“The bon Dieu” said Camille, when she had gone, “has thundered His curse on Nature for revealing His secrets. I, who have penetrated into the forbidden, must perish.”
“And I, Camille?”
He turned to me with a melancholy sweet smile, and answered, paraphrasing the dying words of certain noble lips,—
“Be good, Monsieur; be good.”
My friend, Monsieur ——, absolutely declines to append his name to these pages, of which he is the virtual author. Nevertheless, he permits me to publish them anonymously, being, indeed, a little curious to ascertain what would have been the public verdict as to his sanity, had he given his personal imprimatur to a narrative on the face of it so incredible.
“How!” he says. “Should I have believed it of another, when I have such astonishing difficulty at this date in realizing that it was I—yes, I, my friend—this same little callow poupon—that was an actual hero of the adventure? Fidele” (by which term we cover the identity of his wife)—“Fidele will laugh in my face sometimes, crying, ’Not thou, little cabbage, nor yet thy faithful, was it that dived through half the world and came up breathless! No, no—I cannot believe it. We folk, so matter-of-fact and so comical. It was of Hansel and Gretel we had been reading hand-in-hand, till we fell asleep in the twilight and fancied this thing.’ And then she will trill like a bird at the thought of how solemn Herr Grabenstock, of the Hotel du Mont Blanc, would have stared and edged apart, had we truly recounted to him that which had befallen us between the rising and the setting of a sun. We go forth; it rains—my faith! as it will in the Chamounix valley—and we return in the evening sopped. Very natural. But, for a first cause of our wetting. Ah! there we must be fastidious of an explanation, or we shall find ourselves in peril of restraint.
“Now, write this for me, and believe it if you can. We are not in a conspiracy of imagination—I and the dear courageous.”
Therefore I do write it, speaking in the person of Monsieur ——, and largely from his dictation; and my friend shall amuse himself over the nature of its reception.
* * * * *
“One morning (it was in late May),” says Monsieur ——, “my Fidele and I left the Hotel du Mont Blanc for a ramble amongst the hills. We were a little adventurous, because we were innocent. We took no guide but our commonsense; and that served us very ill—or very well, according to the point of view. Ours was that of the birds, singing to the sky and careless of the snake in the grass so long as they can pipe their tune. Of a surety that is the only course. If one would make provision against every chance of accident, one must dematerialize. To die is the only way to secure oneself from fatality.