Read CHAPTER XII of A Midsummer Drive Through The Pyrenees, free online book, by Edwin Asa Dix, on ReadCentral.com.

MIRRORS AND MOUNTAINS.

“All along the valley, stream that flashest white,
Deepening thy voice with the deepening of the night.”

TENNYSON’S Cauterets.

Cauterets confirms its first good impressions. The next day proves cloudy and foggy, and we spend it lazily, re-reading and answering letters, or wandering about the town, absorbing its streets and shops. The season is fairly afloat, and all sail is set. At the angle of two thoroughfares, a stretch of ground has been brushed together for a park or promenade, and this, sprinkled with low, flat-topped trees and a band-stand, naturally attracts us first. Booths and cafes and nicknack stalls reach around its sides, and across from us stands a fine official-looking structure of marble, which we learn is the Thermal Establishment. We stroll toward this, through the groups of promenaders, run the gauntlet of the booths, inspecting hopelessly their catchpenny wares and games, and find ourselves before it. It is well placed, and architecturally effective. To judge from the goodly patronage, it is pathologically effective as well. Within, the large, tiled hall conducts right and left to wings containing rows of white-tiled bath-apartments and two full-sized swimming-rooms. An imposing marble stairway leads upward to reading, billiard and gaming apartments, cafe and restaurant and a theatre-hall. Evidently the Thermal Establishment is the pivot of Cauterets. The serious use of these waters is carried to a science. You can be steamed, suffused, sprayed, sponged, showered, submerged or soaked. You can seek health from a teaspoon or a tub. Make choice, and buy a season ticket. Rather, the attendant physicians make the choice, for all is by rule here and no one moistens lip or finger without due prescription.

These springs are celebrated among French doctors. The systems of treatment are kept abreast of all modern theories. The waters are sulphureous, very hot, and abundant. They serve in throat and stomach troubles and for a wide range of ailments “where there is indicated a powerfully alterative and stimulating treatment.”

We ramble back across the esplanade and out into the streets. The stores, always friendly in their hostile designs, conspire to be especially attractive in Cauterets. We waste much time from a masculine standpoint in an enticing lace store, where really fine Spanish nettings are purchased at tempting prices. They sell too, in Cauterets, the woolly stuffs called Bareges crape, marvelously delicate in texture, woven in various tints for mufflers and capes and shoulder-wraps. Farther up the street, we are allured during the forenoon into buying a woollen berret or two, and scarlet sashes, the badge of the country, for to-morrow’s mountain excursion; and yield in the plaza to the fascination of barley-sugar candy and toothsome cakes of Spanish chocolate. But all entreaties to buy young Pyrenean dogs warranted bred in the region, are manfully resisted.

We invest too in a strange variety of umbrella, which can be folded into wondrously small compass and put into the pocket or the traveling-bag, invest in it after a long struggle of rates, wherein each side gains the satisfaction of victory by a compromise. The eagerness of the Frenchy vendor, his dramatic acting-out of the umbrella’s workings, his voluble deprecation of a possible lower price, and his gradual sliding down from his end of the scale as we rise in it from ours, these accessories fully double the zest of the transaction for both. One must be wary and alert to properly enjoy European shopping; but if one is thus prepared, it can be made to furnish very solid enjoyment indeed. “As a rule,” as the genial author of Sketches in the South of France observes, “the British purchaser must offer one half the price asked. Everybody does it, and it is in no way offensive, because the sum has been pre-arranged accordingly. The British costume springs the market at least ten per cent, bad French ten more, and an apparent ignorance of both market and language cannot be let off at less than thirty or forty. Expostulation is useless, even when convenient; the torrent of ‘impossible’, ‘incroyable,’ ‘que c’est gentil,’ ‘ravissant,’ ‘beau’ would drown any opposition. The only chance is to be deaf to argument, dumb to solicitations, to place the sum proposed before the merchant, and if it be not accepted, retire in dignified silence. Ten to one you will be followed and a fresh assault commenced; be resolute, and the same odds you get your bargain.”

Variety marks the stores not only, but the streets and saunterers. All these Pyrenean resorts put on the motley. There is of course the substratum of plainly-garbed humanity; but as at Eaux Bonnes, it is set off with scarlet-coated guides, Spaniards in deep-colored mantles, peasant women with red capulets or bright-hued shoulder-wear, and the satin finish of fashion in its passing carriages. Hucksters are pleading their varied wares in the plaza, and here and there a shovel-hatted priest is given reverential right of way. We meet scarcely an English face, however, and of our own travel-loving countrymen none at all. At noon the band plays in the music pavilion, and by degrees the idle world drifts in that direction. The round cafe-tables under the trees gradually sort out their little coteries, and white-aproned gentry skate about with liqueur-bottles, clinking glass beer-mugs, baskets of rolls, and the inevitable long-handled tin coffee-pots. The outdoor scene tempts us more than a hotel luncheon; we cast in our lot with an alert-eyed waiter, and the syrups and chocolate he brings are doubly sweetened with the strains of Martha.

II.

Here is an old letter concerning these waters, which brings the dead back in flesh and blood. It leaves its writer before us in vivid presence, a womanly reality. It is Marguerite of Angoulême who writes it, the thoughtful, high-souled queen of Bearn-Navarre, whose daughter was afterward mother of Henry IV. She is at Pau, and is sending word about her husband’s health to her brother, Francis I of France.

“Though this mild spring air,” she tells him, “ought to benefit the King of Navarre, he still feels the effects of the fall he met with. The doctors have ordered him to spend the month of May at the Baths of Caulderets, where wonderful things are happening every day.

“I am thinking of going with him,” she adds, how domestic and personal these little royal plannings seem, “after the quiet of Lent, so as to keep him amused and look after him and help him with his affairs; for when one is away for his health at the baths, he ought to live like a child, without a care."

Hither they came accordingly, and the court with them. How royalty put up with the then primitive accommodations is not recorded; standards of comfort, if not of lavishness, were lower then. Here, surrounded by her maids of honor, Marguerite passed the pleasant days of the king’s convalescence and wrote many of her Contes in the long summer afternoons upon the hillsides.

Rabelais used to come to Cauterets, and one of the springs is said to be named from a visit of Caesar’s. Eaux Chaudes and Eaux Bonnes have had eclipses of popularity, but Cauterets has always been in vogue. It was not always luxurious, however. Invalids were brought here by rough litters or on the backs of guides or horses. A monk and a physician lived near the bath-enclosure, and narrow cabins or huts, roofed with slate, were let out to the sick and their attendants. How greatly the dignified Marguerite and her war-bred husband would marvel, if they could walk with us to-day from the Thermal Establishment, across the park and through the streets and squares, to pause from their astonishment in the polished and gilt-mirrored drawing-room of the Hotel Continental!

III.

There are walks and promenades and mountain nooks in all directions from the town, but the afternoon grows misty and we do not explore them. The Gave running noisily on, hard by, has its stiller moments, up the valley, and the trout-fishing is reputed rather remarkable. In fact, one ardent angler who came here is said to have complained of two drawbacks: first, that the fish were so provokingly numerous as to ensure a nibble at every cast; and second, that they were so simple-minded and untactical that every nibble proved a take.

Besides affording these milder joys, Cauterets is a centre for larger excursions. There are three especially noted. The first and finest is the trip to the Lac de Gaube, a high mountain tarn at the very foot of the Vignemale. This we plan in prospect for to-morrow. It is four hours away by a bridle-path, passing on the way several much-admired mountain cataracts. The second excursion is by the foot-pass over a shoulder of the Viscos to Luz, a counterpart of the path over the Gourzy from Eaux Chaudes to Eaux Bonnes. As we purpose going to Luz by carriage, passing down to Pierrefitte and so up the other side of the V, we strike the Viscos from the list of necessaries. The third is the ascent of the Monne, the mountain overhanging Cauterets and 9000 feet above the sea; reported as long but not difficult and as giving a repaying view. But there is a mountain near Luz, the Bergonz, from which the view is held equally fine, and it is, we learn, simpler of ascent; there is even a bridle-path to the summit. Since we are to go to Luz, we decide for the Bergonz, and so cancel the Monne.

Cauterets might be likened to St. Moritz in the Engadine. It has no lakes so close at hand, but in its springs and baths, in its fashion and in its general location, a fair parallel is offered. Some of the important peaks of the range, Mont Perdu and the Vignemale, for example, are near us here though invisible from the town, as is the Bernina chain from St. Moritz. The Monne will stand for the Piz Languard. In hotels, Cauterets is hardly outgeneraled even by St. Moritz, though in expensiveness they will yield gracefully to the Engadine. The Hotel Continental, we find, has rather a pathetic story. It was built by a widow who had been left rich, built only a few years ago, as a hobby, it would seem, and with little care for cost or judicious investment. It represented nearly three hundred thousand dollars, was extravagantly run, and lost money from the beginning. She also built a great cafe and music-hall across the street from the hotel, and the losses of the two together swelled in the end to an unbearable burden. Her fortune was sponged up, to the last franc; the property was bought in by a stock-company, and its unfortunate projector is now, we are told, in a charitable institution at Bordeaux. One hardly wonders at the result, in admiring the hotel. Its patronage may be large and rich, but no mere summer season, at least without the English and Americans, could recoup the interest on its costly outlay. The Gassion at Pau is profitable if at all because its yearly season is three times longer than this at Cauterets.

There is an evening conjuring performance at a cafe in the town, and some of us desert the ladies and enter its chaos of mirrors and tobacco smoke. The prestidigitator, a nervous, restive Frenchman with an astonishing rapidity of tongue, stands near the centre of the room and juggles and struggles with hats and rings and eggs and his own overmastering fluency. Now he will dart across the floor to borrow a listener’s handkerchief; now he assaults our corner with the plea that we verify a card; later the hat is passed for the harvest. It is an interesting scene, European to the core; the men about the tables sip and smoke, intent on the performance or on their dominoes, grave and contemplative, finding uniformly in this contented cafe-life the needful finis of the day.

IV.

The son renews his acquaintance, the next morning, with Cauterets, as we start for the Lac de Gaube. It is the Fourth of July; the hotel manager has good-naturedly procured some fire-crackers for the small boy of the party, and thus our national devotions are duly paid and we are shrived for the day. Carriages can be taken for part of the way toward the Lac; it is good policy, so saddle-horses for the ladies are sent on to wait for us at the point where the road ends and the bridal-path begins.

The first mile in the road is perhaps the most frequented bit in the Pyrénées; it is the route to a second large spring-house known as the Raillere, which is even more sought than the one in the town. We find the wayside everything but dull. Omnibuses meet us frequently, wealthier drinkers pass in light carriages, while many, going or coming, are enjoying the journey on foot. Each is armed with his or her individual drinking-cup, worn by a strap over the shoulder like field-glasses. The road is somewhat shadeless, and at noon will be hot; but this is an early-morning route. These are sunrise waters. Such is the dictum or the wont. The faithful even work up a mild daily rivalry in early waking. This may aid to make them healthy; improbably, wealthy; but it does not show them to be wise. Time is always quoted under par at a summer resort; why should the idlers heedlessly load up with too much of the stock? These people have come out here, many of them, at six and seven o’clock, a few even earlier; they have sipped their modicum of sulphur and scandal, have prolonged the event as fully as possible, and must now ripple irregularly back toward the town, objectless entirely until the noon music and the atoning siesta.

The building itself, a large, prominent structure, stands out on the slope of a sterile mountain side, the road sweeping up to its level in a long, elliptic curve. We find much people here congregated, and omnibuses and footfarers are still arriving and departing. Among the throng are three veritable Capuchin monks, thickly weighted with enfolding hoods and brown woolen gowns, the latter heavy and long and girdled at the waist, a light, airy costume for a warm day. Our drivers stop here while one of them repairs a broken strap, and we contentedly watch and speculate upon the assemblage.

Three other smaller spring-establishments are passed in turn, farther up the valley. Each has its specialty and its limited but believing clientele. Then the road becomes solitary, and ephemeral humanity is left behind. Soon the slow, even strain of the horses tells of stiffer work than along the easy, inclines nearer the Raillere. The Gave comes jumping downward more and more hurriedly, and presently its restless mutterings deepen into a dull growl, which grows louder. It rises by degrees to a roar, the road makes a last energetic bend, and we are looking down upon the famed Cerizet cascade. It is a broad rush of the stream, thundering beneath the bridge; there is an unexpected body to the fall; the massed water bounds down a double ledge, and swirls angrily away down the gorge. The scene is strikingly set, with slippery rocks and dark-green box bordering the torrent, and the cliffs rising sharply around, naked and bony or furred with box and pine. This is the favorite short drive from Cauterets. Pedestrians seek it, as well. The Cerizet holds the charm of its wildness alike for the idler and the lover of nature.

Here the road ends, in a confined level across the bridge. At the bend above stand a rough shanty and a shed, and near by our waiting saddle-horses are unobtrusively browsing. Drivers and carriages now leave us and turn back, and the guide helps us to roll wraps and coats into cylinder-form and straps them snugly behind the saddles. The shanty is not too primitive to vend refreshing drinks, and the ancient Frenchman in the doorway vainly lures us to lemonade and sour wine. The guide hands out sticks for those of us who walk, swings the camera strap over his shoulder, and we all wave a friendly hand to the old mountain-taverner, who grins a forgiving au revoir.

We strike at once into the thicket. There is only the footway to pierce it, crooked and steep and stony from the start.

“The winding vale now narrows on the view,”

and the crowding trees at times shut out all sight of the cliffs opposite and above, though we always hear the noise of the torrent. The sun can rarely find the path, which is damp and at places muddy. The slant of the gorge has grown steeper, and when we come to breaks in the forest, we see the water tearing down toward us along its broken trough in increasing contortions, often in great flying leaps. No path could hold this incline directly, and this one gracefully yields and adopts the usual expedient, ricochetting upward in short, incessant lacings, tracing up in the main the run of the Gave, but often diverted, zigzagging, always mounting, quadrupling the distance while it quarters the angle.

Two other cascades are passed. The horses, used to the work, strain forward uncomplainingly, the guide leading the foremost; they toil quietly along the easier spots, but tug themselves rapidly, almost convulsively, up over the hard ones. The jolting, pitching motion is severe and somewhat trying; and at intervals the ladies dismount and join us in walking, relieving the effort of rest with the rest of effort.

An hour or less of this, and then another roar presages another cataract, and soon we emerge upon the scene. This is the Pont d’Espagne, a bridge of long logs stretching across the torrent at the spot where two streams unite and throw themselves together into the hollow, twenty-eight or thirty feet below. We pause on the rough bridge and gaze down at the plunging water and foam and upward at our surroundings. The entire picture, framed in by the sharp blackness of the pines and the broken escarpments of cliff and mountain, has been well compared to a scene in Norway.

At the other side of the bridge stand another shanty and another shed; also another refreshment-vendor. A cool beverage has an attraction now which it had not earned an hour ago, and we feel that a breathing-spell will not be wasted.

Here paths unite as well as streams. We have been nearing the Spanish frontier-line again, and the trail following the right-hand stream would lead up toward its source and pass on over the crest of the mountain down to the Spanish baths of Panticosa, as did the path from Gabas in the Ossau valley. The top of the pass is three hours away, and the view, it is said, is very extensive. These passes over the main chain are known as ports, as those over its branches are called cols. They are generally simple notches in the dividing ridges, massive but narrow, and the winds blow through them at a gallop. In a storm or in winter the danger is extreme. The Basques and Pyreneans have a saying that “he who has not been on the sea or in the port during a storm knows not the power of God.”

The path following the leftward stream leads to the Lac de Gaube, two miles farther on, and is the one we now take. The way continues much the same as before, but the trees become sparser and the outlook wider and more desolate as we ascend.

Our guide is a sunburnt, athletic Frenchman of middle age, noticeable so far chiefly for his huge grey mustachios and for his silence. He has been willing but laconic, taciturn, in fact. But I have felt sure he has a “glib” side. Can I find it? The stillest of men are fluent on their loved topics; there is some key to unlock every one’s reserve. Can I hit upon the key to his? Which of possible interests in common will bring us into talk?

I am ahead with him now, in front of the horses, stepping up the crooking staircase of stones, sounding him on the weather and the way. Unexpectedly the key is hit upon. A chance comparison I make of a view in the Alps lights up the old fellow’s face, and when I happen to mention an exploit of Whymper, his tongue is loosed. It is not merely a name to him, this of Edward Whymper, scaler of mountains, the first to stand on the summit of the Matterhorn, one of the three who descended it alive out of that fated party of seven. This man knows him, he tells me joyously; he has been his guide here in the Pyrénées. It was many years back; he does not recall the year. It is evidently his proudest recollection, and he is more than willing to talk of it. In fact, I am as interested as he; for the pages of my copy of Whymper’s Scrambles among the Alps have been very often turned.

Whymper came here, it seems, with his usual desire to conquer, and the guide tells me of some of the peaks they stormed together. The more familiar giants, the Vignemale, Mont Perdu and others, were climbed as a matter of course. Their ardor was greatest, however, in assaulting some uncaptured summit; and several such fell before their conquering attack. Monsieur Wheempair, the guide goes on, was “très intrépide”; not stout, but firmly compacted, lithe and very active, and he never asked a hand. “He told me,” adds my companion, “that some time we would go to the Alps together;” and the man turns to me as we work onward, and questions me about those mountains. That is his ambition now, to visit Switzerland and the rivals of his Mont Perdu and Maladetta.

I tell him, too, something of the greater peaks his hero has subsequently rendered subject among the Andes, Chimborazo, Antisana and others; of his passing twenty-six consecutive hours encamped with his guides on the summit of Cotopaxi; of the difficulties of route and dangers of weather he everywhere experienced. The guide had heard that Whymper had been in the Andes, but knew no details of his doings nor of the heights and nature of the mountains. He greedily adds these new facts to his collection of Whymperiana.

These guides make little. To be sure, they spend little. Probably they want for little, as well. Living is low, and the Frenchman is thrifty. Yet a guide’s occupation is particularly uncertain; there are long gaps of enforced idleness even in the season, and wages of seven or eight francs a day when he is employed are not only little enough at best, considering the toil and occasional danger, but must be averaged down to cover the unoccupied days besides. For ascents among the greater peaks the pay is better, but they are much less frequent. My friend of the mustachios lives in Cauterets, he tells me, during the season; he has a family; in winter he can work at logging and wood-hauling, in summer he earns most as a guide. Many persons too come to hunt, not to climb, and sportsmen are always liberal; but the hunting is growing poor; the bouquetin is extinct, the bear is almost gone, the wolf is a coward; of large game, only the izard remains.

V.

Meanwhile, we have all been clambering up the pathway, calling out at points of view, expecting at each rise to see the lake in the level above. At length, a short hour from the Pont d’Espagne, we press up the last curve, come out suddenly upon a plateau, and the lonely basin of the Lac de Gaube is before us.

Just ahead is the low-roofed house built at the side of the lake for the purposes of a restaurant; and we enter, to unroll the wraps and make some important stipulations regarding trout and a soufflet. Though the lake is not even with the snow-level, the cool air makes a light overcoat most acceptable after the warm morning climb. Then we hurry out to see our surroundings.

The great Vignemale, the central feature in the picture, at first disappoints us. This, the fourth in height of Pyrénées mountains, confronts one squarely from across the lake, effectively framed between two barren slopes, the highest of its triple peaks somewhat hidden by the hill on the right. But the giant does not seem to tower in the least, and appears from this spot little else than a huge but disjointed mass of rock and glaciers, in the latter of which the Vignemale abounds. The view improves, a few yards on around the lake. But it requires an effort to believe that of those

“three mountain tops,
Three silent pinnacles of aged snow,”

the loftiest is ten thousand, eight hundred and twenty feet above the sea; it is still harder to grant that its knobby tips are a full mile in perpendicular height above us at the Lac de Gaube. It is only by degrees that the distant form seems to grow and mount, as we come to realize its true dimensions.

This mountain was never ascended until 1834, when two guides from a neighboring valley, Cantouz and Guilhembert by name, finally mastered it. The ascent was marked by a signal exhibition of pluck. The men had attained, after perilous work, the large glacier of Ossoue. They were traversing it, toilsomely and carefully, when an ice-bridge gave way beneath them and plunged them both into the depths of a crevasse. They were made insensible by the fall. Cantouz at last came to himself, stiffened and bruised; to his joy Guilhembert also was after some effort brought back to consciousness. For hours these men picked their icy way along the bottom of the crevasse and its branches, through the water and melted snow, seeking some opening, some way of escape to the upper surface of the glacier. Effort after effort failed. The day was waning. At length a narrow “chimney” was found, more promising than the rest; and by painful and dangerous degrees, wearied, sore and half-frozen as they were, the two slowly worked a zigzag way upward to the light.

Did they turn thankfully homeward and leave the grim Vignemale to its isolation? They did not. They grimly went on with the attack. Before darkness had fallen, they stood upon the summit, the first human beings to accomplish the feat. They had to spend the night upon the mountain, but it was as their subject realm.

The lake itself is perhaps a mile across, and is exceedingly deep. The mountains crowd close to its edge, here wooded, there running off in long sweeps of rubbly waste, again starting sharply upward from the water. Close by the path, a tongue of rock runs out into the lake, and on this still stands the little shaft, enclosed with iron palisades,

“A broken chancel with a broken cross,
That stood on a dark strait of barren land,

a monument to a young Englishman and his wife, who were drowned here more than fifty years ago. They were on their wedding trip, and had come to the Lac de Gaube; they took a small boat for a row, and by a never-explained accident lost their lives together. The pathetic inscription reads:

“This tablet is dedicated to the memory of William Henry Pattisson, of Lincoln’s Inn, London, Esq., barrister at law; and of Susan Frances, his wife; who, in the 31st and 26th years of their age, and within one month of their marriage, to the inexpressible grief of their surviving relations and friends, were accidentally drowned together in this lake, on the 20th day of September, 1832. Their remains were conveyed to England, and interred there at Witham, in the County of Essex.”

A party of jolly, black-garbed priests have been journeying up the path behind us from the Pont d’Espagne. They now come out from the inn upon the scene of action. Their cordial faces attract us at once; they approach our little summer-house, and conversation opens on both sides, with nation, tongue and creed soon in genial comity. Two of these men are young; their features, refined and thoughtful, are those of students; all are as fun-loving as boys out of school. They investigate the camera with great interest, and ask about our plans and travels, and tell us about their own. They invite us to join in a row on the lake, but we are mindful of the soufflet in near readiness; so they finally push out from the shore, charmed to oblige by forming the foreground for a photograph.

Other arrivals, two or three, are now at the inn, for the Lac de Gaube is a “required course” for all visitors to Cauterets. We are guilefully glad we preempted the trout. It is a very substantial little meal they serve, in this wilderness of rock and fir, where every supply except fish must be carried up, as it were, piecemeal. The proprietor does well in the catering line, but less well, he mourns to us, on his boats. It is that monument. The pale shaft is a constant memento mori. It suggests tragic possibilities. It always chills the tourist’s enthusiasm for a row, and generally freezes it altogether. With good reason, it seems, may mine host complain bitterly of its flattening effects on the boat-trade; and there is a dark whisper in Cauterets that, were the shaft not so closely enveloped both in religious sanctity and in municipal protection, it would some night mysteriously disappear.

VI.

The sun still blazes down upon the motionless lake, as we walk out once more for a long gaze toward the snows of the Vignemale. We try to trace out the route to its perilous summits, and conjecture the direction taken by Cantouz and Guilhembert when they made that grim first ascent; and our guide, approaching now with the horses, points out the direction afterward taken by Whymper and himself. We settle our account for the repast, an account by no means exorbitant; wraps are re-cylindered and re-strapped, and we are soon on the return path downward through the woods. The saddles pitch like skiffs at sea. These Pyrenean horses are far more pronounced in their motions than the lowly Swiss mule. One by one the ladies dismount, and for the steep portions at least the horses go riderless, and no doubt secretly exult in their own shortcomings.

We pass the Pont d’Espagne, the roar of whose cataract is cheering the waiting hours of its solitary refreshment-seller. We plunge into the thicker leafage below, striding fast, or staying to lend hands from stone to stone or around the patches of wet ground. The woods echo with the noise of the brook, and now and then with the crack of a distant rifle; and finally we are down again to the first hut and taverner and the Cerizet fall. Now the ladies can spring comfortably up to their saddles once more, and the carriage-road is a welcome change from the lumpy bridle-path which we are leaving behind.

We keep on in the mid-afternoon along the road, the horses led by the guide and ambling placidly along, the rest of us briskly afoot. The spring-houses are reached in due succession, and finally we are at the Raillere once more, where we have planned to take the omnibus which runs half-hourly to Cauterets. And so we buy our tickets, pay the guide, with a double douceur for his mountaineering reminiscences, and are soon rattling down the hill toward the town, and studying another priest, a fat, stubby friar on the opposite seat, who is conning his breviary, murmuring his orisons, and glancing wickedly about with his beady little eyes. There is also a gorgeously attired French dowager aboard, and a sprightly soldier; and in the interest of watching them all and the joy of repose against the padded leather cushions, we lose the idea of time until we draw up in the little plaza of Cauterets again, ‘at half-past four by the meet’n’-house clock.’