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Title: A Tramp Abroad — Volume 06
Author: Twain, Mark, 1835-1910
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 "A Tramp Abroad — Volume 06" ***

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A TRAMP ABROAD, Part 6.

By Mark Twain

(Samuel L. Clemens)

First published in 1880

Illustrations taken from an 1880 First Edition

 * * * * * *

ILLUSTRATIONS:

     1.    PORTRAIT OF THE AUTHOR
     2.    TITIAN'S MOSES
     3.    THE AUTHOR'S MEMORIES
     236.  A SUNDAY MORNING'S DEMON
     237.  JUST SAVED
     238.  SCENE IN VALLEY OF ZERMATT
     239.  ARRIVAL AT ZERMATT
     240.  FITTED OUT
     241.  A FEARFUL FALL
     242.  TAIL PIECE
     243.  ALL READY
     244.  THE MARCH
     245.  THE CARAVAN
     246.  THE HOOK
     247.  THE DISABLED CHAPLAIN
     248.  TRYING EXPERIMENTS
     249.  SAVED! SAVED!
     250.  TWENTY MINUTES WORK
     251.  THE BLACK RAM
     252.  THE MIRACLE
     253.  THE NEW GUIDE
     251.  SCIENTIFIC RESEARCHES
     255.  MOUNTAIN CHALET
     256.  THE GRANDSON
     257.  OCCASIONLY MET WITH
     258.  SUMMIT OF THE GORNER GRAT
     259.  CHIEFS OF THE ADVANCE GUARD
     260.  MY PICTURE OF THE MATTERHORN
     261.  EVERYBODY HAD AN EXCUSE
     262.  SPRUNG A LEAK
     263.  A SCIENTIFIC QUESTION
     264.  A TERMINAL MORAINE
     265.  FRONT OF GLACIER
     266.  AN OLD MORAINE
     267.  GLACIER OF ZERMATT WITH LATERAL MORAINE
     269.  UNEXPECTED MEETING OF FRIENDS
     269.  VILLAGE OF CHAMONIX
     270.  THE MATTERHORN
     271.  ON THE SUMMIT
     272.  ACCIDENT ON THE MATTERHORN (1865)
     273.  ROPED TOGETHER
     274.  STORAGE OF ANCESTORS
     275.  FALLING OUT OF HIS FARM
     276.  CHILD LIFE IN SWITZERLAND
     277.  A SUNDAY PLAY
     278.  THE COMBINATION
     279.  CHILLON
     280.  THE TETE NOIR
     281.  MONT BLANC'S NEIGHBORS
     282.  AN EXQUISITE THING
     283.  A WILD RIDE
     284.  SWISS PEASANT GIRL



CONTENTS: CHAPTER XXXVI Sunday Church Bells--A Cause of
Profanity--A Magnificent Glacier--Fault Finding by Harris--Almost
an Accident--Selfishness of Harris--Approaching Zermatt--The
Matterhorn--Zermatt--Home of Mountain Climbers--Fitted out for
Climbing--A Fearful Adventure --Never Satisfied

CHAPTER XXXVII A Calm Decision--"I Will Ascend the
Riffelberg"--Preparations for the Trip--All Zermatt on the
Alert--Schedule of Persons and Things--An Unprecedented Display--A
General Turn--out--Ready for a Start--The Post of Danger--The Advance
Directed--Grand Display of Umbrellas--The First Camp--Almost a
Panic--Supposed to be Lost--The First Accident--A Chaplain Disabled--An
Experimenting Mule--Good Effects of a Blunder--Badly Lost--A
Reconnoiter--Mystery and Doubt--Stern Measures Taken--A Black Ram--Saved
by a Miracle--The Guide's Guide

CHAPTER XXXVIII Our Expedition Continued--Experiments with the
Barometer--Boiling Thermometer--Barometer Soup--An Interesting
Scientific Discovery--Crippling a Latinist--A Chaplain Injured--Short
of Barkeepers--Digging a Mountain Cellar--A Young American
Specimen--Somebody's Grandson--Arrival at Riffelberg Botel--Ascent of
Gorner Grat--Faith in Thermometers--The Matterhorn

CHAPTER XXXIX Guide Books--Plans for the Return of the Expedition--A
Glacier Train--Parachute Descent from Gorner Grat--Proposed Honors
to Harris Declined--All had an Excuse--A Magnificent Idea
Abandoned--Descent to the Glacier--A Supposed Leak--A Slow Train--The
Glacier Abandoned--Journey to Zermatt--A Scientific Question

CHAPTER XL Glaciers--Glacier Perils--Moraines--Terminal
Moraines--Lateral Moraines--Immense Size of Glacier--Traveling
Glacier----General Movements of Glaciers--Ascent of Mont Blacc--Loss
of Guides--Finding of Remains--Meeting of Old Friends--The Dead and
Living--Proposed Museum--The Relics at Chamonix

CHAPTER XLI The Matterhorn Catastrophe of 1563--Mr Whymper's
Narrative--Ascent of the Matterhorn--The Summit--The Matterhorn
Conquered--The Descent Commenced--A Fearful Disaster--Death of Lord
Douglas and Two Others--The Graves of the Two

CHAPTER XLII Switzerland--Graveyard at Zermatt--Balloting for
Marriage--Farmers as Heroes--Falling off a Farm--From St Nicholas to
Visp--Dangerous Traveling--Children's Play--The Parson's Children--A
Landlord's Daughter--A Rare Combination--Ch iIIon--Lost Sympathy--Mont
Blanc and its Neighbors--Beauty of Soap Bubbles--A Wild Drive--The King
of Drivers--Benefit of getting Drunk



CHAPTER XXXVI

[The Fiendish Fun of Alp-climbing]


We did not oversleep at St. Nicholas. The church-bell began to ring at
four-thirty in the morning, and from the length of time it continued
to ring I judged that it takes the Swiss sinner a good while to get the
invitation through his head. Most church-bells in the world are of poor
quality, and have a harsh and rasping sound which upsets the temper and
produces much sin, but the St. Nicholas bell is a good deal the worst
one that has been contrived yet, and is peculiarly maddening in its
operation. Still, it may have its right and its excuse to exist, for the
community is poor and not every citizen can afford a clock, perhaps; but
there cannot be any excuse for our church-bells at home, for there is
no family in America without a clock, and consequently there is no fair
pretext for the usual Sunday medley of dreadful sounds that issues from
our steeples. There is much more profanity in America on Sunday than in
all in the other six days of the week put together, and it is of a more
bitter and malignant character than the week-day profanity, too. It is
produced by the cracked-pot clangor of the cheap church-bells.



We build our churches almost without regard to cost; we rear an edifice
which is an adornment to the town, and we gild it, and fresco it, and
mortgage it, and do everything we can think of to perfect it, and then
spoil it all by putting a bell on it which afflicts everybody who hears
it, giving some the headache, others St. Vitus's dance, and the rest the
blind staggers.

An American village at ten o'clock on a summer Sunday is the quietest
and peacefulest and holiest thing in nature; but it is a pretty
different thing half an hour later. Mr. Poe's poem of the "Bells" stands
incomplete to this day; but it is well enough that it is so, for the
public reciter or "reader" who goes around trying to imitate the sounds
of the various sorts of bells with his voice would find himself "up a
stump" when he got to the church-bell--as Joseph Addison would say. The
church is always trying to get other people to reform; it might not be
a bad idea to reform itself a little, by way of example. It is still
clinging to one or two things which were useful once, but which are
not useful now, neither are they ornamental. One is the bell-ringing
to remind a clock-caked town that it is church-time, and another is the
reading from the pulpit of a tedious list of "notices" which everybody
who is interested has already read in the newspaper. The clergyman even
reads the hymn through--a relic of an ancient time when hymn-books are
scarce and costly; but everybody has a hymn-book, now, and so the public
reading is no longer necessary. It is not merely unnecessary, it is
generally painful; for the average clergyman could not fire into his
congregation with a shotgun and hit a worse reader than himself, unless
the weapon scattered shamefully. I am not meaning to be flippant and
irreverent, I am only meaning to be truthful. The average clergyman, in
all countries and of all denominations, is a very bad reader. One would
think he would at least learn how to read the Lord's Prayer, by and by,
but it is not so. He races through it as if he thought the quicker
he got it in, the sooner it would be answered. A person who does not
appreciate the exceeding value of pauses, and does not know how to
measure their duration judiciously, cannot render the grand simplicity
and dignity of a composition like that effectively.

We took a tolerably early breakfast, and tramped off toward Zermatt
through the reeking lanes of the village, glad to get away from that
bell. By and by we had a fine spectacle on our right. It was the
wall-like butt end of a huge glacier, which looked down on us from an
Alpine height which was well up in the blue sky. It was an astonishing
amount of ice to be compacted together in one mass. We ciphered upon it
and decided that it was not less than several hundred feet from the base
of the wall of solid ice to the top of it--Harris believed it was
really twice that. We judged that if St. Paul's, St. Peter's, the Great
Pyramid, the Strasburg Cathedral and the Capitol in Washington were
clustered against that wall, a man sitting on its upper edge could not
hang his hat on the top of any one of them without reaching down three
or four hundred feet--a thing which, of course, no man could do.

To me, that mighty glacier was very beautiful. I did not imagine that
anybody could find fault with it; but I was mistaken. Harris had been
snarling for several days. He was a rabid Protestant, and he was always
saying:

"In the Protestant cantons you never see such poverty and dirt and
squalor as you do in this Catholic one; you never see the lanes and
alleys flowing with foulness; you never see such wretched little sties
of houses; you never see an inverted tin turnip on top of a church for
a dome; and as for a church-bell, why, you never hear a church-bell at
all."

All this morning he had been finding fault, straight along. First it was
with the mud. He said, "It ain't muddy in a Protestant canton when it
rains." Then it was with the dogs: "They don't have those lop-eared dogs
in a Protestant canton." Then it was with the roads: "They don't leave
the roads to make themselves in a Protestant canton, the people make
them--and they make a road that IS a road, too." Next it was the goats:
"You never see a goat shedding tears in a Protestant canton--a goat,
there, is one of the cheerfulest objects in nature." Next it was the
chamois: "You never see a Protestant chamois act like one of these--they
take a bite or two and go; but these fellows camp with you and stay."
Then it was the guide-boards: "In a Protestant canton you couldn't get
lost if you wanted to, but you never see a guide-board in a Catholic
canton." Next, "You never see any flower-boxes in the windows,
here--never anything but now and then a cat--a torpid one; but you take
a Protestant canton: windows perfectly lovely with flowers--and as for
cats, there's just acres of them. These folks in this canton leave a
road to make itself, and then fine you three francs if you 'trot' over
it--as if a horse could trot over such a sarcasm of a road." Next about
the goiter: "THEY talk about goiter!--I haven't seen a goiter in this
whole canton that I couldn't put in a hat."

He had growled at everything, but I judged it would puzzle him to find
anything the matter with this majestic glacier. I intimated as much; but
he was ready, and said with surly discontent: "You ought to see them in
the Protestant cantons."

This irritated me. But I concealed the feeling, and asked:

"What is the matter with this one?"

"Matter? Why, it ain't in any kind of condition. They never take any
care of a glacier here. The moraine has been spilling gravel around it,
and got it all dirty."

"Why, man, THEY can't help that."

"THEY? You're right. That is, they WON'T. They could if they wanted to.
You never see a speck of dirt on a Protestant glacier. Look at the Rhone
glacier. It is fifteen miles long, and seven hundred feet thick. If this
was a Protestant glacier you wouldn't see it looking like this, I can
tell you."

"That is nonsense. What would they do with it?"

"They would whitewash it. They always do."

I did not believe a word of this, but rather than have trouble I let it
go; for it is a waste of breath to argue with a bigot. I even doubted if
the Rhone glacier WAS in a Protestant canton; but I did not know, so I
could not make anything by contradicting a man who would probably put me
down at once with manufactured evidence.

About nine miles from St. Nicholas we crossed a bridge over the raging
torrent of the Visp, and came to a log strip of flimsy fencing which
was pretending to secure people from tumbling over a perpendicular wall
forty feet high and into the river. Three children were approaching; one
of them, a little girl, about eight years old, was running; when pretty
close to us she stumbled and fell, and her feet shot under the rail of
the fence and for a moment projected over the stream. It gave us a
sharp shock, for we thought she was gone, sure, for the ground slanted
steeply, and to save herself seemed a sheer impossibility; but she
managed to scramble up, and ran by us laughing.

We went forward and examined the place and saw the long tracks which her
feet had made in the dirt when they darted over the verge. If she had
finished her trip she would have struck some big rocks in the edge of
the water, and then the torrent would have snatched her downstream among
the half-covered boulders and she would have been pounded to pulp in two
minutes. We had come exceedingly near witnessing her death.



And now Harris's contrary nature and inborn selfishness were strikingly
manifested. He has no spirit of self-denial. He began straight off, and
continued for an hour, to express his gratitude that the child was not
destroyed. I never saw such a man. That was the kind of person he was;
just so HE was gratified, he never cared anything about anybody else. I
had noticed that trait in him, over and over again. Often, of course, it
was mere heedlessness, mere want of reflection. Doubtless this may have
been the case in most instances, but it was not the less hard to bar
on that account--and after all, its bottom, its groundwork, was
selfishness. There is no avoiding that conclusion. In the instance under
consideration, I did think the indecency of running on in that way might
occur to him; but no, the child was saved and he was glad, that was
sufficient--he cared not a straw for MY feelings, or my loss of such a
literary plum, snatched from my very mouth at the instant it was
ready to drop into it. His selfishness was sufficient to place his own
gratification in being spared suffering clear before all concern for
me, his friend. Apparently, he did not once reflect upon the valuable
details which would have fallen like a windfall to me: fishing the child
out--witnessing the surprise of the family and the stir the thing would
have made among the peasants--then a Swiss funeral--then the roadside
monument, to be paid for by us and have our names mentioned in it. And
we should have gone into Baedeker and been immortal. I was silent. I was
too much hurt to complain. If he could act so, and be so heedless and so
frivolous at such a time, and actually seem to glory in it, after all
I had done for him, I would have cut my hand off before I would let him
see that I was wounded.



We were approaching Zermatt; consequently, we were approaching the
renowned Matterhorn. A month before, this mountain had been only a name
to us, but latterly we had been moving through a steadily thickening
double row of pictures of it, done in oil, water, chromo, wood, steel,
copper, crayon, and photography, and so it had at length become a shape
to us--and a very distinct, decided, and familiar one, too. We were
expecting to recognize that mountain whenever or wherever we should run
across it. We were not deceived. The monarch was far away when we first
saw him, but there was no such thing as mistaking him. He has the rare
peculiarity of standing by himself; he is peculiarly steep, too, and is
also most oddly shaped. He towers into the sky like a colossal wedge,
with the upper third of its blade bent a little to the left. The broad
base of this monster wedge is planted upon a grand glacier-paved Alpine
platform whose elevation is ten thousand feet above sea-level; as the
wedge itself is some five thousand feet high, it follows that its apex
is about fifteen thousand feet above sea-level. So the whole bulk of
this stately piece of rock, this sky-cleaving monolith, is above the
line of eternal snow. Yet while all its giant neighbors have the look of
being built of solid snow, from their waists up, the Matterhorn stands
black and naked and forbidding, the year round, or merely powdered or
streaked with white in places, for its sides are so steep that the
snow cannot stay there. Its strange form, its august isolation, and its
majestic unkinship with its own kind, make it--so to speak--the Napoleon
of the mountain world. "Grand, gloomy, and peculiar," is a phrase which
fits it as aptly as it fitted the great captain.

Think of a monument a mile high, standing on a pedestal two miles high!
This is what the Matterhorn is--a monument. Its office, henceforth, for
all time, will be to keep watch and ward over the secret resting-place
of the young Lord Douglas, who, in 1865, was precipitated from the
summit over a precipice four thousand feet high, and never seen again.
No man ever had such a monument as this before; the most imposing of
the world's other monuments are but atoms compared to it; and they will
perish, and their places will pass from memory, but this will remain.

[The accident which cost Lord Douglas his life (see Chapter xii) also
cost the lives of three other men. These three fell four-fifths of a
mile, and their bodies were afterward found, lying side by side, upon a
glacier, whence they were borne to Zermatt and buried in the churchyard.

The remains of Lord Douglas have never been found. The secret of his
sepulture, like that of Moses, must remain a mystery always.]

A walk from St. Nicholas to Zermatt is a wonderful experience. Nature
is built on a stupendous plan in that region. One marches continually
between walls that are piled into the skies, with their upper heights
broken into a confusion of sublime shapes that gleam white and cold
against the background of blue; and here and there one sees a big
glacier displaying its grandeurs on the top of a precipice, or a
graceful cascade leaping and flashing down the green declivities. There
is nothing tame, or cheap, or trivial--it is all magnificent. That
short valley is a picture-gallery of a notable kind, for it contains
no mediocrities; from end to end the Creator has hung it with His
masterpieces.



We made Zermatt at three in the afternoon, nine hours out from
St. Nicholas. Distance, by guide-book, twelve miles; by pedometer
seventy-two. We were in the heart and home of the mountain-climbers,
now, as all visible things testified. The snow-peaks did not hold
themselves aloof, in aristocratic reserve; they nestled close around,
in a friendly, sociable way; guides, with the ropes and axes and other
implements of their fearful calling slung about their persons, roosted
in a long line upon a stone wall in front of the hotel, and waited for
customers; sun-burnt climbers, in mountaineering costume, and followed
by their guides and porters, arrived from time to time, from breakneck
expeditions among the peaks and glaciers of the High Alps; male and
female tourists, on mules, filed by, in a continuous procession,
hotelward-bound from wild adventures which would grow in grandeur every
time they were described at the English or American fireside, and at
last outgrow the possible itself.

We were not dreaming; this was not a make-believe home of the
Alp-climber, created by our heated imaginations; no, for here was Mr.
Girdlestone himself, the famous Englishman who hunts his way to the most
formidable Alpine summits without a guide. I was not equal to imagining
a Girdlestone; it was all I could do to even realize him, while looking
straight at him at short range. I would rather face whole Hyde Parks of
artillery than the ghastly forms of death which he has faced among the
peaks and precipices of the mountains. There is probably no pleasure
equal to the pleasure of climbing a dangerous Alp; but it is a pleasure
which is confined strictly to people who can find pleasure in it. I have
not jumped to this conclusion; I have traveled to it per gravel-train,
so to speak. I have thought the thing all out, and am quite sure I am
right. A born climber's appetite for climbing is hard to satisfy; when
it comes upon him he is like a starving man with a feast before him; he
may have other business on hand, but it must wait. Mr. Girdlestone had
had his usual summer holiday in the Alps, and had spent it in his usual
way, hunting for unique chances to break his neck; his vacation was
over, and his luggage packed for England, but all of a sudden a hunger
had come upon him to climb the tremendous Weisshorn once more, for he
had heard of a new and utterly impossible route up it. His baggage
was unpacked at once, and now he and a friend, laden with knapsacks,
ice-axes, coils of rope, and canteens of milk, were just setting out.
They would spend the night high up among the snows, somewhere, and
get up at two in the morning and finish the enterprise. I had a
strong desire to go with them, but forced it down--a feat which Mr.
Girdlestone, with all his fortitude, could not do.

Even ladies catch the climbing mania, and are unable to throw it off.
A famous climber, of that sex, had attempted the Weisshorn a few days
before our arrival, and she and her guides had lost their way in a
snow-storm high up among the peaks and glaciers and been forced to
wander around a good while before they could find a way down. When this
lady reached the bottom, she had been on her feet twenty-three hours!

Our guides, hired on the Gemmi, were already at Zermatt when we
reached there. So there was nothing to interfere with our getting up an
adventure whenever we should choose the time and the object. I resolved
to devote my first evening in Zermatt to studying up the subject of
Alpine climbing, by way of preparation.

I read several books, and here are some of the things I found out. One's
shoes must be strong and heavy, and have pointed hobnails in them. The
alpenstock must be of the best wood, for if it should break, loss of
life might be the result. One should carry an ax, to cut steps in the
ice with, on the great heights. There must be a ladder, for there are
steep bits of rock which can be surmounted with this instrument--or this
utensil--but could not be surmounted without it; such an obstruction
has compelled the tourist to waste hours hunting another route, when a
ladder would have saved him all trouble. One must have from one hundred
and fifty to five hundred feet of strong rope, to be used in lowering
the party down steep declivities which are too steep and smooth to
be traversed in any other way. One must have a steel hook, on another
rope--a very useful thing; for when one is ascending and comes to a low
bluff which is yet too high for the ladder, he swings this rope aloft
like a lasso, the hook catches at the top of the bluff, and then the
tourist climbs the rope, hand over hand--being always particular to try
and forget that if the hook gives way he will never stop falling till
he arrives in some part of Switzerland where they are not expecting him.
Another important thing--there must be a rope to tie the whole party
together with, so that if one falls from a mountain or down a bottomless
chasm in a glacier, the others may brace back on the rope and save him.
One must have a silk veil, to protect his face from snow, sleet, hail
and gale, and colored goggles to protect his eyes from that dangerous
enemy, snow-blindness. Finally, there must be some porters, to carry
provisions, wine and scientific instruments, and also blanket bags for
the party to sleep in.



I closed my readings with a fearful adventure which Mr. Whymper once had
on the Matterhorn when he was prowling around alone, five thousand
feet above the town of Breil. He was edging his way gingerly around
the corner of a precipice where the upper edge of a sharp declivity of
ice-glazed snow joined it. This declivity swept down a couple of hundred
feet, into a gully which curved around and ended at a precipice eight
hundred feet high, overlooking a glacier. His foot slipped, and he fell.

He says:

"My knapsack brought my head down first, and I pitched into some rocks
about a dozen feet below; they caught something, and tumbled me off
the edge, head over heels, into the gully; the baton was dashed from my
hands, and I whirled downward in a series of bounds, each longer than
the last; now over ice, now into rocks, striking my head four or five
times, each time with increased force. The last bound sent me spinning
through the air in a leap of fifty or sixty feet, from one side of the
gully to the other, and I struck the rocks, luckily, with the whole of
my left side. They caught my clothes for a moment, and I fell back on to
the snow with motion arrested. My head fortunately came the right side
up, and a few frantic catches brought me to a halt, in the neck of the
gully and on the verge of the precipice. Baton, hat, and veil skimmed
by and disappeared, and the crash of the rocks--which I had started--as
they fell on to the glacier, told how narrow had been the escape from
utter destruction. As it was, I fell nearly two hundred feet in seven or
eight bounds. Ten feet more would have taken me in one gigantic leap of
eight hundred feet on to the glacier below.



"The situation was sufficiently serious. The rocks could not be let go
for a moment, and the blood was spurting out of more than twenty cuts.
The most serious ones were in the head, and I vainly tried to close
them with one hand, while holding on with the other. It was useless;
the blood gushed out in blinding jets at each pulsation. At last, in a
moment of inspiration, I kicked out a big lump of snow and struck it
as plaster on my head. The idea was a happy one, and the flow of blood
diminished. Then, scrambling up, I got, not a moment too soon, to
a place of safety, and fainted away. The sun was setting when
consciousness returned, and it was pitch-dark before the Great Staircase
was descended; but by a combination of luck and care, the whole four
thousand seven hundred feet of descent to Breil was accomplished without
a slip, or once missing the way."

His wounds kept him abed some days. Then he got up and climbed that
mountain again. That is the way with a true Alp-climber; the more fun he
has, the more he wants.



CHAPTER XXXVII

[Our Imposing Column Starts Upward]


After I had finished my readings, I was no longer myself; I was tranced,
uplifted, intoxicated, by the almost incredible perils and adventures
I had been following my authors through, and the triumphs I had been
sharing with them. I sat silent some time, then turned to Harris and
said:

"My mind is made up."

Something in my tone struck him: and when he glanced at my eye and
read what was written there, his face paled perceptibly. He hesitated a
moment, then said:

"Speak."

I answered, with perfect calmness:

"I will ascend the Riffelberg."

If I had shot my poor friend he could not have fallen from his chair
more suddenly. If I had been his father he could not have pleaded harder
to get me to give up my purpose. But I turned a deaf ear to all he said.
When he perceived at last that nothing could alter my determination, he
ceased to urge, and for a while the deep silence was broken only by his
sobs. I sat in marble resolution, with my eyes fixed upon vacancy, for
in spirit I was already wrestling with the perils of the mountains, and
my friend sat gazing at me in adoring admiration through his tears.
At last he threw himself upon me in a loving embrace and exclaimed in
broken tones:

"Your Harris will never desert you. We will die together."

I cheered the noble fellow with praises, and soon his fears were
forgotten and he was eager for the adventure. He wanted to summon the
guides at once and leave at two in the morning, as he supposed the
custom was; but I explained that nobody was looking at that hour; and
that the start in the dark was not usually made from the village but
from the first night's resting-place on the mountain side. I said we
would leave the village at 3 or 4 P.M. on the morrow; meantime he could
notify the guides, and also let the public know of the attempt which we
proposed to make.

I went to bed, but not to sleep. No man can sleep when he is about to
undertake one of these Alpine exploits. I tossed feverishly all night
long, and was glad enough when I heard the clock strike half past eleven
and knew it was time to get up for dinner. I rose, jaded and rusty, and
went to the noon meal, where I found myself the center of interest and
curiosity; for the news was already abroad. It is not easy to eat calmly
when you are a lion; but it is very pleasant, nevertheless.

As usual, at Zermatt, when a great ascent is about to be undertaken,
everybody, native and foreign, laid aside his own projects and took up
a good position to observe the start. The expedition consisted of 198
persons, including the mules; or 205, including the cows. As follows:

    CHIEFS OF SERVICE     SUBORDINATES

     Myself      1  Veterinary Surgeon
     Mr. Harris  1  Butler
 17  Guides     12  Waiters
 4  Surgeons     1  Footman
 1  Geologist    1  Barber
 1  Botanist     1  Head Cook
 3  Chaplains    9  Assistants
 2  Draftsman    4  Pastry Cooks
 15  Barkeepers  1  Confectionery Artist
 1  Latinist

     TRANSPORTATION, ETC.

 27  Porters     3  Coarse Washers and Ironers
 44  Mules       1  Fine ditto
 44  Muleteers   7  Cows
                 2  Milkers

Total, 154 men, 51 animals. Grand Total, 205.


      RATIONS, ETC.          APPARATUS

 16  Cases Hams      25  Spring Mattresses
 2  Barrels Flour     2  Hair ditto
 22  Barrels Whiskey     Bedding for same
 1  Barrel Sugar      2  Mosquito-nets
 1  Keg Lemons       29  Tents
 2,000 Cigars            Scientific Instruments
 1  Barrel Pies      97  Ice-axes
 1  Ton of Pemmican   5  Cases Dynamite
 143  Pair Crutches   7  Cans Nitroglycerin
 2  Barrels Arnica   22  40-foot Ladders
 1  Bale of Lint      2  Miles of Rope
 27  Kegs Paregoric 154  Umbrellas

It was full four o'clock in the afternoon before my cavalcade was
entirely ready. At that hour it began to move. In point of numbers and
spectacular effect, it was the most imposing expedition that had ever
marched from Zermatt.



I commanded the chief guide to arrange the men and animals in single
file, twelve feet apart, and lash them all together on a strong rope. He
objected that the first two miles was a dead level, with plenty of room,
and that the rope was never used except in very dangerous places. But
I would not listen to that. My reading had taught me that many serious
accidents had happened in the Alps simply from not having the people
tied up soon enough; I was not going to add one to the list. The guide
then obeyed my order.

When the procession stood at ease, roped together, and ready to move, I
never saw a finer sight. It was 3,122 feet long--over half a mile; every
man and me was on foot, and had on his green veil and his blue goggles,
and his white rag around his hat, and his coil of rope over one shoulder
and under the other, and his ice-ax in his belt, and carried his
alpenstock in his left hand, his umbrella (closed) in his right, and his
crutches slung at his back. The burdens of the pack-mules and the horns
of the cows were decked with the Edelweiss and the Alpine rose.

I and my agent were the only persons mounted. We were in the post of
danger in the extreme rear, and tied securely to five guides apiece. Our
armor-bearers carried our ice-axes, alpenstocks, and other implements
for us. We were mounted upon very small donkeys, as a measure of safety;
in time of peril we could straighten our legs and stand up, and let
the donkey walk from under. Still, I cannot recommend this sort of
animal--at least for excursions of mere pleasure--because his
ears interrupt the view. I and my agent possessed the regulation
mountaineering costumes, but concluded to leave them behind. Out of
respect for the great numbers of tourists of both sexes who would be
assembled in front of the hotels to see us pass, and also out of respect
for the many tourists whom we expected to encounter on our expedition,
we decided to make the ascent in evening dress.



We watered the caravan at the cold stream which rushes down a trough
near the end of the village, and soon afterward left the haunts of
civilization behind us. About half past five o'clock we arrived at a
bridge which spans the Visp, and after throwing over a detachment to see
if it was safe, the caravan crossed without accident. The way now led,
by a gentle ascent, carpeted with fresh green grass, to the church at
Winkelmatten. Without stopping to examine this edifice, I executed
a flank movement to the right and crossed the bridge over the
Findelenbach, after first testing its strength. Here I deployed to the
right again, and presently entered an inviting stretch of meadowland
which was unoccupied save by a couple of deserted huts toward the
furthest extremity. These meadows offered an excellent camping-place.
We pitched our tents, supped, established a proper grade, recorded the
events of the day, and then went to bed.

We rose at two in the morning and dressed by candle-light. It was a
dismal and chilly business. A few stars were shining, but the general
heavens were overcast, and the great shaft of the Matterhorn was draped
in a cable pall of clouds. The chief guide advised a delay; he said he
feared it was going to rain. We waited until nine o'clock, and then got
away in tolerably clear weather.



Our course led up some terrific steeps, densely wooded with larches and
cedars, and traversed by paths which the rains had guttered and which
were obstructed by loose stones. To add to the danger and inconvenience,
we were constantly meeting returning tourists on foot and horseback, and
as constantly being crowded and battered by ascending tourists who were
in a hurry and wanted to get by.

Our troubles thickened. About the middle of the afternoon the seventeen
guides called a halt and held a consultation. After consulting an hour
they said their first suspicion remained intact--that is to say, they
believed they were lost. I asked if they did not KNOW it? No, they said,
they COULDN'T absolutely know whether they were lost or not, because
none of them had ever been in that part of the country before. They had
a strong instinct that they were lost, but they had no proofs--except
that they did not know where they were. They had met no tourists for
some time, and they considered that a suspicious sign.

Plainly we were in an ugly fix. The guides were naturally unwilling to
go alone and seek a way out of the difficulty; so we all went together.
For better security we moved slow and cautiously, for the forest was
very dense. We did not move up the mountain, but around it, hoping to
strike across the old trail. Toward nightfall, when we were about tired
out, we came up against a rock as big as a cottage. This barrier took
all the remaining spirit out of the men, and a panic of fear and despair
ensued. They moaned and wept, and said they should never see their homes
and their dear ones again. Then they began to upbraid me for bringing
them upon this fatal expedition. Some even muttered threats against me.

Clearly it was no time to show weakness. So I made a speech in which I
said that other Alp-climbers had been in as perilous a position as this,
and yet by courage and perseverance had escaped. I promised to stand
by them, I promised to rescue them. I closed by saying we had plenty
of provisions to maintain us for quite a siege--and did they suppose
Zermatt would allow half a mile of men and mules to mysteriously
disappear during any considerable time, right above their noses, and
make no inquiries? No, Zermatt would send out searching-expeditions and
we should be saved.

This speech had a great effect. The men pitched the tents with some
little show of cheerfulness, and we were snugly under cover when the
night shut down. I now reaped the reward of my wisdom in providing one
article which is not mentioned in any book of Alpine adventure but this.
I refer to the paregoric. But for that beneficent drug, would have not
one of those men slept a moment during that fearful night. But for that
gentle persuader they must have tossed, unsoothed, the night through;
for the whiskey was for me. Yes, they would have risen in the morning
unfitted for their heavy task. As it was, everybody slept but my agent
and me--only we and the barkeepers. I would not permit myself to sleep
at such a time. I considered myself responsible for all those lives. I
meant to be on hand and ready, in case of avalanches up there, but I did
not know it then.

We watched the weather all through that awful night, and kept an eye on
the barometer, to be prepared for the least change. There was not the
slightest change recorded by the instrument, during the whole time.
Words cannot describe the comfort that that friendly, hopeful, steadfast
thing was to me in that season of trouble. It was a defective barometer,
and had no hand but the stationary brass pointer, but I did not know
that until afterward. If I should be in such a situation again, I should
not wish for any barometer but that one.



All hands rose at two in the morning and took breakfast, and as soon as
it was light we roped ourselves together and went at that rock. For some
time we tried the hook-rope and other means of scaling it, but without
success--that is, without perfect success. The hook caught once, and
Harris started up it hand over hand, but the hold broke and if there
had not happened to be a chaplain sitting underneath at the time, Harris
would certainly have been crippled. As it was, it was the chaplain. He
took to his crutches, and I ordered the hook-rope to be laid aside. It
was too dangerous an implement where so many people are standing around.



We were puzzled for a while; then somebody thought of the ladders.
One of these was leaned against the rock, and the men went up it tied
together in couples. Another ladder was sent up for use in descending.
At the end of half an hour everybody was over, and that rock was
conquered. We gave our first grand shout of triumph. But the joy was
short-lived, for somebody asked how we were going to get the animals
over.

This was a serious difficulty; in fact, it was an impossibility.
The courage of the men began to waver immediately; once more we were
threatened with a panic. But when the danger was most imminent, we were
saved in a mysterious way. A mule which had attracted attention from the
beginning by its disposition to experiment, tried to eat a five-pound
can of nitroglycerin. This happened right alongside the rock. The
explosion threw us all to the ground, and covered us with dirt and
debris; it frightened us extremely, too, for the crash it made was
deafening, and the violence of the shock made the ground tremble.
However, we were grateful, for the rock was gone. Its place was occupied
by a new cellar, about thirty feet across, by fifteen feet deep. The
explosion was heard as far as Zermatt; and an hour and a half afterward,
many citizens of that town were knocked down and quite seriously injured
by descending portions of mule meat, frozen solid. This shows, better
than any estimate in figures, how high the experimenter went.



We had nothing to do, now, but bridge the cellar and proceed on our way.
With a cheer the men went at their work. I attended to the engineering,
myself. I appointed a strong detail to cut down trees with ice-axes and
trim them for piers to support the bridge. This was a slow business, for
ice-axes are not good to cut wood with. I caused my piers to be firmly
set up in ranks in the cellar, and upon them I laid six of my forty-foot
ladders, side by side, and laid six more on top of them. Upon this
bridge I caused a bed of boughs to be spread, and on top of the boughs
a bed of earth six inches deep. I stretched ropes upon either side to
serve as railings, and then my bridge was complete. A train of elephants
could have crossed it in safety and comfort. By nightfall the caravan
was on the other side and the ladders were taken up.

Next morning we went on in good spirits for a while, though our way
was slow and difficult, by reason of the steep and rocky nature of the
ground and the thickness of the forest; but at last a dull despondency
crept into the men's faces and it was apparent that not only they, but
even the guides, were now convinced that we were lost. The fact that we
still met no tourists was a circumstance that was but too significant.
Another thing seemed to suggest that we were not only lost, but very
badly lost; for there must surely be searching-parties on the road
before this time, yet we had seen no sign of them.

Demoralization was spreading; something must be done, and done quickly,
too. Fortunately, I am not unfertile in expedients. I contrived one
now which commended itself to all, for it promised well. I took
three-quarters of a mile of rope and fastened one end of it around the
waist of a guide, and told him to go find the road, while the caravan
waited. I instructed him to guide himself back by the rope, in case of
failure; in case of success, he was to give the rope a series of violent
jerks, whereupon the Expedition would go to him at once. He departed,
and in two minutes had disappeared among the trees. I payed out the rope
myself, while everybody watched the crawling thing with eager eyes.
The rope crept away quite slowly, at times, at other times with some
briskness. Twice or thrice we seemed to get the signal, and a shout was
just ready to break from the men's lips when they perceived it was a
false alarm. But at last, when over half a mile of rope had slidden
away, it stopped gliding and stood absolutely still--one minute--two
minutes--three--while we held our breath and watched.

Was the guide resting? Was he scanning the country from some high point?
Was he inquiring of a chance mountaineer? Stop,--had he fainted from
excess of fatigue and anxiety?

This thought gave us a shock. I was in the very first act of detailing
an Expedition to succor him, when the cord was assailed with a series of
such frantic jerks that I could hardly keep hold of it. The huzza that
went up, then, was good to hear. "Saved! saved!" was the word that rang
out, all down the long rank of the caravan.



We rose up and started at once. We found the route to be good enough
for a while, but it began to grow difficult, by and by, and this feature
steadily increased. When we judged we had gone half a mile, we momently
expected to see the guide; but no, he was not visible anywhere; neither
was he waiting, for the rope was still moving, consequently he was
doing the same. This argued that he had not found the road, yet, but
was marching to it with some peasant. There was nothing for us to do
but plod along--and this we did. At the end of three hours we were
still plodding. This was not only mysterious, but exasperating. And very
fatiguing, too; for we had tried hard, along at first, to catch up with
the guide, but had only fagged ourselves, in vain; for although he was
traveling slowly he was yet able to go faster than the hampered caravan
over such ground.

At three in the afternoon we were nearly dead with exhaustion--and still
the rope was slowly gliding out. The murmurs against the guide had been
growing steadily, and at last they were become loud and savage. A mutiny
ensued. The men refused to proceed. They declared that we had been
traveling over and over the same ground all day, in a kind of circle.
They demanded that our end of the rope be made fast to a tree, so as to
halt the guide until we could overtake him and kill him. This was not an
unreasonable requirement, so I gave the order.

As soon as the rope was tied, the Expedition moved forward with that
alacrity which the thirst for vengeance usually inspires. But after a
tiresome march of almost half a mile, we came to a hill covered thick
with a crumbly rubbish of stones, and so steep that no man of us all
was now in a condition to climb it. Every attempt failed, and ended in
crippling somebody. Within twenty minutes I had five men on crutches.



Whenever a climber tried to assist himself by the rope, it yielded and
let him tumble backward. The frequency of this result suggested an idea
to me. I ordered the caravan to 'bout face and form in marching order; I
then made the tow-rope fast to the rear mule, and gave the command:

"Mark time--by the right flank--forward--march!"



The procession began to move, to the impressive strains of a
battle-chant, and I said to myself, "Now, if the rope don't break I
judge THIS will fetch that guide into the camp." I watched the rope
gliding down the hill, and presently when I was all fixed for triumph
I was confronted by a bitter disappointment; there was no guide tied to
the rope, it was only a very indignant old black ram. The fury of the
baffled Expedition exceeded all bounds. They even wanted to wreak their
unreasoning vengeance on this innocent dumb brute. But I stood between
them and their prey, menaced by a bristling wall of ice-axes and
alpenstocks, and proclaimed that there was but one road to this murder,
and it was directly over my corpse. Even as I spoke I saw that my doom
was sealed, except a miracle supervened to divert these madmen from
their fell purpose. I see the sickening wall of weapons now; I see that
advancing host as I saw it then, I see the hate in those cruel eyes; I
remember how I drooped my head upon my breast, I feel again the
sudden earthquake shock in my rear, administered by the very ram I was
sacrificing myself to save; I hear once more the typhoon of laughter
that burst from the assaulting column as I clove it from van to rear
like a Sepoy shot from a Rodman gun.



I was saved. Yes, I was saved, and by the merciful instinct of
ingratitude which nature had planted in the breast of that treacherous
beast. The grace which eloquence had failed to work in those men's
hearts, had been wrought by a laugh. The ram was set free and my life
was spared.

We lived to find out that that guide had deserted us as soon as he had
placed a half-mile between himself and us. To avert suspicion, he had
judged it best that the line should continue to move; so he caught that
ram, and at the time that he was sitting on it making the rope fast to
it, we were imagining that he was lying in a swoon, overcome by fatigue
and distress. When he allowed the ram to get up it fell to plunging
around, trying to rid itself of the rope, and this was the signal which
we had risen up with glad shouts to obey. We had followed this ram round
and round in a circle all day--a thing which was proven by the discovery
that we had watered the Expedition seven times at one and same spring in
seven hours. As expert a woodman as I am, I had somehow failed to notice
this until my attention was called to it by a hog. This hog was always
wallowing there, and as he was the only hog we saw, his frequent
repetition, together with his unvarying similarity to himself, finally
caused me to reflect that he must be the same hog, and this led me to
the deduction that this must be the same spring, also--which indeed it
was.

I made a note of this curious thing, as showing in a striking manner the
relative difference between glacial action and the action of the hog.
It is now a well-established fact that glaciers move; I consider that
my observations go to show, with equal conclusiveness, that a hog in a
spring does not move. I shall be glad to receive the opinions of other
observers upon this point.

To return, for an explanatory moment, to that guide, and then I shall be
done with him. After leaving the ram tied to the rope, he had wandered
at large a while, and then happened to run across a cow. Judging that a
cow would naturally know more than a guide, he took her by the tail,
and the result justified his judgment. She nibbled her leisurely way
downhill till it was near milking-time, then she struck for home and
towed him into Zermatt.



CHAPTER XXXVIII

[I Conquer the Gorner Grat]


We went into camp on that wild spot to which that ram had brought us.
The men were greatly fatigued. Their conviction that we were lost was
forgotten in the cheer of a good supper, and before the reaction had a
chance to set in, I loaded them up with paregoric and put them to bed.

Next morning I was considering in my mind our desperate situation and
trying to think of a remedy, when Harris came to me with a Baedeker
map which showed conclusively that the mountain we were on was still in
Switzerland--yes, every part of it was in Switzerland. So we were not
lost, after all. This was an immense relief; it lifted the weight of two
such mountains from my breast. I immediately had the news disseminated
and the map was exhibited. The effect was wonderful. As soon as the men
saw with their own eyes that they knew where they were, and that it
was only the summit that was lost and not themselves, they cheered up
instantly and said with one accord, let the summit take care of itself.

Our distresses being at an end, I now determined to rest the men in camp
and give the scientific department of the Expedition a chance. First,
I made a barometric observation, to get our altitude, but I could not
perceive that there was any result. I knew, by my scientific reading,
that either thermometers or barometers ought to be boiled, to make them
accurate; I did not know which it was, so I boiled them both. There was
still no result; so I examined these instruments and discovered that
they possessed radical blemishes: the barometer had no hand but the
brass pointer and the ball of the thermometer was stuffed with tin-foil.
I might have boiled those things to rags, and never found out anything.

I hunted up another barometer; it was new and perfect. I boiled it half
an hour in a pot of bean soup which the cooks were making. The result
was unexpected: the instrument was not affecting at all, but there was
such a strong barometer taste to the soup that the head cook, who was
a most conscientious person, changed its name in the bill of fare.
The dish was so greatly liked by all, that I ordered the cook to have
barometer soup every day.



It was believed that the barometer might eventually be injured, but I
did not care for that. I had demonstrated to my satisfaction that it
could not tell how high a mountain was, therefore I had no real use for
it. Changes in the weather I could take care of without it; I did not
wish to know when the weather was going to be good, what I wanted to
know was when it was going to be bad, and this I could find out from
Harris's corns. Harris had had his corns tested and regulated at the
government observatory in Heidelberg, and one could depend upon them
with confidence. So I transferred the new barometer to the cooking
department, to be used for the official mess. It was found that even a
pretty fair article of soup could be made from the defective barometer;
so I allowed that one to be transferred to the subordinate mess.

I next boiled the thermometer, and got a most excellent result; the
mercury went up to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit. In the opinion of the
other scientists of the Expedition, this seemed to indicate that we had
attained the extraordinary altitude of two hundred thousand feet above
sea-level. Science places the line of eternal snow at about ten thousand
feet above sea-level. There was no snow where we were, consequently
it was proven that the eternal snow-line ceases somewhere above the
ten-thousand-foot level and does not begin any more. This was an
interesting fact, and one which had not been observed by any observer
before. It was as valuable as interesting, too, since it would open up
the deserted summits of the highest Alps to population and agriculture.
It was a proud thing to be where we were, yet it caused us a pang
to reflect that but for that ram we might just as well have been two
hundred thousand feet higher.

The success of my last experiment induced me to try an experiment with
my photographic apparatus. I got it out, and boiled one of my cameras,
but the thing was a failure; it made the wood swell up and burst, and I
could not see that the lenses were any better than they were before.

I now concluded to boil a guide. It might improve him, it could not
impair his usefulness. But I was not allowed to proceed. Guides have
no feeling for science, and this one would not consent to be made
uncomfortable in its interest.

In the midst of my scientific work, one of those needless accidents
happened which are always occurring among the ignorant and thoughtless.
A porter shot at a chamois and missed it and crippled the Latinist.
This was not a serious matter to me, for a Latinist's duties are as well
performed on crutches as otherwise--but the fact remained that if the
Latinist had not happened to be in the way a mule would have got that
load. That would have been quite another matter, for when it comes down
to a question of value there is a palpable difference between a Latinist
and a mule. I could not depend on having a Latinist in the right place
every time; so, to make things safe, I ordered that in the future the
chamois must not be hunted within limits of the camp with any other
weapon than the forefinger.

My nerves had hardly grown quiet after this affair when they got another
shake-up--one which utterly unmanned me for a moment: a rumor swept
suddenly through the camp that one of the barkeepers had fallen over a
precipice!

However, it turned out that it was only a chaplain. I had laid in an
extra force of chaplains, purposely to be prepared for emergencies
like this, but by some unaccountable oversight had come away rather
short-handed in the matter of barkeepers.

On the following morning we moved on, well refreshed and in good
spirits. I remember this day with peculiar pleasure, because it saw
our road restored to us. Yes, we found our road again, and in quite an
extraordinary way. We had plodded along some two hours and a half, when
we came up against a solid mass of rock about twenty feet high. I did
not need to be instructed by a mule this time. I was already beginning
to know more than any mule in the Expedition. I at once put in a blast
of dynamite, and lifted that rock out of the way. But to my surprise and
mortification, I found that there had been a chalet on top of it.

I picked up such members of the family as fell in my vicinity, and
subordinates of my corps collected the rest. None of these poor people
were injured, happily, but they were much annoyed. I explained to
the head chaleteer just how the thing happened, and that I was only
searching for the road, and would certainly have given him timely notice
if I had known he was up there. I said I had meant no harm, and hoped
I had not lowered myself in his estimation by raising him a few rods in
the air. I said many other judicious things, and finally when I offered
to rebuild his chalet, and pay for the breakages, and throw in the
cellar, he was mollified and satisfied. He hadn't any cellar at all,
before; he would not have as good a view, now, as formerly, but what he
had lost in view he had gained in cellar, by exact measurement. He said
there wasn't another hole like that in the mountains--and he would have
been right if the late mule had not tried to eat up the nitroglycerin.

I put a hundred and sixteen men at work, and they rebuilt the chalet
from its own debris in fifteen minutes. It was a good deal more
picturesque than it was before, too. The man said we were now on the
Feil-Stutz, above the Schwegmatt--information which I was glad to get,
since it gave us our position to a degree of particularity which we had
not been accustomed to for a day or so. We also learned that we were
standing at the foot of the Riffelberg proper, and that the initial
chapter of our work was completed.



We had a fine view, from here, of the energetic Visp, as it makes its
first plunge into the world from under a huge arch of solid ice, worn
through the foot-wall of the great Gorner Glacier; and we could also see
the Furggenbach, which is the outlet of the Furggen Glacier.

The mule-road to the summit of the Riffelberg passed right in front of
the chalet, a circumstance which we almost immediately noticed, because
a procession of tourists was filing along it pretty much all the time.

"Pretty much" may not be elegant English, but it is high time it was.
There is no elegant word or phrase which means just what it means.--M.T.

The chaleteer's business consisted in furnishing refreshments to
tourists. My blast had interrupted this trade for a few minutes, by
breaking all the bottles on the place; but I gave the man a lot of
whiskey to sell for Alpine champagne, and a lot of vinegar which would
answer for Rhine wine, consequently trade was soon as brisk as ever.

Leaving the Expedition outside to rest, I quartered myself in the
chalet, with Harris, proposing to correct my journals and scientific
observations before continuing the ascent. I had hardly begun my work
when a tall, slender, vigorous American youth of about twenty-three, who
was on his way down the mountain, entered and came toward me with that
breezy self-complacency which is the adolescent's idea of the well-bred
ease of the man of the world. His hair was short and parted accurately
in the middle, and he had all the look of an American person who would
be likely to begin his signature with an initial, and spell his middle
name out. He introduced himself, smiling a smirky smile borrowed from
the courtiers of the stage, extended a fair-skinned talon, and while he
gripped my hand in it he bent his body forward three times at the
hips, as the stage courtier does, and said in the airiest and most
condescending and patronizing way--I quite remember his exact language:

"Very glad to make your acquaintance, 'm sure; very glad indeed, assure
you. I've read all your little efforts and greatly admired them, and
when I heard you were here, I ..."

I indicated a chair, and he sat down. This grandee was the grandson of
an American of considerable note in his day, and not wholly forgotten
yet--a man who came so near being a great man that he was quite
generally accounted one while he lived.



I slowly paced the floor, pondering scientific problems, and heard this
conversation:

GRANDSON. First visit to Europe?

HARRIS. Mine? Yes.

G.S. (With a soft reminiscent sigh suggestive of bygone joys that may
be tasted in their freshness but once.) Ah, I know what it is to you. A
first visit!--ah, the romance of it! I wish I could feel it again.

H. Yes, I find it exceeds all my dreams. It is enchantment. I go...

G.S. (With a dainty gesture of the hand signifying "Spare me your callow
enthusiasms, good friend.") Yes, _I_ know, I know; you go to cathedrals,
and exclaim; and you drag through league-long picture-galleries and
exclaim; and you stand here, and there, and yonder, upon historic
ground, and continue to exclaim; and you are permeated with your first
crude conceptions of Art, and are proud and happy. Ah, yes, proud and
happy--that expresses it. Yes-yes, enjoy it--it is right--it is an
innocent revel.

H. And you? Don't you do these things now?

G.S. I! Oh, that is VERY good! My dear sir, when you are as old a
traveler as I am, you will not ask such a question as that. _I_ visit
the regulation gallery, moon around the regulation cathedral, do the
worn round of the regulation sights, YET?--Excuse me!

H. Well, what DO you do, then?

G.S. Do? I flit--and flit--for I am ever on the wing--but I avoid the
herd. Today I am in Paris, tomorrow in Berlin, anon in Rome; but you
would look for me in vain in the galleries of the Louvre or the common
resorts of the gazers in those other capitals. If you would find me, you
must look in the unvisited nooks and corners where others never think
of going. One day you will find me making myself at home in some obscure
peasant's cabin, another day you will find me in some forgotten castle
worshiping some little gem or art which the careless eye has overlooked
and which the unexperienced would despise; again you will find me as
guest in the inner sanctuaries of palaces while the herd is content to
get a hurried glimpse of the unused chambers by feeing a servant.

H. You are a GUEST in such places?

G.S. And a welcoming one.

H. It is surprising. How does it come?

G.S. My grandfather's name is a passport to all the courts in Europe. I
have only to utter that name and every door is open to me. I flit from
court to court at my own free will and pleasure, and am always welcome.
I am as much at home in the palaces of Europe as you are among your
relatives. I know every titled person in Europe, I think. I have my
pockets full of invitations all the time. I am under promise to go to
Italy, where I am to be the guest of a succession of the noblest houses
in the land. In Berlin my life is a continued round of gaiety in the
imperial palace. It is the same, wherever I go.

H. It must be very pleasant. But it must make Boston seem a little slow
when you are at home.

G.S. Yes, of course it does. But I don't go home much. There's no life
there--little to feed a man's higher nature. Boston's very narrow, you
know. She doesn't know it, and you couldn't convince her of it--so I say
nothing when I'm there: where's the use? Yes, Boston is very narrow, but
she has such a good opinion of herself that she can't see it. A man who
has traveled as much as I have, and seen as much of the world, sees it
plain enough, but he can't cure it, you know, so the best is to leave it
and seek a sphere which is more in harmony with his tastes and culture.
I run across there, once a year, perhaps, when I have nothing important
on hand, but I'm very soon back again. I spend my time in Europe.

H. I see. You map out your plans and ...

G.S. No, excuse me. I don't map out any plans. I simply follow the
inclination of the day. I am limited by no ties, no requirements, I
am not bound in any way. I am too old a traveler to hamper myself with
deliberate purposes. I am simply a traveler--an inveterate traveler--a
man of the world, in a word--I can call myself by no other name. I do
not say, "I am going here, or I am going there"--I say nothing at all, I
only act. For instance, next week you may find me the guest of a grandee
of Spain, or you may find me off for Venice, or flitting toward Dresden.
I shall probably go to Egypt presently; friends will say to friends,
"He is at the Nile cataracts"--and at that very moment they will be
surprised to learn that I'm away off yonder in India somewhere. I am
a constant surprise to people. They are always saying, "Yes, he was
in Jerusalem when we heard of him last, but goodness knows where he is
now."

Presently the Grandson rose to leave--discovered he had an appointment
with some Emperor, perhaps. He did his graces over again: gripped me
with one talon, at arm's-length, pressed his hat against his stomach
with the other, bent his body in the middle three times, murmuring:

"Pleasure, 'm sure; great pleasure, 'm sure. Wish you much success."

Then he removed his gracious presence. It is a great and solemn thing to
have a grandfather.

I have not purposed to misrepresent this boy in any way, for what little
indignation he excited in me soon passed and left nothing behind it but
compassion. One cannot keep up a grudge against a vacuum. I have tried
to repeat this lad's very words; if I have failed anywhere I have at
least not failed to reproduce the marrow and meaning of what he said.
He and the innocent chatterbox whom I met on the Swiss lake are the most
unique and interesting specimens of Young America I came across
during my foreign tramping. I have made honest portraits of them, not
caricatures.



The Grandson of twenty-three referred to himself five or six times as
an "old traveler," and as many as three times (with a serene complacency
which was maddening) as a "man of the world." There was something very
delicious about his leaving Boston to her "narrowness," unreproved and
uninstructed.

I formed the caravan in marching order, presently, and after riding down
the line to see that it was properly roped together, gave the command to
proceed. In a little while the road carried us to open, grassy land. We
were above the troublesome forest, now, and had an uninterrupted view,
straight before us, of our summit--the summit of the Riffelberg.

We followed the mule-road, a zigzag course, now to the right, now to
the left, but always up, and always crowded and incommoded by going and
coming files of reckless tourists who were never, in a single instance,
tied together. I was obliged to exert the utmost care and caution, for
in many places the road was not two yards wide, and often the lower side
of it sloped away in slanting precipices eight and even nine feet deep.
I had to encourage the men constantly, to keep them from giving way to
their unmanly fears.

We might have made the summit before night, but for a delay caused by
the loss of an umbrella. I was allowing the umbrella to remain lost, but
the men murmured, and with reason, for in this exposed region we stood
in peculiar need of protection against avalanches; so I went into camp
and detached a strong party to go after the missing article.

The difficulties of the next morning were severe, but our courage
was high, for our goal was near. At noon we conquered the last
impediment--we stood at last upon the summit, and without the loss of a
single man except the mule that ate the glycerin. Our great achievement
was achieved--the possibility of the impossible was demonstrated, and
Harris and I walked proudly into the great dining-room of the Riffelberg
Hotel and stood our alpenstocks up in the corner.

Yes, I had made the grand ascent; but it was a mistake to do it in
evening dress. The plug hats were battered, the swallow-tails were
fluttering rags, mud added no grace, the general effect was unpleasant
and even disreputable.



There were about seventy-five tourists at the hotel--mainly ladies and
little children--and they gave us an admiring welcome which paid us for
all our privations and sufferings. The ascent had been made, and the
names and dates now stand recorded on a stone monument there to prove it
to all future tourists.

I boiled a thermometer and took an altitude, with a most curious result:
THE SUMMIT WAS NOT AS HIGH AS THE POINT ON THE MOUNTAINSIDE WHERE I
HAD TAKEN THE FIRST ALTITUDE. Suspecting that I had made an important
discovery, I prepared to verify it. There happened to be a still higher
summit (called the Gorner Grat), above the hotel, and notwithstanding
the fact that it overlooks a glacier from a dizzy height, and that the
ascent is difficult and dangerous, I resolved to venture up there and
boil a thermometer. So I sent a strong party, with some borrowed hoes,
in charge of two chiefs of service, to dig a stairway in the soil all
the way up, and this I ascended, roped to the guides. This breezy height
was the summit proper--so I accomplished even more than I had originally
purposed to do. This foolhardy exploit is recorded on another stone
monument.



I boiled my thermometer, and sure enough, this spot, which purported to
be two thousand feet higher than the locality of the hotel, turned out
to be nine thousand feet LOWER. Thus the fact was clearly demonstrated
that, ABOVE A CERTAIN POINT, THE HIGHER A POINT SEEMS TO BE, THE LOWER
IT ACTUALLY IS. Our ascent itself was a great achievement, but this
contribution to science was an inconceivably greater matter.

Cavilers object that water boils at a lower and lower temperature the
higher and higher you go, and hence the apparent anomaly. I answer that
I do not base my theory upon what the boiling water does, but upon what
a boiled thermometer says. You can't go behind the thermometer.

I had a magnificent view of Monte Rosa, and apparently all the rest of
the Alpine world, from that high place. All the circling horizon was
piled high with a mighty tumult of snowy crests. One might have
imagined he saw before him the tented camps of a beleaguering host of
Brobdingnagians.



NOTE.--I had the very unusual luck to catch one little momentary glimpse
of the Matterhorn wholly unencumbered by clouds. I leveled my
photographic apparatus at it without the loss of an instant, and should
have got an elegant picture if my donkey had not interfered. It was my
purpose to draw this photograph all by myself for my book, but was
obliged to put the mountain part of it into the hands of the
professional artist because I found I could not do landscape well.

But lonely, conspicuous, and superb, rose that wonderful upright wedge,
the Matterhorn. Its precipitous sides were powdered over with snow, and
the upper half hidden in thick clouds which now and then dissolved to
cobweb films and gave brief glimpses of the imposing tower as through a
veil. A little later the Matterhorn took to himself the semblance of
a volcano; he was stripped naked to his apex--around this circled
vast wreaths of white cloud which strung slowly out and streamed away
slantwise toward the sun, a twenty-mile stretch of rolling and tumbling
vapor, and looking just as if it were pouring out of a crater. Later
again, one of the mountain's sides was clean and clear, and another
side densely clothed from base to summit in thick smokelike cloud which
feathered off and flew around the shaft's sharp edge like the smoke
around the corners of a burning building. The Matterhorn is always
experimenting, and always gets up fine effects, too. In the sunset, when
all the lower world is palled in gloom, it points toward heaven out of
the pervading blackness like a finger of fire. In the sunrise--well,
they say it is very fine in the sunrise.

Authorities agree that there is no such tremendous "layout" of snowy
Alpine magnitude, grandeur, and sublimity to be seen from any other
accessible point as the tourist may see from the summit of the
Riffelberg. Therefore, let the tourist rope himself up and go there; for
I have shown that with nerve, caution, and judgment, the thing can be
done.

I wish to add one remark, here--in parentheses, so to speak--suggested
by the word "snowy," which I have just used. We have all seen hills and
mountains and levels with snow on them, and so we think we know all the
aspects and effects produced by snow. But indeed we do not until we have
seen the Alps. Possibly mass and distance add something--at any rate,
something IS added. Among other noticeable things, there is a dazzling,
intense whiteness about the distant Alpine snow, when the sun is on it,
which one recognizes as peculiar, and not familiar to the eye. The snow
which one is accustomed to has a tint to it--painters usually give it a
bluish cast--but there is no perceptible tint to the distant Alpine snow
when it is trying to look its whitest. As to the unimaginable
splendor of it when the sun is blazing down on it--well, it simply IS
unimaginable.



CHAPTER XXXIX

[We Travel by Glacier]


A guide-book is a queer thing. The reader has just seen what a man who
undertakes the great ascent from Zermatt to the Riffelberg Hotel must
experience. Yet Baedeker makes these strange statements concerning this
matter:

   1. Distance--3 hours.
   2. The road cannot be mistaken.
   3. Guide unnecessary.
   4. Distance from Riffelberg Hotel to the Gorner Grat, one hour and a half.
   5. Ascent simple and easy. Guide unnecessary.
   6. Elevation of Zermatt above sea-level, 5,315 feet.
   7. Elevation of Riffelberg Hotel above sea-level, 8,429 feet.
   8. Elevation of the Gorner Grat above sea-level, 10,289 feet.

I have pretty effectually throttled these errors by sending him the
following demonstrated facts:

   1. Distance from Zermatt to Riffelberg Hotel, 7 days.
   2. The road CAN be mistaken. If I am the first that did it, I want the credit
      of it, too.
   3. Guides ARE necessary, for none but a native can read those finger-boards.
   4. The estimate of the elevation of the several localities above sea-level
      is pretty correct--for Baedeker. He only misses it about a hundred and
      eighty or ninety thousand feet.

I found my arnica invaluable. My men were suffering excruciatingly, from
the friction of sitting down so much. During two or three days, not
one of them was able to do more than lie down or walk about; yet so
effective was the arnica, that on the fourth all were able to sit up.
I consider that, more than to anything else, I owe the success of our
great undertaking to arnica and paregoric.

My men are being restored to health and strength, my main perplexity,
now, was how to get them down the mountain again. I was not willing to
expose the brave fellows to the perils, fatigues, and hardships of that
fearful route again if it could be helped. First I thought of balloons;
but, of course, I had to give that idea up, for balloons were
not procurable. I thought of several other expedients, but upon
consideration discarded them, for cause. But at last I hit it. I was
aware that the movement of glaciers is an established fact, for I had
read it in Baedeker; so I resolved to take passage for Zermatt on the
great Gorner Glacier.

Very good. The next thing was, how to get down the glacier
comfortably--for the mule-road to it was long, and winding, and
wearisome. I set my mind at work, and soon thought out a plan. One looks
straight down upon the vast frozen river called the Gorner Glacier, from
the Gorner Grat, a sheer precipice twelve hundred feet high. We had
one hundred and fifty-four umbrellas--and what is an umbrella but a
parachute?

I mentioned this noble idea to Harris, with enthusiasm, and was about to
order the Expedition to form on the Gorner Grat, with their umbrellas,
and prepare for flight by platoons, each platoon in command of a guide,
when Harris stopped me and urged me not to be too hasty. He asked me if
this method of descending the Alps had ever been tried before. I said
no, I had not heard of an instance. Then, in his opinion, it was a
matter of considerable gravity; in his opinion it would not be well to
send the whole command over the cliff at once; a better way would be to
send down a single individual, first, and see how he fared.

I saw the wisdom in this idea instantly. I said as much, and thanked
my agent cordially, and told him to take his umbrella and try the thing
right away, and wave his hat when he got down, if he struck in a soft
place, and then I would ship the rest right along.

Harris was greatly touched with this mark of confidence, and said so,
in a voice that had a perceptible tremble in it; but at the same time he
said he did not feel himself worthy of so conspicuous a favor; that it
might cause jealousy in the command, for there were plenty who would not
hesitate to say he had used underhanded means to get the appointment,
whereas his conscience would bear him witness that he had not sought it
at all, nor even, in his secret heart, desired it.

I said these words did him extreme credit, but that he must not throw
away the imperishable distinction of being the first man to descend
an Alp per parachute, simply to save the feelings of some envious
underlings. No, I said, he MUST accept the appointment--it was no longer
an invitation, it was a command.

He thanked me with effusion, and said that putting the thing in this
form removed every objection. He retired, and soon returned with his
umbrella, his eye flaming with gratitude and his cheeks pallid with joy.
Just then the head guide passed along. Harris's expression changed to
one of infinite tenderness, and he said:

"That man did me a cruel injury four days ago, and I said in my heart
he should live to perceive and confess that the only noble revenge a
man can take upon his enemy is to return good for evil. I resign in his
favor. Appoint him."

I threw my arms around the generous fellow and said:

"Harris, you are the noblest soul that lives. You shall not regret this
sublime act, neither shall the world fail to know of it. You shall have
opportunity far transcending this one, too, if I live--remember that."

I called the head guide to me and appointed him on the spot. But the
thing aroused no enthusiasm in him. He did not take to the idea at all.

He said:

"Tie myself to an umbrella and jump over the Gorner Grat! Excuse me,
there are a great many pleasanter roads to the devil than that."



Upon a discussion of the subject with him, it appeared that he
considered the project distinctly and decidedly dangerous. I was not
convinced, yet I was not willing to try the experiment in any risky
way--that is, in a way that might cripple the strength and efficiency
of the Expedition. I was about at my wits' end when it occurred to me to
try it on the Latinist.

He was called in. But he declined, on the plea of inexperience,
diffidence in public, lack of curiosity, and I didn't know what all.
Another man declined on account of a cold in the head; thought he
ought to avoid exposure. Another could not jump well--never COULD jump
well--did not believe he could jump so far without long and patient
practice. Another was afraid it was going to rain, and his umbrella had
a hole in it. Everybody had an excuse. The result was what the reader
has by this time guessed: the most magnificent idea that was ever
conceived had to be abandoned, from sheer lack of a person with
enterprise enough to carry it out. Yes, I actually had to give that
thing up--while doubtless I should live to see somebody use it and take
all the credit from me.

Well, I had to go overland--there was no other way. I marched the
Expedition down the steep and tedious mule-path and took up as good a
position as I could upon the middle of the glacier--because Baedeker
said the middle part travels the fastest. As a measure of economy,
however, I put some of the heavier baggage on the shoreward parts, to go
as slow freight.

I waited and waited, but the glacier did not move. Night was coming on,
the darkness began to gather--still we did not budge. It occurred to me
then, that there might be a time-table in Baedeker; it would be well to
find out the hours of starting. I called for the book--it could not be
found. Bradshaw would certainly contain a time-table; but no Bradshaw
could be found.

Very well, I must make the best of the situation. So I pitched the
tents, picketed the animals, milked the cows, had supper, paregoricked
the men, established the watch, and went to bed--with orders to call me
as soon as we came in sight of Zermatt.

I awoke about half past ten next morning, and looked around. We hadn't
budged a peg! At first I could not understand it; then it occurred to me
that the old thing must be aground. So I cut down some trees and rigged
a spar on the starboard and another on the port side, and fooled away
upward of three hours trying to spar her off. But it was no use. She
was half a mile wide and fifteen or twenty miles long, and there was
no telling just whereabouts she WAS aground. The men began to show
uneasiness, too, and presently they came flying to me with ashy faces,
saying she had sprung a leak.



Nothing but my cool behavior at this critical time saved us from another
panic. I ordered them to show me the place. They led me to a spot where
a huge boulder lay in a deep pool of clear and brilliant water. It did
look like a pretty bad leak, but I kept that to myself. I made a pump
and set the men to work to pump out the glacier. We made a success of
it. I perceived, then, that it was not a leak at all. This boulder had
descended from a precipice and stopped on the ice in the middle of the
glacier, and the sun had warmed it up, every day, and consequently it
had melted its way deeper and deeper into the ice, until at last it
reposed, as we had found it, in a deep pool of the clearest and coldest
water.

Presently Baedeker was found again, and I hunted eagerly for the
time-table. There was none. The book simply said the glacier was moving
all the time. This was satisfactory, so I shut up the book and chose a
good position to view the scenery as we passed along. I stood there some
time enjoying the trip, but at last it occurred to me that we did
not seem to be gaining any on the scenery. I said to myself, "This
confounded old thing's aground again, sure,"--and opened Baedeker to
see if I could run across any remedy for these annoying interruptions.
I soon found a sentence which threw a dazzling light upon the matter.
It said, "The Gorner Glacier travels at an average rate of a little less
than an inch a day." I have seldom felt so outraged. I have seldom had
my confidence so wantonly betrayed. I made a small calculation: One inch
a day, say thirty feet a year; estimated distance to Zermatt, three and
one-eighteenth miles. Time required to go by glacier, A LITTLE OVER FIVE
HUNDRED YEARS! I said to myself, "I can WALK it quicker--and before I
will patronize such a fraud as this, I will do it."

When I revealed to Harris the fact that the passenger part of this
glacier--the central part--the lightning-express part, so to speak--was
not due in Zermatt till the summer of 2378, and that the baggage, coming
along the slow edge, would not arrive until some generations later, he
burst out with:

"That is European management, all over! An inch a day--think of that!
Five hundred years to go a trifle over three miles! But I am not a bit
surprised. It's a Catholic glacier. You can tell by the look of it. And
the management."

I said, no, I believed nothing but the extreme end of it was in a
Catholic canton.

"Well, then, it's a government glacier," said Harris. "It's all the
same. Over here the government runs everything--so everything's slow;
slow, and ill-managed. But with us, everything's done by private
enterprise--and then there ain't much lolling around, you can depend
on it. I wish Tom Scott could get his hands on this torpid old slab
once--you'd see it take a different gait from this."

I said I was sure he would increase the speed, if there was trade enough
to justify it.

"He'd MAKE trade," said Harris. "That's the difference between
governments and individuals. Governments don't care, individuals do. Tom
Scott would take all the trade; in two years Gorner stock would go to
two hundred, and inside of two more you would see all the other glaciers
under the hammer for taxes." After a reflective pause, Harris added, "A
little less than an inch a day; a little less than an INCH, mind you.
Well, I'm losing my reverence for glaciers."

I was feeling much the same way myself. I have traveled by canal-boat,
ox-wagon, raft, and by the Ephesus and Smyrna railway; but when it comes
down to good solid honest slow motion, I bet my money on the glacier. As
a means of passenger transportation, I consider the glacier a failure;
but as a vehicle of slow freight, I think she fills the bill. In the
matter of putting the fine shades on that line of business, I judge she
could teach the Germans something.

I ordered the men to break camp and prepare for the land journey to
Zermatt. At this moment a most interesting find was made; a dark object,
bedded in the glacial ice, was cut out with the ice-axes, and it proved
to be a piece of the undressed skin of some animal--a hair trunk,
perhaps; but a close inspection disabled the hair-trunk theory, and
further discussion and examination exploded it entirely--that is, in the
opinion of all the scientists except the one who had advanced it. This
one clung to his theory with affectionate fidelity characteristic of
originators of scientific theories, and afterward won many of the first
scientists of the age to his view, by a very able pamphlet which he
wrote, entitled, "Evidences going to show that the hair trunk, in a wild
state, belonged to the early glacial period, and roamed the wastes of
chaos in the company with the cave-bear, primeval man, and the other
Ooelitics of the Old Silurian family."



Each of our scientists had a theory of his own, and put forward
an animal of his own as a candidate for the skin. I sided with the
geologist of the Expedition in the belief that this patch of skin had
once helped to cover a Siberian elephant, in some old forgotten age--but
we divided there, the geologist believing that this discovery proved
that Siberia had formerly been located where Switzerland is now, whereas
I held the opinion that it merely proved that the primeval Swiss was not
the dull savage he is represented to have been, but was a being of high
intellectual development, who liked to go to the menagerie.

We arrived that evening, after many hardships and adventures, in some
fields close to the great ice-arch where the mad Visp boils and surges
out from under the foot of the great Gorner Glacier, and here we camped,
our perils over and our magnificent undertaking successfully completed.
We marched into Zermatt the next day, and were received with the
most lavish honors and applause. A document, signed and sealed by the
authorities, was given to me which established and endorsed the fact
that I had made the ascent of the Riffelberg. This I wear around my
neck, and it will be buried with me when I am no more.



CHAPTER XL

[Piteous Relics at Chamonix]


I am not so ignorant about glacial movement, now, as I was when I took
passage on the Gorner Glacier. I have "read up" since. I am aware that
these vast bodies of ice do not travel at the same rate of speed; while
the Gorner Glacier makes less than an inch a day, the Unter-Aar Glacier
makes as much as eight; and still other glaciers are said to go twelve,
sixteen, and even twenty inches a day. One writer says that the slowest
glacier travels twenty-five feet a year, and the fastest four hundred.

What is a glacier? It is easy to say it looks like a frozen river which
occupies the bed of a winding gorge or gully between mountains. But that
gives no notion of its vastness. For it is sometimes six hundred feet
thick, and we are not accustomed to rivers six hundred feet deep; no,
our rivers are six feet, twenty feet, and sometimes fifty feet deep; we
are not quite able to grasp so large a fact as an ice-river six hundred
feet deep.

The glacier's surface is not smooth and level, but has deep swales and
swelling elevations, and sometimes has the look of a tossing sea whose
turbulent billows were frozen hard in the instant of their most violent
motion; the glacier's surface is not a flawless mass, but is a river
with cracks or crevices, some narrow, some gaping wide. Many a man, the
victim of a slip or a misstep, has plunged down one of these and met his
death. Men have been fished out of them alive; but it was when they
did not go to a great depth; the cold of the great depths would quickly
stupefy a man, whether he was hurt or unhurt. These cracks do not go
straight down; one can seldom see more than twenty to forty feet down
them; consequently men who have disappeared in them have been sought
for, in the hope that they had stopped within helping distance, whereas
their case, in most instances, had really been hopeless from the
beginning.

In 1864 a party of tourists was descending Mont Blanc, and while picking
their way over one of the mighty glaciers of that lofty region, roped
together, as was proper, a young porter disengaged himself from the line
and started across an ice-bridge which spanned a crevice. It broke under
him with a crash, and he disappeared. The others could not see how deep
he had gone, so it might be worthwhile to try and rescue him. A brave
young guide named Michel Payot volunteered.

Two ropes were made fast to his leather belt and he bore the end of a
third one in his hand to tie to the victim in case he found him. He was
lowered into the crevice, he descended deeper and deeper between the
clear blue walls of solid ice, he approached a bend in the crack and
disappeared under it. Down, and still down, he went, into this profound
grave; when he had reached a depth of eighty feet he passed under
another bend in the crack, and thence descended eighty feet lower, as
between perpendicular precipices. Arrived at this stage of one hundred
and sixty feet below the surface of the glacier, he peered through the
twilight dimness and perceived that the chasm took another turn and
stretched away at a steep slant to unknown deeps, for its course was
lost in darkness. What a place that was to be in--especially if that
leather belt should break! The compression of the belt threatened to
suffocate the intrepid fellow; he called to his friends to draw him up,
but could not make them hear. They still lowered him, deeper and deeper.
Then he jerked his third cord as vigorously as he could; his friends
understood, and dragged him out of those icy jaws of death.

Then they attached a bottle to a cord and sent it down two hundred feet,
but it found no bottom. It came up covered with congelations--evidence
enough that even if the poor porter reached the bottom with unbroken
bones, a swift death from cold was sure, anyway.

A glacier is a stupendous, ever-progressing, resistless plow. It pushes
ahead of it masses of boulders which are packed together, and they
stretch across the gorge, right in front of it, like a long grave or a
long, sharp roof. This is called a moraine. It also shoves out a moraine
along each side of its course.



Imposing as the modern glaciers are, they are not so huge as were some
that once existed. For instance, Mr. Whymper says:

"At some very remote period the Valley of Aosta was occupied by a vast
glacier, which flowed down its entire length from Mont Blanc to the
plain of Piedmont, remained stationary, or nearly so, at its mouth
for many centuries, and deposited there enormous masses of debris. The
length of this glacier exceeded EIGHTY MILES, and it drained a basin
twenty-five to thirty-five miles across, bounded by the highest
mountains in the Alps.



"The great peaks rose several thousand feet above the glaciers, and
then, as now, shattered by sun and frost, poured down their showers of
rocks and stones, in witness of which there are the immense piles of
angular fragments that constitute the moraines of Ivrea.

"The moraines around Ivrea are of extraordinary dimensions. That which
was on the left bank of the glacier is about THIRTEEN MILES long, and
in some places rises to a height of TWO THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY
FEET above the floor of the valley! The terminal moraines (those which
are pushed in front of the glaciers) cover something like twenty square
miles of country. At the mouth of the Valley of Aosta, the thickness of
the glacier must have been at least TWO THOUSAND feet, and its width, at
that part, FIVE MILES AND A QUARTER."



It is not easy to get at a comprehension of a mass of ice like that. If
one could cleave off the butt end of such a glacier--an oblong block
two or three miles wide by five and a quarter long and two thousand
feet thick--he could completely hide the city of New York under it,
and Trinity steeple would only stick up into it relatively as far as a
shingle-nail would stick up into the bottom of a Saratoga trunk.

"The boulders from Mont Blanc, upon the plain below Ivrea, assure us
that the glacier which transported them existed for a prodigious length
of time. Their present distance from the cliffs from which they were
derived is about 420,000 feet, and if we assume that they traveled at
the rate of 400 feet per annum, their journey must have occupied them no
less than 1,055 years! In all probability they did not travel so fast."



Glaciers are sometimes hurried out of their characteristic snail-pace.
A marvelous spectacle is presented then. Mr. Whymper refers to a case
which occurred in Iceland in 1721:

"It seems that in the neighborhood of the mountain Kotlugja, large
bodies of water formed underneath, or within the glaciers (either on
account of the interior heat of the earth, or from other causes), and at
length acquired irresistible power, tore the glaciers from their mooring
on the land, and swept them over every obstacle into the sea. Prodigious
masses of ice were thus borne for a distance of about ten miles over
land in the space of a few hours; and their bulk was so enormous that
they covered the sea for seven miles from the shore, and remained
aground in six hundred feet of water! The denudation of the land was
upon a grand scale. All superficial accumulations were swept away, and
the bedrock was exposed. It was described, in graphic language, how all
irregularities and depressions were obliterated, and a smooth surface of
several miles' area laid bare, and that this area had the appearance of
having been PLANED BY A PLANE."

The account translated from the Icelandic says that the mountainlike
ruins of this majestic glacier so covered the sea that as far as the eye
could reach no open water was discoverable, even from the highest peaks.
A monster wall or barrier of ice was built across a considerable stretch
of land, too, by this strange irruption:

"One can form some idea of the altitude of this barrier of ice when it
is mentioned that from Hofdabrekka farm, which lies high up on a fjeld,
one could not see Hjorleifshofdi opposite, which is a fell six hundred
and forty feet in height; but in order to do so had to clamber up a
mountain slope east of Hofdabrekka twelve hundred feet high."

These things will help the reader to understand why it is that a man who
keeps company with glaciers comes to feel tolerably insignificant by
and by. The Alps and the glaciers together are able to take every bit of
conceit out of a man and reduce his self-importance to zero if he will
only remain within the influence of their sublime presence long enough
to give it a fair and reasonable chance to do its work.

The Alpine glaciers move--that is granted, now, by everybody. But there
was a time when people scoffed at the idea; they said you might as well
expect leagues of solid rock to crawl along the ground as expect leagues
of ice to do it. But proof after proof was furnished, and the finally
the world had to believe.

The wise men not only said the glacier moved, but they timed its
movement. They ciphered out a glacier's gait, and then said confidently
that it would travel just so far in so many years. There is record of
a striking and curious example of the accuracy which may be attained in
these reckonings.

In 1820 the ascent of Mont Blanc was attempted by a Russian and two
Englishmen, with seven guides. They had reached a prodigious altitude,
and were approaching the summit, when an avalanche swept several of the
party down a sharp slope of two hundred feet and hurled five of them
(all guides) into one of the crevices of a glacier. The life of one
of the five was saved by a long barometer which was strapped to his
back--it bridged the crevice and suspended him until help came. The
alpenstock or baton of another saved its owner in a similar way. Three
men were lost--Pierre Balmat, Pierre Carrier, and Auguste Tairraz. They
had been hurled down into the fathomless great deeps of the crevice.

Dr. Forbes, the English geologist, had made frequent visits to the Mont
Blanc region, and had given much attention to the disputed question of
the movement of glaciers. During one of these visits he completed his
estimates of the rate of movement of the glacier which had swallowed
up the three guides, and uttered the prediction that the glacier would
deliver up its dead at the foot of the mountain thirty-five years from
the time of the accident, or possibly forty.

A dull, slow journey--a movement imperceptible to any eye--but it was
proceeding, nevertheless, and without cessation. It was a journey
which a rolling stone would make in a few seconds--the lofty point of
departure was visible from the village below in the valley.

The prediction cut curiously close to the truth; forty-one years after
the catastrophe, the remains were cast forth at the foot of the glacier.

I find an interesting account of the matter in the HISTOIRE DU MONT
BLANC, by Stephen d'Arve. I will condense this account, as follows:

On the 12th of August, 1861, at the hour of the close of mass, a guide
arrived out of breath at the mairie of Chamonix, and bearing on his
shoulders a very lugubrious burden. It was a sack filled with human
remains which he had gathered from the orifice of a crevice in the
Glacier des Bossons. He conjectured that these were remains of the
victims of the catastrophe of 1820, and a minute inquest, immediately
instituted by the local authorities, soon demonstrated the correctness
of his supposition. The contents of the sack were spread upon a long
table, and officially inventoried, as follows:

Portions of three human skulls. Several tufts of black and blonde hair.
A human jaw, furnished with fine white teeth. A forearm and hand, all
the fingers of the latter intact. The flesh was white and fresh,
and both the arm and hand preserved a degree of flexibility in the
articulations.

The ring-finger had suffered a slight abrasion, and the stain of the
blood was still visible and unchanged after forty-one years. A left
foot, the flesh white and fresh.

Along with these fragments were portions of waistcoats, hats, hobnailed
shoes, and other clothing; a wing of a pigeon, with black feathers; a
fragment of an alpenstock; a tin lantern; and lastly, a boiled leg of
mutton, the only flesh among all the remains that exhaled an unpleasant
odor. The guide said that the mutton had no odor when he took it from
the glacier; an hour's exposure to the sun had already begun the work of
decomposition upon it.

Persons were called for, to identify these poor pathetic relics, and a
touching scene ensued. Two men were still living who had witnessed the
grim catastrophe of nearly half a century before--Marie Couttet (saved
by his baton) and Julien Davouassoux (saved by the barometer). These
aged men entered and approached the table. Davouassoux, more than eighty
years old, contemplated the mournful remains mutely and with a vacant
eye, for his intelligence and his memory were torpid with age; but
Couttet's faculties were still perfect at seventy-two, and he exhibited
strong emotion. He said:

"Pierre Balmat was fair; he wore a straw hat. This bit of skull, with
the tuft of blond hair, was his; this is his hat. Pierre Carrier was
very dark; this skull was his, and this felt hat. This is Balmat's
hand, I remember it so well!" and the old man bent down and kissed it
reverently, then closed his fingers upon it in an affectionate grasp,
crying out, "I could never have dared to believe that before quitting
this world it would be granted me to press once more the hand of one of
those brave comrades, the hand of my good friend Balmat."



There is something weirdly pathetic about the picture of that
white-haired veteran greeting with his loving handshake this friend
who had been dead forty years. When these hands had met last, they were
alike in the softness and freshness of youth; now, one was brown and
wrinkled and horny with age, while the other was still as young and fair
and blemishless as if those forty years had come and gone in a single
moment, leaving no mark of their passage. Time had gone on, in the one
case; it had stood still in the other. A man who has not seen a friend
for a generation, keeps him in mind always as he saw him last, and is
somehow surprised, and is also shocked, to see the aging change the
years have wrought when he sees him again. Marie Couttet's experience,
in finding his friend's hand unaltered from the image of it which he
had carried in his memory for forty years, is an experience which stands
alone in the history of man, perhaps.

Couttet identified other relics:

"This hat belonged to Auguste Tairraz. He carried the cage of pigeons
which we proposed to set free upon the summit. Here is the wing of one
of those pigeons. And here is the fragment of my broken baton; it was by
grace of that baton that my life was saved. Who could have told me that
I should one day have the satisfaction to look again upon this bit of
wood that supported me above the grave that swallowed up my unfortunate
companions!"

No portions of the body of Tairraz, other than a piece of the skull,
had been found. A diligent search was made, but without result. However,
another search was instituted a year later, and this had better success.
Many fragments of clothing which had belonged to the lost guides were
discovered; also, part of a lantern, and a green veil with blood-stains
on it. But the interesting feature was this:

One of the searchers came suddenly upon a sleeved arm projecting from
a crevice in the ice-wall, with the hand outstretched as if offering
greeting! "The nails of this white hand were still rosy, and the pose
of the extended fingers seemed to express an eloquent welcome to the
long-lost light of day."

The hand and arm were alone; there was no trunk. After being removed
from the ice the flesh-tints quickly faded out and the rosy nails took
on the alabaster hue of death. This was the third RIGHT hand found;
therefore, all three of the lost men were accounted for, beyond cavil or
question.

Dr. Hamel was the Russian gentleman of the party which made the ascent
at the time of the famous disaster. He left Chamonix as soon as he
conveniently could after the descent; and as he had shown a chilly
indifference about the calamity, and offered neither sympathy nor
assistance to the widows and orphans, he carried with him the cordial
execrations of the whole community. Four months before the first remains
were found, a Chamonix guide named Balmat--a relative of one of the lost
men--was in London, and one day encountered a hale old gentleman in the
British Museum, who said:

"I overheard your name. Are you from Chamonix, Monsieur Balmat?"

"Yes, sir."

"Haven't they found the bodies of my three guides, yet? I am Dr. Hamel."

"Alas, no, monsieur."

"Well, you'll find them, sooner or later."

"Yes, it is the opinion of Dr. Forbes and Mr. Tyndall, that the glacier
will sooner or later restore to us the remains of the unfortunate
victims."

"Without a doubt, without a doubt. And it will be a great thing for
Chamonix, in the matter of attracting tourists. You can get up a museum
with those remains that will draw!"

This savage idea has not improved the odor of Dr. Hamel's name in
Chamonix by any means. But after all, the man was sound on human nature.
His idea was conveyed to the public officials of Chamonix, and they
gravely discussed it around the official council-table. They were only
prevented from carrying it into execution by the determined opposition
of the friends and descendants of the lost guides, who insisted on
giving the remains Christian burial, and succeeded in their purpose.

A close watch had to be kept upon all the poor remnants and fragments,
to prevent embezzlement. A few accessory odds and ends were sold. Rags
and scraps of the coarse clothing were parted with at the rate equal to
about twenty dollars a yard; a piece of a lantern and one or two other
trifles brought nearly their weight in gold; and an Englishman offered a
pound sterling for a single breeches-button.



CHAPTER XLI

[The Fearful Disaster of 1865]


One of the most memorable of all the Alpine catastrophes was that of
July, 1865, on the Matterhorn--already slightly referred to, a few
pages back. The details of it are scarcely known in America. To the vast
majority of readers they are not known at all. Mr. Whymper's account is
the only authentic one. I will import the chief portion of it into this
book, partly because of its intrinsic interest, and partly because it
gives such a vivid idea of what the perilous pastime of Alp-climbing
is. This was Mr. Whymper's NINTH attempt during a series of years, to
vanquish that steep and stubborn pillar or rock; it succeeded, the other
eight were failures. No man had ever accomplished the ascent before,
though the attempts had been numerous.

MR. WHYMPER'S NARRATIVE We started from Zermatt on the 13th of July, at
half past five, on a brilliant and perfectly cloudless morning. We were
eight in number--Croz (guide), old Peter Taugwalder (guide) and his
two sons; Lord F. Douglas, Mr. Hadow, Rev. Mr. Hudson, and I. To insure
steady motion, one tourist and one native walked together. The youngest
Taugwalder fell to my share. The wine-bags also fell to my lot to carry,
and throughout the day, after each drink, I replenished them secretly
with water, so that at the next halt they were found fuller than before!
This was considered a good omen, and little short of miraculous.

On the first day we did not intend to ascend to any great height, and we
mounted, accordingly, very leisurely. Before twelve o'clock we had found
a good position for the tent, at a height of eleven thousand feet. We
passed the remaining hours of daylight--some basking in the sunshine,
some sketching, some collecting; Hudson made tea, I coffee, and at
length we retired, each one to his blanket bag.

We assembled together before dawn on the 14th and started directly
it was light enough to move. One of the young Taugwalders returned to
Zermatt. In a few minutes we turned the rib which had intercepted the
view of the eastern face from our tent platform. The whole of this
great slope was now revealed, rising for three thousand feet like a huge
natural staircase. Some parts were more, and others were less easy, but
we were not once brought to a halt by any serious impediment, for when
an obstruction was met in front it could always be turned to the right
or to the left. For the greater part of the way there was no occasion,
indeed, for the rope, and sometimes Hudson led, sometimes myself. At
six-twenty we had attained a height of twelve thousand eight hundred
feet, and halted for half an hour; we then continued the ascent without
a break until nine-fifty-five, when we stopped for fifty minutes, at a
height of fourteen thousand feet.



We had now arrived at the foot of that part which, seen from the
Riffelberg, seems perpendicular or overhanging. We could no longer
continue on the eastern side. For a little distance we ascended by snow
upon the ARÊTE--that is, the ridge--then turned over to the right, or
northern side. The work became difficult, and required caution. In some
places there was little to hold; the general slope of the mountain was
LESS than forty degrees, and snow had accumulated in, and had filled
up, the interstices of the rock-face, leaving only occasional fragments
projecting here and there. These were at times covered with a thin film
of ice. It was a place which any fair mountaineer might pass in safety.
We bore away nearly horizontally for about four hundred feet, then
ascended directly toward the summit for about sixty feet, then doubled
back to the ridge which descends toward Zermatt. A long stride round
a rather awkward corner brought us to snow once more. That last doubt
vanished! The Matterhorn was ours! Nothing but two hundred feet of easy
snow remained to be surmounted.

The higher we rose, the more intense became the excitement. The slope
eased off, at length we could be detached, and Croz and I, dashed away,
ran a neck-and-neck race, which ended in a dead heat. At 1:40 P.M., the
world was at our feet, and the Matterhorn was conquered!



The others arrived. Croz now took the tent-pole, and planted it in the
highest snow. "Yes," we said, "there is the flag-staff, but where is the
flag?" "Here it is," he answered, pulling off his blouse and fixing it
to the stick. It made a poor flag, and there was no wind to float
it out, yet it was seen all around. They saw it at Zermatt--at the
Riffel--in the Val Tournanche... .

We remained on the summit for one hour--

One crowded hour of glorious life.

It passed away too quickly, and we began to prepare for the descent.

Hudson and I consulted as to the best and safest arrangement of the
party. We agreed that it was best for Croz to go first, and Hadow
second; Hudson, who was almost equal to a guide in sureness of foot,
wished to be third; Lord Douglas was placed next, and old Peter, the
strongest of the remainder, after him. I suggested to Hudson that we
should attach a rope to the rocks on our arrival at the difficult bit,
and hold it as we descended, as an additional protection. He approved
the idea, but it was not definitely decided that it should be done. The
party was being arranged in the above order while I was sketching the
summit, and they had finished, and were waiting for me to be tied in
line, when some one remembered that our names had not been left in a
bottle. They requested me to write them down, and moved off while it was
being done.

A few minutes afterward I tied myself to young Peter, ran down after the
others, and caught them just as they were commencing the descent of the
difficult part. Great care was being taken. Only one man was moving at a
time; when he was firmly planted the next advanced, and so on. They had
not, however, attached the additional rope to rocks, and nothing was
said about it. The suggestion was not made for my own sake, and I am not
sure that it ever occurred to me again. For some little distance we two
followed the others, detached from them, and should have continued so
had not Lord Douglas asked me, about 3 P.M., to tie on to old Peter, as
he feared, he said, that Taugwalder would not be able to hold his ground
if a slip occurred.

A few minutes later, a sharp-eyed lad ran into the Monte Rosa Hotel, at
Zermatt, saying that he had seen an avalanche fall from the summit of
the Matterhorn onto the Matterhorn glacier. The boy was reproved for
telling idle stories; he was right, nevertheless, and this was what he
saw.

Michel Croz had laid aside his ax, and in order to give Mr. Hadow
greater security, was absolutely taking hold of his legs, and putting
his feet, one by one, into their proper positions. As far as I know, no
one was actually descending. I cannot speak with certainty, because the
two leading men were partially hidden from my sight by an intervening
mass of rock, but it is my belief, from the movements of their
shoulders, that Croz, having done as I said, was in the act of turning
round to go down a step or two himself; at this moment Mr. Hadow
slipped, fell against him, and knocked him over. I heard one startled
exclamation from Croz, then saw him and Mr. Hadow flying downward;
in another moment Hudson was dragged from his steps, and Lord Douglas
immediately after him. All this was the work of a moment. Immediately we
heard Croz's exclamation, old Peter and I planted ourselves as firmly as
the rocks would permit; the rope was taut between us, and the jerk came
on us both as on one man. We held; but the rope broke midway between
Taugwalder and Lord Francis Douglas. For a few seconds we saw our
unfortunate companions sliding downward on their backs, and spreading
out their hands, endeavoring to save themselves. They passed from our
sight uninjured, disappeared one by one, and fell from the precipice to
precipice onto the Matterhorn glacier below, a distance of nearly
four thousand feet in height. From the moment the rope broke it was
impossible to help them. So perished our comrades!



For more than two hours afterward I thought almost every moment that the
next would be my last; for the Taugwalders, utterly unnerved, were not
only incapable of giving assistance, but were in such a state that a
slip might have been expected from them at any moment. After a time we
were able to do that which should have been done at first, and fixed
rope to firm rocks, in addition to being tied together. These ropes were
cut from time to time, and were left behind. Even with their assurance
the men were afraid to proceed, and several times old Peter turned,
with ashy face and faltering limbs, and said, with terrible emphasis, "I
CANNOT!"

About 6 P.M., we arrived at the snow upon the ridge descending toward
Zermatt, and all peril was over. We frequently looked, but in vain, for
traces of our unfortunate companions; we bent over the ridge and cried
to them, but no sound returned. Convinced at last that they were neither
within sight nor hearing, we ceased from our useless efforts; and, too
cast down for speech, silently gathered up our things, and the little
effects of those who were lost, and then completed the descent. Such
is Mr. Whymper's graphic and thrilling narrative. Zermatt gossip
darkly hints that the elder Taugwalder cut the rope, when the accident
occurred, in order to preserve himself from being dragged into the
abyss; but Mr. Whymper says that the ends of the rope showed no evidence
of cutting, but only of breaking. He adds that if Taugwalder had had the
disposition to cut the rope, he would not have had time to do it, the
accident was so sudden and unexpected.

Lord Douglas' body has never been found. It probably lodged upon some
inaccessible shelf in the face of the mighty precipice. Lord Douglas was
a youth of nineteen. The three other victims fell nearly four thousand
feet, and their bodies lay together upon the glacier when found by
Mr. Whymper and the other searchers the next morning. Their graves are
beside the little church in Zermatt.



CHAPTER XLII

[Chillon has a Nice, Roomy Dungeon]


Switzerland is simply a large, humpy, solid rock, with a thin skin of
grass stretched over it. Consequently, they do not dig graves, they
blast them out with powder and fuse. They cannot afford to have large
graveyards, the grass skin is too circumscribed and too valuable. It is
all required for the support of the living.

The graveyard in Zermatt occupies only about one-eighth of an acre.
The graves are sunk in the living rock, and are very permanent; but
occupation of them is only temporary; the occupant can only stay till
his grave is needed by a later subject, he is removed, then, for they do
not bury one body on top of another. As I understand it, a family owns
a grave, just as it owns a house. A man dies and leaves his house to his
son--and at the same time, this dead father succeeds to his own father's
grave. He moves out of the house and into the grave, and his predecessor
moves out of the grave and into the cellar of the chapel. I saw a black
box lying in the churchyard, with skull and cross-bones painted on it,
and was told that this was used in transferring remains to the cellar.

In that cellar the bones and skulls of several hundred of former
citizens were compactly corded up. They made a pile eighteen feet long,
seven feet high, and eight feet wide. I was told that in some of the
receptacles of this kind in the Swiss villages, the skulls were all
marked, and if a man wished to find the skulls of his ancestors for
several generations back, he could do it by these marks, preserved in
the family records.



An English gentleman who had lived some years in this region, said it
was the cradle of compulsory education. But he said that the English
idea that compulsory education would reduce bastardy and intemperance
was an error--it has not that effect. He said there was more seduction
in the Protestant than in the Catholic cantons, because the confessional
protected the girls. I wonder why it doesn't protect married women in
France and Spain?

This gentleman said that among the poorer peasants in the Valais, it was
common for the brothers in a family to cast lots to determine which
of them should have the coveted privilege of marrying, and his
brethren--doomed bachelors--heroically banded themselves together to
help support the new family.

We left Zermatt in a wagon--and in a rain-storm, too--for St. Nicholas
about ten o'clock one morning. Again we passed between those grass-clad
prodigious cliffs, specked with wee dwellings peeping over at us from
velvety green walls ten and twelve hundred feet high. It did not seem
possible that the imaginary chamois even could climb those precipices.
Lovers on opposite cliffs probably kiss through a spy-glass, and
correspond with a rifle.

In Switzerland the farmer's plow is a wide shovel, which scrapes up and
turns over the thin earthy skin of his native rock--and there the man of
the plow is a hero. Now here, by our St. Nicholas road, was a grave, and
it had a tragic story. A plowman was skinning his farm one morning--not
the steepest part of it, but still a steep part--that is, he was not
skinning the front of his farm, but the roof of it, near the eaves--when
he absent-mindedly let go of the plow-handles to moisten his hands, in
the usual way; he lost his balance and fell out of his farm backward;
poor fellow, he never touched anything till he struck bottom, fifteen
hundred feet below. [This was on a Sunday.--M.T.] We throw a halo of
heroism around the life of the soldier and the sailor, because of the
deadly dangers they are facing all the time. But we are not used to
looking upon farming as a heroic occupation. This is because we have not
lived in Switzerland.



From St. Nicholas we struck out for Visp--or Vispach--on foot. The
rain-storms had been at work during several days, and had done a deal of
damage in Switzerland and Savoy. We came to one place where a stream had
changed its course and plunged down a mountain in a new place, sweeping
everything before it. Two poor but precious farms by the roadside were
ruined. One was washed clear away, and the bed-rock exposed; the other
was buried out of sight under a tumbled chaos of rocks, gravel, mud,
and rubbish. The resistless might of water was well exemplified. Some
saplings which had stood in the way were bent to the ground, stripped
clean of their bark, and buried under rocky debris. The road had been
swept away, too.

In another place, where the road was high up on the mountain's face, and
its outside edge protected by flimsy masonry, we frequently came across
spots where this masonry had carved off and left dangerous gaps for
mules to get over; and with still more frequency we found the masonry
slightly crumbled, and marked by mule-hoofs, thus showing that there had
been danger of an accident to somebody. When at last we came to a
badly ruptured bit of masonry, with hoof-prints evidencing a desperate
struggle to regain the lost foothold, I looked quite hopefully over the
dizzy precipice. But there was nobody down there.

They take exceedingly good care of their rivers in Switzerland and other
portions of Europe. They wall up both banks with slanting solid stone
masonry--so that from end to end of these rivers the banks look like the
wharves at St. Louis and other towns on the Mississippi River.

It was during this walk from St. Nicholas, in the shadow of the majestic
Alps, that we came across some little children amusing themselves in
what seemed, at first, a most odd and original way--but it wasn't; it
was in simply a natural and characteristic way. They were roped together
with a string, they had mimic alpenstocks and ice-axes, and were
climbing a meek and lowly manure-pile with a most blood-curdling amount
of care and caution. The "guide" at the head of the line cut imaginary
steps, in a laborious and painstaking way, and not a monkey budged till
the step above was vacated. If we had waited we should have witnessed an
imaginary accident, no doubt; and we should have heard the intrepid band
hurrah when they made the summit and looked around upon the "magnificent
view," and seen them throw themselves down in exhausted attitudes for a
rest in that commanding situation.



In Nevada I used to see the children play at silver-mining. Of course,
the great thing was an accident in a mine, and there were two "star"
parts; that of the man who fell down the mimic shaft, and that of the
daring hero who was lowered into the depths to bring him up. I knew one
small chap who always insisted on playing BOTH of these parts--and he
carried his point. He would tumble into the shaft and die, and then come
to the surface and go back after his own remains.

It is the smartest boy that gets the hero part everywhere; he is head
guide in Switzerland, head miner in Nevada, head bull-fighter in Spain,
etc.; but I knew a preacher's son, seven years old, who once selected
a part for himself compared to which those just mentioned are tame
and unimpressive. Jimmy's father stopped him from driving imaginary
horse-cars one Sunday--stopped him from playing captain of an imaginary
steamboat next Sunday--stopped him from leading an imaginary army to
battle the following Sunday--and so on. Finally the little fellow said:

"I've tried everything, and they won't any of them do. What CAN I play?"

"I hardly know, Jimmy; but you MUST play only things that are suitable
to the Sabbath-day."

Next Sunday the preacher stepped softly to a back-room door to see if
the children were rightly employed. He peeped in. A chair occupied the
middle of the room, and on the back of it hung Jimmy's cap; one of
his little sisters took the cap down, nibbled at it, then passed it to
another small sister and said, "Eat of this fruit, for it is good." The
Reverend took in the situation--alas, they were playing the Expulsion
from Eden! Yet he found one little crumb of comfort. He said to himself,
"For once Jimmy has yielded the chief role--I have been wronging him, I
did not believe there was so much modesty in him; I should have expected
him to be either Adam or Eve." This crumb of comfort lasted but a very
little while; he glanced around and discovered Jimmy standing in an
imposing attitude in a corner, with a dark and deadly frown on his face.
What that meant was very plain--HE WAS IMPERSONATING THE DEITY! Think of
the guileless sublimity of that idea.



We reached Vispach at 8 P.M., only about seven hours out from St.
Nicholas. So we must have made fully a mile and a half an hour, and it
was all downhill, too, and very muddy at that. We stayed all night at
the Hotel de Soleil; I remember it because the landlady, the portier,
the waitress, and the chambermaid were not separate persons, but were
all contained in one neat and chipper suit of spotless muslin, and she
was the prettiest young creature I saw in all that region. She was the
landlord's daughter. And I remember that the only native match to her
I saw in all Europe was the young daughter of the landlord of a village
inn in the Black Forest. Why don't more people in Europe marry and keep
hotel?



Next morning we left with a family of English friends and went by train
to Brevet, and thence by boat across the lake to Ouchy (Lausanne).

Ouchy is memorable to me, not on account of its beautiful situation and
lovely surroundings--although these would make it stick long in one's
memory--but as the place where _I_ caught the London TIMES dropping into
humor. It was NOT aware of it, though. It did not do it on purpose.
An English friend called my attention to this lapse, and cut out the
reprehensible paragraph for me. Think of encountering a grin like this
on the face of that grim journal:

ERRATUM.--We are requested by Reuter's Telegram Company to correct an
erroneous announcement made in their Brisbane telegram of the 2d inst.,
published in our impression of the 5th inst., stating that "Lady Kennedy
had given birth to twins, the eldest being a son." The Company explain
that the message they received contained the words "Governor of
Queensland, TWINS FIRST SON." Being, however, subsequently informed that
Sir Arthur Kennedy was unmarried and that there must be some mistake, a
telegraphic repetition was at once demanded. It has been received today
(11th inst.) and shows that the words really telegraphed by Reuter's
agent were "Governor Queensland TURNS FIRST SOD," alluding to the
Maryborough-Gympic Railway in course of construction. The words in
italics were mutilated by the telegraph in transmission from Australia,
and reaching the company in the form mentioned above gave rise to the
mistake.

I had always had a deep and reverent compassion for the sufferings of
the "prisoner of Chillon," whose story Byron had told in such moving
verse; so I took the steamer and made pilgrimage to the dungeons of the
Castle of Chillon, to see the place where poor Bonnivard endured his
dreary captivity three hundred years ago. I am glad I did that, for it
took away some of the pain I was feeling on the prisoner's account. His
dungeon was a nice, cool, roomy place, and I cannot see why he should
have been dissatisfied with it. If he had been imprisoned in a St.
Nicholas private dwelling, where the fertilizer prevails, and the goat
sleeps with the guest, and the chickens roost on him and the cow comes
in and bothers him when he wants to muse, it would have been another
matter altogether; but he surely could not have had a very cheerless
time of it in that pretty dungeon. It has romantic window-slits that
let in generous bars of light, and it has tall, noble columns, carved
apparently from the living rock; and what is more, they are written
all over with thousands of names; some of them--like Byron's and Victor
Hugo's--of the first celebrity. Why didn't he amuse himself reading
these names? Then there are the couriers and tourists--swarms of them
every day--what was to hinder him from having a good time with them? I
think Bonnivard's sufferings have been overrated.



Next, we took the train and went to Martigny, on the way to Mont Blanc.
Next morning we started, about eight o'clock, on foot. We had plenty of
company, in the way of wagon-loads and mule-loads of tourists--and dust.
This scattering procession of travelers was perhaps a mile long. The
road was uphill--interminable uphill--and tolerably steep. The weather
was blisteringly hot, and the man or woman who had to sit on a creeping
mule, or in a crawling wagon, and broil in the beating sun, was an
object to be pitied. We could dodge among the bushes, and have the
relief of shade, but those people could not. They paid for a conveyance,
and to get their money's worth they rode.

We went by the way of the Tête Noir, and after we reached high ground
there was no lack of fine scenery. In one place the road was tunneled
through a shoulder of the mountain; from there one looked down into a
gorge with a rushing torrent in it, and on every hand was a charming
view of rocky buttresses and wooded heights. There was a liberal
allowance of pretty waterfalls, too, on the Tête Noir route.



About half an hour before we reached the village of Argentière a vast
dome of snow with the sun blazing on it drifted into view and framed
itself in a strong V-shaped gateway of the mountains, and we recognized
Mont Blanc, the "monarch of the Alps." With every step, after that,
this stately dome rose higher and higher into the blue sky, and at last
seemed to occupy the zenith.

Some of Mont Blanc's neighbors--bare, light-brown, steeplelike
rocks--were very peculiarly shaped. Some were whittled to a sharp point,
and slightly bent at the upper end, like a lady's finger; one monster
sugar-loaf resembled a bishop's hat; it was too steep to hold snow on
its sides, but had some in the division.



While we were still on very high ground, and before the descent toward
Argentière began, we looked up toward a neighboring mountain-top, and
saw exquisite prismatic colors playing about some white clouds which
were so delicate as to almost resemble gossamer webs. The faint pinks
and greens were peculiarly beautiful; none of the colors were deep, they
were the lightest shades. They were bewitching commingled. We sat down
to study and enjoy this singular spectacle. The tints remained during
several minutes--flitting, changing, melting into each other; paling
almost away for a moment, then reflushing--a shifting, restless,
unstable succession of soft opaline gleams, shimmering over that air
film of white cloud, and turning it into a fabric dainty enough to
clothe an angel with.

By and by we perceived what those super-delicate colors, and their
continuous play and movement, reminded us of; it is what one sees in a
soap-bubble that is drifting along, catching changes of tint from the
objects it passes. A soap-bubble is the most beautiful thing, and the
most exquisite, in nature; that lovely phantom fabric in the sky was
suggestive of a soap-bubble split open, and spread out in the sun. I
wonder how much it would take to buy a soap-bubble, if there was only
one in the world? One could buy a hatful of Koh-i-Noors with the same
money, no doubt.



We made the tramp from Martigny to Argentière in eight hours. We beat
all the mules and wagons; we didn't usually do that. We hired a sort of
open baggage-wagon for the trip down the valley to Chamonix, and then
devoted an hour to dining. This gave the driver time to get drunk. He
had a friend with him, and this friend also had had time to get drunk.

When we drove off, the driver said all the tourists had arrived and
gone by while we were at dinner; "but," said he, impressively, "be not
disturbed by that--remain tranquil--give yourselves no uneasiness--their
dust rises far before us--rest you tranquil, leave all to me--I am the
king of drivers. Behold!"

Down came his whip, and away we clattered. I never had such a shaking up
in my life. The recent flooding rains had washed the road clear away in
places, but we never stopped, we never slowed down for anything. We tore
right along, over rocks, rubbish, gullies, open fields--sometimes with
one or two wheels on the ground, but generally with none. Every now and
then that calm, good-natured madman would bend a majestic look over his
shoulder at us and say, "Ah, you perceive? It is as I have said--I am
the king of drivers." Every time we just missed going to destruction,
he would say, with tranquil happiness, "Enjoy it, gentlemen, it is very
rare, it is very unusual--it is given to few to ride with the king of
drivers--and observe, it is as I have said, I am he."



He spoke in French, and punctuated with hiccoughs. His friend was
French, too, but spoke in German--using the same system of punctuation,
however. The friend called himself the "Captain of Mont Blanc," and
wanted us to make the ascent with him. He said he had made more ascents
than any other man--forty seven--and his brother had made thirty-seven.
His brother was the best guide in the world, except himself--but he,
yes, observe him well--he was the "Captain of Mont Blanc"--that title
belonged to none other.

The "king" was as good as his word--he overtook that long procession
of tourists and went by it like a hurricane. The result was that we got
choicer rooms at the hotel in Chamonix than we should have done if
his majesty had been a slower artist--or rather, if he hadn't most
providentially got drunk before he left Argentière.





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