LIDDES, August 10.
MY DEAR JANE,
We followed the course of the impetuous Drance to La Vallette, a pretty village with the houses painted in a kind of fresco, round the windows and down the sides of the walls; and where the cure's house was distinguished from the rest by the superior neatness of its appearance. Indeed, this is the case in all the villages in this part of the country. The wildness of the situation, and the prettiness of the village, are strikingly contrasted ; for it is surrounded on all sides by tremendous gorges, through which the torrents force their way with incredible fury.
We stopped to have some milk, and the woman who supplied us seemed satisfied and thankful for what we gave her in return; but Mr. Rose had no sooner observed that she was one of the few who were so, than she returned to say she had been considering that we had not paid her enough. I do not believe that these people intend to exact or impose, for they give you what you ask for, without hesi- tation, and without making any sort of bargain; and though, when you pay them, they generally ask for more, they neither look disappointed nor ill-humoured when you refuse to comply with their demand.
Leaving the valley of Bagnes to the left, we passed through a gallery which was cut three years since in the rock; and we continued to follow the course of the river, as it absolutely flew over large blocks of granite with tremendous impetuosity, and with so loud a noise as to prevent our hearing each other speak. There was but just room for the road by the side of the river, which seemed merely to have made its way through the mountains that rise directly and almost perpendicularly from it: those to the right, thickly wooded with pines and larches; those to the left, strewed over with large masses of rock, which seemed only borne up by each other.
At the end of this gorge are the ruins of a monastery of La Trappe. The monks fled at the time of the revolution, and took shelter in Russia. It is built very close to the mountain; and the rocks, which are piled in frightful confusion directly over it, seem to threaten it with hourly destruction. The torrent foams and roars in the front of it; and perhaps the noise might have been some relief to the stillness which pervades a monastery of La Trappe. Here nature reigns in lone and " untamed majesty;" and the situation, wild and desolate in the extreme, is well suited to an order who do all but despair.
On leaving this gorge, the country assumed a totally different aspect, and became bright and smiling. As we passed the village of St. Branchier, some very melodious chimes were playing; and one of our guides told me that they were not regulated by clock-work, but played by manual labour, so that the tunes are continually varied. Here we left the valley, and the road ascends the mountains to the right, looking over the well-cultivated vale of Entremont, watered by the Drance, to the left.
We passed through the town of Orsières, whose situation is romantic, and whose tall and richly-ornamented spire is strikingly handsome; and we then proceeded on to this place, leaving the Montagnes de Prose to our right.
We have been joined at breakfast by an English gentleman, who is agreeable and well-informed, and who has walked with us about the village.
The inhabitants of this part of the country have a very singular appearance. My dear Jane, I am afraid you will say that I am very satirical ; but really there is something in the cut and figure of the men, that puts me very much in mind of a satyr, and yet they are not ill-looking either. As for the women, they are so like each other, that they all appear as if they were twin sisters. They have all the same broad, flat face; the same small eyes, placed widely apart; and the same honest, good-humoured countenance.
I remain, my dear Jane,
Your very affectionate brother,
LETTER X, A tour to Great St. Bernard's and round Mont Blanc, Harvey and Darton, London, 1827, pp.53-57.
Les liens vers les illusrations pointent vers des estampes qui ne sont pas liées directement à ce récit. Elles appartiennent à la collection de l'hospice.