This essay was published in the Eagle, Vol. 1, No. 5. in the Easter Term, 1859. It describes a holiday trip made by Butler in June, 1857, in company with a friend whose name, which was Joseph Green, Butler Italianised as Giuseppe Verdi. I am permitted by Professor Bonney to quote a few words from a private letter of his referring to Butler’s tour: “It was remarkable in the amount of ground covered and the small sum spent, but still more in the direction taken in the first part of the tour. Dauphiné was then almost a Terra Incognita to English or any other travellers.”
[From the Eagle, Vol. 1, No. 5, Easter Term, 1859, p. 241.]
As the vacation is near, and many may find themselves with three weeks’ time on their hand, five-and-twenty pounds in their pockets, and the map of Europe before them, perhaps the following sketch of what can be effected with such money and in such time, may not come amiss to those, who, like ourselves a couple of years ago, are in doubt how to enjoy themselves most effectually after a term’s hard reading.page 212
To some, probably, the tour we decided upon may seem too hurried, and the fatigue too great for too little profit; still even to these it may happen that a portion of the following pages may be useful. Indeed, the tour was scarcely conceived at first in its full extent, originally we had intended devoting ourselves entirely to the French architecture of Normandy and Brittany. Then we grew ambitious, and stretched our imaginations to Paris. Then the longing for a snowy mountain waxed, and the love of French Gothic waned, and we determined to explore the French Alps. Then we thought that we must just step over them and take a peep into Italy, and so, disdaining to return by the road we had already travelled, we would cut off the north-west corner of Italy, and cross the Alps again into Switzerland, where, of course, we must see the cream of what was to be seen; and then thinking it possible that our three weeks and our five-and-twenty pounds might be looking foolish, we would return, via Strasburg to Paris, and so to Cambridge. This plan we eventually carried into execution, spending not a penny more money, nor an hour’s more time; and, despite the declarations which met us on all sides that we could never achieve anything like all we had intended, I hope to be able to show how we did achieve it, and how anyone else may do the like if he has a mind. A person with a good deal of energy might do much more than this; we ourselves had at one time entertained thoughts of going to Rome for two days, and thence to Naples, walking over the Monte St. Angelo from Castellamare to Amalfi (which for my own part I cherish with fond affection, as being far the most lovely thing that I have ever page 213 seen), and then returning as with a Nunc Dimittis, and I still think it would have been very possible; but, on the whole, such a journey would not have been so well, for the long tedious road between Marseilles and Paris would have twice been traversed by us, to say nothing of the sea journey between Marseilles and Cività Vecchia. However, no more of what might have been, let us proceed to what was.
If on Tuesday, June 9 [i.e. 1857], you leave London Bridge at six o’clock in the morning, you will get (via Newhaven) to Dieppe at fifteen minutes past three. If on landing you go to the Hôtel Victoria, you will find good accommodation and a table d’hôte at five o’clock; you can then go and admire the town, which will not be worth admiring, but which will fill you with pleasure on account of the novelty and freshness of everything you meet; whether it is the old bonnet-less, short-petticoated women walking arm and arm with their grandsons, whether the church with its quaint sculpture of the Entombment of our Lord, and the sad votive candles ever guttering in front of it, or whether the plain evidence that meets one at every touch and turn, that one is among people who live out of doors very much more than ourselves, or what not—all will be charming, and if you are yourself in high spirits and health, full of anticipation and well inclined to be pleased with all you see, Dieppe will appear a very charming place, and one which a year or two hence you will fancy that you would like to revisit. But now we must leave it at forty-five minutes past seven, and at twelve o’clock on Tuesday night we shall find ourselves in Paris. We drive off to the Hôtel de Normandie in the Rue St. Honoré, 290 (I think), page 214 stroll out and get a cup of coffee, and return to bed at one o’clock.
The next day we spent in Paris, and of it no account need be given, save perhaps the reader may be advised to ascend the Arc de Triomphe, and not to waste his time in looking at Napoleon’s hats and coats and shoes in the Louvre; to eschew all the picture rooms save the one with the Murillos, and the great gallery, and to dine at the Dîners de Paris. If he asks leave to wash his hands before dining there, he will observe a little astonishment among the waiters at the barbarian cleanliness of the English, and be shown into a little room, where a diminutive bowl will be proffered to him, of which more anon; let him first (as we did) wash or rather sprinkle his face as best he can, and then we will tell him after dinner what we generally do with the bowls in question. I forget how many things they gave us, but I am sure many more than would be pleasant to read, nor do I remember any circumstance connected with the dinner, save that on occasion of one of the courses, the waiter perceiving a little perplexity on my part as to how I should manage an artichoke served à la française, feelingly removed my knife and fork from my hand and cut it up himself into six mouthfuls, returning me the whole with a sigh of gratitude for the escape of the artichoke from a barbarous and unnatural end; and then after dinner they brought us little tumblers of warm lavender scent and water to wash our mouths out, and the little bowls to spit into; but enough of eating, we must have some more coffee at a café on the Boulevards, watch the carriages and the people and the dresses and the sunshine and all the pomps and page 215 vanities which the Boulevards have not yet renounced; return to the inn, fetch our knapsacks, and be off to the Chemin de Fer de Lyon by forty-five minutes past seven; our train leaves at five minutes past eight, and we are booked to Grenoble. All night long the train speeds towards the south. We leave Sens with its grey cathedral solemnly towering in the moonlight a mile on the left. (How few remember, that to the architect William of Sens we owe Canterbury Cathedral.) Fontainebleau is on the right, station after station wakes up our dozing senses, while ever in our ears are ringing as through the dim light we gaze on the surrounding country, “the pastures of Switzerland and the poplar valleys of France.”
It is still dark—as dark, that is, as the midsummer night will allow it to be, when we are aware that we have entered on a tunnel; a long tunnel, very long—I fancy there must be high hills above it; for I remember that some few years ago when I was travelling up from Marseilles to Paris in midwinter, all the way from Avignon (between which place and Châlon the railway was not completed), there had been a dense frozen fog; on neither hand could anything beyond the road be descried, while every bush and tree was coated with a thick and steadily increasing fringe of silver hoar-frost, for the night and day, and half-day that it took us to reach this tunnel, all was the same—bitter cold dense fog and ever silently increasing hoar- frost: but on emerging from it, the whole scene was completely changed; the air was clear, the sun shining brightly, no hoar-frost and only a few patches of fast melting snow, everything in fact betokening a thaw of some days’ duration. Another thing I know page 216 about this tunnel which makes me regard it with veneration as a boundary line in countries, namely, that on every high ground after this tunnel on clear days Mont Blanc may be seen. True, it is only very rarely seen, but I have known those who have seen it; and accordingly touch my companion on the side, and say, “We are within sight of the Alps”; a few miles farther on and we are at Dijon. It is still very early morning, I think about three o’clock, but we feel as if we were already at the Alps, and keep looking anxiously out for them, though we well know that it is a moral impossibility that we should see them for some hours at the least. Indian corn comes in after Dijon; the oleanders begin to come out of their tubs; the peach trees, apricots, and nectarines unnail themselves from the walls, and stand alone in the open fields. The vineyards are still scrubby, but the practised eye readily detects with each hour some slight token that we are nearer the sun than we were, or, at any rate, farther from the North Pole. We don’t stay long at Dijon nor at Châlon, at Lyons we have an hour to wait; breakfast off a basin of café au lait and a huge hunch of bread, get a miserable wash, compared with which the spittoons of the Dîners de Paris were luxurious, and return in time to proceed to St. Rambert, whence the railroad branches off to Grenoble. It is very beautiful between Lyons and St. Rambert. The mulberry trees show the silkworm to be a denizen of the country, while the fields are dazzlingly brilliant with poppies and salvias; on the other side of the Rhône rise high cloud-capped hills, but towards the Alps we strain our eyes in vain.
At St. Rambert the railroad to Grenoble branches page 217 off at right angles to the main line, it was then only complete as far as Rives, now it is continued the whole way to Grenoble; by which the reader will save some two or three hours, but miss a beautiful ride from Rives to Grenoble by the road. The valley bears the name of Grésivaudan. It is very rich and luxuriant, the vineyards are more Italian, the fig trees larger than we have yet seen them, patches of snow whiten the higher hills, and we feel that we are at last indeed among the outskirts of the Alps themselves. I am told that we should have stayed at Voreppe, seen the Grande Chartreuse (for which see Murray), and then gone on to Grenoble, but we were pressed for time and could not do everything. At Grenoble we arrived about two o’clock, washed comfortably at last and then dined; during dinner a calèche was preparing to drive us on to Bourg d’Oisans, a place some six or seven and thirty miles farther on, and by thirty minutes past three we find ourselves reclining easily within it, and digesting dinner with the assistance of a little packet, for which we paid one-and-fourpence at the well-known shop of Mr. Bacon, Market- square, Cambridge. It is very charming. The air is sweet, warm, and sunny, there has been bad weather for some days here, but it is clearing up; the clouds are lifting themselves hour by hour, we are evidently going to have a pleasant spell of fine weather. The calèche jolts a little, and the horse is decidedly shabby, both qua horse and qua harness, but our moustaches are growing, and our general appearance is in keeping. The wine was very pleasant at Grenoble, and we have a pound of ripe cherries between us; so, on the whole, we would not change with his Royal Highness Prince page 218 Albert or all the Royal Family, and jolt on through the long straight poplar avenue that colonnades the road above the level swamp and beneath the hills, and turning a sharp angle enter Vizille, a wretched place, only memorable because from this point we begin definitely, though slowly, to enter the hills and ascend by the side of the Romanche through the valley, which that river either made or found—who knows or cares? But we do know very well that we are driving up a very exquisitely beautiful valley, that the Romanche takes longer leaps from rock to rock than she did, that the hills have closed in upon us, that we see more snow each time the valley opens, that the villages get scantier, and that at last a great giant iceberg walls up the way in front, and we feast our eyes on the long-desired sight till after that the setting sun has tinged it purple (a sure sign of a fine day), its ghastly pallor shows us that the night is upon us. It is cold, and we are not sorry at half-past nine to find ourselves at Bourg d’Oisans, where there is a very fair inn kept by one Martin; we get a comfortable supper of eggs and go to bed fairly tired.
This we must remind the reader is Thursday night, on Tuesday morning we left London, spent one day in Paris, and are now sleeping among the Alps, sharpish work, but very satisfactory, and a prelude to better things by and by. The next day we made rather a mistake, instead of going straight on to Briançon we went up a valley towards Mont Pelvoux (a mountain nearly 14,000 feet high), intending to cross a high pass above La Bérarde down to Briançon, but when we got to St. Christophe we were told the pass would not be open till August, so returned and page 219 slept a second night at Bourg d’Oisans. The valley, however, was all that could be desired, mingled sun and shadow, tumbling river, rich wood, and mountain pastures, precipices all around, and snow-clad summits continually unfolding themselves; Murray is right in calling the valley above Venosc a scene of savage sterility. At Venosc, in the poorest of hostelries was a tuneless cracked old instrument, half piano, half harpsichord—how it ever found its way there we were at a loss to conceive—and an irrelevant clock that struck seven times by fits and starts at its own convenience during our one o’clock dinner; we returned to Bourg d’Oisans at seven, and were in bed by nine.
Saturday, June 13.
Having found that a conveyance to Briançon was beyond our finances, and that they would not take us any distance at a reasonable charge, we determined to walk the whole fifty miles in the day, and half-way down the mountains, sauntering listlessly accordingly left Bourg d’Oisans at a few minutes before five in the morning. The clouds were floating over the uplands, but they soon began to rise, and before seven o’clock the sky was cloudless; along the road were passing hundreds of people (though it was only five in the morning) in detachments of from two to nine, with cattle, sheep, pigs, and goats, picturesque enough but miserably lean and gaunt: we leave them to proceed to the fair, and after a three miles’ level walk through a straight poplar avenue, commence ascending far above the Romanche; all day long we slowly ascend, stopping occasionally to refresh ourselves with vin ordinaire and water, but making steady way in the main, though heavily weighted and page 220 under a broiling sun,at one we reach La Grave, which is opposite the Mont de Lans, a most superb mountain. The whole scene equal to anything in Switzerland, as far as the mountains go. The Mont de Lans is opposite the windows, seeming little more than a stone’s throw off, and causing my companion (whose name I will, with his permission, Italianise into that of the famous composer Giuseppe Verdi) to think it a mere nothing to mount to the top of those sugared pinnacles which he will not believe are many miles distant in reality. After dinner we trudge on, the scenery constantly improving, the snow drawing down to us, and the Romanche dwindling hourly; we reach the top of the Col du Lautaret, which Murray must describe; I can only say that it is first-class scenery. The flowers are splendid, acres and acres of wild narcissus, the Alpine cowslip, gentians, large purple and yellow anemones, soldanellas, and the whole kith and kin of the high Alpine pasture flowers; great banks of snow lie on each side of the road, and probably will continue to do so till the middle of July, while all around are glaciers and precipices innumerable.
We only got as far as Monêtier after all, for, reaching that town at half-past eight, and finding that Briancon was still eight miles further on, we preferred resting there at the miserable but cheap and honest Hôtel de l’Europe; had we gone on a little farther we should have found a much better one, but we were tired with our forty-two miles’ walk, and, after a hasty supper and a quiet pipe, over which we watch the last twilight on the Alps above Briançon, we turn in very tired but very much charmed.
Sunday morning was the clearest and freshest page 221 morning that ever tourists could wish for, the grass crisply frozen (for we are some three or four thousand feet above the sea), the glaciers descending to a level but little higher than the road; a fine range of Alps in front over Briançon, and the road winding down past a new river (for we have long lost the Romanche) towards the town, which is some six or seven miles distant.
It was a fête—the Fête du bon Dieu, celebrated annually on this day throughout all this part of the country; in all the villages there were little shrines erected, adorned with strings of blue corncockle, narcissus heads, and poppies, bunches of green, pink, and white calico, moss and fir-tree branches, and in the midst of these tastefully arranged bowers was an image of the Virgin and her Son, with whatever other saints the place was possessed of.
At Briançon, which we reached (in a trap) at eight o’clock, these demonstrations were more imposing, but less pleasing; the soldiers, too, were being drilled and exercised, and the whole scene was one of the greatest animation, such as Frenchmen know how to exhibit on the morning of a gala day.
Leaving our trap at Briançon and making a hasty breakfast at the Hôtel de la Paix, we walked up a very lonely valley towards Cervières. I dare not say how many hours we wended our way up the brawling torrent without meeting a soul or seeing a human habitation; it was fearfully hot too, and we longed for vin ordinaire; Cervières seemed as though it never would come—still the same rugged precipices, snow-clad heights, brawling torrent, and stony road, butterflies beautiful and innumerable, flowers to match, sky cloudless. At last we are there; through the town, page 222 or rather village, the river rushes furiously, the dismantled houses and gaping walls affording palpable traces of the fearful inundations of the previous year, not a house near the river was sound, many quite uninhabitable, and more such as I am sure few of us would like to inhabit. However, it is Cervières such as it is, and we hope for our vin ordinaire; but, alas!—not a human being, man, woman or child, is to be seen, the houses are all closed, the noonday quiet holds the hill with a vengeance, unbroken, save by the ceaseless roar of the river.
While we were pondering what this loneliness could mean, and wherefore we were unable to make an entrance even into the little auberge that professed to loger à pied et à cheval, a kind of low wail or chaunt began to make itself heard from the other side of the river; wild and strange, yet full of a music of its own, it took my friend and myself so much by surprise that we almost thought for the moment that we had trespassed on to the forbidden ground of some fairy people who lived alone here, high amid the sequestered valleys where mortal steps were rare, but on going to the corner of the street we were undeceived indeed, but most pleasurably surprised by the pretty spectacle that presented itself.
For from the church opposite first were pouring forth a string of young girls clad in their Sunday’s best, then followed the youths, as in duty bound, then came a few monks or friars or some such folk, carrying the Virgin, then the men of the place, then the women and lesser children, all singing after their own rough fashion; the effect was electrical, for in a few minutes the procession reached us, and dispersing itself far and page 223 wide, filled the town with as much life as it had before been lonely. It was like a sudden introduction of the whole company on to the theatre after the stage has been left empty for a minute, and to us was doubly welcome as affording us some hope of our wine.
“Vous êtes Piedmontais, monsieur,” said one to me. I denied the accusation. “Alors vous êtes Allemands.” I again denied and said we were English, whereon they opened their eyes wide and said, “Anglais,—mais c’est une autre chose,” and seemed much pleased, for the alliance was then still in full favour. It caused them a little disappointment that we were Protestants, but they were pleased at being able to tell us that there was a Protestant minister higher up the valley which we said would “do us a great deal of pleasure.”
The vin ordinaire was execrable—they only, however, charged us nine sous for it, and on our giving half a franc and thinking ourselves exceedingly stingy for not giving a whole one, they shouted out “Voilà les Anglais, voilà la generosité des Anglais,” with evident sincerity. I thought to myself that the less we English corrupted the primitive simplicity of these good folks the better; it was really refreshing to find several people protesting about one’s generosity for having paid a halfpenny more for a bottle of wine than was expected; at Monêtier we asked whether many English came there, and they told us yes, a great many, there had been fifteen there last year, but I should imagine that scarcely fifteen could travel up past Cervières, and yet the English character be so little known as to be still evidently popular.
I don’t know what o’clock it was when we left page 224 Cervières—midday I should imagine; we left the river on our left and began to ascend a mountain pass called Izouard, as far as I could make out, but will not pledge myself to have caught the name correctly; it was more lonely than ever, very high, much more snow on the top than on the previous day over the Col du Lautaret, the path scarcely distinguishable, indeed quite lost in many places, very beautiful but not so much so as the Col du Lautaret, and better on descending towards Queyras than on ascending; from the summit of the pass the view of the several Alpine chains about is very fine, but from the entire absence of trees of any kind it is more rugged and barren than I altogether liked; going down towards Queyras we found the letters S.I.C. marked on a rock, evidently with the spike of an alpine-stock,—we wondered whether they stood for St. John’s College.
We reached Queyras at about four very tired, for yesterday’s work was heavy, and refresh ourselves with a huge omelette and some good Provence wine.
Reader, don’t go into that auberge, carry up provision from Briançon, or at any rate carry the means of eating it: they have only two knives in the place, one for the landlord and one for the landlady; these are clasp knives, and they carry them in their pockets; I used the landlady’s, my companion had the other; the room was very like a cow-house—dark, wooden, and smelling strongly of manure; outside I saw that one of the beams supporting a huge projecting balcony that ran round the house was resting on a capital of white marble—a Lombard capital that had evidently seen better days, they could not tell us whence it came. Meat they have none, so page 225 we gorge ourselves with omelette, and at half-past five trudge on, for we have a long way to go yet, and no alternative but to proceed.
Abriès is the name of the place we stopped at that night; it was pitch-dark when we reached it, and the whole town was gone to bed, but by great good luck we found a café still open (the inn was shut up for the night), and there we lodged. I dare not say how many miles we had walked, but we were still plucky, and having prevailed at last on the landlord to allow us clean sheets on our beds instead of the dirty ones he and his wife had been sleeping on since Christmas, and making the best of the solitary decanter and pie dish which was all the washing implements we were allowed (not a toothmug even extra), we had coffee and bread and brandy for supper, and retired at about eleven to the soundest sleep in spite of our somewhat humble accommodation. If nasty, at any rate it was cheap; they charged us a franc a piece for our suppers, beds, and two cigars; we went to the inn to breakfast, where, though the accommodation was somewhat better, the charge was most extortionate. Murray is quite right in saying the travellers should bargain beforehand at this inn (chez Richard); I think they charged us five francs for the most ordinary breakfast. From this place we started at about nine, and took a guide as far as the top of the Col de la Croix Haute, having too nearly lost our way yesterday; the paths have not been traversed much yet, and the mule and sheep droppings are but scanty indicators of the direction of paths of which the winds and rain have obliterated all other traces.
The Col de la Croix Haute is rightly named, it was page 226 very high, but not so hard to ascend until we reached the snow. On the Italian side it is terribly steep, from the French side, however, the slope is more gradual. The snow was deeper at the top of this pass than on either of the two previous days; in many places we sank deep in, but had no real difficulty in crossing; on the Italian side the snow was gone and the path soon became clear enough, so we sent our guide to the right about and trudged on alone.
A sad disappointment, however, awaited us, for instead of the clear air that we had heretofore enjoyed, the clouds were rolling up from the valley, and we entirely lost the magnificent view of the plains of Lombardy which we ought to have seen; this was our first mishap, and we bore it heroically. A lunch may be had at Prali, and there the Italian tongue will be heard for the first time.
We must have both looked very questionable personages, for I remember that a man present asked me for a cigar; I gave him two, and he proffered a sou in return as a matter of course.
Shortly below Prali the clouds drew off, or rather we reached a lower level, so that they were above us, and now the walnut and the chestnut, the oak and the beech have driven away the pines of the other side, not that there were many of them; soon, too, the vineyards come in, the Indian corn again flourishes everywhere, the cherries grow ripe as we descend, and in an hour or two we felt to our great joy that we were fairly in Italy.
The descent is steep beyond compare, for La Tour, which we reached by four o’clock, is quite on the plain, very much on a level with Turin—I do not page 227 remember any descent between the two—and the pass cannot be much under eight thousand feet.
Passports are asked at Bobbio, but the very sight of the English name was at that time sufficient to cause the passport to be returned unscrutinised.
La Tour is a Protestant place, or at any rate chiefly so, indeed all the way from Cervières we have been among people half Protestant and half Romanist; these were the Waldenses of the Middle Ages, they are handsome, particularly the young women, and I should fancy an honest simple race enough, but not over clean.
As a proof that we were in Italy we happened while waiting for table d’hôte to be leaning over the balcony that ran round the house and passed our bedroom door, when a man and a girl came out with two large pails in their hands, and we watched them proceed to a cart with a barrel in it, which was in a corner of the yard; we had been wondering what was in the barrel and were glad to see them commence tapping it, when lo! out spouted the blood-red wine with which they actually half filled their pails before they left the spot. This was as Italy should be. After dinner, too, as we stroll in the showy Italian sort of piazza near the inn, the florid music which fills the whole square, accompanied by a female voice of some pretensions, again thoroughly Italianises the scene, and when she struck up our English national anthem (with such a bass accompaniment!) nothing could be imagined more incongruous.
Sleeping at La Tour at the hotel kept by M. Gai (which is very good, clean, and cheap), we left next morning, i.e. Tuesday, June 16, at four by diligence page 228 for Pinerolo, thence by rail to Turin where we spent the day. It was wet and we saw no vestiges of the Alps.
Turin is a very handsome city, very regularly built, the streets running nearly all parallel to and at right angles with each other; there are no suburbs, and the consequence is that at the end of every street one sees the country; the Alps surround the city like a horseshoe, and hence many of the streets seem actually walled in with a snowy mountain. Nowhere are the Alps seen to greater advantage than from Turin. I speak from the experience, not of the journey I am describing, but of a previous one. From the Superga the view is magnificent, but from the hospital for soldiers just above the Po on the eastern side of the city the view is very similar, and the city seen to greater advantage. The Po is a fine river, but very muddy, not like the Ticino which has the advantage of getting washed in the Lago Maggiore. On the whole Turin is well worth seeing. Leaving it, however, on Wednesday morning we arrived at Arona about half-past eleven: the country between the two places is flat, but rich and well cultivated: much rice is grown, and in consequence the whole country easily capable of being laid under water, a thing which I should imagine the Piedmontese would not be slow to avail themselves of; we ought to have had the Alps as a background to the view, but they were still veiled. It was here that a countryman, seeing me with one or two funny little pipes which I had bought in Turin, asked me if I was a fabricante di pipi—a pipe-maker.
By the time that we were at Arona the sun had appeared, and the clouds were gone; here, too, we determined to halt for half a day, neither of us being page 229 quite the thing, so after a visit to the colossal statue of San Carlo, which is very fine and imposing, we laid ourselves down under the shade of some chestnut trees above the lake, and enjoyed the extreme beauty of everything around us, until we fell fast asleep, and yet even in sleep we seemed to retain a consciousness of the unsurpassable beauty of the scene. After dinner (we were stopping at the Hôtel de la Poste, a very nice inn indeed) we took a boat and went across the lake to Angera, a little town just opposite; it was in the Austrian territory, but they made no delay about admitting us; the reason of our excursion was, that we might go and explore the old castle there, which is seated on an inconsiderable eminence above the lake. It affords an excellent example of Italian domestic Gothic of the Middle Ages; San Carlo was born and resided here, and, indeed, if saintliness were to depend upon beauty of natural scenery, no wonder at his having been a saint.
The castle is only tenanted by an old man who keeps the place; we found him cooking his supper over a small crackling fire of sticks, which he had lighted in the main hall; his feeble old voice chirps about San Carlo this and San Carlo that as we go from room to room. We have no carpets here—plain honest brick floors—the chairs, indeed, have once been covered with velvet, but they are now so worn that one can scarcely detect that they have been so, the tables warped and worm-eaten, the few, that is, that remained there, the shutters cracked and dry with the sun and summer of so many hundred years—no Renaissance work here, yet for all that there was something about it which made it to me the only page 230 really pleasurable nobleman’s mansion that I have ever been over; the view from the top is superb, and then the row home to Arona, the twinkling lights softly gleaming in the lake, the bells jangling from the tall and gaudy campaniles, the stillness of the summer night—so warm and yet so refreshing on the water; hush, there are some people singing—how sweetly their voices are borne to us upon the slight breath of wind that alone is stirring; oh, it is a cruel thing to think of war in connection with such a spot as this, and yet from this very Angera to this very Arona it is that the Austrians have been crossing to commence their attack on Sardinia. I fear these next summer nights will not be broken with the voice of much singing and that we shall have to hush for the roaring of cannon.
I never knew before how melodiously frogs can croak—there is a sweet guttural about some of these that I never heard in England: before going to bed, I remember particularly one amorous batrachian courting malgrè sa maman regaled us with a lusciously deep rich croak, that served as a good accompaniment for the shrill whizzing sound of the cigales.
My space is getting short, but fortunately we are getting on to ground better known; I will therefore content myself with sketching out the remainder of our tour and leaving the reader to Murray for descriptions.
We left Arona with regret on Thursday morning (June 18), took steamer to the Isola Bella, which is an example of how far human extravagance and folly can spoil a rock, which had it been left alone would have been very beautiful, and thence by a little boat page 231 went to Baveno; thence we took diligence for Domo d’Ossola; the weather clouded towards evening and big raindrops beginning to descend we thought it better to proceed at once by the same diligence over the Simplon; we did not care to walk the pass in wet, therefore leaving Domo d’Ossola at ten o’clock that night we arrived at Iselle about two; the weather clearing we saw the gorge of Gondo and walked a good way up the pass in the early morning by the diligence; breakfasted at Simplon at four o’clock in the morning, and without waiting a moment as soon as we got out at Brieg set off for Visp, which we reached at twelve on foot; we washed and dressed there, dined and advanced to Leuk, and thence up the most exquisitely beautiful road to Leukerbad, which we reached at about eight o’clock after a very fatiguing day. The Hôtel de la France is clean and cheap. Next morning we left at half-past five and, crossing the Gemini, got to Frutigen at half-past one, took an open trap after dinner and drove to Interlaken, which we reached on the Saturday night at eight o’clock, the weather first rate; Sunday we rested at Interlaken; on Monday we assailed the Wengern Alp, but the weather being pouring wet we halted on the top and spent the night there, being rewarded by the most transcendent evening view of the Jungfrau, Eiger, and Mönch in the clear cold air seen through a thin veil of semi-transparent cloud that was continually scudding across them.
Next morning early we descended to Grindelwald, thence past the upper glacier under the Wetterhorn over the Scheidegg to Rosenlaui, where we dined and saw the glacier, after dinner, descending the valley page 232 we visited the falls of Reichenbach (which the reader need not do if he means to see those of the Aar at Handegg), and leaving Meyringen on our left we recommenced an ascent of the valley of the Aar, sleeping at Guttannen, about ten miles farther on.
Next day, i.e. Wednesday, June 24, leaving Guttannen very early, passing the falls of Handegg, which are first rate, we reached the hospice at nine; had some wine there, and crawled on through the snow and up the rocks to the summit of the pass—here we met an old lady, in a blue ugly, with a pair of green spectacles, carried in a chaise à porteur; she had taken it into her head in her old age that she would like to see a little of the world, and here she was. We had seen her lady’s maid at the hospice, concerning whom we were told that she was “bien sage,” and did not scream at the precipices. On the top of the Gemini, too, at half-past seven in the morning, we had met a somewhat similar lady walking alone with a blue parasol over the snow; about half an hour after we met some porters carrying her luggage, and found that she was an invalid lady of Berne, who was walking over to the baths at Leukerbad for the benefit of her health—we scarcely thought there could be much occasion—leaving these two good ladies then, let us descend the Grimsel to the bottom of the glacier of the Rhône, and then ascend the Furka—a stiff pull; we got there by two o’clock, dined (Italian is spoken here again), and finally reached Hospenthal at half-past five after a very long day.
On Thursday walking down to Amstegg and taking a trap to Flüelen, we then embarked on board a steamer and had a most enjoyable ride to Lucerne, where we page 233 slept; Friday to Basle by rail, walking over the Hauenstein, * and getting a magnificent panorama (alas! a final one) of the Alps, and from Basle to Strasburg, where we ascended the cathedral as far as they would let us without special permission from a power they called Mary, and then by the night train to Paris, where we arrived Saturday morning at ten.
Left Paris on Sunday afternoon, slept at Dieppe; left Dieppe Monday morning, got to London at three o’clock or thereabouts, and might have reached Cambridge that night had we been so disposed; next day came safely home to dear old St. John’s, cash in hand 7d.
From my window † in the cool of the summer twilight I look on the umbrageous chestnuts that droop into the river; Trinity library rears its stately proportions on the left; opposite is the bridge; over that, on the right, the thick dark foliage is blackening almost into sombreness as the night draws on. Immediately beneath are the arched cloisters resounding with the solitary footfall of meditative students, and suggesting grateful retirement. I say to myself then, as I sit in my open window, that for a continuance I would rather have this than any scene I have visited during the whole of our most enjoyed tour, and fetch down a Thucydides, for I must go to Shilleto at nine o’clock to-morrow.
* The Hauenstein tunnel was not completed until later. Its construction was delayed by a fall of earth which occurred in 1857 and buried sixty-three workmen.—R. A. S.