Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

defeated whatever chance of sport we might otherwise have had; for their hearty acclamations, engendered by the glorious weather we were exulting in, rose to fever heat as they set out, and manifested itself in good-humoured laughter and jolly exclamations as they advanced, so that the deer would have been dull indeed had they remained anywhere in our immediate neighbourhood. So we wandered along in happy disregard of order and moderation, and as we passed under the great masses of rock, which seemed barely suspended from the grand cliffs to which they clung, we could not help looking up with a kind of dread lest they might in some way become detached from their resting-places, and come tumbling down upon us; nor were our fears without reason.

The sun had melted away the snow and ice which during the winter had clung to them, and the thawing water had carried away with it much of the earth and detritus, which to some extent had cemented these masses to the surface on which they clung. By degrees we were enabled to leave the dangerous propinquity of these cliffs, and we gradually made our way out on to the charming valley. The little plateaux were beautifully green, with scanty herbage, eked out with rank moss, whose surface was spangled over with many flowering plants, whose

gay bloom gave a peculiar charm to the

ON THE MOUNTAIN SIDE,

247

otherwise desolate-looking soil. The sight of fresh flowers starting into life under the influence of a bright northern sun in the space of one short month, with a temperature whose greatest power raises the heat of the surface from 30° to one rarely, if ever, over 50°, must be seen in order to comprehend the enjoyment it produces.

Then, gradually ascending, we rose above the rain

[graphic]

cloud, and onwards and upwards through the mist; on and on until we got into a clear atmosphere above, where we found a totally different climate to that we had passed through in the valley below, its effects upon us being evident in the cheerful countenances of all our party. Fatigue had no depressing influence upon us up here. Such a thing as care was left far down in the mists of the valley. Nature in her welcome gave fresh vigour to our limbs, and the muscles, beginning to flag with the constant strain

upon
them

up

to this point, gained fresh strength as we toiled up the steep mountain side. Our lungs, renewed with the wholesome draught, could help us upwards, we thought for ever. Time, the bore to all enjoyment, at last began to tell on our limited powers, some of the boasters being the first to cry out. In pity to these, we halt and hold a council. It would be a grave reproach to us, having set out with so desirable an object, to return back defeated, and there in front of us, at but a trifling distance apparently, stands the summit of the peaks above, whose crest we had resolved to reach. Once there, we have but to look in any direction, and resolve any doubts we may have as to the geography of the region.

We felt bound to go on and explore. The distance seemed so trifling, that any labour we might endure in gaining the top was nothing in comparison with the disgrace of failure. We resolved to push on, and invited some one willing to go as a companion. Magnus at once volunteered, and our arrangements were soon made. The others were to return at once to the schooner, while we two would attempt the ascent. If we gained it, we would act as circumstances would direct, and return by some other route. All the biscuits and slices

[blocks in formation]

of congealed soup, no longer wanted by the returning party, were quickly collected for our own use in case of

any emergencies we could not foresee; and after a kind adieu to our companions, we once more faced the mountain. We had no idea of the work cut out for us, or we also might then have gone back.

We had arrived at the limit of vegetation, and began the laborious task of scrambling with uncertain foot-hold upon the bare mountain side amongst rough and crumbling shale and sharp fractured stone. Gradually the ascent became difficult, as the slippery surface crumbled away beneath our weight, and went rushing down the mountain side. Now we came upon a glacier in the shade of the southern crests and shady nooks concealed from the direct rays of the sun by overhanging and steep rocks. The ice, though proverbially treacherous to walk upon, was a welcome change to us, after the loose shingle, so difficult to . travel over.

A mountain stream, having its origin far up in the mountain, came racing down; in some places it spread itself over the glacier, in others it went thundering down the mouths of yawning caverns in the ice, and these great pits looked far too terrible to venture

My good friend Magnus, who owns a farm in the Shetlands, and has gained a reputation for his wonderful feats of cliff-climbing amongst his hardy

countrymen, men noted for deeds of daring when engaged in egg-collecting along the almost inaccessible cliffs that fringe their home, is not without some slight apprehension here.

Still we are both resolved, and the air is cold up here, and the atmosphere is laden with frost, but we do not feel it; on the contrary, we are melting with the heat induced by our exertion in climbing

Far above us we see a tempting ridge projecting somewhat, and once there, we agree in thinking we have gained our object. To it we press on with all the zeal we can command. We press the stocks of our rifles into the shingle, and in this way make considerable progress. Coming to an enormous boulder that stands on the very face of the mountain, and derives its slender support from some little heap of débris, and perhaps a slightly projecting rock, we stop a moment to wonder at its evident insecurity. The winter frost, acting on the water collected in little pools and on the saturated soil, eats away what formerly was the support of these almost detached blocks, so that at last they seem to hang by a thread. It is too much for the boy-like feelings of Magnus.

Out it must go, the prisoner must be set free; and he settles to work with a will. Soon the support is undermined,

« AnteriorContinuar »