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Little Rivers by Henry van Dyke

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"Young man, do ye no ken it's the Sawbath Day?"

I recognised the reproof of the righteous, an excellent oil which
doth not break the head, and took it gratefully at the old man's
hands. For did it not prove that he regarded me as a man and a
brother, a creature capable of being civilised and saved?

It was in the gray town of Dingwall that I had this bit of pleasant
correction, as I was on the way to a fishing tramp through
Sutherlandshire. This northwest corner of Great Britain is the
best place in the whole island for a modest and impecunious angler.
There are, or there were a few years ago, wild lochs and streams
which are still practically free, and a man who is content with
small things can pick up some very pretty sport from the highland
inns, and make a good basket of memorable experiences every week.

The inn at Lairg, overlooking the narrow waters of Loch Shin, was
embowered in honeysuckles, and full of creature comfort. But there
were too many other men with rods there to suit my taste. "The
feesh in this loch," said the boatman, "iss not so numerous ass the
feeshermen, but more wise. There iss not one of them that hass not
felt the hook, and they know ferry well what side of the fly has
the forkit tail."

At Altnaharra, in the shadow of Ben Clebrig, there was a cozy
little house with good fare, and abundant trout-fishing in Loch
Naver and Loch Meadie. It was there that I fell in with a
wandering pearl-peddler who gathered his wares from the mussels in
the moorland streams. They were not of the finest quality, these
Scotch pearls, but they had pretty, changeable colours of pink and
blue upon them, like the iridescent light that plays over the
heather in the long northern evenings. I thought it must be a hard
life for the man, wading day after day in the ice-cold water, and
groping among the coggly, sliddery stones for the shellfish, and
cracking open perhaps a thousand before he could find one pearl.
"Oh, yess," said be, "and it iss not an easy life, and I am not
saying that it will be so warm and dry ass liffing in a rich house.
But it iss the life that I am fit for, and I hef my own time and my
thoughts to mysel', and that is a ferry goot thing; and then, sir,
I haf found the Pearl of Great Price, and I think upon that day and

Under the black, shattered peaks of Ben Laoghal, where I saw an
eagle poising day after day as if some invisible centripetal force
bound him forever to that small circle of air, there was a loch
with plenty of brown trout and a few salmo ferox; and down at
Tongue there was a little river where the sea-trout sometimes come
up with the tide.

Here I found myself upon the north coast, and took the road
eastward between the mountains and the sea. It was a beautiful
region of desolation. There were rocky glens cutting across the
road, and occasionally a brawling stream ran down to the salt
water, breaking the line of cliffs with a little bay and a half-
moon of yellow sand. The heather covered all the hills. There
were no trees, and but few houses. The chief signs of human labour
were the rounded piles of peat, and the square cuttings in the moor
marking the places where the subterranean wood-choppers had
gathered their harvests. The long straths were once cultivated,
and every patch of arable land had its group of cottages full of
children. The human harvest has always been the richest and most
abundant that is raised in the Highlands; but unfortunately the
supply exceeded the demand; and so the crofters were evicted, and
great flocks of sheep were put in possession of the land; and now
the sheep-pastures have been changed into deer-forests; and far and
wide along the valleys and across the hills there is not a trace of
habitation, except the heaps of stones and the clumps of straggling
bushes which mark the sites of lost homes. But what is one
country's loss is another country's gain. Canada and the United
States are infinitely the richer for the tough, strong, fearless,
honest men that were dispersed from these lonely straths to make
new homes across the sea.

It was after sundown when I reached the straggling village of
Melvich, and the long day's journey had left me weary. But the
inn, with its red-curtained windows, looked bright and reassuring.
Thoughts of dinner and a good bed comforted my spirit--prematurely.
For the inn was full. There were but five bedrooms and two
parlours. The gentlemen who had the neighbouring shootings
occupied three bedrooms and a parlour; the other two bedrooms had
just been taken by the English fishermen who had passed me in the
road an hour ago in the mail-coach (oh! why had I not suspected
that treacherous vehicle?); and the landlord and his wife assured
me, with equal firmness and sympathy, that there was not another
cot or pair of blankets in the house. I believed them, and was
sinking into despair when Sandy M'Kaye appeared on the scene as my
angel of deliverance. Sandy was a small, withered, wiry man,
dressed in rusty gray, with an immense white collar thrusting out
its points on either side of his chin, and a black stock climbing
over the top of it. I guessed from his speech that he had once
lived in the lowlands. He had hoped to be engaged as a gillie by
the shooting party, but had been disappointed. He had wanted to be
taken by the English fishermen, but another and younger man had
stepped in before him. Now Sandy saw in me his Predestinated
Opportunity, and had no idea of letting it post up the road that
night to the next village. He cleared his throat respectfully and
cut into the conversation.

"Ah'm thinkin' the gentleman micht find a coomfortaible lodgin' wi'
the weedow Macphairson a wee bittie doon the road. Her dochter is
awa' in Ameriky, an' the room is a verra fine room, an' it is a
peety to hae it stannin' idle, an' ye wudna mind the few steps to
and fro tae yir meals here, sir, wud ye? An' if ye 'ill gang wi'
me efter dinner, 'a 'll be prood to shoo ye the hoose."

So, after a good dinner with the English fishermen, Sandy piloted
me down the road through the thickening dusk. I remember a hoodie
crow flew close behind us with a choking, ghostly cough that
startled me. The Macpherson cottage was a snug little house of
stone, with fuchsias and roses growing in the front yard: and the
widow was a douce old lady, with a face like a winter apple in the
month of April, wrinkled, but still rosy. She was a little
doubtful about entertaining strangers, but when she heard I was
from America she opened the doors of her house and her heart. And
when, by a subtle cross examination that would have been a credit
to the wife of a Connecticut deacon, she discovered the fact that
her lodger was a minister, she did two things, with equal and
immediate fervour; she brought out the big Bible and asked him to
conduct evening worship, and she produced a bottle of old Glenlivet
and begged him to "guard against takkin' cauld by takkin' a glass
of speerits."

It was a very pleasant fortnight at Melvich. Mistress Macpherson
was so motherly that "takkin' cauld" was reduced to a permanent
impossibility. The other men at the inn proved to be very
companionable fellows, quite different from the monsters of
insolence that my anger had imagined in the moment of
disappointment. The shooting party kept the table abundantly
supplied with grouse and hares and highland venison; and there was
a piper to march up and down before the window and play while we
ate dinner--a very complimentary and disquieting performance. But
there are many occasions in life when pride can be entertained only
at the expense of comfort.

Of course Sandy was my gillie. It was a fine sight to see him
exhibiting the tiny American trout-rod, tied with silk ribbons in
its delicate case, to the other gillies and exulting over them.
Every morning he would lead me away through the heather to some
lonely loch on the shoulders of the hills, from which we could look
down upon the Northern Sea and the blue Orkney Isles far away across
the Pentland Firth. Sometimes we would find a loch with a boat on
it, and drift up and down, casting along the shores. Sometimes,
in spite of Sandy's confident predictions, no boat could be found,
and then I must put on the Mackintosh trousers and wade out over my
hips into the water, and circumambulate the pond, throwing the flies
as far as possible toward the middle, and feeling my way carefully
along the bottom with the long net-handle, while Sandy danced on
the bank in an agony of apprehension lest his Predestinated Opportunity
should step into a deep hole and be drowned. It was a curious fact
in natural history that on the lochs with boats the trout were in
the shallow water, but in the boatless lochs they were away out in
the depths. "Juist the total depraivity o' troots," said Sandy,
"an' terrible fateegin'."

Sandy had an aversion to commit himself to definite statements on
any subject not theological. If you asked him how long the
morning's tramp would be, it was "no verra long, juist a bit ayant
the hull yonner." And if, at the end of the seventh mile, you
complained that it was much too far, he would never do more than
admit that "it micht be shorter." If you called him to rejoice
over a trout that weighed close upon two pounds, he allowed that it
was "no bad--but there's bigger anes i' the loch gin we cud but
wile them oot." And at lunch-time, when we turned out a full
basket of shining fish on the heather, the most that he would say,
while his eyes snapped with joy and pride, was, "Aweel, we canna
complain, the day."

Then he would gather an armful of dried heather-stems for kindling,
and dig out a few roots and crooked limbs of the long-vanished
forest from the dry, brown, peaty soil, and make our campfire of
prehistoric wood--just for the pleasant, homelike look of the
blaze--and sit down beside it to eat our lunch. Heat is the least
of the benefits that man gets from fire. It is the sign of
cheerfulness and good comradeship. I would not willingly satisfy
my hunger, even in a summer nooning, without a little flame burning
on a rustic altar to consecrate and enliven the feast. When the
bread and cheese were finished and the pipes were filled with
Virginia tobacco, Sandy would begin to tell me, very solemnly and
respectfully, about the mistakes I had made in the fishing that
day, and mourn over the fact that the largest fish had not been
hooked. There was a strong strain of pessimism in Sandy, and he
enjoyed this part of the sport immensely.

But he was at his best in the walk home through the lingering
twilight, when the murmur of the sea trembled through the air, and
the incense of burning peat floated up from the cottages, and the
stars blossomed one by one in the pale-green sky. Then Sandy
dandered on at his ease down the hills, and discoursed of things in
heaven and earth. He was an unconscious follower of the theology
of the Reverend John Jasper, of Richmond, Virginia, and rejected
the Copernican theory of the universe as inconsistent with the
history of Joshua. "Gin the sun doesna muve," said he, "what for
wad Joshua be tellin' him to stond steel? 'A wad suner beleeve
there was a mistak' in the veesible heevens than ae fault in the
Guid Buik." Whereupon we held long discourse of astronomy and
inspiration; but Sandy concluded it with a philosophic word which
left little to be said: "Aweel, yon teelescope is a wonnerful
deescovery; but 'a dinna think the less o' the Baible."



Memory is a capricious and arbitrary creature. You never can tell
what pebble she will pick up from the shore of life to keep among
her treasures, or what inconspicuous flower of the field she will
preserve as the symbol of

"Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears."

She has her own scale of values for these mementos, and knows
nothing of the market price of precious stones or the costly
splendour of rare orchids. The thing that pleases her is the thing
that she will hold fast. And yet I do not doubt that the most
important things are always the best remembered; only we must learn
that the real importance of what we see and hear in the world is to
be measured at last by its meaning, its significance, its intimacy
with the heart of our heart and the life of our life. And when we
find a little token of the past very safely and imperishably kept
among our recollections, we must believe that memory has made no
mistake. It is because that little thing has entered into our
experience most deeply, that it stays with us and we cannot lose

You have half forgotten many a famous scene that you travelled far
to look upon. You cannot clearly recall the sublime peak of Mont
Blanc, the roaring curve of Niagara, the vast dome of St. Peter's.
The music of Patti's crystalline voice has left no distinct echo in
your remembrance, and the blossoming of the century-plant is dimmer
than the shadow of a dream. But there is a nameless valley among
the hills where you can still trace every curve of the stream, and
see the foam-bells floating on the pool below the bridge, and the
long moss wavering in the current. There is a rustic song of a
girl passing through the fields at sunset, that still repeats its
far-off cadence in your listening ears. There is a small flower
trembling on its stem in some hidden nook beneath the open sky,
that never withers through all the changing years; the wind passes
over it, but it is not gone--it abides forever in your soul, an
amaranthine blossom of beauty and truth.

White heather is not an easy flower to find. You may look for it
among the highlands for a day without success. And when it is
discovered, there is little outward charm to commend it. It lacks
the grace of the dainty bells that hang so abundantly from the
Erica Tetralix, and the pink glow of the innumerable blossoms of
the common heather. But then it is a symbol. It is the Scotch
Edelweiss. It means sincere affection, and unselfish love, and
tender wishes as pure as prayers. I shall always remember the
evening when I found the white heather on the moorland above Glen
Ericht. Or, rather, it was not I that found it (for I have little
luck in the discovery of good omens, and have never plucked a four-
leaved clover in my life), but my companion, the gentle Mistress of
the Glen, whose hair was as white as the tiny blossoms, and yet
whose eyes were far quicker than mine to see and name every flower
that bloomed in those lofty, widespread fields.

Ericht Water is formed by the marriage of two streams, one flowing
out of Strath Ardle and the other descending from Cairn Gowar
through the long, lonely Pass of Glenshee. The Ericht begins at
the bridge of Cally, and its placid, beautiful glen, unmarred by
railway or factory, reaches almost down to Blairgowrie. On the
southern bank, but far above the water, runs the high road to
Braemar and the Linn of Dee. On the other side of the river,
nestling among the trees, is the low white manor-house,

"An ancient home of peace."

It is a place where one who had been wearied and perchance sore
wounded in the battle of life might well desire to be carried, as
Arthur to the island valley of Avilion, for rest and healing.

I have no thought of renewing the conflicts and cares that filled
that summer with sorrow. There were fightings without and fears
within; there was the surrender of an enterprise that had been
cherished since boyhood, and the bitter sense of irremediable
weakness that follows such a reverse; there was a touch of that
wrath with those we love, which, as Coleridge says,

"Doth work like madness in the brain;"

flying across the sea from these troubles, I had found my old
comrade of merrier days sentenced to death, and caught but a brief
glimpse of his pale, brave face as he went away into exile. At
such a time the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are
darkened, and the clouds return after rain. But through those
clouds the Mistress of the Glen came to meet me--a stranger till
then, but an appointed friend, a minister of needed grace, an angel
of quiet comfort. The thick mists of rebellion, mistrust, and
despair have long since rolled away, and against the background of
the hills her figure stands out clearly, dressed in the fashion of
fifty years ago, with the snowy hair gathered close beneath her
widow's cap, and a spray of white heather in her outstretched hand.

There were no other guests in the house by the river during those
still days in the noontide hush of midsummer. Every morning, while
the Mistress was busied with her household cares and letters, I
would be out in the fields hearing the lark sing, and watching the
rabbits as they ran to and fro, scattering the dew from the grass
in a glittering spray. Or perhaps I would be angling down the
river, with the swift pressure of the water around my knees, and an
inarticulate current of cooling thoughts flowing on and on through
my brain like the murmur of the stream. Every afternoon there were
long walks with the Mistress in the old-fashioned garden, where
wonderful roses were blooming; or through the dark, fir-shaded den
where the wild burn dropped down to join the river; or out upon the
high moor under the waning orange sunset. Every night there were
luminous and restful talks beside the open fire in the library,
when the words came clear and calm from the heart, unperturbed by
the vain desire of saying brilliant things, which turns so much of
our conversation into a combat of wits instead of an interchange of
thoughts. Talk like this is possible only between two. The
arrival of a third person sets the lists for a tournament, and
offers the prize for a verbal victory. But where there are only
two, the armour is laid aside, and there is no call to thrust and

One of the two should be a good listener, sympathetic, but not
silent, giving confidence in order to attract it--and of this art a
woman is the best master. But its finest secrets do not come to
her until she has passed beyond the uncertain season of compliments
and conquests, and entered into the serenity of a tranquil age.

What is this foolish thing that men say about the impossibility of
true intimacy and converse between the young and the old?
Hamerton, for example, in his book on Human Intercourse, would have
us believe that a difference in years is a barrier between hearts.
For my part, I have more often found it an open door, and a
security of generous and tolerant welcome for the young soldier,
who comes in tired and dusty from the battle-field, to tell his
story of defeat or victory in the garden of still thoughts where
old age is resting in the peace of honourable discharge. I like
what Robert Louis Stevenson says about it in his essay on Talk and

"Not only is the presence of the aged in itself remedial, but their
minds are stored with antidotes, wisdom's simples, plain
considerations overlooked by youth. They have matter to
communicate, be they never so stupid. Their talk is not merely
literature, it is great literature; classic by virtue of the
speaker's detachment; studded, like a book of travel, with things
we should not otherwise have learnt. . . where youth agrees with
age, not where they differ, wisdom lies; and it is when the young
disciple finds his heart to beat in tune with his gray-haired
teacher's that a lesson may be learned."

The conversation of the Mistress of the Glen shone like the light
and distilled like the dew, not only by virtue of what she said,
but still more by virtue of what she was. Her face was a good
counsel against discouragement; and the cheerful quietude of her
demeanour was a rebuke to all rebellious, cowardly, and
discontented thoughts. It was not the striking novelty or
profundity of her commentary on life that made it memorable, it was
simply the truth of what she said and the gentleness with which she
said it. Epigrams are worth little for guidance to the perplexed,
and less for comfort to the wounded. But the plain, homely sayings
which come from a soul that has learned the lesson of patient
courage in the school of real experience, fall upon the wound like
drops of balsam, and like a soothing lotion up on the eyes smarting
and blinded with passion.

She spoke of those who had walked with her long ago in her garden,
and for whose sake, now that they had all gone into the world of
light, every flower was doubly dear. Would it be a true proof of
loyalty to them if she lived gloomily or despondently because they
were away? She spoke of the duty of being ready to welcome
happiness as well as to endure pain, and of the strength that
endurance wins by being grateful for small daily joys, like the
evening light, and the smell of roses, and the singing of birds.
She spoke of the faith that rests on the Unseen Wisdom and Love
like a child on its mother's breast, and of the melting away of
doubts in the warmth of an effort to do some good in the world.
And if that effort has conflict, and adventure, and confused noise,
and mistakes, and even defeats mingled with it, in the stormy years
of youth, is not that to be expected? The burn roars and leaps in
the den; the stream chafes and frets through the rapids of the
glen; the river does not grow calm and smooth until it nears the
sea. Courage is a virtue that the young cannot spare; to lose it
is to grow old before the time; it is better to make a thousand
mistakes and suffer a thousand reverses than to refuse the battle.
Resignation is the final courage of old age; it arrives in its own
season; and it is a good day when it comes to us. Then there are
no more disappointments; for we have learned that it is even better
to desire the things that we have than to have the things that we
desire. And is not the best of all our hopes--the hope of
immortality--always before us? How can we be dull or heavy while
we have that new experience to look forward to? It will be the
most joyful of all our travels and adventures. It will bring us
our best acquaintances and friendships. But there is only one way
to get ready for immortality, and that is to love this life, and
live it as bravely and cheerfully and faithfully as we can.

So my gentle teacher with the silver hair showed me the treasures
of her ancient, simple faith; and I felt that no sermons, nor
books, nor arguments can strengthen the doubting heart so deeply as
just to come into touch with a soul which has proved the truth of
that plain religion whose highest philosophy is "Trust in the Lord
and do good." At the end of the evening the household was gathered
for prayers, and the Mistress kneeled among her servants, leading
them, in her soft Scottish accent, through the old familiar
petitions for pardon for the errors of the day, and refreshing
sleep through the night and strength for the morrow. It is good to
be in a land where the people are not ashamed to pray. I have
shared the blessing of Catholics at their table in lowly huts among
the mountains of the Tyrol, and knelt with Covenanters at their
household altar in the glens of Scotland; and all around the world,
where the spirit of prayer is, there is peace. The genius of the
Scotch has made many contributions to literature, but none I think,
more precious, and none that comes closer to the heart, than the
prayer which Robert Louis Stevenson wrote for his family in distant
Samoa, the night before he died:--

"We beseech thee, Lord, to behold us with favour, folk of many
families and nations, gathered together in the peace of this roof:
weak men and women subsisting under the covert of thy patience. Be
patient still; suffer us yet a while longer--with our broken
promises of good, with our idle endeavours against evil--suffer us
a while longer to endure, and (if it may be) help us to do better.
Bless to us our extraordinary mercies; if the day come when these
must be taken, have us play the man under affliction. Be with our
friends, be with ourselves. Go with each of us to rest; if any
awake, temper to them the dark hours of watching; and when the day
returns to us--our sun and comforter--call us with morning faces,
eager to labour, eager to be happy, if happiness shall be our
portion, and, if the day be marked to sorrow, strong to endure it.
We thank thee and praise thee; and, in the words of Him to whom
this day is sacred, close our oblation."

The man who made that kindly human prayer knew the meaning of white
heather. And I dare to hope that I too have known something of its
meaning, since that evening when the Mistress of the Glen picked
the spray and gave it to me on the lonely moor. "And now," she
said, "you will be going home across the sea; and you have been
welcome here, but it is time that you should go, for there is the
place where your real duties and troubles and joys are waiting for
you. And if you have left any misunderstandings behind you, you
will try to clear them up; and if there have been any quarrels, you
will heal them. Carry this little flower with you. It's not the
bonniest blossom in Scotland, but it's the dearest, for the message
that it brings. And you will remember that love is not
getting, but giving; not a wild dream of pleasure, and a madness of
desire--oh no, love is not that--it is goodness, and honour, and
peace, and pure living--yes, love is that; and it is the best thing
in the world, and the thing that lives longest. And that is what I
am wishing for you and yours with this bit of white heather."



Dr. Paley was ardently attached to this amusement; so much so that
when the Bishop of Durham inquired of him when one of his most
important works would be finished, he said, with great simplicity
and good humour, 'My Lord, I shall work steadily at it when the
fly-fishing season is over.'--SIR HUMPHRY DAVY: Salmonia.

The boundary line between the Province of Quebec and New Brunswick,
for a considerable part of its course, resembles the name of the
poet Keats; it is "writ in water." But like his fame, it is water
that never fails,--the limpid current of the river Ristigouche.

The railway crawls over it on a long bridge at Metapedia, and you
are dropped in the darkness somewhere between midnight and dawn.
When you open your window-shutters the next morning, you see that
the village is a disconsolate hamlet, scattered along the track as
if it had been shaken by chance from an open freight-car; it
consists of twenty houses, three shops, and a discouraged church
perched upon a little hillock like a solitary mourner on the
anxious seat. The one comfortable and prosperous feature in the
countenance of Metapedia is the house of the Ristigouche Salmon
Club--an old-fashioned mansion, with broad, white piazza, looking
over rich meadow-lands. Here it was that I found my friend
Favonius, president of solemn societies, pillar of church and
state, ingenuously arrayed in gray knickerbockers, a flannel shirt,
and a soft hat, waiting to take me on his horse-yacht for a voyage
up the river.

Have you ever seen a horse-yacht? Sometimes it is called a scow;
but that sounds common. Sometimes it is called a house-boat; but
that is too English. What does it profit a man to have a whole
dictionary full of language at his service, unless he can invent a
new and suggestive name for his friend's pleasure-craft? The
foundation of the horse-yacht--if a thing that floats may be called
fundamental--is a flat-bottomed boat, some fifty feet long and ten
feet wide, with a draft of about eight inches. The deck is open
for fifteen feet aft of the place where the bowsprit ought to be;
behind that it is completely covered by a house, cabin, cottage, or
whatever you choose to call it, with straight sides and a peaked
roof of a very early Gothic pattern. Looking in at the door you
see, first of all, two cots, one on either side of the passage;
then an open space with a dining-table, a stove, and some chairs;
beyond that a pantry with shelves, and a great chest for
provisions. A door at the back opens into the kitchen, and from
that another door opens into a sleeping-room for the boatmen. A
huge wooden tiller curves over the stern of the boat, and the
helmsman stands upon the kitchen-roof. Two canoes are floating
behind, holding back, at the end of their long tow-ropes, as if
reluctant to follow so clumsy a leader. This is an accurate
description of the horse-yacht. If necessary it could be sworn to
before a notary public. But I am perfectly sure that you might
read this page through without skipping a word, and if you had
never seen the creature with your own eyes, you would have no idea
how absurd it looks and how comfortable it is.

While we were stowing away our trunks and bags under the cots, and
making an equitable division of the hooks upon the walls, the
motive power of the yacht stood patiently upon the shore, stamping
a hoof, now and then, or shaking a shaggy head in mild protest
against the flies. Three more pessimistic-looking horses I never
saw. They were harnessed abreast, and fastened by a prodigious
tow-rope to a short post in the middle of the forward deck. Their
driver was a truculent, brigandish, bearded old fellow in long
boots, a blue flannel shirt, and a black sombrero. He sat upon the
middle horse, and some wild instinct of colour had made him tie a
big red handkerchief around his shoulders, so that the eye of the
beholder took delight in him. He posed like a bold, bad robber-
chief. But in point of fact I believe he was the mildest and most
inoffensive of men. We never heard him say anything except at a
distance, to his horses, and we did not inquire what that was.

Well, as I have said, we were haggling courteously over those hooks
in the cabin, when the boat gave a lurch. The bow swung out into
the stream. There was a scrambling and clattering of iron horse-
shoes on the rough shingle of the bank; and when we looked out of
doors, our house was moving up the river with the boat under it.

The Ristigouche is a noble stream, stately and swift and strong.
It rises among the dense forests in the northern part of New
Brunswick--a moist upland region, of never-failing springs and
innumerous lakes--and pours a flood of clear, cold water one
hundred and fifty miles northward and eastward through the hills
into the head of the Bay of Chaleurs. There are no falls in its
course, but rapids everywhere. It is steadfast but not impetuous,
quick but not turbulent, resolute and eager in its desire to get to
the sea, like the life of a man who has a purpose

"Too great for haste, too high for rivalry."

The wonder is where all the water comes from. But the river is fed
by more than six thousand square miles of territory. From both
sides the little brooks come dashing in with their supply. At
intervals a larger stream, reaching away back among the mountains
like a hand with many fingers to gather

"The filtered tribute of the rough woodland,"

delivers its generous offering to the main current.

The names of the chief tributaries of the Ristigouche are curious.
There is the headstrong Metapedia, and the crooked Upsalquitch, and
the Patapedia, and the Quatawamkedgwick. These are words at which
the tongue balks at first, but you soon grow used to them and learn
to take anything of five syllables with a rush, as a hunter takes a
five-barred gate, trusting to fortune that you will come down with
the accent in the right place.

For six or seven miles above Metapedia the river has a breadth of
about two hundred yards, and the valley slopes back rather gently
to the mountains on either side. There is a good deal of
cultivated land, and scattered farm-houses appear. The soil is
excellent. But it is like a pearl cast before an obstinate,
unfriendly climate. Late frosts prolong the winter. Early frosts
curtail the summer. The only safe crops are grass, oats, and
potatoes. And for half the year all the cattle must be housed and
fed to keep them alive. This lends a melancholy aspect to
agriculture. Most of the farmers look as if they had never seen
better days. With few exceptions they are what a New Englander
would call "slack-twisted and shiftless." Their barns are pervious
to the weather, and their fences fail to connect. Sleds and
ploughs rust together beside the house, and chickens scratch up the
front-door yard. In truth, the people have been somewhat
demoralised by the conflicting claims of different occupations;
hunting in the fall, lumbering in the winter and spring, and
working for the American sportsmen in the brief angling season, are
so much more attractive and offer so much larger returns of ready
money, that the tedious toil of farming is neglected. But for all
that, in the bright days of midsummer, these green fields sloping
down to the water, and pastures high up among the trees on the
hillsides, look pleasant from a distance, and give an inhabited air
to the landscape.

At the mouth of the Upsalquitch we passed the first of the fishing-
lodges. It belongs to a sage angler from Albany who saw the beauty
of the situation, years ago, and built a habitation to match it.
Since that time a number of gentlemen have bought land fronting on
good pools, and put up little cottages of a less classical style
than Charles Cotton's "Fisherman's Retreat" on the banks of the
river Dove, but better suited to this wild scenery, and more
convenient to live in. The prevailing pattern is a very simple
one; it consists of a broad piazza with a small house in the middle
of it. The house bears about the same proportion to the piazza
that the crown of a Gainsborough hat does to the brim. And the
cost of the edifice is to the cost of the land as the first price
of a share in a bankrupt railway is to the assessments which follow
the reorganisation. All the best points have been sold, and real
estate on the Ristigouche has been bid up to an absurd figure. In
fact, the river is over-populated and probably over-fished. But we
could hardly find it in our hearts to regret this, for it made the
upward trip a very sociable one. At every lodge that was open,
Favonius (who knows everybody) had a friend, and we must slip
ashore in a canoe to leave the mail and refresh the inner man.

An angler, like an Arab, regards hospitality as a religious duty.
There seems to be something in the craft which inclines the heart
to kindness and good-fellowship. Few anglers have I seen who were
not pleasant to meet, and ready to do a good turn to a fellow-
fisherman with the gift of a killing fly or the loan of a rod. Not
their own particular and well-proved favourite, of course, for that
is a treasure which no decent man would borrow; but with that
exception the best in their store is at the service of an
accredited brother. One of the Ristigouche proprietors I remember,
whose name bespoke him a descendant of Caledonia's patron saint.
He was fishing in front of his own door when we came up, with our
splashing horses, through the pool; but nothing would do but he
must up anchor and have us away with him into the house to taste
his good cheer. And there were his daughters with their books and
needlework, and the photographs which they had taken pinned up on
the wooden walls, among Japanese fans and bits of bright-coloured
stuff in which the soul of woman delights, and, in a passive,
silent way, the soul of man also. Then, after we had discussed the
year's fishing, and the mysteries of the camera, and the deep
question of what makes some negatives too thin and others too
thick, we must go out to see the big salmon which one of the ladies
had caught a few days before, and the large trout swimming about in
their cold spring. It seemed to me, as we went on our way, that
there could hardly be a more wholesome and pleasant summer-life for
well-bred young women than this, or two amusements more innocent
and sensible than photography and fly-fishing.

It must be confessed that the horse-yacht as a vehicle of travel is
not remarkable in point of speed. Three miles an hour is not a
very rapid rate of motion. But then, if you are not in a hurry,
why should you care to make haste?

The wild desire to be forever racing against old Father Time is one
of the kill-joys of modern life. That ancient traveller is sure to
beat you in the long run, and as long as you are trying to rival
him, he will make your life a burden. But if you will only
acknowledge his superiority and profess that you do not approve of
racing after all, he will settle down quietly beside you and jog
along like the most companionable of creatures. That is a pleasant
pilgrimage in which the journey itself is part of the destination.

As soon as one learns to regard the horse-yacht as a sort of moving
house, it appears admirable. There is no dust or smoke, no rumble
of wheels, or shriek of whistles. You are gliding along steadily
through an ever-green world; skirting the silent hills; passing
from one side of the river to the other when the horses have to
swim the current to find a good foothold on the bank. You are on
the water, but not at its mercy, for your craft is not disturbed by
the heaving of rude waves, and the serene inhabitants do not say "I
am sick." There is room enough to move about without falling
overboard. You may sleep, or read, or write in your cabin, or sit
upon the floating piazza in an arm-chair and smoke the pipe of
peace, while the cool breeze blows in your face and the musical
waves go singing down to the sea.

There was one feature about the boat, which commended itself very
strongly to my mind. It was possible to stand upon the forward
deck and do a little trout-fishing in motion. By watching your
chance, when the corner of a good pool was within easy reach, you
could send out a hasty line and cajole a sea-trout from his hiding-
place. It is true that the tow-ropes and the post made the back
cast a little awkward; and the wind sometimes blew the flies up on
the roof of the cabin; but then, with patience and a short line the
thing could be done. I remember a pair of good trout that rose
together just as we were going through a boiling rapid; and it
tried the strength of my split-bamboo rod to bring those fish to
the net against the current and the motion of the boat.

When nightfall approached we let go the anchor (to wit, a rope tied
to a large stone on the shore), ate our dinner "with gladness and
singleness of heart" like the early Christians, and slept the sleep
of the just, lulled by the murmuring of the waters, and defended
from the insidious attacks of the mosquito by the breeze blowing
down the river and the impregnable curtains over our beds. At
daybreak, long before Favonius and I had finished our dreams, we
were under way again; and when the trampling of the horses on some
rocky shore wakened us, we could see the steep hills gliding past
the windows and hear the rapids dashing against the side of the
boat, and it seemed as if we were still dreaming.

At Cross Point, where the river makes a long loop around a narrow
mountain, thin as a saw and crowned on its jagged edge by a rude
wooden cross, we stopped for an hour to try the fishing. It was
here that I hooked two mysterious creatures, each of which took the
fly when it was below the surface, pulled for a few moments in a
sullen way and then apparently melted into nothingness. It will
always be a source of regret to me that the nature of these fish
must remain unknown. While they were on the line it was the
general opinion that they were heavy trout; but no sooner had they
departed, than I became firmly convinced, in accordance with a
psychological law which holds good all over the world, that they
were both enormous salmon. Even the Turks have a proverb which
says, "Every fish that escapes appears larger than it is." No one
can alter that conviction, because no one can logically refute it.
Our best blessings, like our largest fish, always depart before we
have time to measure them.

The Slide Pool is in the wildest and most picturesque part of the
river, about thirty-five miles above Metapedia. The stream,
flowing swiftly down a stretch of rapids between forest-clad hills,
runs straight toward the base of an eminence so precipitous that
the trees can hardly find a foothold upon it, and seem to be
climbing up in haste on either side of the long slide which leads
to the summit. The current, barred by the wall of rock, takes a
great sweep to the right, dashing up at first in angry waves, then
falling away in oily curves and eddies, until at last it sleeps in
a black deep, apparently almost motionless, at the foot of the
hill. It was here, on the upper edge of the stream, opposite to
the slide, that we brought our floating camp to anchor for some
days. What does one do in such a watering-place?

Let us take a "specimen day." It is early morning, or to be more
precise, about eight of the clock, and the white fog is just
beginning to curl and drift away from the surface of the river.
Sooner than this it would be idle to go out. The preternaturally
early bird in his greedy haste may catch the worm; but the salmon
never take the fly until the fog has lifted; and in this the
scientific angler sees, with gratitude, a remarkable adaptation of
the laws of nature to the tastes of man. The canoes are waiting at
the front door. We step into them and push off, Favonius going up
the stream a couple of miles to the mouth of the Patapedia, and I
down, a little shorter distance, to the famous Indian House Pool.
The slim boat glides easily on the current, with a smooth buoyant
motion, quickened by the strokes of the paddles in the bow and the
stern. We pass around two curves in the river and find ourselves
at the head of the pool. Here the man in the stern drops the
anchor, just on the edge of the bar where the rapid breaks over
into the deeper water. The long rod is lifted; the fly unhooked
from the reel; a few feet of line pulled through the rings, and the
fishing begins.

First cast,--to the right, straight across the stream, about twenty
feet: the current carries the fly down with a semicircular sweep,
until it comes in line with the bow of the canoe. Second cast,--to
the left, straight across the stream, with the same motion: the
semicircle is completed, and the fly hangs quivering for a few
seconds at the lowest point of the arc. Three or four feet of line
are drawn from the reel. Third cast to the right; fourth cast to
the left. Then a little more line. And so, with widening half-
circles, the water is covered, gradually and very carefully, until
at length the angler has as much line out as his two-handed rod can
lift and swing. Then the first "drop" is finished; the man in the
stern quietly pulls up the anchor and lets the boat drift down a
few yards; the same process is repeated on the second drop; and so
on, until the end of the run is reached and the fly has passed over
all the good water. This seems like a very regular and somewhat
mechanical proceeding as one describes it, but in the performance
it is rendered intensely interesting by the knowledge that at any
moment it is liable to be interrupted.

This morning the interruption comes early. At the first cast of
the second drop, before the fly has fairly lit, a great flash of
silver darts from the waves close by the boat. Usually a salmon
takes the fly rather slowly, carrying it under water before he
seizes it in his mouth. But this one is in no mood for
deliberation. He has hooked himself with a rush, and the line goes
whirring madly from the reel as he races down the pool. Keep the
point of the rod low; he must have his own way now. Up with the
anchor quickly, and send the canoe after him, bowman and sternman
paddling with swift strokes. He has reached the deepest water; he
stops to think what has happened to him; we have passed around and
below him; and now, with the current to help us, we can begin to
reel in. Lift the point of the rod, with a strong, steady pull.
Put the force of both arms into it. The tough wood will stand the
strain. The fish must be moved; he must come to the boat if he is
ever to be landed. He gives a little and yields slowly to the
pressure. Then suddenly he gives too much, and runs straight
toward us. Reel in now as swiftly as possible, or else he will get
a slack on the line and escape. Now he stops, shakes his head from
side to side, and darts away again across the pool, leaping high
out of water. Don't touch the reel! Drop the point of the rod
quickly, for if he falls on the leader he will surely break it.
Another leap, and another! Truly he is "a merry one," and it will
go hard with us to hold him. But those great leaps have exhausted
his strength, and now he follows the rod more easily. The men push
the boat back to the shallow side of the pool until it touches
lightly on the shore. The fish comes slowly in, fighting a little
and making a few short runs; he is tired and turns slightly on his
side; but even yet he is a heavy weight on the line, and it seems a
wonder that so slight a thing as the leader can guide and draw him.
Now he is close to the boat. The boatman steps out on a rock with
his gaff. Steadily now and slowly, lift the rod, bending it
backward. A quick sure stroke of the steel! a great splash! and
the salmon is lifted upon the shore. How he flounces about on the
stones. Give him the coup de grace at once, for his own sake as
well as for ours. And now look at him, as he lies there on the
green leaves. Broad back; small head tapering to a point; clean,
shining sides with a few black spots on them; it is a fish fresh-
run from the sea, in perfect condition, and that is the reason why
he has given such good sport.

We must try for another before we go back. Again fortune favours
us, and at eleven o'clock we pole up the river to the camp with two
good salmon in the canoe. Hardly have we laid them away in the
ice-box, when Favonius comes dropping down from Patapedia with
three fish, one of them a twenty-four pounder. And so the
morning's work is done.

In the evening, after dinner, it was our custom to sit out on the
deck, watching the moonlight as it fell softly over the black hills
and changed the river into a pale flood of rolling gold. The
fragrant wreaths of smoke floated lazily away on the faint breeze
of night. There was no sound save the rushing of the water and the
crackling of the camp-fire on the shore. We talked of many things
in the heavens above, and the earth beneath, and the waters under
the earth; touching lightly here and there as the spirit of vagrant
converse led us. Favonius has the good sense to talk about himself
occasionally and tell his own experience. The man who will not do
that must always be a dull companion. Modest egoism is the salt of
conversation: you do not want too much of it; but if it is
altogether omitted, everything tastes flat. I remember well the
evening when he told me the story of the Sheep of the Wilderness.

"I was ill that summer," said he, "and the doctor had ordered me to
go into the woods, but on no account to go without plenty of fresh
meat, which was essential to my recovery. So we set out into the
wild country north of Georgian Bay, taking a live sheep with us in
order to be sure that the doctor's prescription might be faithfully
followed. It was a young and innocent little beast, curling itself
up at my feet in the canoe, and following me about on shore like a
dog. I gathered grass every day to feed it, and carried it in my
arms over the rough portages. It ate out of my hand and rubbed its
woolly head against my leggings. To my dismay, I found that I was
beginning to love it for its own sake and without any ulterior
motives. The thought of killing and eating it became more and more
painful to me, until at length the fatal fascination was complete,
and my trip became practically an exercise of devotion to that
sheep. I carried it everywhere and ministered fondly to its wants.
Not for the world would I have alluded to mutton in its presence.
And when we returned to civilisation I parted from the creature
with sincere regret and the consciousness that I had humoured my
affections at the expense of my digestion. The sheep did not give
me so much as a look of farewell, but fell to feeding on the grass
beside the farm-house with an air of placid triumph."

After hearing this touching tale, I was glad that no great intimacy
had sprung up between Favonius and the chickens which we carried in
a coop on the forecastle head, for there is no telling what
restrictions his tender-heartedness might have laid upon our
larder. But perhaps a chicken would not have given such an opening
for misplaced affection as a sheep. There is a great difference in
animals in this respect. I certainly never heard of any one
falling in love with a salmon in such a way as to regard it as a
fond companion. And this may be one reason why no sensible person
who has tried fishing has ever been able to see any cruelty in it.

Suppose the fish is not caught by an angler, what is his
alternative fate? He will either perish miserably in the struggles
of the crowded net, or die of old age and starvation like the long,
lean stragglers which are sometimes found in the shallow pools, or
be devoured by a larger fish, or torn to pieces by a seal or an
otter. Compared with any of these miserable deaths, the fate of a
salmon who is hooked in a clear stream and after a glorious fight
receives the happy despatch at the moment when he touches the
shore, is a sort of euthanasia. And, since the fish was made to be
man's food, the angler who brings him to the table of destiny in
the cleanest, quickest, kindest way is, in fact, his benefactor.

There were some days, however, when our benevolent intentions
toward the salmon were frustrated; mornings when they refused to
rise, and evenings when they escaped even the skilful endeavours of
Favonius. In vain did he try every fly in his book, from the
smallest "Silver Doctor" to the largest "Golden Eagle." The "Black
Dose" would not move them. The "Durham Ranger" covered the pool in
vain. On days like this, if a stray fish rose, it was hard to land
him, for he was usually but slightly hooked.

I remember one of these shy creatures which led me a pretty dance
at the mouth of Patapedia. He came to the fly just at dusk, rising
very softly and quietly, as if he did not really care for it but
only wanted to see what it was like. He went down at once into
deep water, and began the most dangerous and exasperating of all
salmon-tactics, moving around in slow circles and shaking his head
from side to side, with sullen pertinacity. This is called
"jigging," and unless it can be stopped, the result is fatal.

I could not stop it. That salmon was determined to jig. He knew
more than I did.

The canoe followed him down the pool. He jigged away past all
three of the inlets of the Patapedia, and at last, in the still,
deep water below, after we had laboured with him for half an hour,
and brought him near enough to see that he was immense, he calmly
opened his mouth and the fly came back to me void. That was a sad
evening, in which all the consolations of philosophy were needed.

Sunday was a very peaceful day in our camp. In the Dominion of
Canada, the question "to fish or not to fish" on the first day of
the week is not left to the frailty of the individual conscience.
The law on the subject is quite explicit, and says that between six
o'clock on Saturday evening and six o'clock on Monday morning all
nets shall be taken up and no one shall wet a line. The
Ristigouche Salmon Club has its guardians stationed all along the
river, and they are quite as inflexible in seeing that their
employers keep this law as the famous sentinel was in refusing to
let Napoleon pass without the countersign. But I do not think that
these keen sportsmen regard it as a hardship; they are quite
willing that the fish should have "an off day" in every week, and
only grumble because some of the net-owners down at the mouth of
the river have brought political influence to bear in their favour
and obtained exemption from the rule. For our part, we were
nothing loath to hang up our rods, and make the day different from
other days.

In the morning we had a service in the cabin of the boat, gathering
a little congregation of guardians and boatmen, and people from a
solitary farm-house by the river. They came in pirogues--long,
narrow boats hollowed from the trunk of a tree; the black-eyed,
brown-faced girls sitting back to back in the middle of the boat,
and the men standing up bending to their poles. It seemed a
picturesque way of travelling, although none too safe.

In the afternoon we sat on deck and looked at the water. What a
charm there is in watching a swift stream! The eye never wearies
of following its curls and eddies, the shadow of the waves dancing
over the stones, the strange, crinkling lines of sunlight in the
shallows. There is a sort of fascination in it, lulling and
soothing the mind into a quietude which is even pleasanter than
sleep, and making it almost possible to do that of which we so
often speak, but which we never quite accomplish--"think about
nothing." Out on the edge of the pool, we could see five or six
huge salmon, moving slowly from side to side, or lying motionless
like gray shadows. There was nothing to break the silence except
the thin clear whistle of the white-throated sparrow far back in
the woods. This is almost the only bird-song that one hears on the
river, unless you count the metallic "chr-r-r-r" of the kingfisher
as a song.

Every now and then one of the salmon in the pool would lazily roll
out of water, or spring high into the air and fall back with a
heavy splash. What is it that makes salmon leap? Is it pain or
pleasure? Do they do it to escape the attack of another fish, or
to shake off a parasite that clings to them, or to practise jumping
so that they can ascend the falls when they reach them, or simply
and solely out of exuberant gladness and joy of living? Any one of
these reasons would be enough to account for it on week-days. On
Sunday I am quite sure they do it for the trial of the fisherman's

But how should I tell all the little incidents which made that lazy
voyage so delightful? Favonius was the ideal host, for on water,
as well as on land, he knows how to provide for the liberty as well
as for the wants of his guests. He understands also the fine art
of conversation, which consists of silence as well as speech. And
when it comes to angling, Izaak Walton himself could not have been
a more profitable teacher by precept or example. Indeed, it is a
curious thought, and one full of sadness to a well-constituted
mind, that on the Ristigouche "I. W." would have been at sea, for
the beloved father of all fishermen passed through this world
without ever catching a salmon. So ill does fortune match with
merit here below.

At last the days of idleness were ended. We could not

"Fold our tents like the Arabs,
and as silently steal away;"

but we took down the long rods, put away the heavy reels, made the
canoes fast to the side of the house, embarked the three horses on
the front deck, and then dropped down with the current, swinging
along through the rapids, and drifting slowly through the still
places, now grounding on a hidden rock, and now sweeping around a
sharp curve, until at length we saw the roofs of Metapedia and the
ugly bridge of the railway spanning the river. There we left our
floating house, awkward and helpless, like some strange relic of
the flood, stranded on the shore. And as we climbed the bank we
looked back and wondered whether Noah was sorry when he said good-
bye to his ark.



Nay, let me tell you, there be many that have forty times our
estates, that would give the greatest part of it to be healthful
and cheerful like us; who, with the expense of a little money, have
ate, and drank, and laughed, and angled, and sung, and slept
securely; and rose next day, and cast away care, and sung, and
laughed, and angled again; which are blessings rich men cannot
purchase with all their money."--IZAAK WALTON: The Complete Angler.

A great deal of the pleasure of life lies in bringing together
things which have no connection. That is the secret of humour--at
least so we are told by the philosophers who explain the jests that
other men have made--and in regard to travel, I am quite sure that
it must be illogical in order to be entertaining. The more
contrasts it contains, the better.

Perhaps it was some philosophical reflection of this kind that
brought me to the resolution, on a certain summer day, to make a
little journey, as straight as possible, from the sea-level streets
of Venice to the lonely, lofty summit of a Tyrolese mountain,
called, for no earthly reason that I can discover, the Gross-

But apart from the philosophy of the matter, which I must confess
to passing over very superficially at the time, there were other
and more cogent reasons for wanting to go from Venice to the Big
Venetian. It was the first of July, and the city on the sea was
becoming tepid. A slumbrous haze brooded over canals and palaces
and churches. It was difficult to keep one's conscience awake to
Baedeker and a sense of moral obligation; Ruskin was impossible,
and a picture-gallery was a penance. We floated lazily from one
place to another, and decided that, after all, it was too warm to
go in. The cries of the gondoliers, at the canal corners, grew
more and more monotonous and dreamy. There was danger of our
falling fast asleep and having to pay by the hour for a day's
repose in a gondola. If it grew much warmer, we might be compelled
to stay until the following winter in order to recover energy
enough to get away. All the signs of the times pointed northward,
to the mountains, where we should see glaciers and snow-fields, and
pick Alpenrosen, and drink goat's milk fresh from the real goat.


The first stage on the journey thither was by rail to Belluno--
about four or five hours. It is a sufficient commentary on railway
travel that the most important thing about it is to tell how many
hours it takes to get from one place to another.

We arrived in Belluno at night, and when we awoke the next morning
we found ourselves in a picturesque little city of Venetian aspect,
with a piazza and a campanile and a Palladian cathedral, surrounded
on all sides by lofty hills. We were at the end of the railway and
at the beginning of the Dolomites.

Although I have a constitutional aversion to scientific information
given by unscientific persons, such as clergymen and men of
letters, I must go in that direction far enough to make it clear
that the word Dolomite does not describe a kind of fossil, nor a
sect of heretics, but a formation of mountains lying between the
Alps and the Adriatic. Draw a diamond on the map, with Brixen at
the northwest corner, Lienz at the northeast, Belluno at the
southeast, and Trent at the southwest, and you will have included
the region of the Dolomites, a country so picturesque, so
interesting, so full of sublime and beautiful scenery, that it is
equally a wonder and a blessing that it has not been long since
completely overrun by tourists and ruined with railways. It is
true, the glaciers and snowfields are limited; the waterfalls are
comparatively few and slender, and the rivers small; the loftiest
peaks are little more than ten thousand feet high. But, on the
other hand, the mountains are always near, and therefore always
imposing. Bold, steep, fantastic masses of naked rock, they rise
suddenly from the green and flowery valleys in amazing and endless
contrast; they mirror themselves in the tiny mountain lakes like
pictures in a dream.

I believe the guide-book says that they are formed of carbonate of
lime and carbonate of magnesia in chemical composition; but even if
this be true, it need not prejudice any candid observer against
them. For the simple and fortunate fact is that they are built of
such stone that wind and weather, keen frost and melting snow and
rushing water have worn and cut and carved them into a thousand
shapes of wonder and beauty. It needs but little fancy to see in
them walls and towers, cathedrals and campaniles, fortresses and
cities, tinged with many hues from pale gray to deep red, and
shining in an air so soft, so pure, so cool, so fragrant, under a
sky so deep and blue and a sunshine so genial, that it seems like
the happy union of Switzerland and Italy.

The great highway through this region from south to north is the
Ampezzo road, which was constructed in 1830, along the valleys of
the Piave, the Boite, and the Rienz--the ancient line of travel and
commerce between Venice and Innsbruck. The road is superbly built,
smooth and level. Our carriage rolled along so easily that we
forgot and forgave its venerable appearance and its lack of
accommodation for trunks. We had been persuaded to take four
horses, as our luggage seemed too formidable for a single pair.
But in effect our concession to apparent necessity turned out to be
a mere display of superfluous luxury, for the two white leaders did
little more than show their feeble paces, leaving the gray wheelers
to do the work. We had the elevating sense of traveling four-in-
hand, however--a satisfaction to which I do not believe any human
being is altogether insensible.

At Longarone we breakfasted for the second time, and entered the
narrow gorge of the Piave. The road was cut out of the face of the
rock. Below us the long lumber-rafts went shooting down the swift
river. Above, on the right, were the jagged crests of Monte Furlon
and Premaggiore, which seemed to us very wonderful, because we had
not yet learned how jagged the Dolomites can be. At Perarolo,
where the Boite joins the Piave, there is a lump of a mountain in
the angle between the rivers, and around this we crawled in long
curves until we had risen a thousand feet, and arrived at the same
Hotel Venezia, where we were to dine.

While dinner was preparing, the Deacon and I walked up to Pieve di
Cadore, the birthplace of Titian. The house in which the great
painter first saw the colours of the world is still standing, and
tradition points out the very room in which he began to paint. I
am not one of those who would inquire too closely into such a
legend as this. The cottage may have been rebuilt a dozen times
since Titian's day; not a scrap of the original stone or plaster
may remain; but beyond a doubt the view that we saw from the window
is the same that Titian saw. Now, for the first time, I could
understand and appreciate the landscape-backgrounds of his
pictures. The compact masses of mountains, the bold, sharp forms,
the hanging rocks of cold gray emerging from green slopes, the
intense blue aerial distances--these all had seemed to be unreal
and imaginary--compositions of the studio. But now I knew that,
whether Titian painted out-of-doors, like our modern
impressionists, or not, he certainly painted what he had seen, and
painted it as it is.

The graceful brown-eyed boy who showed us the house seemed also to
belong to one of Titian's pictures. As we were going away, the
Deacon, for lack of copper, rewarded him with a little silver
piece, a half-lira, in value about ten cents. A celestial rapture
of surprise spread over the child's face, and I know not what
blessings he invoked upon us. He called his companions to rejoice
with him, and we left them clapping their hands and dancing.

Driving after one has dined has always a peculiar charm. The
motion seems pleasanter, the landscape finer than in the morning
hours. The road from Cadore ran on a high level, through sloping
pastures, white villages, and bits of larch forest. In its narrow
bed, far below, the river Boite roared as gently as Bottom's lion.
The afternoon sunlight touched the snow-capped pinnacle of Antelao
and the massive pink wall of Sorapis on the right; on the left,
across the valley, Monte Pelmo's vast head and the wild crests of
La Rochetta and Formin rose dark against the glowing sky. The
peasants lifted their hats as we passed, and gave us a pleasant
evening greeting. And so, almost without knowing it, we slipped
out of Italy into Austria, and drew up before a bare, square stone
building with the double black eagle, like a strange fowl split for
broiling, staring at us from the wall, and an inscription to the
effect that this was the Royal and Imperial Austrian Custom-house.

The officer saluted us so politely that we felt quite sorry that
his duty required him to disturb our luggage. "The law obliged him
to open one trunk; courtesy forbade him to open more." It was
quickly done; and, without having to make any contribution to the
income of His Royal and Imperial Majesty, Francis Joseph, we rolled
on our way, through the hamlets of Acqua Bona and Zuel, into the
Ampezzan metropolis of Cortina, at sundown.

The modest inn called "The Star of Gold" stood facing the public
square, just below the church, and the landlady stood facing us in
the doorway, with an enthusiastic welcome--altogether a most
friendly and entertaining landlady, whose one desire in life seemed
to be that we should never regret having chosen her house instead
of "The White Cross," or "The Black Eagle."

"O ja!" she had our telegram received; and would we look at the
rooms? Outlooking on the piazza, with a balcony from which we
could observe the Festa of to-morrow. She hoped they would please
us. "Only come in; accommodate yourselves."

It was all as she promised; three little bedrooms, and a little
salon opening on a little balcony; queer old oil-paintings and
framed embroideries and tiles hanging on the walls; spotless
curtains, and board floors so white that it would have been a shame
to eat off them without spreading a cloth to keep them from being

"These are the rooms of the Baron Rothschild when he comes here
always in the summer--with nine horses and nine servants--the Baron
Rothschild of Vienna."

I assured her that we did not know the Baron, but that should make
no difference. We would not ask her to reduce the price on account
of a little thing like that.

She did not quite grasp this idea, but hoped that we would not find
the pension too dear at a dollar and fifty-seven and a half cents a
day each, with a little extra for the salon and the balcony. "The
English people all please themselves here--there comes many every
summer--English Bishops and their families."

I inquired whether there were many Bishops in the house at that

"No, just at present--she was very sorry--none."

"Well, then," I said, "it is all right. We will take the rooms."

Good Signora Barbaria, you did not speak the American language, nor
understand those curious perversions of thought which pass among
the Americans for humour; but you understood how to make a little
inn cheerful and home-like; yours was a very simple and agreeable
art of keeping a hotel. As we sat in the balcony after supper,
listening to the capital playing of the village orchestra, and the
Tyrolese songs with which they varied their music, we thought
within ourselves that we were fortunate to have fallen upon the
Star of Gold.


Cortina lies in its valley like a white shell that has rolled down
into a broad vase of malachite. It has about a hundred houses and
seven hundred inhabitants, a large church and two small ones, a
fine stone campanile with excellent bells, and seven or eight
little inns. But it is more important than its size would signify,
for it is the capital of the district whose lawful title is
Magnifica Comunita di Ampezzo--a name conferred long ago by the
Republic of Venice. In the fifteenth century it was Venetian
territory; but in 1516, under Maximilian I., it was joined to
Austria; and it is now one of the richest and most prosperous
communes of the Tyrol. It embraces about thirty-five hundred
people, scattered in hamlets and clusters of houses through the
green basin with its four entrances, lying between the peaks of
Tofana, Cristallo, Sorapis, and Nuvolau. The well-cultivated grain
fields and meadows, the smooth alps filled with fine cattle, the
well-built houses with their white stone basements and balconies of
dark brown wood and broad overhanging roofs, all speak of industry
and thrift. But there is more than mere agricultural prosperity in
this valley. There is a fine race of men and women--intelligent,
vigorous, and with a strong sense of beauty. The outer walls of
the annex of the Hotel Aquila Nera are covered with frescoes of
marked power and originality, painted by the son of the innkeeper.
The art schools of Cortina are famous for their beautiful work in
gold and silver filigree, and wood-inlaying. There are nearly two
hundred pupils in these schools, all peasants' children, and they
produce results, especially in intarsia, which are admirable. The
village orchestra, of which I spoke a moment ago, is trained and
led by a peasant's son, who has never had a thorough musical
education. It must have at least twenty-five members, and as we
heard them at the Festa they seemed to play with extraordinary
accuracy and expression.

This Festa gave us a fine chance to see the people of the Ampezzo
all together. It was the annual jubilation of the district; and
from all the outlying hamlets and remote side valleys, even from
the neighbouring vales of Agordo and Auronzo, across the mountains,
and from Cadore, the peasants, men and women and children, had come
in to the Sagro at Cortina. The piazza--which is really nothing
more than a broadening of the road behind the church--was quite
thronged. There must have been between two and three thousand

The ceremonies of the day began with general church-going. The
people here are honestly and naturally religious. I have seen so
many examples of what can only be called "sincere and unaffected
piety," that I cannot doubt it. The church, on Cortina's feast-
day, was crowded to the doors with worshippers, who gave every
evidence of taking part not only with the voice, but also with the
heart, in the worship.

Then followed the public unveiling of a tablet, on the wall of the
little Inn of the Anchor, to the memory of Giammaria Ghedini, the
founder of the art-schools of Cortina. There was music by the
band; and an oration by a native Demosthenes (who spoke in Italian
so fluent that it ran through one's senses like water through a
sluice, leaving nothing behind), and an original Canto sung by the
village choir, with a general chorus, in which they called upon the
various mountains to "re-echo the name of the beloved master John-
Mary as a model of modesty and true merit," and wound up with--

"Hurrah for John-Mary! Hurrah for his art!
Hurrah for all teachers as skilful as he!
Hurrah for us all, who have now taken part
In singing together in do . . re . . mi."

It was very primitive, and I do not suppose that the celebration
was even mentioned in the newspapers of the great world; but, after
all, has not the man who wins such a triumph as this in the hearts
of his own people, for whom he has made labour beautiful with the
charm of art, deserved better of fame than many a crowned monarch
or conquering warrior? We should be wiser if we gave less glory to
the men who have been successful in forcing their fellow-men to
die, and more glory to the men who have been successful in teaching
their fellow-men how to live.

But the Festa of Cortina did not remain all day on this high moral
plane. In the afternoon came what our landlady called "allerlei
Dummheiten." There was a grand lottery for the benefit of the
Volunteer Fire Department. The high officials sat up in a green
wooden booth in the middle of the square, and called out the
numbers and distributed the prizes. Then there was a greased pole
with various articles of an attractive character tied to a large
hoop at the top--silk aprons, and a green jacket, and bottles of
wine, and half a smoked pig, and a coil of rope, and a purse.
The gallant firemen voluntarily climbed up the pole as far as
they could, one after another, and then involuntarily slid down
again exhausted, each one wiping off a little more of the grease,
until at last the lucky one came who profited by his forerunners'
labours, and struggled to the top to snatch the smoked pig.
After that it was easy.

Such is success in this unequal world; the man who wipes off the
grease seldom gets the prize.

Then followed various games, with tubs of water; and coins fastened
to the bottom of a huge black frying-pan, to be plucked off with
the lips; and pots of flour to be broken with sticks; so that the
young lads of the village were ducked and blackened and powdered to
an unlimited extent, amid the hilarious applause of the spectators.
In the evening there was more music, and the peasants danced in the
square, the women quietly and rather heavily, but the men with
amazing agility, slapping the soles of their shoes with their
hands, or turning cartwheels in front of their partners. At dark
the festivities closed with a display of fireworks; there were
rockets and bombs and pin-wheels; and the boys had tiny red and
blue lights which they held until their fingers were burned, just
as boys do in America; and there was a general hush of wonder as a
particularly brilliant rocket swished into the dark sky; and when
it burst into a rain of serpents, the crowd breathed out its
delight in a long-drawn "Ah-h-h-h!" just as the crowd does
everywhere. We might easily have imagined ourselves at a Fourth of
July celebration in Vermont, if it had not been for the costumes.

The men of the Ampezzo Valley have kept but little that is peculiar
in their dress. Men are naturally more progressive than women, and
therefore less picturesque. The tide of fashion has swept them
into the international monotony of coat and vest and trousers--
pretty much the same, and equally ugly, all over the world. Now
and then you may see a short jacket with silver buttons, or a pair
of knee-breeches; and almost all the youths wear a bunch of
feathers or a tuft of chamois' hair in their soft green hats. But
the women of the Ampezzo--strong, comely, with golden brown
complexions, and often noble faces--are not ashamed to dress as
their grandmothers did. They wear a little round black felt hat
with rolled rim and two long ribbons hanging down at the back.
Their hair is carefully braided and coiled, and stuck through and
through with great silver pins. A black bodice, fastened with
silver clasps, is covered in front with the ends of a brilliant
silk kerchief, laid in many folds around the shoulders. The white
shirt-sleeves are very full and fastened up above the elbow with
coloured ribbon. If the weather is cool, the women wear a short
black jacket, with satin yoke and high puffed sleeves. But,
whatever the weather may be, they make no change in the large, full
dark skirts, almost completely covered with immense silk aprons, by
preference light blue. It is not a remarkably brilliant dress,
compared with that which one may still see in some districts of
Norway or Sweden, but upon the whole it suits the women of the
Ampezzo wonderfully.

For my part, I think that when a woman has found a dress that
becomes her, it is a waste of time to send to Paris for a fashion-


When the excitement of the Festa had subsided, we were free to
abandon ourselves to the excursions in which the neighbourhood of
Cortina abounds, and to which the guide-book earnestly calls every
right-minded traveller. A walk through the light-green shadows of
the larch-woods to the tiny lake of Ghedina, where we could see all
the four dozen trout swimming about in the clear water and catching
flies; a drive to the Belvedere, where there are superficial
refreshments above and profound grottos below; these were trifles,
though we enjoyed them. But the great mountains encircling us on
every side, standing out in clear view with that distinctness and
completeness of vision which is one charm of the Dolomites, seemed
to summon us to more arduous enterprises. Accordingly, the Deacon
and I selected the easiest one, engaged a guide, and prepared for
the ascent.

Monte Nuvolau is not a perilous mountain. I am quite sure that at
my present time of life I should be unwilling to ascend a perilous
mountain unless there were something extraordinarily desirable at
the top, or remarkably disagreeable at the bottom. Mere risk has
lost the attractions which it once had. As the father of a family
I felt bound to abstain from going for amusement into any place
which a Christian lady might not visit with propriety and safety.
Our preparation for Nuvolau, therefore, did not consist of ropes,
ice-irons, and axes, but simply of a lunch and two long sticks.

Our way led us, in the early morning, through the clustering houses
of Lacedel, up the broad, green slope that faces Cortina on the
west, to the beautiful Alp Pocol. Nothing could exceed the
pleasure of such a walk in the cool of the day, while the dew still
lies on the short, rich grass, and the myriads of flowers are at
their brightest and sweetest. The infinite variety and abundance
of the blossoms is a continual wonder. They are sown more thickly
than the stars in heaven, and the rainbow itself does not show so
many tints. Here they are mingled like the threads of some strange
embroidery; and there again nature has massed her colours; so that
one spot will be all pale blue with innumerable forget-me-nots, or
dark blue with gentians; another will blush with the delicate pink
of the Santa Lucia or the deeper red of the clover; and another
will shine yellow as cloth of gold. Over all this opulence of
bloom the larks were soaring and singing. I never heard so many as
in the meadows about Cortina. There was always a sweet spray of
music sprinkling down out of the sky, where the singers poised
unseen. It was like walking through a shower of melody.

From the Alp Pocol, which is simply a fair, lofty pasture, we had
our first full view of Nuvolau, rising bare and strong, like a huge
bastion, from the dark fir-woods. Through these our way led onward
now for seven miles, with but a slight ascent. Then turning off to
the left we began to climb sharply through the forest. There we
found abundance of the lovely Alpenrosen, which do not bloom on the
lower ground. Their colour is a deep, glowing pink, and when a
Tyrolese girl gives you one of these flowers to stick in the band
of your hat, you may know that you have found favour in her eyes.

Through the wood the cuckoo was calling--the bird which reverses
the law of good children, and insists on being heard, but not seen.

When the forest was at an end we found ourselves at the foot of an
alp which sloped steeply up to the Five Towers of Averau. The
effect of these enormous masses of rock, standing out in lonely
grandeur, like the ruins of some forsaken habitation of giants, was
tremendous. Seen from far below in the valley their form was
picturesque and striking; but as we sat beside the clear, cold
spring which gushes out at the foot of the largest tower, the
Titanic rocks seemed to hang in the air above us as if they would
overawe us into a sense of their majesty. We felt it to the full;
yet none the less, but rather the more, could we feel at the same
time the delicate and ethereal beauty of the fringed gentianella
and the pale Alpine lilies scattered on the short turf beside us.

We had now been on foot about three hours and a half. The half
hour that remained was the hardest. Up over loose, broken stones
that rolled beneath our feet, up over great slopes of rough rock,
up across little fields of snow where we paused to celebrate the
Fourth of July with a brief snowball fight, up along a narrowing
ridge with a precipice on either hand, and so at last to the
summit, 8600 feet above the sea.

It is not a great height, but it is a noble situation. For Nuvolau
is fortunately placed in the very centre of the Dolomites, and so
commands a finer view than many a higher mountain. Indeed, it is
not from the highest peaks, according to my experience, that one
gets the grandest prospects, but rather from those of middle
height, which are so isolated as to give a wide circle of vision,
and from which one can see both the valleys and the summits. Monte
Rosa itself gives a less imposing view than the Gorner Grat.

It is possible, in this world, to climb too high for pleasure.

But what a panorama Nuvolau gave us on that clear, radiant summer
morning--a perfect circle of splendid sight! On one side we looked
down upon the Five Towers; on the other, a thousand feet below, the
Alps, dotted with the huts of the herdsmen, sloped down into the
deep-cut vale of Agordo. Opposite to us was the enormous mass of
Tofana, a pile of gray and pink and saffron rock. When we turned
the other way, we faced a group of mountains as ragged as the
crests of a line of fir-trees, and behind them loomed the solemn
head of Pelmo. Across the broad vale of the Boite, Antelao stood
beside Sorapis, like a campanile beside a cathedral, and Cristallo
towered above the green pass of the Three Crosses. Through that
opening we could see the bristling peaks of the Sextenthal.
Sweeping around in a wider circle from that point, we saw, beyond
the Durrenstein, the snow-covered pile of the Gross-Glockner; the
crimson bastions of the Rothwand appeared to the north, behind
Tofana; then the white slopes that hang far away above the
Zillerthal; and, nearer, the Geislerspitze, like five fingers
thrust into the air; behind that, the distant Oetzthaler Mountain,
and just a single white glimpse of the highest peak of the Ortler
by the Engadine; nearer still we saw the vast fortress of the Sella
group and the red combs of the Rosengarten; Monte Marmolata, the
Queen of the Dolomites, stood before us revealed from base to peak
in a bridal dress of snow; and southward we looked into the dark
rugged face of La Civetta, rising sheer out of the vale of Agordo,
where the Lake of Alleghe slept unseen. It was a sea of mountains,
tossed around us into a myriad of motionless waves, and with a
rainbow of colours spread among their hollows and across their
crests. The cliffs of rose and orange and silver gray, the valleys
of deepest green, the distant shadows of purple and melting blue,
and the dazzling white of the scattered snow-fields seemed to shift
and vary like the hues on the inside of a shell. And over all,
from peak to peak, the light, feathery clouds went drifting lazily
and slowly, as if they could not leave a scene so fair.

There is barely room on the top of Nuvolau for the stone shelter-
hut which a grateful Saxon baron has built there as a sort of
votive offering for the recovery of his health among the mountains.
As we sat within and ate our frugal lunch, we were glad that he had
recovered his health, and glad that he had built the hut, and glad
that we had come to it. In fact, we could almost sympathise in our
cold, matter-of-fact American way with the sentimental German
inscription which we read on the wall:--

Von Nuvolau's hohen Wolkenstufen
Lass mich, Natur, durch deine Himmel rufen--
An deiner Brust gesunde, wer da krank!
So wird zum Volkerdank mein Sachsendank.

We refrained, however, from shouting anything through Nature's
heaven, but went lightly down, in about three hours, to supper in
the Star of Gold.


When a stern necessity forces one to leave Cortina, there are
several ways of departure. We selected the main highway for our
trunks, but for ourselves the Pass of the Three Crosses; the Deacon
and the Deaconess in a mountain waggon, and I on foot. It should
be written as an axiom in the philosophy of travel that the easiest
way is best for your luggage, and the hardest way is best for

All along the rough road up to the Pass, we had a glorious outlook
backward over the Val d' Ampezzo, and when we came to the top, we
looked deep down into the narrow Val Buona behind Sorapis. I do
not know just when we passed the Austrian border, but when we came
to Lake Misurina we found ourselves in Italy again. My friends
went on down the valley to Landro, but I in my weakness, having
eaten of the trout of the lake for dinner, could not resist the
temptation of staying over-night to catch one for breakfast.

It was a pleasant failure. The lake was beautiful, lying on top of
the mountain like a bit of blue sky, surrounded by the peaks of
Cristallo, Cadino, and the Drei Zinnen. It was a happiness to
float on such celestial waters and cast the hopeful fly. The trout
were there; they were large; I saw them; they also saw me; but,
alas! I could not raise them. Misurina is, in fact, what the
Scotch call "a dour loch," one of those places which are outwardly
beautiful, but inwardly so demoralised that the trout will not

When we came ashore in the evening, the boatman consoled me with
the story of a French count who had spent two weeks there fishing,
and only caught one fish. I had some thoughts of staying thirteen
days longer, to rival the count, but concluded to go on the next
morning, over Monte Pian and the Cat's Ladder to Landro.

The view from Monte Pian is far less extensive than that from
Nuvolau; but it has the advantage of being very near the wild
jumble of the Sexten Dolomites. The Three Shoemakers and a lot
more of sharp and ragged fellows are close by, on the east; on the
west, Cristallo shows its fine little glacier, and Rothwand its
crimson cliffs; and southward Misurina gives to the view a glimpse
of water, without which, indeed, no view is complete. Moreover,
the mountain has the merit of being, as its name implies, quite
gentle. I met the Deacon and the Deaconess at the top, they having
walked up from Landro. And so we crossed the boundary line
together again, seven thousand feet above the sea, from Italy into
Austria. There was no custom-house.

The way down, by the Cat's Ladder, I travelled alone. The path was
very steep and little worn, but even on the mountain-side there was
no danger of losing it, for it had been blazed here and there, on
trees and stones, with a dash of blue paint. This is the work of
the invaluable DOAV--which is, being interpreted, the German-
Austrian Alpine Club. The more one travels in the mountains, the
more one learns to venerate this beneficent society, for the
shelter-huts and guide-posts it has erected, and the paths it has
made and marked distinctly with various colours. The Germans have
a genius for thoroughness. My little brown guide-book, for
example, not only informed me through whose back yard I must go to
get into a certain path, but it told me that in such and such a
spot I should find quite a good deal (ziemlichviel) of Edelweiss,
and in another a small echo; it advised me in one valley to take
provisions and dispense with a guide, and in another to take a
guide and dispense with provisions, adding varied information in
regard to beer, which in my case was useless, for I could not touch
it. To go astray under such auspices would be worse than

Landro we found a very different place from Cortina. Instead of
having a large church and a number of small hotels, it consists
entirely of one large hotel and a very tiny church. It does not
lie in a broad, open basin, but in a narrow valley, shut in closely
by the mountains. The hotel, in spite of its size, is excellent,
and a few steps up the valley is one of the finest views in the
Dolomites. To the east opens a deep, wild gorge, at the head of
which the pinnacles of the Drei Zinnen are seen; to the south the
Durrensee fills the valley from edge to edge, and reflects in its
pale waters the huge bulk of Monte Cristallo. It is such a
complete picture, so finished, so compact, so balanced, that one
might think a painter had composed it in a moment of inspiration.
But no painter ever laid such colours on his canvas as those which
are seen here when the cool evening shadows have settled upon the
valley, all gray and green, while the mountains shine above in rosy
Alpenglow, as if transfigured with inward fire.

There is another lake, about three miles north of Landro, called
the Toblacher See, and there I repaired the defeat of Misurina.
The trout at the outlet, by the bridge, were very small, and while
the old fisherman was endeavouring to catch some of them in his new
net, which would not work, I pushed my boat up to the head of the
lake, where the stream came in. The green water was amazingly
clear, but the current kept the fish with their heads up stream; so
that one could come up behind them near enough for a long cast,
without being seen. As my fly lighted above them and came gently
down with the ripple, I saw the first fish turn and rise and take
it. A motion of the wrist hooked him, and he played just as gamely
as a trout in my favourite Long Island pond. How different the
colour, though, as he came out of the water. This fellow was all
silvery, with light pink spots on his sides. I took seven of his
companions, in weight some four pounds, and then stopped because
the evening light was failing.

How pleasant it is to fish in such a place and at such an hour!
The novelty of the scene, the grandeur of the landscape, lend a
strange charm to the sport. But the sport itself is so familiar
that one feels at home--the motion of the rod, the feathery swish
of the line, the sight of the rising fish--it all brings back a
hundred woodland memories, and thoughts of good fishing comrades,
some far away across the sea, and, perhaps, even now sitting around
the forest camp-fire in Maine or Canada, and some with whom we
shall keep company no more until we cross the greater ocean into
that happy country whither they have preceded us.


Instead of going straight down the valley by the high road, a drive
of an hour, to the railway in the Pusterthal, I walked up over the
mountains to the east, across the Platzwiesen, and so down through
the Pragserthal. In one arm of the deep fir-clad vale are the
Baths of Alt-Prags, famous for having cured the Countess of Gorz of
a violent rheumatism in the fifteenth century. It is an antiquated
establishment, and the guests, who were walking about in the fields
or drinking their coffee in the balcony, had a fifteenth century
look about them--venerable but slightly ruinous. But perhaps that
was merely a rheumatic result.

All the waggons in the place were engaged. It is strange what an
aggravating effect this state of affairs has upon a pedestrian who
is bent upon riding. I did not recover my delight in the scenery
until I had walked about five miles farther, and sat down on the
grass, beside a beautiful spring, to eat my lunch.

What is there in a little physical rest that has such magic to
restore the sense of pleasure? A few moments ago nothing pleased
you--the bloom was gone from the peach; but now it has come back
again--you wonder and admire. Thus cheerful and contented I
trudged up the right arm of the valley to the Baths of Neu-Prags,
less venerable, but apparently more popular than Alt-Prags, and on
beyond them, through the woods, to the superb Pragser-Wildsee, a
lake whose still waters, now blue as sapphire under the clear sky,
and now green as emerald under gray clouds, sleep encircled by
mighty precipices. Could anything be a greater contrast with
Venice? There the canals alive with gondolas, and the open harbour
bright with many-coloured sails; here, the hidden lake, silent and
lifeless, save when

"A leaping fish
Sends through the tarn a lonely cheer."

Tired, and a little foot-sore, after nine hours' walking, I came
into the big railway hotel at Toblach that night. There I met my
friends again, and parted from them and the Dolomites the next day,
with regret. For they were "stepping westward;" but in order to
get to the Gross-Venediger I must make a detour to the east,
through the Pusterthal, and come up through the valley of the Isel
to the great chain of mountains called the Hohe Tauern.

At the junction of the Isel and the Drau lies the quaint little
city of Lienz, with its two castles--the square, double-towered one
in the town, now transformed into the offices of the municipality,
and the huge mediaeval one on a hill outside, now used as a damp
restaurant and dismal beer-cellar. I lingered at Lienz for a
couple of days, in the ancient hostelry of the Post. The hallways
were vaulted like a cloister, the walls were three feet thick, the
kitchen was in the middle of the house on the second floor, so that
I looked into it every time I came from my room, and ordered dinner
direct from the cook. But, so far from being displeased with these
peculiarities, I rather liked the flavour of them; and then, in
addition, the landlady's daughter, who was managing the house, was
a person of most engaging manners, and there was trout and grayling
fishing in a stream near by, and the neighbouring church of Dolsach
contained the beautiful picture of the Holy Family, which Franz
Defregger painted for his native village.

The peasant women of Lienz have one very striking feature in their
dress--a black felt hat with a broad, stiff brim and a high crown,
smaller at the top than at the base. It looks a little like the
traditional head-gear of the Pilgrim Fathers, exaggerated. There
is a solemnity about it which is fatal to feminine beauty.

I went by the post-waggon, with two slow horses and ten passengers,
fifteen miles up the Iselthal, to Windisch-Matrei, a village whose
early history is lost in the mist of antiquity, and whose streets
are pervaded with odours which must have originated at the same
time with the village. One wishes that they also might have shared
the fate of its early history. But it is not fair to expect too
much of a small place, and Windisch-Matrei has certainly a
beautiful situation and a good inn. There I took my guide--a wiry
and companionable little man, whose occupation in the lower world
was that of a maker and merchant of hats--and set out for the
Pragerhutte, a shelter on the side of the Gross-Venediger.

The path led under the walls of the old Castle of Weissenstein, and
then in steep curves up the cliff which blocks the head of the
valley, and along a cut in the face of the rock, into the steep,
narrow Tauernthal, which divides the Glockner group from the
Venediger. How entirely different it was from the region of the
Dolomites! There the variety of colour was endless and the change
incessant; here it was all green grass and trees and black rocks,
with glimpses of snow. There the highest mountains were in sight
constantly; here they could only be seen from certain points in the
valley. There the streams played but a small part in the
landscape; here they were prominent, the main river raging and
foaming through the gorge below, while a score of waterfalls leaped
from the cliffs on either side and dashed down to join it.

The peasants, men, women and children, were cutting the grass in
the perpendicular fields; the woodmen were trimming and felling the
trees in the fir-forests; the cattle-tenders were driving their
cows along the stony path, or herding them far up on the hillsides.
It was a lonely scene, and yet a busy one; and all along the road
was written the history of the perils and hardships of the life
which now seemed so peaceful and picturesque under the summer

These heavy crosses, each covered with a narrow, pointed roof and
decorated with a rude picture, standing beside the path, or on the
bridge, or near the mill--what do they mean? They mark the place
where a human life has been lost, or where some poor peasant has
been delivered from a great peril, and has set up a memorial of his

Stop, traveller, as you pass by, and look at the pictures. They
have little more of art than a child's drawing on a slate; but they
will teach you what it means to earn a living in these mountains.
They tell of the danger that lurks on the steep slopes of grass,
where the mowers have to go down with ropes around their waists,
and in the beds of the streams where the floods sweep through in
the spring, and in the forests where the great trees fall and crush
men like flies, and on the icy bridges where a slip is fatal, and
on the high passes where the winter snowstorm blinds the eyes and
benumbs the limbs of the traveller, and under the cliffs from which
avalanches slide and rocks roll. They show you men and women
falling from waggons, and swept away by waters, and overwhelmed in
land-slips. In the corner of the picture you may see a peasant
with the black cross above his head--that means death. Or perhaps
it is deliverance that the tablet commemorates--and then you will
see the miller kneeling beside his mill with a flood rushing down
upon it, or a peasant kneeling in his harvest-field under an
inky-black cloud, or a landlord beside his inn in flames, or a
mother praying beside her sick children; and above appears an
angel, or a saint, or the Virgin with her Child.

Read the inscriptions, too, in their quaint German. Some of them
are as humourous as the epitaphs in New England graveyards. I
remember one which ran like this:

Here lies Elias Queer,
Killed in his sixtieth year;
Scarce had he seen the light of day
When a waggon-wheel crushed his life away.

And there is another famous one which says:

Here perished the honoured and virtuous maiden,

This tablet was erected by her only son.

But for the most part a glance at these Marterl und Taferl, which
are so frequent on all the mountain-roads of the Tyrol, will give
you a strange sense of the real pathos of human life. If you are a
Catholic, you will not refuse their request to say a prayer for the
departed; if you are a Protestant, at least it will not hurt you to
say one for those who still live and suffer and toil among such

After we had walked for four hours up the Tauernthal, we came to
the Matreier-Tauernhaus, an inn which is kept open all the year for
the shelter of travellers over the high pass that crosses the
mountain-range at this point, from north to south. There we dined.
It was a bare, rude place, but the dish of juicy trout was
garnished with flowers, each fish holding a big pansy in its mouth,
and as the maid set them down before me she wished me "a good
appetite," with the hearty old-fashioned Tyrolese courtesy which
still survives in these remote valleys. It is pleasant to travel
in a land where the manners are plain and good. If you meet a
peasant on the road he says, "God greet you!" if you give a child a
couple of kreuzers he folds his hands and says, "God reward you!"
and the maid who lights you to bed says, "Goodnight, I hope you
will sleep well!"

Two hours more of walking brought us through Ausser-gschloss and
Inner-gschloss, two groups of herdsmen's huts, tenanted only in
summer, at the head of the Tauernthal. Midway between them lies a
little chapel, cut into the solid rock for shelter from the
avalanches. This lofty vale is indeed rightly named; for it is
shut off from the rest of the world. The portal is a cliff down
which the stream rushes in foam and thunder. On either hand rises
a mountain wall. Within, the pasture is fresh and green, sprinkled
with Alpine roses, and the pale river flows swiftly down between
the rows of dark wooden houses. At the head of the vale towers the
Gross-Venediger, with its glaciers and snow-fields dazzling white
against the deep blue heaven. The murmur of the stream and the
tinkle of the cow-bells and the jodelling of the herdsmen far up
the slopes, make the music for the scene.

The path from Gschloss leads straight up to the foot of the dark
pyramid of the Kesselkopf, and then in steep endless zig-zags along
the edge of the great glacier. I saw, at first, the pinnacles of
ice far above me, breaking over the face of the rock; then, after
an hour's breathless climbing, I could look right into the blue
crevasses; and at last, after another hour over soft snow-fields
and broken rocks, I was at the Pragerhut, perched on the shoulder
of the mountain, looking down upon the huge river of ice.

It was a magnificent view under the clear light of evening. Here
in front of us, the Venediger with all his brother-mountains
clustered about him; behind us, across the Tauern, the mighty chain
of the Glockner against the eastern sky.

This is the frozen world. Here the Winter, driven back into his
stronghold, makes his last stand against the Summer, in perpetual
conflict, retreating by day to the mountain-peak, but creeping back
at night in frost and snow to regain a little of his lost
territory, until at last the Summer is wearied out, and the Winter
sweeps down again to claim the whole valley for his own.


In the Pragerhut I found mountain comfort. There were bunks along
the wall of the guest-room, with plenty of blankets. There was
good store of eggs, canned meats, and nourishing black bread. The
friendly goats came bleating up to the door at nightfall to be
milked. And in charge of all this luxury there was a cheerful
peasant-wife with her brown-eyed daughter, to entertain travellers.
It was a pleasant sight to see them, as they sat down to their
supper with my guide; all three bowed their heads and said their
"grace before meat," the guide repeating the longer prayer and the
mother and daughter coming in with the responses. I went to bed
with a warm and comfortable feeling about my heart. It was a good
ending for the day. In the morning, if the weather remained clear,
the alarm-clock was to wake us at three for the ascent to the

But can it be three o'clock already. The gibbous moon still hangs
in the sky and casts a feeble light over the scene. Then up and
away for the final climb. How rough the path is among the black
rocks along the ridge! Now we strike out on the gently rising
glacier, across the crust of snow, picking our way among the
crevasses, with the rope tied about our waists for fear of a fall.
How cold it is! But now the gray light of morning dawns, and now
the beams of sunrise shoot up behind the Glockner, and now the sun
itself glitters into sight. The snow grows softer as we toil up
the steep, narrow comb between the Gross-Venediger and his
neighbour the Klein-Venediger. At last we have reached our
journey's end. See, the whole of the Tyrol is spread out before us
in wondrous splendour, as we stand on this snowy ridge; and at our
feet the Schlatten glacier, like a long, white snake, curls down
into the valley.

There is still a little peak above us; an overhanging horn of snow
which the wind has built against the mountain-top. I would like to
stand there, just for a moment. The guide protests it would be
dangerous, for if the snow should break it would be a fall of a
thousand feet to the glacier on the northern side. But let us dare
the few steps upward. How our feet sink! Is the snow slipping?
Look at the glacier! What is happening? It is wrinkling and
curling backward on us, serpent-like. Its head rises far above us.
All its icy crests are clashing together like the ringing of a
thousand bells. We are falling! I fling out my arm to grasp the
guide--and awake to find myself clutching a pillow in the bunk.
The alarm-clock is ringing fiercely for three o'clock. A driving
snow-storm is beating against the window. The ground is white.
Peer through the clouds as I may, I cannot even catch a glimpse of
the vanished Gross-Venediger.



Wherever we strayed, the same tranquil leisure enfolded us; day
followed day in an order unbroken and peaceful as the unfolding of
the flowers and the silent march of the stars. Time no longer ran
like the few sands in a delicate hour-glass held by a fragile human
hand, but like a majestic river fed by fathomless seas. . . . We
gave ourselves up to the sweetness of that unmeasured life, without
thought of yesterday or to-morrow; we drank the cup to-day held to
our lips, and knew that so long as we were athirst that draught
would not be denied us." --HAMILTON W. MABIE: Under the Trees.

There is magic in words, surely, and many a treasure besides Ali
Baba's is unlocked with a verbal key. Some charm in the mere
sound, some association with the pleasant past, touches a secret
spring. The bars are down; the gate open; you are made free of all
the fields of memory and fancy--by a word.

Au large! Envoyez au large! is the cry of the Canadian voyageurs as
they thrust their paddles against the shore and push out on the
broad lake for a journey through the wilderness. Au large! is what
the man in the bow shouts to the man in the stern when the birch
canoe is running down the rapids, and the water grows too broken,
and the rocks too thick, along the river-bank. Then the frail bark
must be driven out into the very centre of the wild current, into
the midst of danger to find safety, dashing, like a frightened
colt, along the smooth, sloping lane bordered by white fences of

Au large! When I hear that word, I hear also the crisp waves
breaking on pebbly beaches, and the big wind rushing through
innumerable trees, and the roar of headlong rivers leaping down the
rocks, I see long reaches of water sparkling in the sun, or
sleeping still between evergreen walls beneath a cloudy sky; and
the gleam of white tents on the shore; and the glow of firelight
dancing through the woods. I smell the delicate vanishing perfume
of forest flowers; and the incense of rolls of birch-bark,
crinkling and flaring in the camp-fire; and the soothing odour of
balsam-boughs piled deep for woodland beds--the veritable and only
genuine perfume of the land of Nod. The thin shining veil of the
Northern lights waves and fades and brightens over the night sky;
at the sound of the word, as at the ringing of a bell, the curtain
rises. Scene, the Forest of Arden; enter a party of hunters.

It was in the Lake St. John country, two hundred miles north of
Quebec, that I first heard my rustic incantation; and it seemed to
fit the region as if it had been made for it. This is not a little
pocket wilderness like the Adirondacks, but something vast and
primitive. You do not cross it, from one railroad to another, by a
line of hotels. You go into it by one river as far as you like, or
dare; and then you turn and come back again by another river,
making haste to get out before your provisions are exhausted. The
lake itself is the cradle of the mighty Saguenay: an inland sea,
thirty miles across and nearly round, lying in the broad limestone
basin north of the Laurentian Mountains. The southern and eastern
shores have been settled for twenty or thirty years; and the rich
farm-land yields abundant crops of wheat and oats and potatoes to a
community of industrious habitants, who live in little modern
villages, named after the saints and gathered as closely as
possible around big gray stone churches, and thank the good Lord
that he has given them a climate at least four or five degrees
milder than Quebec. A railroad, built through a region of granite
hills, which will never be tamed to the plough, links this outlying
settlement to the civilised world; and at the end of the railroad
the Hotel Roberval, standing on a hill above the lake, offers to
the pampered tourist electric lights, and spring-beds, and a wide
veranda from which he can look out across the water into the face
of the wilderness.

Northward and westward the interminable forest rolls away to the
shores of Hudson's Bay and the frozen wastes of Labrador. It is an
immense solitude. A score of rivers empty into the lake; little
ones like the Pikouabi and La Pipe, and middle-sized ones like the
Ouiatehouan and La Belle Riviere, and big ones like the Mistassini
and the Peribonca; and each of these streams is the clue to a
labyrinth of woods and waters. The canoe-man who follows it far
enough will find himself among lakes that are not named on any map;
he will camp on virgin ground, and make the acquaintance of
unsophisticated fish; perhaps even, like the maiden in the fairy-
tale, he will meet with the little bear, and the middle-sized bear,
and the great big bear.

Damon and I set out on such an expedition shortly after the nodding
lilies in the Connecticut meadows had rung the noon-tide bell of
summer, and when the raspberry bushes along the line of the Quebec
and Lake St. John Railway had spread their afternoon collation for
birds and men. At Roberval we found our four guides waiting for
us, and the steamboat took us all across the lake to the Island
House, at the northeast corner. There we embarked our tents and
blankets, our pots and pans, and bags of flour and potatoes and
bacon and other delicacies, our rods and guns, and last, but not
least, our axes (without which man in the woods is a helpless
creature), in two birch-bark canoes, and went flying down the
Grande Decharge.

It is a wonderful place, this outlet of Lake St. John. All the
floods of twenty rivers are gathered here, and break forth through
a net of islands in a double stream, divided by the broad Ile
d'Alma, into the Grande Decharge and the Petite Decharge. The
southern outlet is small, and flows somewhat more quietly at first.
But the northern outlet is a huge confluence and tumult of waters.
You see the set of the tide far out in the lake, sliding, driving,
crowding, hurrying in with smooth currents and swirling eddies,
toward the corner of escape. By the rocky cove where the Island
House peers out through the fir-trees, the current already has a

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