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A message from the sea : The extra Christmas number of All the year round online

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them up, one after the other, to the delight of the
Italians.

" I helped to make them myself, every one/*
said he, proudly. "Is it not pretty music? I
sometimes set one of them when I go to bed at
night, and fall asleep listening to it. I am sure,
then, to have pleasant dreams ! But let us see
your cameos. Perhaps I may buy one for
Marie, if they are not too dear. Marie is my
sweetheart, and we are to be married next
week."

"Next week!" exclaimed Stefano. "That is
very soon. Battisto has a sweetheart also, up
at Impruneta ; but they will have to wait a long
time before they can buy the ring."

Battisto blushed like a girl.

" Hush, brother !" said he. " Show the cameos
to Christien, and give your tongue a holiday !"

But Christien was not so to be put off.

" What is her name ?" said he. " Tush ! Bat-
tisto, you must tell me her name ! Is she pretty ?
Is she dark, or fair ? Do you often see her when
you are at home ? Is she very fond of you ?
Is she as fond of you as Marie is of me ?"

" Nay, how should I know that ?" asked the
soberer Battisto. " She loves me, and I love her-
that is all."

" And her name ?"

" Margherita."

" A charming name ! And she is herself as
pretty as her name, I'll engage. 3 Did you say
she was fair ?"

" I said nothing about it one way or the other,"
said Battisto, unlocking a green box clamped
with iron, and taking out tray after tray of his
pretty wares. "There! Those pictures all inlaid
in little bits are Roman mosaics these flowers
on a black ground are Florentine. The ground
is of hard dark stone, and the flowers are made
of thin slices of jasper, onyx, cornelian, and so



Charles Dickens.]



A MESSAGE FROM THE SEA.



[December 13, 18CO.] 27



forth. Those forget-me-nots, for instance, are
bits of turquoise, and that poppy is cut from a
piece of coral."

" I like the Roman ones best," said Christieu.
" What plaee is 1h;i!. with all the arches?"

" This is the Coliseum, and the one next to it
is Sf . Peter's. But we Florentines care little for
tin-. 1 101 nan work. It is not half so line or so
valuable as ours. The Romans make their mo-
saics of composition."

" Composition or no, I like the little landscapes
bi-si," said Christian. "There is a lovely one,
with a pointed building-, and a tree, and moun-
tains at the back. How I should like that one
for Marie !"

" You may have it for eight francs," replied
Battisto ; " we sold two of them yesterday for ten
cacii. It represents the tomb of Caius Cestius,
near Rome."

"A tomb!" echoed Christien, considerably
dismayed. " Diable ! That would be a dismal
present to one's bride."

" She would never guess that it was a tomb,
if you did not tell her," suggested Stefano.

Christien shook his head.

" That would be next door to deceiving her,"
said he.

" Nay," interposed my brother, "the owner of
that tomb has been dead these eighteen or nine-
teen hundred years. One almost forgets that
he was ever buried in it."

" Eighteen or nineteen hundred years ? Then
he was a heathen?"

" Undoubtedly, if by that you mean that he
lived before Christ."

Christien' s face lighted up immediately.

" Oh, that settles the question," said he, pull-
ing out his little canvas purse, and paying his
money down at once. "A heathen's tomb is as
good as no tomb at all. I'll have it made into a
brooch for her, at Interlaken. Tell me, Battisto,
what shall you take home to Italy for your Mar-
gherita?"

Battisto, laughed, and chinked his eight francs.
" That depends on trade," said he; " if we make
good profits between this and Christmas, I may
take her a Swiss muslin from Berne ; but we
have already been away seven months, and we
have hardly made a hundred francs over and above
our expenses."

And with this, the talk turned upon general
matters, the Florentines locked away their trea-
sures, Christien restrapped his pack, and my bro-
ther and all went down together, and break-
fasted in the open air outside the inn.

It was a magnificent morning : cloudless and
sunny, with a cool breeze that rustled in the
vine upon the porch, and flecked the table with
shifting shadows of green leaves. All around
and about them stood the great mountains, with
their blue-white glaciers bristling down to the
verge of the pastures, and the pine-woods
creeping darkly up their sides. To the left, the
Wetterhorn ; to the right, the Eigher ; straight
before them, dazzling and imperishable, like an



obelisk of frosted silver, the Schreckhorn, or
Peak of Terror. Breakfast over, they bade fare-
well to their hostess, and, mountain-staff in hand,
took the path to the Wengern Alp. Half in
light, half in shadow, lay the quiet valley, dotted
over with farms, and traversed by a torrent
that rushed, milk-white, from its prison in ihe
glacier. The three lads walked briskly in ad-
vance, their voices chiming together every now
and then in chorus of laughter. Somehow my
brother felt sad. He lingered behind, and, pluck-
ing a little red flower from the bank, watched
it hurry away with the torrent, like a life on the
stream of time. Why was his heart so heavy,
and why were their hearts so light ?

As the day went on, my brother's melancholy,
and the mirth of the young men, seemed to
increase. Full of youth and hope, they talked of
the joyous future, and built up pleasant castles
in the air. Battisto, grown more communica-
tive, admitted that to marry Margherita, and be-
come a master mosaicist, would fulfil the dearest
dream of his life. Stefano, not being in love,
preferred to travel. Christien, who seemed to
be the most prosperous, declared that it was
his darling ambition to rent a farm in his native
Kander Valley, and lead the patriarchal life of
his fathers. As for the musical-box trade, he
said, one should live in Geneva to make it an-
swer ; and, for his part, he loved the pine-forests
and the snow-peaks, better than all the towns in
Europe. Marie, too, had been born among the
mountains, and it would break her heart, if she
thought she were to live in Geneva all her life,
and never see the Kander Thai again. Chatting
thus, the morning wore on to noon, and the party
rested awhile in the shade of a clump of gigantic
firs festooned with trailing banners of grey-green
moss.

Here they ate their lunch, to the silvery music
of one of Christien's little boxes, and by-and-by
heard the sullen echo of an avalanche far away
on the shoulder of the Jungfrau.

Then they went on again in the burning after-
noon, to heights where the Alp-rose fails from the
sterile steep, and the brown lichen grows more and
more scantily among the stones. Here, only the
bleached and barren skeletons of a forest of dead
pines varied the desolate monotony; and high on
the summit of the pass, stood a little solitary
inn, between them and the sky.

At this inn they rested again, and drank to the
health of Christien and his bride, in a jug of
country wine. He was in uncontrollable spirits,
and shook hands with them all, over and over again.

" By nightfall to-morrow," said he, " I shall
hold her once more in my arms ! It is now nearly
two years since I came home to see her, at the
end of my apprenticeship. Now I am foreman,
with a salary of thirty francs a week, and well
able to marry."

" Thirty francs a week !" echoed Battisto.
" Corpo di Bacco ! that is a little fortune."

Christien's face beamed.
_ " Yes," said he, "we shall be very happy ; and,



28 [December 13, I860.]



A MESSAGE FROM THE SEA.



[Condnettd by



by-and-by who knows ? we may end our days in
the Kander Thai, and bring up our children to
succeed us. Ah ! If Marie knew that I should be
there to-morrow night, how delighted she would
be!"

" How so, Christien ?" said my brother. " Does
she not expect you ?"

" Not a bit of it. She has no idea that I can
be there till the day after to-morrow nor could
I, if I took the road all round by Unterseen and
Friitigen. I mean to sleep to-night at Lauter-
brunnen, and to-morrow morning shall strike
across the Tschlingel glacier to Kandersteg. If I
rise a little before daybreak, I shall be at home
by sunset."

At this moment the path took a sudden turn,
and began to descend in sight of an immense per-
spective of very distant valleys. Christien flung
his cap into the air, and uttered a great shout.

" Look !" said he, stretching out his arms as if
to embrace all the dear familiar scene : "O ! Look !
There are the hills and woods of Interlaken, and
here, below the precipices on which we stand, lies
Lauterbrunnen ! God be praised, who has made
our native land so beautiful !"

The Italians smiled at each other, thinking their
own Arno valley far more fair ; but my brother's
heart warmed to the boy, and echoed his thanks-
giving in that spirit which accepts all beauty as
a birthright and an inheritance. And now their
course lay across an immense plateau, all rich
with corn-fields and meadows, and studded with
substantial homesteads built of old brown wood,
with huge sheltering eaves, and strings of Indian
corn hanging like golden ingots along the carven
balconies. Blue whortleberries grew beside the
footway, and now and then they came upon a wild
gentian, or a star-shaped immortelle. Then the
path became a mere zigzag on the face of the pre-
cipice, and in less than half an hour they reached
the lowest level of the valley. The glowing after-
noon had not yet faded from the uppermost pines,
when they were all dining together in the parlour
of a little inn looking to the Jungfrau. In the
evening my brother wrote letters, while the three
lads strolled about the village. At nine o'clock
they bade each other good night, and went to
their several rooms.

Weary as he was, my brother found it impos-
sible to sleep. The same unaccountable melan-
choly still possessed him, and when at last he
dropped into an uneasy slumber, it was but to
start over and over again from frightful dreams,
faint with a nameless terror. Towards morning,
he fell into a profound sleep, and never woke until
the day was fast advancing towards noon. He
then found, to his regret, that Christien had long
since gone. He had risen before daybreak, break-
fasted by candlelight, and started off in the grey
dawn" as merry," said the host, " as a fiddler
at a fair."

Stefano and Battisto were still waiting to see
my brother, being charged by Christien with a
friendly farewell message to him, and an invita-
tion to the wedding. They, too, were asked, and



meant to go ; so, my brother agreed to meet them
at Interlaken on the following Tuesday, whence
they might walk to Kandersteg by easy stages,
reaching their destination on the Thursday morn-
ing, in time to go to church with the bridal party.
My brother then bought some of the little Floren-
tine cameos, wished the two boys every good for-
tune, and watched them down the road till he
could see them no longer.

Left now to himself, he wandered out with
his sketch-book, and spent the day in the
upper valley; at sunset, he dined alone in his
chamber, by the light of a single lamp. This meal
despatched, he drew nearer to the fire, took out
a pocket edition of Goethe's Essays on Art, and
promised himself some hours of pleasant reading.
(Ah, how well I know that very book, in its faded
cover, and how often I have heard him describe
that lonely evening!) The night had by this
time set in cold and wet. The damp logs
spluttered on the hearth, and a wailing wind
swept down the valley, bearing the rain in sudden
gusts against the panes. My brother soon found
that to read was impossible. His attention
wandered incessantly. He read the same sentence
over and over again, unconscious of its meaning,
and fell into long trains of thought leading far
into the dim past.

Thus the hours went by, and at eleven o'clock
he heard the doors closing below, and the house-
hold retiring to rest. He determined to yield
no longer to this dreaming apathy. He threw
on fresh logs, trimmed the lamp, and took
several turns about the room. Then he opened
the casement, and suffered the rain to beat against
his face, and the wind to ruffle his hair, as it
ruffled the acacia leaves in the garden below.
Some minutes passed thus, and when, at length,
he closed the window and came back into the room,
his face and hair and all the front of his shirt
were thoroughly saturated. To unstrap his knap-
sack and take out a dry shirt was, of course, liis
first impulse to drop the garment, listen eagerly,
and start to his feet, breathless and bewildered,
was the next.

For, borne fitfully upon the outer breeze,
now sweeping past the window, now dying in the
distance, he heard a well-remembered strain of
melody, subtle and silvery as the " sweet airs "
of Prospero's isle, and proceeding unmistakably,
from the musical-box which had, the day before,
accompanied the lunch under the fir-trees of the
Wengern Alp !

Had Christien come back, and was it thus that
he announced his return ? If so, where was he ?
Under the window ? Outside in the corridor ?
Sheltering in the porch, and waiting for admit-
tance? My brother threw open the casement
again, and called him by his name.

" Christien ! Is that you ?"

All without was intensely silent. He could
hear the last gust of wind and rain moaning
farther and farther away upon its wild course '
down the valley, and the pine trees shivering,
like living things.



Charles Dtckent.]



A MKSSACM KKOM THE SfcA.



[December 13, 1866.} 29



" Christicn !" he said again, and his own voice
seemed to echo strangely on his car. " Speak !
Is it you ?"

Still no one answered. He leaned out iiito
the dark night; but could see nothing not
even the outline of the porch below. He began to
think that his imagination had deceived him,
when suddenly the strain burst forth again ; this
time, apparently in his own chamber.

As he turned, expecting to find Christien at his
elbow, the sounds broke off abruptly, and a sensa-
tion of inteusest cold seized him in every limb
not the mere chill of nervous terror, not the mere
physical result of exposure to wind and rain, but
a deadly freezing of every vein, a paralysis of
every nerve, an appalling consciousness that in a
few moments more the lungs must cease to play,
and the heart to beat ! Powerless to speak or
stir, he closed his eyes, and believed that he was
dying.

This strange faintness lasted but a few seconds.
Gradually the vital warmth returned, and, with
it, strength to close the window, and stagger to
a chair. As he did so, he found the breast of
his shirt all sthT and frozen, and the rain clinging
in solid icicles upon his hair.

He looked at his watch. It had stopped at
twenty minutes before twelve. He took his ther-
mometer from the chimney-piece, and found the
mercury at sixty-eight. Heavenly powers ! How
were these things possible in a temperature of
sixty-eight degrees, and with a large fire blazing
on the hearth ?

He poured out half a tumbler of cognac, and
drank it at a draught. Going to bed was out
of the question. He felt that he dared not sleep
that he scarcely dared to think. All he could
do, was, to change his linen, pile on more logs,
wrap himself in his blankets, and sit all night in
an easy-chair before the fire. _

My brother had not long sat thus, however,
before the warmth, and probably the nervous
reaction, drew him off to sleep. In the morning
he found himself lying on the bed, without being
able to remember in the least how or when he
reached it.

It was again a glorious day. The rain and wind
were gone, and the Silverhorn at the end of the
valley lifted its head into an unclouded sky.
Looking out upon the sunshine, he almost doubted
the events of the night, and, but for the evidence
of his watch, which still pointed to twenty
minutes before twelve, would have been dis-
posed to treat the whole matter as a dream. As
it was, he attributed more than half his terrors
to the prompting of an over-active and over-
wearied brain. Tor all this, he still felt depressed
and uneasy, and so very unwilling to pass another
night at Lauterbrunnen, that he made up his
mind to proceed that morning to Interlaken.
"While he was yet loitering over his breakfast, and
considering whether he should walk the seven
miles of road, or hire a vehicle, a char came
rapidly up to the inn door, and a young man
jumped out.



"Why, Battislo!" exclaimed my brother, in
astonishment, as he came into the room ; " what
brings you here to-day ? Where is Strfano r"

"I have left him at Interlaken, signor,"
replied the Italian.

Something there was in his voice, something
in his face, both strange and startling.

"What is the matter?" asked my brother,
breathlessly. " He is not ill ? No accident has
happened ?"

Battisto shook his head, glanced furtively up
and down the passage, and closed the door.

" Stefano is well, signor ; but but a circum-
stance has occurred a circumstance so strange !
Signor, do you believe in spirits ?"

" In spirits, Battisto ?"

"Ay, signor; for if ever the spirit of any
man, dead or living, appealed to human ears, the
spirit of Christien came to me last night, at
twenty minutes before twelve o'clock."

" At twenty minutes before twelve o'clock !"
repeated my brother.

" I was in bed, signor, and Stefano was sleep-
ing in the same room. I had gone up quite warm,
and had fallen asleep, full of pleasant thoughts.
By-and-by, although I had plenty of bed-clothes,
and a rug over me as well, I woke, frozen with
cold and scarcely able to breathe. I tried to call
to Stefano ; but I had no power to utter the
slightest sound. I thought my last moment was
come. All at once, I heard a sound under the
window a sound which 1 knew to be Christien's
musical box; and it played as it played when
we lunched under the fir-trees, except that it was
more wild and strange and melancholy and most
solemn to hear awful to hear ! Then, signor, it
grew fainter and fainter and then it seemed to
float past upon the wind, and die away. When it
ceased, my frozen blood grew warm again, and I
cried out to Stefano. When I told him what had
happened, he declared I had been only dream-
ing. I made him strike a light, that I might look
at my watch. It pointed to twenty minutes
before twelve, and had stopped there; and
stranger still Stefano's watch had done the very
same. Now tell me, signor, do you believe that
there is any meaning in this, or do you think, as
Stefano persists in thinking, that it was all a
dream ?"

" What is your own conclusion, Battisto ?"

" My conclusion, signor, is that some harm
has happened to poor Christien on the glacier,
and that his spirit came to me last night."

"Battisto, he shall have help if living, or
rescue for his poor corpse if dead ; for I, too,
believe that all is not well."

And with this, my brother told him briefly
what had occurred to himself in the night ; de-
spatched messengers for the three best guides in
Lauterbrunnen ; and prepared ropes, ice-hatchets,
alpenstocks, and all such matters necessary for a
glacier expedition. Hasten as he would, how-
ever, it was nearly mid-day before the party
started.

Arriving in about half an hour at a place called



30 [December 13, 1SCU.]



A MESSAGE FROM THE SEA.



[Conducted by



Stechelberg, they left the char, in which they
Lad travelled so far, at a chalet, and ascended
a steep path in full view of the Breithorn glacier,
which rose up to the left, like a battlemented
wall of solid ice. The way now lay for some
time among pastures and pine-forests. Then they
came to a little colony of chalets, called Steinberg,
where they filled their water-bottles, got their
ropes in readiness, and prepared for the Tschlingel
glacier. A few minutes more, and they were on
the ice.

At this point, the guides called a halt,
and consulted together. One was for striking
across the lower glacier towards the left, and
reaching the upper glacier by the rocks which
bound it on the south. The other two preferred
the north, or right side; and this my brother
finally took. The sun was now pouring down with
almost tropical intensity, and the surface of the
ice, which was broken into long treacherous
fissures, smooth as glass and blue as the summer
sky, was both difficult and dangerous. Silently and
cautiously, they went, tied together at intervals
of about three yards each : with two guides in
front, and the third bringing up the rear. Turn-
ing presently to the right, they found themselves
at the foot of a steep rock, some forty feet in height,
up which they must climb to reach the upper
glacier. The only way in which Battisto or my
brother could hope to do this, was by the help of a
rope steadied from below and above. Two of the
guides accordingly clambered up the face of
the crag by notches in the surface, and one re-
mained below. The rope was then let down, and
my brother prepared to go first. As he planted
his foot in the first notch, a smothered cry from
Battisto arrested him.

" Santa Maria ! Signor ! Look yonder !"

My brother looked, and there (he ever after-
wards declared), as surely as there is a heaven
above us all, he saw Christien Baumann stand-
ing in the full sunlight, not a hundred yards dis-
tant ! Almost in the same moment that my brother
recognised him, he was gone. He neither faded,
nor sank down, nor moved away ; but was simply
gone, as if he had never been. Pale as death,
Battisto fell upon his knees, and covered his face
I with his hands. My brother, awe-stricken and
1 speechless, leaned against the rock, and felt that
the object of his journey was but too fatally accom-
plished. As for the guides, they could not con-
ceive what had happened.

" Did you see nothing ?" asked my brother and
Battisto, both together.

But the men had seen nothing, and the one who
had remained below, said, " What should I see
but the ice and the sun ?"

To this my brother made no other reply than by
announcing his intention to have a certain cre-
vasse, from which he had not once removed his
eyes since he saw the figure standing on the
brink, thoroughly explored before he went a step
farther ; whereupon the two men came down from
the top of the crag, resumed the ropes, and fol-
lowed my brother, incredulously. At the narrow



end of the fissure, he paused, and drove his alpen-
stock firmly into the ice. It was an unusually
long crevasse at first a mere crack, but widen-
ing gradually as it went, and reaching down to
unknown depths of dark deep blue, fringed with
long pendent icicles, like diamond stalactites.
Before they had followed the course of this cre-
vasse for more than ten minutes, the youngest of
the guides uttered a hasty exclamation.

"1 see something!" cried he. "Something
dark, wedged in the teeth of the crevasse, a great
way down !"

They all saw it : a mere indistinguishable mass,
almost closed over by the ice-walls at their feet.
My brother offered a hundred francs to the man
who would go down and bring it up. They*all
hesitated.

" We don't know what it is," said one.

" Perhaps it is only a dead chamois," suggested
another.

Their apathy enraged him. "'

" It is no chamois," he said, angrily. " It is the
body of Christien Baumann, native of Kandersteg.
And, by Heaven, if you are all too cowardly to
make the attempt, I will go down myself!"

The youngest guide threw off his hat and coat,
tied a rope about his waist, and took a hatchet
in his hand.

" I will go, monsieur," said he ; and without
another word, suffered himself to be lowered in.
My brother turned away. A sickening anxiety
came upon him, and presently he heard the dull
echo of the hatchet far down in the ice. Then there
was a call for another rope, and then the men all
drew aside in silence, and my brother saw the
youngest guide standing once more beside the
chasm, flushed and trembling, with the body of
Christien lying at his feet.

Poor Christien ! They made a rough bier with
their ropes and alpenstocks, and carried him, with
great difficulty, back to Steinberg. There, they
got additional help as far as Stechelberg, where
they laid him in the char, and so brought him on
to Lauterbrunnen. The next day, my brother
made it his sad business to precede the body to
Kandersteg, and prepare his friends for its
arrival. To this day, though all these things
happened thirty years ago, he cannot bear to
recai Marie's despair, or all the mourning that
he innocently brought upon that peaceful valley.
Poor Marie has been dead this many a year; and
when my brother last passed through the Kander
Thai on his way to the Ghemmi, he saw her grave,


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