Page:Whymper - Scrambles amongst the Alps.djvu/164

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chap. v.

We came down at a great pace, for we were now so familiar with the mountain, and with each other's wants, that we knew immediately when to give a helping hand, and when to let alone. The rocks also were in a better state than I have ever seen them, being almost entirely free from glaze of ice. Meynet was always merriest on the difficult parts, and, on the most difficult, kept on enunciating the sentiment, "We can only die once," which thought seemed to afford him infinite satisfaction. We arrived at the inn early in the evening, and I found my projects summarily and unexpectedly knocked on the head.

Professor Tyndall had arrived while we were absent, and he had engaged both Cæsar and Jean-Antoine Carrel. Bennen was also with him, together with a powerful and active friend, a Valaisan guide, named Anton Walter. They had a ladder already prepared, provisions were being collected, and they intended to start on the following morning (Sunday). This new arrival took me by surprise. Bennen, it will be remembered, refused point-blank to take Professor Tyndall on the Matterhorn in 1861. "He was dead against any attempt on the mountain," says Tyndall. He was now eager to set out. Professor Tyndall has not explained in what way this revolution came about in his guide. I was equally astonished at the faithlessness of Carrel, and attributed it to pique at our having presumed to do without him. It was useless to compete with the Professor and his four men, who were ready to start in a few hours, so I waited to see what would come of their attempt.

Everything seemed to favour it, and they set out on a fine morning in high spirits, leaving me tormented with envy and all uncharitableness. If they succeeded, they carried off the prize for which I had been so long struggling; and if they failed, there was

100 feet higher than my scramble on the 19th) there were smooth walls seven or eight feet high in every direction, which were impassable to a single man, and which could only be surmounted by the assistance of ladders, or by using one's comrades as ladders.