It has been said that the whole ice-floor sloped slightly towards one side of the cave, the slope becoming rather more steep near the edge. Clearly, ever so slight a slope would be sufficiently embarrassing, when the surface was so perfectly smooth and slippery; and this added much to the difficulty of walking in a bent attitude. On coming out of one of the domes, I tried progression on all-fours—threes, rather, for the candle occupied one hand,—and I cannot recommend that method, owing to the impossibility of putting on the break. The pace ultimately acquired is greater than is pleasant, and the roof is too near the floor to allow of any successful attempt to bring things to an end by the reassumption of a biped character.
We placed a thermometer in the line of greatest current, and another in a still part of the cave. The memorandum is lost of their register—if, indeed, we ever made one, for we were more concerned with the beauties than the temperature was surprisingly high in the line of current, as compared with the ordinary temperature of ice-caves.
When we came to compare backs, after leaving the cave, we mutually found that they were in a very disreputable condition. The damp and ragged roof with which they had been so frequently in contact had produced a marked effect upon them, and I eventually paid a tailor in Geneva three francs for restoring my coat to decency. M. took great credit to herself for having been more careful of her back than the others, and declined to be laughed at for forgetting that she was only about half as high as they, to begin with. A. still remembers the green-grey stains, as the most obstinate she ever had to deal with, especially as her three-days’ knapsack contained no change for that outer part of her dress.
The ‘Ecu’ gave us a charming dinner on our return; then a moderate bill, and an affectionate farewell; and we succeeded in catching the early evening train for Pontarlier.
[Footnote 48: Aigue, or egue, in the patois of this district, is equivalent to eau, the Latin aqua.]
[Footnote 49: Ebel, in his Swiss Manual (French translation of 1818, t. iii.), mentions this glaciere under the head Motiers, and observes that it and the grotto of S. Georges are the only places in the Jura where ice remains through the summer. This statement, in common with a great part of Ebel, has been transferred to the letterpress of Switzerland Illustrated.]
[Footnote 50: Switzerland sent 7,500,000 gallons of absinthe to France in 1864.]
[Footnote 51: Point d’argent, point de Suisse, is a proverbial expression which the Swiss twist into a historical compliment, asserting that it arose in early mercenary times, from the fact that they were too virtuous to accept the suggestion of the general who hired them, and wished them to take their pay in kind from the defenceless people of the country they had served.]