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Chapter 10
I spent the following day roaming through the valley. I stood beside the sources of the
Arveiron, which take their rise in a glacier, that with slow pace is advancing down from
the summit of the hills to barricade the valley. The abrupt sides of vast mountains were
before me; the icy wall of the glacier overhung me; a few shattered pines were scattered
around; and the solemn silence of this glorious presence-chamber of imperial nature was
broken only by the brawling waves or the fall of some vast fragment, the thunder sound
of the avalanche or the cracking, reverberated along the mountains, of the accumulated
ice, which, through the silent working of immutable laws, was ever and anon rent and
torn, as if it had been but a plaything in their hands. These sublime and magnificent
scenes afforded me the greatest consolation that I was capable of receiving. They
elevated me from all littleness of feeling, and although they did not remove my grief,
they subdued and tranquillized it. In some degree, also, they diverted my mind from the
thoughts over which it had brooded for the last month. I retired to rest at night; my
slumbers, as it were, waited on and ministered to by the assemblance of grand shapes
which I had contemplated during the day. They congregated round me; the unstained
snowy mountaintop, the glittering pinnacle, the pine woods, and ragged bare ravine, the
eagle, soaring amidst the clouds--they all gathered round me and bade me be at peace.
Where had they fled when the next morning I awoke? All of soul- inspiriting fled with
sleep, and dark melancholy clouded every thought. The rain was pouring in torrents, and
thick mists hid the summits of the mountains, so that I even saw not the faces of those
mighty friends. Still I would penetrate their misty veil and seek them in their cloudy
retreats. What were rain and storm to me? My mule was brought to the door, and I
resolved to ascend to the summit of Montanvert. I remembered the effect that the view of
the tremendous and ever-moving glacier had produced upon my mind when I first saw it.
It had then filled me with a sublime ecstasy that gave wings to the soul and allowed it to
soar from the obscure world to light and joy. The sight of the awful and majestic in nature
had indeed always the effect of solemnizing my mind and causing me to forget the
passing cares of life. I determined to go without a guide, for I was well acquainted with
the path, and the presence of another would destroy the solitary grandeur of the scene.
The ascent is precipitous, but the path is cut into continual and short windings, which
enable you to surmount the perpendicularity of the mountain. It is a scene terrifically
desolate. In a thousand spots the traces of the winter avalanche may be perceived, where
trees lie broken and strewed on the ground, some entirely destroyed, others bent, leaning
upon the jutting rocks of the mountain or transversely upon other trees. The path, as you
ascend higher, is intersected by ravines of snow, down which stones continually roll from
above; one of them is particularly dangerous, as the slightest sound, such as even
speaking in a loud voice, produces a concussion of air sufficient to draw destruction upon
the head of the speaker. The pines are not tall or luxuriant, but they are sombre and add
an air of severity to the scene. I looked on the valley beneath; vast mists were rising from
the rivers which ran through it and curling in thick wreaths around the opposite