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ed is now filling up the Lake of Geneva. In those remote days, the deposit of materials in the present lake was probably very insignia ficant compared to what it now is, since the grand cargo of materials brought down from the hills was arrested by some one or other of the intervening lakes (now alluvial plains), which then acted the part of cess-pools, higher up the valley. So, in future times--(the distance of which from our epoch is perhaps not utterly beyond the reach of a bold geologist's computation) – the inhabitants of Geneva will see a magnificent plain where they now behold a magnificent lake; while the great Mediterranean delta will then receive the whole burthen of materials brought down by that stream and all its tributaries, the greater portion of which is now arrested by the Lake of Geneva, and must be so till it is entirely filled up.
This process must go on until all the inequalities are worn away, and the mighty Alps themselves are either reduced to level plains, or degraded into gently-sloping banks. Such scenes will bear no resemblance to what we sec now; for when the snow-topped mountains and their atten, dant glaciers, the sources of the stream-are gone, the Rhone will have dwindled into a pretty rivulet, and the grassy or wooded ground, stripped of its snows, and basking in a more genial, perhaps a torrid climate, will afford few materials for removal.' – vol. i.
Another chapter, headed “An Alpine Debacle,' well demonstrates the power of moving water as a geological agent, and the description is set off by some gracefully expressed thoughts:
* Until the fatal moment of destruction arrives, or at all events, till the hour of danger approaches, mankind, all the world over, are pretty nearly equally indifferent, and go on dancing and singing, marrying and giving in marriage, under the very ribs of death, with as much unconcern as if they were living in perfect safety! The inhabitants of Portici and Resina, for instance, living at the base of Vesuvius; or those of Catania, at the foot of Mount Etna, where torrent upon torrent of lava has flowed in endless succession,-never dream of an eruption till the parched volcano drinks up their wells, and, in the language of Scripture, « fire runs along the ground! , In like manner I have observed the gay voluptuaries of Lima scarce. ly disturbed in their reckless enjoyment of life by the shock of an earthquake, which interrupted only for a transient moment of fear and impatient prayer their darling «Tertulias, » while the ceilings and walls of their houses cracked in their ears, and church steeples toppled round them! So with ourselves—the coasts of our own country, strewed every winter with wrecks, suggest no ideas of danger to the British seaman, nor make him one whit less anxious to leave the wearisome land for the merry sea. Precisely in the same spirit of confident and happy security an inhabitant of the Val de Bagnes prefers living amongst 'his cold, and almost barren, but much-loved mountains, in a situation of constant danger, with which he has become familiar from his infaney, rather than dwell in perfect security on the rich adjacent plains of Lombardy. ---vol. i. pp. 23-25.
Captain Hall arrived at Martigny on the 5th of August, just seven weeks after the catastrophe.
Many of the houses had been swept away, and all the remaining babitations
gave token of having been invaded by the flood which, even at the lower extremity of the town, where the valley is widest, had risen to the height of ten feet, as we could remark by the traces left on the walls. Higher up, the torrent had been much deeper ; and the inhabitants pointed out lo us the manner in which à considerable district of houses had been saved from destruction by the intervention of the village church, a compact stone building, placed – perhaps not accidentally – with one of its corners directed towards the adjacent gorge, out of which the overcharged torrent of the Dranse burst with such violence on the 16th of June. llad the side or end of the church faced the stream, it is supposed that not only must it have given way, but, in its train, all that quarter of the village would have been overwhelmed. The strong angle of the church, however, seems to have divided the waters; and as the valley at this point begins to spread itself out, the stream readily obeyed the new direction given to it, and flowed to the right and left. With some difficulty we made our way into the church, which was nearly half full of sand, mud, and stones, brought there by the flood. The pulpit just peeped above the mass of rubbish, but the altar was no longer visible, being quite buried under the mud. This very substantial building, indeed, had acted its part so firmly in the hour of need, that the old man who acted as our guide -patted the wall familiarly with his hand, saying, “The church was, and is, after all, our chief reliance in the hour of danger ! »-something figurative, perhaps, mingling with the poetical sentiment.
"All the hedges, garden-walls, and other boundary-lines and landmarks of every description , were of course obliterated under one uniform mass of detritus which had levelled all distinctions in a truly sweeping and democratic confusion. In every house, without exception, there lay a stratum of alluvial matter several feet in thickness, so deposited that passages were obliged to be cut through it, along the streets, as we see roads cut in the snow after a storm. On that side of every building which faced up the valley, and consequently against which the stream was directed, there had been collected a pile of large stones under all, then a layer of trees, with their tattered branches lying one way, and their roots the other. Next came a net-work of timber; beams of houses, broken doors, fragments of mill-wheels, shafts of carts, handles of ploughs, and all the wreck and ruin of the numerous villages which the debacle had first torn to pieces, and then swept down the valley in one undistinguishable mass. The lower part of the bark had been completely stripped off all the trees still standing, each one being charged on the side next the torrent with a singular accumulation of rubbish, consisting chiefly of uprooted trees, and those wooden portions of the buildings which were bolted together. I ought to mention, also, that from every house, and bebind every tree, circumstanced as I have described, there extended down the valley a long tail or train of diluvial rubbish, deposited in the swirl, or, as a sailor would say, in the eddy, under the lee of these obstacles. All over the plain, large boulders or erratic blocks lay thickly strewed: these varied in size from a yard to a couple of yards in diameter; but just at the point where the ravine of the Dranse leaves the mountains and joins the open valley of Martigny, I examined some enormously large masses of granite, which the inhabitants assured me had been brought down and placed there by the sheer force of the debacle.' – vol. i. pp. 33-35.
Let us now see in how short a period nature perfects her restorative process, and how soon human industry obliterates desolation , making the ruined valley smile in its renovation.
“I can find no adequate terms in which to describe the sort of hopeless feeling which filled our minds as we viewed the total, and, as it seemed, irremediable nature of the misfortune which had befallen the inhabitants of Martigny. We said to ourselves, that no time could ever restore their town to prosperity, or re-clothe their fields with verdure. Yet, only fifteen years afterwards, when I again visited this scene of utter, and, as it seemed, hopeless desolation, I could scarcely, by any effort of the imagination, recall the spot to my mind, or be persuaded that it really was the same ground I had seen laid waste. I knew very well, because I found it so set down in memorandums made on the spot, that a huge debacle, or mountain torrent, had burst over the hapless village, swept away all its herds and flocks, utterly destroyed its gardens and fields, drowned not a few of the inhabitants, and caused infinite distress : and I well remembered thinking it almost impossible that any length of time could effectually remove the traces of this gigantic misfortune. In spite of this prophecy, the only circumstance which I could now discover to mark the event, of which I supposed the visible effects were to exist for ages, consisted in a black line painted on the wall of one of the hotels, at the height of ten feet from the ground, to point out to travellers that such was the limit to which the inun
dation had reached! The fields were all again matted thickly with verdure; the hedges and dividing walls appeared never to have been disturbed ; flower-gardens, and kitchen-gardens, and grass plots smiled on every side of the happy valley ; apple-trees laden with fruit, and rows of tall poplars, marked out many lines of new and better roads than before, leading from new bridges which formerly had no existence! On examining matters more closely, I discovered one, and only one, remarkable trace of the debacle. All the old trees remained still stripped of their bark on the side which had faced the stream; and though a new coating had gradually formed itself, the rough handling of the torrent was still deeply marked on the trunks of all the trees which had been alive at that period, and had possessed strength enough to resist the flood. In one of the gardens also, I came upon an erratic block or boulder of granite, so nearly hid in a mass of flowers and foliage, that I could not for some time recognise it as one of my old friends of the Dranse flood. So many young trees had been planted, and so many new houses built, and such had been the regeneration of the cornfields, vineyards, and orchards, that it required the retrospective, theoretical optics of a geologist to discover any symptoms of diluvian action at all. Indeed, I much question whether even a practised geologist, unless put upon his guard and his curiosity roused, would now be able to infer, from the existing appearances, that such a catastrophe had occurred; and we certainly might defy him to aflix a date thereto. Even I, who can almost say thất I witnessed the catastrophe, and took a careful survey of the attendant circumstances when they were all fresh and obvious, could scarcely help fancying that the account I had myself recorded, and which I carried in my hand, must have been exaggerated, though written in good faith, and, if anything, short of the realily.'- vol. i. pp. 36-39.
Skipping lightly over the Alps, we are carried to Aosta and the Great St. Bernard. The dogs, immortalised by Edwin Landseer, and the prattle of every nursery, are so well touched that we cannot omit them.
* Far up in the clouds, and well above these imaginary terrors, we found the excellent monks of the Great St. Bernard plying their generous and truly public-spirited calling. I believe our chief object in this part of our expedition was to see the celebrated dogs, whose exploits amongst the snows of winter have endeared them to every one's childish recollections. Indeed, I do not suppose there are any quadrupeds alive more fétés than these fine animals, and it gives one a good idea of the Christian spirit of the worthy priests, to observe the indulgent manner in which they submitted to the undisguised interest shown by every guest in the dogs, more than for them.
• I have met with monks possessed of piety, good-nature, learning, intelligence, and active benevolence, in various parts of the world; and I have seen countries in which they formed, almost exclusively, the educated class ; but I have nowhere seen men of this stamp so thoroughly devoted to the service of mankind as the good fathers of St. Bernard.
• We took a sun-rise walk with the prior, accompanied by three of his principal dogs, and listened with an interest I cannot describe to bis account of the manner in which he and his brethren, assisted by these faithful attendants, hunted among the snow for fainting passengers during the long and dreary winter. He pointed out to us many scenes of suffering and of death ; some where the dogs had succeeded in carrying provisions to persons too much exhausted to walk further, but who were instantly sought for by the monks, on the dogs returuing with their empty baskets, and appealing for further assistance. It would appear that these noble animals enter fully into the spirit of this singular species of hunting-in which the object is to save, not to destroy; and that their natural sagacity is so sharpened by long practice and careful training, that a sort of language is established between them and their masters, by which mutual communications are made, such as few persons, living in situations of less constant and severe trial, can have any just conception of.
* I remember hearing Sir Walter Scott say that he would believe anything of a St. Bernard dog; and certainly, if half the stories told us are true, this eulogium is not exaggerated. I have sometimes wondered that, amidst all the odd freaks which come into the heads of English travellers, it has not occurred to any one to pass a month or two in the depth of winter on the summit of this pass. I feel sure that the current incidents of the day would furnish admirable sport, with the superadded advantage of a highly-exciting and praiseworthy purpose.'- vol. i. pp. 128, 133, 134.
We strongly recommend the pleasing experiment of a month or two in the depth of winter to the amiable Skipper himself.
At Leuk, it seems, the bathing is conducted on the Socialist principle:
On reaching at last, in safety, the baths of Leuk, lying near the foot of this extraordinary mountain-pass, I managed, by the help of a stick on one side and a friend's arm on the other, lo crawl into one of the large bath-rooms, where rather a comical sight met our eyes. The heads and shoulders of between twenty and thirty persons might be seen above the surface of a great reservoir or batb, of a