THE DILIGENCE TO CHAMOUNY
The greatest diligence we have seen, one of the few of the old-fashioned sort, is the one from Geneva to Chamouny. It leaves early in the morning; and there is always a crowd about it to see the mount and start. The great ark stands before the diligence-office, and, for half an hour before the hour of starting, the porters are busy stowing away the baggage, and getting the passengers on board. On top, in the banquette, are seats for eight, besides the postilion and guard; in the coupe, under the postilion’s seat and looking upon the horses, seats for three; in the interior, for three; and on top, behind, for six or eight. The baggage is stowed in the capacious bowels of the vehicle. At seven, the six horses are brought out and hitched on, three abreast. We climb up a ladder to the banquette: there is an irascible Frenchman, who gets into the wrong seat; and before he gets right there is a terrible war of words between him and the guard and the porters and the hostlers, everybody joining in with great vivacity; in front of us are three quiet Americans, and a slim Frenchman with a tall hat and one eye-glass. The postilion gets up to his place. Crack, crack, crack, goes the whip; and, amid “sensation” from the crowd, we are off at a rattling pace, the whip cracking all the time like Chinese fireworks. The great passion of the drivers is noise; and they keep the whip going all day. No sooner does a fresh one mount the box than he gives a half-dozen preliminary snaps; to which the horses pay no heed, as they know it is only for the driver’s amusement. We go at a good gait, changing horses every six miles, till we reach the Baths of St. Gervais, where we dine, from near which we get our first glimpse of Mont Blanc through clouds,—a section of a dazzlingly white glacier, a very exciting thing to the imagination. Thence we go on in small carriages, over a still excellent but more hilly road, and begin to enter the real mountain wonders; until, at length, real glaciers pouring down out of the clouds nearly to the road meet us, and we enter the narrow Valley of Chamouny, through which we drive to the village in a rain.