A Tramp Abroad — Volume 06 eBook: Page1

Mark Twain (1994)




  Produced by Anonymous Volunteers, John Greenman and David Widger

  A TRAMP ABROAD, Part 6.

  By Mark Twain

  (Samuel L. Clemens)

  First published in 1880

  Illustrations taken from an 1880 First Edition

  * * * * * *

  ILLUSTRATIONS:

  1. PORTRAIT OF THE AUTHOR 2. TITIAN'S MOSES 3. THE AUTHOR'S MEMORIES 236. A SUNDAY MORNING'S DEMON 237. JUST SAVED 238. SCENE IN VALLEY OF ZERMATT 239. ARRIVAL AT ZERMATT 240. FITTED OUT 241. A FEARFUL FALL 242. TAIL PIECE 243. ALL READY 244. THE MARCH 245. THE CARAVAN 246. THE HOOK 247. THE DISABLED CHAPLAIN 248. TRYING EXPERIMENTS 249. SAVED! SAVED! 250. TWENTY MINUTES WORK 251. THE BLACK RAM 252. THE MIRACLE 253. THE NEW GUIDE 251. SCIENTIFIC RESEARCHES 255. MOUNTAIN CHALET 256. THE GRANDSON 257. OCCASIONLY MET WITH 258. SUMMIT OF THE GORNER GRAT 259. CHIEFS OF THE ADVANCE GUARD 260. MY PICTURE OF THE MATTERHORN 261. EVERYBODY HAD AN EXCUSE 262. SPRUNG A LEAK 263. A SCIENTIFIC QUESTION 264. A TERMINAL MORAINE 265. FRONT OF GLACIER 266. AN OLD MORAINE 267. GLACIER OF ZERMATT WITH LATERAL MORAINE 269. UNEXPECTED MEETING OF FRIENDS 269. VILLAGE OF CHAMONIX 270. THE MATTERHORN 271. ON THE SUMMIT 272. ACCIDENT ON THE MATTERHORN (1865) 273. ROPED TOGETHER 274. STORAGE OF ANCESTORS 275. FALLING OUT OF HIS FARM 276. CHILD LIFE IN SWITZERLAND 277. A SUNDAY PLAY 278. THE COMBINATION 279. CHILLON 280. THE TETE NOIR 281. MONT BLANC'S NEIGHBORS 282. AN EXQUISITE THING 283. A WILD RIDE 284. SWISS PEASANT GIRL

  CONTENTS: CHAPTER XXXVI Sunday Church Bells--A Cause ofProfanity--A Magnificent Glacier--Fault Finding by Harris--Almostan Accident--Selfishness of Harris--Approaching Zermatt--TheMatterhorn--Zermatt--Home of Mountain Climbers--Fitted out forClimbing--A Fearful Adventure --Never Satisfied

  CHAPTER XXXVII A Calm Decision--"I Will Ascend theRiffelberg"--Preparations for the Trip--All Zermatt on theAlert--Schedule of Persons and Things--An Unprecedented Display--AGeneral Turn--out--Ready for a Start--The Post of Danger--The AdvanceDirected--Grand Display of Umbrellas--The First Camp--Almost aPanic--Supposed to be Lost--The First Accident--A Chaplain Disabled--AnExperimenting Mule--Good Effects of a Blunder--Badly Lost--AReconnoiter--Mystery and Doubt--Stern Measures Taken--A Black Ram--Savedby a Miracle--The Guide's Guide

  CHAPTER XXXVIII Our Expedition Continued--Experiments with theBarometer--Boiling Thermometer--Barometer Soup--An InterestingScientific Discovery--Crippling a Latinist--A Chaplain Injured--Shortof Barkeepers--Digging a Mountain Cellar--A Young AmericanSpecimen--Somebody's Grandson--Arrival at Riffelberg Botel--Ascent ofGorner Grat--Faith in Thermometers--The Matterhorn

  CHAPTER XXXIX Guide Books--Plans for the Return of the Expedition--AGlacier Train--Parachute Descent from Gorner Grat--Proposed Honorsto Harris Declined--All had an Excuse--A Magnificent IdeaAbandoned--Descent to the Glacier--A Supposed Leak--A Slow Train--TheGlacier Abandoned--Journey to Zermatt--A Scientific Question

  CHAPTER XL Glaciers--Glacier Perils--Moraines--TerminalMoraines--Lateral Moraines--Immense Size of Glacier--TravelingGlacier----General Movements of Glaciers--Ascent of Mont Blacc--Lossof Guides--Finding of Remains--Meeting of Old Friends--The Dead andLiving--Proposed Museum--The Relics at Chamonix

  CHAPTER XLI The Matterhorn Catastrophe of 1563--Mr Whymper'sNarrative--Ascent of the Matterhorn--The Summit--The MatterhornConquered--The Descent Commenced--A Fearful Disaster--Death of LordDouglas and Two Others--The Graves of the Two

  CHAPTER XLII Switzerland--Graveyard at Zermatt--Balloting forMarriage--Farmers as Heroes--Falling off a Farm--From St Nicholas toVisp--Dangerous Traveling--Children's Play--The Parson's Children--ALandlord's Daughter--A Rare Combination--Ch iIIon--Lost Sympathy--MontBlanc and its Neighbors--Beauty of Soap Bubbles--A Wild Drive--The Kingof Drivers--Benefit of getting Drunk

  CHAPTER XXXVI

  [The Fiendish Fun of Alp-climbing]

  We did not oversleep at St. Nicholas. The church-bell began to ring atfour-thirty in the morning, and from the length of time it continuedto ring I judged that it takes the Swiss sinner a good while to get theinvitation through his head. Most church-bells in the world are of poorquality, and have a harsh and rasping sound which upsets the temper andproduces much sin, but the St. Nicholas bell is a good deal the worstone that has been contrived yet, and is peculiarly maddening in itsoperation. Still, it may have its right and its excuse to exist, for thecommunity is poor and not every citizen can afford a clock, perhaps; butthere cannot be any excuse for our church-bells at home, for there isno family in America without a clock, and consequently there is no fairpretext for the usual Sunday medley of dreadful sounds that issues fromour steeples. There is much more profanity in America on Sunday than inall in the other six days of the week put together, and it is of a morebitter and malignant character than the week-day profanity, too. It isproduced by the cracked-pot clangor of the cheap church-bells.

  We build our churches almost without regard to cost; we rear an edificewhich is an adornment to the town, and we gild it, and fresco it, andmortgage it, and do everything we can think of to perfect it, and thenspoil it all by putting a bell on it which afflicts everybody who hearsit, giving some the headache, others St. Vitus's dance, and the rest theblind staggers.

  An American village at ten o'clock on a summer Sunday is the quietestand peacefulest and holiest thing in nature; but it is a prettydifferent thing half an hour later. Mr. Poe's poem of the "Bells" standsincomplete to this day; but it is well enough that it is so, for thepublic reciter or "reader" who goes around trying to imitate the soundsof the various sorts of bells with his voice would find himself "up astump" when he got to the church-bell--as Joseph Addison would say. Thechurch is always trying to get other people to reform; it might not bea bad idea to reform itself a little, by way of example. It is stillclinging to one or two things which were useful once, but which arenot useful now, neither are they ornamental. One is the bell-ringingto remind a clock-caked town that it is church-time, and another is thereading from the pulpit of a tedious list of "notices" which everybodywho is interested has already read in the newspaper. The clergyman evenreads the hymn through--a relic of an ancient time when hymn-books arescarce and costly; but everybody has a hymn-book, now, and so the publicreading is no longer necessary. It is not merely unnecessary, it isgenerally painful; for the average clergyman could not fire into hiscongregation with a shotgun and hit a worse reader than himself, unlessthe weapon scattered shamefully. I am not meaning to be flippant andirreverent, I am only meaning to be truthful. The average clergyman, inall countries and of all denominations, is a very bad reader. One wouldthink he would at least learn how to read the Lord's Prayer, by and by,but it is not so. He races through it as if he thought the quickerhe got it in, the sooner it would be answered. A person who does notappreciate the exceeding value of pauses, and does not know how tomeasure their duration judiciously, cannot render the grand simplicityand dignity of a composition like that effectively.

  We took a tolerably early breakfast, and tramped off toward Zermattthrough the reeking lanes of the village, glad to get away from thatbell. By and by we had a fine spectacle on our right. It was thewall-like butt end of a huge glacier, which looked down on us from anAlpine height which was well up in the blue sky. It was an astonishingamount of ice to be compacted together in one mass. We ciphered upon itand decided that it was not less than several hundred feet from the baseof the wall of solid ice to the top of it--Harris believed it wasreally twice that. We judged that if St. Paul's, St. Peter's, the GreatPyramid, the Strasburg Cathedral and the Capitol in Washin
gton wereclustered against that wall, a man sitting on its upper edge could nothang his hat on the top of any one of them without reaching down threeor four hundred feet--a thing which, of course, no man could do.

  To me, that mighty glacier was very beautiful. I did not imagine thatanybody could find fault with it; but I was mistaken. Harris had beensnarling for several days. He was a rabid Protestant, and he was alwayssaying:

  "In the Protestant cantons you never see such poverty and dirt andsqualor as you do in this Catholic one; you never see the lanes andalleys flowing with foulness; you never see such wretched little stiesof houses; you never see an inverted tin turnip on top of a church fora dome; and as for a church-bell, why, you never hear a church-bell atall."

  All this morning he had been finding fault, straight along. First it waswith the mud. He said, "It ain't muddy in a Protestant canton when itrains." Then it was with the dogs: "They don't have those lop-eared dogsin a Protestant canton." Then it was with the roads: "They don't leavethe roads to make themselves in a Protestant canton, the people makethem--and they make a road that IS a road, too." Next it was the goats:"You never see a goat shedding tears in a Protestant canton--a goat,there, is one of the cheerfulest objects in nature." Next it was thechamois: "You never see a Protestant chamois act like one of these--theytake a bite or two and go; but these fellows camp with you and stay."Then it was the guide-boards: "In a Protestant canton you couldn't getlost if you wanted to, but you never see a guide-board in a Catholiccanton." Next, "You never see any flower-boxes in the windows,here--never anything but now and then a cat--a torpid one; but you takea Protestant canton: windows perfectly lovely with flowers--and as forcats, there's just acres of them. These folks in this canton leave aroad to make itself, and then fine you three francs if you 'trot' overit--as if a horse could trot over such a sarcasm of a road." Next aboutthe goiter: "THEY talk about goiter!--I haven't seen a goiter in thiswhole canton that I couldn't put in a hat."

  He had growled at everything, but I judged it would puzzle him to findanything the matter with this majestic glacier. I intimated as much; buthe was ready, and said with surly discontent: "You ought to see them inthe Protestant cantons."

  This irritated me. But I concealed the feeling, and asked:

  "What is the matter with this one?"

  "Matter? Why, it ain't in any kind of condition. They never take anycare of a glacier here. The moraine has been spilling gravel around it,and got it all dirty."

  "Why, man, THEY can't help that."

  "THEY? You're right. That is, they WON'T. They could if they wanted to.You never see a speck of dirt on a Protestant glacier. Look at the Rhoneglacier. It is fifteen miles long, and seven hundred feet thick. If thiswas a Protestant glacier you wouldn't see it looking like this, I cantell you."

  "That is nonsense. What would they do with it?"

  "They would whitewash it. They always do."

  I did not believe a word of this, but rather than have trouble I let itgo; for it is a waste of breath to argue with a bigot. I even doubted ifthe Rhone glacier WAS in a Protestant canton; but I did not know, so Icould not make anything by contradicting a man who would probably put medown at once with manufactured evidence.

  About nine miles from St. Nicholas we crossed a bridge over the ragingtorrent of the Visp, and came to a log strip of flimsy fencing whichwas pretending to secure people from tumbling over a perpendicular wallforty feet high and into the river. Three children were approaching; oneof them, a little girl, about eight years old, was running; when prettyclose to us she stumbled and fell, and her feet shot under the rail ofthe fence and for a moment projected over the stream. It gave us asharp shock, for we thought she was gone, sure, for the ground slantedsteeply, and to save herself seemed a sheer impossibility; but shemanaged to scramble up, and ran by us laughing.

  We went forward and examined the place and saw the long tracks which herfeet had made in the dirt when they darted over the verge. If she hadfinished her trip she would have struck some big rocks in the edge ofthe water, and then the torrent would have snatched her downstream amongthe half-covered boulders and she would have been pounded to pulp in twominutes. We had come exceedingly near witnessing her death.

  And now Harris's contrary nature and inborn selfishness were strikinglymanifested. He has no spirit of self-denial. He began straight off, andcontinued for an hour, to express his gratitude that the child was notdestroyed. I never saw such a man. That was the kind of person he was;just so HE was gratified, he never cared anything about anybody else. Ihad noticed that trait in him, over and over again. Often, of course, itwas mere heedlessness, mere want of reflection. Doubtless this may havebeen the case in most instances, but it was not the less hard to baron that account--and after all, its bottom, its groundwork, wasselfishness. There is no avoiding that conclusion. In the instance underconsideration, I did think the indecency of running on in that way mightoccur to him; but no, the child was saved and he was glad, that wassufficient--he cared not a straw for MY feelings, or my loss of such aliterary plum, snatched from my very mouth at the instant it wasready to drop into it. His selfishness was sufficient to place his owngratification in being spared suffering clear before all concern forme, his friend. Apparently, he did not once reflect upon the valuabledetails which would have fallen like a windfall to me: fishing the childout--witnessing the surprise of the family and the stir the thing wouldhave made among the peasants--then a Swiss funeral--then the roadsidemonument, to be paid for by us and have our names mentioned in it. Andwe should have gone into Baedeker and been immortal. I was silent. I wastoo much hurt to complain. If he could act so, and be so heedless and sofrivolous at such a time, and actually seem to glory in it, after allI had done for him, I would have cut my hand off before I would let himsee that I was wounded.

  We were approaching Zermatt; consequently, we were approaching therenowned Matterhorn. A month before, this mountain had been only a nameto us, but latterly we had been moving through a steadily thickeningdouble row of pictures of it, done in oil, water, chromo, wood, steel,copper, crayon, and photography, and so it had at length become a shapeto us--and a very distinct, decided, and familiar one, too. We wereexpecting to recognize that mountain whenever or wherever we should runacross it. We were not deceived. The monarch was far away when we firstsaw him, but there was no such thing as mistaking him. He has the rarepeculiarity of standing by himself; he is peculiarly steep, too, and isalso most oddly shaped. He towers into the sky like a colossal wedge,with the upper third of its blade bent a little to the left. The broadbase of this monster wedge is planted upon a grand glacier-paved Alpineplatform whose elevation is ten thousand feet above sea-level; as thewedge itself is some five thousand feet high, it follows that its apexis about fifteen thousand feet above sea-level. So the whole bulk ofthis stately piece of rock, this sky-cleaving monolith, is above theline of eternal snow. Yet while all its giant neighbors have the look ofbeing built of solid snow, from their waists up, the Matterhorn standsblack and naked and forbidding, the year round, or merely powdered orstreaked with white in places, for its sides are so steep that thesnow cannot stay there. Its strange form, its august isolation, and itsmajestic unkinship with its own kind, make it--so to speak--the Napoleonof the mountain world. "Grand, gloomy, and peculiar," is a phrase whichfits it as aptly as it fitted the great captain.

  Think of a monument a mile high, standing on a pedestal two miles high!This is what the Matterhorn is--a monument. Its office, henceforth, forall time, will be to keep watch and ward over the secret resting-placeof the young Lord Douglas, who, in 1865, was precipitated from thesummit over a precipice four thousand feet high, and never seen again.No man ever had such a monument as this before; the most imposing ofthe world's other monuments are but atoms compared to it; and they willperish, and their places will pass from memory, but this will remain.

  [The accident which cost Lord Douglas his life (see Chapter xii) alsocost the lives of three other men. These three fell four-fifths of amile,
and their bodies were afterward found, lying side by side, upon aglacier, whence they were borne to Zermatt and buried in the churchyard.

  The remains of Lord Douglas have never been found. The secret of hissepulture, like that of Moses, must remain a mystery always.]

  A walk from St. Nicholas to Zermatt is a wonderful experience. Natureis built on a stupendous plan in that region. One marches continuallybetween walls that are piled into the skies, with their upper heightsbroken into a confusion of sublime shapes that gleam white and coldagainst the background of blue; and here and there one sees a bigglacier displaying its grandeurs on the top of a precipice, or agraceful cascade leaping and flashing down the green declivities. Thereis nothing tame, or cheap, or trivial--it is all magnificent. Thatshort valley is a picture-gallery of a notable kind, for it containsno mediocrities; from end to end the Creator has hung it with Hismasterpieces.

  We made Zermatt at three in the afternoon, nine hours out fromSt. Nicholas. Distance, by guide-book, twelve miles; by pedometerseventy-two. We were in the heart and home of the mountain-climbers,now, as all visible things testified. The snow-peaks did not holdthemselves aloof, in aristocratic reserve; they nestled close around,in a friendly, sociable way; guides, with the ropes and axes and otherimplements of their fearful calling slung about their persons, roostedin a long line upon a stone wall in front of the hotel, and waited forcustomers; sun-burnt climbers, in mountaineering costume, and followedby their guides and porters, arrived from time to time, from breakneckexpeditions among the peaks and glaciers of the High Alps; male andfemale tourists, on mules, filed by, in a continuous procession,hotelward-bound from wild adventures which would grow in grandeur everytime they were described at the English or American fireside, and atlast outgrow the possible itself.