It is just after sunset of an August evening. The scene is a room in a mountain hut, furnished only with a table, benches. and a low broad window seat. Through this window three rocky peaks are seen by the light of a moon which is slowly whitening the last hues of sunset. An oil lamp is burning. Seelchen, a mountain girl, eighteen years old, is humming a folk-song, and putting away in a cupboard freshly washed soup-bowls and glasses. She is dressed in a tight-fitting black velvet bodice. square-cut at the neck and partly filled in with a gay handkerchief, coloured rose-pink, blue, and golden, like the alpen-rose, the gentian, and the mountain dandelion; alabaster beads, pale as edelweiss, are round her throat; her stiffened. white linen sleeves finish at the elbow; and her full well-worn skirt is of gentian blue. The two thick plaits of her hair are crossed, and turned round her head. As she puts away the last bowl, there is a knock; and Lamond opens the outer door. He is young, tanned, and good-looking, dressed like a climber, and carries a plaid, a ruck-sack, and an ice-axe.
Lamond. Good evening!
Seelchen. Good evening, gentle Sir!
Lamond. My name is Lamond. I’m very late I fear.
Seelchen. Do you wish to sleep here?
Seelchen. All the beds are full—it is a pity. I will call Mother.
Lamond. I’ve come to go up the Great Horn at sunrise.
Seelchen. [Awed] The Great Horn! But he is impossible.
Lamond. I am going to try that.
Seelchen. There is the Wine Horn, and the Cow Horn.
Lamond. I have climbed them.
Seelchen. But he is so dangerous—it is perhaps—death.
Lamond. Oh! that’s all right! One must take one’s chance.
Seelchen. And father has hurt his foot.
For guide, there is only
Lamond. The celebrated Felsman?
Seelchen. [Nodding; then looking at him with admiration] Are you that Herr Lamond who has climbed all our little mountains this year?
Lamond. All but that big fellow.
Seelchen. We have heard of you. Will you not wait a day for father’s foot?
Lamond. Ah! no. I must go back home to-morrow.
Seelchen. The gracious Sir is in a hurry.
Lamond. [Looking at her intently] Alas!
Seelchen. Are you from London? Is it very big?
Lamond. Six million souls.
Seelchen. Oh! [After a little pause] I have seen Cortina twice.
Lamond. Do you live here all the year?
Seelchen. In winter in the valley.