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beneath his stern Scots-Irish front was a brave idealist

time:2023-12-06 14:56:25 author:two read:602次

This we must remind the reader is Thursday night, on Tuesday morning we left London, spent one day in Paris, and are now sleeping among the Alps, sharpish work, but very satisfactory, and a prelude to better things by and by. The next day we made rather a mistake, instead of going straight on to Briancon we went up a valley towards Mont Pelvoux (a mountain nearly 14,000 feet high), intending to cross a high pass above La Berarde down to Briancon, but when we got to St. Christophe we were told the pass would not be open till August, so returned and slept a second night at Bourg d'Oisans. The valley, however, was all that could be desired, mingled sun and shadow, tumbling river, rich wood, and mountain pastures, precipices all around, and snow-clad summits continually unfolding themselves; Murray is right in calling the valley above Venosc a scene of savage sterility. At Venosc, in the poorest of hostelries was a tuneless cracked old instrument, half piano, half harpsichord--how it ever found its way there we were at a loss to conceive--and an irrelevant clock that struck seven times by fits and starts at its own convenience during our one o'clock dinner; we returned to Bourg d'Oisans at seven, and were in bed by nine.

beneath his stern Scots-Irish front was a brave idealist

Having found that a conveyance to Briancon was beyond our finances, and that they would not take us any distance at a reasonable charge, we determined to walk the whole fifty miles in the day, and half-way down the mountains, sauntering listlessly accordingly left Bourg d'Oisans at a few minutes before five in the morning. The clouds were floating over the uplands, but they soon began to rise, and before seven o'clock the sky was cloudless; along the road were passing hundreds of people (though it was only five in the morning) in detachments of from two to nine, with cattle, sheep, pigs, and goats, picturesque enough but miserably lean and gaunt: we leave them to proceed to the fair, and after a three miles' level walk through a straight poplar avenue, commence ascending far above the Romanche; all day long we slowly ascend, stopping occasionally to refresh ourselves with vin ordinaire and water, but making steady way in the main, though heavily weighted and under a broiling sun, at one we reach La Grave, which is opposite the Mont de Lans, a most superb mountain. The whole scene equal to anything in Switzerland, as far as the mountains go. The Mont de Lans is opposite the windows, seeming little more than a stone's throw off, and causing my companion (whose name I will, with his permission, Italianise into that of the famous composer Giuseppe Verdi) to think it a mere nothing to mount to the top of those sugared pinnacles which he will not believe are many miles distant in reality. After dinner we trudge on, the scenery constantly improving, the snow drawing down to us, and the Romanche dwindling hourly; we reach the top of the Col du Lautaret, which Murray must describe; I can only say that it is first-class scenery. The flowers are splendid, acres and acres of wild narcissus, the Alpine cowslip, gentians, large purple and yellow anemones, soldanellas, and the whole kith and kin of the high Alpine pasture flowers; great banks of snow lie on each side of the road, and probably will continue to do so till the middle of July, while all around are glaciers and precipices innumerable.

beneath his stern Scots-Irish front was a brave idealist

We only got as far as Monetier after all, for, reaching that town at half-past eight, and finding that Briancon was still eight miles further on, we preferred resting there at the miserable but cheap and honest Hotel de l'Europe; had we gone on a little farther we should have found a much better one, but we were tired with our forty-two miles' walk, and, after a hasty supper and a quiet pipe, over which we watch the last twilight on the Alps above Briancon, we turn in very tired but very much charmed.

beneath his stern Scots-Irish front was a brave idealist

Sunday morning was the clearest and freshest morning that ever tourists could wish for, the grass crisply frozen (for we are some three or four thousand feet above the sea), the glaciers descending to a level but little higher than the road; a fine range of Alps in front over Briancon, and the road winding down past a new river (for we have long lost the Romanche) towards the town, which is some six or seven miles distant.

It was a fete--the Fete du bon Dieu, celebrated annually on this day throughout all this part of the country; in all the villages there were little shrines erected, adorned with strings of blue corncockle, narcissus heads, and poppies, bunches of green, pink, and white calico, moss and fir-tree branches, and in the midst of these tastefully arranged bowers was an image of the Virgin and her Son, with whatever other saints the place was possessed of.

At Briancon, which we reached (in a trap) at eight o'clock, these demonstrations were more imposing, but less pleasing; the soldiers, too, were being drilled and exercised, and the whole scene was one of the greatest animation, such as Frenchmen know how to exhibit on the morning of a gala day.

Leaving our trap at Briancon and making a hasty breakfast at the Hotel de la Paix, we walked up a very lonely valley towards Cervieres. I dare not say how many hours we wended our way up the brawling torrent without meeting a soul or seeing a human habitation; it was fearfully hot too, and we longed for vin ordinaire; Cervieres seemed as though it never would come--still the same rugged precipices, snow-clad heights, brawling torrent, and stony road, butterflies beautiful and innumerable, flowers to match, sky cloudless. At last we are there; through the town, or rather village, the river rushes furiously, the dismantled houses and gaping walls affording palpable traces of the fearful inundations of the previous year, not a house near the river was sound, many quite uninhabitable, and more such as I am sure few of us would like to inhabit. However, it is Cervieres such as it is, and we hope for our vin ordinaire; but, alas!--not a human being, man, woman or child, is to be seen, the houses are all closed, the noonday quiet holds the hill with a vengeance, unbroken, save by the ceaseless roar of the river.

While we were pondering what this loneliness could mean, and wherefore we were unable to make an entrance even into the little auberge that professed to loger a pied et a cheval, a kind of low wail or chaunt began to make itself heard from the other side of the river; wild and strange, yet full of a music of its own, it took my friend and myself so much by surprise that we almost thought for the moment that we had trespassed on to the forbidden ground of some fairy people who lived alone here, high amid the sequestered valleys where mortal steps were rare, but on going to the corner of the street we were undeceived indeed, but most pleasurably surprised by the pretty spectacle that presented itself.


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