Page:1880. A Tramp Abroad.djvu/452

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
432
A CRUEL DISAPPOINTMENT.

condition to climb it. Every attempt failed, and ended in crippling somebody. Within twenty minutes I had five men on crutches. Whenever a climber tried to assist himself by the rope, it yielded and let him tumble backwards. The frequency of this result suggested an idea to me. I ordered the caravan to 'bout face and form in marching order; I then made the tow-rope fast to the rear mule, and gave the command,—

"Mark time—by the right flank—forward—march!"

A Tramp Abroad 0452h.jpg

The procession began to move, to the impressive strains of a battle-chant, and I said to myself, "Now, if the rope don't break I judge this will fetch that guide into the camp," I watched the rope gliding down the hill, and presently when I was all fixed for triumph I was confronted by a bitter disappointment: there was no guide tied to the rope, it was only a very indignant old black ram. The fury of the baffled Expedition exceeded all bounds. They even wanted to wreak their unreasoning vengeance on this innocent dumb brute. But stood between them and their prey, menaced by a bristling wall of ice-axes and alpenstocks, and proclaimed that there was but one road to this murder, and it was directly over my corse. Even as I spoke I saw that my doom was sealed, except a miracle supervened to divert these madmen from their fell purpose. I see that sickening wall of weapons now; I see that advancing host as I saw it then, I see the hate in those cruel eyes; I remember how I drooped my head upon my breast, I feel again the sudden earthquake shock in my rear, administered by the very ram I was sacrificing myself to save, I bear once more the typhoon of laughter that