Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 4 HTML version
Resembling in appearance all the wooden hostelries of the High Alps situated at the foot
of glaciers in the barren rocky gorges that intersect the summits of the mountains, the Inn
of Schwarenbach serves as a resting place for travellers crossing the Gemini Pass.
It remains open for six months in the year and is inhabited by the family of Jean Hauser;
then, as soon as the snow begins to fall and to fill the valley so as to make the road down
to Loeche impassable, the father and his three sons go away and leave the house in
charge of the old guide, Gaspard Hari, with the young guide, Ulrich Kunsi, and Sam, the
great mountain dog.
The two men and the dog remain till the spring in their snowy prison, with nothing before
their eyes except the immense white slopes of the Balmhorn, surrounded by light,
glistening summits, and are shut in, blocked up and buried by the snow which rises
around them and which envelops, binds and crushes the little house, which lies piled on
the roof, covering the windows and blocking up the door.
It was the day on which the Hauser family were going to return to Loeche, as winter was
approaching, and the descent was becoming dangerous. Three mules started first, laden
with baggage and led by the three sons. Then the mother, Jeanne Hauser, and her
daughter Louise mounted a fourth mule and set off in their turn and the father followed
them, accompanied by the two men in charge, who were to escort the family as far as the
brow of the descent. First of all they passed round the small lake, which was now frozen
over, at the bottom of the mass of rocks which stretched in front of the inn, and then they
followed the valley, which was dominated on all sides by the snow-covered summits.
A ray of sunlight fell into that little white, glistening, frozen desert and illuminated it with
a cold and dazzling flame. No living thing appeared among this ocean of mountains.
There was no motion in this immeasurable solitude and no noise disturbed the profound
By degrees the young guide, Ulrich Kunsi, a tall, long-legged Swiss, left old man Hauser
and old Gaspard behind, in order to catch up the mule which bore the two women. The
younger one looked at him as he approached and appeared to be calling him with her sad
eyes. She was a young, fairhaired little peasant girl, whose milk-white cheeks and pale
hair looked as if they had lost their color by their long abode amid the ice. When he had
got up to the animal she was riding he put his hand on the crupper and relaxed his speed.
Mother Hauser began to talk to him, enumerating with the minutest details all that he
would have to attend to during the winter. It was the first time that he was going to stay
up there, while old Hari had already spent fourteen winters amid the snow, at the inn of