'We have had, of course,' said the young lady, who was rather reserved and haughty, 'to leave the carriages and fourgon at Martigny. And the impossibility of bringing anything that one wants to this inaccessible place, and the necessity of leaving every comfort behind, is not convenient.'
'A savage place indeed,' said the insinuating traveller.
The elderly lady, who was a model of accurate dressing, and whose manner was perfect, considered as a piece of machinery, here interposed a remark in a low soft voice.
'But, like other inconvenient places,' she observed, 'it must be seen. As a place much spoken of, it is necessary to see it.'
'O! I have not the least objection to seeing it, I assure you, Mrs General,' returned the other, carelessly.
'You, madam,' said the insinuating traveller, 'have visited this spot before?' 'Yes,' returned Mrs General. 'I have been here before. Let me commend you, my dear,' to the former young lady, 'to shade your face from the hot wood, after exposure to the mountain air and snow. You, too, my dear,' to the other and younger lady, who immediately did so; while the former merely said, 'Thank you, Mrs General, I am Perfectly comfortable, and prefer remaining as I am.'
The brother, who had left his chair to open a piano that stood in the room, and who had whistled into it and shut it up again, now came strolling back to the fire with his glass in his eye. He was dressed in the very fullest and completest travelling trim. The world seemed hardly large enough to yield him an amount of travel proportionate to his equipment.
'These fellows are an immense time with supper,' he drawled. 'I wonder what they'll give us! Has anybody any idea?'
'Not roast man, I believe,' replied the voice of the second gentleman of the party of three.
'I suppose not. What d'ye mean?' he inquired.
'That, as you are not to be served for the general supper, perhaps you will do us the favour of not cooking yourself at the general fire,' returned the other.
The young gentleman who was standing in an easy attitude on the hearth, cocking his glass at the company, with his back to the blaze and his coat tucked under his arms, something as if he were Of the Poultry species and were trussed for roasting, lost countenance at this reply; he seemed about to demand further explanation, when it was discovered--through all eyes turning on the speaker--that the lady with him, who was young and beautiful, had not heard what had passed through having fainted with her head upon his shoulder.
'I think,' said the gentleman in a subdued tone, 'I had best carry her straight to her room. Will you call to some one to bring a light?' addressing his companion, 'and to show the way? In this strange rambling place I don't know that I could find it.'
'Pray, let me call my maid,' cried the taller of the young ladies.
'Pray, let me put this water to her lips,' said the shorter, who had not spoken yet.
Each doing what she suggested, there was no want of assistance. Indeed, when the two maids came in (escorted by the courier, lest any one should strike them dumb by addressing a foreign language to them on the road), there was a prospect of too much assistance. Seeing this, and saying as much in a few words to the slighter and younger of the two ladies, the gentleman put his wife's arm over his shoulder, lifted her up, and carried her away.
His friend, being left alone with the other visitors, walked slowly up and down the room without coming to the fire again, pulling his black moustache in a contemplative manner, as if he felt himself committed to the late retort. While the subject of it was breathing injury in a corner, the Chief loftily addressed this gentleman.
'Your friend, sir,' said he, 'is--ha--is a little impatient; and, in his impatience, is not perhaps fully sensible of what he owes to--hum--to--but we will waive that, we will waive that. Your friend is a little impatient, sir.'
'It may be so, sir,' returned the other. 'But having had the honour of making that gentleman's acquaintance at the hotel at Geneva, where we and much good company met some time ago, and having had the honour of exchanging company and conversation with that gentleman on several subsequent excursions, I can hear nothing--no, not even from one of your appearance and station, sir--detrimental to that gentleman.'
'You are in no danger, sir, of hearing any such thing from me.