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of the church tower, so as to command the gateway, and then the fort was given up. Tradition declares that it was the maid-servant of the priest who sold the key of the belfry to the French. Naturally, after this little transaction, she was seen no more.
We bad intended to sleep at the town of Bard, but the accommodation of the inn was so uninviting, we determined, though tired, to push on to Verrex. Here an excellent supper, clean rooms, and a most inquisitive landlady awaited us. Our hostess of the Ecu de France could not realise our being so far away from home, unless bent on a very profitable expedition. She looked upon us as fools to spend so much time and money merely to see a fine view or to visit a new country. But the English she knew were, all of them, “eccentriques," and this reflection seemed at last to be the only solution to the mystery of our arrival at the Ecu de France at that season.
Next morning, as we went our way, two spots worthy of note were pointed out as such by our guide. One, a hole to which a bear had been tracked, and found dead, after being shot; the other, a cavity in a rock about fifteen feet above the high road, and communicating with a grotto, had been the abode of a brute even more ferocious in his nature than the bear. Twenty years ago many a traveller passing that way had mysteriously disappeared. Suspicion was at length aroused, and then it was discovered that the grotto sheltered a brigand. Making use of a rope-ladder, he would descend rapidly from his hiding-place, pounce upon his victim, rob him, and then pitch him into the foaming billows beneath. Then he returned to his hole, to wait for the next poor wayfarer à la spider. Of course he played this game once too often, was discovered and captured.
Climbing up to the overhanging rocks, which seemed to bar all passage, we found ourselves poised over a cluster of houses, from which issued the clanging of hammers, resounding even above the roar of waters that leaped over the large stones, and formed innumerable cataracts. The road, winding about the face of the cliffs, now shows us a barren and savage land, then some inoments later, the defile being passed, a lovely smiling valley opens out to view. From winter we passed at once on to summer. Il Penseroso had changed to L'Allegro.
We halted at S. Vincent, a long village of lodging-houses prepared for visitors expected to arrive later in the season, and drink the waters at a very uninviting pump-room. Here, at Parigi's Hotel, we stopped, and washed down a very good dinner with Muscat of Chambave, which
induced us to look at the village of that name, farther on the way to Aosta, with almost as much interest as on the old castle frowning above our heads.
A quiet drive in the banquette of a diligence of seventeen miles brought us at last to the capital of the valley. Many a Cretin, deformed in limb and wearing the expression of silly craft or animal brutality on his face, had we passed on our road, to say nothing of the prevalent goitre which in so many places disfigures the throat of the peasant. But on approaching Aosta the Cretins seemed to increase in number, and indeed this town may be termed their headquarters.
The position of Aosta, the entrance to which is guarded by the lonely arch of Augustus, is most beautiful. It stands at the junction of two rivers, which drain the snow-capped hills all round the town, and from our rooms, when the sun had set, looking towards the west, we gazed on an amphitheatre of peaks which stood out cold and clear against the yellow sky.
Of all the Roman remains, -and there are many here,—the most interesting is what is called the Porte Prétorienne. It now stands in the middle of the town, but formerly its eastern gate enclosed a quadrangle, and had two façades, each with three arches. The triumphal arch raised in honour of Augustus has been rendered somewhat grotesque by the roof which has been placed above to preserve it, being ornamented with weathercocks and crosses !
Two towers of the Middle Ages are more remarkable than the rest. One called the “Brama fame," takes its name from the cries of hunger which issued from its walls when a certain lord shut up and starved to death there a wife whom he suspected of infidelity. The other tower, the history of whose inmates suggested to M. de Maistre his touching story, is called “La Tour des Lepreux.” It was the refuge of a family afflicted with a scourge imported from the East, probably in the Crusades, and for many years well known in Europe, but now happily stamped out-leprosy. Here, to this tower, these unhappy creatures came and ended their days.
The Cathedral of Aosta is neither very ancient nor very interesting. It recalled to us however the name of S. Bernard, who had been Archdeacon of Aosta, and whose attention must have been here first called to the dangers and troubles of the passage of the Alps into Italy. With this region his name must ever be associated, as in another sense that of San Carlo Borromeo is with Milan and its neighbourhood. As we passed through the town, we found that we were the objects of unexpected interest and curiosity.
“Monsieur est Anglais-il est arrivé aujourd'hui ?" asked an old lady in one of the shops I had entered, and as I assented, " Ah, mes. dames,” she cried to her neighbours, “j'avais bien raison, quand je disais, Voici les premiers Anglais de la saison."
Meanwhile R. was busily collecting information about the mineral wealth of the district. Although the valley d'Aosta was understood to be rich in minerals, especially copper, little seemed to be known of the localities of the workings, the nature of the operations, or the cost of production, and these questions lay immediately within the province of my friend.
We had heard that some improved machinery for the preparation of the ore was being used at the works of S. Marcel, and R. was curious to see it. As we bent our steps towards the place, my companion adverted to the fact of the water issuing near the mine, being quite blue in colour. I asked him if there was no way of utilising water which is known to hold copper. He said that in certain places in Spain, copper in this water was fished for, by placing pigs of iron in the bed of the stream, and leaving them until they become encrusted with the copper. Indeed he knew some people in England who had often exported pig-iron for that purpose. We had now arrived at the S. Marcel works, and being met by an obliging overseer, were told that the new process was actually in operation at the time. Being a recent invention however, and not yet patented, it could not be shown. The overseer allowed us to see a sample of the grains of copper which had been subjected to the new process, and the metal seemed very pure. Although the men employed would naturally tell us but little, we gathered that the ore from the mine, mixed up as it was with iron, was first crushed as finely as possible and then cast into water, where the copper was taken up, through chemical affinity, by means of the new process, the iron being left at the bottom. The discovery of the process is due to an English chemist, and it is said that the owner of the mine would have been ruined but for this seasonable innovation. Which method is the better of the two, that of Sella to take up the iron, or that of our countryman for withdrawing the copper, must be a question left to practical men to decide,
But to return to our wanderings. Our next visit was to the Château de Pilate, a curious old building, said to have been inhabited by
Pontius Pilate for a short period when on his way to Vienne in France, to which place he was exiled six years after the death of our LORD.
Across the river we found Fénis, a most picturesque old castle, built in the fourteenth century by one De Challand. Passing within the outer fortress with its machicolated towers, by a massive gateway we came to the strong citadel within, having turrets at its angles. The rooms of the first and second stories of this inner ward or keep are approached from balconies running round the central courtyard, whilst to reach the balconies themselves there is a flight of steps from the courtyard to the first floor, and thence winding stairs in two of the four corner turrets. The walls of the fortress are fresco-painted, knights, ladies, and saints, one and all represented holding labels bearing Latin inscriptions. Large fireplaces surmounted by coats of arms carved in the massive stone, pleasant stone seats in the windows, and elaborately carved rafters over head, denote that neither comfort nor display were despised by the early owners of the château. This magnificent dwelling which had been in the hands of the De Challands for nearly four hundred years, was sold by the last of the family in 1716 in order to pay his debts. A few years ago only the stately old furniture was taken away and again sold, and the château itself given up to a farmer. It is now rapidly falling to decay.
But we must loiter no longer on our way. We must now push on for the Little S. Bernard, by which route we hope to enter Italy again with as little delay as possible.
From Aosta to Pré S. Didier is a most agreeable three hours' drive. Till we reach Sarre, where there is a château of the thirteenth century used as a shooting-box by the late King of Italy, we are in the plain. Then the valley narrowing, we reach a gorge, cross the river Dora, and then ascend zig-zag up to where the road had been cut through the solid rock and continued by bridges thrown across the chasms between the rocks. The withdrawal of a few planks would make the road impassable. On emerging from the gorge a sight finer far than that of castles and vineyards opens before us—the view of Mont Blanc and his massive range of snow-white Alps, so often described, but to which no description will ever do justice. How can mere words bring before the mind of any reader a sight at once simple and grand, pure and sublime ? Mont Blanc must be seen to be known as he really is, and when once seen he is not easily forgotten.
On our road we had overtaken a young priest, who looked so hot and weary, we offered him a lift, which he gladly accepted. He had been far to visit a sick person and was returning to his parish. We found him both intelligent and agreeable. After a little time he said he presumed we were “Cattolici.” We explained our position, and then began to talk about the country and its religion. The new version of the Bible now in progress in England was mentioned.
"Ah,” said the priest, “it's all very well, but you cannot properly understand Holy Scripture without an interpreter. You will always want one of us, who have received it in deposit.” And then he cited Philip explaining the Scriptures to the eunuch as conclusive.
“Yes,” said I, “but remember that not being one of the Jewish nation, it was only natural that the eunuch should require an interpreter of the sacred volume. Had he been one of the chosen people, the case would have been different.”
The worst of talking to a man like our priest is, that cite as we may the most authentic manuscripts, give authorities above suspicion, he will still take refuge in repeating that after all, the Pope, being the Vicar of CHRIST on earth, no discoveries can be of any value, and no interpretation correct without his approval. Still we were sorry when the fields of Morjex came in sight to part with our new acquaintance. We reached S. Didier at last, had a good long look at Mont Blanc, and then took the road to our left. The ascent of the Little S. Bernard had begun, and the charming Val d'Aosta was soon shut out from view.
A TALE FOR THE FEAST OF SS. SIMON AND JUDE.
MR. Lee, a hard working clergyman, had not long been appointed to the living of Cranston, a small village in one of the midland counties of England. Coming from a populous parish in a large town, where he had worked as curate for eight years, Mr. Lee thought this small village of about eight hundred inbabitants would be a comparatively light charge. But before he had been very long in his new home, he found that Dissent of every sort was rife in the place, and that this evil would need all his energies to combat. It was not merely that the Baptist Chapel, and the Wesleyan, and the Congregational places of worship