Some had been at Chamouni before, and wore the self-possessed air of knowledge; others had obviously never been there before, and were excited. Many were full of interest and expectation, a few, chiefly very young men, wore a blase, half-pitiful, half-patronising air, as though to say, "that's right, good people, amuse yourselves with your day-dreams while you may.
These glaciers, in the setting sun, look like rivers of light pouring down from the clouds. Such was the scene, which I remember with perfect distinctness as enchaining my attention on one point of the road. We had now got up to the valley of Chamouni.
Denham is in Paris, where he will remain a week or ten days, to show the sights to an old American friend of ours who is to join our party. I think I told you, Mr. Lynde? Supposing us to be weary of Geneva by this time, Mr. Denham suggests that we go on to Chamouni and wait there. I have left the matter to Ruth, and she decides in favor of leaving to-morrow, if the weather is fine."
After ascending thus for six or eight miles, they came out upon a lofty promontory, from which, on one side, they could look down upon the wild and desolate bed of the glacier, and, upon the other, upon the green, and fertile, and inexpressibly beautiful vale of Chamouni, with the pretty little village in the centre of it. This place is called Montauvert.
And so, our three travellers like many hundreds of travellers who had gone before them, and like many, doubtless, who shall follow were grievously disappointed with their first view of Mont Blanc! They lived, however to change their minds, to discover that the village of Chamouni lies too close to the toe of the Great White Mountain to permit of his being seen to advantage.
Chamouni. Mont Blanc in full view. Should you like to hear what moderate wishes life brings one to at last? I used to be very ambitious, wasteful, extravagant, and luxurious in all my fancies. Read too much in the "Arabian Nights." Must have the lamp, couldn't do without the ring. Exercise every morning on the brazen horse.
My plan had been to pass from Chamouni by the Col du Géant to Courmayeur, and thence to Aosta for a visit to the canon and his glacière; but, unfortunately, the symptoms which had put an end to the expedition to the Brezon and the Valley of Reposoir came on with renewed vigour, as a consequence of Mont Blanc, and the projected fortnight with Peter Pernn collapsed into a hasty flight to Geneva.
"It is not cowardly, sir," he said, "to spring quickly out of a danger that one don't understand the nature of, but the young men of Chamouni have, or ought to have, a good understanding of the nature of ice, and the danger should be great indeed that would necessitate the leaving of their tools behind them." A roar like that of a bull of Bashan, or a boatswain, here interrupted the conversation.
Here, to his inexpressible joy and thankfulness, he fell in with a sheep-track, and, following it up, was soon on the high-road of the valley. But it was not till far on in the night that he reached Chamouni, scarce able to drag himself along. He went straight to the Bureau of Guides, where a profound sensation was created by the sad tidings which he brought.
One may truly see a small scrap of the veritable top from Chamouni, but one cannot obtain an idea of what it is that he sees. As well might a beetle walk close up to the heel of a man, and attempt from that position to form a correct estimate of his size; as well might one plant himself two inches distant from a large painting and expect to do it justice!