Rollo was extremely interested, as he sailed along, in viewing these mountain slopes, exploring the landscape carefully in every part, studying out all the objects of interest which it contained—the forests, the cultivated fields, the great Swiss cottages, the pasturages, the little chalets, the zigzag paths leading up and down, and all the other picturesque and striking characteristics of a Swiss landscape.
The slopes were very beautiful, and densely inhabited; and they were really very steep, though they looked much steeper than they were, as all hills and slopes do to a person looking upon them from below and facing them.
"It seems," said Rollo to Mr. George, "as if two broad strips of green country were set up on edge for us to see them as we are sailing along."
"Yes," said Mr. George; "with all the houses, farms, pasturages, flocks of sheep, and herds of cattle clinging to the sides of them."
The chief charm, however, of the views which presented themselves to the young travellers as they glided along the lake was the glittering refulgence of the snow-clad peaks which appeared here and there through openings among the nearer mountains. The view of these peaks was occasionally obstructed by masses of vapor which were floating along the tops of the mountain ranges; but still they were seen frequently enough to fill the minds both of Rollo and Mr. George with wonder and delight.
After gazing at this scenery for nearly an hour until his curiosity in respect to it was in some measure satisfied, Rollo began to turn his attention to his fellow-travellers on board the steamer. These travellers were seated singly or in groups about the deck of the little vessel, and they were all tourists, journeying for pleasure. Here was a small group of young men—students apparently—with knapsacks on their backs, spyglasses strapped to their sides, and maps and guide books in their hands. There was a young lady seated with her father, both dressed for the mountains, and gazing with curiosity and wonder on the views presented along the shores of the lake. In another place was a family of parents and children—the father studying a map which he had spread open upon his knees, the mother sitting by his side, silent and thoughtful, as if her mind was far away, dwelling, perhaps, upon the little ones which had been left at home because they were too young to be taken on such a tour. Some of these people were talking French, some English, and some German. Rollo looked about upon these various groups for a time, and then said,—
"Are all these travellers going to see the mountains, do you suppose, uncle George?"
"Yes," said Mr. George; "I suppose so. There is very little travelling in Switzerland except pleasure travelling. I presume they are all going to see the mountains and the other scenery of the country."
"I should not think that the ladies could climb up the mountains very high," said Rollo.
"Yes," said Mr. George, "they can; for in almost all places where people wish to go there are excellent paths. Where it is too steep for roads the mountaineers make zigzag paths, not only for travellers, but for themselves, in order that they may go up and down to their chalets and pasturages. The people of the country have been making and improving these paths now for two thousand years or more, and they have got them at last in very excellent condition; so that, except the steepness, they are very easy and very comfortable."
"Why, uncle George," said Rollo, "look!"
So saying, Rollo pointed his finger out over the water. The mountains had suddenly and entirely disappeared. The vapors and clouds which they had seen floating among them half an hour before had become dense and continuous, and had, moreover, settled down over the whole face of the country in such a manner as to shut out the mountains wholly from view. Nothing was to be seen but the water of the lake, with a margin of low and level but beautiful country along the shores of it.
In fact, there was nothing but the smallness of the steamer and the costumes and character of the passengers to prevent Rollo and Mr. George from supposing that they were steaming it from New York to Albany, up the North River, in America.
About eight o'clock on the morning after our travellers arrived at Interlachen Rollo awoke, and, rising from his bed, he walked to the window and looked out, expecting to find before him a very grand prospect of Alpine scenery; but there was nothing of the kind to be seen.
Before the house was a garden, with a broad gravel walk leading out through it to the road. On each side of this walk were parterres of shrubbery and flowers. There were also two side approaches, wide enough for roads. They came from the main road through great open gates, at a little distance to the right and left of the hotel. The main road, which was broad and perfectly level, extended in front of the house; and two or three Swiss peasants, in strange costume, were passing by. Beyond were green and level fields, with fruit and forest trees rising here and there among them, forming a very rich and attractive landscape. The sky was covered with clouds, though they were very fleecy and bright, and in one place the sun seemed just ready to break through.
"I thought Interlachen was among the mountains," said Rollo to himself; "and here I am in the middle of a flat plain.
"I will go and see uncle George," he continued after a moment's pause, "and ask him what it means."
So Rollo opened the door of his room and went out into what in America would be called the entry, or hall. He found himself in a long corridor paved with stone, and having broad stone staircases leading up and down from it to the different stories. In one place there was a passage way which led to a window that seemed to be on the back side of the hotel. Rollo went there to look out, in order to see what the prospect might be in that direction.
He saw first the gardens and grounds of the hotel, extending for a short distance in the rear of the building, and beyond them he obtained glimpses of a rapidly running stream. The water was very turbid. It boiled and whirled incessantly as it swept swiftly along the channel.
"Ah," said Rollo, "that is the River Aar, I suppose, flowing through Interlachen from one lake to the other. I thought I should see it somewhere here; but I did not know whether it was before the hotels or behind them."
A short distance beyond the stream Rollo saw the lower part of a perpendicular precipice of gray rock. All except the lower part of this precipice was concealed by the fogs and clouds, which seemed to settle down so low upon the landscape in all directions as to conceal almost every thing but the surface of the ground.
"I wonder how high that precipice is," said Rollo to himself.
"I wonder whether I could climb up to the top of it," he continued, still talking to himself, "if I could only find some way to get across the river? There must be some way, I suppose. Perhaps there is a bridge."
Rollo then turned his eye upward to look at the clouds. In one place there seemed to be a break among them, and the fleecy masses around the break were slowly moving along. The place where Rollo was looking was about the middle of the sky; that is, about midway between the horizon and the zenith. While Rollo was looking at this break, which seemed, while he looked at it, to brighten up and open more and more, he saw suddenly, to his utter amazement, a large green tree burst into view in the midst of it, and then disappear again a moment afterwards as a fresh mass of cloudy vapor drifted over. Rollo was perfectly bewildered with astonishment. To see a green tree, clear and distinct in form and bright with the beams of the sun which just at that instant caught upon it, breaking out to view suddenly high up among the clouds of the sky, seemed truly an astonishing spectacle. Rollo had scarcely recovered from the first emotion of his surprise before the clouds parted again, wider than before, and brought into view, first a large mass of foliage, which formed the termination of a grove of trees; then a portion of a smooth, green field, with a flock of sheep feeding upon it, clinging apparently to the steep slope like flies to a wall; and finally a house, with a little blue smoke curling from the chimney. Rollo was perfectly beside himself with astonishment and delight at this spectacle; and he determined immediately to go and ask his uncle to come and see.
He accordingly left the window and made all haste to his uncle's door. He knocked. His uncle said, "Come in." Rollo opened the door. His uncle was standing by the window of his room, looking out. This was on the front side of the hotel.
"Uncle George!" said Rollo, "Uncle George! Come and look out with me at the back window. There is a flock of sheep feeding in a green field away up in the sky!"
"Come and look here!" said Mr. George.
So Rollo went to the window where Mr. George was standing, and his astonishment at what he saw was even greater than before. The clouds had separated into great fleecy masses and were slowly drifting away, while through the openings that appeared in them there were seen bright and beautiful views of groves, green pasturages, smiling little hamlets and villages, green fields, and here and there dark forests of evergreen trees, with peaks of rocks or steep precipices peeping out among them. At one place, through an opening or gap in the nearer mountains, there could be seen far back towards the horizon the broad sides and towering peak of a distant summit, which seemed to be wholly formed of vast masses of ice and snow, and which glittered with an inexpressible brilliancy under the rays of the morning sun.
"That is the Jungfrau," said Mr. George.
"That great icy mountain?" said Rollo.
"Yes," said Mr. George.
"Can we get up to the top of it?" asked Rollo.
"No," said Mr. George. "People tried for more than a thousand years to get to the top of the Jungfrau before they could succeed."
"And did they succeed at last?" asked Rollo.
"Yes," replied Mr. George. "You see there is a sort of goatlike animal, called the chamois, which the peasants and mountaineers are very fond of hunting. These animals are great climbers, and they get up among the highest peaks and into the most dangerous places; and the hunters, in going into such places after them, become at last very expert in climbing, and sometimes they become ambitious of surpassing each other, and each one wishes to see how high he can get. So one time, about twenty-five years ago, a party of six of these hunters undertook to get to the top of the Jungfrau, and at last they succeeded. But it was a dreadfully difficult and dangerous operation. It was fifteen miles' steep climbing."
"Not steep climbing all the way," said Rollo.
"No," said Mr. George, "I suppose not all the way. There must have been some up-and-down work, and some perhaps tolerably level, for the first ten miles; but the last five must have been a perpetual scramble among rocks and ice and over vast drifts of snow, with immense avalanches thundering down the mountain sides all around them."
"I wish I could go and see them," said Rollo.
"You can go," replied Mr. George. "There is a most excellent chance to see the face of the Jungfrau very near; for there is another mountain this side of it, with a narrow valley between. This other mountain is called the Wengern Alp. It is about two thirds the height of the Jungfrau, and is so near it that from the top of it, or near the top, you can see the whole side of the Jungfrau rising right before you and filling half the sky, and you can see and hear the avalanches thundering down the sides of it all day long."
Rollo was quite excited at this account, and was very eager to set off as soon as possible to go up the Wengern Alp.
"How do we get there?" asked he.
"You see this great gap in the near mountains," said Mr. George, pointing.
"Yes," said Rollo.
"That gap," continued Mr. George, "is the mouth of a valley. I have been studying it out this morning in my guide book. There is a good carriage road leading up this valley. It is called the valley of the Luetschine, because that is the name of the river which comes down through it. In going up this valley for the first two or three miles we are going directly towards the Jungfrau."
"Yes," said Rollo. "That I can see very plainly."
This was indeed very obvious; for the Jungfrau, from the windows of the hotel, was seen through the great gap in the near mountains which Mr. George had pointed out as the mouth of the valley of the Luetschine. In fact, had it not been for that gap in the near mountains, the great snow-covered summit could not have been seen from the hotels at all.
"We go up that valley," continued Mr. George, "about three miles, and then we come to a fork in it; that is, to a place where the valley divides into two branches, one turning off to the right and the other to the left. Directly ahead there is an enormous precipice, I don't know how many thousand feet high, of bare rock.
"One of these branch valleys," continued Mr. George, "leads up to one side of the Wengern Alp and the Jungfrau, and the other to the other side. We may take the right-hand valley and go up five or six miles to Lauterbrunnen, or we may take the left-hand branch and go up to Grindelwald. Which way do you think we had better go?"
"I do not know," said Rollo. "Can we get up to the Wengern Alp from either valley?"
"Yes," said Mr. George. "We can go up from one of these valleys, and then, after stopping as long as we choose on the Alp, we can continue our journey and so come down into the other, and thus see them both. One of the valleys is famous for two great glaciers that descend into it. The other is famous for immense waterfalls that come down over the precipices at the sides."
"Let us go first and see the waterfalls," said Rollo.
"Well," said Mr. George, "we will. We shall have to turn to the right in that case and go to Lauterbrunnen. When we get to Lauterbrunnen we shall have to leave our carriage and take horses to go up to the Wengern Alp. The way is by a steep path, formed in zigzags, right up the sides of the mountains."
"How far is it?" asked Rollo.
"I don't know precisely," said Mr. George; "but it is a good many miles. It takes, at any rate, several hours to go up. We can stop at the Wengern Alp as long as we please and look at the Jungfrau and the avalanches, and after that go on down into the valley of Grindelwald on the other side, and so come home."
"But how can we get our carriage?" asked Rollo.
"O, they send the carriage back, I believe," said Mr. George, "from Lauterbrunnen to the great precipice at the fork of the valley."
Mr. George, having thus finished his account of the topography of the route to the Wengern Alp, went away from the window and returned to the table where he had been employed in writing some letters just before Rollo had come in. Rollo was left at the window. He leaned his arms upon the sill, and, looking down to the area below, amused himself with observing what was going on there.
There were several persons standing or sitting upon the piazza. Presently he heard the sound of wheels. A carriage came driving up towards the door. A postilion was riding upon one of the horses. There were two servants sitting on the box; and there was a seat behind, where another servant and the lady's maid were sitting. The carriage stopped, the door was opened, and a lady and gentleman with two boys, all dressed like travellers, got out, and were ushered into the house with great civility by the landlord. The baggage was taken off and carried in, and then the carriage was driven away round the corner.
This was an English nobleman and his family, who were making the tour of Switzerland, and were going to spend a few days at Interlachen on the way.
As soon as the bustle produced by this arrival had subsided, Rollo's attention was attracted by a very sweet musical sound which seemed to be produced by something coming along the road.
"What can that be, I wonder?" said he to himself.
Then in a little louder tone, but without turning round,—
"Uncle George, here is some music coming. What do you think it is?"
Mr. George paused a moment to listen, and then went on with his writing.
The mystery was soon solved; for, in a few moments after Rollo had spoken, he saw a large flock of goats coming along. These goats all had bells upon their necks,—or at least a great many of them were so provided,—and these bells, having a soft and sweet tone, produced, when their sounds were blended together, an enchanting harmony. The goats walked demurely along, driven by one or two goatherds who were following them, and soon disappeared behind the trees and shrubbery. Very soon after their forms had disappeared from view the music of their bells began to grow fainter and fainter until it ceased to be heard.
"It was a flock of goats going by," said Rollo.
Rollo next heard voices; and, turning in the direction whence the sounds proceeded, he saw a party of young men coming up towards the door of the hotel along the gravelled avenue. This was a party of German students making the tour of Switzerland on foot. They had knapsacks on their backs, and stout walking sticks and guide books in their hands. They came up talking and laughing together, full of hilarity and glee; and yet some of them seemed very tired. They had walked six miles that morning, and were now going to stop at this hotel for breakfast. Rollo listened to their conversation; but, as it was in the German language, he could not understand one word that they were saying.
"Dear me!" said he; "I wish that every body would talk either French or English."
As soon as the students had passed on into the inn Rollo heard another carriage coming. He looked and found that it was a char a banc. A char a banc is a small, one-horse carriage, which looks upon the outside very much like what is called a carryall in America, only it is much narrower. It differs very much, however, from a carryall within; for it has only a seat for two persons, and that is placed sideways, with the end to the horses. You ride in it, therefore, sideways, as you do in an omnibus, only in an omnibus there are two seats, one on each side, and the door is at the end; whereas in the char a banc there is a seat only on one side, and the door is opposite to it on the other. The seat is large and comfortable, being very much like a short sofa. Some people, therefore, describe a char a banc as a sofa placed endwise on wheels.
The char a banc stopped before the door of the hotel; and the coachman, getting down from his seat in front, opened the door. A very dignified-looking gentleman stepped out; and, after standing a moment on the piazza to give some directions about his portmanteau, he went into the office of the hotel.
Rollo, looking down from the window of his uncle George's room, could see all these things very plainly; for the roof which protected the piazza from the rain was up at the top of the hotel, and therefore did not interfere with his view.
After having made the above-described observations from the window, Rollo began to think that he would like to go down below to the door, where he thought he could see what was going on to better advantage.
"Uncle George," said he, "when are you going down to breakfast?"
"In about half an hour," said Mr. George. "I have got another letter to write."
"Then I believe I will go down now," said Rollo, "and wait there till you come."
"Very well," said Mr. George; "and please order breakfast, and then it will be all ready when I get my letter finished."
"What shall I order?" asked Rollo.
"I don't know," said Mr. George. "I don't know what it is the fashion to have for breakfast here. Ask them what they have got, and then choose for yourself and me."
So Rollo, putting on his cap, went down stairs.
He stood for a little time on the piazza, looking at the strange dresses of the people that were sitting or standing there and listening to the outlandish sounds of the foreign languages which they were speaking. At a little distance out upon the gravel walk, near the shrubbery, were a party of guides waiting to be hired for mountain excursions. Some of these guides were talking with travellers, forming plans, or agreeing upon the terms on which they were to serve. Rollo, after observing these groups a little time, walked along the piazza towards a place where he saw an open door in another large building, which, being connected with the piazza, evidently belonged to the hotel. In fact, it was a sort of wing. As there were people going in and out at this door, Rollo thought that he could go in too.
He accordingly walked along in that direction. Before he reached the door he came to a place which, though open to the air, was covered with a roof, and was so enclosed by the buildings on three sides as to make quite a pleasant little nook. It was ornamented by various shrubs and flowers which grew from tubs and large pots arranged against the sides of it. There were several tables in this space, with chairs around them, and one or two parties of young men were taking their breakfast here.
"This will be a good place for uncle George and me to have our breakfast," said Rollo to himself, "and we can see the Jungfrau all the time while we are eating it."
Rollo then went on into the open door. He found himself ushered into a very large and beautiful drawing room. There were a great many sofas arranged around the sides of it, on which parties of ladies and gentlemen were sitting talking together; while other gentlemen, their hats in their hands, were standing before them or walking about the floor. There was no carpet; but the floor was formed of dark wood highly polished, and was very beautiful. There was a fireplace in one corner of this room; but there was no fire in it. No fire was necessary; for it was a warm and pleasant morning.
On the front side of the room was a row of windows looking out towards the road. On the back side was a door opening to another large room, where Rollo saw a table spread and several people sitting at it eating their breakfast.
"Ah," said Rollo, "there is the dining room! I will go in there and see what we can have for breakfast."
So he walked through the drawing room and entered the room beyond. He found that this inner room was quite a spacious apartment; and there were one or two long tables extending the whole length of it.
There were various separate parties sitting at these tables taking breakfast. Some were just beginning. Some had just ended. Some were waiting for their breakfast to be brought in. Near where Rollo was standing two gentlemen were seated at the table, with a map of Switzerland spread before them; and, instead of being occupied with breakfast, they were planning some excursion for the day.
Rollo looked out a vacant place at the table and took his seat. A waiter came to him to know what he would have.
"I want breakfast for two," said Rollo, "my uncle and myself. What have you got for us?"
The waiter repeated a long list of very nice things that he could give Rollo and his uncle for breakfast. From among these Rollo chose a beef steak, some hot rolls and butter, some honey, and some coffee. The waiter went out to prepare them.
In about ten minutes Mr. George came down. He took his seat by the side of Rollo; and very soon afterwards the waiter brought in what had been ordered. Rollo liked the breakfast very much, especially the honey.
It is very customary to have honey for breakfast in Switzerland.
[Footnote 5: The zenith is the point in the heavens that is directly over our heads.]
[Footnote 6: Pronounced Yoongfrow.]
[Footnote 7: Pronounced shamwawh.]
"Come, uncle George," said Rollo, "make haste. We are all ready."
Rollo was sitting in a char a banc when he said this, at the door of the hotel. He and his uncle were going to make an excursion up the valley of the Luetschine to Lauterbrunnen, and thence to ascend the Wengern Alp, in order to see the avalanches of the Jungfrau; and Rollo was in haste to set out.
"Come, uncle George," said he, "make haste."
Mr. George was coming out of the hotel slowly, talking with the landlord.
"The guide will take you to Lauterbrunnen," said the landlord, "in the char a banc; and then he will send the char a banc back down the valley to the fork, and thence up to Grindelwald to wait for you there. You will go up to the Wengern Alp from Lauterbrunnen; and then, after staying there as long as you please, you will keep on and come down to Grindelwald on the other side, where you will find the carriage ready for you. But it seems to me that you had better take another horse."
"No," said Mr. George. "One will do very well."
Mr. George had a carpet bag in his hand. It contained nightdresses, to be used in case he and Rollo should conclude to spend the night on the mountain. He put the carpet bag into the carriage, and then got in himself. The landlord shut the door, and the coachman drove away. Thus they set out on their excursion.
This excursion to the Wengern Alp was only one of many similar expeditions which Rollo and Mr. George made together while they were in Switzerland. As, however, it is manifestly impossible to describe the whole of Switzerland in so small a volume as this, I shall give a narrative of the ascent of the Wengern Alp as a sort of specimen of these excursions. I think it better that I should give a minute and particular account of one than a more vague and general, and so less satisfactory, account of several of them.
Rollo had taken the precaution to have the curtains of the char a banc rolled up, so that he and Mr. George could see out freely on all sides of them as they rode along.
The view which was first presented to their observation was that of the lawns and gardens in the midst of which the hotels were situated. These grounds were connected together by walks—some straight, others winding—which passed through bowers and gateways from one enclosure to the other. In these walks various parties were strolling; some were gathering flowers, others were gazing at the mountains around, and others still were moving quietly along, going from one hotel to another for the purpose of taking a pleasant morning walk or to make visits to their friends. The whole scene was a bright and very animated one; but Rollo had not time to observe it long; for the char a banc, after moving by a graceful sweep around a copse of shrubbery, passed out through a great gateway in the road, and the hotels and all that pertained to them were soon hidden from view by the great trees which grew along the roadside before them.
The coachman, or rather the guide,—for the man who was driving the char a banc was the one who was to act as guide up the mountain when they reached Lauterbrunnen,—turned soon into a road which led off towards the gap, or opening, in the nearer mountains which Mr. George and Rollo had seen from the windows of the hotel. The road was very smooth and level, and the two travellers, as they rode along, had a fine view of the fields, the hamlets, and the scattered cottages which bordered the road on the side to which their faces were turned.
"This char a banc," said Rollo, "is an excellent carriage for seeing the prospect on one side of the road."
"Yes," said Mr. George; "but there might be the most astonishing spectacle in Switzerland on the other side without our knowing any thing about it unless we turned round expressly to see."
So saying, Mr. George turned in his seat and looked at that side of the road which had been behind them. There was a field there, and a young girl about seventeen years old—with a very broad-brimmed straw hat upon her head, and wearing a very picturesque costume in other respects—was seen digging up the ground with a hoe.
The blade of the hoe was long, and it seemed very heavy. The girl was digging up the ground by standing upon the part which she had already dug and striking the hoe down into the hard ground a few inches back from where she had struck before.
"Do the women work in the fields every where in Switzerland, Henry?" said Mr. George.
The guide's name was Henry. He could not speak English, but he spoke French and German. Mr. George addressed him in French.
"Yes, sir," said Henry; "in every part of Switzerland where I have been."
"In America the women never work in the fields," said Mr. George.
"Never?" asked Henry, surprised.
"No," said Mr. George; "at least, I never saw any."
"What do they do, then," asked Henry, "to spend their time?"
Mr. George laughed. He told Rollo, in English, that he did not think he had any satisfactory answer at hand in respect to the manner in which the American ladies spent their time.
"I pity that poor girl," said Rollo, "hoeing all day on such hard ground. I think the men ought to do such work as that."
"The men have harder work to do," said Mr. George; "climbing the mountains to hunt chamois, or driving the sheep and cows up to the upper pasturages in places where it would be very difficult for women to go."
"We must turn round every now and then," said Rollo, "and see what is behind us, or we may lose the sight of something very extraordinary."
"Yes," said Mr. George; "I heard of a party of English ladies who once went out in a char a banc to see a lake. It happened that when they came to the lake the road led along the shore in such a manner that the party, as they sat in the carriage, had their backs to the water. So they rode along, looking at the scenery on the land side and wondering why they did not come to the lake. In this manner they continued until they had gone entirely around the lake; and then the coachman drove them home. When they arrived at the hotel they were astonished to find that they had got home again; and they called out to the coachman to ask where the lake was that they had driven out to see. He told them that he had driven them all round it!"
Rollo laughed heartily at this story, and Henry would probably have laughed too if he had understood it; but, as Mr. George related it in English, Henry did not comprehend one word of the narration from beginning to end.
In the mean time the horse trotted rapidly onward along the valley, which seemed to grow narrower and narrower as they proceeded; and the impending precipices which here and there overhung the road became more and more terrific. The Luetschine, a rapid and turbid stream, swept swiftly along—sometimes in full view and sometimes concealed. Now and then there was a bridge, or a mill, or some little hamlet of Swiss cottages to diversify the scene. Mr. George and Rollo observed every thing with great attention and interest. They met frequent parties of travellers returning from Grindelwald to Lauterbrunnen—some on foot, some on horseback, and others in carriages which were more or less spacious and elegant, according to the rank or wealth of the travellers who were journeying in them.
At length they arrived at the fork of the valley. Here they gazed with astonishment and awe at the stupendous precipice which reared its colossal front before them and which seemed effectually to stop their way.
On drawing near to it, however, it appeared that the valley divided into two branches at this point, as has already been explained. The road divided too. The branch which led to the right was the road to Lauterbrunnen. The one to the left Rollo supposed led to Grindelwald. To make it sure, he pointed to the left-hand road and said to Henry,—
"Yes, sir," said Henry, "to Grindelwald."
The scenery now became more wild than ever. The valley was narrow, and on each side of it were to be seen lofty precipices and vast slopes of mountain land—some smooth and green, and covered, though very steep, with flocks and herds, and others feathered with dark evergreen forests, or covered with ragged rocks, or pierced with frightful chasms. Here and there a zigzag path was seen leading from hamlet to hamlet or from peak to peak up the mountain, with peasants ascending or descending by them and bearing burdens of every form and variety on their backs. In one case Rollo saw a woman bringing a load of hay on her back down the mountain side.
The valley, bordered thus as it was with such wild and precipitous mountain sides, might have had a gloomy, or at least a very sombre, expression, had it not been cheered and animated by the waterfalls that came foaming down here and there from the precipices above, and which seemed so bright and sparkling that they greatly enlivened the scene. These waterfalls were of a great variety of forms. In some cases a thin thread of water, like the jet from a fire engine, came slowly over the brink of a precipice a thousand feet in the air, and, gliding smoothly down for a few hundred feet, was then lost entirely in vapor or spray. In other cases, in the depth of some deep ravine far up the mountain, might be seen a line of foam meandering for a short distance among the rocks and then disappearing. Rollo pointed to one of these, and then said to Mr. George,—
"Uncle, look there! There is a short waterfall half way up the mountain; but I cannot see where the water comes from or where it goes to."
"No," said Mr. George. "It comes undoubtedly from over the precipice above, and it flows entirely down into the valley; but it only comes out to view for that short distance."
"Why can't we see it all the way?" asked Rollo.
"I suppose," said Mr. George, "it may flow for the rest of the way in the bottom of some deep chasms, or it may possibly be that it comes suddenly out of the ground at the place where we see it."
"Yes," said Rollo. "I found a great stream coming suddenly out of the ground at Interlachen."
"Where," asked Mr. George.
"Right across the river," said Rollo. "I went over there this morning."
"How did you get over?" said Mr. George.
"I went over on a bridge," said Rollo. "I took a little walk up the road, and pretty soon I came to a bridge which led across the river. I went over, and then walked along the bank on the other side. There was only a narrow space between the river and the precipice. The ground sloped down from the foot of the precipice to the water. I found several very large springs breaking out in this ground. One of them was very large. The water that ran from it made a great stream, large enough for a mill. It came up right out of the ground from a great hole all full of stones. The water came up from among the stones."
"And where did it go to?" asked Mr. George.
"O, it ran directly down into the river. The place was rather steep where it ran down, so that it made a cascade all the way."
"I should like to have seen it," said Mr. George.
"Yes," said Rollo; "it was very curious indeed to see a little river come up suddenly out of the ground from a great hole full of stones."
Talking in this manner about what they had seen, our travellers went on till they came to Lauterbrunnen. They found a small village here, in the midst of which was a large and comfortable inn. There were a number of guides and several carriages in the yards of this inn, and many parties of travellers coming and going. The principal attraction of the valley, however, at this part of it, is an immense waterfall, called the Fall of the Staubach, which was to be seen a little beyond the village, up the valley. This is one of the most remarkable waterfalls in all Switzerland. A large stream comes over the brink of a precipice nearly a thousand feet high, and descends in one smooth and continuous column for some hundreds of feet, when it gradually breaks, and finally comes down upon the rocks below a vast mass of foam and spray.
Rollo and Mr. George could see this waterfall and a great many other smaller ones which came streaming down over the faces of the precipices, along the sides of the valley, as they came up in the char a banc, before they reached the inn.
"I don't see how such a large river gets to the top of such a high hill," said Rollo.
That this question should have arisen in Rollo's mind is not surprising; for the top of the precipice where the Staubach came over seemed, in fact, the summit of a sharp ridge to any one looking up to it from the valley below; and Rollo did not imagine that there was any land above. The apparent wonder was, however, afterwards explained, when our travellers began to ascend the mountain on the other side of the valley that afternoon to go up to the Wengern Alp.
The guide drove the char a banc to the door of the inn, and Mr. George and Rollo got out. They went into the inn and ordered dinner.
"We are going to see the Staubach," said Mr. George to the waiter, "and we will be back in half an hour."
"Very well," said the waiter; "your dinner shall be ready."
So Mr. George and Rollo came out of the inn again in order to go and see the waterfall.
They were beset at the door by a number of young men and boys, and also by several little girls, some of whom wanted to sell them minerals or flowers which they had gathered among the rocks around the waterfall; and others wished to guide them to the place.
"To the Staubach? To the Staubach?" said they. "Want a guide? Want a guide?"
They said this in the German language. Mr. George understood enough of German to know what they meant; but he could not reply in that language. So he said, in French,—
"No; we do not wish any guide. We can find the way to the Staubach ourselves. There it is, right before our eyes."
Mr. George, while he was saying this, was taking out some small change from his pockets to give to the children. He gave a small coin apiece to them all.
Seeing this, the boys who had wished to guide him to the Staubach became more clamorous than ever.
"To the Staubach?" said they. "To the Staubach? Want a guide? Want a guide?"
Mr. George paid no further attention to them; but, saying "Come, Rollo," walked on.
The would-be guides followed him a short distance, still offering their services; but, finding soon that Mr. George would not have any thing more to say to them, they gradually dropped off and went back to the inn to try their fortune with the next arrival.
Mr. George and Rollo walked on along a narrow road, which was bordered by queer, picturesque-looking huts and cottages on either hand, with gardens by the sides of them, in which women and girls were hoeing or weeding. They met two or three parties of ladies and gentlemen returning from the Staubach; and presently they came to a place where, close to the side of the road, was a small shop, before which a party of ladies and gentlemen had stopped, apparently to look at something curious.
Mr. George and Rollo went to the place and found that it was a shop for the sale of carved toys and images such as are made in many parts of Switzerland to be sold to travellers for souvenirs of their tour through the country. There were shelves put up on the outside of the shop, each side of the door, and these shelves were covered with all sorts of curious objects carved in white or yellow fir, or pine. There were images of Swiss peasants with all sorts of burdens on their backs, and models of Swiss cottages, and needle boxes, and pin cases, and match boxes, and nut crackers, and groups of hunters on the rocks, or of goats or chamois climbing, and rulers ornamented with cameo-like carvings of wreaths and flowers, and with the word "Staubach" cut in ornamental letters.
Rollo was greatly interested in this store of curiosities, so much so, in fact, that for the moment all thoughts of the Staubach were driven from his mind.
"Let us buy some of these things, uncle George," said he.
"And carry them over the Wengern Alp?" said Mr. George.
"Yes," said Rollo. "They won't be very heavy. We can put them in the carpet bag."
"Well," said Mr. George, "you may buy one or two specimens if you wish, but not many; for the guide has got the carpet bag to carry, and we must not make it very heavy."
"Or we can send them in the carriage round to Grindelwald," said Rollo, "and not have to carry them at all."
"So we can," said Mr. George.
Rollo accordingly bought two Swiss cottages, very small ones, and a nut cracker. The nut cracker was shaped like a man's fist, with a hole in the middle of it to put the nut in. Then there was a handle, the end of which, when the handle was turned, was forced into the hollow of the fist by means of a screw cut in the wood, and this would crack the nut.
While Rollo was paying for his toys he felt a small hand taking hold of his own, and heard a voice say, in English,—
"How do you do?"
The English "How do you do?" is a strange sound to be heard in these remote Swiss valleys.
Rollo turned round and saw a boy look up to him with a smile, saying again at the same time,—
"How do you do?"
In a moment Rollo recognized the boy whom he had seen at Basle in the court yard of the diligence office while he had been waiting there for the horses to be harnessed. His sister Lottie was standing near; and she, as well as her brother, appeared to be much pleased at seeing Rollo again. Rollo had a few minutes' conversation with his young friends, and then they separated, as Rollo went on with his uncle to see the waterfall; while they, having already been with their father and mother to see it, went back to the inn.
Mr. George had recommended to Rollo not to buy too many specimens of the carving, not only on account of the difficulty of transporting them, but also because he thought that they would probably find a great many other opportunities to purchase such things before they had finished their rambles in Switzerland. He was quite right in this supposition. In fact, Rollo passed three more stands for selling such things on the way to the Staubach.
Mr. George and Rollo continued their walk along the road, looking up constantly at the colossal column of water before them, which seemed to grow larger and higher the nearer they drew to it. At length they reached the part of the road which was directly opposite to it. Here there was a path which turned off from the road and led up through the pasture towards the foot of the fall. The entrance to this path was beset by children who had little boxes full of crystals and other shining minerals which they wished to sell to visitors for souvenirs of the place.
Mr. George and Rollo turned into this path and attempted to advance towards the foot of the fall; but they soon found themselves stopped by the spray. In fact, the whole region all around the foot of the fall, for a great distance, was so full of mist and driving spray that going into it was like going into a rain storm. Mr. George and Rollo soon found that they were getting thoroughly wet and that it would not do to go any farther.
"And so," said Rollo, in a disappointed tone, "though we have taken the pains to come all this way to see the waterfall, we can't get near enough to see it after all."
Mr. George laughed.
"I wish we had brought an umbrella," said Rollo.
"An umbrella would not have done much good," replied Mr. George. "The wind whirls about so much that it would drive the spray upon us whichever way we should turn the umbrella."
"The path goes on a great deal nearer," said Rollo. "Somebody must go there, at any rate, without minding the spray."
"Perhaps," said Mr. George, "when the wind is in some other quarter, it may blow the spray away, so that people can go nearer the foot of the fall without getting wet. At any rate, it is plain that we cannot go any nearer now."
Saying these words, Mr. George led the way back towards the road, and Rollo followed him.
After retreating far enough to get again into a dry atmosphere, they stopped and looked upward at the fall. It seemed an immense cataract coming down out of the sky. After gazing at the stupendous spectacle till their wonder and admiration were in some measure satisfied, they returned to the inn, where they found an excellent dinner all ready for them. While they were thus employed in eating their dinner, Henry was engaged in eating his, with at least as good an appetite, in company with the other guides, in the servants' hall.
[Footnote 8: See the map at the commencement of the first chapter.]
THE WENGERN ALP.
It was about twelve o'clock when Rollo and Mr. George, having finished their dinner, came out into the yard of the inn for the purpose of setting out for the ascent of the mountain.
"Well, Rollo," said Mr. George, "now for a a scramble."
Thus far the road which the young gentlemen had travelled since leaving Interlachen had been quite level and smooth, its course having been along the bottom of the valley, which was itself quite level, though shut in on both sides by precipitous mountains. Now they were to leave the valley and ascend one of these mountain sides by means of certain zigzag paths which had been made with great labor upon them, to enable the peasants to ascend and descend in going to and from their hamlets and pasturages.
The paths, though very steep and very torturous, are smooth enough for horses to go up, though the peasants themselves very seldom use horses. A horse would eat as much grass, perhaps, as two cows. They prefer, therefore, to have the cows, and do without the horse. And so every thing which they wish to transport up and down the mountain they carry on their backs.
There were various other guides in the yard of the inn besides Henry: some were preparing apparently for the ascent of the mountain with other parties; others were bringing up carriages for people who were going to return to Interlachen. Henry, when he saw Mr. George and Rollo coming out, asked them if they were ready.
"Yes," said Mr. George. "Bring the horse. You shall ride first, Rollo."
Mr. George was to have but one horse for himself and Rollo, and they were to ride it by turns. He thought that both he himself and Rollo would be able to walk half way up the mountain, and, by having one horse between them, each could ride half the way.
Besides, it is less fatiguing, when you have a long and steep ascent to make, to walk some portion of the way rather than to be on horseback all the time.
There was another consideration which influenced Mr. George. Every additional horse which should be required for the excursion would cost about two dollars a day, including the guide to take care of him; and, as Mr. George expected to spend at least two days on the excursion, it would cost four dollars more to take two horses than to take only one.
"And I think," said Mr. George to Rollo, after having made this calculation, "we had better save that money, and have it to buy beautiful colored engravings of Swiss scenery with when we get to Geneva."
"I think so too," said Rollo.
So it was concluded to take but one horse with them, on the understanding that each of the travellers was to walk half the way.
Rollo accordingly, when the horse was brought to the door, climbed up upon his back with the guide's assistance, and, after adjusting his feet to the stirrup, prepared to set out on the ascent. His heart was bounding with excitement and delight.
When all was ready the party moved on, Rollo on the horse and Mr. George and Henry walking along by his side. They proceeded a short distance along the road, and then turned into a path which led towards the side of the valley opposite to the Staubach. They soon reached the foot of the slope, and then they began to ascend. The path grew more and more steep as they proceeded, until at length it became very precipitous; and in some places the horse was obliged to scramble up, as it were, as if he were going up stairs. Rollo clung to his seat manfully in all these places; and he would have been sometimes afraid were it not that, in every case where there could be even any apparent danger, Henry would come to his side and keep by him, ready to render assistance at a moment's notice whenever any should be needed. In this way the party moved slowly on up the face of the mountain, making many short turns and windings among the rocks and going back and forth in zigzags on the green declivities. Sometimes for a few minutes they would be lost in a grove of firs, or pines; then they would come out upon some rounded promontory of grass land or projecting peak of rocks; and a few minutes afterwards they would move along smoothly for a time upon a level, with a steep acclivity, rough with rocks and precipices on one side, and an abrupt descent on the other down which a stone would have rolled a thousand feet into the valley below.
Of course the view of the valley became more commanding and more striking the higher they ascended. Rollo wished at every turn to stop and look at it. He did stop sometimes, the guide saying that it was necessary to do so in order to let the horse get his breath a little; for the toil for such an animal of getting up so steep an ascent was very severe. Rollo would have stopped oftener; but he did not like to be left behind by his uncle George, who, being active and agile, mounted very rapidly. Mr. George would often shorten his road very much by climbing directly up the rocks from one turn of the road to the other; while the horse, with Rollo on his back, was compelled to go round by the zigzag.
At last, after they had been ascending for about half an hour, Mr. George stopped, at a place where there was a smooth stone for a seat by the side of the path, to wait for Rollo to come up; and, when Rollo came, Mr. George took him off the horse to let him rest a little. The view of the valley from this point was very grand and imposing. Rollo could look down into it as you could look into the bed of a brook in the country, standing upon the top of the bank on one side. The village, the inn, the little cottages along the roadside, the river, the bridges, and a thousand other objects, all of liliputian size, were to be seen below; while on the farther side the streaming Staubach was in full view, pouring over the brink of the precipice and falling in a dense mass of spray on the rocks at the foot of them.
Rollo could understand now, too, where the fall of the Staubach came from; for above the brink of the precipice, where the water came over, there was now to be seen a vast expanse of mountain country, rising steep, but not precipitously, far above the summit of the precipice, and of course receding as it ascended, so as not to be seen from the valley below. From the elevation, however, to which Rollo had now attained, the whole of this vast region was in view. It was covered with forests, pasturages, chalets, and scattered hamlets; and in the valleys, long, silvery lines of water were to be seen glittering in the sun and twisting and twining down in foaming cascades to the brink of the precipice, where, plunging over, they formed the cataracts which had been seen in the valley below. The Staubach was the largest of these falls; and the stream which produced it could now be traced for many miles as it came dancing along in its shining path down among the ravines of the mountains.
"I see now what makes the fall of the Staubach," said Rollo.
"Yes," said Mr. George.
"I should like to be on the brink of the precipice where it falls over," said Rollo, "and look down."
"Yes," said Mr. George; "so should I. I don't think that we could get near enough actually to look down, but we could get near enough to see the water where it begins to take the plunge."
After resting a suitable time at this place and greatly admiring and enjoying the view, our party set out again. Rollo proposed that his uncle should ride now a little way and let him walk; but Mr. George preferred that Rollo should mount again. There was still nearly another hour's hard climbing to do and a long and pretty difficult walk of several miles beyond it, and Mr. George was very desirous of saving Rollo's strength. It might perhaps be supposed, from the blunt manner in which Mr. George often threw the responsibility upon Rollo when he was placed in difficult emergencies and left him to act for himself, that he did not think or care much for his nephew's comfort or happiness. But this was by no means the case. Mr. George was very fond of Rollo indeed. If he had not been fond of him he would not have wished to have him for his companion on his tour. He was very careful, too, never to expose Rollo to any real hardship or suffering; and his apparently blunt manner, in throwing responsibilities upon the boy, only amused him by making it appear that his uncle George considered him almost a man.
Mr. George, knowing that the first part of the way from Lauterbrunnen to the Wengern Alp was by far the most steep and difficult, had accordingly arranged it in his own mind that Rollo should ride until this steep part had been surmounted.
"You may mount again now, Rollo," said he. "I will walk a little longer and take my turn in riding a little farther on."
So Rollo mounted; and there was now another hour of steep climbing. The zigzags were sometimes sharp and short and at others long and winding; but the way was always picturesque and the views became more and more grand and imposing the higher the party ascended. At one time, when Rollo had stopped a moment to let his horse breathe, he saw at a turn of the path a few zigzags below him a little girl coming up, with a basket on her back.
Rollo pointed to her and asked the guide, in French, who that girl was.
Henry said he did not know.
Henry, foolishly enough, supposed that Rollo meant to ask what the girl's name was; and so he said that he did not know. But this was not what Rollo meant at all. He had no particular desire in asking the question to learn the child's name. What he wished to know was, what, according to the customs of the country, would be the probable province and function of such a sort of girl as that, coming alone up the mountain in that way with a burden on her back. Henry, if he had understood the real intent and meaning of the question, could easily have answered it. The girl lived in a little hamlet of shepherds' huts farther up the mountain, and had been down into the village to buy something for her father and mother; and she was now coming home with her purchases in the basket on her back. All this Henry knew very well; but, when Rollo asked who the girl was, Henry thought he meant to ask who she herself was individually; and so, as he did not know her personally, he could not tell.
Travellers often get disappointed in this way in asking questions of the natives of the country in which they are travelling. The people do not understand the nature and bearing of the question, and they themselves are not familiar enough with the language to explain what they do mean.
The guide stood for a minute or two looking intently at the girl as she slowly ascended the path, especially when she passed the angles of the zigzag, for there she turned sometimes in such a manner as to show her face more plainly.
"No," said he, at length; "I do not know her. I never saw her before. But I'll ask her who she is when she comes up."
"Uncle George!" said Rollo, calling out very loudly to his uncle, who was at some distance above.
"Ay, ay," said Mr. George, responding.
Rollo attempted to look up to see where his uncle was standing; but in doing this he had to throw his head back so far as to bring a fear suddenly over him of falling from his horse. So he desisted, and continued his conversation without attempting to look.
"Here is a girl coming up the mountain with a basket on her back. Come down and see her."
"Come up here," said Mr. George, "and we will wait till she comes."
So Rollo chirruped to his horse and started along again. In a few minutes he reached the place where his uncle George was standing, and there they all waited till the little girl came up.
"Good morning," said the girl, as soon as she came near enough to be heard. She spoke the words in the German language and with a very pleasant smile upon her face.
The peasants in Switzerland, when they meet strangers in ascending or descending the mountains, always accost them pleasantly and wish them good morning or good evening. In most other countries, strangers meeting each other on the road pass in silence. Perhaps it is the loneliness and solitude of the country and the sense of danger and awe that the stupendous mountains inspire that incline people to be more pleased when they meet each other in Switzerland, even if they are strangers, than in the more cheerful and smiling regions of France and England.
The guide said something to the girl, but Rollo could not understand what it was, for he spoke, and the answer was returned, in German.
"She says her name is Ninette," said Henry.
Rollo's attention was immediately attracted to the form of the basket which Ninette wore and to the manner in which it was fastened to her back. The basket was comparatively small at the bottom, being about as wide as the waist of the girl; but it grew larger towards the top, where it opened as wide as the girl's shoulders—being shaped in this respect in conformity with the shape of the back on which it was to be borne.
The side of the basket, too, which lay against the back was flat, so as to fit to it exactly. The outer side was rounded. It was open at the top.
The basket was secured to its place upon the child's back and shoulders by means of two flat strips of wood, which were fastened at the upper ends of them to the back of the basket near the top, and which came round over the shoulders in front, and then, passing under the arms, were fastened at the lower ends to the basket near the bottom. The basket was thus supported in its place and carried by means of the pressure of these straps upon the shoulders.
"Uncle George," said Rollo, "I should like to have such a basket as that and such a pair of straps to carry it by."
"What would you do with it," asked Mr. George, "if you had it?"
"Why, it would be very convenient," said Rollo, "in America, when I went a-raspberrying. You see, if I had such a basket as that, I could bring my berries home on my back, and so have my hands free."
"Yes," said Mr. George, "that would be convenient."
"Besides," said Rollo, "it would be a curiosity."
"That's true," replied Mr. George; "but it would be very difficult to carry so bulky a thing home."
After some further conversation it was concluded not to buy the basket, but to ask the girl if she would be willing to sell the straps, or bows, that it was fastened with. These straps were really quite curious. They were made of some very hard and smooth-grained wood, and were nicely carved and bent so as to fit to the girl's shoulders quite precisely.
Accordingly Mr. George, speaking in French, requested Henry to ask the girl whether she would be willing to sell the straps. Henry immediately addressed the girl in the German language, and after talking with her a few minutes he turned again to Mr. George and Rollo and said that the girl would rather not sell them herself, as they belonged to her father, who lived about half a mile farther up the mountain. But she was sure her father would sell them if they would stop at his cottage as they went by. He would either sell them that pair, she said, or a new pair; for he made such things himself, and he had two or three new pairs in his cottage.
"Very well," said Mr. George; "let us go on.
"Which would you rather have," said Mr. George to Rollo, as they resumed their march, "this pair, or some new ones?"
"I would rather have this pair," said Rollo.
"They are somewhat soiled and worn," said Mr. George.
"Yes," said Rollo; "but they are good and strong; and as soon as I get home I shall rub them all off clean with sand paper and then have them varnished, so as to make them look very bright and nice; and then I shall keep them for a curiosity. I would rather have this pair, for then I can tell people that I bought them actually off the shoulders of a little girl who was carrying a burden with them up the Alps."
In due time the party reached the little hamlet where Ninette lived. The hamlet consisted of a scattered group of cabins and cow houses on a shelving green more than a thousand feet above the valley. The girl led the party to the door of her father's hut; and there, through the medium of Henry as interpreter, they purchased the two bows for a very small sum of money. They also bought a drink of excellent milk for the whole party of Ninette's mother and then resumed their journey.
As they went on they obtained from time to time very grand and extended views of the surrounding mountains. Whether they turned their eyes above or below them, the prospect was equally wonderful. In the latter case they looked down on distant villages; some clinging to the hillsides, others nestling in the valleys, and others still perched, like the one where Ninette lived, on shelving slopes of green pasture land, which terminated at a short distance from the dwellings on the brink of the most frightful precipices. Above were towering forests and verdant slopes of land, dotted with chalets or broken here and there by the gray rocks which appeared among them. Higher still were lofty crags, with little sunny nooks among them—the dizzy pasturages of the chamois; and above these immense fields of ice and snow, which pierced the sky with the glittering peaks and summits in which they terminated. Mr. George and Rollo paused frequently, as they continued their journey, to gaze around them upon these stupendous scenes.
At length, when the steepest part of the ascent had been accomplished, Mr. George said that he was tired of climbing, and proposed that Rollo should dismount and take his turn in walking.
"If you were a lady," said Mr. George, "I would let you ride all the way. But you are strong and capable, and as well able to walk as I am—better, I suppose, in fact; so you may as well take your turn."
"Yes," said Rollo; "I should like it. I am tired of riding. I would rather walk than not."
So Henry assisted Rollo to dismount, and then adjusted the stirrups to Mr. George's use, and Mr. George mounted into the saddle.
"How glad I am to come to the end of my walking," said Mr. George, "and to get upon a horse!"
"How glad I am to come to the end of my riding," said Rollo, "and to get upon my feet!"
Thus both of the travellers seemed pleased with the change. The road now became far more easy to be travelled than before. The steepest part of the ascent had been surmounted, and for the remainder of the distance the path followed a meandering way over undulating land, which, though not steep, was continually ascending. Here and there herds of cattle were seen grazing; and there were scattered huts, and sometimes little hamlets, where the peasants lived in the summer, to tend their cows and make butter and cheese from their milk. In the fall of the year they drive the cattle down again to the lower valleys; for these high pasturages, though green and sunny in the summer and affording an abundance of sweet and nutritious grass for the sheep and cows that feed upon them, are buried deep in snows, and are abandoned to the mercy of the most furious tempests and storms during all the winter portion of the year. Our travellers passed many scattered forests, some of which were seen clinging to the mountain sides, at a vast elevation above them. In others men were at work felling trees or cutting up the wood. Rollo stopped at one of these places and procured a small billet of the Alpine wood, as large as he could conveniently carry in his pocket, intending to have something made from it when he should get home to America. The woodman, at Henry's request, cut out this billet of wood for Rollo, making it of the size which Rollo indicated to him by a gesture with his finger.
At one time the party met a company of peasant girls coming down from the mountain. They came into the path by which our travellers were ascending from a side path which seemed to lead up a secluded glen. These girls came dancing gayly along with bouquets of flowers in their hands and garlands in their hair. They looked bright and blooming, and seemed very contented and happy.
They bowed very politely to Mr. George and to Rollo as they passed.
"Guten abend," said they.
These are the German words for "Good evening."
"Guten abend," said both Mr. George and Rollo in reply.
The girls thus passed by and went on their way down the mountain.
"Where have they been?" asked Mr. George.
"They have been at work gathering up the small stones from the pasturages, I suppose," said Henry. "Companies of girls go out for that a great deal."
After getting upon the horse, Mr. George took care to keep behind Rollo and the guide. He knew very well that if he were to go on in advance Rollo would exert himself more than he otherwise would do, under the influence of a sort of feeling that he ought to try to keep up. While Rollo was on the horse himself, having the guide with him too, Mr. George knew that there was no danger from this source, as any one who is on horseback or in a carriage never has the feeling of being left behind when a companion who is on foot by chance gets before him. Consequently, while they were coming up the steep part of the mountain, Mr. George went on as fast as he pleased, leaving Rollo and Henry to come on at their leisure. But now his kind consideration for Rollo induced him to keep carefully behind.
"Now, Rollo," said he, "you and Henry may go on just as fast or just as slow as you please, without paying any regard to me. I shall follow along at my leisure."
Thus Rollo, seeing that Mr. George was behind, went on very leisurely, and enjoyed his walk and his talk with Henry very much.
"Did you ever study English, Henry?" said Rollo.
"No," said Henry; "but I wish I could speak English, very much."
"Why?" asked Rollo.
"Because there are so many English people coming here that I have to guide up the mountains."
"Well," said Rollo, "you can begin now. I will teach you."
So he began to teach the guide to say "How do you do?" in English.
This conversation between Rollo and Henry was in French. Rollo had studied French a great deal by the help of books when he was at home, and he had taken so much pains to improve by practice since he had been in France and Switzerland that he could now get along in a short and simple conversation very well.
While our party had been coming up the mountain, the weather, though perfectly clear and serene in the morning, had become somewhat overcast. Misty clouds were to be seen here and there floating along the sides or resting on the summits of the mountains. At length, while Rollo was in the midst of the English lesson which he was giving to the guide, his attention was arrested, just as they were emerging from the border of a little thicket of stunted evergreens, by what seemed to be a prolonged clap of thunder. It came apparently out of a mass of clouds and vapor which Rollo saw moving majestically in the southern sky.
"Thunder!" exclaimed Rollo, looking alarmed. "There's thunder!"
"No," said Henry; "an avalanche."
The sound rolled and reverberated in the sky for a considerable time like a prolonged peal of thunder. Rollo thought that Henry must be mistaken in supposing it an avalanche.
At this moment Rollo, looking round, saw Mr. George coming up, on his horse, at a turn of the path a little way behind them.
"Henry," said Mr. George, "there is a thunder shower coming up; we must hasten on."
"No," said Henry; "that was an avalanche."
"An avalanche?" exclaimed Mr. George. "Why, the sound came out of the middle of the sky."
"It was an avalanche," said the guide, "from the Jungfrau. See!" he added, pointing up into the sky.
Mr. George and Rollo both looked in the direction where Henry pointed, and there they saw a vast rocky precipice peering out through a break in the clouds high up in the sky. An immense snow bank was reposing upon its summit. The glittering whiteness of this snow contrasted strongly with the sombre gray of the clouds through which, as through an opening in a curtain, it was seen.
Presently another break in the clouds, and then another, occurred; at each of which towering rocks or great perpendicular walls of glittering ice and snow came into view.
"The Jungfrau," said the guide.
Mr. George and Rollo gazed at this spectacle for some minutes in silence, when at length Rollo said,—
"Why, uncle George! the sky is all full of rocks and ice!"
"It is indeed!" said Mr. George.
It was rather fortunate than otherwise that the landscape was obscured with clouds when Mr. George and Rollo first came into the vicinity of the Jungfrau, as the astonishing spectacle of rocks and precipices and immense accumulations of snow and ice, breaking out as it were through the clouds all over the sky, was in some respects more impressive than the full and unobstructed view of the whole mountain would have been.
"I wish the clouds would clear away," said Rollo.
"Yes," said Mr. George. "I should like to see the whole side of the mountain very much."
Here another long and heavy peal, like thunder, began to be heard. Mr. George stopped his horse to listen. Rollo and Henry stopped too. The sound seemed to commence high up among the clouds. The echoes and reverberations were reflected from the rocks and precipices all around it; but the peal seemed slowly and gradually to descend towards the horizon; and finally, after the lapse of two or three minutes, it entirely ceased.
The travellers paused a moment after the sound ceased and continued to listen. When they found that all was still they began to move on again.
"I wish I could have seen that avalanche," said Rollo.
"Yes," said Mr. George. "I hope the clouds will clear away by the time we get to the inn."
It was just about sunset when the party reached the inn. Rollo was beginning to get a little tired, though the excitement of the excursion and the effect produced on his mind by the strange aspect of every thing around him inspired him with so much animation and strength that he held on in his walk very well indeed. It is true that a great portion of the mountain scenery around him was concealed from view by the clouds; but there was something in the appearance of the rocks, in the character of the vegetation, and especially in the aspect and expression of the patches of snow which were to be seen here and there in nooks and corners near the path,—the remains of the vast accumulations of the preceding winter which the sun had not yet dispelled,—that impressed Rollo continually with a sentiment of wonder and awe, and led him to feel that he had attained to a vast elevation, and that he was walking, as he really was, among the clouds.
The inn, when the party first came in sight of it, appeared more like a log cabin in America than like a well-known and much-frequented European hotel. It stood on a very small plot of ground, which formed a sort of projection on a steep mountain side, facing the Jungfrau. In front of the hotel the land descended very rapidly for a considerable distance. The descent terminated at last on the brink of an enormous ravine which separated the base of the Wengern Alp from that of the Jungfrau. Behind the house the land rose in a broad, green slope, dotted with Alpine flowers and terminating in a smooth, rounded summit far above. The house itself seemed small, and was rudely constructed. There was a sort of piazza in front of it, with a bench and a table before it.
"That is where the people sit, I suppose," said Mr. George, "in pleasant weather to see the Jungfrau."
"Yes," said Rollo.
"For the Jungfrau must be over there," said Mr. George, pointing among the clouds in the southern sky.
All doubt about the position of the mountain was removed at the instant that Mr. George had spoken these words, by another avalanche, which just at that moment commenced its fall. They all stopped to listen. The sound was greatly prolonged, sometimes roaring continuously for a time, like a cataract, and then rumbling and crashing like a peal of thunder.
"What a pity that the clouds are in the way," said Rollo, "so that we can't see! Do you think it will clear up before we go away?"
"Yes," said Mr. George. "I am very sure it will; for I am determined not to go away till it does clear up."
There were one or two buildings attached to the inn which served apparently as barns and sheds. The door of entrance was round in a corner formed by the connection of one of these buildings with the house. Henry led the horse up to this door, and Mr. George dismounted. The guide led the horse away, and Rollo and Mr. George went into the house. A young and very blooming Swiss girl received them in the hall and opened a door for them which led to the public sitting room.
The sitting room was a large apartment, which extended along the whole front of the house. The windows, of course, looked out towards the Jungfrau. There was a long table in the middle of the room, and one or two smaller ones in the back corners. At these tables two or three parties were seated, eating their dinners. In one of the front corners was a fireplace, with a small fire, made of pine wood, burning on the hearth. A young lady was sitting near this fire, reading. Another was at a small table near it, writing in her journal. Around the walls of the room were a great many engravings and colored lithographs of Swiss scenery; among them were several views of the Jungfrau. On the whole, the room, though perfectly plain and even rude in all its furniture and appointments, had a very comfortable and attractive appearance.
"What a snug and pleasant-looking place!" said Rollo, whispering to Mr. George as they went in.
"Yes," said Mr. George. "It is just exactly such a place as I wished to find."
Mr. George and Rollo were both of them tired and hungry. They first called for rooms. The maid took them up stairs and gave them two small rooms next each other. The rooms were, in fact, very small. The furniture in them, too was of the plainest description; but every thing was neat and comfortable, and the aspect of the interior of them was, on the whole, quite attractive.
In about fifteen minutes Rollo knocked at Mr. George's door and asked if he was ready to go down.
"Not quite," said Mr. George; "but I wish that you would go down and order dinner."
So Rollo went down again into the public room and asked the maid if she could get them some dinner.
"Yes," said the maid. "What would you like to have?"
Rollo was considerate enough to know that there could be very little to eat in the house except what had been brought up in a very toilsome and difficult manner, from the valleys below, by the zigzag paths which he and his uncle had been climbing. So he said in reply,—
"Whatever you please. It is not important to us."
The maid then told him what they had in the house; and Rollo, selecting from these things, ordered what he thought would make an excellent dinner. The dinner, in fact, when it came to the table, proved to be a very excellent one indeed. It consisted of broiled chicken, some most excellent fried potatoes, eggs, fresh and very nice bread, and some honey. For drink, they had at first water; and at the end of the meal some French coffee, which, being diluted with boiled milk that was very rich and sweet, was truly delicious.
"I have not had so good a dinner," said Mr. George, "since I have been in Europe."
"No," said Rollo; "nor I."
"It is owing in part, I suppose, to the appetite we have got in climbing up the mountain," said Mr. George.
Just as the young gentlemen had finished their dinner and were about to rise from the table, their attention was attracted by an exclamation of delight which came from one of the young ladies who were sitting at the fireplace when Mr. George and Rollo came in.
"O Emma," said she, "come here!"
Mr. George and Rollo looked up, and they saw that the young lady whose voice they had heard was standing at the window. Emma rose from her seat and went to the window in answer to the call. Mr. George and Rollo looked out, too, at another window. They saw a spectacle which filled them with astonishment.
"It is clearing away," said Rollo. "Let us go out in front of the house and look."
"Yes," said Mr. George; "we will."
So they both left their seats, and, putting on their caps, they went out. As soon as they reached the platform where the bench and the table were standing they gazed on the scene which was presented to their view with wonder and delight.
It was, indeed, clearing away. The clouds were "lifting" from the mountains; and the sun, which had been for some hours obscured, was breaking forth in the west and illuminating the whole landscape with his setting beams. Opposite to where Mr. George and Rollo stood, across the valley, they could see the whole mighty mass of the Jungfrau coming into view beneath the edge of the cloudy curtain which was slowly rising.
The lower portion of the mountain was an immense precipice, the foot of which was hidden from view in the great chasm, or ravine, which separated the Jungfrau from the Wengern Alp. Above this were rocks and great sloping fields of snow formed from avalanches which had fallen down from above. Still higher, there were brought to view vast fields of ice and snow, with masses of rock breaking out here and there among them, some in the form of precipices and crags, and others shooting up in jagged pinnacles and peaks, rising to dizzy heights, to the summits of which nothing but the condor or the eagle could ever attain. Still higher were precipices of blue and pellucid ice, and boundless fields of glittering snow, and immense drifts, piled one above the other in vast volumes, and overhanging the cliffs as if just ready to fall.
In a short time the clouds rose so as to clear the summit of the mountain; and then the whole mighty mass was seen revealed fully to view, glittering in the sunbeams and filling half the sky.
The other guests of the inn came out upon the platform while Rollo and Mr. George were there, having wrapped themselves previously in their coats and shawls, as the evening air was cool. Some other parties of travellers came, too, winding their way slowly up the same pathway where Mr. George and Rollo had come. Mr. George and Rollo paid very little attention to these new comers, their minds being wholly occupied by the mountain.
In a very short time after the face of the Jungfrau came fully into view, the attention of all the company that were looking at the scene was arrested by the commencement of another peal of the same thundering sound that Mr. George and Rollo had heard with so much wonder in coming up the mountain. A great many exclamations immediately broke out from the party.
"There! hark! look!" said they. "An avalanche! An avalanche!"
The sound was loud and almost precisely like thunder. Every one looked in the direction from which it proceeded. There they soon saw, half way up the mountain, a stream of snow, like a cataract, creeping slowly over the brink of a precipice, and falling in a continued torrent upon the rocks below. From this place they could see it slowly creeping down the long slope towards another precipice, and where, when it reached the brink, it fell over in another cataract, producing another long peal of thunder, which, being repeated by the echoes of the mountains and rocks around, filled the whole heavens with its rolling reverberations. In this manner the mass of ice and snow went down slope after slope and over precipice after precipice, till at length it made its final plunge into the great chasm at the foot of the mountain and disappeared from view.
In the course of an hour several other avalanches were heard and seen; and when at length it grew too dark to see them any longer, the thundering roar of them was heard from time to time all the night long.
Rollo, however, was so tired that, though he went to bed quite early, he did not hear the avalanches or any thing else until Mr. George called him the next morning.
[Footnote 9: They are pronounced as if spelled Gooten arbend.]
GOING DOWN THE MOUNTAIN.
Mr. George and Rollo met with various adventures and incidents in going down the next day to Grindelwald which are quite characteristic of mountain travelling in Switzerland.
They did not set out very early in the morning, as Mr. George wished to stay as long as possible to gaze on the face of the Jungfrau and watch the avalanches.
"Rollo," said he, as they were standing together in front of the hotel after breakfast, "how would you like to go up with me to the top of that hill?"
So saying, Mr. George pointed to the great rounded summit which was seen rising behind the hotel.
"Yes," said Rollo; "I should like to go very much indeed."
"Very well," said Mr. George; "we will go. But first let me get my pressing book to put some flowers in, in case we find any."
Mr. George's pressing book was a contrivance which he had invented for the more convenient desiccation of such flowers as he might gather in his travels and wish to carry home with him and preserve, either for botanical specimens or as souvenirs for his friends. It was made by taking out all the leaves of a small book and replacing them with an equal number of loose leaves, made for the purpose, of blotting paper, and trimmed to the right size. Such small flowers as he might gather in the various places that he visited could be much more conveniently pressed and preserved between these loose leaves of blotting paper than between the leaves of an ordinary book.
So Mr. George, taking his pressing book in his hand, led the way; and Rollo following him, they attempted to ascend the hill behind the inn. They found the ascent, however, extremely steep and difficult. There were no rocks and no roughnesses of any kind in the way. It was merely a grassy slope like the steep face of a terrace; but it was so steep that, after Mr. George and Rollo had scrambled up two or three hundred feet, it made Rollo almost dizzy to look down; and he began to cling to the grass and to feel afraid.
"Rollo," said Mr. George, "I am almost afraid to climb up here any higher. Do you feel afraid?"
"No, sir," said Rollo, endeavoring at the same time to reassure himself. "No, sir; I am not much afraid."
"Let us stop a few minutes to rest and look at the mountain," said Mr. George.
Mr. George knew very well that there was no real danger; for the slope, though very steep, was very grassy from the top to the bottom; and even if Rollo had fallen and rolled down it could not have done him much harm.