Page:Whymper - Scrambles amongst the Alps.djvu/162

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124
chap. v.
SCRAMBLES AMONGST THE ALPS.

Carrel was not an easy man to manage. He was perfectly aware that he was the cock of the Val Tournanche, and he commanded the other men as by right. He was equally conscious that he was indispensable to me, and took no pains to conceal his knowledge of the fact. If he had been commanded, or if he had been entreated to stop, it would have been all the same. But, let me repeat, he was the only first-rate climber I could find who believed that the mountain was not inaccessible. With him I had hopes, but without him none; so he was allowed to do as he would. His will on this occasion was almost incomprehensible. He certainly could not be charged with cowardice, for a bolder man could hardly be found; nor was he turning away on account of difficulty, for nothing to which we had yet come seemed to be difficult to him; and his strong personal desire to make the ascent was evident. There was no occasion to come down on account of food, for we had taken, to guard against this very casualty, enough to last for a week; and there was no danger, and little or no discomfort, in stopping in the tent. It seemed to me that he was spinning out the ascent for his own purposes, and that although he wished very much to be the first man on the top, and did not object to be accompanied by any one else who had the same wish, he had no intention of letting one succeed too soon,—perhaps to give a greater appearance of eclat when the thing was accomplished. As he feared no rival, he may have supposed that the more difficulties he made the more valuable he would be estimated; though, to do him justice, he never showed any great hunger for money. His demands were fair, not excessive; but he always stipulated for so much per clay, and so, under any circumstances, he did not do badly.

Vexed at having my time thus frittered away, I was still well pleased when he volunteered to start again on the morrow, if it was fine. We were to advance the tent to the foot of the Tower, to fix ropes in the most difficult parts beyond, and to make a push for the summit on the following day.

The next morning (Friday the 25th) when I arose, good little