Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands - Volume 2 - By Harriet Beecher Stowe




































































































 -  Indeed, all the way from the Sardinian frontier
we had been dogged by beggars continually. Parents seemed to look upon - Page 60
Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands - Volume 2 - By Harriet Beecher Stowe - Page 60 of 119 - First - Home

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Indeed, All The Way From The Sardinian Frontier We Had Been Dogged By Beggars Continually.

Parents seemed to look upon their children as valuable only for this purpose; the very baby in arms is taught to make a pitiful little whine, and put out its fat hand, if your eye rests on it.

The fact is, they are poor - poor because invention, enterprise, and intellectual vigor - all that surrounds the New England mountain farmer with competence and comfort - are quenched and dead, by the combined influence of a religion and government whose interest it is to keep people stupid that they may be manageable. Yet the Savoyards, as a race, it seems to me, are naturally intelligent; and I cannot but hope that the liberal course lately adopted by the Sardinian government may at last reach them. My heart yearns over many of the bright, pretty children, whose little hands have been up, from time to time, around our carriage. I could not help thinking what good schools and good instruction might do for them. It is not their fault, poor little things, that they are educated to whine and beg, and grow up rude, uncultured, to bring forth another set of children just like themselves; but what to do with them is the question. One generally begins with giving money; but a day or two of experience shows that it would be just about as hopeful to feed the locusts of Egypt on a loaf of bread. But it is hard to refuse children, especially to a mother who has left five or six at home, and who fancies she sees, in some of these little eager, childish faces, something now and then that reminds her of her own. For my part, I got schooled so that I could stand them all, except the little toddling three-year olds - they fairly overcame me. So I supplied my pocket with a quantity of sugar lozenges, for the relief of my own mind. I usually found the little fellows looked exceedingly delighted when they discovered the nature of the coin. Children are unsophisticated, and like sugar better than silver, any day.

In this _auberge_ was a little chamois kid, of which fact we were duly apprised, when we got out, by a board put up, which said, "Here one can see a live chamois." The little live representative of chamoisdom came skipping out with the most amiable unconsciousness, and went through his paces for our entertainment with as much propriety as a New England child says his catechism. He hopped up on a table after some green leaves, which were then economically used to make him hop down again. The same illusive prospect was used to make him jump over a stick, and perform a number of other evolutions. I could not but admire the sweetness of temper with which he took all this tantalizing, and the innocence with which he chewed his cabbage leaf after he got it, not harboring a single revengeful thought at us for the trouble we had given him. Of course the issue of the matter was, that we all paid a few sous for the sight - not to the chamois, which would have been the most equitable way, but to those who had appropriated his gifts and graces to eke out their own convenience.

"Where's his mother?" said I, desiring to enlarge my sphere of natural history as much as possible.

"_On a tue sa mere_" - "They have killed his mother," was the reply, cool enough.

There we had the whole story. His enterprising neighbors had invaded the domestic hearth, shot his mother, and eaten her up, made her skin into chamois leather, and were keeping him till he got big enough for the same disposition, using his talents meanwhile to turn a penny upon; yet not a word of all this thought he; not a bit the less heartily did he caper; never speculated a minute on why it was, on the origin of evil, or any thing of the sort; or, if he did, at least never said a word about it. I gave one good look into his soft, round, glassy eyes, and could see nothing there but the most tranquil contentment. He had finished his cabbage leaf, and we had finished our call; so we will go on.

It was now drawing towards evening, and the air began to be sensibly and piercingly cold. One effect of this mountain air on myself is, to bring on the most acute headache that I ever recollect to have felt. Still, the increasing glory and magnificence of the scenery overcame bodily fatigue. Mont Blanc, and his army of white-robed brethren, rose before us in the distance, glorious as the four and twenty elders around the great white throne. The wonderful gradations of coloring in this Alpine landscape are not among the least of its charms. How can I describe it? Imagine yourself standing with me on this projecting rock, overlooking a deep, piny gorge, through which flow the brawling waters of the Arve. On the other side of this rise mountains whose heaving swells of velvet green, cliffs and dark pines, are fully made out and colored; behind this mountain, rises another, whose greens are softened and shaded, and seem to be seen through a purplish veil; behind that rises another, of a decided cloud-like purple; and in the next still the purple tint changes to rosy lilac; while above all, like another world up in the sky, mingling its tints with the passing clouds, sometimes obscured by them, and then breaking out between them, lie the glacier regions. These glaciers, in the setting sun, look like rivers of light pouring down from the clouds. Such was the scene, which I remember with perfect distinctness as enchaining my attention on one point of the road.

We had now got up to the valley of Chamouni. I looked before me, and saw, lying in the lap of the green valley, a gigantic pile of icy pillars, which, seen through the trees, at first suggested the idea of a cascade.

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