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EXTRACTED FROM THE TRAVELS OF Å FRENCH GENTLEMAN
I was descending by å steep path one of the sides of Mont Anvert, and while my guide was with much officiousness telling me the names of the various peaks which every where rise on the barrier that separates from the world the vale of Chamouny, absorbed in contemplation, I kept my eye fixed upon the singular and varied configurations which nature seems to have raised in order to check the curiosity of man, and which he has, nevertheless, boldly scaled, with a view to satisfy that insatiable propensity. All on a sudden, as I turned my eye from those wild and naked rocks to the fertile meadows at their base, I perceived, at some distance, two high stones placed together, the whiteness of which, come trasted with the deep green of the sward on which they were placed, rendered them visible in the twilight. Having questioned my guide with respect to them, he informed me, that they were the monuments of two unfortunate persons, whose history he would relate when we had got down the mountain. Impatient for the performance of the promise, I hastened on. The calm of a soft and lovely evening, in the midst of all the towering sublimity of nature, awakens in the soul a tumultuous multitude of vague and conflicting sensations, which are painful till they subside and flow in the channel of some gentle passion, and thus affected, I was grcedy of an opportunity to weep.
We soon reached the tombs, it was easy to perceive that they had not been taiscd as a gratification to pride; there was neither marble nor sculpture, not even å single inscription informed the traveller of the name of those whose place of long repose was in the wilderness. Two blocks of granite from a neighbouring rock, and rudely shaped by the hand ot some village workman, a few shrubs, the dark and thin foliage of which hung around in festoons like funeral crape, and a brook which emitted a low and melancholy sound as it glided over its pebbly channel, were the only ornaments of these solitary graves ; and it was apparent from this simplicity, that those who had chosen the place as their final asylum from the storms of life, had been actuated by a sincere wish to escape for ever from the view and the remembrance of the world.
" Let us be seated said the guide"-we accordingly sat down at the foot of a tree, and he proceeded as follows:
“It is now about fifteen years since a young man made his appearance in this valley, a few days previous to the time of the year when travellers usually visit it. His presence, at a time when the snow lay too deep among the mountains to admit of their being explored, surprised the whole village. Nevertheless, we were all eager to be engaged by the stranger, but he, without making any answer to the offers of our services, took the road to the
priory. We supposed that he was going there to seek shelter from a violent storm that was observed descending from the summit of Mont Blanc, and which in fact, did not pass suddenly away. The thunder claps were soon repeated by the echoes of the valley. Those who have never heard the thunder roar amidst our mountains, can form but an inadequate notion of it. Yet, ncver bad we known it so tremendous as on this occasion. Every burst, more terrible than that which preceded it, seemed as if it would shake these gigantic peaks to the very base; and the crash of the avalanches rushing from the tops of the glaciers, mingling with the sound of the thunder, increased the horror of this dreadful evening; a night more terrible followed, the remembrance of which will long continue among the inhabi tants of the vale of Chamouny.
"As the day appeared the tempest subsided, and we were about to resume our usual labours, when report was spread abroad, that the stranger we had seen had disappeared. It was probable, that instead of stopping at the priory, he had immediately proceeded to the mountain, and we entertained but little doubt that he had wandered about in the dark, exposed to the storm, till he had perished a victim of his rashness. Nevertheless, as if actuated by one will, we all set off to seek for bim. Every guide in the valley immediately armed himself with his shod staff, and we all took different roads to the mountain. Unfortunately, we could entertain no hope of chasing the footsteps of the traveller on the snow, as there had been a fall towards morning, we trusted, therefore, to Providence alone to guide our steps.
“Tor two whole days we searched those parts of the mountain, and the glaciers nearest to the valley, without succcss ; for we conceived that he could not have
gone great height in the midst of the tempest, and we began to lose all hope, when, on the morning of the tlíird day, a shout from one of my comrades let us know that he had found the object of our search. We ran to the spot, and beheld the unfortunate man lying amidst a heap of these blocks of gra
nite which come down from the top of the mountain, with the glacier, and which we here call moraines. His hair was covered with isicles, and was easy to perceive by the disorder of his dress, and the distortion of his features, what must have been the agitation of his soul amidst the conflict of the elements. Nevertheless, as we approached, perceive ing that he still breathed, we felt we were more than recompensed for all our fatigues. Assistance, carefully administered; soon brought him to his senses, and we carried him in triumph to the valley. Michael, the guide who had discovered him, having conceived a friendship for him, in consequence of what he had done for him, would not hear of his being lodged any where but in his cottage, and he had such good care taken of him, that he soon recovered his strength.
“Nevertheless, he appeared constantly absorbed in a deep melancholy. When interrogated with respect to his name, his family, and his designs, he appeared displeased, and did not answer, at the same time expressing, by signs and looks, his gratitude for the kindness and attention he had experienced. True benevolence is seldom importunate; that which was first shown towards him was continued, without any exéeptions being taken at his singular hábits; while he made a regular practice of returning every evening to, Michael's cottage, which he left every morning at daybreak, to wander among the mountains. It was plain, how.. ever, that he felt himself under constraint before his hosts ; silent, downcast, but perfectly tranquil, in their presence, he was simply perceived to heave deep and frequent sighs, which he in vain endeavoured to suppress. . On the contrary, as soon as he thought himself alone, in the wild dells of the Alps, or the close recesses of the dark pine forests, he was used to give vent to the most violent despair. His hands raised to Heaven, he seemed to tax Providence with injustice; torrents of tears furrowed his pallid cheeks, and his breast heaved with heavy and multiplied groans. He was used to fall upon the earth, and remain prostrate for hours together, apparently devoid of sense, while the thunder burst over his head, and the large snow flakes wrapt his balf frozen limbs. He generally avoided society; but in summer, when strangers from all parts visit our mountains, he became more than usually averse to it. Poor fellow, there was not a human being in Chamouny but sincerely pitied him.
“ His deplorable state of mind gave him a right to our compassion and assistance, and we, by degrees, began to con« sider the poor maniac as one of the children of the valley.
“The poor maniac was the name we gave him, not knowing his real one, and even still, whenever we tell his sad story to a stranger, at our fire side, we call him by no other.
“ Four years had elapsed without his manifesting any inclination to leave us, and without our being able to obtain, any information concerning him, notwithstanding our pastor had made every possible inquiry for the purpose, when, one day, I shall remember it all my life, it was in the beginning of July, a young lady came to Chạmouny, with a great number of attendants, and required several guides to conduct her to the Icy Sea. I was among the number of those she engaged, and the next day we began, early in the morning, to climb the path by which we bave just come down, and which leads to Mont Anvert. We had reached the spot where we just now stopped ; the beaatiful stranger rested for a moment, and seemed to take pleasure in contem, plating the magnificent prospect of the valley, when, all of a sudden, a man sprang with impetuosity from that clump of firs. His beard was long and matted, his hair dishevelled, his garments torn, and his whole appearance wild and savage in the extreme. When he had approached within a few yards of us he stopped, but continued to eye us with a fixed and stern look, the fair stranger was alarmed, and asked who • It is only the poor maniac,' replied all the
guides at once. “No, no, cried he vehemently, it is F. Struck by the sound of his voice, which we now heard for the first time, we paused in great anxiety to observe what would follow, while the poor lady seemed agitated by a thousand painful emotions. At length, bursting into tears, "F- ,' said she, is it indeed you? Oh! for Heaven's sake, pardon me, I bave sinned, it is true, grievously sinned, but have not incessant remorse and penitence in some degree expiated my crimic? Alas! I have long sought you, and in tho failure of every successive effort to find you, wept in agony at the possibility that I had been the cause of your death. Having at length discovered you, will you prove more unkind than the fate which separated us, and now, taking pity on my wretchedness, consent to our re-uuion "To our re-union replied the maniac passionately, never, never! Thou hast rudely snapped the cords whicli bound us to each other. I have bid an eternal adieu to the world, to. happiness, and to thee; despair is in my heart; my head turns giddy. A devouring fire consumes me; you have seen me for the last time, we meet no more upon the earth.' • Mercy, mercy!' cricd the stranger, falling upon ber knees
and stretching out her hands to him in a supplicating posa ture; but he was already out of hearing. You observe that rock projecting, at a frightful height over our heads; rushing up the mountain, he had reached it with the rapidity of lightning, and we had scarcely time to think of following him to prevent the execution of his desperate purpose, ere he was lifeless at the bottom of the precipice.
“ At this dreadful sight the stranger had swooned, nor did ; she recover her senses till some time after our return to the.; Priory, a violent fever succeeded ; in her delirium she in. cessantly repeated the name of F, and imagined every moment she saw him spring from the fatal rock ; she sought to win him from his purpose by the most moving entreaties, when suddenly her grief changing to despair, she applied to herself the epithets of barbarian and assassin, curst her thirst of grandeur and wealth, repeated the name of F-, swore she was free, and would dedicate the remainder of her life to promote his happiness,
" The violence of the disease, however, subsided, and was succeeded by a deep melancholy, but restored to life; the fair stranger vowed to renounce for ever all that could render it desirable.-She began by dismissing her servants, and then, having made herself acquainted with the Asylum which had been chosen by F-, she liberally rewarded Michael for the care he had taken of him, and beyged to be received herself as an inmate of his cottage. All Chamouny was the better for her liberal spirit; in each of its inhabitants shę saw a brother and a friend of 1 Of the considerable property of which she was the mistress, a part was devoted to the poor of the Canton, and part given up to her family, she herself retaining merely what was necessary for her support, and to defray the expence of erecting this monument. She caused the unfortunate F-to be buried on the spot where he had perished, constantly visited it to weep and pray, and appointed the place near it where her own remains were to be deposited. The day to which all her hopes were directed at length arrived. Not returning to the cottage of Michael at. the usual hour, he sent some of his children to fook for her, and they found her stretched, without life, on the grave of F
! She was buried, according to her wish, beneath that other block of granite which was prepared according to her own direction. Since that day, twelve times has the sun rejewed his course-twelve times has his beams freshened the green sod that covers these graves. The names of F--and his friend, are, doubtless, effaced from the memory of