont Blanc, and all its surroundings.  The
time required for the divergence is little more than two hours; with
Monsieur's walking powers perhaps not so much; besides, there is plenty
of time, as we shall reach Martigny much too soon for the train."

"In that case we shall make the detour," said Lewis.  "Are the roads
difficult?"

"No; quite easy.  It is well that Monsieur dispensed with a mule, as we
shall be more independent; and a mule is not so quick in its progress as
an active man."

While they chatted thus, walking at a quick pace up the valley, Antoine,
observing that his young charge was now in a conversational frame of
mind, commented on the magnificent scenery, and drew attention to points
of interest as they came into view.

Their route at first lay in the low ground by the banks of the river
Arve, which rushed along, wild and muddy, as if rejoicing in its escape
from the superincumbent glaciers that gave it birth.  The great peaks of
the Mont Blanc range hemmed them in on the right, the slopes of the
Brevent on the left.  Passing the village of Argentiere with rapid
strides, and pausing but a few moments to look at the vast glacier of
the same name which pours into the valley the ice-floods gendered among
the heights around the Aiguille Verte and the Aiguille du Chardonnet,
which rise respectively to a height of above 13,400 and 12,500 feet they
reached the point where the Tete-Noire route diverged to the left at
that time, in the form of a mere bridle-path, and pushed forward towards
the Col, or pass.

On the way, Antoine pointed out heaps of slabs of black slate.  These,
he said, were collected by the peasants, who, in spring, covered their
snow-clad fields with them; the sun, heating the slabs, caused the snow
beneath to melt rapidly; and thus, by a very simple touch of art, they
managed to wrest from Nature several weeks that would otherwise have
been lost!

As they rose into the higher grounds, heaps and rude pillars of stone
were observed.  These were the landmarks which guided travellers through
that region when it was clad in its wintry robe of deep snow, and all
paths obliterated.

At last they stood on the Col de Balme.  There was a solitary inn there,
but Antoine turned aside from it and led his companion a mile or so to
one side, to a white stone, which marked the boundary between
Switzerland and France.

It is vain to attempt in words a description of scenes of grandeur.
Ink, at the best, is impotent in such matters; even paint fails to give
an adequate idea.  We can do no more than run over a list of names.
From this commanding point of view Mont Blanc is visible in all his
majesty--vast, boundless, solemn, incomprehensible--with his Aiguilles
de Tour, d'Argentiere, Verte, du Dru, de Charmoz, du Midi, etcetera,
around him; his white head in the clouds, his glacial drapery rolling
into the vale of Chamouni, his rocks and his pine-clad slopes toned down
by distance into fine shadows.  On the other side of the vale rise the
steeps of the Aiguilles Rouges and the Brevent.  To the north towers the
Croix de Fer, and to the north-east is seen the entire chain of the
Bernese Alps, rising like a mighty white leviathan, with a bristling
back of pinnacles.

Splendid though the view was, however, Lewis did not for a moment forget
his mission.  Allowing himself only a few minutes to drink it in, he
hastened back to the Tete-Noire path, and soon found himself traversing
a widely different scene.  On the Col he had, as it were, stood aloof,
and looked abroad on a vast and glorious region; now, he was involved in
its rocky, ridgy, woody details.  Here and there long vistas opened up
to view, but, for the most part, his vision was circumscribed by
towering cliffs and deep ravines.  Sometimes he was down in the bottom
of mountain valleys, at other times walking on ledges so high on the
precipice-faces, that cottages in the vales below seemed little bigger
than sheep.  Now the country was wooded and soft; anon it was barren and
rocky, but never tame or uninteresting.

At one place, where the narrow gorge was strewn with huge boulders,
Antoine pointed out a spot where two Swiss youths had been overwhelmed
by an avalanche.  It had come down from the red gorges of the Aiguilles
Rouges, at a spot where the vale, or pass, was comparatively wide.
Perhaps its width had induced the hapless lads to believe themselves
quite safe from anything descending on the other side of the valley.  If
so, they were mistaken; the dreadful rush of rock and wrack swept the
entire plain, and buried them in the ruin.

Towards evening the travellers reached Martigny in good time for the
train, which speedily conveyed them to Saxon.

This town is the only one in Switzerland--the only one, indeed, in
Europe with the exception of Monaco--which possesses that great blight
on civilisation, a public gambling-table.  That the blight is an
unusually terrible one may be assumed from the fact that every civilised
European nation has found it absolutely necessary to put such places
down with a strong hand.

At the time Lewis Stoutley visited the town, however, it was not so
singular in its infamy as it now is.  He was ignorant of everything
about the place save its name.  Going straight to the first hotel that
presented itself, he inquired for the Count Horetzki.  The Count he was
told, did not reside there; perhaps he was at the Casino.

To the Casino Lewis went at once.  It was an elegant Swiss building, the
promenade of which was crowded with visitors.  The strains of music fell
sweetly on the youth's ear as he approached.

Leaving Antoine outside, he entered, and repeated his inquiries for the
Count.

They did not know the Count, was the reply, but if Monsieur would enter
the rooms perhaps he might find him.

Lewis, remembering the expressed desire of Nita, hesitated, but as no
one seemed inclined to attend to his inquiries, beyond a civil reply
that nothing was known about the Count he entered, not a little
surprised at the difficulty thrown in his way.

The appearance of the salon into which he was ushered at once explained
the difficulty, and at the same time sent a sudden gleam of light into
his mind.  Crowds of ladies and gentlemen--some eager, some anxious,
others flippant or dogged, and a good many quite calm and cool--
surrounded the brilliantly-lighted gaming tables.  Every one seemed to
mind only his own business, and each man's business may be said to have
been the fleecing of his neighbour to the utmost of his power--not by
means of skill or wisdom, but by means of mere chance, and through the
medium of professional gamblers and rouge-et-noir.

With a strange fluttering at his heart, for he remembered his own
weakness, Lewis hurried forward and glanced quickly at the players.
Almost the first face he saw was that of the Count.  But what a changed
countenance!  Instead of the usual placid smile, and good-humoured
though sad expression about the eyes, there was a terrible look of
intense fixed anxiety, with deep-knotted lines on his brow, and a
horribly drawn look about the mouth.

"Make your play, gentlemen," said the presiding genius of the tables, as
he spun round the board on the action of which so much depended.

The Count had already laid his stake on the table, and clutched his rake
with such violence as almost to snap the handle.

Other players had also placed their stakes, some with cool calculating
precision, a few with nervous uncertainty, many with apparent
indifference.  With the exception of the Count and a lady near him,
however, there was little of what might indicate very strong feeling on
any countenance.  One young and pretty girl, after placing her little
pile of silver, stood awaiting the result with calm indifference--
possibly assumed.  Whatever might be the thoughts or feelings of the
players, there was nothing but business-like gravity stamped on the
countenances of the four men who presided over the revolving board, each
with neatly-arranged rows of silver five-franc pieces in front of him,
and a wooden rake lying ready to hand.  Each player also had a rake,
with which he or she pushed the coins staked upon a certain space of the
table, or on one of the dividing lines, which gave at least a varied, if
not a better, chance.

The process of play was short and sharp.  For a few seconds the board
spun, the players continuing to place, or increase, or modify the
arrangement of the stakes up to nearly the last moment.  As the board
revolved more slowly a pea fell into a hole--red or black--and upon this
the fate of each hung.  A notable event, truly, on which untold millions
of money have changed hands, innumerable lives have been sacrificed, and
unspeakable misery and crime produced in days gone by!

The decision of the pea--if we may so express it--was quietly stated,
and to an ignorant spectator it seemed as if the guardians of the table
raked all the stakes into their own maws.  But here and there, like
white rocks in a dark sea, several little piles were left untouched.  To
the owners of these a number of silver pieces were tossed--tossed so
deftly that we might almost say it rained silver on those regions of the
table.  No wizard of legerdemain ever equalled the sleight of hand with
which these men pitched, reckoned, manipulated, and raked in silver
pieces!

The Count's pile remained untouched, and a bright flush suffused his
hitherto pale cheeks while the silver rain was falling on his square,
but to the surprise of Lewis, he did not rake it towards him as did the
others.  He left the increased amount on exactly the same spot, merely
drawing it gently together with his rake.  As he did so the knotted
haggard look returned to his once again bloodless brow and face.  Not
less precise and silent were his companions.  The board again spun
round; the inexorable pea fell; the raking and raining were repeated,
and again the Count's stake lay glittering before him.  His eyes
glittered even more brightly than the silver.  Lewis concluded that he
must have been brought down to desperate poverty, and meant to recover
himself by desperate means, for he left the whole stake again on the
same spot.

This time the pea fell into black.  The colour was symbolic of the
Count's feelings, for next moment the silver heap was raked from before
him, along with other heaps, as if nothing unusual had happened; and, in
truth, nothing had.  Wholesale ruin and robbery was the daily occupation
there!

For a few seconds the Count gazed at the blank space before him with an
expression of stony unbelief; then springing suddenly to his feet, he
spurned his chair from him and rushed from the room.  So quick was the
movement, that he had reached the door and passed out before Lewis could
stop him.

Springing after him with a feeling of great alarm, the youth dashed
across the entrance-hall, but turned in the wrong direction.  Being put
right by a porter, he leaped through the doorway and looked for Antoine,
who, he knew, must have seen the Count pass, but Antoine was not there.

As he quickly questioned one who stood near, he thought he saw a man
running among the adjacent shrubbery.  He could not be sure, the night
being dark, but he promptly ran after him.  On dashing round a turn in
the gravel-walk, he found two men engaged in what appeared to be a
deadly struggle.  Suddenly the place was illumined by a red flash, a
loud report followed, and one of the two fell.

"Ah!  Monsieur," exclaimed Antoine, as Lewis came forward, "aid me here;
he is not hurt, I think."

"Hurt!  Do you mean that he tried to shoot himself?"

"He had not time to try, but I'm quite sure that he meant to," said
Antoine; "so I ran after him and caught his hand.  The pistol exploded
in the struggle."

As the guide spoke, the Count rose slowly.  The star-light was faint,
but it sufficed to show that the stony look of despair was gone, and
that the gentle expression, natural to him, had returned.  He was deadly
pale, and bowed his head as one overwhelmed with shame.

"Oh pardon, Monsieur!" exclaimed poor Antoine, as he thought of the
roughness with which he had been compelled to treat him.  "I did not
mean to throw you."

"You did not throw me, friend.  I tripped and fell," replied the Count,
in a low, husky voice.  "Mr Stoutley," he added, turning to Lewis, "by
what mischance you came here I know not but I trust that you were not--
were not--present.  I mean--do you know the cause of my conduct--this--"

He stopped abruptly.

"My dear sir," said Lewis, in a low, kind voice, at the same time
grasping the Count's hand, and leading him aside, "I was in the rooms; I
saw you there; but believe me when I assure you, that no feeling but
that of sympathy can touch the heart of one who has been involved in the
meshes of the same net."

The Count's manner changed instantly.  He returned the grasp of the
young man, and looked eagerly in his face, as he repeated--

"_Has_ been involved!  How, then, did you escape?"

"I'm not sure that I _have_ escaped," answered Lewis, sadly.

"Not sure!  Oh, young man, _make_ sure.  Give no rest to your soul till
you are quite sure.  It is a dreadful net--terrible!  When once wrapped
tightly round one there is no escape--no escape.  In this it resembles
its sister passion--the love of strong drink."

The Count spoke with such deep pathos, and in tones so utterly hopeless,
that Lewis's ready sympathies were touched, and he would have given
anything to be able to comfort his friend, but never before having been
called upon to act as a comforter, he felt sorely perplexed.

"Call it not a passion," he said.  "The love of gaming, as of drink, is
a disease; and a disease may be cured--has been cured, even when
desperate."

The Count shook his head.

"You speak in ignorance, Mr Stoutley.  You know nothing of the
struggles I have made.  It is impossible."

"With God _all_ things are possible," replied Lewis, quoting, almost to
his own surprise, a text of Scripture.  "But forgive my delay," he
added; "I came here on purpose to look for you.  Your daughter Nita is
ill--not seriously ill, I believe," he said, on observing the Count's
startled look, "but ill enough to warrant your being sent for."

"I know--I know," cried the Count, with a troubled look, as he passed
his hand across his brow.  "I might have expected it.  She cannot
sustain the misery I have brought on her.  Oh! why was I prevented from
freeing her from such a father.  Is she very ill?  Did she send for me?
Did she tell you what I am?"

The excited manner and wild aspect of the gambler, more than the words,
told of a mind almost, if not altogether, unhinged.  Observing this with
some anxiety, Lewis tried to soothe him.  While leading him to an hotel,
he explained the nature of Nita's attack as well as he could, and said
that she had not only refrained from saying anything about her father,
but that she seemed excessively unwilling to reveal the name of the
place to which he had gone, or to send for him.

"No one knows anything unfavourable about Count Horetzki," said Lewis,
in a gentle tone, "save his fellow-sinner, who now assures him of his
sincere regard.  As for Antoine Grennon, he is a wise, and can be a
silent, man.  No brother could be more tender of the feelings of others
than he.  Come, you will consent to be my guest to-night.  You are
unwell; I shall be your amateur physician.  My treatment and a night of
rest will put you all right, and to-morrow, by break of day, we will hie
back to Chamouni over the Tete-Noire."



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

MOUNTAINEERING IN GENERAL.

A week passed away, during which Nita was confined to bed, and the Count
waited on her with the most tender solicitude.  As their meals were sent
to their rooms, it was not necessary for the latter to appear in the
_salle-a-manger_ or the _salon_.  He kept himself carefully out of
sight, and intelligence of the invalid's progress was carried to their
friends by Susan Quick, who was allowed to remain as sick-nurse, and who
rejoiced in filling that office to one so amiable and uncomplaining as
Nita.

Of course, Lewis was almost irresistibly tempted to talk with Susan
about her charge, but he felt the impropriety of such a proceeding, and
refrained.  Not so Gillie White.  That sapient blue spider, sitting in
his wonted chair, resplendent with brass buttons and brazen impudence,
availed himself of every opportunity to perform an operation which he
styled "pumping;" but Susan, although ready enough to converse freely on
things in general, was judicious in regard to things particular.
Whatever might have passed in the sick-room, the pumping only brought up
such facts as that the Count was a splendid nurse as well as a loving
father, and that he and his daughter were tenderly attached to each
other.

"Well, Susan," observed Gillie, with an approving nod, "I'm glad to hear
wot you say, for it's my b'lief that tender attachments is the right
sort o' thing.  I've got one or two myself."

"Indeed!" said Susan, "who for, I wonder?"

"W'y, for one," replied the spider, "I've had a wery tender attachment
to my mother ever since that blessed time w'en I was attached to her
buzzum in the rampagin' hunger of infancy.  Then I've got another
attachment--not quite so old, but wery strong, oh uncommon powerful--for
a young lady named Susan Quick.  D'you happen to know her?"

"Oh, Gillie, you're a sad boy," said Susan.

"Well, I make a pint never to contradict a 'ooman, believin' it to be
dangerous," returned Gillie, "but I can't say that I _feel_ sad.  I'm
raither jolly than otherwise."

A summons from the sick-room cut short the conversation.

During the week in question it had rained a good deal, compelling the
visitors at Chamouni to pass the time in-doors with books, billiards,
draughts, and chess.  Towards the end of the week Lewis met the Count
and discovered that he was absolutely destitute of funds--did not, in
fact possess enough to defray the hotel expenses.

"Mother," said Lewis, during a private audience in her bed-chamber the
same evening, "I want twenty pounds from you."

"Certainly, my boy; but why do you come to me?  You know that Dr
Lawrence has charge of and manages my money.  How I wish there were no
such thing as money, and no need for it!"

Mrs Stoutley finished her remark with her usual languid smile and
pathetic sigh, but if her physician, Dr Tough, had been there, he would
probably have noted that mountain-air had robbed the smile of half its
languor, and the sigh of nearly all its pathos.  There was something
like seriousness, too, in the good lady's eye.  She had been impressed
more than she chose to admit by the sudden death of Le Croix, whom she
had frequently seen, and whose stalwart frame and grave countenance she
had greatly admired.  Besides this, one or two accidents had occurred
since her arrival in the Swiss valley; for there never passes a season
without the occurrence of accidents more or less serious in the Alps.
On one occasion the news had been brought that a young lady, recently
married, whose good looks had been the subject of remark more than once,
was killed by falling rocks before her husband's eyes.  On another
occasion the spirits of the tourists were clouded by the report that a
guide had fallen into a crevasse, and, though not killed, was much
injured.  Mrs Stoutley chanced to meet the rescue-party returning
slowly to the village, with the poor shattered frame of the fine young
fellow on a stretcher.  It is one thing to read of such events in the
newspapers.  It is another and a very different thing to be near or to
witness them--to be in the actual presence of physical and mental agony.
Antoine Grennon, too, had made a favourable impression on Mrs
Stoutley; and when, in passing one day his extremely humble cottage, she
was invited by Antoine's exceedingly pretty wife to enter and partake of
bread and milk largely impregnated with cream, which was handed to her
by Antoine's excessively sweet blue-eyed daughter, the lady who had
hitherto spent her life among the bright ice-pinnacles of society, was
forced to admit to Emma Gray that Dr Tough was right when he said there
were some beautiful and precious stones to be found among the moraines
of social life.

"I know that Lawrence keeps the purse," said Lewis, "but I want your
special permission to take this money, because I intend to give it
away."

"Twenty pounds is a pretty large gift, Lewis," said his mother, raising
her eyebrows.  "Who is it that has touched the springs of your
liberality?  Not the family of poor Le Croix?"

"No; Le Croix happily leaves no family.  He was an unmarried man.  I
must not tell you, just yet, mother.  Trust me, it shall be well
bestowed; besides, I ask it as a loan.  It shall be refunded."

"Don't talk of refunding money to your mother, foolish boy.  Go; you may
have it."

Lewis kissed his mother's cheek and thanked her.  He quickly found the
Count, but experienced considerable difficulty in persuading him to
accept the money.  However, by delicacy of management and by assuming,
as a matter of course, that it was a loan, to be repaid when convenient,
he prevailed.  The Count made an entry of the loan in his notebook, with
Lewis's London address, and they parted with a kindly shake of the hand,
little imagining that they had seen each other on earth for the last
time.

On the Monday following, a superb day opened on the vale of Chamouni,
such a day as, through the medium of sight and scent, is calculated to
gladden the heart of man and beast.  That the beasts enjoyed it was
manifest from the pleasant sounds that they sent, gushing, like a hymn
of thanksgiving--and who shall say it was not!--into the bright blue
sky.

Birds carolled on the shrubs and in the air; cats ventured abroad with
hair erect and backs curved, to exchange greetings with each other in
wary defiance of dogs; kittens sprawled in the sunshine, and made
frantic efforts to achieve the impossible feat of catching their own
shadows, varying the pastime with more successful, though arduous,
attempts at their own tails; dogs bounded and danced, chiefly on their
hind legs, round their loved companion man (including woman); juvenile
dogs chased, tumbled over, barked at, and gnawed each other with amiable
fury, wagging their various tails with a vigour that suggested a desire
to shake them off; tourist men and boys moved about with a decision that
indicated the having of particular business on hand; tourist women and
girls were busily engaged with baskets and botanical boxes, or flitted
hither and thither in climbing costume with obtrusive alpenstocks, as
though a general attack on Mont Blanc and all his satellite aiguilles
were meditated.

Among these were our friends the Professor, Captain Wopper, Emma Gray,
Slingsby, Lewis, and Lawrence, under the guidance of Antoine Grennon.

Strange to say they were all a little dull, notwithstanding the beauty
of the weather, and the pleasant anticipation of a day on the hills--not
a hard, toilsome day, with some awful Alpine summit as its aim, but what
Lewis termed a jolly day, a picnicky day, to be extended into night, and
to include any place, or to be cut short or extended according to whim.

The Professor was dull, because, having to leave, this was to be his
last excursion; Captain Wopper was dull, because his cherished
matrimonial hopes were being gradually dissipated.  He could not
perceive that Lawrence was falling in love with Emma, or Emma with
Lawrence.  The utmost exertion of sly diplomacy of which he was capable,
short of straightforward advice, had failed to accomplish anything
towards the desirable end.  Emma was dull, because her friend Nita,
although recovering, was still far from well.  Slingsby was dull for the
same reason, and also because he felt his passion to be hopeless.  Lewis
was dull because he knew Nita's circumstances to be so very sad; and
Lawrence was dull because--well, we are not quite sure why _he_ was
dull.  He was rather a self-contained fellow, and couldn't be easily
understood.  Of the whole party, Antoine alone was _not_ dull.  Nothing
could put him in that condition, but, seeing that the others were so, he
was grave, quiet attentive.

Some of the excursionists had left at a much earlier hour.  Four
strapping youths, with guides, had set out for the summit of Mont Blanc;
a mingled party of ladies, gentlemen, guides, and mules, were on the
point of starting to visit the Mer de Glace; a delicate student, unable
for long excursions, was preparing to visit with his sister, the Glacier
des Bossons.  Others were going, or had gone, to the source of the
Arveiron, and to the Brevent, while the British peer, having previously
been conducted by a new and needlessly difficult path to the top of
Monte Rosa, was led off by his persecutor to attempt, by an impossible
route, to scale the Matterhorn--to reach the main-truck, as Captain
Wopper put it, by going down the stern-post along the keel, over the
bobstay, up the flyin' jib, across the foretopmast-stay, and up the
maintop-gallant halyards.  This at least was Lewis Stoutley's report of
the Captain's remark.  We cannot answer for its correctness.

But nothing can withstand the sweet influences of fresh mountain-air and
sunshine.  In a short time "dull care" was put to flight and when our
party--Emma being on a mule--reached the neighbouring heights, past and
future were largely forgotten in the enjoyment of the present.

Besides being sunny and bright, the day was rather cool, so that, after
dismissing the mule, and taking to the glaciers and ice-slope, the air
was found to be eminently suitable for walking.

"It's a bad look-out," murmured Captain Wopper, when he observed that
Dr Lawrence turned deliberately to converse with the Professor, leaving
Lewis to assist Emma to alight, even although he, the Captain, had, by
means of laboured contrivance and vast sagacity, brought the Doctor and
the mule into close juxtaposition at the right time.  However, the
Captain's temperament was sanguine.  He soon forgot his troubles in
observing the curious position assumed by Slingsby on the first steep
slope of rocky ground they had to descend, for descents as well as
ascents were frequent at first.

The artist walked on all-fours, but with his back to the hill instead of
his face, his feet thus being in advance.

"What sort of an outside-in fashion is that, Slingsby?" asked the
Captain, when they had reached the bottom.

"It's a way I have of relieving my knees," said Slingsby; "try it."

"Thank 'ee; no," returned the Captain.  "It don't suit my pecooliar
build; it would throw too much of my weight amidships."

"You've no idea," said Slingsby, "what a comfort it is to a man whose
knees suffer in descending.  I'd rather go up twenty mountains than
descend one.  This plan answers only on steep places, and is but a
temporary relief.  Still that is something at the end of a long day."

The artist exemplified his plan at the next slope.  The Captain tried
it, but, as he expressed it, broke in two at the waist and rolled down
the slope, to the unspeakable delight of his friends.

"I fear you will find this rather severe?" said the Professor to Emma,
during a pause in a steep ascent.

"Oh no; I am remarkably strong," replied Emma, smiling.  "I was in
Switzerland two years ago, and am quite accustomed to mountaineering."

"Yes," remarked Lawrence, "and Miss Gray on that occasion, I am told,
ascended to the top of the Dent du Midi, which you know is between ten
and eleven thousand feet high; and she also, during the same season,
walked from Champery to Sixt which is a good day's journey, so we need
have no anxiety on her account."

Although the Doctor smiled as he spoke, he also glanced at Emma with a
look of admiration.  Captain Wopper noted the glance and was comforted.
At luncheon, however, the Doctor seated himself so that the Professor's
bulky person came between him and Emma.  The Captain noted that also,
and was depressed.  What between elation and depression, mingled with
fatigue and victuals, the Captain ultimately became recklessly jovial.

"What are yonder curious things?" asked Emma, pointing to so me gigantic
objects which looked at a distance like rude pillars carved by man.

"These," said the Professor, "are Nature's handiwork.  You will observe
that on each pillar rests a rugged capital.  The capital is the cause of
the pillar.  It is a hard rock which originally rested on a softer bed
of friable stone.  The weather has worn away the soft bed, except where
it has been protected by the hard stone, and thus a natural pillar has
arisen--just like the ice-pillars, which are protected from the sun in
the same way; only the latter are more evanescent."

Further on, the Professor drew the attention of his friends to the
beautiful blue colour of the holes which their alpenstocks made in the
snow.  "Once," said he, "while walking on the heights of Monte Rosa, I
observed this effect with great interest, and, while engaged in the
investigation of the cause, got a surprise which was not altogether
agreeable.  Some of the paths there are on very narrow ridges, and the
snow on these ridges often overhangs them.  I chanced to be walking in
advance of my guide at the time to which I refer, and amused myself as I
went along by driving my alpenstock deep into the snow, when suddenly,
to my amazement I sent the end of the staff right through the snow, and,
on withdrawing it, looked down into space!  I had actually walked over
the ridge altogether, and was standing above an abyss some thousands of
feet deep!"

"Horrible!" exclaimed Emma.  "You jumped off pretty quickly, I dare
say."

"Nay, I walked off with extreme caution; but I confess to having felt a
sort of cold shudder with which my frame had not been acquainted
previously."

While they were thus conversing, a cloud passed overhead and sent down a
slight shower of snow.  To most of the party this was a matter of
indifference, but the man of science soon changed their feelings by
drawing attention to the form of the flakes.  He carried a magnifying
glass with him, which enabled him to show their wonders more distinctly.
It was like a shower of frozen flowers of the most delicate and
exquisite kind.  Each flake was a flower with six leaves.  Some of the
leaves threw out lateral spines or points, like ferns, some were
rounded, others arrowy, reticulated, and serrated; but, although varied
in many respects, there was no variation in the number of leaves.

"What amazin' beauty in a snowflake," exclaimed the Captain, "many a one
I've seen without knowin' how splendid it was."

"The works of God are indeed wonderful," said the Professor, "but they
must be `sought out'--examined with care--to be fully understood and
appreciated."

"Yet there are certain philosophers," observed Lewis, "who hold that the
evidence of design here and elsewhere does not at all prove the
existence of God.  They say that the crystals of these snow-flakes are
drawn together and arrange themselves by means of natural forces."

"They say truly," replied the Professor, "but they seem to me to stop
short in their reasoning.  They appear to ignore the fact that this
elemental original force of which they speak must have had a Creator.
However far they may go back into mysterious and incomprehensible
elements, which they choose to call `blind forces,' they do not escape
the fact that matter cannot have created itself; that behind their
utmost conceptions there must still be One non-created, eternal, living
Being who created all, who upholds all, and whom we call God."

Descending again from the heights in order to cross a valley and gain
the opposite mountain, our ramblers quitted the glacier, and, about
noon, found themselves close to a lovely pine-clad knoll, the shaded
slopes of which commanded an unusually fine view of rocky cliff and
fringing wood, with a background of glacier and snow-flecked pinnacles.

Halting, accidentally in a row, before this spot they looked at it with
interest.  Suddenly the Professor stepped in front of the others, and,
pointing to the knoll, said, with twinkling eyes--

"What does it suggest?  Come, dux (to Slingsby, who happened to stand at
the head of the line), tell me, sir, what does it suggest?"

"_I_ know, sir!" exclaimed the Captain, who stood at the dunce's
extremity of the line, holding out his fist with true schoolboy
eagerness.

"It suggests," said the artist, rolling his eyes, "`a thing of beauty;'
and--"

"Next!" interrupted the Professor, pointing to Lawrence.

"_I_ know, sir," shouted the Captain.

"Hold your tongue, sir!"

"Ay, ay, sir."

"It is suggestive," said Lawrence, "of an oasis in the desert."

"Very poor, sir," said the Professor, severely.  "Next."

"It suggests a cool shade on a hot day," said Emma.

"Better, but not right.  Next."

"Please, sir, I'd rather not answer," said Lewis, putting his forefinger
in his mouth.

"You must, sir."

"_I_ know, sir," interrupted Captain Wopper, shaking his fist eagerly.

"Silence, you booby!--Well, boy, what does it suggest to _you_?"

"Please, sir," answered Lewis, "it suggests the mole on your
professorial cheek."

"Sir," cried the Professor, sternly, "remind me to give you a severe
caning to-night."

"Yes, sir."

"Well, booby, what have _you_ got to say to it?"

"Wittles!" shouted the Captain.

"Right," cried the Professor, "only it would have been better expressed
had you said--Luncheon.  Go up, sir; put yourself at the head of the
class, and lead it to a scene of glorious festivity."

Thus instructed, the Captain put himself at the head of the line.

"Now, then, Captain," said Lewis, "let's have a true-blue nautical word
of command--hoist yer main tops'l sky-scrapers abaft the cleat o' the
spanker boom, heave the main deck overboard and let go the painter--or
something o' that sort."

"Hold on to the painter, you mean," said Slingsby.

"You're both wrong," cried the Captain, "my orders are those of the
immortal Nelson--`Close action, my lads--England expects every man to'--
hooray!"

With a wild cheer, and waving his hat, the seaman rushed up the side of
the knoll, followed by his obedient and willing crew.

In order to render the feast more complete, several members of the party
had brought small private supplies to supplement the cold mutton, ham,
bread, and light claret which Antoine and two porters had carried in
their knapsacks.  Captain Wopper had brought a supply of variously
coloured abominations known in England by the name of comfits, in
Scotland as sweeties.  These, mixed with snow and water, he styled
"iced-lemonade."  Emma tried the mixture and declared it excellent,
which caused someone to remark that the expression of her face
contradicted her tongue.  Lewis produced a small flask full of a rich
dark port-winey liquid, which he said he had brought because it had
formerly been one of the most delightful beverages of his childish
years.  It was tasted with interest and rejected with horror, being
liquorice water!  Emma produced a bottle of milk, in the consumption of
which she was ably assisted by the Professor, who declared that his
natural spirits required no artificial stimulants.  The Professor
himself had not been forgetful of the general good.  He had brought with
him a complex copper implement, which his friends had supposed was a new
species of theodolite, but which turned out to be a scientific
coffee-pot, in the development of which and its purposes, as the man of
science carefully explained, there was called into play some of the
principles involved in the sciences of hydraulics and pneumatics, to
which list Lewis added, in an under-tone, those of aquatics, ecstatics,
and rheumatics.  The machine was perfect, but the Professor's natural
turn for practical mechanics not being equal to his knowledge of other
branches of science, he failed properly to adjust a screw.  This
resulted in an explosion of the pot which blew its lid, as Lewis
expressed it, into the north of Italy, and its contents into the fire.
A second effort, using the remains of the scientific pot as an ordinary
kettle, was more successful.

"You see, my friends," said the Professor, apologetically, "it is one of
the prerogatives of science that her progress cannot be hindered.  Her
resources and appliances are inexhaustible.  When one style of
experiment fails we turn at once to another and obtain our result, as I
now prove to you by handing this cup of coffee to Miss Gray.  You had
better not sweeten it, Mademoiselle.  It is quite unnecessary to make
the very trite observation that in your case no sugar is required.  Yes,
the progress of science is slow, but it is sure.  Everything must fall
before it in time."

"Ah, just so--`one down, another come on,'--that's your motto, ain't
it?" said Captain Wopper, who invariably, during the meal, delivered his
remarks from a cavern filled with a compound of mutton, bread, and ham.
"But I say, Professor, are you spliced?"

"Spliced?" echoed the man of science.

"Ay; married, I mean."

"Yes, I am wed," he replied, with enthusiasm.  "I have a beautiful wife
in Russia, and she is good as beautiful."

"In Roosia--eh!  Well, it's a longish way off, but I'd advise you, as a
friend, not to let her know that you pay such wallopin' compliments to
young English ladies.  It might disagree with her, d'ye see?"

At this point the conversation and festivities were interrupted by
Slingsby, who, having gone off to sketch, had seated himself on a mound
within sight of his friends, in a position so doubled up and ridiculous
as to call forth the remark from Lawrence, that few traits of character
were more admirable and interesting than those which illustrated the
utter disregard of personal appearance in true and enthusiastic devotees
of art.  To which Captain Wopper added that "he was a rum lot an' no
mistake."

The devotee was seen by the revellers to start once or twice and clap
his hands to various pockets, as though he had forgotten his
india-rubber or pen-knife.  Then he was observed to drop his
sketching-book and hastily slap all his pockets, as if he had forgotten
fifty pieces of india-rubber and innumerable pen-knives.  Finally, he
sprang up and slapped himself all over wildly, yelling at the same time
as if he had been a maniac.

He had inadvertently selected an ant-hill as his seat, that was all; but
that was sufficient to check his devotion to art, and necessitate his
retirement to a rocky defile, where he devoted himself to the study of
"the nude" in his own person, and whence he returned looking imbecile
and hot.

Such _contretemps_, however, do not materially affect the health or
spirits of the young and strong.  Ere long Slingsby was following his
companions with his wonted enthusiasm and devotee-like admiration of
Nature in all her varying aspects.

His enthusiasm was, however, diverted from the study of vegetable and
mineral, if we may so put it, to that of animal nature, for one of the
porters, who had a tendency to go poking his staff into holes and
crannies of the rocks, suddenly touched a marmot.  He dropped his pack
and began at once to dig up earth and stones as fast as possible,
assisted by his comrades; but the little creature was too sagacious for
them.  They came to its bed at last, and found that, while they had been
busy at one end of the hole, the marmot had quietly walked out at the
other, and made off.

Having pushed over the valley, and once more ascended to the regions of
perpetual ice, the ramblers determined to "attack"--as the phrase goes
among Alpine climbers--a neighbouring summit.  It was not a very high
one, and Emma declared that she was not only quite able, but very
anxious, to attempt it.  The attempt was, therefore, made, and, after a
couple of hours of pretty laborious work, accomplished.  They found
themselves on a pinnacle which overlooked a large portion of the
ice-world around Mont Blanc.  While standing there, one or two
avalanches were observed, and the Professor pointed out that avalanches
were not all of one character.  Some, he said, were composed of rock,
mud, and water; others entirely of ice; many of them were composed of
these elements mixed, and others were entirely of snow.

"True, Monsieur," observed the guide, "and the last kind is sometimes
very fatal.  There was one from which my wife and child had a narrow
escape.  They were visiting at the time a near relation who dwelt in a
village in a valley not far distant from this spot.  Behind the village
there is a steep slope covered with pines; behind that the mountain
rises still more steeply.  The little forest stands between that village
and destruction.  But for it, avalanches would soon sweep the village
away; but wood is not always a sure protector.  Sometimes, when frost
renders the snow crisp and dry, the trees fail to check its descent.  It
was so on the last night of my wife's visit.  A brother was about to set
off with her from the door of our relative's house, when the snow began
to descend through the trees like water.  It was like dry flour.  There
was not much noise, merely a hissing sound, but it came down in a
deluge, filled all the houses, and suffocated nearly all the people in
them.  My brother-in-law saw it in time.  He put his horse to full
speed, and brought my dear wife and child away in safety, but his own
father, mother, and sister were lost.  We tried to reach their house the
next day, but could advance through the soft snow only by taking two
planks with us, and placing one before the other as we went along."

Soon after the ramblers had begun their return journey, they came to a
slope which they thought might be descended by sliding or "glissading."
It was the first time that Emma had seen such work, and she felt much
inclined to try it, but was dissuaded by Antoine, who led her round by
an easier way.  At the foot of the slope they came to a couloir, or
sloping gorge, so steep that snow could not lie on it.  Its surface was,
therefore, hard ice.  Although passable, Antoine deemed it prudent not
to cross, the more so that he observed some ominous obelisks of ice
impending at the top of the slope.

"Why not cross and let Emma see how we manage by cutting steps in the
ice?" said Lewis.

He received a conclusive though unexpected answer from one of the
obelisks above-mentioned, which fell at the moment, broke into
fragments, and swept the couloir from top to bottom with incredible
violence.

It is wonderful what a deal of experience is required to make foolish
people wise!  Winthin the next ten minutes this warning was forgotten,
and Lewis led his cousin into a danger which almost cost the lives of
three of the party.



CHAPTER TWENTY.

RECORDS A SERIOUS EVENT.

Our ramblers had now reached a place where a great expanse of rock
surface was exposed, and the temptation to dilate on the action of
glaciers proved too strong for the Professor.  He therefore led those
who were willing to follow to a suitable spot and pointed out the
striations, flutings, and polishings of the granite, which showed that
in former ages the glacier had passed there, although at that time it
was far below in the valley.  The polishings, he said, were caused by
the ice slowly grinding over the surface of the rock, and the flutings
and groovings were caused, not by the ice itself, but by stones which
were embedded in its under surface, and which cut the solid granite as
if with chisels.

Meanwhile, Lewis and Emma, having taken the opportunity to search for
plants, had wandered on a little in advance, and had come to another
steep slope, which was, however, covered with snow at its upper part.
Below, where it became steeper, there was no snow, only pure ice, which
extended downwards to an immense distance, broken only here and there by
a few rocks that cropped through its surface.  It terminated in a rocky
gorge, which was strewn thickly with _debris_ from above.

"Let us cross this," said Emma, with a look of glee, for she possessed
an adventurous spirit.

"We'd better not," answered Lewis.  "The slope is very steep."

"True, O cautious cousin," retorted Emma, with a laugh, "but it is
covered here with snow that is soft and probably knee-deep.  Go on it,
sir, and try."

Thus commanded, Lewis obeyed, and found that the snow was indeed
knee-deep, and that there was no possibility of their either slipping or
falling, unless one were unusually careless, and even in that case the
soft snow would have checked anything like an involuntary glissade.

"Let me go first," said Lewis.

"Nay, I will go first," returned Emma, "you will follow and pick me up
if I should fall."

So saying, she stepped lightly into the snow and advanced, while her
companion stood looking at her with a half-amused, half-anxious smile.

She had not made six steps, and Lewis was on the point of following,
when he observed that there was a crack across the snow just above where
he stood, and the whole mass began to slide.  For a moment he was
transfixed with horror.  The next he had sprung to his cousin's side and
seized her arm, shouting--

"Emma!  Emma! come back.  Quick!  It moves."  But poor Emma could not
obey.  She would as soon have expected the mountain itself to give way
as the huge mass of snow on which she stood.  At first its motion was
slow, and Lewis struggled wildly to extricate her, but in vain, for the
snow avalanche gathered speed as it advanced, and in its motion not only
sank them to their waists, but turned them helplessly round, thus
placing Lewis farthest from the firm land.  He shouted now with all the
power of his lungs for help, while Emma screamed from terror.

Lawrence chanced to be nearest to them.  He saw at a glance what had
occurred, and dashed down the hill-side at headlong speed.  A wave was
driving in front of the couple, who were now embedded nearly to their
armpits, while streams of snow were hissing all round them, and the mass
was beginning to rush.  One look sufficed to show Lawrence that rescue
from the side was impossible, but, with that swift power of perception
which is aroused in some natures by the urgent call to act, he observed
that some yards lower down--near the place where the ice-slope began--
there was a rock near to the side in the track of the avalanche, which
it divided.  Leaping down to this, he sprang into the sliding flood a
little above it, and, with a powerful effort, caught the rock and drew
himself upon it.  Next moment Emma was borne past out of reach of his
hand.  Lawrence rushed deep into the snow and held out his alpenstock.
Emma caught it.  He felt himself turned irresistibly round, and a sick
feeling of despair chilled his life-blood.  At the same moment a
powerful hand grasped his collar.

"Hold on, Monsieur," cried Antoine, in a deep, yet encouraging voice,
"I've got you safe."

As he spoke, Emma shrieked, "I cannot hold on!"

No wonder!  She had not only to resist the rushing snow, but to sustain
the drag of Lewis, who, as we have said, had been carried beyond his
cousin, and whose only chance now lay in his retaining hold of her arm.
Ere the words had quite left her lips, Lewis was seen deliberately to
let go his hold and throw up his arm--it seemed as if waving it.

Next moment Emma was dragged on the rock, where she and her companions
stood gazing in horror as their companion was swept upon the ice-slope
and carried down headlong.  The snow was by this time whirled onward in
a sort of mist or spray, in the midst of which Lewis was seen to strike
a rock with his shoulder and swing violently round, while parts of his
clothing were plainly rent from his body, but the painful sight did not
last long.  A few seconds more and he was hurled, apparently a lifeless
form, among the _debris_ and rocks far below.

Death, in such a case, might have been expected to be instantaneous, but
the very element that caused the poor youth's fall, helped to save him.
During the struggle for life while clinging to Emma's arm, the check,
brief though it was, sufficed to allow most of the snow to pass down
before him, so that he finally fell on a comparatively soft bed; but it
was clear that he had been terribly injured, and, what made matters
worse, he had fallen into a deep gorge surrounded by precipices, which
seemed to some of the party to render it quite impossible to reach him.

"What is to be done?" exclaimed Lawrence, with intense anxiety.  "He
must be got at immediately.  Delay of treatment in his case, even for a
short time, may prove fatal."

"I know it, Monsieur," said Antoine, who had been quietly but quickly
uncoiling his rope.  "One of the porters and I will descend by the
precipices.  They are too steep for any but well-accustomed hands and
feet.  You, Monsieur, understand pretty well the use of the axe and
rope.  Cut your way down the ice-slope with Jacques.  He is a steady
man, and may be trusted.  Run, Rollo (to the third porter), and fetch
aid from Gaspard's chalet.  It is the nearest.  I need not say make
haste."

These orders were delivered in a low, rapid voice.  The men proceeded at
once to obey them.  At the same time Antoine and his comrade swung
themselves down the cliffs, and were instantly lost to view.  The young
porter, whom he had named Rollo, was already going down the mountain at
a smart run, and Jacques was on the ice-slope wielding his axe with
ceaseless energy and effect, while Lawrence held the rope to which he
was attached, and descended the rude and giddy staircase behind him.

It was a terrible time for those who were left above in a state of
inaction and deep anxiety, but there was no help for it.  They had to
content themselves with watching the rescue, and praying for success.

It was not long before the guide and porter reached the spot where poor
Lewis lay.  He was not insensible, but a deadly pallor overspread his
scarred face, and the position in which he lay betokened utter
helplessness.  He could scarcely speak, but whispered that he fancied he
was not so much hurt as might have been expected, and expressed wonder
at their having been so long in reaching him.

The guide spoke to him with the tenderness of a woman.  He knew well how
severely the poor youth was injured, and handled him very delicately
while making such preliminary arrangements as were in his power.  A few
drops of brandy and water were administered, the poor limbs were
arranged in a position of greater comfort, and the torn rags of clothing
wrapped round him.

Soon they were joined by Lawrence, who merely whispered a few kind
words, and proceeded at once to examine him.  His chief anxiety was as
to the amount of skin that had been destroyed.  The examination revealed
a terrible and bloody spectacle; over which we will draw a veil; yet
there was reason to believe that the amount of skin torn off and abraded
was not sufficient to cause death.  Lawrence was comforted also by
finding that no bones appeared to have been broken.

Nothing could be done in the way of attempting a removal until the
return of Rollo with a litter.  Fortunately this was not long of being
brought, for the young porter was active and willing, and Gaspard had
promptly accompanied him with men and materials for the rescue.

But it was a sad, slow, and painful process, to bear the poor youth's
frame from that savage gorge, and convey him on a litter, carried by
four men, over glaciers and down rugged mountain sides, even although
done by tender hearts and strong hands.  Everything that ingenuity could
contrive was done to relieve the sufferer, and when at last, after weary
hours, they reached the high-road of the valley, a carriage was found
waiting.  A messenger had been sent in advance to fetch it, and Mrs
Stoutley was in it.

There was something quite touching in the quiet, firm air of
self-restraint with which she met the procession, and afterwards tended
her poor boy; it was so unlike her old character!

The sun was setting in a field of golden glory when they carried Lewis
into the hotel at Chamouni, and laid him on his bed--a mere wreck of his
former self.



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

DOWN IN THE MORAINE AT LAST.

As the reader may suppose, the terrible accident to Lewis Stoutley put
an end to further merry-making among our friends at Chamouni.  Mrs
Stoutley would have left for England at once if that had been possible,
but Lewis could not be moved for several weeks.  At first indeed, fears
were entertained for his life, but his constitution being good, and not
having been damaged by dissipation, he rallied sooner than might have
been expected, although it was evident from the beginning that complete
restoration could not be looked for until many months, perhaps years,
had passed away.

We need scarcely say, that the rapid improvement of his health was
largely due to the tender watchful care of his mother.

Since visiting Switzerland, that excellent lady's spirit had undergone a
considerable change.  Without going minutely into particulars, we may
say that the startling events which had occurred had been made the means
of opening her spiritual eyes.  It had occurred to her--she scarce knew
how or why--that her Creator had a claim on her for more consideration
than she had been in the habit, heretofore, of testifying by a few
formalities on Sundays; that there must be some higher end and aim in
life than the mere obtaining and maintaining of health, and the pursuit
of pleasure; and that as there was a Saviour, whom she professed on
Sundays to follow, there must be something real from which she had to be
saved, as well as something real that had to be done.  Sin, she knew, of
course, was the evil from which everybody had to be saved; but, being a
good-natured and easy-going woman, she really did not feel much troubled
by sin.  Little weaknesses she had, no doubt, but not half so many as
other people she knew of.  As to anything seriously worthy the name of
sin, she did not believe she had any at all.  It had never, until now,
occurred to her that the treating of her best Friend, during a lifetime,
with cool and systematic indifference, or with mere protestations, on
Sundays, of adoration, was probably as great a sin as she could commit.

Her thoughts on these points she did not at first mention to any one,
but she received great help and enlightenment, as well as comfort, from
the quiet sensible talk of Dr Lawrence, as he sat day after day, and
hour after hour, at the bedside of his friend, endeavouring to cheer his
spirits as well as to relieve his physical pain--for Lawrence was well
fitted to do both.

He was not by any means what is styled a sermoniser.  He made no
apparent effort to turn conversation into religious channels.  Indeed we
believe that when men talk with the unrestrained freedom of true
friendship, conversation needs no directing.  It will naturally flow
along all channels, and into all the zigzags and crevices of human
thought--religion included.  Lewis was in great pain and serious danger.
Lawrence was a man full of the Holy Spirit and love to Jesus.  Out of
the fullness of his heart his mouth spoke when his friend appeared to
desire such converse; but he never bored him with _any_ subject--for it
is possible to be a profane, as well as a religious, bore!

As soon as Lewis could turn his mind to anything, after his being
brought back to the hotel, he asked earnestly after Nita Horetzki.

"She has left," said Mrs Stoutley.

"Left!  D'you mean gone from Chamouni, mother?" exclaimed Lewis, with a
start and a look of anxiety which he did not care to conceal.

"Yes, they went yesterday.  Nita had recovered sufficiently to travel,
and the medical man who has been attending her urged her removal without
delay.  She and her father seemed both very sorry to leave us, and left
kind messages for you.  The Count wanted much to see you, but we would
not allow it."

"Kind messages for me," repeated Lewis, in a tone of bitterness, "what
sort of messages?"

"Well, really, I cannot exactly remember," returned Mrs Stoutley, with
a slight smile, "the kind of messages that amiable people might be
expected to leave in the circumstances, you know--regret that they
should have to leave us in such a sad condition, and sincere hope that
you might soon recover, etcetera.  Yes, by the way, Nita also, just at
parting, expressed a hope--an earnest hope--that we might meet again.
Poor dear thing, she is an extremely affectionate girl, and quite broke
down when saying good-bye."

"D'you know where they have gone to, mother?"

"No.  They mean to move about from place to place, I believe."

"Nita said nothing about writing to you, did she?"

"Did they leave any address--a _poste restante_--anywhere, or any clew
whatever as to their whereabouts?"

"None whatever."

So then, during the weary days of suffering that he knew full well lay
before him, poor Lewis had no consolatory thought in regard to Nita save
in her expressed "earnest hope" that they might meet again.  It was not
much, but it was better than nothing.  Being an ingenious as well as
daring architect, Lewis built amazing structures on that slight
foundation--structures which charmed his mental eyes to look upon, and
which, we verily believe, tended to facilitate his recovery--so potent
is the power of true love!

"Captain Wopper," said Mrs Stoutley one morning, towards the end of
their stay in Switzerland, Lewis having been pronounced sufficiently
restored to travel homeward by easy stages, "I have sent for you to ask
you to do me a favour--to give me your advice--your--"

Here, to the Captain's amazement, not to say consternation, Mrs
Stoutley's voice trembled, and she burst into tears.  If she had
suddenly caught him by the nose, pulled his rugged face down and kissed
it, he could not have been more taken aback.

"My dear madam," he stammered, sitting down inadvertently on Mrs
Stoutley's bonnet--for it was to the good lady's private dressing-room
that he had been summoned by Gillie White--"hold on! don't now, please!
What ever have I done to--"

"You've done nothing, my dear Captain," said Mrs Stoutley, endeavouring
to check her tears.  "There, I'm very foolish, but I can't help it.
Indeed I can't."

In proof of the truth of this assertion she broke down again, and the
Captain, moving uneasily on his chair, ground the bonnet almost to
powder--it was a straw one.

"You have been a kind friend, Captain Wopper," said Mrs Stoutley,
drying her eyes, "a very kind friend."

"I'm glad you think so, ma'am; I've meant to be--anyhow."

"You have, you have," cried Mrs Stoutley, earnestly, as she looked
through her tears into the seaman's rugged countenance, "and that is my
reason for venturing to ask you now to trouble yourself with--with--"

There was an alarming symptom here of a recurrence of "squally weather,"
which caused the Captain to give the bonnet an "extra turn," but she
recovered herself and went on--

"With my affairs.  I would not have thought of troubling you, but with
poor Lewie so ill, and Dr Lawrence being so young, and probably
inexperienced in the ways of life, and Emma so innocent and helpless,
and--in short I'm--hee!--that is to say--ho dear!  I _am_ so silly, but
I can't--indeed I can't--hoo-o-o!"

It blew a regular gale now, and a very rain of straw _debris_ fell
through the cane-bottomed chair on which the Captain sat, as he vainly
essayed to sooth his friend by earnest, pathetic, and even tender
adjurations to "clap a stopper upon that," to "hold hard," to "belay",
to "shut down the dead-lights of her peepers," and such-like expressive
phrases.

At length, amid many sobs, the poor lady revealed the overwhelming fact
that she was a beggar; that she had actually come down to her last
franc; that her man of business had flatly declined to advance her
another sovereign, informing her that the Gorong mine had declared "no
dividend;" that the wreck of her shattered fortune had been swallowed up
by the expenses of their ill-advised trip to Switzerland, and that she
had not even funds enough to pay their travelling expenses home; in
short that she was a miserable boulder, at the lowest level of the
terminal moraine!

To all this Captain Wopper listened in perfect silence, with a blank
expression on his face that revealed nothing of the state of feeling
within.

"Oh!  Captain Wopper," exclaimed the poor lady anxiously, "surely--
surely _you_ won't forsake me!  I know that I have no claim on you
beyond friendship, but you have always given us to understand that you
were well off, and I merely wish to _borrow_ a small sum.  Just enough,
and no more.  Perhaps I may not be able to repay you just immediately,
but I hope soon; and even if it came to the worst, there is the
furniture in Euston Square, and the carriage and horses."

Poor Mrs Stoutley!  She was not aware that her man of business had
already had these resources appraised, and that they no more belonged to
her at that moment than if they had been part of the personal estate of
the celebrated man in the moon.

Still the Captain gazed at her in stolid silence.

"Even my personal wardrobe," proceeded Mrs Stoutley, beginning again to
weep, "I will gladly dis--"

"Avast!  Madam," cried the Captain, suddenly, thrusting his right hand
into his breeches-pocket, and endeavouring to drag something therefrom
with a series of wrenches that would have been terribly trying to the
bonnet, had its ruin not been already complete, "don't talk to me of
repayment.  Ain't I your--your--husband's brother's buzzum friend--
Willum's old chum an' messmate?  See here."

He jerked the chair (without rising) close to a table which stood at his
elbow, and placed thereon a large canvas bag, much soiled, and tied
round the neck with a piece of rope-yarn, which smelt of tar even at a
distance.  This was the Captain's purse.  He carried it always in his
right trouser-pocket, and it contained his gold.  As for such trifling
metal as silver, he carried that loose, mixed with coppers, bits of
tobacco, broken pipes, and a clasp-knife, in the other pocket.  He was
very fond of his purse.  In California he had been wont to carry nuggets
in it, that simple species of exchange being the chief currency of the
country at the time he was there.  Some of the Californian _debris_ had
stuck to it when he had filled it, at a place of exchange in London,
with Napoleons.  Emptying its glittering contents upon the table, he
spread it out.

"There, madam," he said, with a hearty smile, "you're welcome to all
I've got about me just at this moment, and you shall have more when
that's done.  Don't say `not so much,' cause it ain't much, fifty pound,
more or less, barrin' the nuggets, which I'll keep, as I dessay they
would only worry you, and there's plenty more shot in the locker where
that come from; an' don't talk about payin' back or thankin' me.  You've
no occasion to thank me.  It's only a loan, an' I'll hold Willum, your
brother-in-law, responsible.  You wouldn't decline to take it from
Willum, would you?"

"Indeed no; William Stout has always been so kind to us--kinder than I
have deserved."

"Well, then, I'll write to Willum.  I'll say to him, `Willum, my boy,
here's your brother's widdy bin caught in a squall, had her sails blown
to ribbons, bin throw'd on her beam-ends, and every stick torn out of
her.  You've got more cash, Willum, than you knows what to do with, so,
hand over, send me a power of attorney (is that the thing?) or an
affydavy--whatever lawyer's dockiments is required--an' I'll stand by
and do the needful.'  An' Willum 'll write back, with that power an'
brevity for which he is celebrated,--`Wopper, my lad, all right; fire
away.  Anything short o' ten thousand, more or less.  Do yer w'ust.
Yours to command,

"`Willum.'"

There was no resisting such arguments.  Mrs Stoutley smiled through her
tears as she accepted the money.  Captain Wopper rose, crammed the empty
canvas bag into his pocket, and hastily retired, with portions of the
bonnet attached to him.

"Susan," said Mrs Stoutley, on the maid answering her summons, "we
shall start for London tomorrow, or the day after, so, pray, set about
packing up without delay."

"Very well, ma'am," replied Susan, whose eyes were riveted with an
expression of surprised curiosity on the cane-bottomed chair.

"It is my bonnet Susan," said the lady, looking in the same direction
with a sad smile.  "Captain Wopper sat down on it by mistake.  You had
better remove it."

To remove it was a feat which even Susan, with all her ready wit and
neatness of hand, could not have accomplished without the aid of brush
and shovel.  She, therefore, carried it off chair and all, to the
regions below, where she and Gillie went into convulsions over it.

"Oh!  Susan," exclaimed the blue spider, "wot would I not have given to
have seed him a-doin' of it!  Only think!  The ribbons, flowers, and
straw in one uniwarsal mush!  _Wot_ a grindin' there must ave bin!  I
heer'd the Purfesser the other day talkin' of wot he calls
glacier-haction--how they flutes the rocks an' grinds in a most musical
way over the boulders with crushin' wiolence; but wot's glacier haction
to _that_?"

Susan admitted that it was nothing; and they both returned at intervals
in the packing, during the remainder of that day, to have another look
at the bonnet-debris, and enjoy a fresh explosion over it.



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

MYSTERIOUS PROCEEDINGS OF THE CAPTAIN AND GILLIE.

We are back again in London--in Mrs Roby's little cabin at the top of
the old tenement in Grubb's Court.

Captain Wopper is there, of course.  So is Mrs Roby.  Gillie White is
there also, and Susan Quick.  The Captain is at home.  The two latter
are on a visit--a social tea-party.  Little Netta White, having
deposited Baby White in the mud at the lowest corner of the Court for
greater security, is waiting upon them--a temporary handmaiden,
relieving, by means of variety, the cares of permanent nursehood.  Mrs
White is up to the elbows in soap-suds, taking at least ocular and vocal
charge of the babe in the mud, and her husband is--"drunk, as usual?"
No--there is a change there.  Good of some kind has been somewhere at
work.  Either knowingly or unwittingly some one has been "overcoming
evil with good," for Mrs White's husband is down at the docks toiling
hard to earn a few pence wherewith to increase the family funds.  And
who can tell what a terrible yet hopeful war is going on within that
care-worn, sin-worn man?  To toil hard with shattered health is burden
enough.  What must it be when, along with the outward toil, there is a
constant fight with a raging watchful devil within?  But the man has
given that devil some desperate falls of late.  Oh, how often and how
long he has fought with him, and been overcome, cast down, and his
armoury of resolutions scattered to the winds!  But he has been to see
some one, or some one has been to see him, who has advised him to try
another kind of armour--not his own.  He knows the power of a "new
affection" now.  Despair was his portion not long ago.  He is now
animated by Hope, for the long uncared-for name of Jesus is now growing
sweet to his ear.  But the change has taken place recently, and he looks
very weary as he toils and fights.

"Well, mother," said Captain Wopper, "now that I've given you a full,
true, an' partikler account of Switzerland, what d'ee think of it?"

"It is a strange place--very, but I don't approve of people risking
their lives and breaking their limbs for the mere pleasure of getting to
the top of a mountain of ice."

"But we can't do anything in life without riskin' our lives an' breakin'
our limbs more or less," said the Captain.

"An' think o' the interests of science," said Gillie, quoting the
Professor.

Mrs Roby shook her tall cap and remained unconvinced.  To have expected
the old nurse to take an enlightened view on that point would have been
as unreasonable as to have looked for just views in Gillie White on the
subject of conic sections.

"Why, mother, a man may break a leg or an arm in going down stairs,"
said the Captain, pursuing the subject; "by the way, that reminds me to
ask for Fred Leven.  Didn't I hear that _he_ broke his arm coming up his
own stair?  Is it true?"

"True enough," replied Mrs Roby.

"Was he the worse of liquor at the time?"

"No.  It was dark, and he was carrying a heavy box of something or other
for his mother.  Fred is a reformed man.  I think the sight of your poor
father, Gillie, has had something to do with it, and that night when his
mother nearly died.  At all events he never touches drink now, and he
has got a good situation in one of the warehouses at the docks."

"That's well," returned the Captain, with satisfaction.  "I had hopes of
that young feller from the night you mention.  Now, mother, I'm off.
Gillie and I have some business to transact up the water.  Very
particular business--eh, lad?"

"Oh! wery partickler," said Gillie, responding to his patron's glance
with a powerful wink.

Expressing a hope that Susan would keep Mrs Roby company till he
returned, the Captain left the room with his usual heavy roll, and the
spider followed with imitative swagger.

Captain Wopper was fond of mystery.  Although he had, to some extent
made a confidant of the boy for whom he had taken so strong a fancy, he
nevertheless usually maintained a dignified distance of demeanour
towards him, and a certain amount of reticence, which, as a stern
disciplinarian, he deemed to be essential.  This, however, did not
prevent him from indulging in occasional, not to say frequent,
unbendings of disposition, which he condescended to exhibit by way of
encouragement to his small _protege_; but these unbendings and
confidences were always more or less shrouded in mystery.  Many of them,
indeed, consisted of nothing more intelligible than nods, grins, and
winks.

"That'll be rather a nice cottage when it's launched," said the Captain,
pointing to a building in process of erection, which stood so close to
the edge of the Thames that its being launched seemed as much a literal
allusion as a metaphor.

"Raither bobbish," assented the spider.

"Clean run fore and aft with bluff bows, like a good sea-boat," said the
Captain.  "Come, let's have a look at it."

Asking permission to enter of a workman who granted the same with, what
appeared to Gillie, an unnecessarily broad grin, the Captain led the way
up a spiral staircase.  It bore such a strong resemblance to the
familiar one of Grubb's Court that Gillie's eyes enlarged with surprise,
and he looked involuntarily back for his soapy mother and the babe in
the mud.  There were, however, strong points of dissimilarity, inasmuch
as there was no mud or filth of any kind near the new building except
lime; and the stair, instead of leading like that of the Tower of Babel
an interminable distance upwards, ended abruptly at the second floor.
Here, however, there was a passage exactly similar to the passage
leading to Mrs Roby's cabin, save that it was well lighted, and at the
end thereof was an almost exact counterpart of the cabin itself.  There
was the same low roof, the same little fireplace, with the space above
for ornaments, and the same couple of little windows looking out upon a
stretch of the noble river, from which you might have fished.  There was
the same colour of paint on the walls, which had been so managed as to
represent the dinginess of antiquity.  There was also, to all
appearance, Mrs Roby's own identical bed, with its chintz curtains.
Here, however, resemblance ended, for there was none of the Grubb's
Court dirt.  The craft on the river were not so large or numerous, the
reach being above the bridges.  If you had fished you not have hooked
rats or dead cats, and if you had put your head out and looked round,
you would have encountered altogether a clean, airy, and respectable
neighbourhood, populous enough to be quite cheery, with occasional
gardens instead of mud-banks, and without interminable rows of tall
chimney-pots excluding the light of heaven.

Gillie, not yet having been quite cured of his objectionable qualities,
at once apostrophised his eye and Elizabeth Martin.

"As like as two peas, barrin' the dirt!"

The Captain evidently enjoyed the lad's astonishment.

"A ship-shape sort o' craft, ain't it?  It wouldn't be a bad joke to buy
it--eh?"

Gillie, who was rather perplexed, but too much a man of the world to
disclose much of his state of mind, said that it wouldn't be a bad move
for any feller who had got the blunt.  "How much would it cost now?"

"A thousand pounds, more or less," said the Captain, with discreet
allowance for latitude.

"Ha! a goodish lump, no doubt."

"I've half a mind to buy it," continued the Captain, looking round with
a satisfied smile.  "It would be an amoosin' sort o' thing, now, to
bring old Mrs Roby here.  The air would be fresher for her old lungs,
wouldn't it?"

Gillie nodded, but was otherwise reticent.

"The stair, too, wouldn't be too high to get her down now and again, and
a boat could be handy to shove her into without much exertion.  For the
matter of that," said the Captain, looking out, "we might have a slide
made, like a Swiss couloir, you know, and she could glissade comfortably
into the boat out o' the winder.  Then, there's a beam to hang her ship
an' Chinee lanterns from, an' a place over the fireplace to stick her
knick-knacks.  What d'ee think, my lad?"

Gillie, who had begun to allow a ray of light to enter his mind, gave,
as his answer, an emphatic nod and a broad grin.

The Captain replied with a nod and a wink, whereupon the other retired
behind his patron, for the purpose of giving himself a quiet hug of
delight, in which act, however, he was caught; the Captain being one who
always, according to his own showing, kept his weather-eye open.

"W'y, what's the matter with you, boy?"

"Pains in the stummick is aggrawatin' sometimes," answered Gillie.

"You haven't got 'em, have you?"

"Well, I can't exactly go for to say as I has," answered Gillie, with
another grin.

"Now, look 'ee here, youngster," said the Captain, suddenly seizing the
spider by his collar and trousers, and swinging him as though about to
hurl him through the window into the river, "if you go an' let your
tongue wag in regard to this matter, out you go, right through the
port-hole--d'ee see?"

He set the spider quietly on his legs again, who replied, with unruffled
coolness--

"Mum's the word, Cappen."

Gillie had been shorn of his blue tights and brass buttons, poor Mrs
Stoutley having found it absolutely necessary, on her return home, to
dismiss all her servants, dispose of all her belongings, and retire into
the privacy of a poor lodging in a back street.  Thus the spider had
come to be suddenly thrown on the world again, but Captain Wopper had
retained him, he said, as a mixture of errand-boy, cabin-boy, and
powder-monkey, in which capacity he dwelt with his mother during the
night and revolved like a satellite round the Captain during the day.  A
suit of much more appropriate pepper-and-salt had replaced the blue
tights and buttons.  Altogether, his _tout-ensemble_ was what the
Captain styled "more ship-shape."

We have said that Mrs Stoutley and her family had made a descent in
life.  As poor Lewis remarked, with a sad smile, they had quitted the
gay and glittering heights, and gone, like a magnificent avalanche, down
into the moraine.  Social, not less than physical, avalanches multiply
their parts and widen their course during descent.  The Stoutleys did
not fall alone.  A green-grocer, a shoemaker, and a baker, who had long
been trembling, like human boulders, on the precipice of bankruptcy,
went tumbling down along with them, and found rest in a lower part of
the moraine than they had previously occupied.

"It's a sad business," said Lewis to Dr Lawrence one morning; "and if
you continue to attend me, you must do so without the most distant
prospect of a fee."

"My dear fellow," returned Lawrence, "have you no such thing as
gratitude in your composition?"

"Not much, and, if I had ever so much, it would be poor pay."

"Poor, indeed, if regarded as one's only source of livelihood," rejoined
Lawrence, "but it is ample remuneration from a friend, whether rich or
poor, and, happily, capable of being mixed with pounds, shillings and
pence without deterioration.  In the present case, I shall be more than
rejoiced to take the fee unmixed, but, whether fee'd or not fee'd, I
insist on continuing attendance on a case which I have a right to
consider peculiarly my own."

"It would have been a bad case, indeed, but for you," returned Lewis, a
flush for a moment suffusing his pale cheek as he took his friend's hand
and squeezed it.  "I am thoroughly convinced, Lawrence, that God's
blessing on your skill and unwearied care of me at the time of the
accident is the cause of my being alive to thank you to-day.  But sit
down, my dear fellow, and pray postpone your professional inquiries for
a little, as I have something on my mind which I wish to ask you about."

Lawrence shook his head.  "Business first, pleasure afterwards," he
said; "professional duties must not be postponed."

"Now," said Lewis when he had finished, "are you satisfied?  Do you
admit that even an unprofessional man might have seen at a glance that I
am much better, and that your present draft on my gratitude is a mere
swindle?"

"I admit nothing," retorted the other; "but now, what have you got to
say to me?"

"I am going to make a confidant of you.  Are you to be trusted?"

"Perhaps; I dare not say yes unconditionally, because I'm rather
sociable and communicative, and apt to talk in my sleep."

"That will do.  Your answer is sufficiently modest.  I will venture.
You know Captain Wopper, I mean, you are well acquainted with his
character; well, that kind and eccentric man has made a proposal to my
dear mother, which we do not like to accept, and which at the same time
we do not quite see our way to refuse.  My mother, when in great
distress in Switzerland, was forced to borrow a small sum of money from
him, and thought it right to justify her doing so by letting him know--
what everybody, alas! may know now--that we were ruined.  With that
ready kindness which is his chief characteristic he at once complied.
Since our return home he has, with great delicacy but much
determination, insisted that we shall accept from him a regular weekly
allowance until we have had time to correspond with our uncle Stout in
California.  `You mustn't starve,' he said to my mother--I give you his
own words--`and you'd be sure to starve if you was to try to wegitate
for six months or so on atmospheric air.  It'll take that time before
you could get a letter from Willum, an' though your son Lewis could an'
would, work like a nigger to keep your pot bilin' if he was well an'
hearty, it's as plain as the nose on your own face, ma'am, that he can't
work while he's as thin as a fathom of pump-water an' as weak as a
babby.  Now, you know-at least I can tell 'ee--that my old chum Willum
is as rich as a East Injin nabob.  You wouldn't believe, madam, what
fortins some gold-diggers have made.  W'y, I've seed men light their
pipes with fi'-pun' notes for a mere brag out there.  I've made a
goodish lump o' money myself too,--a'most more than I know what to do
with, an' as to Willum, I may say he's actooally rollin' in gold.  He's
also chockfull of regard for you and yours, ma'am.  That bein' so, he's
sure to send you somethin' to tide you over yer difficulties, an' he's
also sure to send somethin' to Lewis to help him start fair when he gits
well, and he's surest of all to send somethin' to Miss Emma for all the
kind letters she's writ to him doorin' the last five or six years.
Well, then, I'm Willum's buzzum friend, and, knowin' exactly what he'll
say an' do in the circumstances, what more nat'ral an' proper than that
Willum's chum should anticipate Willum's wishes, and advance the money--
some of it at least--say three thousand pounds to start with.'  Now,
Lawrence," continued Lewis, "what should we do?  Should we accept this
offer?  The good fellow has evidently made a great deal of money at the
gold-fields, and no doubt speaks truly when he says he can afford to
advance that sum.  And we know our uncle William's character well
enough, though we have never seen him, to be quite sure that he will
assist my dear mother until I am able to support her.  What say you?"

"Accept the offer at once," said Lawrence.  "From what I have seen of
the Captain, I am convinced that he is a warm friend and a genuine man.
No doubt he can well afford to do what he proposes, and his opinion of
William Stout's character is just, for, from what I know of him through
Mrs Roby, who knew him when he was a lad, when his life was saved by my
father, he must have a kind heart."

"I have no doubt of it, Lawrence, and a grateful heart too, if I may
judge from a few words that fell from Captain Wopper about your father
and yourself."

"Indeed! what did he say about us?"

"I have no right to repeat observations dropped inadvertently," said
Lewis, with a laugh.

"Nor to raise curiosity which you don't mean to satisfy," retorted his
friend; "however, my advice is, that you accept the Captain's offer, and
trust to your uncle's generosity."



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

THE CAPTAIN SURPRISES HIS FRIENDS IN VARIOUS WAYS, AND IS HIMSELF
BAFFLED.

Time and Tide passed on--as they are proverbially said to do--without
waiting for any one.  Some people in the great city, aware of this
cavalier style of proceeding on the part of Time and Tide, took
advantage of both, and scaled the pinnacled heights of society.  Others,
neglecting their opportunities, or misusing them, produced a series of
avalanches more or less noteworthy, and added a few more boulders to the
vast accumulations in the great social moraine.

Several of the actors in this tale were among those who, having learnt a
few sharp lessons in the avalanche school, began to note and avail
themselves of Time and Tide--notably, Mrs Stoutley and her son and
niece.  A decided change had come over the spirit of Mrs Stoutley's
dream of life.  She had at last visited the great London moraine,
especially that part of it called Grubb's Court, and had already dug up
a few nuggets and diamonds, one of which latter she brought to her
humble home in the back street, with the design of polishing it into a
good servant-maid.  Its name was Netta White.  Mrs Stoutley had
formerly been a spendthrift; now she was become covetous.  She coveted
the male diamond belonging to the same part of the moraine--once named
the Spider, _alias_ the Imp--but Captain Wopper had dug up that one for
himself and would not part with it.  Gradually the good lady conceived
and carried out the idea of digging out and rescuing a number of
diamonds, considerably lower in the scale than the Netta type, training
them for service, and taking pains to get them into good situations.  It
was hard work no doubt, but Mrs Stoutley persevered, and was well
repaid--for the Master of such labourers esteems them "worthy of their
hire."  Emma assisted in the work most heartily.  It was by no means new
to her.  She might have directed if she had chosen, but she preferred to
follow.

Lewis recovered rapidly--so rapidly that he was soon able to resume his
medical studies and prosecute them with vigour.  No bad effects of the
accident remained, yet he was an altered man--not altered in appearance
or in character, but in spirit.  He was still off-hand in manner,
handsome in face and figure, hearty in society, but earnest and grave--
very grave--in private.  He pored over his books, and strove,
successfully too, to master the difficulties of the healing art; but do
what he would, and fight against it as he might, he was constantly
distracted by a pretty face with bright sparkling eyes and a strangely
sad expression coming between him and the page.  He made continual
inquiries after the owner of the sparkling eyes in every direction
without success, and at last got into the habit when walking, of looking
earnestly at people as if he expected to meet with some one.  "If I had
got into this state," he sometimes said to himself, "because of being
merely in love with a pretty face, I should consider myself a silly
nincompoop; but it is such a terrible thing for so sweet and young a
creature to be chained to a man who must in the nature of things, land
her in beggary and break her heart."  Thus he deceived himself as to his
main motive.  Poor Lewis!

One morning Captain Wopper got up a little earlier than usual, and began
a series of performances which Mrs Roby had long ago styled "rampadgin"
round his garret.

The reader may have discovered by this time that the Captain was no
ordinary man.  Whatever he did in connection with himself was done with
almost superhuman energy and noise.  Since the commencement of his
residence in the garret he had unwittingly subjected the nerves of poor
Mrs Roby to such a variety of shocks, that the mere fact of her reason
remaining on its throne was an unquestionable proof of a more than
usually powerful constitution.  It could not well be otherwise.  The
Captain's limbs resembled the limbs of oaks in regard to size and
toughness.  His spirits were far above "proof."  His organs were
cathedral organs compared with the mere barrel-organs of ordinary men.
On the other hand, the "cabin" in Grubb's Court was but a flimsy
tenement; its plank floorings were thin, and its beams and rafters slim
and somewhat loose owing to age, so that when the captain snored, which
he did regularly and continuously, it was as if a mastiff had got inside
a double-bass and were growling hideously.

But Mrs Roby had now got pretty well accustomed to her lodger's ways.
Her nerves had become strung to the ordeal, and she even came to like
the galvanic battery in which she dwelt, because of its being worked by
the intimate friend of her dear William; such is the power of love--we
might almost say, in this case, of reflected love!  The good old lady
had even become so acute in her perceptions, that, without seeing the
"rampadger," she knew precisely the part of his daily programme with
which he happened to be engaged.  Of course the snoring told its own
tale with brazen-tongued clamour, and the whole tenement trembled all
night long from top to bottom.  Nothing but the regardless nature of the
surrounding population prevented the Captain from being indicted as a
nuisance; but there were other sounds that were not so easily
recognised.

On the morning in question, Mrs Roby, lying placidly in her neat white
little bed, and gazing with a sweet contented face through one of her
cabin windows at the bright blue sky, heard a sound as though a compound
animal--hog and whale--had aroused itself and rolled over on its other
side.  A low whistling followed.  Mrs Roby knew that the Captain was
pleasantly engaged with his thoughts--planning out the proceedings of
the day.  Suddenly the whistling ceased and was followed by a sonorous
"how-ho!" terminating in a gasp worthy of an express locomotive.  The
Captain had stretched himself and Mrs Roby smiled at her own thoughts,
as well she might for they embraced the idea that a twentieth part of
the force employed in that stretch would have rent in twain every
tendon, muscle, sinew, and filament in her, Mrs Roby's, body.  Next,
there descended on the floor overhead a sixteen-stone cannon ball, which
caused--not the neighbours, but the boards and rafters to complain.  The
Captain was up! and succeeding sounds proved that he had had another
stretch, for there was a bump in the middle of it which showed that,
forgetting his stature, the careless man had hit the ceiling with his
head.  That was evidently a matter of no consequence.

From this point the boards and rafters continued to make unceasing
complaint, now creaking uneasily as if under great provocation, anon
groaning or yelling as though under insufferable torment.  From the
ceiling of Mrs Roby's room numerous small bits of plaster, unable to
stand it longer, fell and powdered Mrs Roby's floor.  The curtains of
her little bed saved her face.  There was a slushing and swishing and
gasping and blowing now, which might have done credit to a school of
porpoises.  The Captain was washing.  Something between the flapping of
a main top-sail in a shifting squall and the currying of a hippopotamus
indicated that the Captain was drying himself.  The process was
interrupted by an unusual, though not quite unknown, crash and a howl;
he had overturned the wash-hand basin, and a double thump, followed by
heavy dabs, told that the Captain was on his knees swabbing it up.

Next instant the Captain's head, with beard and hair in a tremendously
rubbed-up condition, appeared upside down at the hatchway.

"Hallo! old girl, has she sprung a leak anywhere?"

"Nowhere," replied Mrs Roby, with a quiet smile.  She felt the question
to be unnecessary.  "She," that is, the roof above her, never did leak
in such circumstances.  If the Thames had suddenly flooded the garret,
the Captain's energy was sufficient to have swabbed it up in time to
prevent a drop reaching "the lower deck."

Soon after this catastrophe there was a prolonged silence.  The Captain
was reading.  Mrs Roby shut her eyes and joined him in spirit.
Thereafter the Captain's feet appeared at the trap where his head had
been, and he descended with a final and tremendous crash to the floor.

"See here, mother," he cried, with a look of delight, holding up a very
soiled and crumpled letter, "that's from Willum."

"From William," exclaimed the old woman, eagerly; "why, when did you get
it? the postman can't have been here this morning."

"Of course he hasn't; I got it last night from the limb-o'-the-law that
looks after my little matters.  I came in late, and you were asleep, so
I kep' it to whet yer appetite for breakfast.  Now listen, you must take
it first; I'll get you breakfast afterwards."

The Captain had by this time got into the way of giving the old woman
her breakfast in bed every morning.

"Go on," said the old woman, nodding.

The Captain spread out the letter on his knee with great care, and read
aloud:--

  "My Dear Wopper, Got yer letter all right.

  "My blissin' to the poor widdy.  Help her? ov coorse I'll help her.
  You did right in advancin' the money, though you fell short, by a long
  way, when you advanced so little.  Hows'ever, no matter.  I gave you
  my last will an' testimony w'en we parted.  Here's a noo un.  Inside
  o' this, if I don't forget it before I've done, you'll find a cheque
  for thirteen thousand pounds sterling.  Give three to the widdy, with
  my respects; give four to dear Emma Gray, with my best love and
  blissin'; give two to Mister Lewis, with my compliments; an' give four
  to young Lawrence, with my benediction, for his father's sake.  As for
  the old 'ooman Roby, you don't need to give nothin' to her.  She and I
  understand each other.  _I'll_ look after her myself.  I'll make her
  my residooary legatee, an' wotever else is needful; but, in the
  meantime, you may as well see that she's got all that she wants.
  Build her a noo house too.  I'm told that Grubb's Court ain't exactly
  aristocratic or clean; see to that.  Wotever you advance out o' yer
  own pocket, I'll pay back with interest.  That's to begin with, tell
  'em.  There's more comin'.  There--I'm used up wi' writin' such a long
  screed.  I'd raither dig a twenty-futt hole in clay sile any day.--
  Yours to command, Willum.

  "P.S.--You ain't comin' back soon--are you?"

"Now, mother, what d'ee think o' that?" said the Captain, folding the
letter and putting it in his pocket.

"It's a good, kind letter--just like William," answered the old woman.

"Well, so I'm inclined to think," rejoined the Captain, busying himself
about breakfast while he spoke; "it provides for everybody in a sort o'
way, and encourages 'em to go on hopeful like--don't it strike you so?
Then, you see, that's four to Miss Emma, and four to Dr Lawrence, which
would be eight, equal to four hundred a year; and that, with the
practice he's gettin' into, would make it six, or thereabouts--not bad
to begin with, eh?"

The Captain followed his remark with a sigh.

"What's the matter?" asked Mrs Roby.

"Why, you remember, mother, before goin' abroad I set my heart on these
two gettin' spliced; but I fear it's no go.  Sometimes I think they
looks fond o' one another, at other times I don't.  It's a puzzler.
They're both young an' good-lookin' an' good.  What more would they
have?"

"Perhaps they want money," suggested the old woman.  "You say Dr
Lawrence's income just now is about two hundred; well, gentlefolks find
it summat difficult to keep house on that, though it's plenty for the
likes of you an' me."

"That's true.  P'r'aps the Doctor is sheerin' off for fear o' draggin' a
young creeter into poverty.  It never struck me in that light before."

Beaming under the influence of this hopeful view of the case, the
Captain proceeded to make another move in the complicated game which he
had resolved to play out and win; but this move, which he had considered
one of the easiest of all, proved to be the most unfortunate, or rather
unmanageable.

"Now, mother," said he, "I mean to make a proposal to 'ee, before going
out for the day, so that you may have time to think over it.  This cabin
o' yours ain't just the thing, you know,--raither dirty, and too high in
the clouds by a long way, so I've bin an' seen a noo house on the river,
not unlike this one, an' I wants you to shift your berth.  What say
'ee--eh?"

To the Captain's surprise and dismay, the old woman shook her head
decidedly, and no argument which he could bring to bear had the least
effect on her.  She had, in fact, got used to her humble old home, and
attached to it, and could not bear the thought of leaving it.  Having
exhausted his powers of suasion in vain, he left her to think over it,
and sallied forth crestfallen.  However, he consoled himself with the
hope that time and consideration would bring her to a right state of
mind.  Meanwhile he would go to the parties interested, and communicate
the contents of Willum's letter.

He went first to Doctor Lawrence, who was delighted as well as pleased
at what it contained.  The Captain at first read only the clauses which
affected his friends the Stoutleys, and said nothing about that which
referred to the Doctor himself.

"So you see, Doctor, I'm off to let the Stoutleys know about this little
matter, and just looked in on you in passing."

"It was very kind of you, Captain."

"Not at all, by no means," returned the Captain, pulling out a large
clasp-knife, with which he proceeded carefully to pare his left thumb
nail.  "By the way, Doctor," he said carelessly, "were you ever in
love?"

Lawrence flushed, and cast a quick glance at his interrogator, who,
however, was deeply engaged with the thumb nail.

"Well, I suppose men at my time of life," he replied, with a laugh,
"have had some--"

"Of course--of course," interrupted the other, "but I mean that I wonder
a strapping young fellow like you, with such a good practice, don't get
married."

The Doctor, who had recovered himself, laughed, and said that his good
practice was chiefly among the poor, and that even if he wished to
marry--or rather, if any one would have him--he would never attempt to
win a girl while he had nothing better than two hundred a year and
prospects to offer her.

"Then I suppose you _would_ marry if you had something better to offer,"
said the Captain, finishing off the nail and shutting the clasp-knife
with a snap.

Again the Doctor laughed, wondered why the Captain had touched on such a
theme, and said that he couldn't exactly say what he might or might not
do if circumstances were altered.

The Captain was baffled.  However, he said that circumstances _were_
altered, and, after reading over the latter part of Willum's letter,
left Lawrence to digest it at his leisure.

We need not follow him on his mission.  Suffice it to say that he
carried no small amount of relief to the minds of Mrs Stoutley and her
household; and, thereafter, met Gillie by appointment at Charing Cross,
whence he went to Kensington to see a villa, with a view to purchasing
it.

At night he again essayed to move Mrs Roby's resolution, and many a
time afterwards attacked her, but always with the same result.
Although, as he said, he fought like a true-blue British seaman, and
gave her broadside after broadside as fast as he could load and fire, he
made no impression on her whatever.  She had nailed her colours to the
mast and would never give in.



CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

IN WHICH TREMENDOUS FORCES COME TO THE CAPTAIN'S AID.

It is probable that most people can recall occasions when
"circumstances" have done for them that which they have utterly failed
to effect for themselves.

Some time after the failure of Captain Wopper's little plots and plans
in regard to Mrs Roby, "circumstances" favoured him--the wind shifted
round, so to speak, and blew right astern.  To continue our metaphor, it
blew a tremendous gale, and the Captain's ends were gained at last only
by the sinking of the ship!

This is how it happened.  One afternoon the Captain was walking rather
disconsolately down the Strand in company with his satellite--we might
almost say, his confidant.  The street was very crowded, insomuch that
at one or two crossings they were obliged to stand a few minutes before
venturing over,--not that the difficulty was great, many active men
being seen to dodge among the carts, drays, vans, and busses with
marvellous ease and safety, but the Captain was cautious.  He was wont
to say that he warn't used to sail in such crowded waters--there warn't
enough o' sea room for him--he'd rather lay-to, or stand--off-an'-on for
half a day than risk being run down by them shore-goin' crafts.

"Everything in life seems to go wrong at times," muttered the Captain,
as he and the satellite lay-to at one of these crossings.

"Yes, it's coorious, ain't it, sir," said Gillie, "an' at other times
everything seems to go right--don't it, sir?"

"True, my lad, that's a better view to take of it," returned the
Captain, cheerfully, "come, we'll heave ahead."

As they were "heaving" along in silence, the rattle and noise around
them being unsuited to conversation, they suddenly became aware that the
ordinary din of the Strand swelled into a furious roar.  Gillie was half
way up a lamp-post in an instant! from which elevated position he looked
down on the Captain, and said--

"A ingine!"

"What sort of a ingine, my lad?"

"A fire! hooray!" shouted Gillie, with glittering eyes and flushed
countenance, "look out, Cappen, keep close 'longside o' me, under the
lee o' the lamp-post.  It's not a bad buffer, though never quite a sure
one, bein' carried clean away sometimes by the wheels w'en there's a bad
driver."

As he spoke, the most intense excitement was manifested in the crowded
thoroughfare.  Whips were flourished, cabmen shouted, horses reared,
vehicles of all kinds scattered right and left even although there had
seemed almost a "block" two seconds before.  Timid foot passengers
rushed into shops, bold ones mounted steps and kerb-stones, or stood on
tip-toe, and the Captain, towering over the crowd, saw the gleam of
brass helmets as the charioteer clove his way through the swaying mass.

There is something powerfully exciting to most minds in the sight of men
rushing into violent action, especially when the action may possibly
involve life and death.  The natural excitement aroused in the Captain's
breast was increased by the deep bass nautical roar that met his ear.
Every man in the London fire-brigade is, or used to be, a picked
man-of-war's-man, and the shouting necessary in such a thoroughfare to
make people get out of the way was not only tremendous but unceasing.
It was as though a dozen mad "bo's'ns," capped with brazen war-helmets,
had been let loose on London society, through which they tore at full
gallop behind three powerful horses on a hissing and smoking monster of
brass and iron.  A bomb shell from a twenty-five-ton gun could scarce
have cut a lane more effectually.  The Captain took off his hat and
cheered in sympathy.  The satellite almost dropped from the lamp-post
with excess of feeling.  The crash and roar increased, culminated,
rushed past and gone in a moment.

Gillie dropped to the ground as if he had been shot, seized the
Captain's hand, and attempted to drag him along.  He might as well have
tried to drag Vesuvius from its base, but the Captain was willing.  A
hansom-cab chanced to be in front of them as they dashed into the road,
the driver smoking and cool as a cucumber, being used to such incidents.
He held up a finger.

"Quick, in with you, Cappen!"

Gillie got behind his patron, and in attempting to expedite his
movements with a push, almost sent him out at the other side.

"After the ingine--slap!" yelled Gillie to the face which looked down
through the conversation-hole in the roof, "double extra fare if you
look sharp."

The cabman was evidently a sympathetic soul.  He followed in the wake of
the fire-engine as well as he could; but it was a difficult process,
for, while the world at large made way for _it_, nobody cared a straw
for _him_!

"Ain't it fun?" said Gillie, as he settled his panting little body on
the cushion beside his friend and master.

"Not bad," responded the Captain, who half laughed at the thought of
being so led away by excitement and a small boy.

"I'd give up all my bright prospects of advancement in life," continued
Gillie, "to be a fireman.  There's no fun goin' equal to a fire."

"P'r'aps it don't seem quite so funny to them as is bein' burnt out,"
suggested the Captain.

"Of course it don't, but that can't be helped, you know--can it, sir?
What can't be cured must be endoored, as the proverb says.  Get along,
old fellow, don't spare his ribs--double fare, you know; we'll lose 'em
if you don't."

The latter part of the remark was shouted through the hole to the
cabman, who however, pulled up instead of complying.

"It's of no use, sir," he said, looking down at the Captain, "I've lost
sight of 'em."

Gillie was on the pavement in a moment.

"Never mind, Cappen, give him five bob, an' decline the change; come
along.  _I_ see 'em go past the Bridge, so ten to one it's down about
the docks somewheres--the wust place in London for a fire w'ich, of
course, means the best."

The idea of its being so afforded such unalloyed pleasure to Gillie,
that he found it hard to restrain himself and accommodate his pace to
that of his friend.

It soon became very evident that the fire was in truth somewhere about
the docks, for not only was a dense cloud of smoke seen rising in that
direction, but fire-engines began to dash from side streets everywhere,
and to rush towards the smoke as if they were sentient things impatient
for the fray.

The cause of such unusual vigour and accumulation of power was, that a
fire anywhere about the docks is deemed pre-eminently dangerous, owing
to the great and crowded warehouses being stuffed from cellars to
roof-trees with combustibles.  The docks, in regard to fire, form the
citadel of London.  If the enemy gets a footing there, he must be
expelled at all hazards and at any cost.

As the Captain and his _protege_ hurried along, they were naturally led
in the direction of their home.  A vague undefined fear at the same
instant took possession of both, for they glanced gravely at each other
without speaking, and, as if by mutual consent, began to run.  Gillie
had no need now to complain of his companion's pace.  He had enough to
do to keep up with it.  There were many runners besides themselves now,
for the fire was obviously near at hand, and the entire population of
the streets seemed to be pressing towards it.  A few steps more brought
them in sight of the head of Grubb's Court.  Here several fire-engines
were standing in full play surrounded by a swaying mass of human beings.
Still there was no sign of the precise locality of the fires for the
tall houses hid everything from view save the dense cloud which
overshadowed them all.

Even Captain Wopper's great strength would have been neutralised in such
a crowd if it had not now been seconded by an excitement and anxiety
that nothing could resist.  He crushed his way through as if he had been
one of the steam fire-engines, Gillie holding tight to the stout tails
of his monkey jacket.  Several powerful roughs came in his way, and
sought to check him.  The Captain had hitherto merely used his shoulders
and his weight.  To the roughs he applied a fist--right and left--and
two went down.  A few seconds brought him to the cordon of policemen.
They had seen him approaching, and one placed himself in front of the
Captain with the quiet air of a man who is accustomed _never_ to give
way to physical force!

"I live down Grubb's Court, my man," said the Captain, with an eager
respectful air, for he was of a law-abiding spirit.

The constable stepped aside, and nodded gravely.  The Captain passed the
line, but Gillie was pounced upon as if he had been a mouse and the
constable a cat.

"_He_ belongs to me," cried the Captain, turning back on hearing
Gillie's yell of despair.

The boy was released, and both flew down the Court, on the pavement of
which the snake-like water-hose lay spirting at its seams.

"It's in the cabin," said the Captain, in a low deep voice, as he dashed
into the Court, where a crowd of firemen were toiling with cool, quiet,
yet tremendous energy.  No crowd interrupted them here, save the few
frantic inhabitants of the Court, who were screaming advice and doing
nothing; but no attention whatever was paid to them.  A foreman of the
brigade stood looking calmly upwards engaged in low-toned conversation
with a brother fireman, as if they were discussing theories of the
picturesque and beautiful with special application to chimney-cans,
clouds of smoke, and leaping tongues of fire.

Immense engine power had been brought to bear, and one of the gigantic
floating-engines of the Thames had got near enough to shower tons of
water over the buildings, still it was a matter of uncertainty whether
the fire could be confined to the Court where it had originated.

The result of the foreman's quiet talk was that the brother-fireman
suddenly seized a nozzle from a comrade, and made a dash at the door
leading up to "the cabin."  Flames and smoke drove him back instantly.

It was at this moment that Captain Wopper came on the scene.  Without a
moment's hesitation he rushed towards the same door.  The foreman seized
his arm.

"It's of no use, sir, you can't do it."

The Captain shook him off and sprang in.  A few seconds and he rushed
out choking, scorched, and with his eyes starting almost out of their
sockets.

"It is of no use, sir," remonstrated the foreman, "besides, the people
have all bin got out, I'm told."

"No, they 'aven't," cried Mrs White, coming up at the moment,
frantically wringing the last article of linen on which she had been
professionally engaged, "Mrs Roby's there yet."

"All right, sir," said the foreman, with that quiet comforting
intonation which is peculiar to men of power, resource, and
self-reliance, "come to the back.  The escape will be up immediately.
It couldn't get down the Court, owin' to some masonry that was piled
there, and had to be sent round."

Quick to understand, the Captain followed the fireman, and reached the
back of the house, on the riverside, just as the towering head of the
escape emerged from a flanking alley.

"This way.  The small window on the right at the top--so."

The ladder was barely placed when the Captain sprang upon it and ran up
as, many a time before, he had run up the shrouds of his own vessel.  A
cheer from the crowd below greeted this display of activity, but it was
changed into a laugh when the Captain, finding the window shut and
bolted, want into the room head first, carrying frame and glass along
with him!  Divesting himself of the uncomfortable necklace, he looked
hastily round.  The smoke was pretty thick, but not sufficiently so to
prevent his seeing poor Mrs Roby lying on the floor as if she had
fallen down suffocated.

"Cheer up, old lass," he cried, kneeling and raising her head tenderly.

"Is that you, Cappen?" said the old woman, in a weak voice.

"Come, we've no time to lose.  Let me lift you; the place is all alight.
I thought you was choked."

"Choked! oh dear, no," replied the old woman, "but I've always heard
that in a fire you should keep your face close to the ground for air--
Ah! gently, Cappen, dear!"

While she was speaking, the Captain was getting her tucked under his
strong right arm.  He could have whisked her on his shoulder in a
moment, but was afraid of her poor old bones, and treated her as if she
had been a fragile China tea-cup of great value.

Next moment he was out on the escape, and reached the ground amid
ringing cheers.  He carried her at once to the nearest place of safety,
and, committing her to the care of Mrs White, rushed back to the scene
of conflagration just as they were about to remove the escape.

"Stop!" shouted the Captain, springing on it.

"There's nobody else up, is there?" cried a fireman, as the Captain ran
up.

"No, nobody."

"Come down then, directly," roared the fireman, "the escape is wanted
elsewhere.  Come down, I say, or we'll leave you."

"You're welcome to leave me," roared the Captain, as he stepped into the
window, "only hold your noise, an' mind your own business."

With a mingled feeling of amusement and indignation they hurried away
with the escape.  It had been urgently wanted to reach a commanding
position whence to assail the fire.  The order to send it was
peremptory, so the Captain was left in his uncomfortable situation, with
the smoke increasing around him, and the fire roaring underneath.

The actions of our seaman were now curious as well as prompt.  Taking a
blanket from his old friend's bed, he spread it below the chimney-piece,
and in a remarkably short time pulled down, without damaging, every
object on the wall and threw it into the blanket.  He then added to the
heap the Chinese lantern, the Turkish scimitar, the New Zealand club,
the Eastern shield, the ornamented dagger, the worsted work sampler, the
sou'-wester, the oiled coat, the telescope, the framed sheet of the
flags of all nations, and the small portrait of the sea-captain in his
"go-to-meetin'" clothes; also the big Bible and a very small box, which
latter contained Mrs Roby's limited wardrobe.  He tied all up in a
tight bundle.  A coil of rope hung on a peg on the wall.  The bundle was
fastened to the end of it and lowered to the ground, amid a fire of
remarks from the crowd, which were rather caustic and humorous than
complimentary.

"Gillie," shouted the Captain, "cast off the rope, lad, and look well
after the property."

"Ay, ay, Cappen," replied the youth, taking up a thick cart-pin, or
something of the sort, that lay near, and mounting guard.

There was another laugh, from crowd and firemen, at the nautical brevity
and promptitude of Gillie.

At every large fire in London there may be seen a few firemen standing
about in what an ignorant spectator might imagine to be easy
indifference and idleness, but these men are not idlers.  They are
resting.  The men who first arrive at a fire go into action with the
utmost vigour, and toil until their powers are nearly--sometimes quite--
exhausted.  As time passes fresh men are continually arriving from the
more distant stations.  These go into action as they come up, thus
relieving the others, who stand aloof for a time looking on, or doing
easy work, and recruiting their energies.  It was these men who watched
the Captain's proceedings with much amusement while their comrades were
doing battle with the foe.

Presently the Captain reappeared at the window and lowered a huge
sea-chest.  A third time he appeared with the model of a full-rigged
ship in his hand.  This time he let the end of the rope down, and then
getting over the window, slid easily to the ground.

"You're uncommon careful o' your property," exclaimed one of the
onlookers, with a broad grin.

"'Taint all _my_ property, lad," replied the Captain, with a
good-humoured nod, "most of it is a poor old 'ooman's belongings."

So saying, he got a man to carry his sea-chest, himself shouldered the
bundle, Gillie was intrusted with the full-rigged model, and thus laden
they left the scene followed by another laugh and a hearty cheer.

But our bluff seaman was not content with rescuing Mrs Roby and her
property.  He afterwards proceeded to lend his effective aid to all who
desired his assistance, and did not cease his exertions until evening,
by which time the fire was happily subdued.

"She must not be moved to-night Captain," said Dr Lawrence, for whom
Gillie had been sent; "the place where she lies is doubtless far from
comfortable, but I have got her to sleep, and it would be a pity to
awake her.  To-morrow we shall get her into more comfortable quarters."

"Could she bear movin' to-morrow, a mile or so?" asked the Captain.

"Certainly, but there is no occasion to go so far.  Lodgings are to be
had--"

"All right, Doctor; I've got a lodging ready for her, and will ask you
to come an' have pot-luck with us before long.  Gillie, my lad, you go
hail a cab, and then come back to lend a hand wi' the cargo."

In a few minutes the pair were whirling towards the west end of London,
and were finally landed with their "cargo" on the banks of the Thames
above the bridges, near the new building which Captain Wopper had named,
after its prototype, "the cabin."

To fit this up after the fashion of the old place was a comparatively
short and easy work for two such handy labourers.  Before they left that
night it was so like its predecessor in all respects, except dirt, that
both declared it to be the "identical same craft, in shape and rig, even
to the little bed and curtains."  Next afternoon Mrs Roby was brought
to it by Captain Wopper, in a specially easy carriage hired for the
purpose.

The poor old woman had received more of a shock than she was willing to
admit, and did exactly as she was bid, with many a sigh, however, at the
thought of having been burnt out of the old home.  She was carried up
the stair in a chair by two porters, and permitted the Captain to draw a
thick veil over her head to conceal, as he said, her blushes from the
men.  He also took particular care to draw the curtains of the bed close
round her after she had been laid in it and then retired to allow her to
be disrobed by Netta, who had been obtained from Mrs Stoutley on loan
expressly for the occasion.

Much of this care to prevent her seeing the place that day, however, was
unnecessary.  The poor old creature was too much wearied by the short
journey to look at anything.  After partaking of a little tea and toast
she fell into a quiet sleep, which was not broken till late on the
following morning.

Her first thought on waking was the fire.  Her second, the Captain.  He
was in the room, she knew, because he was whistling in his usual low
tone while moving about the fireplace preparing breakfast.  She glanced
at the curtains; her own curtains certainly,--and the bed too!  Much
surprised, she quietly put out her thin hand and drew the curtain
slightly aside.  The Captain in his shirt sleeves, as usual, preparing
buttered toast, the fireplace, the old kettle with the defiant spout
singing away as defiantly as ever, the various photographs, pot-lids,
and other ornaments above the fireplace, the two little windows
commanding an extensive prospect of the sky from the spot where she lay,
the full-rigged ship, the Chinese lantern hanging from the beam--
everything just as it should be!

"Well, well," thought Mrs Roby, with a sigh of relief; "the fire must
have been a dream after all! but what a vivid one!"

She coughed.  The Captain was at her side instantly.

"Slept well, old girl?"

"Very well, thank you.  I've had such a queer dream, d'you know?"

"Have you?  Take your breakfast, mother, before tellin' it.  It's all
ready--there, fire away."

"It _was_ such a vivid one," she resumed, when half through her third
cup, "all about a fire, and you were in it too."

Here she proceeded to relate her dream with the most circumstantial
care.  The Captain listened with patient attention till she had
finished, and then said--

"It was no dream, mother.  It's said that the great fire of London was a
real blessin' to the city.  The last fire in London will, I hope, be a
blessin' to you an' me.  It was real enough and terrible too, but
through God's mercy you have been saved from it.  I managed to save your
little odds and ends too.  This is the noo `cabin,' mother, that you
wouldn't consent to come to.  Something like the old one, ain't it?"

Mrs Roby spoke never a word, but looked round the room in bewilderment.
Taking the Captain's hand she kissed it, and gazed at him and the room
until she fell asleep.  Awaking again in half an hour, she finished her
breakfast, asked for the old Bible, and, declaring herself content, fell
straightway into her old ways and habits.



CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.

AN UNEXPECTED GEM FOUND.

Although Lewis Stoutley found it extremely difficult to pursue his
studies with the profusely illustrated edition of medical works at his
command, he nevertheless persevered with a degree of calm, steady
resolution which might be almost styled heroic.  To tear out the
illustrations was impossible, for Nita's portrait was stamped on every
page, compelling him to read the letterpress through it.  Success,
however, attended his labours, for he not only carried out the regular
course, but he attached himself to the poor district of the "moraine"
which had been appropriated as their own by his mother and Emma, who
ministered to the bodies of the sick while they sought to bring their
souls to the Good Physician.  This professional work he did as a sort of
amateur, being only a student under the guidance of his friend Lawrence,
whose extending practice included that district.  It happened also to be
the district in which Mrs Roby's new "cabin" was situated.

These labourers, in what Dr Tough had styled the London gold fields,
not only did good to the people, and to themselves in the prosecution of
them, but resulted occasionally in their picking up a nugget, or a
diamond, which was quite a prize.  One such was found by Lewis about
this time, which, although sadly dim and soiled when first discovered,
proved to be such a precious and sparkling gem that he resolved to wear
it himself.  He and Emma one day paid a visit to the cabin, where they
found old Mrs Roby alone, and had a long chat with her, chiefly about
the peculiarities of the Captain and his boy.

"By the way," said Mrs Roby to Lewis, when they rose to go, "a poor
woman was here just before you came, askin' if I knew where she could
find a doctor, for her father, she said, was very ill.  The two have
come to live in a room near the foot of this stair, it seems, and they
appear to be very poor.  I could not give her Dr Lawrence's new
address, for I don't know it, so I advised her to apply to the nearest
chemist.  Perhaps, Mr Lewis, you'll go yourself and see the poor man?"

"Willingly, and I shall myself call for Lawrence on my way home and send
him, if necessary.  Come, Emma.  Perhaps this may be a case for the
exercise of your philanthropy."

They soon found the place, and knocked at a low door, which was slowly
opened by a middle-aged woman, meanly clad and apparently very poor.

"Ah, sir, you're too late, he's dead," said the woman, in reply to
Lewis's inquiry.

"O how sad!" broke from Emma's sympathetic spirit, "I am _so_ sorry we
are too late.  Did you find a doctor?"

"No, ma'am, I didn't, but the chemist gave me the address of one, so I
ran back to tell the poor young thing that I'd go fetch one as quick as
I could, and I found him just dying in her arms."

"In whose arms? are not you the daughter--" said Emma.

"Me, miss! oh dear, no.  I'm only a neighbour."

"Has she any friends?" asked Lewis.

"None as I knows of.  They are strangers here--only just came to the
room.  There it is," she added, stepping back and pointing to an inner
door.

Lewis advanced and knocked, but received no answer.  He knocked again.
Still no answer.  He therefore ventured to lift the latch and enter.

It was a miserable, ill-lighted room, of small size and destitute of all
furniture save a truckle bed, a heap of clean straw in a corner, on
which lay a black shawl, a deal chair, and a small table.  Abject
poverty was stamped on the whole place.  On the bed lay the dead man,
covered with a sheet.  Beside it kneeled, or rather lay, the figure of a
woman.  Her dress was a soiled and rusty black.  Her hair, fallen from
its fastenings, hung dishevelled on her shoulders.  Her arms clasped the
dead form.

"My poor woman," whispered Emma, as she knelt beside her, and put a hand
timidly on her shoulder.

But the woman made no answer.

"She has fainted, I think," exclaimed Emma, rising quickly and trying to
raise the woman's head.  Suddenly Lewis uttered a great cry, lifted the
woman in his arms, and gazed wildly into her face.

"Nita!" he cried, passionately clasping her to his heart and covering
the poor faded face with kisses; but Nita heard not.  It seemed as if
the silver chord had already snapped.  Becoming suddenly aware of the
impropriety as well as selfishness of his behaviour, Lewis hastily bore
the inanimate form to the heap of straw, pillowed the small head on the
old shawl, and began to chafe the hands while Emma aided him to restore
consciousness.  They were soon successful.  Nita heaved a sigh.

"Now, Emma," said Lewis, rising, "this is _your_ place just now, I will
go and fetch something to revive her."

He stopped for one moment at the bed in passing, and lifted the sheet.
There was no mistaking the handsome face of the Count even in death.  It
was terribly thin, but the lines of sorrow and anxiety were gone at last
from the marble brow, and a look of rest pervaded the whole countenance.

On returning, Lewis found that Nita had thrown her arms round Emma's
neck and was sobbing violently.  She looked up as he entered, and held
out her hand.  "God has sent you," she said, looking at Emma, "to save
my heart from breaking."

Lewis again knelt beside her and put her hand to his lips, but he had no
power to utter a word.  Presently, as the poor girl's eye fell on the
bed, there was a fresh outburst of grief.  "Oh, how he loved me!--and
how nobly he fought!--and how gloriously he conquered!--God be praised
for that!"

She spoke, or rather sobbed, in broken sentences.  To distract her mind,
if possible, even for a little, from her bereavement, Emma ventured to
ask her how she came there, when her father became so ill, and similar
questions.  Little by little, in brief sentences, and with many choking
words and tears, the sad story came out.

Ever since the night when her father met with Lewis at Saxon, he had
firmly resisted the temptation to gamble.  God had opened his ear to
listen to, and his heart to receive, the Saviour.  Arriving in London
with the money so generously lent to them by Lewis, they took a small
lodging and sought for work.  God was faithful to His promises, she
said; he had sent a measure of prosperity.  Her father taught music, she
obtained needlework.  All was going well when her father became suddenly
ill.  Slowly but steadily he sank.  The teaching had to be given up, the
hours of labour with the needle increased.  This, coupled with constant
nursing, began to sap her own strength, but she had been enabled to hold
out until her father became so ill that she dared not leave him even for
a few minutes to visit the shops where she had obtained sewing-work.
Then, all source of livelihood being dried up, she had been compelled to
sell one by one the few articles of clothing and furniture which they
had begun to accumulate about them.

"Thus," she said, in conclusion, "we were nearly reduced to a state of
destitution, but, before absolute want had been felt by us, God
mercifully took my darling father home--and--and--I shall soon join
him."

"Say not so, darling," said Emma, twining her arms round the poor
stricken girl.  "It may be that He has much work for you to do for Jesus
_here_ before He takes you home.  Meanwhile, He has sent us to claim you
as our very dear friend--as our sister.  You must come and stay with
mamma and me.  We, too, have tasted something of that cup of adversity,
which you have drained to the very dregs, my poor Nita, but we are
comparatively well off now.  Mamma will be so glad to have you.  Say you
will come.  Won't you, dearest?"

Nita replied by lifting her eyes with a bewildered look to the bed, and
again burst into a passion of uncontrollable sorrow.



CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.

THE DENOUEMENT.

Being naturally a straightforward man, and not gifted with much power in
the way of plotting and scheming, Captain Wopper began in time to
discover that he had plunged his mental faculties into a disagreeable
state of confusion.

"Gillie, my lad," he said, looking earnestly at his satellite while they
walked one afternoon along the Bayswater road in the direction of
Kensington, "it's a bad business altogether."

Gillie, not having the smallest idea what the Captain referred to,
admitted that it was "wery bad indeed," but suggested that "it might be
wuss."

"It's such a perplexin' state o' things," pursued the Captain, "to be
always bouncin' up an' down wi' hopes, an' fears, an' disappointments,
like a mad barometer, not knowin' rightly what's what or who's who."

"Uncommon perplexin'," assented Gillie.  "If I was you, Cappen, I'd
heave the barometer overboard along wi' the main-deck, nail yer colours
to the mast, cram the rudder into the lee-scuppers, kick up your
flyin'-jib-boom into the new moon, an' go down stern foremost like a
man!"

"Ha!" said the Captain, with a twinkle in the corner of his
"weather-eye," "not a bad notion."

"Now, my lad, I'm goin' out to my villa at Kensington to dine.  There's
to be company, too, an' you're to be waiter--"

"Stooard, you mean?"

"Well, yes--stooard.  Now, stooard, you'll keep a good look-out, an'
clap as tight a stopper on yer tongue as may be.  I've got a little plot
in hand, d'ee see, an' I want you to help me with it.  Keep your eye in
a quiet way on Dr Lawrence and Miss Gray.  I've taken a fancy that
perhaps they may be in love with each other.  You just let me have your
opinion on that pint after dinner, but have a care that you don't show
what you're up to, and, whatever you do, don't be cheeky."

"All right," said the stooard, thrusting both hands into his
trouser-pockets; "I'll do my best."

While these two were slowly wending their way through Kensington
Gardens, Emma Gray arrived at the Captain's villa--California Cottage,
he called it--and rang the bell.  The gate was opened by Netta White,
who, although not much bigger than when first introduced to the reader,
was incomparably more beautiful and smart.  Mrs Stoutley had reason to
be proud of her.

"I did not know that _you_ were to be here, Netta?" said Emma, in
surprise, as she entered.

"It was a very sudden call, Miss," said Netta, with a smile.  "Captain
Wopper wrote a note to me, begging me to ask Mrs Stoutley to be so good
as lend me to him for a day to help at his house-warming.  Here is the
letter, Miss."

Emma laughed as she glanced carelessly at the epistle, but became
suddenly grave, turned white, then red, and, snatching the letter from
the girl's hand, gazed at it intently.

"La!  Miss, is anything wrong?"

"May I keep this?" asked Emma.

"Certainly, Miss, if you wish it."

Before she could say anything more, they were interrupted by the
entrance of Dr Lawrence.  With a surprised look and smile he said--

"I have been invited to dine with our friend Captain Wopper, but did not
anticipate the pleasure of meeting Miss Gray here."

Emma explained that she also had been invited to dine with the Captain,
along with her mother and brother, but had supposed that that was all
the party, as he, the Captain, had mentioned no one else, and had been
particular in begging her to come an hour before the time, for the
purpose of going over his new villa with him, and giving him her private
opinion of it.

"I am punctual," she added, consulting her watch; "it is just four
o'clock."

"Four!  Then what is the dinner hour?"

"Five," answered Emma.

"The Captain's wits must have been wool-gathering," rejoined Lawrence,
with a laugh.  "He told me to come punctually at four.  However, I
rejoice in the mistake, as it gives me the great pleasure of assisting
you to form an unprejudiced opinion of the merits of the new villa.
Shall we begin with an exploration of the garden?"

Emma had no cause to blush at such an innocent proposal, nevertheless a
richer colour than usual mantled on her modest little face as she fell
in with the Doctor's humour and stepped out into the small piece of
ground behind the house.

It was of very limited extent and, although not surrounded too closely
by other villas, was nevertheless thoroughly overlooked by them, so that
seclusion in that garden was impossible.  Recognising this fact, a
former proprietor had erected at the lower end of the garden a bower so
contrived that its interior was invisible from all points except one,
and that was a side door to the garden which opened on a little passage
by which coals, milk, meat, and similar substances were conveyed from
the front to the rear of the house.

Dr Lawrence and Emma walked round and round the garden very slowly,
conversing earnestly.  Strange to say, they quite forgot the object
which had taken them there.  Their talk was solely of Switzerland.  As
it continued, the Doctor's voice deepened in tones and interest, and his
fair companion's cheek deepened in colour.  Suddenly they turned into
the bower.  As they did so, Gillie White chanced to appear at the garden
door above referred to, which stood ajar.  The spider's countenance was
a speaking one.  During the five minutes which it appeared in the
doorway, it, and the body belonging to it, became powerfully eloquent.
It might have conveyed to one's mind, as it were, a series of _tableaux
vivants_.  Gillie's first look was as if he had been struck dumb with
amazement (that was Lawrence suddenly seizing one of Emma's hands in
both of his and looking intently into her face).  Then Gillie's look of
amazement gave place to one of intense, quite touching--we might almost
say sympathetic--anxiety as he placed a hand on each knee and stooped
(that was the Doctor's right hand stealing round Emma's waist, and Emma
shrinking from him with averted face).  The urchin's visage suddenly
lighted up with a blaze of triumph, and he seized his cap as if about to
cheer (that was the Doctor's superior strength prevailing, and Emma's
head, now turned the other way, laid on his shoulder).  All at once
Gillie went into quiet convulsions, grinned from ear to ear, doubled
himself up, slapped his thigh inaudibly--_a la_ Captain Wopper--and
otherwise behaved like an outrageous, yet self-restrained, maniac (that
was--well, we have no right to say what _that_ was).  As a faithful
chronicler, however, we must report that one-half minute later the
stooard found Captain Wopper in the villa drawing-room, and there stated
to him that it was "hall right; that he didn't need for to perplex
hisself about Doctor Lawrence and Miss Hemma Gray, for that they was as
good as spliced already, having been seen by him, Gillie, in the bower
at the end of the garding a-blushin' and a--" Here the spider stopped
short and went into another fit of convulsions--this time unrestrained.

Is it necessary to say that Captain Wopper sat at the foot of his own
table that day--Mrs Stoutley being at the head--with his rugged visage
radiant and his powerful voice explosive; that he told innumerable
sea-stories without point, and laughed at them without propriety; that,
in the excess of his hilarity, he drank a mysterious toast to the
success of all sorts of engagements, present and future; that he called
Mrs Stoutley (in joke) sister, and Emma and Lewis (also in joke) niece
and neffy; that he called Doctor Lawrence neffy, too, with a pointedness
and a sense of its being the richest possible joke, that covered with
confusion the affianced pair; and with surprise the rest of the company;
that he kicked the stooard amicably out of the room for indulging in
explosions of laughter behind his chair, and recommending him, the
Captain, to go it strong, and to clap on sail till he should tear the
mast out of 'er, or git blowed on his beam-ends; that the stooard
returned unabashed to repeat the offence unreproved; that towards the
end, the Captain began a long-winded graphic story which served to show
how his good friend and chum Willum Stout in Callyforny had commissioned
him to buy and furnish a villa for the purpose of presenting it to a
certain young lady in token of his gratitood to her for bein' such a
good and faithful correspondent to him, Willum, while he was in furrin'
parts; also, how he was commissioned to buy and furnish another villa
and present it to a certain doctor whose father had saved him from
drownin' long long ago, he would not say _how_ long ago; and how that
this villa, in which they was feedin', was one of the said villas, and
that he found it quite unnecessary to spend any more of Willum's
hard-earned gains in the purchase of the other villa, owing to
circumstances which had took place in a certain bower that very day!  Is
it necessary, we again ask, to detail all this?  We think not;
therefore, we won't.

When reference was made to the bower, Emma could stand, or sit, it no
longer.  She rose hastily and ran blushing into the garden.  Captain
Wopper uttered a thunderous laugh, rose and ran after her.  He found her
in the bower with her face in her hands, and sat down beside her.

"Captain Wopper," she suddenly exclaimed, looking up and drawing a note
from her pocket, "do you know this?"

"Yes, duckie," (the Captain was quite reckless now), "it's my last
billy-doo to Netta White.  I never was good at pot-hooks and hangers."

"And do you know _this_ letter?" said Emma, holding up to the seaman's
eyes her uncle William's last letter to herself.

The Captain looked surprised, then became suddenly red and confused.

"W'y--ye-es, it's Willum's, ain't it?"

"The same pot-hooks and hangers _precisely_!" said Emma, "are they not?
Oh!" she exclaimed, throwing her arms round the Captain's neck and
kissing him, "uncle William, how _could_ you deceive us so?"

The Captain, to use his own expressions, was taken aback--fairly brought
up all standin'.

It had never occurred to his innocent mind that he should commit himself
so simply.  He felt an unconquerable objection to expressions of
gratitude, and perceiving, with deep foresight that such were impending,
his first impulse was to rise and fly, but Emma's kiss made him change
his mind.  He returned it in kind but not in degree, for it caused the
bower to resound as with a pistol shot.

"Oh! wot a cracker, ain't it just? you're a nice man, ain't you, to go
poachin' on other fellers--"

The Captain seized his opportunity, he broke from Emma and dashed wildly
at the spider, who incontinently fled down the conduit for coals,
cheering with the fury of a victorious Ashantee chief!



CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN.

THE LAST.

Humbly confessing to Emma Gray that he had no talent whatever for
plotting, Captain Wopper went off with a deprecatory expression of
countenance to reveal himself to Mrs Roby.  Great was his anxiety.  He
entered her presence like a guilty thing.  If, however, his anxiety was
great, his surprise and consternation were greater when she received his
revelation with tears, and for some time refused to be comforted!

The workings of the human mind are wonderful.  Sometimes they are, as
the Captain said, bamboozling.  If analysed it might have been
discovered that, apart altogether from the shock of unexpectedness and
the strain on her credulity, poor Mrs Roby suffered--without clearly
understanding it--from a double loss.  She had learned to love Captain
Wopper for his own sake, and now Captain Wopper was lost to her in
William Stout!  On the other hand William, her darling, her smooth-faced
chubby boy, was lost to her for ever in the hairy savage Captain Wopper!
It was perplexing as well as heart-rending.  Captain Wopper was gone,
because, properly, there was no such being in existence.  William Stout
was gone because he would never write to her any more, and could never
more return to her from California!

It was of no use that the Captain expressed the deepest contrition for
the deception he had practised, urging that he had done it "for the
best;" the old woman only wept the more; but when, in desperation, the
Captain hauled taut the sheets of his intellect, got well to wind'ard of
the old 'ooman an' gave her a broadside of philosophy, he was more
successful.

"Mother," he said, earnestly, "you don't feel easy under this breeze,
'cause why? you're entirely on the wrong tack.  Ready about now, an' see
what a change it'll make.  Look 'ee here.  You've _gained_ us both
instead of lost us both.  Here am I, Willum Stout yours to command, a
trifle stouter, it may be, and hairier than I once was, not to say
older, but by a long chalk better able to love the old girl who took me
in, an' befriended me when I was a reg'lar castaway, with dirty weather
brewin', an' the rocks o' destitootion close under my lee; and who'll
never forget your kindness, no never, so long as two timbers of the old
hulk hold together.  Well then, that's the view over the starboard
bulwarks.  Cast your eyes over to port now.  Here am I, Captain Wopper,
also yours to command, strong as a horse, as fond o' you as if you was
my own mother, an' resolved to stick by you through thick and thin to
the last.  So you see, you've got us both--Willum an' me--me an' Willum,
both of us lovin' you like blazes an' lookin' arter you like dootiful
sons.  A double tide of affection, so to speak, flowin' like strong
double-stout from the beer barrel out of which you originally drew me,
if I may say so.  Ain't you convinced?"

Mrs Roby _was_ convinced.  She gave in, and lived for many years
afterwards in the full enjoyment of the double blessing which had thus
fallen to her lot in the evening of her days.

And here, good reader, we might close our tale; but we cannot do so
without a few parting words in reference to the various friends in whose
company we have travelled so long.

Of course it is unnecessary to say, (especially to our lady readers, who
were no doubt quite aware of it from the beginning), that Lawrence and
Emma, Lewis and Nita, were, in the course of time, duly married.  The
love of their respective wives for each other induced the husbands not
only to dwell in adjoining villas, but to enter into a medical
co-partnery, in the prosecution of which they became professionally the
deities, and, privately, the adored of a large population of invalids--
with their more or less healthy friends--in the salubrious neighbourhood
of Kensington.  To go about "doing good" was the business, and became
the second nature, of the young doctors.  It was long a matter of great
surprise to not a few of their friends that though Lawrence and Lewis
neither smoked nor drank, they were uncommonly healthy and apparently
happy!  Some caustic spirits asserted that they were sure budding wings
were to be found on the shoulders of the two doctors, but we are
warranted in asserting, on the best authority, that on a strict
examination, nothing of the kind was discovered.  Need we say that Emma
and Nita were pattern wives?  Of course not, therefore we won't say it.
Our reticence on this point will no doubt be acceptable to those who,
being themselves naughty, don't believe in or admire "patterns," even
though these be of "heavenly things."  It is astonishing, though, what
an effect their so-called "perfection" had in tightening the bonds of
matrimony.  Furthermore, they had immense families of sons and
daughters, insomuch that it became necessary to lengthen their cords and
strengthen their stakes, and "Calyforny Villa" became a mere band-box
compared to the mansions which they ultimately called "home."

Mrs Stoutley having managed to get entirely out of _herself_--chiefly
by means of the Bible and the London gold-fields and moraines--became so
amiable and so unlike her former self, and, withal, so healthy and
cheery, that the two great families of Stoutley and Lawrence went to war
for possession of her.

The feud at last threatened to become chronic, and was usually carried
to an excess of virulence about Christmas and New Year time.  In order,
therefore, to the establishment of peace, Mrs Stoutley agreed to live
one-half of the year with Lewis, and the other half with Lawrence--Lewis
to have the larger half as a matter of course; but she retained her
cottage in Notting Hill and her maid Netta White, with the right to
retire at any moment, when the exigencies of the gold-fields or the
moraines demanded special attention; or when the excess of juvenile life
in the mansions before mentioned became too much for her.  On these
occasions of retirement which, to say truth, were not very frequent, she
was accompanied by Netta White--for Netta loved her mistress and clave
to her as Ruth to Naomi.  Being a native of the "fields," she was an
able and sympathetic guide and adviser at all times, and nothing pleased
Netta better than a visit to Grubb's Court, for there she saw the
blessed fruit of diamond and gold digging illustrated in the person of
her own reformed father and happy mother, who had removed from their
former damp rooms on the ground floor to the more salubrious apartments
among the chimney pots, which had been erected on the site of the
"cabin" after "the fire."  Directly below them, in somewhat more
pretentious apartments, shone another rescued diamond in the person of
Fred Leven.  He was now the support and comfort of his old mother as
well as of a pretty little young woman who had loved him even while he
was a drunkard, and who, had it been otherwise decreed, would have gone
on loving him and mourning over him and praying for him till he was
dead.  In her case, however, the mourning had been turned into joy.

In process of time Gillie White, _alias_ the spider, became a sturdy,
square-set, active little man, and was promoted to the position of
coachman in the family of Lewis Stoutley.  Susan Quick served in the
same family in the capacity of nurse for many years, and, being
naturally thrown much into the society of the young coachman, was
finally induced to cement the friendship which had begun in Switzerland
by a wedding.  This wedding, Gillie often declared to Susan, with much
earnestness, was the "stunninest ewent that had ever occurred to him in
his private capacity as a man."

There is a proverb which asserts that "it never rains but it pours."
This proverb was verified in the experience of the various personages of
our tale, for soon after the tide of fortune had turned in their favour,
the first showers of success swelled into absolute cataracts of
prosperity.  Among other things, the Gowrong mines suddenly went right.
Mrs Stoutley's former man of business, Mr Temple, called one day, and
informed her that her shares in that splendid undertaking had been
purchased, on her behalf, by a friend who had faith in the ultimate
success of the mines; that the friend forbade the mention of his name;
and that he, Mr Temple, had called to pay her her dividends, and to
congratulate her on her recovery of health and fortune.  Dr Tough--who,
when his services were no longer required, owing to the absence of
illness, had continued his visits as a jovial friend--chanced to call at
the same time with Mr Temple, and added his congratulations to those of
the man of business, observing, with enthusiasm, that the air of the
Swiss mountains, mixed in equal parts with that of the London
diamond-fields, would cure any disease under the sun.  His former
patient heartily agreed with him, but said that the medicine in question
was not a mere mixture but a chemical compound, containing an element
higher than the mountains and deeper than the diamond-fields, without
which the cure would certainly not have been effected.

Need we say that Captain Wopper stuck to Mrs Roby and the "new cabin"
to the last?  Many and powerful efforts were made to induce him to bring
his "mother" to dwell in Kensington, but Mrs Roby flatly refused to
move again under any suasion less powerful than that of a fire.  The
eldest of Lewis Stoutley's boys therefore hit on a plan for frequent and
easy inter-communication.  He one day suggested the idea of a
boating-club to his brothers and companions.  The proposal was received
with wild enthusiasm.  The club was established, and a boathouse, with
all its nautical appurtenances, was built under the very shadow of Mrs
Roby's dwelling.  A trusty "diamond" from Grubb's Court was made
boat-cleaner and repairer and guardian of the keys, and Captain Wopper
was created superintendent general director, chairman, honorary member,
and perpetual grand master of the club, in which varied offices he
continued to give unlimited satisfaction to the end of his days.

As for Slingsby, he became an aspirant to the honours of the Royal
Academy, and even dreamt of the president's chair!  Not being a madman,
he recovered from the disease of blighted hopes, and discovered that
there were other beings as well as Nita worth living for!  He also
became an intimate and welcome visitor at the two Kensington mansions,
the walls of which were largely decorated with his productions.  Whether
he succeeded in life to the full extent of his hopes we cannot say, but
we have good reason to believe that he did not entirely fail.

From time to time Lewis heard of his old guide Antoine Grennon from
friends who at various periods paid a visit to the glaciers of
Switzerland, and more than once, in after years, he and his family were
led by that prince of guides over the old romantic and familiar ground,
where things were not so much given to change as in other regions; where
the ice-rivers flowed with the same aspects, the same frozen currents,
eddies, and cataracts as in days gone by; where the elderly guides were
replaced by youthful guides of the same type and metal--ready to breast
the mountain slopes and scale the highest peaks at a moment's notice;
and where Antoine's cottage stood unchanged, with a pretty and rather
stout young woman usually kneeling in a tub, engaged in the destruction
of linen, and a pretty little girl, who called her "mother," busy with a
miniature washing of her own.  The only difference being that the child
called Antoine "grandfather," and appeared to regard a strapping youth
who dwelt there as her sire, and a remarkably stout but handsome
middle-aged woman as her grandmother.

Last, but not least, the Professor claims a parting word.  Little,
however, is known as to the future career of the genial man of science,
one of whose chief characteristics was his reverent recognition of God
in conversing about His works.  After returning to his home in the cold
north he corresponded for some years with Dr Lawrence, and never failed
to express his warmest regard for the friends with whom he had the good
fortune to meet while in Switzerland.  He was particularly emphatic--we
might almost say enthusiastic--in his expressions of regard for Captain
Wopper, expressions and sentiments which the bold mariner heartily
reciprocated, and he often stated to Mrs Roby, over an afternoon cup of
tea, his conviction that that Roosian Professor was out o' sight one of
the best fellows he had ever met with, and that the remembrance of him
warmed his heart to furriners in general and Roosians in particular.
This remark usually had the effect of inducing Mrs Roby to ask some
question about his, the Captain's, intercourse with the Professor, which
question invariably opened the flood-gates of the Captain's memory, and
drew from him prolonged and innumerable "yarns" about his visit to the
Continent--yarns which are too long to be set down here, for the Captain
never tired of relating, and old Mrs Roby never wearied of listening,
to his memorable rambles on the snow-capped mountains, and his strange
adventures among the--Rivers of Ice.

THE END.





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