Had it been my first experience of an ice-cave, it would doubtless have seemed very remarkable, as it did to Liotir, who, by the way, had steadily disbelieved the possibility of natural ice in summer except in the glaciers; but as I had now seen so many, several of them much more wonderful than this, I did not care to stay longer than was absolutely necessary for measurements and investigation.
This lavender is highly prized by the silkworm-keepers of Die, its bushy heads being almost exclusively used for the worms to spin their cocoons in. When we reached the top of the Col, Liotir confessed that he did not know which way to turn, and we agreed to follow the path till we should find some one to direct us.
Liotir was very anxious that we should have a bottle of this, for he was confident that I should give them an order if I once tasted it; but we had been in at the death of so many bottles that day, that I declined to try the muscat rosat. I have since had a hundred litres sent over by Liotir, and find it very satisfactory.
Then we were able to tell him that our business was something to eat for Liotir, and a guide to the glacière; though I trembled when I suggested the latter, for, after all our labours, I had a sort of fear that the cave would prove a myth. On this point the man cleared away all doubts at once, we could certainly have a guide, as the patron would be sure to let one of them go with us.
The cream and the black bread were delicious; but still the horrors of Die hung about me, and I could only dispose of such a small amount, that Liotir waxed funny, and told me it would never do for me to die there, as there was not earth enough to scrape a grave in on the whole plain.
As we crossed the plain, there was still the same total absence of water, and we reached the bottom of the hill in a state of mind and body which rebelled against the exertion of struggling with the sand and shingle and brushwood. Liotir thought it was useless to attempt it with no hope of water, and I held much the same view, only it was impossible really to think of giving it up.
Here accordingly we sat, more or less patiently, till the master himself appeared. He had no welcome for us; but he was willing that we should eat some of his black bread, and try his wine. Liotir begged for cheese, and the wife was told she might supply cheese of two kinds, and also cream, for the monsieur evidently was malade and could not swallow wine.
The guide, or comrade as he preferred to call himself, appeared in good time, and we started about half-past six, under a sun already oppressively hot, and through heavy flaky dust, which made us feel very thankful when our route branched off from the high road. Liotir was strong in mulberry trees and vines, for he was a keeper of silkworms, and a wine-merchant.
Liotir had a stout stick, and I had a formidable ice-axe; and, moreover, we fortunately secured a wall in our rear: but with all this the dogs were nearly too much for us, and Liotir was pressing me earnestly to chop at the ringleader's head, when a man came and called off 'Dragon, and the others then dispersed.
It has a rich, clear, port-wine colour, sparkling, and with the true frontignac flavour. The effect of the wine on Liotir was peculiar. In the earlier part of the walk, he had never seen Algeria; but after half a bottle of muscat, he had spent six months in that country, and he enlivened the remainder of the way with many details of his experiences there.