Make your own free website on Tripod.com

List Of Contents | Contents of Their Pilgrimage, by Charles Dudley Warner
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

he found a railway to the Profile House, and another to Bethlehem.  In
the interval of waiting for his train he visited Bethlehem Street, with
its mile of caravansaries, big boarding-houses, shops, and city veneer,
and although he was delighted, as an American, with the "improvements"
and with the air of refinement, he felt that if he wanted retirement and
rural life, he might as well be with the hordes in the depths of the
Adirondack wilderness.  But in his impatience to reach his destination he
was not sorry to avail himself of the railway to the Profile House.  And
he admired the ingenuity which had carried this road through nine miles
of shabby firs and balsams, in a way absolutely devoid of interest, in
order to heighten the effect of the surprise at the end in the sudden
arrival at the Franconia Notch.  From whichever way this vast white hotel
establishment is approached, it is always a surprise.  Midway between
Echo Lake and Profile Lake, standing in the very jaws of the Notch,
overhung on the one side by Cannon Mountain and on the other by a bold
spur of Lafayette, it makes a contrast between the elegance and order of
civilization and the untouched ruggedness and sublimity of nature
scarcely anywhere else to be seen.

The hotel was still full, and when King entered the great lobby and
office in the evening a very animated scene met his eye.  A big fire of
logs was blazing in the ample chimney-place; groups were seated about at
ease, chatting, reading, smoking; couples promenaded up and down; and
from the distant parlor, through the long passage, came the sound of the
band.  It was easy to see at a glance that the place had a distinct
character, freedom from conventionality, and an air of reposeful
enjoyment.  A large proportion of the assembly being residents for the
summer, there was so much of the family content that the transient
tourists could little disturb it by the introduction of their element of
worry and haste.

King found here many acquaintances, for fashion follows a certain
routine, and there is a hidden law by which the White Mountains break the
transition from the sea-coast to Lenox.  He was therefore not surprised
to be greeted by Mrs. Cortlandt, who had arrived the day before with her
usual train.

"At the end of the season," she said, "and alone?"

"I expect to meet friends here."

"So did I ; but they have gone, or some of them have."

"But mine are coming tomorrow.  Who has gone?"

"Mrs. Pendragon and the Bensons.  But I didn't suppose I could tell you
any news about the Bensons."

"I have been out of the way of the newspapers lately.  Did you happen to
hear where they have gone?"

"Somewhere around the mountains.  You need not look so indifferent; they
are coming back here again.  They are doing what I must do; and I wish
you would tell me what to see.  I have studied the guide-books till my
mind is a blank.  Where shall I go?"

"That depends.  If you simply want to enjoy yourselves, stay at this
hotel--there is no better place--sit on the piazza, look at the
mountains, and watch the world as it comes round.  If you want the best
panoramic view of the mountains, the Washington and Lafayette ranges
together, go up to the Waumbec House.  If you are after the best single
limited view in the mountains, drive up to the top of Mount Willard, near
the Crawford House--a delightful place to stay in a region full of
associations, Willey House, avalanche, and all that.  If you would like
to take a walk you will remember forever, go by the carriage road from
the top of Mount Washington to the Glen House, and look into the great
gulfs, and study the tawny sides of the mountains.  I don't know anything
more impressive hereabouts than that.  Close to, those granite ranges
have the color of the hide of the rhinoceros; when you look up to them
from the Glen House, shouldering up into the sky, and rising to the
cloud-clapped summit of Washington, it is like a purple highway into the
infinite heaven.  No, you must not miss either Crawford's or the Glen
House; and as to Mount Washington, that is a duty."

"You might personally conduct us and expound by the way."

King said he would like nothing better.  Inquiry failed to give him any
more information of the whereabouts of the Bensons; but the clerk said
they were certain to return to the Profile House.  The next day the party
which had been left behind at Alexandria Bay appeared, in high spirits,
and ready for any adventure.  Mrs. Farquhar declared at once that she had
no scruples about going up Washington, commonplace as the trip was, for
her sympathies were now all with the common people.  Of course Mount
Washington was of no special importance, now that the Black Mountains
were in the Union, but she hadn't a bit of prejudice.

King praised her courage and her patriotism.  But perhaps she did not
know how much she risked.  He had been talking with some habitue's of the
Profile, who had been coming here for years, and had just now for the
first time been up Mount Washington, and they said that while the trip
was pleasant enough, it did not pay for the exertion.  Perhaps Mrs.
Farquhar did not know that mountain-climbing was disapproved of here as
sea-bathing was at Newport.  It was hardly the thing one would like to
do, except, of course, as a mere lark, and, don't you know, with a party.

Mrs. Farquhar said that was just the reason she wanted to go.  She was
willing to make any sacrifice; she considered herself just a missionary
of provincialism up North, where people had become so cosmopolitan that
they dared not enjoy anything.  She was an enemy of the Boston
philosophy.  What is the Boston philosophy?  Why, it is not to care about
anything you do care about.

The party that was arranged for this trip included Mrs. Cortlandt and her
bevy of beauty and audacity, Miss Lamont and her uncle, Mrs. Farquhar,
the artist, and the desperate pilgrim of love.  Mrs. Farquhar vowed to
Forbes that she had dragged King along at the request of the proprietor
of the hotel, who did not like to send a guest away, but he couldn't have
all the trees at Profile Lake disfigured with his cutting and carving.
People were running to him all the while to know what it meant with
"I. B.," " I. B.," " I. B.," everywhere, like a grove of Baal.

From the junction to Fabyan's they rode in an observation car, all open,
and furnished with movable chairs, where they sat as in a balcony.  It
was a picturesque load of passengers.  There were the young ladies in
trim traveling-suits, in what is called compact fighting trim; ladies in
mourning; ladies in winter wraps; ladies in Scotch wraps; young men with
shawl-straps and opera-glasses, standing, legs astride, consulting maps
and imparting information; the usual sweet pale girl with a bundle of
cat-tails and a decorative intention; and the nonchalant young man in a
striped English boating cap, who nevertheless spoke American when he said
anything.

As they were swinging slowly along the engine suddenly fell into a panic,
puffing and sending up shrill shrieks of fear in rapid succession.  There
was a sedate cow on the track.  The engine was agitated, it shrieked more
shrilly, and began backing in visible terror.  Everybody jumped and stood
up, and the women clung to the men, all frightened.  It was a beautiful
exhibition of the sweet dependence of the sex in the hour of danger.
The cow was more terrible than a lion on the track.  The passengers all
trembled like the engine.  In fact, the only calm being was the cow,
which, after satisfying her curiosity, walked slowly off, wondering what
it was all about.

The cog-wheel railway is able to transport a large number of
excursionists to the top of the mountain in the course of the morning.
The tourists usually arrive there about the time the mist has crept up
from the valleys and enveloped everything.  Our party had the common
experience.  The Summit House, the Signal Station, the old Tip-top House,
which is lashed down with cables, and rises ten feet higher than the
highest crag, were all in the clouds.  Nothing was to be seen except the
dim outline of these buildings.

"I wonder," said Mrs. Farquhar, as they stumbled along over the slippery
stones, "what people come here for."

"Just what we came for," answered Forbes to say they have been on top of
the mountain."

They took refuge in the hotel, but that also was invaded by the damp,
chill atmosphere, wrapped in and pervaded by the clouds.  From the
windows nothing more was to be seen than is visible in a Russian steam
bath.  But the tourists did not mind.  They addressed themselves to the
business in hand.  This was registering their names.  A daily newspaper
called Among the Clouds is published here, and every person who gets his
name on the register in time can see it in print before the train goes.
When the train descends, every passenger has one of these two-cent
certificates of his exploit.  When our party entered, there was a great
run on the register, especially by women, who have a repugnance, as is
well known, to seeing their names in print.  In the room was a hot stove,
which was more attractive than the cold clouds, but unable to compete in
interest with the register.  The artist, who seemed to be in a sardonic
mood, and could get no chance to enter his name, watched the scene, while
his friends enjoyed the view of the stove.  After registering, the
visitors all bought note-paper with a chromo heading, "Among the Clouds,"
and a natural wild-flower stuck on the corner, and then rushed to the
writing-room in order to indite an epistle "from the summit."  This is
indispensable.

After that they were ready for the Signal Station.  This is a great
attraction.  The sergeant in charge looked bored to death, and in the
mood to predict the worst kind of weather.  He is all day beset with a
crowd craning their necks to look at him, and bothered with ten thousand
questions.  He told King that the tourists made his life miserable; they
were a great deal worse than the blizzards in the winter.  And the
government, he said, does not take this into account in his salary.

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >



Other sites:

db3nf.com screen-capture.net floresca.net simonova.net flora-source.com flora-source.com sourcecentral.com sourcecentral.com geocities.com