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List Of Contents | Contents of Saunterings, by Charles Dudley Warner
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on their backs baskets full of soil; hay was being backed to the
stables; burden-bearers were coming and going upon the road: we were
told that there are only three horses in the place.  There is a
pleasant girl who brings us luncheon at the inn; but the inhabitants
for the most part are as hideous as those we see all day: some have
hardly the shape of human beings, and they all live in the most
filthy manner in the dirtiest habitations.  A chalet is a sweet thing
when you buy a little model of it at home.

After we leave Stalden, the walk becomes more picturesque, the
precipices are higher, the gorges deeper.  It required some
engineering to carry the footpath round the mountain buttresses and
over the ravines.  Soon the village of Emd appears on the right,--a
very considerable collection of brown houses, and a shining white
church-spire, above woods and precipices and apparently unscalable
heights, on a green spot which seems painted on the precipices; with
nothing visible to keep the whole from sliding down, down, into the
gorge of the Visp.  Switzerland may not have so much population to
the square mile as some countries; but she has a population to some
of her square miles that would astonish some parts of the earth's
surface elsewhere.  Farther on we saw a faint, zigzag footpath, that
we conjectured led to Emd; but it might lead up to heaven.  All day
we had been solicited for charity by squalid little children, who
kiss their nasty little paws at us, and ask for centimes.  The
children of Emd, however, did not trouble us.  It must be a serious
affair if they ever roll out of bed.

Late in the afternoon thunder began to tumble about the hills, and
clouds snatched away from our sight the snow-peaks at the end of the
valley; and at length the rain fell on those who had just arrived and
on the unjust. We took refuge from the hardest of it in a lonely
chalet high up on the hillside, where a roughly dressed, frowzy
Swiss, who spoke bad German, and said he was a schoolmaster, gave us
a bench in the shed of his schoolroom.  He had only two pupils in
attendance, and I did not get a very favorable impression of this
high school.  Its master quite overcame us with thanks when we gave
him a few centimes on leaving.  It still rained, and we arrived in
St. Nicolaus quite damp.

There is a decent road from St. Nicolaus to Zermatt, over which go
wagons without springs.  The scenery is constantly grander as we
ascend.  The day is not wholly clear; but high on our right are the
vast snow-fields of the Weishorn, and out of the very clouds near it
seems to pour the Bies Glacier.  In front are the splendid Briethorn,
with its white, round summit; the black Riffelhorn; the sharp peak of
the little Matterhorn; and at last the giant Matterhorn itself rising
before us, the most finished and impressive single mountain in
Switzerland.  Not so high as Mont Blanc by a thousand feet, it
appears immense in its isolated position and its slender aspiration.
It is a huge pillar of rock, with sharply cut edges, rising to a
defined point, dusted with snow, so that the rock is only here and
there revealed.  To ascend it seems as impossible as to go up the
Column of Luxor; and one can believe that the gentlemen who first
attempted it in 1864, and lost their lives, did fall four thousand
feet before their bodies rested on the glacier below.

We did not stay at Zermatt, but pushed on for the hotel on the top of
the Riffelberg,--a very stiff and tiresome climb of about three
hours, an unending pull up a stony footpath.  Within an hour of the
top, and when the white hotel is in sight above the zigzag on the
breast of the precipice, we reach a green and widespread Alp where
hundreds of cows are feeding, watched by two forlorn women,--the
"milkmaids all forlorn " of poetry.  At the rude chalets we stop, and
get draughts of rich, sweet cream.  As we wind up the slope, the
tinkling of multitudinous bells from the herd comes to us, which is
also in the domain of poetry.  All the way up,we have found wild
flowers in the greatest profusion; and the higher we ascend, the more
exquisite is their color and the more perfect their form.  There are
pansies; gentians of a deeper blue than flower ever was before;
forget-me-nots, a pink variety among them; violets, the Alpine rose
and the Alpine violet; delicate pink flowers of moss; harebells; and
quantities for which we know no names, more exquisite in shape and
color than the choicest products of the greenhouse.  Large slopes are
covered with them,--a brilliant show to the eye, and most pleasantly
beguiling the way of its tediousness.  As high as I ascended, I still
found some of these delicate flowers, the pink moss growing in
profusion amongst the rocks of the GornerGrat, and close to the
snowdrifts.

The inn on the Riffelberg is nearly eight thousand feet high, almost
two thousand feet above the hut on Mount Washington; yet it is not so
cold and desolate as the latter.  Grass grows and flowers bloom on
its smooth upland, and behind it and in front of it are the
snow-peaks.  That evening we essayed the Gorner-Grat, a rocky ledge
nearly ten thousand feet above the level of the sea; but after a
climb of an hour and a half, and a good view of Monte Rosa and the
glaciers and peaks of that range, we were prevented from reaching the
summit, and driven back by a sharp storm of hail and rain.  The next
morning I started for the GornerGrat again, at four o'clock.  The
Matterhorn lifted its huge bulk sharply against the sky, except where
fleecy clouds lightly draped it and fantastically blew about it.  As
I ascended, and turned to look at it, its beautifully cut peak had
caught the first ray of the sun, and burned with a rosy glow.  Some
great clouds drifted high in the air: the summits of the Breithorn,
the Lyscamm, and their companions, lay cold and white; but the snow
down their sides had a tinge of pink.  When I stood upon the summit
of the Gorner-Grat, the two prominent silver peaks of Monte Rosa were
just touched with the sun, and its great snow-fields were visible to
the glacier at its base.  The Gorner-Grat is a rounded ridge of rock,
entirely encirled by glaciers and snow-peaks.  The panorama from it
is unexcelled in Switzerland.

Returning down the rocky steep, I descried, solitary in that great
waste of rock and snow, the form of a lady whom I supposed I had left
sleeping at the inn, overcome with the fatigue of yesterday's tramp.
Lured on by the apparently short distance to the backbone of the
ridge, she had climbed the rocks a mile or more above the hotel, and
come to meet me.  She also had seen the great peaks lift themselves
out of the gray dawn, and Monte Rosa catch the first rays.  We stood
awhile together to see how jocund day ran hither and thither along
the mountain-tops, until the light was all abroad, and then silently
turned downward, as one goes from a mount of devotion




THE BATHS OF LEUK

In order to make the pass of the Gemmi, it is necessary to go through
the Baths of Leuk.  The ascent from the Rhone bridge at Susten is
full of interest, affording fine views of the valley, which is better
to look at than to travel through, and bringing you almost
immediately to the old town of Leuk, a queer, old, towered place,
perched on a precipice, with the oddest inn, and a notice posted up
to the effect, that any one who drives through its steep streets
faster than a walk will be fined five francs.  I paid nothing extra
for a fast walk.  The road, which is one of the best in the country,
is a wonderful piece of engineering, spanning streams, cut in rock,
rounding precipices, following the wild valley of the Dala by many a
winding and zigzag.

The Baths of Leuk, or Loeche-les-Bains, or Leukerbad, is a little
village at the very head of the valley, over four thousand feet above
the sea, and overhung by the perpendicular walls of the Gemmi, which
rise on all sides, except the south, on an average of two thousand
feet above it.  There is a nest of brown houses, clustered together
like bee-hives, into which the few inhabitants creep to hibernate in
the long winters, and several shops, grand hotels, and bathing-houses
open for the season.  Innumerable springs issue out of this green,
sloping meadow among the mountains, some of them icy cold, but over
twenty of them hot, and seasoned with a great many disagreeable
sulphates, carbonates, and oxides, and varying in temperature from
ninety-five to one hundred and twenty-three degrees Fahrenheit.
Italians, French, and Swiss resort here in great numbers to take the
baths, which are supposed to be very efficacious for rheumatism and
cutaneous affections.  Doubtless many of them do up their bathing for
the year while here; and they may need no more after scalding and
soaking in this water for a couple of months.

Before we reached the hotel, we turned aside into one of the
bath-houses.  We stood inhaling a sickly steam in a large, close
hall, which was wholly occupied by a huge vat, across which low
partitions, with bridges, ran, dividing it into four compartments.
When we entered, we were assailed with yells in many languages, and
howls in the common tongue, as if all the fiends of the pit had
broken loose.  We took off our hats in obedience to the demand; but
the clamor did not wholly subside, and was mingled with singing and
horrible laughter.  Floating about in each vat, we at first saw
twenty or thirty human heads.  The women could be distinguished from
the men by the manner of dressing the hair.  Each wore a loose woolen
gown.  Each had a little table floating before him or her, which he
or she pushed about at pleasure.  One wore a hideous mask; another
kept diving in the opaque pool and coming up to blow, like the
hippopotamus in the Zoological Gardens; some were taking a lunch from
their tables, others playing chess; some sitting on the benches round
the edges, with only heads out of water, as doleful as owls, while
others roamed about, engaged in the game of spattering with their
comrades, and sang and shouted at the top of their voices.  The

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