« PreviousContinue »
building at Geneva when I left. Ah! I must make a promenade in her."
“Perhaps we may have that pleasure together," added I. “But what is that hill? it appears as if it were within the town, and resembles the rock of Edinburgh castle, and is even loftier, if I mistake not. What a defence for your town ! there will be a fort on the top, I suppose?”
“Ha! ha! you have fallen into the general mistake." “How?” replied I; "that is surely a hill which I perceive.” “Most assuredly it is,” continued the other, smiling. “Then, what amuses you so ?” “What has amused others for the last century.”
Explain yourself.” “Why, the mistake you have just made." “ Well.” “ That hill is not at Geneva." “Not at Geneva? why, it appears in the centre of the town!”
“From here it does,” drily returned my companion. have fallen into error regarding it; not the least celebrated of whom was the Duke de Rohan, who, when advancing from Fernez at the head of his troops, remarks to his staff, how easy it will be to drag some guns up there, and batter
poor Geneva to pieces. On arrival, he finds that the convenient hill is a mountain, higher than the highest in your country,* and at four or five miles distant from the walls he was to batter. It is an optical delusion; you must pardon my enjoyment of your mistake; many great men have fallen into error regarding it.”
“Ahem !” I experienced a slight choking sensation as he concluded the last sentence; so going to the well, I applied my lips to the tap, and took a long draught. I was extremely thirsty, and the water was cool and as clear as crystal.
Young Geneva was astonished, and remarked :
“ The emperor, himself, could scarcely have taken such a draught as that."
Before, he had coupled me with the Duke de Rohan, now it was with the emperor.
“ What next, I wonder! This youth is a bit of a wag,' thought I. Then aloud to him :-"Why do you instance Napoleon ? I have heard that he caused much blood to be spilt, but never that he cared for water.”
“ This is called Napoleon Buonaparte's well.” " And wherefore ?"
“ Here it was that he sat down and refreshed himself, when la grande armée was on the march for Italy. Look, you will find an inscription at the back."
* The writer is a native of Scotland.
A few lines in French, cut into the stone, commemorated the event.
“ And it was there," continued he, “ that the emperor gave orders for this road to be made. It was long regarded as the finest mountain road in the world, but we have constructed as good a one higher up, near Vevay."
“ It is indeed a grand work," replied I. “Would that all the emperor's other works had been equally so, and as useful !"
It is impossible to say the length to which this inexhaustible, and, to a European, interesting subject, might have led our conversation, had it not been interrupted by the sound of the diligence, which came rattling down the mountain like an avalanche, carrying off people and chattels in its onward course. The tinkling of the bells, however, had given us sufficient notice of its approach ; so we held ourselves in readiness to resume our seats, as it came round the corner by Napoleon's Well.
“ Heé, donc ! Monsieur le conducteur . : arretez
. « Pas ici," cried out that gentleman," la route est trop escarp
His last words were lost in the din and distance. But we had heard enough to make us fully acquainted with the awkwardness of our situation. The huge vehicle thundered onwards, at double the speed we had ever travelled in it; the four wheelers bore up wonderfully steady under their tremendous burden, and two drags were put on. I expected every moment to see the whole affair over the horses' heads, and then over a precipice, in which this high road abounds. So engrossed was my attention with the progress of the diligence, that I had quite forgotten how we had been left behind, when my companion awakened me to a sense of our situation by the plain, although difficult, problem.
« Que faire ?”
Ay, “Que faire ?" Truly most embarrassing words. Embarrassing all over the world : embarrassing to the rich as well as to the poor-peer and peasant- mankind in general. A Gordian knot, requiring often more than an Alexander to unravel. Two simple, short words, conveying with truth and rapidity a full sense of a helpless situation to the mind ; on the answer to which have hung so many an important event and anxious result. Ours, although of no vital importance, was, we found, sufficiently distressing to solve in a satisfactory manner, which was, of course, how we might best catch up the diligence. I looked at young Geneva; it was all the answer I could give.
But it was essentially a question of time with us, and loitering would never do, for it only increased our dilemma. My com
panion seemed fully aware of this, for he exclaimed, after a short pause
“C'est bien ! I have it."
"Most assuredly they will not. The diligence will only stop at the foot of the mountain, to unloose the drags. They do not change horses, if I remember right, until Lyon. Follow me!”
He led me a few paces up the road again, until we arrived at a spot completely shaded with trees, and where the old mule path crosses Napoleon's grand work. The former leads in a direct and, consequently, almost perpendicular line to the plain beneath, whilst the new road winds and twists about to render the descent as easy as possible for heavy vehicles, which tack about like a ship, and have to make quite a mountain excursion ere they arrive below. I comprehended my companion's scheme at once; so we diverged to the left, and darted down the rough mule path.
Our conversation during the descent was, as may be supposed, not very interesting; what with running and jumping, we had no breath to spare. Every now and then we met the high road, which we crossed as usual, and continued our more direct path. At one of these diversions, and near the base of the mountains, we caught a glimpse of the diligence, ere it disappeared round a turning on our left, thundering onwards. The sight renewed us with fresh vigour, and we darted forward at an increased speed. We must now have been going as fast as our object of pursuit, and, as we took a shorter road, there was little fear of our missing it.
“We shall reach the bottom before it now," cried young Geneva.
“ Odds broken shins and sprained ankles, so we have,” added I, as we both emerged into the plain.
It was true enough. There was the clumsy diligence tacking about, and there was no saying when it might arrive.
Meantime, we stepped into an auberge by the road-side, and quaffed beer!
July, 1848.-VOL. LIIINO. CCVII.
ETHEREAL Hope! how can a poet's song,
None but a Mother, she alone remains,
W. B. A.