28 SEPTEMBER 1867, Page 15


[To THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR."] Pontresina, September 21, 1867. Sin,—Really it's rather nice, you know, seeing one's own ideas in print. We have got my first two letters, and I don't think they read badly at all, especially the bits about domestic matters, which strike me as rather graphic. I mustn't let Hannah and the little ones know, or it'll turn their heads ; and I am sure Hannah's is half way round already, with her "highly respectable" young man, and his father's five houses. You'll like to know she did write, after all, and sent a most reassuring account of my pets ; and her "duty to master, and the taxgatherer have called, and say he have charged him 13s. 2d. for a coat of arms, and I tell him master's coat have arms just like other gentlemen's ; but he pay the taler for them, and I never heard of nobody's being taxed for them ; and he say he don't mean that at all." Edward laughed so, but isn't that too bad ? You see most of my relativei put little crests and things at the top of their note-paper—my sisters Cecilia and Dora, and my cousin Amelia (who is of a Derbyshire family, and you know all the Derbyshire people are rather high in an aristocratic sense), indeed, I may say most of my side of the family ; — and so I got Edward, whose family, I believe, is not quite—well, not exactly, you know, —so highly connected as mine, to let me put a crest at the top of my paper, and now they want me to pay taxes for it, the nasty things ! Well, won't I keep the man waiting for his money after this? It's too bad, and I do wish you would write against charging people for putting a little clasped hand or broken arrow at the top of their note-paper. I am sure Mr. Gladstone wouldn't have approved of that, and that it's all on account of a Tory Goiernment and this new democratic Reform, because they think the common people will grudge us our little distinctions now. I'm sure I think it would be only fair, if I saved the tax out of my poor money, if that's it.

Oh! but about this place we are just leaving, Pontresina. Well, I must say, it really is a lovely place, and there were no brigands behind those great stacks of wood, after all. But how we should have blazed up if we had been once set on fire ! There are two or three spacious dark rooms, all filled with wood. The crone whose house it seems to be says she is insured, and I believe there is a little brass plate on the house saying that it is insured both at Bile and Trieste ; but then it would have been just as bad for us to be burned in our beds in an insured house as in an uninsured, and I'm sure we should not have time to escape. She says there are two or three years' consumption of wood here, but whether for her own house only, or for the inn opposite, a staff appointment in which she seems to have, I don't know. I should have thought they could have supplied all the village for ten years with fire- wood out of it, so you may think how I have looked after sparks. And such hot weather, too ! To be sure, after dark it is chill enough,—Pontresina Tying as high as two Snowdons, one piled on the other ;—but then the air has been so dry, and in the day-time there has been a sun that would have almost turned your paper to tinder. What faces all the climbers have had! There were two Germans at the table d'hôte for several days, off whom I could scarcely take my eyes. They had good-natured, intelligent, acute, reading faces, as of young professors or Privat-Docenie perhaps, and very long noses, which were vermilion with the sun, the brightest vermilion I ever saw, and yet shy, sober, modest noses, that would have been retiring if nature had permitted, which she didn't ; and though these noses seemed to twinkle with gratification at having achieved so much tanning on the mountain side, they yet appeared to apologize for boasting so openly, as it were, of their hardy exposure. We met the double noon of these blazing faces the first day at the table d'hote, and they kindled up Edward's mountaineering zeal in a moment. You remember the poet Campbell's asserting of Hope that she "Lit her torch at Nature's funeral pile?"

Well, Edward was just like her. He lit his torch at the still flaming pyre of those once studious countenances. He spent our first morning in Pontresina, Sunday, I am sorry to say, in working me up to the point of going up the Piz Languard. It was then I felt how terribly the tonic of this wonderful air had told upon him. At Wandsworth, I may say, without any want of modesty, that I am usually mistress of the situation. To be sure, then, like Cornelia, I can point to "my jewels," or, if necessary, fall back on the inscrutable Necessities of a housekeeper's inner world. But at Pontresina, at all events, Edward was too limy for me. I have a dread of ascents. My character is not adventurous,—a good deal of the modest daisy about it. Then, too, I am frail. Rising at four is abhorrent to my whole nature ; and the only alternative,—toiling up perpendicular heights in a blazing sun,—is impossible to me. However, Edward overcame me mightily, lie left me no inter- val from the attack till I had agreed to go, except, indeed, while we were in church,—and that was, unfortunately, "a very short time, for we went to the German service, and these Swiss pastors are so very expeditious in "transacting their devotions," that he got it all over in half an hour, sermon, prayers, hymns, and all. I can't say I followed the sermon. Edward said it was a very trite and empty little homily about "the Unjust Steward," and seemed chiefly intended to economize the Christian faith as much as possi- ble. After service—and when I had given way about the Piz Languard,—we wandered on the hills picking handfuls of the most brilliant little turquoise gentian,—such a wee bright love of a flower !—murmuring snatches of Wordsworth, drinking at the sweetest little streams, and, in short, feeding "these minds of ours with a wise passiveness." Then we descended to dinner, and it was decreed, contrary, I confess, to my inner judgment, that we were to have two horses ready the next morning at five o'clock, and go up the Piz Languard. The horses, you know, only take you about three-fourths of the way. The remaining quarter you must go on foot (with a guide and an alpenstock).

Ah ! how reluctantly I rose,—Edward had been awake all night, I think, looking at his watch by moonlight and by dawn, and filling my dreams with a vague impression of morbid activities. As we let ourselves out of our house to go to breakfast at the inn, we certainly saw a vision I shall never, while I live, forget. The mountains were turned to the richest crimson in the rising sun,— and the scene in the still morning,—" the very houses seemed asleep,"—was one of the strangest and most visionary glory. I could not help whispering to myself, "Arise, shine ; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For behold darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people ; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." Surely Isaiah must have seen such a sunrise as that dyeing the snows of Lebanon, before he wrote his prophecy of a more glorious dawn.

I didn't mean, however, to give way to my feelings, but you must excuse a woman's pen. Well, we breakfasted,—as far as it was possible at that hour,—in company with a little middle-aged German lady, whom, I believe to be, if not Madame Ida Pfeiffer's daughter, destined one day to eclipse that lady's pedestrian fame, by the achievements of a yet more indefatigable pair of legs. "Perhaps leathery seems the word which most exactly expresses her,"—but then in the sense of light elastic leather, like that of a small cricket-ball. She told us she was going up alone with her guide,—not going to ride at all,—remember, it is from three to four hours' stiff climb from 'Pontresina to the top, and a long two hours' and a half back again. She was some time after us in starting. We set off on two strong-looking brutes (but my pony was obviously too fat), through the sweetest morning air you can conceive,—though the flush had vanished from the sky. We almost immediately turned into the pine woods, where the path wound steeply up over knotted tree-roots, and past the edge of most uncomfortable places. We had a man and a boy for our horses, as well as the guide,—who was a handsome, tall, vigorous fellow, with as easy a slouch in going up the stiffest ascents as if he had been strolling in his garden. He was dreadfully inatten- tive to me though, so long as we continued on horseback. When I whimpered a little because my fat pony would stand panting on the very edge, almost over the edge, of the precipices, to recover its breath, and Edward, in the most eloquent German I ever heard, insisted on the guide's attending to me, he only looked scornful, and intimated it was the business of the man who came to lead the horse. But the man who came to lead the horse declared it was the pony's business, and not his, and he would not even let me hold my own bridle. Mildly but firmly he knotted it on the creature's neck, explaining that she herself knew best where to go, and that if she preferred panting on the edge of an abyss, to panting a little distance from the edge, it was better for her, and me, and all of us, that she should pant there, and not elsewhere. I can't say I saw it, but whimpering was no good, so I endured. At last we came out of the pine woods, and saw three white-sheeted peaks glittering quite close to us, above a great stretch of bright green mountain meadow, on which we were emerging,—and then, one after another, peak after peak, forming a great amphitheatre of Alps, grew up almost close under our eyes ;—and, at our feet, as if beauty were vying with power, flower after flower of the most vivid colours, and of the most minute and exquisite finish,—pink saxifrages that I never saw before, three kinds of gentians, and campanulas of many lovely sorts,—enamelled the turf on which we were riding. We had not been winding up the steep and narrow terraced paths many more minutes, when at one of our turns I saw the German lady, pursuing us in the distance with swift, steady tread, reeking little of bogs or stones, swinging along at an even, scientific pace, which my fat courser could not emulate. Her lungs were wonderful, for as she climbed she chattered on, at the same even, swinging pace, to her guide, who gazed on her in mute admiration, as on one of the most wonderful works of this wonderful creation. She passed us once, but she becoming entangled in a bog, we passed her again, and reached the place where we left the horses before her. Here, at last, our guide did pay me some attention. He took my band in his up the dizzy, stony, arduous path, and slouched up as if I were a feather, and the path that famous broad way, —down bill, I conclude,—which so many are said to find. Edward went in advance, and, with his usual impetuosity, started at much too quick a rate. One of his lungs has been inactive for many years back, and a mouth or two ago he had a slight attack upon it, which made him very poorly indeed for a time. So I was more alarmed than surprised to come upon him in about half an hour sitting gasping on some stones, looking as white as a sheet and covered with cold, damp perspiration, as if he were just going to faint. The guide gave him some water, and be recovered his colour ; but I, like the late Mr. Lincoln, put my foot down firmly against going further. Just at this moment, the little German lady, who had walked all the way, skipped past us with her guide, chattering volubly, and recommending Edward not to overdo his strength. It reminded me of a translation I once heard used in a Dissenting chapel of a verse in the 104th Psalm, "The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats, and so are the stony rocks for the mountain mouse." If there be, or ever was, a mountain mouse, that little German lady must have partaken of its moral constitution. She skipped up to the top (5,000 feet above Pontresina, 10,500 above the sea), staid there an hour, skipped down, passed us, who had rested and dawdled on the way back, reached the hotel before the table d'hote, with a very scarlet neck, and triumphantly narrated her achievements to a crowd of plain but admiring young women, as she threw veal, raw ham, "brains," and other nutritious but, to English taste, revolting victuals into the system which had served her so well. We, who had ridden three-fourths of the way, on the contrary, failed abjectly. But I was not going to see Edward really faint away on the edge of a precipice, a thousand miles away from his little family, so I insisted mildly but firmly on de- scending. We met a long string of climbers on the way back, and in answer to inquiries had to explain dejectedly that we had not reached the summit. One young Englishman was towing, by a great leather belt, a fair young lady who wore a linen mask over her face, to shield her face from the sun—and, I suppose, the view. Lower down we met a sturdy English matron of near sixty-five,

I should say, who volunteered an explanation of her position with much bland dignity :—" You see, I told my young people to go on, and not mind me. I just kept this little squire [pointing to a Pontresina lad of 12] to carry my bag, and I shall go just as far as it suits me, and no further,"—here she struck her staff with a firm air on the ground,—" but I would not be a tie on them." Edward said he would give odds that the old lady reached the top, but as I don't bet, and our guide was in deep dejection,—he bad never yet, he said, failed in getting his party to the top,—no one took the bet. We enjoyed our lunch, though, greatly, on the big stone where the horses stop short, and even the guide, having conde- scended to drink a good part of our excellent Inferno wine, and munch a hearty repast, stretched his handsome form upon the rock, and slept vigorously. The view was the better half of the panorama visible from the top, and included all the near Bernina range. There is no Alpine view of such various-coloured peaks. The mountains are not, Edward says, so huge as the Oberland Alps, for they rise from so much higher a tableland that you do not guess at their full height ; but there are so many nearly black peaks as well as brown and grey among them (black peaks are scarcely ever seen in Western Switzerland), and the multitude of glaciers, large and small, is so great, that the peaks often seem inlaid with different colours, and give an effect of colour much richer than that of the mountains in the Tyrol, or even lower down in the Engadin. From the little green lake of St. Moritz, shining like an emerald in the sun, at some four or five miles' distance, the Piz Oet towering above it, and the Piz Jailer, with its huge double glacier close at hand, there was an uninter- rupted chain of peaks of many colours, ten miles at least in length, and none of them more than five miles distant. The grand sweeps of the Morderatsch and the Paradies glaciers were just opposite to us, the little Languard tarn was sparkling on the turf at our feet, and the wide rolling swells of green mountain which made the foreground of all this grandeur, gave a sense of freedom with the power, such as Alpine views seldom afford. Poor Edward was ill in the afternoon with the over-exertion !--of course, we descended on foot. But what could he expect if he won't be guided by me? He says that I never opposed it on the ground of over-fatigue, but only on that of the dangerousness of the way. But I never wish him to be persuaded by my arguments,—only to accept my conclusions. No doubt, men are more logical, but what is the use of that, if they get at a foolish result by a wise method?

We had two more lovely excursions at Pontresina with a Mr. Q., a slim, poetical young man—such a dear !—whom we met at the table d'hôte. He asked to join us in our Einspanner to the top of the Bernina pass, and afterwards to the Roseg glacier, and as he politely insisted on sitting before, by the driver, of course we couldn't object. That was a lovely day on the Bernina. The Bernina, you know, is the watershed between Italy and the Engadin, indeed, in a sense, between the Adriatic and the Black Sea, for the Inn reaches the Black Sea eventually, via the Danube ; and the Adds reaches the Adriatic, via the Po. There are two sweet little lakes upon it, one very black, of spring water, the Lago Nero, which supplies the Inn ;—the other, quite white, full of glacier water, the La.go Bianco, which supplies the Adds. They are the loveliest little lakes, with a sort of Welsh tinge about the surrounding hills. But for the great glacier which supplies the Lago Bianco, and one or two snowpeaks peeping up, we might have thought we were in Wales. We walked all round them, through such a valley of ;rocks, our new friend 51r. Q. discriminating the beauties with great delicacy. A niece of mine, who is writing a great book on "The Watersheds of the World "—she read a most successful paper at the Social Science Association last year —would have enjoyed so being with us ! —but I don't deserve to see these sort of things, for I asked Edward where was the shed over the water, on which he had to explain to me that it meant " shed " in the sense in which a tree sheds its leaves, and not in the sense of the shed in our garden where my little ones are so fond of scampering in the rain.

And what shall I say of the Morderatach and the Roseg glaciers? Why, only that they look much more beautiful at a distance than close at hand, where you can see the dirk—morain, I think they call it,—on their lower snows. They are both more of mere de glace or Eismeer, as they call it in German, than of glaciers in the common sense. You do not see the blue needles of ice, or the deep blue crevasses, half so distinctly as in many of the Oberland glaciers, Edward says. Their prevailing colour is white, not blue, at a distance. I can't say that I think it can have repaid the Princess Alice, who went to the Roseg the day before we did, to have been jogged to death almost as we were, in an Einspanner without springs, only in order to see the dirt and

stones of the morain better. The Princess bore it, they say, like an in a comparatively ignorant time, the story is entirely without


Through the sweet night half-waking I had lain, Lulled by the murmur of the rushing Inn, Which seemed like memory without its pain, The eager years of youth without their sin.

I rise ; in moon-lit curves the glacier spreads, The peaks in ghostly beauty veil their might, The dark firs wave their faintly lighted heads, The landscape seems a phantom of the night.

Those polar snows, lapped in soft summer air,

That ice, which sparkles-back a Southern moon,—

Those black-stoled rocks, like monks in wrath or prayer,

Bowed bare-kneed on the glacier, late and soon,—

Real are they ?--or such dreams of fevered brain As wise men conjure now from sky and sod,—

That- Love shrinks back from Law's advancing reign,—

That the Ice-Sea of Science threatens God ?

There, now, aren't they sweetly pretty ? And it really is rather like the Roseg by moonlight ;—gives the extraordinary dreami-

ness, you know.

We are just off from Pontresina, and I must close. We have fortunately missed the B.'s at Pontresina. They descended over the Bernina pass into Italy, and were, I believe, de- tained at Colic°, on the Lake of Como, on their return, to be fumigated, for they had got into cholera districts. Melisina will be writing a paper on "The Irritation of the Smaller Cells of the Bronchial Tubes caused by the Sanitary Precautions of the Italian State." We had such a disappointment last night ! We drove over to Samaden, to see a beloved uncle and cousins of ours.

They were departed, verreist, and our hearts sank. We only saw General M'Clellan instead, and I believe our carriage nearly knocked him down. He executed a rapid and masterly manceuvre, like the flank march to the James River, to avoid us, and nearly fell into the little river. The shadows were falling as we returned in tender dejection to Pontresina, but the moon showed her pale face above the snow before the crimson light had quite faded from -the opposite heights. There are alleviations to the deepest despair.

angel, and only exclaimed, quoting from Charity Pecksniff, "Oh that I should live to be as shook !" Such were her gracious words. A beautiful youth, whom Edward and Mr. Q. called Apollo, drove us, but I know he took delight in giving us unexpected jogs. His countenance realized the perfect calm after which Mr. Arnold aspires so beautifully. He seemed, however, to feel, with him,—

"Calm's not life's crown, though calm is well," —for with all his serenity he evidently felt life a comparatively in- nocent, and perhaps tedious affair, for which occasional alleviation might be found in causing such fearful jogs as nearly flung us out of the Einspanner. Even Mr. Q. was grieved. He had counted much upon his Roseg glacier excursion, and yet was only fagged by it. He got hot on the morain with his alpenstock, and was visibly ruffled when he rejoined us. He showed us rather bashfully some verses written last night on "The Roseg Glacier," which are rather serious, you know ; but I think, if you don't mind, they would not give you a bad notion of it. Edward told me privately there was more merit in the idea than the expression, which is, I believe, a very sound and favourite form of critical depreciation,—but I thought they were sweetly pretty, and asked Mr. Q. if he would mind their appearing in print, which he bashfully admitted he wouldn't, if you thought them good enough. You won't be so cruel as to say they aren't good enough, and exclude them, or what can I say when I see Mr. Q. again ? You must know the Roseg glacier is dotted with black rocks in grotesque shapes, and one of them is called the Capuchin Friar, on account of what looks like a cape :—