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VII. Alpenrosen and Goat's-Milk Henry van Dyke

Section VI.

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In the Pragerhut I found mountain comfort. There were bunks along the wall of the guest-room, with plenty of blankets. There was good store of eggs, canned meats, and nourishing black bread. The friendly goats came bleating up to the door at nightfall to be milked. And in charge of all this luxury there was a cheerful peasant-wife with her brown-eyed daughter, to entertain travellers. It was a pleasant sight to see them, as they sat down to their supper with my guide; all three bowed their heads and said their "grace before meat," the guide repeating the longer prayer and the mother and daughter coming in with the responses. I went to bed with a warm and comfortable feeling about my heart. It was a good ending for the day. In the morning, if the weather remained clear, the alarm-clock was to wake us at three for the ascent to the summit.

But can it be three o'clock already. The gibbous moon still hangs in the sky and casts a feeble light over the scene. Then up and away for the final climb. How rough the path is among the black rocks along the ridge! Now we strike out on the gently rising glacier, across the crust of snow, picking our way among the crevasses, with the rope tied about our waists for fear of a fall. How cold it is! But now the gray light of morning dawns, and now the beams of sunrise shoot up behind the Glockner, and now the sun itself glitters into sight. The snow grows softer as we toil up the steep, narrow comb between the Gross-Venediger and his neighbour the Klein-Venediger. At last we have reached our journey's end. See, the whole of the Tyrol is spread out before us in wondrous splendour, as we stand on this snowy ridge; and at our feet the Schlatten glacier, like a long, white snake, curls down into the valley.

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There is still a little peak above us; an overhanging horn of snow which the wind has built against the mountain-top. I would like to stand there, just for a moment. The guide protests it would be dangerous, for if the snow should break it would be a fall of a thousand feet to the glacier on the northern side. But let us dare the few steps upward. How our feet sink! Is the snow slipping? Look at the glacier! What is happening? It is wrinkling and curling backward on us, serpent-like. Its head rises far above us. All its icy crests are clashing together like the ringing of a thousand bells. We are falling! I fling out my arm to grasp the guide--and awake to find myself clutching a pillow in the bunk. The alarm-clock is ringing fiercely for three o'clock. A driving snow-storm is beating against the window. The ground is white. Peer through the clouds as I may, I cannot even catch a glimpse of the vanished Gross-Venediger.


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Little Rivers
Henry van Dyke

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