Alfred Edward Thomas Watson.

The Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes online

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it has a great future, the big car and the small one. The rich man
with his big car has all India waiting for him. In a couple of
months he can tour thousands of miles over the country. He can
land at Bombay ; from there to Calcutta he will find a trunk road
1,200 miles long ; or if he does not like that, he can first go south to
Bangalore and then rejoin the trunk road. From Calcutta he can

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go north and west up to Peshawar by that road of roads, the
*' Grand Trunk." Fifteen hundred miles or more of this is there
along the valley of the Ganges, taking in Benares, Cawnpore,
Lucknow, and other historic places. Then back to Bombay by the
route that I have tried to tell about. He can make 5,000 miles out of
a tour of this description. Steevens saw India in a month and wrote
a readable book about it : the motor man could do the same if he
wanted to, only he could see a great deal more, and could fill a
library full of his impressions. All you want to carry in India is
your food and your bedding. There are dak bungalows at intervals
of fifteen or twenty miles along all the trunk roads, and with a little
warning they can provide the traveller with the wherewithal to keep
body and soul together in the way of food. Anything out of the
way must be carried. The petrol difficulty is overcome by ha\ang
an extra big tank with exhaust pressure feed. For instance, I under-
stand that the Fiat cars >vill carry fuel enough for a 500-mile run.
There are d6p6ts now all over India where petrol can be got.
Petrol costs in Bombay Rs. 1.8 (about 2s.), and in Calcutta, where
the oil comes from Burmah, it is only about is. a gallon. But it is
the small and medium-sized cars that have a great future in India.
For the road officer, for the district officer, for sport, or work, or
play, they will prove most valuable. There are many kinds of car-
burettors in these days that use kerosene, and as kerosene can be got
in every little village almost, even a man in the most out-of-the-way
place need not fear the petrol difficulty and the attendant expense.
The question of tyres to this class of car is in course of solution, and
there are now many makes of solids that are almost as good and
comfortable to use as the best pneumatics. If solid tyres are going
to be fitted to a car for Indian use, it is well to insist that the springs
are made stronger than is the case in most small cars that I have seen
out there. A great deal of stress was laid on tyre troubles in the
Delhi-Bombay Trials. It is true that punctures were fairly common,
but then so they are everywhere. Personally I had only two nails
in my tyres the whole way, and I thought myself very unfortunate.
My recollections of English motoring are not so rosy when I come
to think of tyre troubles. I used to hold myself very lucky if I
ever went a hundred miles without having to put in at least one new
inner tube.

Let me take this opportunity of reminding English manufac-
turers that India wants good stuff, and that India will have none
but the best. England has lost ground already. In Bombay and
Calcutta one rarely meets an English car.^ My Wolseley was looked

1 The hint is given in aU kindness, and shonld not be neglected.

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upon rather as a curiosity, whereas I counted outside a big shop one
day no fewer than eight De Dion cars, whilst Darracqs, Panhards,
Clements, Oldsmobiles, and De Dietrichs were all over the place-
A representative of a big French firm told me that he already looked
upon India as a future market for their surplus stock, whilst I
believe that only a few English firms know or care that India has
such a thing as a road.

Lastly, let me assure you motor men whose licences have gone,
and whose cylinders have been cracked by the frost, that once you
have been there, once you have tested the " open road " of India in.

X2 a.r, UAKKACU, WinnSK of THB LYONS cup, non-stop DELHI TO BOMBAY

the cold weather, you will hear the East a-calling you again. Only
get settled down on the long straight road that leads from Here to
There, you will hear in the sound of your engine the singing of those
fine lines of Stewart Bowles in the " Song of the Wheel " : —

Fire in the heart of me, moving and chattering,

Youth in each part of me, slender and strong ;
Death at the foot of me, rending and shattering,

Light and tremendous I bear you along;
Up to the brow where the levels go wearily,

Down to the vale where the gravels give speed ;
Holding it, moulding it, scolding it cheerily,

Slave to your purpose and sign of your need.

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Beneath a cloudless sky, intensely blue, Peter Gordon was leading
the way across the upper end of the Eigisch Glacier which divides
the peaks of the Eigischhorn and the Schneeberg. Peter was a
strong, cheery-faced boy of two or three and twenty, with honest
grey eyes, and pluck and determination written in every feature.
With his porter, Kauffmann, he had just accomplished the transit
of the Eigischhorn, ascending by the precipitous rocky southern
slope, and they were now making the descent by the glacier and the
Wildig Ar^te.

The glacier in this region, far above the line of perpetual snow,
presented many dangers. The vast mass of ice was split up into
numberless seracs, many of them covered with treacherous snow
roofs, where a single careless step might at any moment precipitate
the climber into the depths beneath. Some of the seracs were of
such dimensions as to necessitate the skirting of them, while others
could be traversed by means of narrow snow bridges. In the latter
case Peter would venture first on hands and knees, the better to
divide the weight, while Kauflfmann, standing firmly on solid ice,
held the rope tightly between them, prepared for Peter's sudden

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disappearance beneath his perilous path ; then Peter would perform
the same office for Kauffmann.

It was a risky, perhaps a foolhardy, experiment to travel on a
glacier of this character accompanied only by a porter; a slip or a
false step on the part of either threw the whole weight on the
other. But Peter's adventurous spirit rejoiced in danger; the
glorious views, the wonderful air, the almost unbroken solitude of
these lofty regions, touched his spirit in a way he could not have
described, while his narrow purse forbade him the enjoyment of his
favourite pursuit in a safer or more luxurious manner. Kauffmann,
too, had all tbe rashness of youth ; but though he was ready to face
anything, his nerve had been known to fail at a critical moment.

Suddenly Kauffmann pointed to the cleft in the mountains
towards the east, and uttered the monosyllable, " Schnee! '*

Peter, who was cutting a step in the ice, looked up. His small
knowledge of German was unnecessary in helping him to under-
stand Kauffmann's exclamation, as he saw the heavy clouds which
were rapidly moving towards them. In their present position a
snowstorm would be fraught with grave danger, for they were still a
good four hours from the Schneeberg hut. In ten minutes they
were enveloped in a blinding snowstorm.

The fresh loose snow on the frozen surface was an additional
source of danger to every step, and moreover the blinding storm
deprived them of all sense of direction. For some time they plodded
wearily on, till at length Peter halted. They were standing on the
brink of a chasm, on the further side of which protruded an over-
hanging cornice of snow.

" Do you think this crevasse has a bottom, eh, Kauffmann ? "
asked Peter.

Kauffmann's English was on a par with Peter's German, but
his eyes brightened with assent as they followed the direction of
Peter's finger, pointing down the serac.

** It's our only chance," thought Peter; and they both proceeded
to untie the ropes from their waists. Peter fastened one end to his ice
axe and lowered it over the edge and down the almost perpendicular
wall of ice to plumb the depth. At about forty feet it touched
bottom. They then drew it up, and firmly fixing their axes in a
crevice, securely knotted the rope round them. Peter made the
descent first. With his face to the wall of ice he swarmed down
the rope hand under hand, and at length found solid ground beneath
him. At this depth the lower side of the crevasse sloped towards
the other almost horizontally, and allowed standing room about four
feet in width. Just a glimpse of the scurrying storm was visible

NO. cxxviii. VOL. Txif. — March 1906 V

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" By Jove, we're in luck/' thought Peter, and shouted to
KaufFmann to follow him, which he did immediately.

It was late in the season ; the storm was not unlikely to last
for two or three days, and, in addition to the danger of frost-bite
and the difficulty of keeping awake, their provisions would not last

Enveloping themselves in such wraps as they had, they seated
themselves on their knapsacks.

'* Now, old fellow," said Peter, "we must not go to sleep;
nicht schlafen, you know."

Kauffmann's teeth were chattering ; Peter looked at him curi-
ously, and it struck him that it was something besides the cold that
was blanching his face.

After about half an hour they heard something that sounded
like a shout from above.

"There's somebody else lost," said Peter; "up you go, Kauff-
mann, and see what it is."

Kauffmann obediently swarmed up the rope, and when he
reached the mouth of the crevasse found three men : an English
tourist whom Peter had seen at the hotel below, Ringwood by
name; Bra want, one of the guides of the Eigisch Valley; and a
porter, Brawant's son.

In a few minutes Peter was joined by them all.

"Very glad to see you," said Peter, cheerily; " more chance
of our being able to keep ourselves warm."

"Goot idea," said Brawant approvingly to Peter. "I thought
also of crevasse — and then — I see the rope."

Peter and the half-frozen Englishman looked at each other.
Ringwood was a tall, strong, clean-shaven man of four or five and
thirty, with a pleasant if somewhat too keen expression in his

" Rather a queer experience this," remarked Peter.

" Well, it's a new one to me," replied the new-comer.

" Have you done much climbing ? " asked Peter.

" First time," he answered.

Peter looked at him in surprise. "And you came over the
Wildig Arete ? "

Ringwood laughed. " I've kept a cool head in worse places
than that," he answered, carelessly. " Now, I expect you know
more about mountains than I do; how long do you think we can
stand this ? "

Peter shook his head. " I can't say at all," he replied. " Ii's
better not to think about it. My fellow is rather a rotter, unluckily;
I'm afraid he may give in."

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** Well, I'll answer for mine," remarked the other, *' though I
met them to-day for the first time."

** Oh, the Brawants are splendid chaps ! " said Peter.

Ringwood produced a flask out of his pocket.

" Have some ? " he said, offering it to Peter.

Peter shook his head.

" I've got my own," he said, '* but I'm saving it up."

Ringwood laughed and took a pull.

***Sufiicient unto the day,'" he remarked, and replaced it in
his pocket.

There was a short silence. The three Germans were talking
together in low voices in their own language, while Peter drummed
his feet on the ice to keep the numbness out of them. Night was
approaching, and with it the dreaded snow-sleepiness was beginning
to dull their senses. As they sat, their eyes wide open and unnatu-
rally bright, Kauflfmann was the first to succumb to the fatal
influence. His head fell suddenly forward ; Peter and Brawant
each seized him by a shoulder and shook him into wakefulness.
Ringwood turned to Peter.

" I'm feeling rather like that myself, aren't you ? " he said.
** It wouldn't be a bad idea to have a game of cards, if we had a
light, would it ? "

Peter laughed. "It would be a very good one," he replied;
** but where are the cards ? I've got a light."

Ringwood, without a word, produced a pack from his pocket.

"That's ripping," said Peter. "I've got a lantern and a
couple of candles."

" Do you know ^cart6 ? " asked Ringwood.

" I know something about it," said Peter, putting one of the
candles into the lantern and lighting it as he spoke.

Ringwood, with practised hand, threw the low cards out of the
pack, while Peter balanced the lantern between his knee and the
side of the crevasse.

"What about stakes ?" asked Ringwood.

" Oh, anything you like," replied Peter, carelessly. " Shall we
play sixpenny points ? "

Ringwood gave him a lightning glance.

" Oh, all right," he said, in a tone of indifference.

They began to play. At the end of the first deal, Ringwood
csLSt a discontented glance at the lantern.

" I can't see anything by this infernal flicker," he said. " Can't
we do better than this ? "

" Brawant has another lantern," responded Peter. " Eh,

Brawant ? "

U a

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Brawant, who had drawn close, and was watching the game
with interest, nodded and lighted a second lantern.

Peter won the first two games, and at the end of the second
Ringwood yawned palpably.

*' Don't go to sleep, man," said Peter, who was beginning to
feel very wide awake.

" I don't think these stakes will keep me awake long," replied
Ringwood, with a smile.

" What do you want to play ? " asked Peter.

** I don't mind in the least," replied Ringwood, cheerfully;
'*but I should think we might raise the stakes to half-a-crown.
You see, I generally play for fivers even when I haven't got to keep
myself awake."

Peter's face lengthened.

** I'm afraid I can't do anything like that," he said ; ** but we'll
play for half-crowns, by all means."

Peter won the two following games, and again Ringwood
yawned. The next suggestion that the stakes should be raised came
from Peter, and Ringwood began to play with more interest.

Young Brawant and Kauffmann were now also watching the
play. The elder Brawant, who had grasped the principles of the
game at once, explained them to the other onlookers in a few low,
guttural words. Again Peter won.

** You have the devil's own luck," remarked Ringwood, as he
shuffled the cards.

Peter made no answer; he was in the first stages of the
gambler's fever, and he picked up the cards with hands trembling
with an excitement altogether new to him. By the end of the
next game he had won 3^50; and then the luck turned. His ex-
citement increased as his winnings disappeared. Again and yet
again the stakes were raised, each time the suggestion coming from
him. Brawant suddenly laid his hand on Peter's arm.

*' He play too goot for you," he said, slowly.

Ringwood's face flushed a little.

'* We'll stop if you like," he said, watching Peter as he spoke.

Peter turned his excited eyes on Brawant.

*' Nonsense, man," he said, "I shall win it back; it's all a
question of cards."

Brawant said no more, and the game went on in tense silence.
It was a strange scene — the five men buried in the depths of the ice,
all kept from the sleep that must have been death by the excite-
ment of the man who was losing all, and more than all, he possessed.
The first rays of the grey autumn dawn found them still playing.

Suddenly there was a shout from Brawant. Peter was dealing

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with shaking hands and took no notice, but the others looked up
hastily. Through the crack that intervened between the lower side
of the crevasse and the cornice of snow, a glimpse of blue sky was
to be seen. Ringwood rose stiffly to his feet, looking at his scorfe as
he did so.

** You owe me £"2,250," he said. " I'll give you your revenge
another time if you like.*'

Peter gazed at him with scared eyes; the fever was already
gone, leaving him with a sudden strange sickness at heart.

£2,250 ! It meant ruin ; nay, it meant more than ruin, for he
could never pay such a sum ; it meant disgrace ! With a great
effort he pulled himself together, scrawled I O U on the paper
which recorded his losses, signed his name, and handed it to Ring-
wood, who pocketed it in silence. Then, one by one, they scram-
bled slowly and painfully out of the crevasse.


The storm had passed ; the rays of the sun, not yet visible
above the mountains, had just reached the highest peak of the
Schneeberg range, and were bathing it in crimson splendour. Save
for that one spot of burning colour the whole world looked utterly
desolate. Brawant turned to Peter, who was staring before him
-with unseeing eyes.

'* It would be safer," Brawant said, ** one rope for all to use."

Peter started, and nodded assent. As soon as the rope was tied
round them — an operation which in their benumbed state took some
time to perform — they moved slowly and stiffly towards the edge of
the glacier. Every motion caused them intense pain as the blood
began to course freely in their veins, but Peter welcomed the physical
discomfort as a relief to the mental agony which tortured him.
Nearly a foot of fresh snow had fallen. Brawant, who was leading
the way, sounded the ground with his ice-axe before every step, and
the party, plunging nearly up to their knees, progressed very slowly.
When they reached the edge of the glacier the sun was already high
in the heavens, and they rested a minute or two to put on their
smoked glasses before continuing their route. A steep snow slope
had next to be crossed before they reached the Wildig Ar^te.

Brawant examined the state of the ground anxiously. Only
about six inches of the new soft snow rested on this slope.

" We shall have to cut steps in the lower hard surface," re-
marked Peter. " There is not enough fresh snpwto provide foothold.
I think I'll go in front here, Brawant."

Brawant glanced doubtfully at him ; but Peter had apparently
recovered himself; his mouth looked firm, and his voice was

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" I must be doing something,'* he muttered. " You don't
object, do you ? " he asked Ringwood.

Ringwood shrugged his shoulders. " You know your work, I
suppose," he said.

" Oh, he knows," Brawant said, and the change was made.

Peter was certainly steady enough, and cut the deep, safe steps
with a sure hand. Ringwood watched him with a feeling of vague
surprise. The excitable bey, who had so completely lost his head
in the past night, was not to be recognised in the firm, active figure
before him, whose every movement showed courage and self-
possession. Ringwood, though the word " fear " had no meaning to
him, was gifted with a vivid imagination, and pictured the effect of
a single false step : the first slip, the slide at lightning s]>eed down
the smooth slope, and finally the crash from precipice to precipice

At length the snow slope was passed and they reached the
Wildig Ar6te. This arete was a razor-like ridge of rock ; on the
western side, a longr, steep slope of solid ice ran down to meet the
precipices of the Schneeberg, while on the eastern side there was a
sheer drop of several thousand feet on to a glacier. The ridge was
level — given a steady head, there was no particular risk in crossing
it under ordinary circumstances, but now as they emerged from the
shelter of the mountain they encountered a terrific hurricane raging
from the east at right angles to the ridge.

'* Are we going to cross it in this ? " Ringwood asked.

" It's all right," Peter explained. " We shall have to lean
against the wind and we shall be as safe as on a calm day."

Peter had resolutely put from his mind all recollection of the
night's experience — it was in the past, and it lay like a dark shadow
over the future ; but the present was his to enjoy with all the young,
healthy vitality that found an additional zest in every danger. They
again changed their order on the rope to that in which they had
crossed the glacier. Brawant led the way, followed by Ringwood ;
then came Kauffmann, Peter, young Brawant bringing up the rear.
The wind was so strong that only by leaning over the abyss at an
angle of some forty-five degrees could they keep their balance.

The knife-like ridge was almost crossed — indeed, Brawant's
hand was already on the solid rock of the Schneeberg slope — when
suddenly, without any warning, the wind dropped. Peter and the
three Germans were at once instinctively erect. Not so Ringwood !
Failing to adjust himself to the new conditions, he fell headlong
over the precipice. Kauffmann, instead of holding tight the short
coil of the rope which he was carrying in his hand, let it go;
Brawant, though in an absolutely insecure position, managed to

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sustain the sudden weight of Ringwood, and literally before the
jerk of the rope, which would undoubtedly have been fatal to the
whole party, came on Kauffmann, Peter flung himself over the other
side of the ridge, trusting entirely to the strength of the hemp.
Kauffmann was thrown violently to his face, and young Brawant
was dragged over the edge by Peter ; but they both had their axes
in a moment into the surface of the icy slope, and regained the
ridge without assistance, while the elder Brawant drew Ringwood
back into safety.

Ringwood's face was rather white, but in a moment or two his
colour returned. He walked steadily forward to the rocks and then
spoke to Brawant with his usual easy laugh.

" By Jove, that was a close shave ! How was it that we didn't
all go over ? "

Brawant, with a keen glance at Ringwood, pointed to Peter.

" He threw himself over the other side," he said. " He saved
your life — he saved us all."

Ringwood's cheeks flushed, and he looked at Peter's white set

Peter took no notice of him ; the danger over, shame and
despair were once more laying their grip on him. As his eye roved
over the landscape of dazzling whiteness, he strove in vain to see
some escape from the darkness that held his spirit. It seemed to
him that there was but one way of eluding it. For a moment he
closed his eyes to shut out the beauty of the world he loved, and
something like a groan broke from his lips.

The rest of the way presented little difficulty ; the party de-
scended in almost complete silence ; in a couple of hours* time they
gained the Schneeberg hut, where they unroped, and by three o'clock
in the afternoon were nearing Eigischwald.

Ringwood suddenly addressed Peter :

'* Look here, perhaps you have some difficulty in paying that

money ? You saved my life and *' As he spoke he drew the I O U

from his pockef'and handed it to Peter.

Peter did not take it ; he started and laughed harshly.

** What diff^erence do you think that makes?" he said. ** Do
you think I am going to live without paying my debts of honour ? '*

The words were boyish, but the glint in Peter's eyes was not.

** Don't be a fool ! ** said Ringwood, with a half-contemptuous
smile on his lips.

Peter made no reply, but walked on in silence. There was a
shadow on Ringwood's face.

" Curse the young fool ! " he muttered. '* What is he going to
do ? Sell up all his people, or shoot himself? ''

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Peter gave him no further opportunity of speaking to him, but
as soon as he reached the hotel went straight up to his room. He
locked the door, and flinging himself on a chair, buried his haggard
face in his hands. ;f 2,250 ! He tried to think — to find some way
out of the net that bound him ; but there was none ! He rose slowly,
unlocked his dressing case, and drew out a small revolver.

Still he paused. His thoughts turned to his mother ; he must
write to her ; she should know that in spite of his miserable weak-
ness he had nevertheless in his last adventure played a man's part.
It might comfort her a little ; and he sat down and wrote her a
long letter. There was nothing more to do. He closed the letter,
and quietly raised the revolver.

At that moment there was a knock at the door.

" Who's there? " he cried, impatiently.

**A letter for M'sieur."

Peter crossed the room, took the letter, and relocked the door.

He tore open the envelope, drew out the contents, and then
stood very still.

They consisted of his I O U, and a single card — the king of

On the back of the card a broad red line had been drawn in a
circle. It surrounded a small, almost imperceptible cross, and

Online LibraryAlfred Edward Thomas WatsonThe Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes → online text (page 22 of 52)