She was in livelier spirits now than she had been in at any time during the day. “The exercise has done you good, Ruth,” remarked Mrs. Denham; “I am sorry I did not accept Mr. Lynde’s invitation myself.” Mr. Lynde was also politely sorry, and Miss Ruth contributed her regrets with an emphasis that struck Lynde as malicious and overdone.
Shortly before arriving at St. Martin, Miss Ruth broached her Montanvert project, which, as she had prophesied, was coldly received by the aunt. Lynde hastened to assure Mrs. Denham that the ascent was neither dangerous nor difficult. Even guides were not necessary, though it was convenient to have them to lead the animals. On the way up there were excellent views of the Flegere and the Brevent. There was a capital inn at the summit, where they could lunch, and from the cliff behind the inn one could look directly down on the Mer de Glace. Then Lynde fell back upon his Murray and Baedeker. It was here that Professor Tyndall spent many weeks, at different times, investigating the theory of glacier motion; and the Englishman’s hut, which Goethe mentions in his visit to the scene in 1779, was still standing. Miss Ruth begged with both eyes; the aunt wavered, and finally yielded. As a continuance of fine weather could not be depended on, it was agreed that they should undertake the ascent the following morning immediately after daybreak. Then the conversation drooped.
The magnificent scenery through which their route now wound began to absorb them. Here they crossed a bridge, spanning a purple chasm whose snake-like thread of water could be heard hissing among the sharp flints a hundred feet below; now they rattled through the street of a sleepy village that seemed to have no reason for being except its picturesqueness; now they were creeping up a tortuous steep gloomed by menacing crags; and now their way lingered for miles along a precipice, over the edge of which they could see the spear-like tips of the tall pines reaching up from the valley.
At the bridge between St. Martin and Sallanches the dazzling silver peaks of Mont Blanc, rising above the green pasturage of the Forclaz, abruptly revealed themselves to the travellers, who fancied for the moment that they were close upon the mountain. It was twelve miles away in a bee-line. From this point one never loses sight of those vast cones and tapering aiguilles. A bloom as delicate as that of the ungathered peach was gradually settling on all the fairy heights.
As the travellers drew nearer to the termination of their journey, they were less and less inclined to converse. At every turn of the sinuous road fresh splendors broke upon them. By slow degrees the glaciers became visible: first those of Gria and Taconay; then the Glacier des Boissons, thrusting a crook of steel-blue ice far into the valley; and then—faintly discernible in the distance, and seemingly a hand’s breadth of snow framed by the sombre gorge—the Glacier des Bois, a frozen estuary of the Mer de Glace.