His first Easter vacation he spent with a reading-party in Cumberland. There he first tasted the “sacred fury” of the mountains and mountain-climbing, and in Switzerland the next August it grew to be a passion. He returned to it again and again, in Cumberland playing at the game with half a dozen fellow-undergraduates whom he had bitten with the mania; but in Switzerland during the Long vacations giving himself over to a glut of it, with only a guide and porter for company— sometimes alone, if he could ever be said to be alone. As in mathematics so in his sport, the cold heights were the mistresses he wooed; the peaks called to him, the rare atmosphere, the glittering wastes. He neither scorned danger nor was daunted by it. Below in the forests he would sing aloud, but the summits held him silent. As an old pastor at Zermatt told Mr. Frank, he would come down from a mountain “like Moses, with his face illumined.”
He started on his third visit to Switzerland early in July: in the second week in August Miss Bracy and Mr. Frank were to join him at Chamounix, and thence the three would make a tour together. He started in the highest spirits, and halted at the gate to wave his ice-axe defiantly. . . .
The clergyman who ministered to the little tin English Church boarded at the big hotel, which kept a bedroom and a sitting-room at his disposal. They faced north from the back of the building, which stood against the mountain-side; but the sitting-room had a second window at the corner of the block, and from this the eye went up over a plantation of dark firs to the white snowfields of the Col and the dark jagged wall of the Aiguille du Geant—distant, yet as clear as if stencilled against the blue heaven. It was a delectable vision; but the clergyman, being short-sighted as a mole, had never seen it. He wore spectacles with a line running horizontally across them, and through these he peered at Mr. Frank and Miss Bracy as if uncertain of their distance.
Mr. Frank, in a suit of black, sat at the little round table in the centre of the room, pressing his finger-tips into the soft nap of a gaudy French table-cloth. Miss Bracy stood by the window with her back to the room, but she was listening. She too wore black. The fourth person, at the little clergyman’s elbow, was Christian the guide. It was he who spoke, while Mr. Frank dug his fingers deeper, and the clergyman nodded at every pause sympathetically, and both kept their eyes on the table-cloth, the pink and crimson roses of which on their background of buff and maroon were to one a blur only, to the other a pattern bitten on his brain.