THE ELEVATION OF MAN
Next morning the pleasant party gathered in the house of Johann Jossi, upon the Wengern Alp, was broken up. Governor March, his daughter, the sportive maidens and staid maternal head of the house of Judd all winged their way to the chilly marble halls of the Hotel Wilder Mann at Meiringen, while Marcus Hardy and his friend Harford took to themselves provisions, porters, and guides, and set out for parts unknown. Their guide as usual was Melchior Almer, and their general intention, so far at least as they owned any to each other, was to "traversiren" various first-class peaks — that is, to use the summit of a mountain as a pass, and to climb up one side of it and let themselves down the other.
The small, badly-constructed carriages carried off the Americans rapidly enough, and the two young men were left alone on the steps of the hotel. Each avoided the other's eye, for Marcus had been unusually distrait and awkward, and Keith effusive in leave-taking beyond his wont. So each feared the comment of his companion, and both were silent.
Silent they remained until their own preparations were complete, and they set out. Marcus, whose spirits never suffered more than a momentary overcast, was sad for at least ten minutes at the thought of parting with the three girls — though whether the reserved and difficult Ione March or the many conquested and amenable Idalia had made the deepest mark upon his heart, he could not, for the life of him, have told.
Once, however, that he had settled to his stride, and the valleys began to show a tendency to close up behind him and fall back beneath him, the spirits of Marcus the giant returned. And though (as he said repeatedly) he did three times the work of the others, being taller and heavier, and sank to the knee at every step whenever the snow was soft, his jests and mad pranks filled Trüffer, the chief porter, with explosive laughter, and at times even caused a smile to pass over the grave face of Melchior Almer himself.
At their rude shelter that night on the Gleckstein there arose a noise among the mountains, which, as Almer avowed, must have made the devil stir under the ''Pot-lid-of-Hell" — as the guides called the curious black "Hot-place" on the opposite Viescheraarhorn Glacier, to which the ice would not stick. For while Melchior brewed tea and Keith Harford brooded thoughtfully upon the great mass of the Eiger with the cowled Mönch sulking behind it, the lusty madcap Marcus had stripped and plunged into a little glacier lake, into which a tongue of ice projected at one end, while at the other its pale green waters lapped against a barrier of bare rock. Through this he wallowed and kicked his turbulent way, his white rind gleaming like warm ivory amid the pallor of the surrounding snows.
As he splashed this way and that, Marcus kept calling out how delicious the coolness was, and endeavouring to persuade his companions to join him in the invigorating refreshment of his bath. But Keith Harford took no notice of him at all, and Melchior only came to the door of the hut with the frying-pan in his hand long enough to watch him tolerantly for a moment. "Gott, what a kerl!" said Melchior; "one never knows what these English will do next."
Marcus succeeded better, however, with Trüffer, who, seduced at last by his wilful misrepresentations, stripped and plunged into the lake, while Marcus, affecting uncontrollable ecstasy, hung by his chin to the tongue of ice, and allowed his long legs to be carried beneath the glacier.
As soon as Trüffer realised that the water was ice-cold and bit like frozen metal, he emitted a yell which echoed round and round the circling mountains, and incontinently endeavoured to get out again. But his deceiver caught him by the leg and he returned to his cold bath with a splash like that of a seal diving from a rock.
“Shut up, will you!" growled Marcus in his ear; "let us persuade the other fellows that this is just famous, and get them to come in beside us."
But Trüffer continued to give vent to yell upon yell, being by this time convinced that the "mad Englishman" meant to drown him. At last, after many failures, he succeeded in getting on shore, though the enemy harassed his rear with blows and lumps of ice as he scrambled out, and then swam up and down explaining how delightful was the prickling sensation of the glacier water on the skin, and adjuring the others not to believe that cowardly fellow Trüffer. But the appearance of the porter, whose hide shone with the raw-red of boiled beetroot, was proof more convincing than any of these interested protestations. Whereupon Marcus, being unable to find more victims, resignedly resumed his clothing, declaring that the spirit of enterprise and adventure was dead in the land.
All that week Harford and Hardy remained in the fastnesses of the central Oberland, making excursions in all directions, and either descending upon villages for additional provisions, or dispatching Trüffer in the morning to bring up a supply to their camp amidst the snows.
* * * * *
It was the evening of Saturday, and the marketing peasants were already in their Sunday best, when the party descended by the fairy azure stairway of the Rosenlaui Glacier into the swart pine woods above Meiringen.
Keith Harford and his friend walked in front, carrying their "rüksacks" guide-fashion, with broad canvas straps passed behind their shoulders and crossed over their breasts. The Englishmen plodded on silently, but behind them Melchior and Trüffer kept up a brisk fire of question and ralliment with the broad-faced, tightly-snooded peasant matrons and maids who were driving in the cattle, or carrying the milk from the higher pastures to the home dairy in the valley.
Suddenly, at the recurrence of a name, Keith Harford turned about.
"What did that man say, Melchior," he asked the chief guide.
The peasant, who had spoken in Oberlandish patois, dropped back into the shadow of the pines, so soon as he noticed that what he said was partly understood by Melchior's Herr. The guide seemed unwilling to tell; but at last he said, "This man, Johann Imfeld of Mannlichen, told me that the young American has discharged his guides for being much drunk on the mountain, and that they are to have their certificates and character books taken away from them by the Guides' Commission of the Swiss Alpine Club!"
Keith Harford stared at Melchior as if that grave man had suddenly gone mad.
"What guides, and on which mountain?" he asked hurriedly.
"The man said Christian Schlegel with Peter Jossi — they were drunk on the Eiger."
Marcus gasped. He was about to break out in vehement denial; but with a quick gesture Harford laid his hand on his arm to restrain him from speaking.
"And do you believe this, Melchior?" continued Harford.
Melchior first shrugged his shoulders. Then he shook his head, turning and facing him so that the two English and the two Swiss were face to face.
"I do not know," he answered gravely, "it might have been. There are, alas! few enough of us whom you can trust all night with an unsealed cognac bottle. And Peter, poor fellow, as is too well known, has his failings. But it matters little whether they were drunk or not. Their word will go for nothing before the Alpine Verein if their Herr only swears strongly enough. For, of course, it is to their interest to deny such a thing. Poor fellows, they will have to become ordinary porters. They will carry the ice-axe no longer; and that foolish lad Christian has a large family."
"But heavens and earth, I tell you I saw them with my own eyes!" Marcus was beginning furiously.
But again Keith Harford's hand fell on his arm.
"Wait," he said in English; "don't say a word more now! We will work the thing out together to-night!”
* * * * *
The goldenest hour of evening had come. The paths played hide-and-seek with the pine-trees, and the slanting western sunbeams crissed-crossed both rocks and red boles with intricate patterns of orange light and purple shadow.
In the hollows of the woodland paths, worn concave by ascending and descending generations, the drifted pine-needles were thick and soft to the feet as piled Turkish carpets. The aromatic wildness of dew-laden air sifted through upland fir-woods cooled the throat and lungs and freshened the sunburnt skin of the travellers.
Keith Harford and Marcus were thus descending the last windings of the road beneath the falls, one a little behind the other, the guides still further back, as is the wont of tired Alpinists, when they came upon two girls linked closely arm-in-arm, and walking somewhat apart, a young man in attendance. Ione March was bareheaded, and carried her hat in her hand, swinging it daintily by the brim, while Idalia wore a wide soft mushroom of Siennese straw, which flapped about her face, and by its vagaries added value to her mirth-loving eyes, and to the piquant aspirations of her nose. It was characteristic of the nature of Ione March's engagement that she studiously kept Idalia between her and her not too fervent lover.
"The Beast in Spats, by all that's unholy!" growled Marcus, as they hove in sight. The young men, being yet travel-stained and unshorn, were about to lift their hats and pass on. But Idalia could not permit such a wicked waste of the opportunities afforded her by a merciful providence. So she frankly held out her hand to each of the climbers in turn, beginning with Keith. Ione contented herself with bowing quietly, while the Beast in Spats stood sulkily apart and switched the dust off his boots with a leafy twig, expressing protest, insolence, and discontent in every line of his figure.
"How funny you both look!" cried Idalia. "Mr. Hardy, your nose is peeling just like an onion, in five distinct coats — all different, as they say in the advertisements of stamp packets. No wonder we are warm; I never knew before we were done up in so many coverings. But Mr. Harford is only burnt nicely brown all over, like the crust of a well-done pie. And have you had a lovely time upon the mountains? I am sure you must, but for your guides. Ugh! how uncomfortable it must feel to be all alone with such horrid people."
“Our guide, Melchior Almer," said Keith Harford gently, "is a sort of prince in his country. He is also the crowned head of all guides, and we count it a high honour to be allowed to accompany him."
"How splendid!" cried Idalia, turning mischievously to include her brother in the conversation. "Poor Kearney here has quite another story to tell. His guides behaved abominably, and it was all he could do to get them down off the mountain alive."
Keith Harford turned and looked steadily at Mr. Kearney Judd.
"Which mountain, sir, may I ask?" he said gravely.
"Oh, the Eiger," growled the sulky ex-mountaineer.
He was not in the best of humours at any rate, and it was simply insufferable of Idalia to insist upon carrying on a conversation with this pair of uncouth trampers.
"And what have you been doing all this time?" said Ione to Marcus, speaking for the first time. She felt the insult of her betrothed's manner and tone more keenly than Idalia, both because she was less inured to Kearney's little ways by custom, and because she did not, like that experimental maiden, cast her fly by all waters.
The giant (susceptible youth!) blushed to his brows.
"Oh, nothing very big!" he stammered; "just staying up there and making little trips, you know, trying for new passes, and running over peaks and things!"
"It sounds precisely like taking a penny bus," said Idalia. "And do you have it all put in the papers?"
"Well, no; not exactly," said Marcus; "but sometimes for a lark my friend writes yarns to read to the Club fellows in London. And then they all get up one after another, and say that he is a blithering idiot who has got his routes all wrong. That any baby could better his 'times,' and that each of them knows at least three better ways of getting up."
"What Kearney does isn't a bit like that," said Idalia; "he gets yards and yards put in the papers, and — "
"If we do not get on, it will be too dark to see the falls," interrupted the ex-mountaineer, turning on his heels and abruptly leaving the party without salutation or farewell of any kind.
But as if to mark her sense of the omission of her lover, Ione March shook hands first with Marcus and afterwards with Keith Harford. "Good-night!" was all she said to the latter. But she allowed the dark sweetness of her eyes to rest on his face just that fraction of time which is longer than a glance, and which is not yet long enough to be a look.
Meanwhile Idalia was finishing Marcus Hardy's first lesson. With the quick instinct of the born flirt, she knew in a moment that Keith Harford was more attracted by Ione than by herself: a belief which she expressed with her usual crystalline clearness and directness that night in Ione's bedroom.
"He's your meat, my dear! I'm not talking rubbish. I know. Never mind how, but I know. Now do have some fun with him, or he’ll be dragging my nice giant away before he makes up his mind to speak — and that, you know, is more than half the fun. You simply must be nice to Mr. Harford. I'm sure Kearney won't mind. And you know he's just your sort. If you were a man you would pull your moustache just the way he does, so melancholy and dreamy and don't care a — ahem! Oh, it's you, is it, Astoria? Ione and I were just talking about the young Englishmen. I wish there was one left for you. But there isn't, for Ione and I have tossed for first choice. Happy thought! You can have one of the drunken guides to play with. It will be no end of fun to reform him. You know you are always reforming somebody, 'Storia."
(Here Astoria turned on her heel.)
"Now don't go off in the huff! Listen to me, Miss Judd, from New York City. I am quite serious."
(The more sober-minded sister wavered whether to remain or go out.)
"And then, you know, you could read a paper at the next meeting of the Women's Society for the Elevation of Man after we go home. Think how something of this kind would fetch them — 'How I elevated a tipsy Swiss guide’ by Astoria Judd! "
"It's very much easier to make fun of serious subjects, than to be willing to give time and money to help a good cause along!" said Astoria sententiously. "The Society for the Elevation of Man has already effected much. It has placed nice temperance cafes all over the business parts of the city, where, instead of spending their time in odious billiard-saloons and horrid reeking bars, men can have cheap and well-cooked meals, served by nice girls in pretty uniform caps, and so be made more amenable to the refining influences of domestic life. But you don't care anything for that!"
"Oh, but I do!" cried Idalia, eagerly clapping her hands. "I am dead nuts on the elevation of man. I believe in it just as much as you do."
"And pray what have you ever done for the Cause?" sneered Astoria. "You never do anything but carry on disgracefully with every single decent-looking man who comes in your way!"
Idalia clasped her hands and raised her eyes to high heaven as if to call upon it to attest her injured innocence.
"Listen to her, Ione," she cried. "I waste my time, my energy, my soulful aspirations, and my best pieces of poetry on the most unpromising material—all for the good of the Cause, and she calls it 'carrying on.' Carrying on! Only a low mind would wallow in such unfounded accusations. Any one truly high-minded (like you, Ione) would see at once that I do it solely for their good — just to elevate them, in fact!"
By this time the young woman was talking so fast that her words tumbled one over the other.
"Now I put it to you, Astoria—I leave it to your honesty to say if this is not true. After a month of me you simply wouldn't know them — the very rawest and most base-bally of them? There was Billy Pitt — you remember Billy? Did he walk the same, speak the same, dress the same, after I had done with him? I found him a boor fresh from Princeton football field, with the sawdust sticking in star-spangled wads all over his snaky tresses. I left him a man and a brother!"
"You led him on, and threw him over most shamefully, that's how you elevated him," said Astoria, with extreme severity.
"Listen to the voice of the scoffer," continued the unabashed Idalia; "she's only jealous because she didn't get him to reform herself. But he had a much better time with me. Indeed, he always said so himself. 'Storia would have taken him to leagues and meetings, till the poor boy couldn't stand. Astoria is a perfect rake on meetings. But Billy could lead the German, choose the right flowers, make love, brush his hair, wear his clothes, keep his shoulders square, look you in the face and speak up like a little man, all long before I got through with him. He wasn't grateful much at the time — not to speak of, perhaps. He suffered some in order to be beautiful. But look at him now! Now you better believe I know what I 'm talking about. I don't go to meetings, but I’ll elevate six men to your one, Astoria; yes, and race you from the word 'Go!' — Ione to be referee and timekeeper. Ten in two years, and not an enemy among the lot, though one or two were a little sore at first. That's not a bad record — and all the fun besides! But Billy was the flower of the flock. Now he has gone into politics, and is the first really nice Congressman that ever was. And when he stands for President, the women of America will just elect him straight away, right from the drop of the flag! And, as Father of his Country, Billy will see old G. W., and raise him to the limit every time! So don't you talk any more to me about the Elevation of Man, 'Storia Judd!"
But Astoria was gone, and the door had shut with a slam.
Marcus Hardy, genial giant, and for the time being gentleman-at-large, sprawled in a cheap deck-chair with a cushion at the back of his head and a telescope glued to his eye, in front of the " Wengernhof held by Johann Jossi." He was giving vent to sundry explosive little snorts which betokened a high degree of mental excitement,
"Well, — I say — I 'm dashed if ever — no, I never, in all my life!" These incomplete ejaculations were accompanied and unified by a soft whistling hiss between the teeth, which intensified or softened as events more or less interesting passed before the watcher's eyes upon the steep mountain slopes opposite him.
Keith Harford had finished breakfast, and was meditatively gazing at the distant mountains beyond Lauterbrunnen, under the brim of his white wide-awake, which he wore pulled so low over his brows that his tilted cigarette almost touched the brim as he smoked and dreamed in the soft warmth and breathing hush of the morning air.
It might have been supposed that Harford would have been affected by the excitement of his friend. But the fact that he did not even notice his extravagant exclamations of interest, tells much as to the relations of this curiously assorted pair. Keith had long given up paying the slightest attention to the fervent but passing enthusiasms of Marcus. Nor did Marcus expect him to do so. For that genial giant had lived, moved, and had his being in a constant state of high-pressure ebullition during all the years his tutor had known him. Life was full of interest, and every fresh circumstance a perpetual surprise to Marcus Hardy. Whereas in Keith Harford's opinion the period of the Delight of the Eye and the Pride of Life had long passed for him — if indeed it could ever have been said to exist. He therefore minded his junior's brusque exclamations no more than the interruptions of a dog who barks in his sleep, hunting alone in a paradise of rabbits where are neither fences nor rabbit-holes.
But the gasps and snorts of the gazer became rapidly louder and more furious, till at last he sprang to his feet with a jubilant shout.
"I say, Harford," he cried, "do come here and look at this. It's the best game going. Come quick!"
Harford turned a tolerant eye upon his friend, contemplating him much as one may follow the antics of a puppy, in the absence of anything better to do.
"Well, what is it this time?" he said listlessly from underneath his hat brim, without moving; "it can't be another pretty girl over there on the Eiger, surely?"
"Pretty girl be hanged!" cried Marcus ungallantly. "I tell you it's the Beast in Spats! He's stuck up there like a fly on a gumpaper! And I just bet a fiver he is wishing that he never had the eternal cheek to spar up to the south front of the Eiger!"
Keith rose and lounged carelessly towards the telescope. His mercurial friend was already back adjusting it to be ready for his inspection.
"I've got him again — no — yes, there he is! By hokey! Hanged if they ain't haulin' him up by the slack of the rope like a blooming bag of potatoes. You never saw such a degrading spectacle!"
Taking the cigarette between his fingers, Harford bent and looked through the long tube of shining yellow brass which Marcus Hardy had pointed so carefully. He looked into the centre of the gloomy cleft which runs diagonally across the mountain, and, as it were, outlines roughly the basement storey of the Eiger pyramid.
He looked through a rushing, rippled, aerial river at the opposite side of the mountain. The Eiger, with all its rippled snows, storm-tossed crests, gashed crevasses, and terminal moraines, appeared exactly as if it had been seen through running water of a clear brown colour. This airy river was the moisture-bearing Thal wind pouring through the valley towards Grindelwald.
Quite clearly, though with a curious blurring of their outlines, Harford saw three men struggling with the sternest realities of the mighty obelisk of rock. Or, rather, two of them were struggling with a third whose incapacities constituted the real difficulty of the ascent. Keith Harford, who knew with more or less intimacy every guide in the Oberland, was at once able to distinguish the vast tawny form of Christian Schlegel, who, with his feet braced against a rock, was straining with all his might to pull the reluctant body of his "Herr" up the steep slopes of the Eiger.
"They will never get him to the top that way!" cried Harford, interested in spite of himself. "It is already past nine, and at the worst they should have been within a thousand feet of the top by this time!"
"Ah," cried Marcus, who in the interval had run into the hotel and possessed himself of another and smaller glass in order not to miss a particle of the fun, "there's better than that to come. You hold on, my boy, till he goes whack on his face again. That's plummy, if you like!"
And so without moving from their places the two men watched the trio plastered like flies on the steep screes and concave snow slides of the south face of the Eiger.
Presently they saw the traveller fall over exhausted on the snow, lying inert and prone on his face even as Marcus had prophesied,
"That's about enough for him. He's at his prayers now, I guess!" cried Hardy, slapping his knee in ecstasy. "I don't think Spats will take any more Matterhorns in his — this season, at least!"
But presently the two guides were again at the ropes, both this time standing high above the intrepid climber. With their feet firmly braced in crevices, and putting forth all their strength, they hauled their charge up the mountain from six to ten feet at a pull, their bent and straining backs telling of the violence of their exertions.
"That's what I should call an assisted passage," said Keith Harford quietly,
"I’ll wager that fellow has a groove round his waist like the middle of an hourglass for a month after this!" cried Marcus; and forthwith, as his manner was, he shouted with explosive laughter at his own humour.
Both the young men were so eagerly watching the comedy being enacted upon the opposing mountain, that they did not observe a tall, slender girl who had paused behind them, her summer dress of tweed blown becomingly back by the wind. She heard their laughter, or rather that of Marcus, which indeed might very well have silenced the noise of the avalanches round all the circle of the hills. Mostly she kept looking straight before her, but once she allowed her regard to fall upon the unconscious pair with an expression in which a certain personal feeling mingled with a prevailing disdain. But all unconscious the eye of the giant was glued to his telescope. He leaned back in his canvas chair in order more unrestrainedly to enjoy the scene. His disengaged hand slapped his thigh in ever-heightening ecstasy.
"I declare the beggar is hanging on to the Eiger as if it were the mane of a kicking horse. It looks as if he were afraid the mountain would 'buck,' and pitch him into the valley."
Ione March stood a moment quite still, her hand held level and motionless above her brow, and her light wind-blown hair wavering in curls and wisps about her shapely head. Her eyes fell upon Keith Harford as, all at once catching sight of her, he rose to his feet with a flush of annoyance on his handsome face. Something of proud appeal in her attitude held him silent, and he stood staring at the girl, forgetful alike of conventions and proprieties.
But with his brow to the eye-piece of the telescope, Marcus blattered away unconscious, snorting and choking; with half-inarticulate laughter.
"Never saw such a fellow! Keith, I declare he is blubbering like a baby. Hush up, will you, till we hear him howl! We could, if it was not for those blooming avalanches!"
The girl included both the young men in her look of chilling contempt. But her eyes, dark almost as the purple of the zenith on a summer midnight, dwelt longest and most reproachfully upon Keith Harford. And in that lingering moment she seemed to leave something behind her which rankled in his heart, and left him restless and ill content during all the remaining hours of that day.
But again, all unwarned, Marcus took up his parable before Keith could stop him.
"Hi! I say, Harford — look here, they're giving him pints of brandy. I tell you the Beast is feeling pretty rocky — teach him to fool with the Eiger, rigged out in Bond Street spats! — Hello though, where's the fellow gone? — Harford — Keith, I say," shouted Marcus, removing his eye from the telescope. But the grass plot in front of the inn was vacant, except for a fat tortoiseshell cat which blinked in the sun. Every window to the south stood wide open, black and blank under its green sun-blind. The valley beneath was crystal clear, so that even in the deepest shadow Marcus could see the steely aquamarine glitter of the ice-fragments freshly fallen from the glacier. Only on the slab face of the Eiger, towering pyramidal before him, Marcus discerned even with the naked eye certain black markings which closed and separated, each fine as the dot on an "i" on a sheet of folio paper.
But all beneath and in front of him was empty, vague, and large — flooded with sunshine and drenched in silence, while higher up, pile upon pile, rose the mountains — grim, indomitable, infinitely aloof, in the outer porch of which Nemesis was dealing after her manner with Mr. Kearney Judd.
THE SUBJUGATION OF THE ALPS
Mr. Kearney Judd did not do things by halves. So much he had inherited from the icing of deals and corners who owned him as a son. His engagement to Ione March was an episode among episodes; but notwithstanding, he was sufficiently in love to be aware of the sensation Governor March's beautiful daughter would make in New York. Besides, the young man carried about with him the conviction whenever he talked to Ione that he was somehow in the presence of an incalculable force, and moreover, that this was a girl the possession of whom could not by any stretch of imagination be expressed in terms of millions of dollars.
"I tell you what, 'Storia," he said to his favourite sister one day before the tentative acceptance of his homage by Ione; "if she cared about me at all, she's the very girl to take me without a cent. But if I had the round world, with the moon thrown in, she'd give me the back of her hand if she did not cotton to me!"
But Kearney Judd's falling in love was strictly an accident. Primarily he had come to Europe in order to add the peaks of the Alps to the other scalps on his lodge-pole. It was the height of the athletic and adventurous era. Every young man of the first importance must now eschew culture and the elevation of the Bowery. While his sisters attended to such things, it was his duty to qualify as a first-class cowboy, to climb Cotopaxi, to kill twenty tigers, to cross Gobi or Shamo on a sledge drawn by yaks, or in some way or other to disprove his brain by proving his muscles.
Such were the times of derring-do which stood on tiptoe at the moment of Kearney Judd's coming to Europe in pursuit of athletic distinction of some sort. America itself was bald as an egg-shell. The last lock of its scalp had been severed. The final grizzly had yielded to the newest express rifle. The ultimate buffalo was rounded up in a reservation in Central Park, and guarded by blue-coated braves armed with the helmets and bludgeons of office, and speaking the English language with a Milesian accent. The last yacht, which had set out to discover the North Pole, had been found nipped by the ice. The last survivors had, with much good feeling, eaten each other—all except the boatswain, who for fifty years had subsisted chiefly on a diet of tobacco, and the cook, who had given his professional services on condition that he was placed strictly hors concours. The Purple East was far away, and the unspeakable Turk unspeakably dangerous. A crusade against Tammany was not in Kearney's line. There remained therefore nothing better or safer than Switzerland. So Kearney, having bought Mr. Conway's admirable set of guides to the High Alps, and acquired for much moneys (at Brentano's) the three volumes of "Peaks, Passes, and Glaciers," came over by the first Cunarder, firmly resolved to string the entire Oberland, together with the Pennine and Austrian chains, to his lodge-pole, and furthermore to complete the job within the space of one brief Alpine season.
Now it was Mr. Kearney Judd's boast that he and he only understood how to go about a thing. Whether it were the making of love or climbing of a triply asterisked mountain. (Mr. Baedeker, of Leipsic, the true potentate of travel, considers Mont Blanc worthy of being distinguished by his highest mark of admiration, which consists of three asterisks, thus: ***) And certainly he did not waste time. Sternly refusing alike the peculiar delights of London and the more esoteric refinements of the Parisian Elysee (Montmartre) — to which as the son of a distinguished American citizen (so he told his father), he easily obtained the right of entrée — Kearney travelled directly from Liverpool to Lugano, and then by more devious paths from Lugano to Grindelwald, where after a week at the Hostel of the Bear, he proceeded to engage his guides. He found that many of the best of these had been already verbally engaged for certain limited periods by former employers. These were men, for the most part Englishmen, who had cast longing eyes at certain new and impossible passes, or upon new "faces" the victory over which appeared as promising to the lay eye as the task of climbing the Monument upon one's hands and knees.
But Mr. Kearney Judd knew the power of gold and believed that, tempted by the “Sufficient Consideration," every man has his price. Accordingly he lavished broadcast such glittering promises that two of the best guides in the Oberland (which is the same thing as saying in the world) became bound to him by a stringent written contract for a period of four months, and were engaged to lead their master to the summits of an elaborate schedule of peaks—the conquest of which in one season, duly certified by the authorities in each district and reported in the Metropolitan Sunday papers over the paternal cable, would be fitted to shake with envy and hatred the soul of every "boy" left stranded on the bleak shores of little old New York.
So that Kearney found himself early in the year in possession of the highly paid services of High-Mountain Guides Peter Jossi and Christian Schlegel, to the intense disappointment of a briefless London barrister and a climbing Scotch minister of limited means — who in the most un-christian fashion wished the wholesale American enterprise all manner of evil, and expressed vigorously the sentiments of their hearts in daily letters to one another.
And for a day, or rather for an hour, after completing his bargain, Kearney was happy. He loved the importance of possession, the halo which everywhere surrounds proximate and wholesale conquest. The regular climbers had not yet arrived at Grindelwald, and the village street from the Eagle to the Bear was all his own. Every unplaced guide, every porter emulous of rising from the pack-wallet to the rope and ice-axe, eagerly desired employment in this most luxuriously equipped and comprehensively planned expedition.
The leader, attired in the most complete and uncompromising of climbing gear, held daily public conference with his lieutenants, Peter Jossi and Christian Schlegel. Kearney Judd had made no mistake. Both men were superlative at their business, and trustworthy to the death — so long as they were confined to the staple beverage of the mountains—that which sparkles in the rainbows of the torrents and drives the swirling moulins of the glaciers.
But as soon as Kearney realised that the ascent of even a second-class peak involved sacrifices and discomforts which he had not contemplated, and especially when he discovered that the aspect of a glacier was much less prepossessing when its irregularities were underfoot and its difficulties overhead, than when pounded into lumps and floating in a tall glass of whisky and soda, he began (like the monkey discovered talking, and set to earn his living) to turn over alternatives in his mind.
It was all very well to carry back certificates of the ascent of great peaks, and to be able to roll off the sonorous names — Matterhorn, Wetterhorn, Dom, Monte Viso, Lyskam, and that utmost Adamello which looks upon Venice. It would doubtless be especially pleasant at Delmonico's to patronise Mont Blanc — to nickname it "The Duffer's Walk." Better still, he would be able to approve reservedly of the Matterhorn — especially on the Italian side, "where there are no chains, and the climbing shows the stuff a man is made of, don't you know."
But even the first few trial climbs upon the Over-Ice Sea assured Mr. Kearney that there were more things in that white upper world of snow and rock scarp than had been dreamed of in his philosophy.
For instance, when a piece of slate, spinning upon its axis, whizzed down the cliffs of the Mettenberg at rather more than the speed of a rifle bullet, and neatly clipped a piece of skin the size of a shilling from his ear, the young man began to experience doubts whether Alpine mountaineering was indeed a sport for which he had been fitted by nature.
Anon, early on a succeeding morning, skirting the butt end of a glacier — cross, sleepy, following his guide automatically step by step, and thinking how many different kinds of fool he was for coming to such a cold, miserable, get-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night sort of a country, Kearney was suddenly aroused by certain sharp crackling sounds above his head, and immediately found himself almost jerked off his feet by the sudden spurt forward made by Peter and Christian. Then scarcely had they gotten from underneath that threatening glacier butt, when with an astounding bewilderment of noise the whole pinnacled end of castellated blueness nodded, wavered, and finally crashed downward, sweeping the path by which they had just come with the besom of destruction, as the ice avalanche went thundering and roaring into the valley a thousand feet below. When the first red level rays of the sun, which had been sapping the upper glacier for some time, and whose warmth had assisted its abrupt parturition, struck Kearney Judd, Alpine adventurer, it was a very pale and pasty countenance which that distinguished Herr presented to the curious eyes of his guides.
Whereupon with a sudden gravity Christian looked at Peter, and Peter as soberly looked at Christian. But what they meant to convey to each other remains a secret to this day.
However, very soon a great victory smiled upon the banners of Judd. By dint of exertions almost superhuman big blonde Christian and little brown Peter dragged their Herr up the snows of the Jungfrau, and by infinite precaution and the cutting of steps like those which approach a State capitol, enabled him successfully to surmount the last dangerous ice slopes.
Upon his return to what little Peter called poetically "the kind-hearted valleys" (" my wife, Herr, she loves not the mountains; she loves instead the kind-hearted valleys"), for the first twelve hours the hero resolved never again to trust himself out of sound of cow-bell. But he was induced to change his mind as the pride of his conquest began to wash away the memories of the passage perilous, and especially when, by means of the paternal cable, some part of the press of his native city was induced to sing the ancient song of "Arms and the Man" in admiration of "the unexampled feat performed so early in the climbing season by the son of one so notable in our highest money circles as John Cyrus Judd."
"This," said one prominent organ, in whose finances the Combination had unobtrusively acquired a controlling interest, "proves incontestably that the pluck and endurance which have so long ruled Wall Street are hereditary in the second generation, and that even the very snowy thrones of the gods of silence must yield to the plucky scion of the Judd-Peters Combination."
"That'll fetch 'em," said Charlton Milholland contentedly, as he leaned back and contemplated this astonishing sentence with his head to the side as if he had reason to be proud of it; "it would be too strong for any human being except old Cyrus or his amiable son. But to them it will be balm in Gilead, and also mint julep among the flesh-pots of Egypt!"
That evening Milholland, most genial and good-natured of foreign editors, carried the matter to the N. Y. Press Club, where the turn of his phrases was highly appreciated. But before he left the Times-Herald building he saw that the full extract was cabled to Europe, where it had its due effect in inducing Mr. Kearney Judd to continue his series of triumphal marches over the effete and prostrate mountain ranges of Europe.
So on the morrow, Charlton Milholland (who at the time was sitting up in bed and casting an eye of tolerant humour over his own leaderette) had fixed Kearney's determination to attempt from the south the ascent of the noble toothed wedge of the Eiger — which is at once the Matterhorn and the Dent Blanche of the Oberland mountains.
Little brown Peter and big blonde Christian of the bowed shoulders smiled when they heard of the project and the name of the mountain. Little Peter, who was a wit, pretended to pull up his sleeves, and made the gesture of hauling a bucket up a well. But both rose to their feet with a sudden unanimous start upon learning that the assault was to be delivered by the south face, that which looks out towards the Wengern Alp and the hostelry of Johann Jossi. Little Peter even attempted a remonstrance, but he was cut short by the stern ultimatum of the son of the Napoleon of Finance.
"Can the thing be done?" asked Kearney the Dictator.
"Certainly it can be done, my Herr," began Peter, "but - " And he paused, not daring to add aloud the remainder of his thought — "but you are not the man to do it!"
"Then I will do it!" said Kearney Judd, in prompt defiance of Peter's unspoken condemnation.
For remembering the storm on the lake of Lugano, he wisely calculated that the object lesson of his danger and success would do more to soften the stony heart of Ione March than the gift of all the diamonds of the Cape.
THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF SHORT ENGAGEMENTS
It was true. Ione March was engaged to "the beast in spats," as Marcus had so brusquely and uneuphoniously designated Mr. Judd, Jr. How it had come about Ione herself could hardly have told. Almost from childhood she had spent most of her life abroad; hence her ideas upon marriage were essentially different from those of the majority of her countrywomen. Her father had devoted the whole of his ample leisure to her service and pleasuring, ever since she left the Convent of the Angelical Sisters at St. Germains, in which (after her mother's early death) she had been educated. Her name was properly Hermione, but the childish contraction had been retained, probably because it had accorded best with her free and unspoiled nature.
Indeed Ione March had been made much of ever since she could remember. As an American baby of course her mother spoilt her. Her father and numerous bachelor uncles afforded her a choice of knees to ride upon and backs to bestride. Even in the staid and cloistered precincts of the Angelical Sisters a charmingly frank smile and a ringing voice have their privileges, especially when backed by undoubted wealth and the willingness to part with it. So it came about that from the Lady Superior to the lay sweeper in coarse linen and blue flannel, every inmate of the great white barracks petted and spoilt the daughter of the American millionaire. Her pocket-money expressed in francs was the subject of much hand-clasping and eye-upcasting between the Mother Superior and the visiting Father Confessor. It would be disaster intolerable if such means could not be sanctified to the service of Holy Church.
But all this had done Ione no harm. And now, after she had wandered Europe for four years with her father, going whither she would and moving on when the whim took her, the girl remained still frank, thoughtless, careless, thoroughly unspoilt — taking it for granted that all was well and that every one was happy in her presence. But it chanced that Governor March had been compelled, at an unfortunate time of the year, in the depths of a boisterous and stormy winter, to undertake suddenly a business journey to New York, in order to safeguard certain important interests which were threatened by the grasping and omnivorous talons of a gigantic trust. At this time the Judd family — the European representatives of John Cyrus Judd, "the second richest man, sir, in the world" — were wintering at Florence, with some subsequent idea of going further south when, along with the lengthening days, there should arrive even to mid-Italy the strengthening cold of early spring.
It came about in this way that Ione March, being aged twenty years, and the greater part of twenty-one, had been committed to the care of Mrs. John Cyrus Judd, and (generally) admitted to the privileges appertaining to the social branch of that great connection, as well as to the companionship of her daughters Astoria and Idalia.
For some months Ione found it very pleasant to "go around" with these two gay maidens and their complaisant comfortable mother, a lady from the Middle States — who, in the midst of such riches as the world had never seen, maintained her calm level-headed standard of housewifery and her faculty of considering the pennies, the while her lord, in the arid defiles of Wall Street, looked as sharply after the pounds, reckoning these latter, however, usually in terms of millions of dollars.
Nor did the situation become less pleasant for Ione when Kearney Judd arrived from America, having had the beauty, wit, and general eligibility of Ione March dinned into him by his sister Astoria in that cheerful daily cypher-gossip which brother and sister kept up by means of the private cable owned by the Judd combination. So soon as Kearney began to act as convoy and to do general courier duty for the ladies, it was found possible to dispense with the professional services of Signior Antonio Cӕsari di Milano. So that the latter bland gentleman was no longer able to add fifty per cent to all reckonings and shop accounts, and on most occasions to set aside the best room in every hotel for himself.
When Ione's father came over on the first boat by which it was considered safe for him to leave the shores of the Republic, he brought as his companion—who but John Cyrus Judd the Great and Only, Pontifex Maximus of all them that deal in scrip and share. For that potentate had come to the rescue of the endangered interests of Governor March at a most critical moment, and, by throwing his mighty combination into the scale, had easily established the former on a pedestal more dignified and commanding than ever.
It happened that on the night when John Cyrus Judd and Governor March arrived at Lugano there had been a thunderstorm on the lake, during which Mr. Kearney Judd had approven his knightly courtesy, at once by the gallantry of his oarsmanship and yet more by chivalrously casting about the shoulders of Ione the college jacket which had protected her from the sudden downpour. The gallant squire of dames accompanied Ione back to the hotel in dripping flannels, and instinctively seeing his advantage, he promptly developed a chill and a yet more serious and opportune fever.
Ione was at once grateful and full of remorse. For it had been in spite of the repeated warnings of her companion that they had rowed so far out upon the lake.
Nay, even after the first mutterings of the storm had changed to a nearer continuous roll, she had perversely insisted upon proceeding farther from the shore, in order that she might watch the vivid pyrotechnic display over the lake and distant mountains — palest electric blue, brilliant white scribbled as with diamond point across the sky, broad green emerald illumination awash between the mountains, all sharply riven ever and anon by the fiery serpent's tooth of the descending levin bolt. The terror of the storm seemed to increase the young man's claims upon Ione's gratitude, and it needed but her father's urgent entreaties, still fresh from his debt of gratitude to the great Cyrus, the eager and affectionate solicitations of her friends Astoria and Idalia, her own utter indifference, her continental and conventual notions of marriage, and (last and least) the confidential twilight quiet of the garden of the Hotel du Parc where the band played late among the fireflies, for Ione March to awake one morning and remember with dismay that she had definitely affianced herself to Kearney Judd.
Words are weak to express her father's pleasure, and the girl found her reward in that. Though by no means mercenary, this union with the blood royal—as it were — of American finance would put all his future operations on a different basis. It was even an additional anchor out to windward that Kearney's intention should be known. And though Governor March was too kind and too American a father either to bid or to forbid any reasonable banns which Ione might have desired to publish, yet when the culmination came by her own initiative Governor March kissed his daughter with the feeling that life held more of solid satisfaction than it had ever done before.
In fact every one was pleased, so much so that even Ione felt a certain glow of self-sacrificing satisfaction. But the Judd girls were especially jubilant and spent so much time with Ione that Idalia said, "You would think that it was to us you were engaged! But it serves you right for not having a couple of nice brothers to take such detrimentals off your hands."
But whenever Ione was left alone she had no illusions. She liked Kearney Judd well enough. He was polite, presentable, of more than passable exterior, and for the present convenient. That was all.
"It is nice to have a man round to fetch and carry!" she said to herself, as if that settled the matter.
Kearney played his cards well. He never intruded, and was yet always ready to do as she told him, whether it might be to take himself off to the Casino when she and Idalia desired to curl themselves up in hammocks and read novels all the hot afternoon, or to remain behind in the hotel dining-room with his cigar and keep Governor March company, while the girls in wet clacking waterproofs and knitted Tam-o'-Shanters ventured forth, like three wind-blown graces, along the lake-shore in the intervals of the sudden dashing thunder-showers.
"Poor Kearney does not seem to have many privileges, does he?" said Idalia to Ione, a little wistfully, after that young gentleman's fiancée had held out her hand to him with her usual careless grace that he might say "Good-night" over it.
"Why, what privileges ought Kearney to possess that he has not got?" inquired Ione over her shoulder. She was usually a step or two in front as the three walked together.
"Well, Ione March," said Idalia, "you may call yourself an American girl if you like, but it is easy to see that you have spent the bulk of your time considerably east of Sandy Hook. Now, what would you do if Kearney were to arrive in your father's salon at the hour of afternoon tea?"
"Why," said lone, "that's easy as falling off a log. I should get him a nice cup of tea at once — that is, as soon as ever the horrid kettle in the tea-basket could be induced to boil."
"Oh yes," scoffed Idalia, "and very likely you would tell the waiter who showed him up that Mr. Kearney wanted to see Governor March, and to find him if he were in his room or anywhere about!"
"Well," said Ione, looking tranquilly at the bright and piquant face of the brunette, "and suppose I did — what would you do, if you were engaged to Kearney?"
"Hum," said Idalia, turning up her pretty nose; "first off, I shouldn't be engaged to Kearney Judd."
"Idalia!" cried her sister in a horrified tone, "pray do think what you are saying."
For Astoria had sounder views of life and a somewhat less reckless way of expressing them than her irresponsible sister and junior.
"I don't care, 'Storia," answered Idalia, nodding her head determinedly, "you can tell Kearney if you like. I wouldn't be engaged to him — not for three acres of a diamond field. Kearney is too cynical for me. He simply daren't be nice. It isn't good form in his set. You can't be good and own a racing yacht, you know. They'd turn you out of the club. And then the worst of it is that poor Kearney hasn't got sand enough to be out-and-out bad—picturesquely bad, you know — like Bret Harte's people, or the Silver King, or a wicked London Journal baronet. So poor dear Kearney has just to be content to let things drift, and be as bad as he can all his life!"
"Idalia Judd!" cried her sister again, "you know you never were fair to Kearney. He is a good fellow at bottom, and Ione can do anything she likes with him. Why, he worships -"
"The ground I tread on—so he said," cried Ione, catching the contagion of Idalia's levity, "and I told him that in that case some very nasty sticky Swiss mud was the god of his idolatry. But, Idalia, tell me all about being engaged."
"Why," said Idalia, pouting, "I thought you were clever, Ione ; but in some things you are no wiser than a New Jersey coot."
She gave Ione's arm a little tight clutch as they passed a herd of goats shouldering and pushing to get near a goatherd who was feeding them with large crystals of rough salt. Then she continued in a musing reminiscent tone, "I remember when I was engaged to Ralph Harden."
"Idalia!" cried her sister again in a yet more shocked voice; "do, pray, consider what you are saying. You never were engaged to Ralph Harden!"
"It was a pretty good imitation then," retorted Idalia irrepressibly. "It went all right. I was satisfied."
"What will Ione think?" continued Astoria with some show of asperity.
"Why, what should she think?" retorted Idalia promptly. "Except that I had a very good time — which I had, and Ralph too. Yes, 'Storie; don't you be sorry for him one little bit. He doesn't need it. He enjoyed himself right along, and wished for more. I tell you that right now. Why, for six months Ralph Harden couldn't call his soul his own, when I was engaged to him. Let us see — that was three years ago. I've been engaged two — no, three times since that!"
"And did your father approve of your breaking off your engagement?" queried convent-bred Ione, to whom a betrothal was a matter scarcely less solemn than a marriage.
"Approve of my breaking my engagement with Ralph?" said Idalia, with a little warbling trill of gay laughter. "Well, I don't think we troubled my father even with the knowledge that we were engaged! Did we, Astoria? It just didn't occur to us. What had Ralph and poor me to do with the Illinois Central or the latest straddle in wheat? Oh, no, Ione, it wasn't pappa that burst the Harden-Judd combination. It was Billy Pitt that came along — no, I'm forgetting, he came after. It was Harvard Bobbie, such a nice boy I used to ride with — a dear boy. He used to hold my hand by the hour. Yes, he did. But then he held it so nicely, not a bit like Ralph Harden. I always used to have to take off all my rings before I could let Ralph Harden come near me."
"Idalia!" exclaimed her sister, apparently aghast. "If you don't stop, I’ll go right home to mother."
"Oh, do hush, Astoria. I declare you are like the minute gun at sea, with your ' Idalia!' every half-dozen words, as if the sky were going to fall, just because I am trying all I can to give Ione some good pointers on the art of being engaged."
"Idalia Judd!" said Ione, with a dash of sternness in her voice, "how often have you been engaged?"
That too attractive young woman gave an impulsive little skip, like a sportive and innocent lamb in that first season when it goes so well with green peas, "How can you expect me to remember, if you will swing your long legs at such a rate over the ground? Ask me something easier, till I get my breath. Now, that's better. Let me see! There was Billy Pitt, and Sandy Mac — what was his funny Scotch name? But he was so good-looking for all that. Then after that came Jimmy Day, Oliver Haig, Harry Priestly, and that nice curly-headed boy at Newport — what did he call himself, Frank something, wasn't it, Astoria? Or perhaps Fred. It began with F anyway. Then there were half a dozen Transatlantic mixed biscuits — three or four of them, all different colours — two ‘Cities of Paris,' one 'Germanic,' one 'Pacific,' several 'Arizonas,' and oh, such a lot of Cunarders, all ending in 'A'!"
Ione looked at her friend in surprise.
"Yes, indeed; and it was rather like being Cunarders ourselves, Idalia and Astoria, see? Only Astoria isn't half so fast, and I've lost ever so many passengers!"
"You don't mean that you were engaged to the seven seas and the Continent of Europe with several of the Pacific States thrown in for the honour of the flag?" Ione cried, gazing at her friend in surprised horror.
"Well, you see, it was this way," explained Idalia. "'Storia and I cross the pond pretty often. I always go down early to get my cabin all right, tip the stewards, and — well, see the passengers come on board. Then 'Storia and I pick out the best-looking man as he comes up the side and toss for him! The loser to have second choice."
"I never did anything of the sort," protested Astoria, and I think you are simply horrid, Idalia Judd!"
“All right, 'Storie," said Idalia calmly, "I was only giving you a look in. Well then, I pick out the nicest-looking man, tall, generally dark, with a moustache or well-cut beard. He must have something about him, a sort of air as if he were kind of sorry over things and generally low in his mind — as if he didn't care whether he got any breakfast or not."
"Seasick?" suggested Ione, over her shoulder.
"No indeed, this is just when they are corning on board. Oh, no," continued Idalia, pausing to make things clear, "that's just the point. He mustn't get seasick. If he does, he goes on the retired list at once, without a pension too. He must be able to sit in boats and read to me all the time, and carry deck-chairs, and know all about rigging up tarpaulins and things to keep the wind off me. Then, you know, after our first moonlight walk, looking across the weird ocean arm in arm, Astoria and I start in to comfort him and take that sad distressful Silver State look out of his eyes." On this occasion Astoria disdained any disclaimer.
"But the names 'Arizona,' 'Germanic,' and so on, what do they mean?" said Ione, who was curious.
"Why," said Idalia airily, "you see we generally cross by the Cunard, and it sounds silly to call men by the names of ships ending in IA, so we say 'Campania Brown,' 'Arizona Green,' but the silliest of all was the 'Nebraska Salmon'!"
"Why, I declare it's like getting engaged on a train and breaking it off when you come to the terminus!" said Ione, smiling in spite of herself.
"Oh, but I've tried that too," cried Idalia eagerly; "and do you know, it's rather nice, though hurried in parts, and you have to cut a good deal of the best dialogue. Yes, siree; you have got to make them go the pace. It was with a man named Kenneth Early that I tried it first, when father and I were going straight across lots to San Francisco without stopping. All through the Prairie States he told me how he loved me. And you just believe, it passed the time; you can't think. But alas! love's sleepers are no smoother than elsewhere on the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul's! We quarrelled on the platform at Salt Lake, all because he would go mousing after a pretty little Mormoness, pretending all the while he was only posting a letter! Now unfaithfulness is the one thing I can't stand, and I told him so.
"'I did not ask you to love me long, Kenneth,' I said to him, 'only to attend strictly to business while you were about it.'
"However, he was so heartbroken that I forgave him just before we got to Digger City, and at Sacramento I said I'd be his new-found sister. But he said he wasn't annexing any more sisters, and so we parted for ever!"
And as she came to this most pathetic climax, the evil witch Idalia pretended to dry her eyes one after the other with the corner of a dainty lace handkerchief.
"I have never been quite the same since!" she added, looking up with a touchingly innocent expression in her eyes.
THE WOMAN OF FORTUNE
Marcus Hardy, late of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and territorially of Rayleigh Manor, Hants, stood whistling softly upon the scant green carpet outside the Wengernhaus. He was watching the white whisks of snow shooting down the couloirs of the Eiger opposite him like slim coiling serpents—nothing but the sonorous after-roar from the valley beneath telling of the thousand tons of ice and snow which had gone plunging and leaping downwards to pulverize themselves a mile and a half below.
"Thank the Lord I'm no genius!" was the somewhat superfluous burden of his meditations. "If a fellow has to be as solemn as a boiled owl and as infernally touchy as a professor of poetry — by Christopher! I'd rather be a mole-catcher and tramp the fields with a flat spud under my arm!"
And the ex-student of Trinity Hall kicked up great grass tufts in his indignation. Then, quick compunction seizing him, he added in an altered vein, "Good old Keith! It would do him all the good in the world to tumble neck and crop into love. That would give him something decent to moon about, I know."
And Marcus glanced at his friend's window with the air of a man who, having tried all the hidden things of love, has come to the conclusion that these also are vanity. The next moment he received a shock.
"By Jove!" he exclaimed under his breath, as a shadow slanted quickly across the grass, and he lifted his eyes instinctively to mark the shadow-caster as she passed. "Jove! what a clipper!"
And the figure which occasioned the exclamation being now well in front, Marcus squared his shoulders, drew a deeply satisfactory breath, and gave himself up to a frank unashamed Anglo-Saxon stare, followed as it often was in his impressionable bosom by an equally unrestrained admiration.
"Oh, I say!" he communed with himself half aloud. "I tell you she's a beauty! No mistake this time, Mark! She's got a profile like Diana when she was giving that poor hunting bloke particular fits, proud and a little bit cold till you rouse her; and, I declare, just the very dark hair I like — light and swirly, like snow blowing off an arête when there's a gale up aloft. Gad! a girl like that would make a poet out of me too! She would, in a week!"
Another shadow fell upon the grass.
A tall, military-looking man, clean-run and grey-moustached, had come quietly out of the inn of Johann Jossi, and now paused by the table in front of which Marcus stood waiting for his friend, and watching this sudden apparition of radiant girlhood with widely-opened eyes of surprised admiration.
Secure in the fact that Dian's back was turned towards him, Marcus continued his observations aloud more than half consciously, and wholly without remarking the amused smile on the face of his new companion.
"I tell you what, Harford; she's a daisy! Why that girl's a tearing beauty any day in the week! Wish I knew her! Wha-aat?" He turned with such frank, boyish appreciation in his honest eyes that, catching the faintest quizzical flicker on the face of the military-looking man, he reddened a little.
"I beg your pardon!" he said, a little stiffly; "I thought it was my friend who had come out and was standing behind me."
The placid, tolerant smile remained. The military-looking man seemed unaccountably pleased.
"Yes," slowly came the reply, spoken with the most delicate suspicion of a drawl, "yes—she is a beauty. And more than that, she's the best girl in the world!"
As he said them, the words were more the statement of a universally admitted fact than any mere verdict of chance enthusiasm.
Marcus turned quickly upon him.
"You know her?" he queried. "Golly, wish I did! Who is she?"
"Well" —the monosyllable, more by a certain liquid dwelling on the consonants akin to the delicate Welsh usage than by any accent, proclaimed the speaker an American — "there are reasons why I ought to know that young lady well, though I'm not sure that I do. She's my daughter, sir!"
Marcus coloured hotly, like the boy he was in spite of his twenty-five years.
"I'm sure I beg your pardon," he cried, impulsively lifting his soft cap from his closely cropped head, with that characteristically eager gesture which endeared him to his friends. "I always was an ass. Do you know, I never think what I say till I get into some beastly hole. I hope you won't think me a common border ruffian. E—r—r! My name is Marcus Hardy — of Rayleigh, in Hants!" he added, with some vague desire to indicate himself.
The giant paused, blushing to his freckled temples. The military-looking man, however, only smiled benignly and bowed in his turn.
"My name, sir," he said very quietly, "is Henry Quincy March."
"Ah, Governor!" said Hardy promptly, "I heard you were over here — in fact, well, if it isn't cheek to say so, I'm deuced glad to meet the war governor of the State of Callibraska!"
Governor March looked as surprised as he was obviously pleased.
"But how?" he said. "I thought that the English cared no more for our Civil War than for the crow fights and kite skirmishes of the ancient Scots and Picts."
As he spoke he was looking the young man over, and saying to himself that he would never have suspected Marcus Hardy of any historical knowledge more esoteric than the annals of Rugby football, or the names and weights of the strokes in the last six winning Oxford and Cambridge boats.
"Well, the truth is, sir," answered Marcus, "I ought to have been a soldier. But the 'mater' shut down on it. My mother belongs to the Peace Society — that is, when she's not on the warpath. She thinks wars are all wrong, and just pitches it into me hot that I've got to stop at home and look after my stake in the country. Hang my stake in the country, say I! They can have the whole show to pasture their three-acre cows on, as far as I'm concerned!"
The elder man smiled indulgently.
"And so very naturally you come to Switzerland to do it," he said. "So do I. I've got a stake in my country, too, and that's why I'm here!"
After this there was a pause, and the two men silently faced the mighty mountain wall, which over against the Wengern Alp squares its shoulders and defiantly compels all eyes, like Atlas upbearing the vault of heaven. Far in front of them the girl stood, apparently on the very verge of the precipice, her elbow making a pretty angle with her head as she looked out under her hand. Her whole figure was poised with a certain indescribable lightness. She wore a plain but serviceable tweed dress, which fitted like an easy glove the slim alertness of her form. Outlined against the snow of a suckling glacier, her head seemed small and classical, so accurately had the dark-brown hair been collected into a knot behind, leaving only a tight ringlet or two of a more golden hue to spray upon the hollow of her neck. But upon her forehead, under a piquant yet business-like sailor hat of white straw, a little riot of loose curls stirred lightly and changefully in the breeze ; and cast faint shadows upon the warm dusky tan of a complexion in which a vivid life thrilled, and through which the quick life blood could be seen leaping responsive to every thought. As the young girl turned away from the mountains, she compressed her lips in quick, petulant anger, and all unconsciously her head poised itself in fashion yet more goddess-like upon a neck round which closed, perhaps rather too rigidly and demurely, a white collar of military severity. White cuffs, turned over a little at her wrists like those of an hospital nurse, were fastened with plain gold studs.
"Are you looking for Kearney, Ione?" Mr. March inquired as the girl came towards them.
The Governor's daughter looked directly at her father with a faint shade of annoyance on her face, as Marcus lifted his hat with instinctive frankness. She bowed very slightly in acknowledgment, so slightly that Marcus felt indefinitely chilled, though somehow he had the consciousness that the girl's annoyance had been caused neither by his salutation nor yet by her father's including her in their conversation.
"No," she said; "I was only looking out for Ida and Astoria."
Governor March's face lightened.
"Oh," he said, "I saw them go up the mountain behind the hotel, armed to the teeth with twenty-four pounder field-glasses to look for their brother. I daresay you will find them around there somewhere, and also obtain a view of Kearney half way up the Eiger by this time."
"I have no intention of looking for Kearney, father!" said the girl, with an accent somewhat superfluously determined for the occasion.
"Well," said the Governor slowly, "perhaps you are right. I don't myself think that the young man needs encouragement — that is, on ordinary office days. But after all, isn't this a sort of Glorious Fourth? And when a youth has been carrying 'mid snow and ice the banner with the strange device, and shouting 'Excelsior' all the morning till he is crow-hoarse, you might at least take one peep at him just to show interest. Excelsioring without a gallery is not exactly Kearney's pet form of wickedness!"
The girl did not reply, but stood gazing abstractedly up at the vast mountain wall which rose abruptly out of the desolate Valley of Death beneath them, into which the avalanches spouted and roared every few minutes, being loosened and dispatched almost as regularly as trucks from a mine by the rays of the morning sun.
The three were still standing about the white-spread table when Marcus heard his friend's step behind him, and turned round to greet Keith Harford, and, if possible, to include him in the conversation. As he did so the girl bowed slightly and continued on her way to the inn. But as she went she turned her regard full upon the grave face and erect figure of Keith Harford, sometime tutor and now travelling companion to Marcus Hardy. Their eyes met and dwelt a moment each on the other, the girl's inquiringly, the man's abstractedly. The moment passed, fleeting as the waft of delicate air which accompanied Ione March's passage, apparently as like those before it and behind as any telegraph pole which scuds past a lightning express. But looked back upon, the momentary eye-blink now seems pregnant with fate and potent for the Eternities.
"A pretty American! Clearly we must get out of this or Marcus will be falling in love again!" That was all Harford's contemporary thought.
"He walks well and has nice eyes —but he doesn't like me. I wonder why!" mused Ione March in the instinctive manner of pretty women as she went towards the house.
Governor March was not only a very agreeable but a very handsome man, and as he turned again towards the young Englishmen his look was full of kindly dignity and encouragement.
"This is my friend — and former bear-leader, Mr. Keith Harford," said Marcus, smiling, as Harford came up, "and the best fellow in the world, if he does write books which publishers won't buy!"
"Small blame to them," said Harford with a little laugh; "the publishers would publish my books quickly enough if the public would only read them. They can't make bricks without straw any more than other people!"
"Are your literary productions published in the United States, sir?" asked the Governor, after he and Harford had lifted their hats slightly but courteously to each other.
Keith Harford shook his head sadly, and with a kind of characteristic drolling languor in his voice, replied, "I fear, sir, my friend gives you a wrong impression. I have hardly written anything for publication. It is true, however, that I earn a few coppers by contributing to the monthly magazines and the weekly press."
"Ah," cried the other gratefully, at last striking a subject to which he could do justice, “you should come to our country, where the Press is a mighty power — one greater than President and Congress put together. You would find ample scope for your talent there."
"I fear, sir," Keith Harford answered, "that the Press of your country would have none of me. I am not a shining success even here, where methods are old-fashioned and slow. I have little ambition, and no confidence in myself. I have never made much of anything in this world, not even of my pupil here — to whom, for instance, I endeavoured to convey some skill in the use of the English language, but, as you see, wholly without success."
"You did, old boy," cried Marcus joyously, "you stuffed me no end with roots and derivations. But, praise the pigs, I could always go right outside and forget them like Billy-o!"
"And he calls that jargon English," smiled Keith Harford as he referred the matter to the Governor.
"No, sir," said Mr. March, whose thoughts refused any but the practical groove, "and you never will succeed if, as you say, you have no confidence in yourself. Allow me to tell you that such humility shows the poorest kind of judgment, sir. There now is John Cyrus Judd, the father of young Kearney Judd, to whom my daughter is engaged to be married — John Cyrus Judd, sir, is the most successful operator in bread stuffs and general finance our country has ever seen. You remember the wheat corner in '70, the year of the war and of the failure of the Russian crops? Well, sir, John Cyrus Judd cleared over ten millions of dollars in one year. But he didn't do it by going about telling every one that he was entirely unacquainted with the difference between a bean and a pea. No, sir; he was supposed to know everything. He did know most things, and what he didn't know he took the credit for knowing. And so John Cyrus scooped the land of promise from Dan even to Beersheba."
Keith Harford stood looking silently at the smooth round head of the Monk, who wore his cowl of snow drawn well down about his ears, and humped his shoulders a trifle as if the morning air bit shrewdly up there. The Governor followed the direction of the young man's eyes.
"Mr. Kearney Judd is making the ascent of the Eiger to-day," said he, "and his sisters have gone up the hill behind the hotel to look for him through an Alvan Clark telescope!"
"Is Mr. Kearney Judd the, ah — the gentleman in light gaiters and straight eyebrows who was here last night with his guides, Christian Schlegel and Peter Jossi?" queried Marcus with a sudden access of interest.
Governor March nodded humorously.
"I guess you have located my friend pretty descriptively, sir, though he had more clothing on than you say when last heard from. But now I will leave you to your breakfast, and see if I can find my daughter."
The young men followed the erect and handsome figure of the famous war Governor with their eyes till he passed round the corner of the inn.
"What a beastly shame!" cried Marcus, kicking up the turf discontentedly. "That toad engaged to a girl like this! Why, I listened to him bullying his guides till for two pins I'd have knocked his bally head off. I wish now I had!" he added regretfully.
But Keith Harford was not paying the slightest attention to this enounciation of the sorrows of Marcus. His eyes were again fixed dreamily and sadly upon the mighty toothed pyramid of the Eiger.
Observing his abstraction Hardy put his palms to his own mouth and produced a weird imitation of the native jodel almost at Harford's ear.
"What's the matter now, you howling dervish?" cried his friend, startled, turning upon him indignantly.
"Well," said Marcus hotly, "if I see a man a thousand and one miles from his breakfast, I'm going to call him back to this world if I ruin my voice in doing it. I suppose you are such a hideous purblind old mole that you don't realize that you've just seen one of the prettiest girls in the four continents, and that she's engaged to a beast in spats — yes, in spats and brown knickers, with a voice like an infernal peacock squalling on a roof."
"Do you want any breakfast?" said Keith Harford with a great calm.
HARK, THE LARK!
It was an off day, yet Keith Harford was awake betimes in the tiny hostel on the Wengern Alp, held (as the sign stated plainly) against all comers by Johann Jossi. Keith awoke because he missed something. He turned restlessly in the little Swiss bed of five foot six inches in extreme length, over the terminal bar of which his feet projected like the "trams" of a wheelbarrow. The young man was wakeful from unaccustomed comfort. He had indeed taken his knapsack to bed with him, which, in addition to a spirit lamp and appurtenances, contained a camera built with knobs and acute angles particularly inimical to luxury. He had also entrenched himself behind half a dozen books and a field-glass covered in rusty leather.
All these were mingled and scattered about under the sheet, and as Harford lashed this way and that he turned now upon the edge of a book and anon upon the brassbound corner of a box, with a sense of comfortable discomfort and stern refreshment which passed all too quickly. For hours he had wrestled with the fusty national coverture of feathers and had been overthrown, speaking in the dead unhappy night words better left unsaid. And yet at the time even these had been some solace to him.
But now in the clean-washed morning air the vanquished feather-sack reposed without on the tiny causeway in front of the Eigerhof, and was indeed the first object that saluted the morning gaze of Herr Johann Jossi as, simply attired in shirt and trousers, he strolled barefoot and hatless out of the back door of his inn to arouse the sleepers in the stables to their daily work. For with the energy of despair Keith Harford had cast the devil out at the window. And the feather-bed now squatted on the path, a humorous broad-based round-shouldered gnome, one corner of it comically lurched forward like the ear of a dog that has been kicked once and now listens intently for signs of further hostility.
Through the twin green-painted leaves of the open latticed window Keith could see, as he drowsed off and waked up alternately, the darting swallows weaving intricate webs of air in the gulf between him and the distant mountain side. It seemed so near that he almost imagined he could reach those white patches with his ice-axe from the window. But Keith knew well that yonder blue scar, like a chip knocked out of a tumbler edge, denoted a bare spot of glacier ice fifty yards across, from which an avalanche of fragments had been precipitated sufficient to bury the Hotel Wengern-Alp, with all the stables, cow-sheds, goat-sheds, and sheep-pens thereto appertaining.
Sleepily he watched a white spot of the glacier slopes enlarge and slide downwards, pushing before it a little ruffle of greyness like a breeze on still water. There was a puff of smoke like the exhaust of a high-pressure engine at the black edge of the cliff, a hazy mistiness beneath, and yet so far away was all this that before the dull, long-resounding roar of the snow-slide entered through the open casement, Keith was once more uneasily dozing.
Now the Wengernhaus under Johann Jossi was a good hotel, and the sleeper only restless from an overplus of comfort. For Keith Harford had spent much of the previous month in scaling new "faces" of well-known mountains, and in tracing out untried routes over passes of such extreme difficulty, that to the uninstructed eye it seemed much easier to go straight over the tops of the mountains themselves, and so be done with it. He had bivouacked in the huts of the Alpine Clubs, slept the sleep of the just upon the damp straw beds of the Swiss Union, lain like a log upon his back all night on the bare opportunist boards of France, and acquired on short leases the elegantly-fitted mountain mansions of the Tyrol — these last with real glass in the windows, a mirror on the wall, and a circulating library in the press by the German stove. Oftener still, remote alike from shelters and huts, he had shared with Marcus Hardy, his one chosen comrade, the discomforts of a nook among the rocks, where, as the latter sadly admitted, the sole amenities of the situation were, " Harford's knees in your back and half the Oberland in the pit of your stomach!"
Keith Harford had not slept when only the Thal-wind sighed softly through his green lattices, like the whispered speech of lovers in the dark. He had waked when the first starling twittered under the heavy pine-smelling eaves; but yet, so perverse is man, so soon as the inn yard arose to cheerful bustle, when the clattering of tin milking-pails, the goatherds' cries of "keets-keets,'' the chink and tinkle of cow-bells, the whinnying of goats and the lowing of cattle were emulously at strife to deafen the clamour of shrill patois and the clatter of outgoing horses' hoofs, Harford turned to his pillow with a sigh of content and hope. This was something like. He felt that he could sleep now, and accordingly he slept.
But the welcome oblivion was not to be for long. The light door of unpainted wood which separated him from a long barrack-like corridor, bent inward at the top like the leaves of a book turned over by the finger of an eager reader, and the seeing part of a jovial face looked in. It was Marcus the giant, making ready to wake his friend with a thunderous rataplan. For Keith Harford, aware of his comrade's little ways, had taken the precaution to fasten his door before going to bed the night before.
"Not that a little thing like that matters with these flimsy Swiss locks," said Marcus as he levered it open in the middle with the broad cutting edge of his ice-axe. The nails which held the lock parted from the new wood with a soft suck of wheezy discontent. "It's as easy to draw the things they call screws here as - O the somniferous beggar! Keith, are you going to sleep all day?"
Then with his ponderous fists Marcus performed a deafening obligato upon the violated door, whistling shrilly and marking the time alternately with the heels and toes of his well-tacketed boots.
His victim sat up in bed with an expression at once bland and dazed.
The giant nodded confidentially.
"Wagner," he explained, referring to the music. "'The March of the Thingummies' — fellows with wings to their pickel-haubes, you know. Now then, drums, and trumpets! Tarantara-ra-ra. Slap-bangity-whop, and— there-you-are — Pôm-POM!"
Having thus ended his fantasia he bowed right and left gracefully, as if acknowledging wild bursts of applause from a crowded audience, and ended by laying his hand upon his heart in the strictest Blue Danubian manner. Seeing a faint but sad smile flicker upon the face of his friend, Marcus Hardy next hollowed his palms, and with his thumbs to his lips he began to play a soft and moving melody.
"Flutes and oboes," he explained, with a wave of his hand; "the Spirits of the Woods and Mountains descending to arouse the Sleeping Beauty of the Wengern!"
He broke off short, however, with quick alternate indignation. "I never saw such a fellow as you are. You don't deserve to live, much less to get any breakfast!" he cried. "You've no gratitude. Why, after all I've done for you, you sit grouting there as solemn as a brass monkey with the toothache. What's the matter with you, man? At your advanced age you can't be in love?"
"Oh, do go away and order breakfast, there's a good fellow!" said Harford, quietly sitting up in bed, and skirmishing with one hand under the sheets for a missile. Seen in the broad light of day, Keith Harford showed of very different mould from that in which the burly giant Marcus was cast. His finely-shaped smallish head was covered by a close crisp of dark hair, with here and there a thread of early grey running becomingly through it, and in his darkly-melancholy eyes dreams and disappointments seemed to have their dwelling. Keith Harford looked "interesting," which is a word foreign to the male vocabulary; and when he came out upon a hotel "piazza" anywhere from Chamouni to the "Three Kings" of Basle, appreciative maidens remarked covertly to each other, "I'm sure he's had a disappointment."
Marcus Hardy stood for a moment with a comical air of disappointment puckering his genial face.
"Well," he said, with an exaggerated sigh of resignation, "I never glimpsed such a chap — devil a bit of encouragement or appreciation! Here have I been all round the place at the screech of day to swot up Wagner, and I've practised that fellow Strauss till I'm a perfect wreck — Pulsationen, Vibrationen. This sort of thing - -"
He showed symptoms of beginning again with the military comb which he had been covering with paper torn from a Tauchnitz volume, but his companion held up his hand.
"Now do go away, there's a good fellow," he said. "I’ll be down in ten minutes."
"All right," said Marcus, nodding, "'Man's inhumanity to man' — or words to that effect! 'Tis the way of the world! I’ll have the funeral baked-meats all ready."
And so, tucking his ice-axe under his arm, he went playing himself down the long resonant alley of pine boards to the strains of “The Flowers o' the Forest," cheerfully, though somewhat capriciously, performed upon imaginary bagpipes.
But Marcus was arrested ere he reached the stairs, and the melody cut off sharply as with a knife by the voice of Keith Harford behind him.
"Stop that, Hardy! Not that — make a fool of any tune but that, old man."
The tones were earnest and full of feeling.
Hardy nodded his head to himself several times quickly, as if giving the matter up.
"Well," he muttered, "it's much use a fellow trying to be cheerful, with poets and geniuses lying round loose. All right, old man!" he cried aloud; "I forgot that you were more than half a wild borderer. Have you any sentimental objections to 'Tommy, make room for your uncle?'"
And dropping his boyish boisterousness all at once like a masquerading cloak, Marcus Hardy tramped down to the sanctum of Herr Jossi, cornered that potentate, and with practical directness began to arrange for breakfast on the short green turf in front of the house, beside the great brass telescope through which so many ascents of the mountain had been made, and which, tilted at a knowing angle, was sunning itself in the pure morning air and winking confidentially up to the Silver Horn of the Jungfrau under the indigo black sky of the Bernese Oberland.
MY EARLIEST AND BEST AMERICAN FRIENDS
MR. AND MRS. GEORGE L. JEWITT
OF NEW YORK
Dear People Over There --
I send you this book knowing that you will understand (among other things) how deep and sincere is my love for America, and how much I owe to Americans of that heart-gold which alone does not take to itself wings and fly away.
There are several sorts of your countrymen and women in this story — all in their way as charming as I love to remember you two — that is, all save one.
I suppose there are bad Americans. I read the New York Sunday World and seem to have heard of such, though possibly they may have been of foreign extraction. But the mean American I had neither heard of nor yet read of, till we three met him together under the glittering stars of the winter Engadine.
I am certain that neither of you have forgotten Mr. Kearney Judd and the development of the various delightful traits of character which I have attempted to describe in these chapters. I remember with joy your own pregnant reply to that young gentleman's boast.
"I am not often taken for an American!" he said, and smiled.
"When you are, for heaven's sake don't give your country away !" said one of you; and the young man stopped smiling.
But enough of Mr. Judd. I send you this across the Big Water to certify that though the years and the fates divide, there are hearts over here that warm at the thought of you both. The gods who watch over friendships bring us to our next happy meeting!
S. R. CROCKETT
Penicuik, March 28th, 1899
First serialised in 'Woman at Home' as 'The Woman of Fortune' in 1899.