Chapter XXIX. Looking West for Sunrise

He kept his word. We heard his horn and instantly got up. It was dark and cold and wretched. As I fumbled around for the matches, knocking things down with my quaking hands, I wished the sun would rise in the middle of the day, when it was warm and bright and cheerful, and one wasn't sleepy. We proceeded to dress by the gloom of a couple sickly candles, but we could hardly button anything, our hands shook so. I thought of how many happy people there were in Europe, Asia, and America, and everywhere, who were sleeping peacefully in their beds, and did not have to get up and see the Rigi sunrise--people who did not appreciate their advantage, as like as not, but would get up in the morning wanting more boons of Providence. While thinking these thoughts I yawned, in a rather ample way, and my upper teeth got hitched on a nail over the door, and while I was mounting a chair to free myself, Harris drew the window-curtain, and said:

"Oh, this is luck! We shan't have to go out at all-- yonder are the mountains, in full view."

That was glad news, indeed. It made us cheerful right away. One could see the grand Alpine masses dimly outlined against the black firmament, and one or two faint stars blinking through rifts in the night. Fully clothed, and wrapped in blankets, and huddled ourselves up, by the window, with lighted pipes, and fell into chat, while we waited in exceeding comfort to see how an Alpine sunrise was going to look by candlelight. By and by a delicate, spiritual sort of effulgence spread itself by imperceptible degrees over the loftiest altitudes of the snowy wastes--but there the effort seemed to stop. I said, presently:

"There is a hitch about this sunrise somewhere. It doesn't seem to go. What do you reckon is the matter with it?"

"I don't know. It appears to hang fire somewhere. I never saw a sunrise act like that before. Can it be that the hotel is playing anything on us?"

"Of course not. The hotel merely has a property interest in the sun, it has nothing to do with the management of it. It is a precarious kind of property, too; a succession of total eclipses would probably ruin this tavern. Now what can be the matter with this sunrise?"

Harris jumped up and said:

"I've got it! I know what's the matter with it! We've been looking at the place where the sun set last night!"

"It is perfectly true! Why couldn't you have thought of that sooner? Now we've lost another one! And all through your blundering. It was exactly like you to light a pipe and sit down to wait for the sun to rise in the west."

"It was exactly like me to find out the mistake, too. You never would have found it out. I find out all the mistakes."

"You make them all, too, else your most valuable faculty would be wasted on you. But don't stop to quarrel, now--maybe we are not too late yet."

But we were. The sun was well up when we got to the exhibition-ground.

On our way up we met the crowd returning--men and women dressed in all sorts of queer costumes, and exhibiting all degrees of cold and wretchedness in their gaits and countenances. A dozen still remained on the ground when we reached there, huddled together about the scaffold with their backs to the bitter wind. They had their red guide-books open at the diagram of the view, and were painfully picking out the several mountains and trying to impress their names and positions on their memories. It was one of the saddest sights I ever saw.

Two sides of this place were guarded by railings, to keep people from being blown over the precipices. The view, looking sheer down into the broad valley, eastward, from this great elevation--almost a perpendicular mile--was very quaint and curious. Counties, towns, hilly ribs and ridges, wide stretches of green meadow, great forest tracts, winding streams, a dozen blue lakes, a block of busy steamboats--we saw all this little world in unique circumstantiality of detail--saw it just as the birds see it--and all reduced to the smallest of scales and as sharply worked out and finished as a steel engraving. The numerous toy villages, with tiny spires projecting out of them, were just as the children might have left them when done with play the day before; the forest tracts were diminished to cushions of moss; one or two big lakes were dwarfed to ponds, the smaller ones to puddles--though they did not look like puddles, but like blue eardrops which had fallen and lodged in slight depressions, conformable to their shapes, among the moss-beds and the smooth levels of dainty green farm-land; the microscopic steamboats glided along, as in a city reservoir, taking a mighty time to cover the distance between ports which seemed only a yard apart; and the isthmus which separated two lakes looked as if one might stretch out on it and lie with both elbows in the water, yet we knew invisible wagons were toiling across it and finding the distance a tedious one. This beautiful miniature world had exactly the appearance of those "relief maps" which reproduce nature precisely, with the heights and depressions and other details graduated to a reduced scale, and with the rocks, trees, lakes, etc., colored after nature.

I believed we could walk down to Wäggis or Vitznau in a day, but I knew we could go down by rail in about an hour, so I chose the latter method. I wanted to see what it was like, anyway. The train came along about the middle of the afternoon, and an odd thing it was. The locomotive-boiler stood on end, and it and the whole locomotive-boiler stood on end, and it and the whole locomotive were tiled sharply backward. There were two passenger-cars, roofed, but wide open all around. These cars were not tilted back, but the seats were; this enables the passenger to sit level while going down a steep incline.

There are three railway-tracks; the central one is cogged; the "lantern wheel" of the engine grips its way along these cogs, and pulls the train up the hill or retards its motion on the down trip. About the same speed--three miles an hour--is maintained both ways. Whether going up or down, the locomotive is always at the lower end of the train. It pushes in the one case, braces back in the other. The passenger rides backward going up, and faces forward going down.

We got front seats, and while the train moved along about fifty yards on level ground, I was not the least frightened; but now it started abruptly downstairs, and I caught my breath. And I, like my neighbors, unconsciously held back all I could, and threw my weight to the rear, but, of course, that did no particular good. I had slidden down the balusters when I was a boy, and thought nothing of it, but to slide down the balusters in a railway-train is a thing to make one's flesh creep. Sometimes we had as much as ten yards of almost level ground, and this gave us a few full breaths in comfort; but straightway we would turn a corner and see a long steep line of rails stretching down below us, and the comfort was at an end. One expected to see the locomotive pause, or slack up a little, and approach this plunge cautiously, but it did nothing of the kind; it went calmly on, and went it reached the jumping-off place it made a sudden bow, and went gliding smoothly downstairs, untroubled by the circumstances.

It was wildly exhilarating to slide along the edge of the precipices, after this grisly fashion, and look straight down upon that far-off valley which I was describing a while ago.

There was no level ground at the Kaltbad station; the railbed was as steep as a roof; I was curious to see how the stop was going to be managed. But it was very simple; the train came sliding down, and when it reached the right spot it just stopped--that was all there was "to it"--stopped on the steep incline, and when the exchange of passengers and baggage had been made, it moved off and went sliding down again. The train can be stopped anywhere, at a moment's notice.

There was one curious effect, which I need not take the trouble to describe--because I can scissor a description of it out of the railway company's advertising pamphlet, and say my ink:

"On the whole tour, particularly at the Descent, we undergo an optical illusion which often seems to be incredible. All the shrubs, fir trees, stables, houses, etc., seem to be bent in a slanting direction, as by an immense pressure of air. They are all standing awry, so much awry that the chalets and cottages of the peasants seem to be tumbling down. It is the consequence of the steep inclination of the line. Those who are seated in the carriage do not observe that they are doing down a declivity of twenty to twenty-five degrees (their seats being adapted to this course of proceeding and being bent down at their backs). They mistake their carriage and its horizontal lines for a proper measure of the normal plain, and therefore all the objects outside which really are in a horizontal position must show a disproportion of twenty to twenty-five degrees declivity, in regard to the mountain."

By the time one reaches Kaltbad, he has acquired confidence in the railway, and he now ceases to try to ease the locomotive by holding back. Thenceforth he smokes his pipe in serenity, and gazes out upon the magnificent picture below and about him with unfettered enjoyment. There is nothing to interrupt the view or the breeze; it is like inspecting the world on the wing. However--to be exact--there is one place where the serenity lapses for a while; this is while one is crossing the Schnurrtobel Bridge, a frail structure which swings its gossamer frame down through the dizzy air, over a gorge, like a vagrant spider-strand.

One has no difficulty in remembering his sins while the train is creeping down this bridge; and he repents of them, too; though he sees, when he gets to Vitznau, that he need not have done it, the bridge was perfectly safe.

So ends the eventual trip which we made to the Rigi-Kulm to see an Alpine sunrise.

Chapter XXX. Harris Climbs Mountains for Me

An hour's sail brought us to Lucerne again. I judged it best to go to bed and rest several days, for I knew that the man who undertakes to make the tour of Europe on foot must take care of himself.

Thinking over my plans, as mapped out, I perceived that they did not take in the Furka Pass, the Rhone Glacier, the Finsteraarhorn, the Wetterhorn, etc. I immediately examined the guide-book to see if these were important, and found they were; in fact, a pedestrian tour of Europe could not be complete without them. Of course that decided me at once to see them, for I never allow myself to do things by halves, or in a slurring, slipshod way.

I called in my agent and instructed him to go without delay and make a careful examination of these noted places, on foot, and bring me back a written report of the result, for insertion in my book. I instructed him to go to Hospenthal as quickly as possible, and make his grand start from there; to extend his foot expedition as far as the Giesbach fall, and return to me from thence by diligence or mule. I told him to take the courier with him.

He objected to the courier, and with some show of reason, since he was about to venture upon new and untried ground; but I thought he might as well learn how to take care of the courier now as later, therefore I enforced my point. I said that the trouble, delay, and inconvenience of traveling with a courier were balanced by the deep respect which a courier's presence commands, and I must insist that as much style be thrown into my journeys as possible.

So the two assumed complete mountaineering costumes and departed. A week later they returned, pretty well used up, and my agent handed me the following:

Official Report of a Visit to the Furka Region.

By H. Harris, agent

About seven o'clock in the morning, with perfectly fine weather, we started from Hospenthal, and arrived at the maison on the Furka in a little under quatre hours. The want of variety in the scenery from Hospenthal made the kahkahponeeka wearisome; but let none be discouraged; no one can fail to be completely récompensée for his fatigue, when he sees, for the first time, the monarch of the Oberland, the tremendous Finsteraarhorn. A moment before all was dullness, but a pas further has placed us on the summit of the Furka; and exactly in front of us, at a hopow of only fifteen miles, this magnificent mountain lifts its snow-wreathed precipices into the deep blue sky. The inferior mountains on each side of the pass form a sort of frame for the picture of their dread lord, and close in the view so completely that no other prominent feature in the Oberland is visible from this bong-a-bong; nothing withdraws the attention from the solitary grandeur of the Finsteraarhorn and the dependent spurs which form the abutments of the central peak.

With the addition of some others, who were also bound for the Grimsel, we formed a large xhvloj as we descended the steg which winds round the shoulder of a mountain toward the Rhone Glacier. We soon left the path and took to the ice; and after wandering amongst the crevices un peu, to admire the wonders of these deep blue caverns, and hear the rushing of waters through their subglacial channels, we struck out a course toward L'autre côté and crossed the glacier successfully, a little above the cave from which the infant Rhone takes its first bound from under the grand precipice of ice. Half a mile below this we began to climb the flowery side of the Meienwand. One of our party started before the rest, but the Hitze was so great, that we found ihm quite exhausted, and lying at full length in the shade of a large Gestein. We sat down with him for a time, for all felt the heat exceedingly in the climb up this very steep bolwoggoly, and then we set out again together, and arrived at last near the Dead Man's Lake, at the foot of the Sidelhorn. This lonely spot, once used for an extempore burying-place, after a sanguinary battue between the French and Austrians, is the perfection of desolation; there is nothing in sight to mark the hand of man, except the line of weather-beaten whitened posts, set up to indicate the direction of the pass in the owdawakk of winter. Near this point the footpath joins the wider track, which connects the Grimsel with the head of the Rhone schnawp; this has been carefully constructed, and leads with a tortuous course among and over les pierres, down to the bank of the gloomy little swosh-swosh, which almost washes against the walls of the Grimsel Hospice. We arrived a little before four o'clock at the end of our day's journey, hot enough to justify the step, taking by most of the partie, of plunging into the crystal water of the snow-fed lake.

The next afternoon we started for a walk up the Unteraar glacier, with the intention of, at all events, getting as far as the Hütte which is used as a sleeping-place by most of those who cross the Strahleck Pass to Grindelwald. We got over the tedious collection of stones and débris which covers the pied of the Gletcher, and had walked nearly three hours from the Grimsel, when, just as we were thinking of crossing over to the right, to climb the cliffs at the foot of the hut, the clouds, which had for some time assumed a threatening appearance, suddenly dropped, and a huge mass of them, driving toward us from the Finsteraarhorn, poured down a deluge of haboolong and hail. Fortunately, we were not far from a very large glacier-table; it was a huge rock balanced on a pedestal of ice high enough to admit of our all creeping under it for gowkarak. A stream of puckittypukk had furrowed a course for itself in the ice at its base, and we were obliged to stand with one fuss on each side of this, and endeavor to keep ourselves chaud by cutting steps in the steep bank of the pedestal, so as to get a higher place for standing on, as the wasser rose rapidly in its trench. A very cold bzzzzzzzzeee accompanied the storm, and made our position far from pleasant; and presently came a flash of Blitzen, apparently in the middle of our little party, with an instantaneous clap of yokky, sounding like a large gun fired close to our ears; the effect was startling; but in a few seconds our attention was fixed by the roaring echoes of the thunder against the tremendous mountains which completely surrounded us. This was followed by many more bursts, none of welche, however, was so dangerously near; and after waiting a long demi-hour in our icy prison, we sallied out to talk through a haboolong which, though not so heavy as before, was quite enough to give us a thorough soaking before our arrival at the Hospice.

The Grimsel is certainement a wonderful place; situated at the bottom of a sort of huge crater, the sides of which are utterly savage gebirge, composed of barren rocks which cannot even support a single pine arbre, and afford only scanty food for a herd of gmwkwllolp, it looks as if it must be completely begraben in the winter snows. Enormous avalanches fall against it every spring, sometimes covering everything to the depth of thirty or forty feet; and, in spite of walls four feet thick, and furnished with outside shutters, the two men who stay here when the voyageurs are snugly quartered in their distant homes can tell you that the snow sometimes shakes the house to its foundations.

Next morning the hogglebumgullup still continued bad, but we made up our minds to go on, and make the best of it. Half an hour after we started, the regen thickened unpleasantly, and we attempted to get shelter under a projecting rock, but being far to nass already to make standing at all agréable, we pushed on for the Handeck, consoling ourselves with the reflection that from the furious rushing of the river Aar at our side, we should at all events see the celebrated Wasserfall in grande perfection. Nor were we nappersocket in our expectation; the water was roaring down its leap of two hundred and fifty feet in a most magnificent frenzy, while the trees which cling to its rocky sides swayed to and fro in the violence of the hurricane which it brought down with it; even the stream, which falls into the main cascade at right angles, and toutefois forms a beautiful feature in the scene, was now swollen into a raging torrent; and the violence of this "meeting of the waters," about fifty feet below the frail bridge where we stood, was fearfully grand. While we were looking at it, glücklicheweise a gleam of sunshine came out, and instantly a beautiful rainbow was formed by the spray, and hung in mid-air suspended over the awful gorge.

On going into the chalet above the fall, we were informed that a Brücke had broken down near Guttanen, and that it would be impossible to proceed for some time; accordingly we were kept in our drenched condition for ein Stunde, when some voyageurs arrived from Meiringen, and told us that there had been a trifling accident, aber that we could now cross. On arriving at the spot, I was much inclined to suspect that the whole story was a ruse to make us slowwk and drink the more at the Handeck Inn, for only a few planks had been carried away, and though there might perhaps have been some difficulty with mules, the gap was certainly not larger than a mmbglx might cross with a very slight leap. Near Guttanen the haboolong happily ceased, and we had time to walk ourselves tolerably dry before arriving at Reichenback, wo we enjoyed a good diné at the Hotel des Alps.

Next morning we walked to Rosenlaui, the beau idéal of Swiss scenery, where we spent the middle of the day in an excursion to the glacier. This was more beautiful than words can describe, for in the constant progress of the ice it has changed the form of its extremity and formed a vast cavern, as blue as the sky above, and rippled like a frozen ocean. A few steps cut in the whoopjamboreehoo enabled us to walk completely under this, and feast our eyes upon one of the loveliest objects in creation. The glacier was all around divided by numberless fissures of the same exquisite color, and the finest wood-erdbeeren were growing in abundance but a few yards from the ice. The inn stands in a charmant spot close to the C^ote de la rivière, which, lower down, forms the Reichenbach fall, and embosomed in the richest of pine woods, while the fine form of the Wellhorn looking down upon it completes the enchanting bopple. In the afternoon we walked over the Great Scheideck to Grindelwald, stopping to pay a visit to the Upper glacier by the way; but we were again overtaken by bad hogglebumgullup and arrived at the hotel in a solche a state that the landlord's wardrobe was in great request.

The clouds by this time seemed to have done their worst, for a lovely day succeeded, which we determined to devote to an ascent of the Faulhorn. We left Grindelwald just as a thunder-storm was dying away, and we hoped to find guten Wetter up above; but the rain, which had nearly ceased, began again, and we were struck by the rapidly increasing froid as we ascended. Two-thirds of the way up were completed when the rain was exchanged for gnillic, with which the Boden was thickly covered, and before we arrived at the top the gnillic and mist became so thick that we could not see one another at more than twenty poopoo distance, and it became difficult to pick our way over the rough and thickly covered ground. Shivering with cold, we turned into bed with a double allowance of clothes, and slept comfortably while the wind howled autour de la maison; when I awoke, the wall and the window looked equally dark, but in another hour I found I could just see the form of the latter; so I jumped out of bed, and forced it open, though with great difficulty from the frost and the quantities of gnillic heaped up against it.

A row of huge icicles hung down from the edge of the roof, and anything more wintry than the whole Anblick could not well be imagined; but the sudden appearance of the great mountains in front was so startling that I felt no inclination to move toward bed again. The snow which had collected upon la fenêtre had increased the finsterniss oder der Dunkelheit, so that when I looked out I was surprised to find that the daylight was considerable, and that the balragoomah would evidently rise before long. Only the brightest of les étoiles were still shining; the sky was cloudless overhead, though small curling mists lay thousands of feet below us in the valleys, wreathed around the feet of the mountains, and adding to the splendor of their lofty summits. We were soon dressed and out of the house, watching the gradual approach of dawn, thoroughly absorbed in the first near view of the Oberland giants, which broke upon us unexpectedly after the intense obscurity of the evening before. "Kabaugwakko songwashee kum wetterhorn snawpo!" cried some one, as that grand summit gleamed with the first rose of dawn; and in a few moments the double crest of the Schreckhorn followed its example; peak after peak seemed warmed with life, the Jungfrau blushed even more beautifully than her neighbors, and soon, from the Wetterhorn in the east to the Wildstrubel in the west, a long row of fires glowed upon mighty altars, truly worthy of the gods. The wlgw was very severe; our sleeping-place could hardly be distingueé from the snow around it, which had fallen to a depth of a flirk during the past evening, and we heartily enjoyed a rough scramble en bas to the Giesbach falls, where we soon found a warm climate. At noon the day before Grindelwald the thermometer could not have stood at less than 100 degrees Fahr. in the sun; and in the evening, judging from the icicles formed, and the state of the windows, there must have been at least twelve dingblatter of frost, thus giving a change of 80 degrees during a few hours.

I said:

"You have done well, Harris; this report is concise, compact, well expressed; the language is crisp, the descriptions are vivid and not needlessly elaborated; your report goes straight to the point, attends strictly to business, and doesn't fool around. It is in many ways an excellent document. But it has a fault--it is too learned, it is much too learned. What is 'dingblatter'?

"'Dingblatter' is a Fiji word meaning 'degrees.'"

"You knew the English of it, then?"

"Oh, yes."

"What is 'gnillic'?"

"That is the Eskimo term for 'snow.'"

"So you knew the English for that, too?"

"Why, certainly."

"What does 'mmbglx' stand for?"

"That is Zulu for 'pedestrian.'"

"'While the form of the Wellhorn looking down upon it completes the enchanting bopple.' What is 'bopple'?"

"'Picture.' It's Choctaw."

"What is 'schnawp'?"

"'Valley.' That is Choctaw, also."

"What is 'bolwoggoly'?"

"That is Chinese for 'hill.'"


"'Ascent.' Choctaw."

"'But we were again overtaken by bad hogglebumgullup.' What does 'hogglebumgullup' mean?"

"That is Chinese for 'weather.'"

"Is 'hogglebumgullup' better than the English word? Is it any more descriptive?"

"No, it means just the same."

"And 'dingblatter' and 'gnillic,' and 'bopple,' and 'schnawp'--are they better than the English words?"

"No, they mean just what the English ones do."

"Then why do you use them? Why have you used all this Chinese and Choctaw and Zulu rubbish?"

"Because I didn't know any French but two or three words, and I didn't know any Latin or Greek at all."

"That is nothing. Why should you want to use foreign words, anyhow?"

"They adorn my page. They all do it."

"Who is 'all'?"

"Everybody. Everybody that writes elegantly. Anybody has a right to that wants to."

"I think you are mistaken." I then proceeded in the following scathing manner. "When really learned men write books for other learned men to read, they are justified in using as many learned words as they please--their audience will understand them; but a man who writes a book for the general public to read is not justified in disfiguring his pages with untranslated foreign expressions. It is an insolence toward the majority of the purchasers, for it is a very frank and impudent way of saying, 'Get the translations made yourself if you want them, this book is not written for the ignorant classes.' There are men who know a foreign language so well and have used it so long in their daily life that they seem to discharge whole volleys of it into their English writings unconsciously, and so they omit to translate, as much as half the time. That is a great cruelty to nine out of ten of the man's readers. What is the excuse for this? The writer would say he only uses the foreign language where the delicacy of his point cannot be conveyed in English. Very well, then he writes his best things for the tenth man, and he ought to warn the nine other not to buy his book. However, the excuse he offers is at least an excuse; but there is another set of men who are like you; they know a word here and there, of a foreign language, or a few beggarly little three-word phrases, filched from the back of the Dictionary, and these are continually peppering into their literature, with a pretense of knowing that language--what excuse can they offer? The foreign words and phrases which they use have their exact equivalents in a nobler language--English; yet they think they 'adorn their page' when they say Strasse for street, and Bahnhof for railway-station, and so on--flaunting these fluttering rags of poverty in the reader's face and imagining he will be ass enough to take them for the sign of untold riches held in reserve. I will let your 'learning' remain in your report; you have as much right, I suppose, to 'adorn your page' with Zulu and Chinese and Choctaw rubbish as others of your sort have to adorn theirs with insolent odds and ends smouched from half a dozen learned tongues whose A-B abs they don't even know."

When the musing spider steps upon the red-hot shovel, he first exhibits a wild surprise, then he shrivels up. Similar was the effect of these blistering words upon the tranquil and unsuspecting Agent. I can be dreadfully rough on a person when the mood takes me.

Continue to Chapter XXXI. Alp-Scaling by Carriage
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