Frances (Winckley) Shelley.

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home by a circuitous route through a wood, where
there are various drives. The bright moon tempted
us to continue our walk round the other side of the
town called " le petit Rempert." Nowhere have I
seen so much beauty and so much gaiete de coeur
as were concentrated on this spot.

What an ideal place this would be for the society
of a chosen few ! As we walked homewards, we
met a party of soldiers singing in parts one of
their national airs. It was a scene worthy of a poet's

We left Berne with deep regret the next morning.
A bright sun, and every prospect of good weather,
made our drive in a light barouche to Thun delightful.
Here we embarked in a boat covered by an awning to
protect us from the sun. Alas ! the fatal hour of noon
brought soaking showers, which continued, with bright
intervals, for the rest of the day. The banks of the
lake are rather tame, but the background of Alps, and
the bold Niesen are unequalled. In four hours we
reached Unspannen, and in a soaking rain mounted
the most crazy char I ever saw, with the promise of a
better one at Unterseen. As we were impatient to
reach Interlaken, we made the best of it. Our old
driver — a greater bore I never met — had starved the
wretched horse that dragged us along. He promised
to get us a better conveyance for the journey
to Grindelwald, where we proposed to spend the


While our dinner was preparing in one of those
pleasant wooden verandahs common to all houses in
this part of Switzerland, we walked across a covered
wooden bridge over the Aar, and ascended a hill
opposite to Interlaken from whence there is a lovely
view. I made a sketch here ; but how futile the
attempt to convey an idea of the varying tints of this
Alpine scenery ! That constant variety, caused by
passing clouds, by transient showers, by distant rain-
bows, and the golden or lilac tints of the sun upon the
now visible, now veiled mountains, how impossible
the task of an artist ! How coquettish are those Alps,
as they retire behind the wreathed clouds, just at the
moment when we admire them most, and feel so secure
of their presence ! Thus are our enjoyments chequered,
even by the sublime beauties of Nature ! We were
destined to feel this to-day. How triste was the finale
of our gaily begun expedition ! After an excellent
dinner, we mounted our char-a-banc — an improve-
ment on the one that had brought us here — and found,
to our dismay, that the horse was the same. Poor
beast ! instead of resting, it had been made to trot
back to Unterseen, and return with a heavier vehicle!
Every other horse was out, and we had no time to
lose. Many attempts were made to get a jog-trot out
of the weary animal, always in vain. Our progress
was so slow that we feared being benighted in these
wild scenes. This took much of the charm from the
excursion. It diminished our pleasure at following
the course of the rushing waters of the Lutschine,
which issues in two streams from the glaciers of
Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald. The slow progress
of our wretched nag, and the increasing darkness com-
pelled us to give up Grindelwald and take shelter (for
we expected little more) at Lauterbrunnen. We walked
the greater part of the way. The frowning heights over
our heads threaten this valley with the fate of Goldau.
We passed the cascade of the Sausbach, which is fine,


and prepared us to admire the famous Staubbach. Alas !
our disappointment was great at rinding it far below
its reputation. It is certainly of great height, about
900 feet, but it is not to be compared to the Pisse-
Vache. We approached near enough to be drenched
with the spray. Just as we were turning from this
fall, cold, cross, and wet, a number of women, whom
we had not observed, set up a dreadful howl, which
they called the Ranz des Vaches. It sounded like the
crowing of a cock, and almost drowned the noise of
the falling water. It was barely human. I never
shall forget that awful sound. We laughed in spite
of ourselves, and returned in good humour to our
little inn. All my romance had flown. 1

From my window next morning I could see the
Staubbach. Alas ! It was a wet morning. We were
in for a drive of four hours, and a soaking! We set
out with heavy hearts. In consequence of the bad
weather, and the wretched condition of our horse, we
were obliged to give up our excursion to Grindelwald.
We therefore reluctantly retraced our steps to Inter-
laken. As we were passing along the narrow road we
heard the sound of wheels coming up behind us, and
saw a runaway horse, attached to a char-a-banc
which contained two peasants, approaching at full
speed. One of the peasants was thrown violently to
the ground within a few feet of us : while the other
man was trying to jump off, he was caught between
the shafts. Our driver with great presence of mind,
went to the rescue, and stopped the runaway horse.
Providentially, neither of the men was seriously hurt.
The accident arose from the pack-thread, which they
call reins, breaking ; this frightened the horse. We
derived consolation from the thought that there was
no probability of our nag doing the same !

We passed the spot where the Fete of Interlaken,so

1 As this visit (August 1816) preceded the visit of Byron by one month, the
inspiring line, in " Manfred " had not been written.


graphically described by Madame de Stael in " L'Alle-
magne," is held. On our arrival at Unspannen we
re-embarked on the lake, and reached Thun in time
for dinner. The rain had now abated, so I took my
maid up the hill to the castle, and was rewarded by a
magnificent view from the summit.

Our evening drive was delightful, and we enjoyed
the comfort of our clean barouche, which we should
in England have called a "bone-setter," but which was
luxurious by comparison with the char-a-banc. We
passed down avenues of cherry trees, laden with ripe
fruit, and were much struck by the good humour of
the peasant girls. Mounted on their frail ladders, with
a basket on one arm, they threw handfuls of cherries
into our carriage, and appeared to enjoy our eagerness
in catching the fruit.

At Berne we found Lord Fortescue and his son,
who envied us the good apartments which we had
taken the precaution to retain during our absence.
The whole town was full. The Prince of Wurtemberg 1
with his wife were there.

On a lovely day we left Berne, and slept atZofingen,
where we found that our rooms had, on the preceding
night, been occupied by our friends the Seftons, whom
we were sorry to have just missed. The trout which
they cooked for our supper had been kept in the
village fountain, and our landlady used to catch them
alive for her guests. This is one of the luxuries of a
Swiss inn. The maid in her Bernoise dress delighted
us, and I practised my bad German upon her.

Next day we dined at Sursee, near the Sempacher
lake, a place celebrated as the scene of the battle (1386)
by which Swiss Independence was established. It
was fought on the east shore of the lake, behind the
little town of Sempach. The heroic conduct of

a Now King- (Note by Lady Shelley.)


Arnold of Winkelried has been celebrated by Words-
worth :

" He of battle-martyrs chief !
Who, to recall his daunted peers,
For victory shaped an open space,
By gath'ring, with a wide embrace,
Into his single heart, a sheaf
Of fatal Austrian spears."

• • • • •

We arrived early at Lucerne, where there is nothing
of interest beyond its beauty to detain the traveller.
After dining at table d'hote in a magnificent salon
with some disagreeable Englishmen, we ordered our
coachman to meet us with the carriage at Zug, and
embarked on the lake at five o'clock.

The lake, like a mirror, reflected every object with
tints as brilliant as the original colouring. Owing to
the clearness of the atmosphere, we could see the
newly built inn on the top of the Rigiberg, 5,000 feet
above the lake. We passed a fine forest backed by
Mont Pilatus, whose rugged summit, to all appear-
ances inaccessible, has lately been attained by
venturesome climbers. The mountains, which are of
secondary formation, seem to have been a sport of
Nature in her gayest mood, while here and there a
passing caprice seems to have produced the sublime
rocks which tower among them, like a commingling of
frowns and smiles. The lake itself is as fanciful as
its shores. A sudden calm is succeeded by as quick
a tempest ; and when the sun is most brilliant the
winds are most treacherous. We were ignorant of
this as we skimmed over the transparent surface of
the water, and our evening row was entrancing.
We passed the Gorge into the Alpacher See, and
lingered till the setting sun had tinged the distant
shores with the brightest lilac, and suffused with gold
the summits of the nearer snow mountains. Here and
there shot up above the beeches on the sloping shore
a bold, bare promontory, on which some pious fairy

*6o A ROMANTIC SCENE [ch. xiv

seems to have planted a tiny receptacle for the sacred
emblem of the Christian faith !

Thus did we prolong our pleasure until our arrival
at Stantstad in the dark. One of the boatmen carried
our portmanteau, and we walked along a narrow
valley. The road was bordered by walnut trees, and
though it was eight o'clock, the heat was oppressive.
A neighbouring chapel bell tolled the Angelus, and
in every dwelling that we passed we heard the
occupants chanting the evening prayers. We could
just distinguish a family, assembled in the verandah,
responding, in various tones, to the strong voice of
the father of the flock, as he read the vespers.

We at first mistook the lights of the distant chalets,
perched high on the mountains, for stars. But the moon
arose from behind the Finsteraarhorn, and showed
us with her silver light the entire landscape. It was
all as distinct as in the daytime. Had I possessed a
spark of poetry in my nature, this evening would have
brought it forth. It was an experience of unmixed
delight. Every pure feeling of the heart and soul was
excited by looking, as it were, " through Nature up to
Nature's God," and, so long as memory shall last, the
recollection of this night will elevate my soul.

We slept at Stans. The young girls of the inn
sang the wild airs of their country, until it was time
to put away romance, and devour the eggs, cheese,
and honey provided for our supper. I enjoyed the
comfort of a clean bed after our long, hot walk, and
slept soundly until the sun darted full into nry eyes
next morning, and made me long for an English
shutter. Sleep being thus banished, we rose and
started at six o'clock for Buochs. Our char-a-banc
was the first of its kind ever- made at Stans, and a
curious machine it was ! Its exceptional roughness
made us regret the idleness, which induced us thus
to travel by a circuitous and dreadful road, for an
hour and a half, when we might have walked over


grass fields in less time. However, when wet feet from
the amazing dew, and the intense heat of the valley,
are put in the opposing scale, perhaps our choice,
though disagreeable, was not unwise.

On reaching Buochs, a crazy boat, covered with
a sheet by way of awning, was provided for us, and
we embarked on the smooth lake. Around us lay the
most lovely scenery, which we thoroughly appreciated,
as we glided softly along like jaded spirits suddenly
relieved. Behind us lay the valley which we had
passed, with vegetation so luxuriant that its very
summit forms the richest pasturage, on which kine
are browsing, and chalets seem perched as if in the
clouds. Before us lay the village of Brunnen, par-
tially concealed by the bold rocks of the Lake of Uri.
While dreamily enjoying the charm of our situation, I
was surprised by the apparent anxiety of our voiturier,
who acted as interpreter, that we should trim the boat,
which was not riding straight in the water. In a
strange guttural, which our Bernois himself could
hardly understand, the boatmen gave warning of an
approaching storm, and declared that they must run
for shore. This seemed to us a gratuitous fear, as
the surface of the lake was like a mirror. The
boatmen pointed to a clear, bright line, on the
distant portion of the water, which widened by
degrees, approached our boat, and tossed us about
as if we were at sea. The waves caught our fragile
craft abeam, and gave us a good wetting. My maid
began to be ill, and we were all pretty well frightened.
Eventually we passed the dangerous points, and ran
for Brunnen, where we resolved upon landing.
Suddenly the wind dropped, and the lake became
as calm as when we set off, having apparently taken
this frisk to punish our incredulity, and make us treat
with proper respect the memorable spot where, under
similar weather, William Tell escaped from the
tyrant Gessler. This classic ground burst upon our


view as we doubled the point which forms one of the
horns of the Lake of Uri. In passing the point, our
boatmen kept close under the rocks, which rise many
hundreds of feet from the water's edge, and we
rejoiced in the calm which would enable us to effect
a landing. Suddenly the boatmen changed our
course, and took us to the opposite side of the lake.
They noticed that another storm was approaching,
and hoped to reach Fluellen in time. Thus baffled in
our attempt to land at Tell's Platte, indeed dashed
from it by the waves, we appreciated the activity of
William Tell, who had sprung from the boat upon this
little knoll, which his persecutors could never again
approach. In our attempt to land, we were nearly
upset, and were so thoroughly frightened that we made
what haste we could to reach Fluellen, where we
landed safe and sound.

While waiting for our guide, we amused ourselves
by watching the dexterity of the village boys with
Tell's weapon, the cross-bow. The precision of their
aim with cross-bow, and their firm belief in the
traditions of Tell's history, soon emptied our pockets
of sols. On shore there was not a breath of air ; and
we were overcome by the heat, as we walked from
Fluellen to Altdorf, only a quarter of a mile distant.
It was at the latter place that the Swiss hero laid the
foundation of his country's liberty, a blessing which
is commemorated by a statue of Guillaume Tell. This
village has suffered much from the violence of the
Russians under Suwarrow, when they crossed the St.
Gothard. Many houses are in ruins, but there is
no spot which reminds one so strongly of the romantic
traits of the early Swiss history, which the peasants
here so firmly believe.

After an excellent dinner we departed in a char,
accompanied by saddle horses, to be mounted when
the road becomes impracticable even for that rude
conveyance. We were bound for the " Devil's


Bridge." The weather was lovely, and the road
wound along under overhanging rocks, by the banks
of the Reuss, which nearly fills the narrow valley.
An opening on our left showed us Burglen, the
birthplace of Tell. We left the char-a-banc at Kluss,
and mounted our horses. 1 was most uncomfortable
on an Italian saddle. The next day I wisely adopted
Angelique's l plan, and rode en cavalier.

The road is a c/iausse'e, about six feet wide, with
sudden rapid ascents and descents. Sometimes it
leads one by the edge of the, now foaming, Reuss ;
at others one looks down from an overhanging crag
upon that river diminished by distance to a silver

We waded through three foaming torrents, which
dashed down dark ravines, and joined the parent
stream. One of these torrents forms an arch of
snow and ice, over which we passed, while the water
flowed beneath, without disturbing the surface. It
was night before we reached Wasen. We had passed,
during our ride, several caravans of mules, fifty or
perhaps a hundred together. The tinkling of their
bells harmonised well with the wild scenery, and
the dashing of the torrents. A thunderstorm added
to the sublime sensation which scenery so savage
is apt to produce on a nature so impressionable as
mine. We were in face of bold and magnificent rocks,
through which the Reuss dashed with such violence
that it was not possible to hear the rolling thunder,
which the vivid lightning showed must be tremendous.

We found shelter at last in a wretched osteria,
where I passed a sleepless night, and was devoured
by bugs. None but muleteers ever stopped in this
place, and no wonder! The first flush of dawn
showed us the most complete rainy day imaginable.
The clouds hung far below us, down the side of the
mountain ; and the fog was so thick, that there was

1 Lady Shelley's maicL

264 THE DEVIL'S BRIDGE [ch. xiv

no hope of better things. Here we were, in a miser-
able osteria, without books, and the whole house
so dirty and uncomfortable that even my spirits
began to flag. However, towards noon the fog lifted
a little, and we looked forward with hope to a chance
of getting away.

Having made up our minds to getting a good duck-
ing, we at last mounted our horses, and felt as if we
were escaping from prison. It never ceased raining
the whole day, and imagination was invoked to supply
those glories which would have added so much to
our enjoyment and comfort. However, the elements
were in harmony with the wild character of the
scenery. A bright sky would perhaps not have
been in keeping with such barren and savage
grandeur. There is no trace of vegetation on those
granite rocks between Wasen and the Devil's Bridge.
We crossed and recrossed the dashing Reuss several
times over picturesque bridges. Not even a fir tree
relieved the desolation around us, and the fog con-
cealed the tops of the mountains. The chaussee was
covered with treasures for the geologist, and the variety
of crystals shone more brilliant in the rain. As we
advanced, the scarped rocks, and the deepening pre-
cipices, announced our near approach to the summit,
near which is that celebrated bridge, whose single
arch stretches over the yawning chasm, now filled
with foam, driven by the wind from the precipitous
fall on our right. We were completely enveloped
in mist. I was much disappointed. The last short
and steep ascent brought us to the Trou d'Uri,
a subterranean passage with two openings to admit
the light. As the passage is nearly two hundred feet
in length, these openings are barely sufficient to
enable the horses to pick their way. On quitting
the darkness of this cavern, at whose entrance we
had left the Reuss dashing in furious cataracts from
rock to rock, enveloped in foam, we found ourselves

i*i 6] A CONTRAST 265

in presence of a tranquil stream, running between
verdant banks along a peaceful valley. The bright
green of this small valley — the cattle feeding to the
music of their bells — the neat cottages, and the village
church spire, brought back the vision of social exist-
ence. At this season the traveller forgets the misery
of the wretched inhabitants during their long winter,
buried in snow, in danger of the treacherous ava-
lanche, and without any firing beyond what is
carried on their backs during their short summer.
We met many women thus employed, bending beneath
their burthens. On our arrival at Andermatt, I had the
pleasure of hearing Italian spoken by the peasants.
This was a great relief after that horrid German,
which had torn our ears for the past month.

We remained some time at the auberge drying our
dripping garments. When we remounted our horses,
we felt cold and wretched. Nothing could be more
disagreeable than our journey back to Wasen. The
paving stones were so slipper}'', that we were at
last compelled to dismount, and leave the horses to
pick their way as best they could. In this manner
we made the whole descent on foot, through water
which was often above our ankles. We passed close
to the huge block of granite which the Devil is
supposed to have hurled, from the summit of St
Gothard, at the head of some saintly pilgrim.

At Wasen, after a maigre dinner — omelettes full
of garlic — we remounted our tired beasts, and arrived
at Altdorf, completely knocked up. For the first
time my spirits quite deserted me ; I was thoroughly
fatigued in body and mind. We met Lord and Lady
Gage on the road. They recalled the comforts of
England to Shelley's mind, and he shivered at the
thought of his present condition — wet, cold, and
hungry. He began to fear that the effect of cramp
from the cold was a fit of the gout.

A night's rest, followed by a morning with a bright

266 LAKE OF LOWERZ [ch. xiv

sun, and an invigorating atmosphere, such as is felt
only in the Swiss mountains, dispelled these fears.
We arose with the sun, refreshed, and as happy
as we had been miserable the night before.

Our early rising was necessitated by our wish to
cross the lake and reach Brunnen before nine o'clock.
We had been warned that, even in fine weather, the
wind is most treacherous at that hour. Our boat-
man assured me that frequently the violence of the
waves on that part of the lake is so great that no
boat with which they are acquainted could live
through them. The faded paintings at Tell's Chapel,
which represent waves like the sea in a storm, are
not untrue to nature. We were fortunate. The
water was calm and of a deep blue. White fleecy
clouds hung halfway down the mountains. As they
gradually dispersed, they exposed to our delighted
e} T es glittering patches of verdure, bordered by rocks
fringed with heather and lichens of varying hues.
It struck me that the rolling away of the clouds
lent an additional charm to the glory of the scene,
as each beauty was gradually revealed.

At Brunnen we procured a char-a-banc, and, pass-
ing the lovely town of Schwyz, we reached the little
lake of Lowerz, so sadly associated with a terrible
calamity in 1806. As we reached this desolate region
it was impossible not to be deeply touched by the
awful fate of the inhabitants of that district, in which
were once situated five villages, celebrated through-
out Switzerland for that primitive simplicity of
manners which recalled the pastoral ages of the
world. Without the slightest warning a neighbour-
ing mountain fell and destroyed four villages, a part
of Lowerz and the rich pasturage in the valley.
Nearly five hundred human beings perished, and
whole herds of cattle were swept away. In a few
minutes that smiling land became a desert. The
Lake of Lowerz was nearly choked by an avalanche


of mud and rubbish, which fell into it, and caused
its waters to rise in a gigantic wave, nearly eighty
feet in height, which submerged the island that was
its glory, and swept away a small chapel which stood
upon it.

The inhabitants lived on the produce of their
dairies, which were left open to the passing stranger,
who took what he wanted and left what remunera-
tion he pleased. Meat, even bread, were considered
luxuries by these simple people, who reserved them
for their jours de fete. M. Bridel, in his " Etrennes
Helvetiques," of the year 1783, relates that one day
a cause was to be decided at Schw3'z between
two peasants. As it was not convenient for one of
the litigants to leave home, he requested his adversary
to attend in his place. He did so, and returned
home after the trial was over. With a smiling face
he congratulated his adversary on having won his
cause! Joined to such strict integrity and bonhomie
there was much superstition among these people.
Had it not been so deeply rooted among them, pro-
bably the worst effects of this dire calamity would
have been obviated. Every precursory symptom of
the approaching catastrophe was by them attributed
to the agency of evil spirits, whom they endeavoured
to appease by prayers and holy water.

The following account, which was received on the
spot, may be relied upon. Rain began to fall early
on the morning of September 2, and continued till
noon. The heavens were overcast the whole day. At
dawn some cracks were perceived on the summit of
the Spitzbithel. Subterranean creakings were heard,
which seemed to proceed from some fir trees, whose
roots appeared to be breaking. Bumps rose out of
the grass, and stones started with violence from the

Small fragments of rock detached themselves and
rolled along the mountains ; then by degrees larger


ones were loosened. At two o'clock an immense

Online LibraryFrances (Winckley) ShelleyThe diary of Frances lady Shelley (Volume 1) → online text (page 21 of 33)