Harper's Young People, November 11, 1879 An Illustrated Weekly

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Excerpt It was still early in the day when Walter left the cottage a second time. His heart was cheerful, and his movements light and rapid. Instead, however, of taking the road leading to the inn, he struck off in a zigzag path through the valley toward the Engelhorn, whose jagged and lofty peaks rose far up into the blue sky. After a short time he reached the large and splendid glacier that lies between the Engelhorn and Wellborn, cast a hasty glance at the beautiful masses of ice burnished to prismatic brilliancy by the morning sun, and then turned to the left toward a steep and narrow path leading to the summit. As the road grew more difficult at every step, his progress became much slower, and he purposely reserved his strength, knowing well that it would be severely taxed before he gained the object of his journey. After a toilsome ascent of half an hour he reached the lofty crag called by the mountaineers the Warder of the Glacier, and sat down to recover his breath. It was very necessary for him to take a little rest; for the way he had come, although long and tiring, was as child's play compared with the difficulties he had yet to overcome. He had to climb the steep and dizzy heights that towered above his head; and instead of walking along a narrow foot-path, he would have to clamber over rocks and loose stones, to pass close to the most dreadful precipices, and across foaming mountain streams, till he reached the height at which the refreshing green disappeared, with nothing visible but huge masses of brown and gray rock; where no other sight met the eye but that of mountain tops covered with perpetual snow and ice—a world dead and deserted, where the familiar voices of nature were almost unknown; where no bird carolled its love-song from the waving branch; where no sound was to be heard save the muttered thunder of the avalanche, the roaring of the cataracts which poured forth from the melting glaciers and made courses for themselves through heaps of rough stones; and now and again the harsh and discordant scream of a solitary vulture that with outspread wings circled slowly aloft, piercing into the valleys with its keen eye in search of prey. Into these wild and lonely regions Walter had to climb in order to reach the lofty crag whereon the vulture—the far-famed Lämmergeier of the Alps—had reared her eyrie. But these difficulties had little terror for the cool-headed and brave-hearted mountain youth, who had from his earliest days been accustomed to roam on dizzy heights where the slightest false step would have been destruction. He was determined to finish what he had begun; and gratitude to the noble and generous stranger lent new courage to his soul, and strength and endurance to his frame. After a short rest he jumped up again, and renewed the toilsome ascent, following slowly but steadily the dangerous track that led to the summit of the mountain. His feet often slipped on the bare and polished rock; sometimes he slid ten or twenty paces backward over loose pebbles, and anon sank knee-deep in the snow which here and there filled the hollows; but nothing daunted him or caused him to waver from his purpose. At last he reached a broad sheet of ice with innumerable crevices and chasms, on the further side of which a narrow ridge like the edge of a knife stretched above a wild and lonely valley, the base of which yawned two or three thousand feet below. At the extreme end of this ridge the nest he was in search of was built on a small point of rock, the sides of which descended precipitously into the depths below. With his eye fixed on the distant crag, Walter commenced the passage of the ice-field. The utmost caution being necessary at every step, he felt carefully with his long staff to ascertain whether the snow that covered the icy mass was fit to bear his weight, or only formed a treacherous bridge over the numerous ravines which yawned beneath. Bending his way round the large chasms, he leaped easily over the smaller ones with the aid of his staff; and after avoiding all the more dangerous spots, he succeeded, by caution and presence of mind, in safely reaching the further side of the glacier, where the last but most perilous part of his journey was to begin....
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