The night had been fine and warm, and it was now noon on a fine September day when the train from Paris reached St. Michael, on the route to Italy by Mont Cenis; as all the world knows St. Michael is, or was a year or two back, the end of the railway travelling in that direction. At the time Mr Fell’s grand project of carrying a line of rails over the top of the mountain was only in preparation, and the journey from St. Michael to Susa was still made by the diligences those dear old continental coaches which are now nearly as extinct as our own, but which did not deserve death so fully as did our abominable vehicles. The coupe of a diligence, or, better still, the banquette, was a luxurious mode of travelling as compared with anything that our coaches offered. There used indeed to be a certain halo of glory round the occupant of the box of a mail-coach. The man who had secured that seat was supposed to know something about the world, and to be such a one that the passengers sitting behind him would be proud to be allowed to talk to him. But the prestige of the position was greater than the comfort. A night on the box of a mail-coach was but a bad time, and a night inside a mail-coach was a night in purgatory. Whereas a seat up above, on the banquette of a diligence passing over the Alps, with room for the feet, and support for the back, with plenty of rugs and plenty of tobacco, used to be on the Mont Cenis, and still is on some other mountain passes, a very comfortable mode of seeing a mountain route. For those desirous of occupying the coupe, or the three front seats of the body of the vehicle, it must be admitted that difficulties frequently arose; and that such difficulties were very common at St. Michael. There would be two or three of those enormous vehicles preparing to start for the mountain, whereas it would appear that twelve or fifteen passengers had come down from Paris armed with tickets assuring them that this preferable mode of travelling should be theirs. And then assertions would be made, somewhat recklessly, by the officials, to the effect that all the diligence was coupe. It would generally be the case that some middle-aged Englishman who could not speak French would go to the wall, together with his wife. Middle-aged Englishmen with their wives, who can’t speak French, can nevertheless be very angry, and threaten loudly, when they suppose themselves to be ill-treated. A middle-aged Englishman, though he can’t speak a word of French, won’t believe a French official who tells him that the diligence is all coupe, when he finds himself with his unfortunate partner in a roundabout place behind with two priests, a dirty man who looks like a brigand, a sick maid-servant, and three agricultural labourers. The attempt, however, was frequently made, and thus there used to be occasionally a little noise round the bureau at St. Michael.