“The caravan will start to-day, English sir.”
I was the English sir alluded to, and the caravan was a motley collection of vehicles, beasts of burden, and men of various ranks and nationalities, who had been detained for several days at the foot of the St. Gothard pass.
It was early spring; the snow was softening under the effects of the sun, but on dark days the cold was yet severe, and heavy snow had fallen and blocked the difficult mountain road. The pretty village of Airolo, nestling among its chesnut groves, just underneath the precipices of granite and schist glimmering with mica that flashed golden where the white snow-crust had thawed away, was full of travellers. There were no disengaged rooms in either of the inns, and several persons had been obliged to seek accommodation as best they might, among the cottages of the borgo.
“Well, Beppo, I wish them a pleasant journey, that’s all,” was my half-careless reply, as I went on grinding and mixing my colours.
“The signor will not want his bill, then?” said the waiter, opening his eyes in surprise; “the patron made so sure milordo would accompany the rest, that he has drawn the account all ready, and bade me ask if Giorgio should harness the sledge.”
“In short,” said I, laughing, “you seem determined to turn me out, whether I will or no. I have no more intention of crossing the mountain to-day than I have of taking a header into the Ticino yonder, and shall stop here another week, unless the patron absolutely ejects me.”
Of course Beppo bowed and shrugged, assuring me in his best Italian that the Hôtel de Poste was only too much honoured by my presence, that the landlord and landlady would be overjoyed to hear of my prolonged stay, and that he would hurry off to bespeak my dinner,—no useless precaution at that season.
I had been six days at Airolo, and was in no haste to leave it. Much of my winter’s work at Rome consisted of mere sketches and crude compositions, outlines that needed study and care as to filling-in the details. And my old studio in the Via San Barbara had been too full of cheery friends, perpetually dropping in to communicate the pleasant babble of Roman news, to be a good arena for steady toil. Airolo was a capital place for work; my room had a good north window, and there was nothing to distract a painter’s attention from his canvas and colours. Besides, in my rambles among the spurs and offsets of the Alps, I came to many glorious bits of savage wintry scenery, and saw nature under a new aspect. Such glimpses of stainless snow and rifted ice are valuable to an artist, and my portfolio and my memory grew richer every day.
On this account, I was in no hurry to cross the mountains. A week or two more or less was nothing to me, and I should be in London quite early enough as it was. But man is a gregarious animal, and presently, as I stood smoking my cigar in the porch and watching the bustle and stir of the departure, I could not help feeling a half wish that I were one of the wayfarers.
A blithe and active scene it was. There were about forty mules and pack-horses, all as heavily laden as was consistent with a rapid progress on a steep road, and guided by a knot of hardy fellows, Italians and German Swiss, whose sun-browned faces spoke of long familiarity with the highway. Besides these, there were three or four sledges, whose occupants were burghers of Lucerne, going home with spring purchases made at Milan, two monks returning to a convent in one of the Forest Cantons, and a cantatrice bound for some theatre in France or Germany, where she had an engagement. The pedestrians were a couple of Swiss soldiers—Papal guardsmen—on furlough, a few Modenese or Tuscan modellers in plaster of Paris, straw-plaiters, and the like, and three pilgrims. The latter were dull, robustly-built peasants from Rhenish Germany, who had been, in pursuance of a vow, to pray at Loretto, and whose unimpassioned, brick-red faces, contrasted curiously with the scallop-shells in their hats and the large tawdry crosses pinned in front of their blouses.
The “caravan” was made up by a dark-green travelling carriage,—a heavy, roomy, rumbling affair, such as Florentine coachmakers build for a price that in Long Acre would scarcely purchase a gig, and which, though ugly enough, stands rough usage well. This carriage belonged to an English family who had arrived two days before, and who, finding no room at the Poste, had been obliged to put up at the Silver Pelican, the other inn of the village. Of these, my countrymen, I had seen nothing, save one glimpse of the skirt of a lady’s dress vanishing into the doorway of the Pelican, and a nearer view of a stout elderly Englishman, who spoke no foreign language, and whom I once had the pleasure of directing to the Post Office, as he stood with an unpaid letter in his hand, gazing perplexedly about him in the little market-place of Airolo.
Under ordinary circumstances, people of such various castes and occupations would have journeyed independently of one another, but winter in the Swiss Alps makes travelling precarious; and the spring season is even more dangerous than that of winter, the masses of snow being never so formidable as when they have been partly thawed by the sun and rain, so that fellowship and prompt human help in the hour of need are not to be despised high on Splugen or St. Gothard, even by the haughtiest and most confident. On this account it was that all these persons were to start together on their slow way over the mountains. Not that any particular danger was to be feared to-day. Far from it. The street was thronged with gazers, whose voices were loud in cheerful prediction.
“Ah, holy San Carlo, what a day! The sun comes like a blessing on the young vine-shoots; ay, and on all my rheumatic bones, neighbour Brigitta,” said one old man of the upper class of burghers.
“Body of Bacchus! the almanack has slipped a month or two, and June must be upon us before we are ready for him, eh, amici?” asked one of the village wags, while men and women, boys and girls, agreed in wishing a “bon viaggio,” in their hybrid patois, to the departing guests, whose hopeful looks showed that they, too, looked forward to an easy and agreeable passage of the Alpine road.
The sun shone out hot and bright; the blue torrent, roaring low as it sped by from one rocky ledge to another, glittered like a broad riband of burnished steel in the rays; the tender young vine leaves seemed to open to the welcome warmth, and the whole valley assumed a gay and jocund look at this precocious smile of the coming summer. Merrily jangled the bells on the head-stalls of the pack-mules, and the post-horses, waiting for the English party, shook out sharp impatient music from their grelôts as they pawed the paving-stones of the hilly street. Even brutes were exhilarated by the air and by the day, and were eager to set off.
At last all was ready; all but the English family; and then they came, attended to their carriage-door by host and hostess, man and maid, all the grinning, good-humoured staff of the Silver Pelican.
“Paterfamilias!” said I to myself, recognising the fellow-countryman I had shown where to post his letter, “no mistaking him anywhere, and he might have sat to Leech for his portrait, so true is the resemblance. Mrs. P. next, portly, pleasant-looking woman; then a pale daughter, looks like an invalid, poor thing, and, by Jove, what a pretty girl is the other!”
I caught but a brief glimpse of the beautiful dark face and glossy braids of raven hair, and then the door closed, and the post-boys, having finished fumbling with the harness, swung themselves into their saddles. Four grey horses, squealing and capering, two pair of greasy jack-boots, two blue jackets, gay with crimson worsted, and a dark green carriage, went surging past. Then, amid cracking of whips and clangour of bells, laughter, and cries of farewell, half ironical, half kindly, went off the whole procession, foot and horse, mule and man, up the steep windings of the road.
For the first three-quarters of a mile, or thereabouts, there was no snow left, for the southern face of the mountain had been for several days exposed to the hot sunbeams; with what effect the swollen torrent could show. But at length the caravan reached the white drifts, and its component parts looked dark and clearly picked out against the gleaming background, as it slowly disappeared among the windings of the corkscrew road. The street was full of merry groups, laughing and gossipping in the light-hearted Southern way. Not one of them but seemed to predict the safest and most agreeable journey for the recently-departed strangers. The snow, some of them said, might be a little heavy and soft, until the crest was reached, but from the Hospice down to Hospenthal and Andermatt, and thence by way of the grand valley of the Reuss to the head of the lake, the footing would be superb. Crisp, thin snow, hard as a pavement, and smooth as Maggiore in summer.
But one tall, grim old man, whose long hair of grizzled red hung down from under his broad-brimmed hat, and whom I guessed to be a cowherd from Uri, come down from the hills on some bucolic business, eyed the disappearing voyagers in a very different manner. He stood a little apart from the red-sashed villagers, leaning against a tree, and shading his eyes with his gaunt brown hand as he peered at the cavalcade, then looked sharply at the sky, and lastly, growled out in his harsh German dialect:
“Ah! ah! a good journey, forsooth! Soon said! soon said! Every stupidhead can say that. We shall see, by and by.”
Moved partly by curiosity, partly by a sort of vague fear—for I had heard much of the remarkable keenness of observation, where changes of weather were concerned, of the Alpine herdsmen—I sauntered closer to the old man.
“A fine day!” said I; “but you don’t seem as confident of its lasting as these worthy folks of the Valtellina?”
I spoke in German, for I remembered the old contempt of the Teutonic foresters for the softer and livelier race on the sunnier side of the Alps, over whom they had long ruled with stern sway, and I felt by no means sure of a civil answer if I addressed the rough old fellow in Italian. Indifferent as my German was, he understood it, and slightly touched his felt hat as he replied, with a friendly growl like that of an affable bear:
“Any dolt or child can see when the sun shines, Herr Englander. We mountain farmers arc used to distrust outward signs. I sniff a storm, somehow.”
“Not now, surely? Not for the present, at any rate?” said I incredulously, as I swept the horizon with my eyes, and saw nothing but blue sky, dazzling light, and a fleecy flake or two of white cloud above the sharp and clear-cut peaks of the vividly defined mountains.
The old man muttered something, what I could not catch, but the tone was a scornful one, and shrugged up his shoulders as he turned away.
I should have asked if he really suspected any sudden change of weather to be imminent, although the smiling face of nature seemed to refute any sinister prophecy, but for two circumstances. The first of these was the arrival of the diligence from Bellinzona, rattling and clashing up to the Poste, and well stored with passengers. The second, was the fact that a good looking stalwart young peasant—the old man’s son, no doubt—came hurrying up with some samples of seed corn in a sieve, and called his father to join a knot of buyers, sellers, and speculators, whose garrulous Corn Exchange was being held beside the public fountain.
The arrival of the diligence caused fresh excitement in the place. For some days, owing to the inaccessibility of the high plateau above the pass, none had passed; and this vehicle was, as usual, to be put on sledge-runners to enable it to cross the deeper drifts without sticking fast. In the middle of the turmoil without which nothing can be done in Continental Europe, I found myself suddenly accosted with,
“Why, Bolton! George, old fellow, who on earth would have dreamed of finding you here?”
I turned sharply round, and saw the handsome, friendly face of Maurice Tindal, an artist, like myself, but one who, young as he was, already ranked high in his profession, and bade fair to be, with thought and study, one of the props of British art. I had a sincere liking for Tindal, and a thorough admiration for his talents; indeed, almost every one liked the youngster, though it is sometimes provoking to be outstripped by a junior. I knew that he had spent the winter somewhere in Italy, but not at Rome, for we had not met since our last sojourn in London.
In very few words, Maurice told me that he was fresh from Florence, where he had been working and studying throughout the winter, and that he was now bound for England. So far all was clear and commonplace, but I was puzzled at first by the nervous anxiety which Maurice manifested as to whether some friends who had started from Florence a few days before him, and whom he was desirous to overtake, were still in the village.
“An English family—the Traffords. I’ve asked already at the Poste, but the landlady, who was busy ladling out soup to the new arrivals by the diligence, had hardly leisure to attend to me, and said she knew nothing of any forestieri of that name.”
“There is another inn,” said I, “the Silver Pelican, just round the corner, by the quaint old church. But English travellers are as rare in Airolo just now, as they will be plenty when the heats of early summer shall have given the foreign residents notice to quit. I’ve seen nothing of your friends. Stop—perhaps they were the folks who left this morning with a sort of caravan of motley people, forced into temporary comradeship by fear of being smothered in a drift.”
“A green carriage?”
“Father, mother, and two daughters, one of them pretty, a lady’s maid in the rumble, and a heap of luggage?”
Maurice changed colour, and saying that he would make sure as to the truth, hurried off to the inn. He returned almost instantly, to say that the family that had just left had really been the Traffords. His having missed them was, he said, a most provoking circumstance, but the diligence would soon start, and he should catch them somewhere on this side of Bâle.
“But for that wearisome Prince Potocki, who kept me for three days hard at work altering—and, in my fancy, spoiling—the picture I had done for his Russian dilettanteship, I should have started along with the Traffords. As it is—”
“As it is, Maurice, you must be desperately smitten to hunt a family coach as the Furies did that classical party, Orestes. The black eyes are of course the magnet which—”
Maurice cut me short with a stamp and an impatient exclamation, and then reddened and begged my pardon for his burst of anger. “Excuse me, George, old boy, but you know a man in love is apt to be thin-skinned when anyone, even an old friend, seems to ridicule the girl he is engaged to; and as I am in hopes of being married some time this summer, and we are old chums—why, I don’t see any reason for keeping you in the dark.”
Then it all came out. At Florence, Maurice, who had the entrée of many good houses, had made the acquaintance of the Traffords, a well-to-do English family spending the winter there, and a mutual attachment had sprung up between the young artist and the eldest daughter. Lucy Trafford was one of the handsomest girls in Florence that winter, and, if Maurice’s enthusiastic praises were to be believed, as clever and good as she was beautiful. That Maurice should have fallen in love with her was not wonderful, nor was it very strange that this love should have been returned; but the most surprising feature in the case was, that old Trafford should have given his consent. The suitor had little or no property beyond his abilities and skill with brush and pencil, while the daughters would be co-heiresses of a fair property. As far as I could tell from Tindal’s hasty sketch of past proceedings, there had been a good deal of demur and paternal opposition, but this had somehow been smoothed away, and the engagement had received the fullest sanction of the parents.
“But am I not a lucky fellow, lucky beyond my deserts I feel and know! and have I not some excuse for being in a hurry to catch up the fugitives after a whole week, an age of separation from—”
“The diligence won’t start to-day, Monsieur. I would advise Monsieur to be prompt in securing a bed at the hotel, rooms being few!”
“The diligence not start to-day! You must surely be joking, conducteur!”
No. The man was perfectly serious. There were signs, he said, of a change of weather, signs not to be disregarded by one in his position, responsible for the safety of carriage and passengers. These signs had been first remarked by an old farmer from Uri, famous for his skill in detecting the tokens of an approaching storm, a skill as necessary among the mountains as in a seafaring life, and the most experienced of the Airolo men had confirmed the statement.
“And see, Monsieur, the change that has come over the sky. Even a city-bred man can make out a warning in that,” said the conducteur, as he turned away to superintend the placing of the diligence under shelter in the remise. Maurice and I looked up, and beheld a semitransparent veil of white film thickening and darkening over the pure sky, and growing like the fatal web of the Destinies. The sun grew dimmer every minute, and the frightened chirp of the birds came shrill and often from among the budding fruit-trees. It was easy to guess that a storm was brewing.
Suddenly Maurice struck his forehead, and uttered what was almost a cry of despair. “Lucy, Lucy, my own Lucy! On the pitiless Alpine heights, far from shelter or succour, with a storm coming on; and I stand here, safe and idle, like a coward, while she perishes in the snowdrifts.” And but for me, the young artist, whose distress of mind had overpowered his reason, would have started at a run up the winding road. I caught his arm and held it, though in spite of my superior strength I could hardly keep him back.
“Let me go, Bolton! let me go!” he angrily exclaimed, and for a moment I thought he would have struck me in the blindness of his frenzy.
“Listen only one moment; be reasonable, for Miss Trafford’s sake, if not for your own,” cried I, panting. “You would only lose your life on the hillside, and in no way assist her. If anything in the way of rescue is to be done, it must be done by coolness and concert. If we can get a guide, I will go with you, and between us we may hope to be of real service, unless, indeed, the caravan has gained shelter. Cheer up, man. Perhaps they are all snugly under cover at the Hospice or elsewhere.”
Maurice fairly sobbed as he wrung my hand, and thanked me for my goodwill. But nothing would serve him but that we should start at once. He could not be reassured, even by my strongest arguments as to the chance of the whole party having reached the shelter of stone walls before the danger grew imminent. And it was manifest now, even to the most careless or unpractised eye. The white web had turned grey, then leaden-coloured, then inky black. A cold and fierce wind came in short puffs, like the gasping respirations of a dying giant, down the gullies of the mountain. In the distance was heard a hollow, indescribable sound, something between the boom of the far-off sea and the notes of an Æolian harp.
“The Stürm-stimme! the storm-voice itself. A sure sign!” growled the old peasant from Uri, who now stood at my elbow, with his son at his side, both men leaning on their spiked mountain staves. I glanced keenly at the old man. He looked rather self-satisfied, as if proud of the sagacity he had shown; but over this vanity was visible a sort of grim solemnity, as if the matter were too serious for vulgar boasting. The sunburned face of the younger man was pale, and his bold blue eyes roved to and fro, scanning mountain, sky, and valley, with the scrutiny of one well used to tempest and peril.
I nudged Maurice with my elbow, and hurriedly whispered that if a guide were wanted, we had the very man before us. At first, when we proposed to the young peasant to accompany us in our perilous quest among the crags, the old farmer scouted the idea with absolute rudeness. But money will do anything with these hard-fisted dwellers among the high Alps, and money ultimately prevailed. The bribe was high, but Maurice was wild with passionate eagerness to depart, and, but for me, would have offered his last louis-d’or for a guide. The bargain was struck.
“You’ve a first-rate cragsman in my son, Englishman,” observed the aged farmer, half sadly, half vauntingly, as we returned to the inn to provide some few necessaries, spirit-flasks, ropes, mountain poles, and so forth, for the enterprise; “a first-rate cragsman. Not a lad in this canton can match my Fritz. Didn’t he bring home the lost sheep, through a tourmente, from Urseren, the night neighbour Hans was smothered in the drift? A chamois hunter, too, and of the best, and he took the eggs of the great lammergeier from a rock seven hundred feet high, and slippery as glass, when—”
“Hush! father! better keep your breath to pray for our coming back with a whole skin. It’s not the gold would tempt me, but for the thought of the poor creatures yonder,” said the young mountaineer, as he hastily accoutred himself for the start.
By this time the sky was dark, flecked here and there by pale clouds hurrying by, and the shrieks of the wind were piercing, but no snow or rain had yet fallen.
The excitable people of Airolo were all out in the streets, talking in low anxious tones, and many of the women were weeping. There was now no doubt that a storm, doubly dangerous in that season of avalanches, was at hand; and when the church bells began to toll, a confusion of cries, murmurs, and groans swelled up from the crowd. The curé of the village appeared at the church door in his vestments, as for some office of religion; and at the words, “Pray, my children, pray for the souls of those who are about to die!” the people fell on their knees, and it was impossible to hear the sobs and see the outstretched hands of the simple beings around us without feeling deep emotion.
“I must start. If I stop, I shall go mad,” cried Maurice, fiercely.
The young guide added “Amen!” and
“Ay, go, go!” cried the old farmer, who had probably heard more of the gossip of the crowd than I had; “five minutes more, and they will be holding you back by force. Go. An Uri man has but his word; the money is paid, and the work must be done; but, Fritz, child, remember thy old mother at home, and do not let me go back alone to the hills.”
A minute more, and we were straining every muscle and nerve in the swift ascent of the St. Gothard.
For a considerable distance we pursued the spiral twists of the noble road, but presently, by Fritz’s directions, we struck into a footpath known to him, and which would, he assured us, prove a short cut. The work was severe. The ground was rough, the hills steep, and the obstacles continual. But on we went, struggling through bushes, scrambling over slippery stones, and often plunging waist deep into treacherous banks of snow. Fritz proved a good guide, daring, kindly, and prudent, and but for his strong arm and accurate knowledge of the way, we must have succumbed within the first league.
As it was, bruised, panting, wet, with clothes torn by the brambles and cut by the loose pieces of shale and mica that rattled under our tread, on we pressed. Again and again did Maurice eagerly reiterate the question, was there a chance that the caravan had reached shelter ere the signs of a storm were plainly perceptible? Fritz shook his head. It was, he said, a bad job. They would be past the Hospice long before the sky darkened, and yet there had been no time to gain the village of Hospenthal, much less Andermatt. No doubt there was great danger, but with the blessing of the saints an experienced mountaineer might yet do some good by counsel and aid. Then on we pushed again.
The fatigue as we crossed the lofty summits of the St. Gothard was such as I had never dreamed of, and such as nothing but excitement such as ours could have supported. We were often obliged to stop and gasp for breath, and by the guide’s advice we uncorked our brandy-flasks and drank enough to counteract the numbing effects of cold and lassitude. The cold was intense now in those high regions, and the wind was as sharp as a knife. A few lazy flakes of snow came whirling down. Suddenly we came out upon the broad carriage-road. The marks of sleigh-runners, of horses’ hoofs and men’s feet, were stamped into the white crust. Fritz fell on his knees, and examined the prints like a Red Indian on the war trail.
“They passed an hour ago; weary, but not frightened, for see how steadily they have kept the order of their column. We shall catch them, and, if no tourmente begins, may show them a way to safety.”
So saying, the guide again quitted the road. Maurice, whose usually pale face was now flushed and hectic, made some peevish remonstrance. But Fritz assured us that we should save miles by striking off across the rugged table-land, where no horse could pass. A few minutes after this a low sullen roar, faint, but hollow and deep, like the noise of a distant cataract, reached our ears. Fritz paused, with a gesture of discouragement.
“An avalanche, far off, but to windward. I fear the worst!” said he.
We strode on in silence over the rough ground, always knee-deep in the frozen drift. At last Fritz spoke again:
“Father is a just man, but he is too fond of the silver florins. I ought to have thought of Margaret before I made this bargain. Poor Mädchen Margaret, how sorry she will be when the curé gives out Fritz Horst in the prayers for the dead!”
The young peasant spoke in a quiet, sad tone, with no reproach in it, but somehow it touched me.
“Will you leave us, and turn back?” I asked.
“A Uri man sticks to his parola, Meinherr!” answered the chamois hunter, with native pride; “besides, to turn back now is as dangerous as to proceed. Let us trust in Our Lady of Snows, and press on.”
The protracted exertion was something terribly severe. Even the hardy guide showed signs of distress, and Maurice, by far the weakest of the three, was faint and trembling in every limb. Yet his eye was bright with a feverish brilliancy, and he pushed unsparingly forward, nerved by his strong wish to arrive in time. We were all travel-stained and breathless, and every fresh drift seemed deeper than the last.
On a sudden Maurice, who had struggled the first up a ridge of granite, uttered a loud cry:
“There they are! There, yonder!”
And in a moment we stood beside him, and could see the dark dots that represented men and horses, and the larger bulk of the travelling carriage, against the dazzling background of snow. They had apparently halted, or, at any rate, their progress was very slow.
“Holy Himmel!” muttered Fritz, “’tis the caravan; but how came they there? They must have missed the road, blotted out as it is with driven snow, and they have wandered off to the Odinthor, never knowing how dangerous—not one mountaineer among them! This way—quick! quick! If the wind rises, all are lost!”
And with redoubled speed the guide dashed on. We could hardly keep near him, but I heard him utter mingled prayers and imprecations on the folly of the postilions as he ran.
I had fairly to drag Maurice, now dead beat, up the last heap of bare boulders, around which the blue ice of a small glacier had closed. Beneath us—perhaps a hundred and fifty feet lower down—were crowded mules and horses, men and bales, the whole caravan having come to a confused and terrified halt on the edge of a deep and yawning precipice, at the bottom of which a sullen torrent, bursting from out of a tunnelled arch of ice, roared and chafed at an awful depth. It was evident that the bewildered wretches had missed the true road.
Close to the carriage, in the midst of the frightened group, was the beautiful dark-haired English girl, Lucy Trafford. She seemed to be tenderly supporting her invalid younger sister, who had fainted, and whose pale head rested on her shoulder. Maurice sprang forward, calling out her name:
She looked up, recognised her affianced husband, and gave a cry of delight,—a cry that haunts me still.
“O Maurice!—see, papa, here is help! Saved! saved!”
At that instant it seemed to grow dark; a gust of wind howled by, and the snow began to fall.
“Down, for your lives, down!” shouted Fritz, grasping Maurice and myself, and actually dragging us to the earth. Not a moment too soon. Something white, like the thick foam of a mighty wave, seemed to pass hissing and boiling over us as we lay among the rocks, and flew past like a millrace. The chill of the air increased, and I could hardly find breath to speak.
“What is it?”
“The tourmente! lie still; we are safer here.”
For some instants I could see nothing but the blinding rush of thick flakes driven by the wild wind. In vain I tried to rise. The gale beat me down in a moment. By crouching under a rock I was able to escape being deeply buried in the loose snow, but it was not till the fury of the gust was spent that I could drag myself on hands and knees to the brow of the hill, whence the caravan was visible.
“They are not all there;” whispered Fritz, hoarsely, pointing with his finger; and I shuddered as I saw that many of the animals and some of the men had disappeared, swept over the cliff. Nor was this all. Following the guide’s pointing finger, my eyes rested on a sight that curdled my blood. The glacier below the rocky ridge on which we lay had parted from its hold, and was slipping and gliding, slowly but surely, towards the sloping brink of the cliff, urged by the weight of the fresh heaps of snow which the tourmente had piled upon it in irregular masses. Gradually and steadily down it slid, that long reef of blue ice, loaded with snow and rifted with chasms, forcing, like a moving wall, the unhappy crowd below nearer and nearer to destruction. We saw it press upon the carriage, on the mule-train, on the snorting, struggling horses that reared and pawed, and lashed with their iron-bound feet in the vain effort to fly. We saw the agonised gestures of those below; saw Lucy Trafford, her dark hair loosened, her arms outstretched, yet still supporting the poor frightened younger sister, who clung to her as for protection. And I thought Lucy called on Maurice by name; but cannot be sure, for the yells and groans of those around were deafening. It was like a vision of the Judgment. I groaned and closed my eyes as the carriage, the striving horses, the English group of travellers, urged as by a mighty grasp, were drawn to the verge. There was a shrill piercing cry, and then silence, and next a dull sound from far below.
Then Maurice, who had been hitherto held back from risking his life uselessly by the joint strength of Fritz and myself, relaxed his efforts, and gave a loud, harsh laugh that jarred on my ear. I looked forth. The cliff-side was empty of living forms. Maurice stood near, chuckling feebly, and then his wild mad laugh rang out again. Poor fellow! from that hour his reason was gone, and for ever.