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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/660

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To Switzerland accordingly we went, and I joined him at the Montanvert, where he had taken up his quarters with Dr. Hirst, who was, I think, the closest of all his friends. I have never visited the place since, but I am told that it now possesses a grand hotel. In our time there was nothing but a rough mountain auberge, opposite to which, on the glacier side of the road, was a hut for guides. Into this Tyndall moved his bed, as he could not bear the noise of the wooden house. Accommodation and fare were of the roughest; our chef was a singularly dirty old woman, who met all our suggestions about dinner with a monotonous "C'est ça"[1]—as if the stores of a Parisian restaurant were at her disposal—while, practically, our repasts were as uniform as her speech. But as we used to start for the Jardin, or other of the higher regions early, and rarely returned much before sunset, there was no lack of hunger sauce; while the condiment, which gives herbs a better flavor than stalled oxen, abounded. Tyndall's skill and audacity as a climber were often displayed in these excursions. On one occasion, I remember, we came upon a perpendicular cliff of ice of considerable height, formed on the flank of the glacier, which seemed to present a good opportunity for the examination of the structure of the interior. A hot sun loosening them, the stones on the surface of the glacier every now and then rattled down the face of the cliff. As no persuasion of ours could prevent Tyndall from ascending the cliff, by cutting steps with his axe, in order to get a close view of the ice, we had to content ourselves with the post assigned to us, of looking out for stones. Whenever any of these seemed likely to shoot too close we shouted, and Tyndall flattened himself against the cliff. Happily, no harm ensued; but I confess I was greatly relieved when my friend descended at his own pleasure, and not at that of a chance fragment of rock.

It was on this trip that we attempted the ascent of Mont Blanc direct from the Montanvert, with a couple of porters to carry the needful stores as far as the Grands Mulcts; and a guide, who, as it turned out, was of the blind sort. I found I was by no means in training; and as, under the circumstances, any failure on my part would have obliged the others to give up the attempt, I determined to remain at the Grands Mulcts. My friends and the guide set out before dawn, and should have been back in eight or ten hours at furthest. The weather was magnificent, and I should be puzzled to recall a morning spent in more entire enjoyment than that yielded by the wide and varied prospect from my temporary hermitage, in a solitude broken only now and then by a vagabond butterfly or a strayed bee, drifting upward. But when

  1. Which might be translated "All right."