McClure's Magazine, Vol. VI., No. 6, May, 1896
Part 3 out of 4
"But I am not with you--I am with the people! The island is theirs and
mine. It is not yours. I will have no part in giving it to you."
"I wasn't proposing to take pay for my hospitality," said I. "It'll be
hardly handsome enough for that, I'm afraid. But mightn't we leave that
question for the moment?" And I described briefly to her our present
"So that," I concluded, "while I maintain my claim to the island, I am
at present more interested in keeping a whole skin on myself and my
"If you will not give it up, I can do nothing," said she. "Though they
knew Constantine to be all you say, yet they would follow him and not me
if I yielded the island. Indeed, they would most likely follow him in
any case. For the Neopalians like a man to follow, and they like that
man to be a Stefanopoulos; so they would shut their eyes to much, in
order that Constantine might marry me and become lord."
She stated all this in a matter-of-fact way, disclosing no great horror
of her countrymen's moral standard. The straightforward barbarousness of
it perhaps appealed to her a little; she loathed the man who would rule
on those terms, but had some toleration for the people who set the true
dynasty above all else. And she spoke of her proposed marriage as though
it were a natural arrangement.
"I shall have to marry him, I expect, in spite of everything," she said.
I pushed my chair back violently. My English respectability was
"Marry him?" I cried. "Why, he murdered the old lord!"
"That has happened before among the Stefanopouloi," said Euphrosyne,
with a calmness dangerously near to pride.
"And he proposes to murder his wife," I added.
"Perhaps he will get rid of her without that." She paused; then came the
anger I had looked for before. "Ah, but how dared he swear that he had
thought of no one but me and loved me passionately? He shall pay for
that." Again it was injured pride that rang in her voice, as in her
first cry. It did not sound like love, and for that I was glad. The
courtship had probably been an affair of state rather than affection. I
did not ask how Constantine was to be made to pay, whether before or
after marriage. I was struggling between horror and amusement at my
guest's point of view. But I take leave to have a will of my own, even
sometimes in matters that are not exactly my concern, and I said now,
with a composure that rivalled Euphrosyne's: "It is out of the question
that you should marry him. I'm going to get him hanged, and, anyhow, it
would be atrocious."
She smiled at that, but then she leant forward and asked:
"How long have you provisions for?"
"That's a good retort," I admitted. "A few days; that's all. And we
can't get out to procure any more; and we can't go shooting, because the
wood's infested with these ruff--I beg pardon--with your countrymen."
"Then it seems to me," said Euphrosyne, "that you and your friends are
more likely to be hanged."
Well, on a dispassionate consideration, it did seem more likely; but she
need not have said so. And she went on with an equally discouraging good
"There will be a boat from Rhodes in about a month or six weeks. The
officer will come then to take the tribute; perhaps the governor will
come. But till then nobody will visit the island, unless it be a few
fishermen from Cyprus."
"Fishermen? Where do they land? At the harbor?"
"No. My people do not like them, though the governor threatens to send
troops if we do not let them land. So they come to a little creek at the
opposite end of the island, on the other side of the mountain. Ah, what
are you thinking of?"
As Euphrosyne perceived, her words had put a new idea in my mind. If I
could reach that creek and find the fishermen and persuade them to help
me, or to carry me and my party off, that hanging might happen to the
right man, after all.
"You're thinking you can reach them?" she cried.
"You don't seem sure that you want me to," I observed.
"Oh, how can I tell what I want? If I help you, I am betraying the
island. If I do not--"
"You'll have a death or two at your door, and you'll marry the biggest
scoundrel in Europe," said I.
She hung her head, and plucked fretfully at the embroidery on the neck
of her dress.
"But, anyhow, you couldn't reach them," she said. "You are close
That, again, seemed true, so true that it put me in a very bad temper.
Therefore I rose, and, leaving her without much ceremony, strolled into
the kitchen. Here I found Watkins dressing the cow's head, Hogvardt
surrounded by knives, and Denny lying on a rug on the floor with a small
book, which he seemed to be reading. He looked up with a smile that he.
"Well, what does the captive queen say?" he asked with levity.
"She proposes to marry Constantine," I answered, and added quickly to
Hogvardt: "What's the game with those knives, Hog?"
"Well, my lord," said Hogvardt, surveying his dozen murderous
instruments, "I thought there was no harm in putting an edge on them, in
case we should find a use for them;" and he fell to grinding one with
"I say, Charlie, I wonder what this yarn's about? I can't construe half
of it. It's in Greek, and it's something about Neopalia, and there's a
lot about a Stefanopoulos."
"Is there? Let's see;" and taking the book I sat down to look at it. It
was a slim old book, bound in calfskin. The Greek was written in an
antique style; it was verse. I turned to the title-page. "Hullo, this is
rather interesting," I exclaimed. "It's about the death of old
Stefanopoulos--the man they sing that song about, you know."
In fact, I had got hold of the poem which One-eyed Alexander composed.
Its length was about three hundred lines, exclusive of the refrain which
the islanders had chanted, and which was inserted six times, occurring
at the end of each fifty lines. The rest was written in rather barbarous
iambics; and the sentiments were quite as barbarous as the verse. It
told the whole story, and I ran rapidly over it, translating here and
there for the benefit of my companions. The arrival of the Baron
d'Ezonville recalled our own with curious exactness, except that he came
with one servant only. He had been taken to the inn, as I had, but he
had never escaped from there, and had been turned adrift the morning
after his arrival. I took more interest in Stefan, and followed eagerly
the story of how the islanders had come to his house, and demanded that
he should revoke the sale. Stefan, however, was obstinate; it lost the
lives of four of his assailants before his house was forced. Thus far I
read, and expected to find next an account of a _melee_ in the
hall. But here the story took a turn unexpected by me, one that might
make the reading of the old poem more than a mere pastime.
"But when they had broken in," said One-eyed Alexander, "behold, the
hall was empty and the house empty! And they stood amazed. But the two
cousins of the lord, who had been the hottest in seeking his death, put
all the rest to the door, and were themselves alone in the house; for
the secret was known to them who were of the blood of the Stefanopouloi.
Unto me, the bard, it is not known. Yet men say they went beneath the
earth, and there in the earth found the lord. And certain it is they
slew him, for in a space they came forth to the door bearing his head,
and they showed it to the people, who answered with a great shout. But
the cousins went back, barring the door again; and again, when but a few
minutes had passed, they came forth, and opened the door, and the elder
of them, being now by the traitor's death become lord, bade the people
in and made a great feast for them. But the head of Stefan none saw
again, nor did any see his body; but the body and head were gone,
whither none know saving the noble blood of the Stefanopouloi; for
utterly they disappeared, and the secret was securely kept."
I read this passage aloud, translating as I went. At the end Denny drew
"Well, if there aren't ghosts in this house, there ought to be," he
remarked. "What the deuce did those rascals do with the old gentleman,
"It says 'they went beneath the earth.'"
"The cellar," suggested Hogvardt, who had a prosaic mind.
"But they wouldn't leave the body in the cellar," I objected; "and if,
as this fellow says, they were only away a few minutes, they couldn't
have dug a grave for it. And then it says that they 'there in the earth
found the lord'!"
"It would have been more interesting," said Denny, "if they'd told
Alexander a bit more about it. However, I suppose he consoles himself
with his chant again?"
"He does. It follows immediately on what I've read, and so the thing
ends." And I sat looking at the little yellow volume. "Where did you
find it, Denny?" I said.
"Oh, on a shelf in the corner of the hall, between the Bible and a Life
I got up and walked back to the hall. I looked round. Euphrosyne was not
there. I inspected the hall door; it was still locked on the inside. I
mounted the stairs, and called at the door of her room; when no answer
came I pushed it open and took the liberty of glancing round; she was
not there. I called again, for I thought she might have passed along the
way over the hall and reached the roof, as she had done before. This
time I called loudly. Silence followed for a moment. Then came an
answer, in a hurried, rather apologetic tone, "Here I am." But then the
answer came, not from the direction that I had expected, but from the
hall. And looking over the balustrade, I saw Euphrosyne sitting in the
"This," said I, going down-stairs, "taken in conjunction with this," and
I patted One-eyed Alexander's book, which I held in my hand, "is
certainly curious and suggestive." "Here I am," said Euphrosyne, with an
air that added, "I've not moved. What are you shouting for?"
"Yes, but you weren't there a minute ago," I observed, reaching the hall
and walking across to her.
She looked disturbed and embarrassed.
"Where have you been?" I asked.
"Must I give an account of every movement?" said she, trying to cover
her confusion with a show of haughty offence.
The coincidence was really a remarkable one; it was as hard to account
for Euphrosyne's disappearance and reappearance as for the vanished head
and body of old Stefan. I had a conviction, based on a sudden intuition,
that one explanation must lie at the root of both these curious things,
that the secret of which Alexander spoke was a secret still hidden,
hidden from my eyes but known to the girl before me, the daughter of the
"I won't ask you where you've been, if you don't wish to tell me," said
She bowed her head in recognition of my indulgence.
"But there is one question I should like to ask you," I pursued, "if
you'll be so kind as to answer it."
"Well, what is it?"
"Where was Stefan Stefanopoulos killed, and what became of his body?"
As I put my question I flung One-eyed Alexander's book open on the table
She started visibly, crying, "Where did you get that?"
I told her how Denny had found it, and I added:
"Now, what does 'beneath the earth' mean? You are one of the house, and
you must know."
"Yes, I know, but I must not tell you. We are all bound by the most
sacred oath to tell no one."
"Who told you?"
"My uncle. The boys of our house are told when they are fifteen, the
girls when they are sixteen. No one else knows."
"And why is that?"
She hesitated, fearing perhaps that her answer would itself tend to
betray the secret.
"I dare tell you nothing," she said. "The oath binds me; and it binds
every one of my kindred to kill me if I break it."
"But you've no kindred left except Constantine," I objected.
"He is enough. He would kill me."
"Sooner than marry you?" I suggested, rather maliciously.
"Yes, if I broke the oath."
"Hang the oath!" said I, impatiently. "The thing might help us. Did they
bury Stefan somewhere under the house?"
"No, he was not buried," she answered.
"Then they brought him up, and got rid of his body when the islanders
"You must think what you will."
"I'll find it out," said I. "If I pull the house down, I'll find it. Is
it a secret door or--"
She had colored at the question. I put the latter part in a low, eager
voice, for hope had come to me.
"Is it a way out?" I asked, leaning over to her.
She sat mute, but irresolute, embarrassed and fretful.
"Heavens!" I cried, impatiently, "it may mean life or death to all of
us, and you boggle over your oath!"
My rude impatience met with a rebuke that it perhaps deserved. With a
glance of the utmost scorn, Euphrosyne asked, coldly:
"And what are the lives of all of you to me?"
"True, I forgot," said I with a bitter politeness. "I beg your pardon. I
did you all the service I could last night, and now I and my friends may
as well die as live! But I'll pull this place to ruin but I'll find your
I was walking up and down now in a state of some excitement. My brain
was fired with the thought of stealing a march on Constantine through
the discovery of his own family secret.
Suddenly Euphrosyne gave a little soft clap with her hands. It was over
in a minute, and she sat blushing, confused, trying to look as if she
had not done it at all.
"What did you do that for?" I asked, stopping in front of her.
"Nothing," said Euphrosyne.
"Oh, I don't believe that," said I.
She looked at me. "I didn't mean to do it," she said again. "But can't
you guess why?"
"There's too much guessing to be done here," said I, impatiently; and I
started walking again. But presently I heard a voice say softly, and in
a tone that seemed to address nobody in particular--me least of all:
"We Neopalians like a man who can be angry, and I began to think you
"I am not the least angry," said I, with great indignation. I hate being
told that I am angry when I am merely showing firmness.
Now, at this protest of mine Euphrosyne saw fit to laugh--the most
hearty laugh she had given since I had known her. The mirthfulness of it
undermined my wrath. I stood still opposite her, biting the end of my
"You may laugh," said I, "but I'm not angry; and I shall pull this house
down--or dig it up--in cold blood, in perfectly cold blood."
"You are angry," said Euphrosyne, "and you say you're not. You are like
my father. He would stamp his foot furiously like that and say, 'I am
not angry, I am not angry, Phroso.'"
Phroso! I had forgotten that diminutive of my guest's classical name. It
rather pleased me, and I repeated it gently after her, "Phroso, Phroso,"
and I'm afraid I eyed the little foot that had stamped so bravely.
"He always called me Phroso. Oh, I wish he were alive! Then
"Since he isn't," said I, sitting by Phroso (I must write it, it's a
deal shorter)--by Phroso's elbow--"since he isn't, I'll look after
Constantine. It would be a pity to spoil the house, wouldn't it?"
"I've sworn," said Phroso.
"Circumstances alter oaths," said I, bending till I was very near
"Ah," said Phroso, reproachfully, "that's what lovers say when they find
another more beautiful than their old love."
I shot away from Phroso's ear with a sudden backward start. Her remark,
somehow, came home to me with a very remarkable force. I got off the
table, and stood opposite to her, in an awkward and stiff attitude.
"I am compelled to ask you for the last time if you will tell me the
secret," said I, in the coldest of tones.
She looked up with surprise. My altered manner may well have amazed her.
She did not know the reason of it.
"You asked me kindly and--and pleasantly, and I would not. Now you ask
me as if you threatened," she said. "Is it likely I should tell you
Well, I was angry with myself, and with her because she had made me
angry with myself; and, the next minute, I became furiously angry with
Denny, whom I found standing in the doorway that led to the kitchen,
with a grin of intense amusement on his face.
"What are you grinning at?" I demanded fiercely.
"Oh, nothing," said Denny, and his face strove to assume a prudent
"Bring a pickaxe," said I.
Denny's face wandered toward Phroso. "Is she as annoying as that?" he
seemed to ask. "A pickaxe?" he repeated in surprised tones.
"Yes, two pickaxes! I'm going to have this floor up, and see if I can
find out the great Stefanopoulos secret." I spoke with an accent of
Again Phroso laughed; her hands beat very softly against one another.
Heavens, what did she do that for when Denny was there, watching
everything with those shrewd eyes of his?
"The pickaxes!" I roared.
Denny turned and fled; a moment elapsed; I did not know what to do, how
to look at Phroso, or how not to look at her. I took refuge in flight. I
rushed into the kitchen on pretence of aiding or hastening Denny's
search. I found him taking up an old pick that stood near the door
leading to the compound. I seized it from his hand.
"Confound you!" I cried, for Denny laughed openly at me; and I rushed
back to the hall! But on the threshold I paused--and said what I will
For, though there came from somewhere just the last ripple of a mirthful
laugh, the hall was empty! Phroso was gone! I flung the pickaxe down
with a clatter on the boards, and exclaimed in my haste:
"I wish to heaven I'd never bought the island!"
But I did not mean that really.
(_To be continued._)
CLIMBING MONT BLANC IN A BLIZZARD.
CAUGHT IN A BLINDING SNOW STORM ON A NARROW CLIFF, TWO AND A HALF
MILES ABOVE SEA LEVEL.
BY GARRETT P. SERVISS,
Author of "Astronomy with an Opera Glass," "Climbing the Matterhorn,"
[Footnote 15: See MCCLURE'S MAGAZINE for September, 1895.]
Standing on the spindling tower of the Matterhorn early one August
morning in 1894 I saw, for the first time, the white crown of Europe,
Mont Blanc, with its snows sparkling high above the roof of clouds that
covered the dozing summer in the valleys of Piedmont. Just one year
later I started from Chamonix to climb to that cool world in the blue.
My guide was Ambroise Couttet, whose family name is famous in the
mountaineering annals of Savoy. An earlier Ambroise Couttet lies in the
icy bosom of Mont Blanc, fallen, years ago, down a crevasse so profound
that his would-be rescuers were drawn, baffled, awe-struck, and with
shaking nerves, from its horrible depths, whose bottom they could not
find. Even before that time Pierre Couttet had been whirled to death on
the great peak, and his body, embedded and preserved in a glacier, was
found nearly half a century afterward at its foot. And two other
Couttets of past years escaped, by the merest hair of miraculous
fortune, from a catastrophe on the same dreadful slopes in which three
of their comrades were swallowed up. Yet the Ambroise Couttet of to-day
is never so happy as when he is on the mountain. His eyes sparkle if he
hears the thunder of an avalanche, and he smiles as he watches its
tossing white crest ploughing swiftly across some snowy incline which he
has just traversed.
One porter sufficed, for my only traps consisted of a hand camera, a
field-glass, and a few extra woollen shirts and stockings. Having had no
serious exercise since climbing the Matterhorn a year before, I deemed
it prudent to spare my strength for the more important work above by
taking a mule to the Pierre Pointue. It was a fine morning, offering a
promise of favorable weather after several days of mist and rain.
Monsieur Janssen, the French astronomer, who was waiting at Chamonix for
his porters to complete their long and wearisome labor of transporting
piecemeal his telescope and other instruments of observation to the
summit, before making the ascent himself, said, grasping my arm at
"I wish you good luck; good weather you are sure of."
[Illustration: COL DE BLANC, MONT BLANC.
From a photograph loaned by Mr. Frank Hegger, New York.]
It was high authority, for Monsieur Janssen has studied the weather all
his life, and knows the atmosphere of mountain peaks and of the airy
levels where balloons float; yet if he could have foreseen what was to
occur on Mont Blanc within twenty hours, he would have wished me the
good fortune of being somewhere else.
It was past the middle of the forenoon of the 10th of August when, with
Couttet and the porter, I left Chamonix. Dismissing my tired mule at the
Pierre Pointue, which hangs with its flag nearly seven thousand feet
above sea level, and high over the seracs of the Glacier des Bossons, we
began the ascent by way of the Pierre a l'Echelle and over the
missile-scarred foot of the Aiguille du Midi. The upper part of this
mountain as seen from Chamonix looks quite sharp-pointed enough to
deserve its name of the "Needle of the South." The side toward the
Glacier des Bossons is exceedingly steep, and when the snows are melting
the peak becomes a perfect catapult, volleys of ice and stones being
discharged from its lofty precipices. The falling rocks, dropping, as
some of them do, from ledge to ledge half a mile, acquire the velocity
of cannon shots. Nobody ever lingers on this part of the route, and we
had no desire to pause, although the Aiguille sends comparatively few
stones down so late in the summer.
The sun beat furiously while we were scrambling on the rocks, and the
latter were warm to the touch, although, thousands of feet below, the
immense cleft in the mountain side was choked with masses of
"Never mind," said Couttet, as I stopped to wipe the perspiration from
my face, "it will be cool enough when we get onto the glacier."
And it was--so cool in fact that I hastily pulled on my coat. Having
passed out of range of the Aiguille du Midi, we found comfortable going
on the ice.
[Illustration: THE MAUVAIS PAS, MONT BLANC.]
DIFFICULTIES AND DANGERS OF THE ROUTE.
The northern slope of Mont Blanc is hollowed into a vast cavernous
channel, half filled with glaciers, and edged on the east by the Mont
Maudit, the Aiguille de Saussure, and the Aiguille du Midi, and on the
west by the Dome and Aiguille du Gouter and the Gros Bechat. Down this
tremendous gutter crowd the eternal snows of Mont Blanc, compressed
toward the bottom into the Glacier des Bossons and the Glacier de
Taconnaz. These immense ice streams are separated by the projecting nose
of the Montagne de la Cote, which rises from the valley of Chamonix and
lies in a long, dark ridge on the foot of Mont Blanc. Above the Montagne
de la Cote several gigantic rock masses, shooting into pinnacles, push
up through the ice from the bottom and near the centre of the channel.
These are called the Grands Mulets, from the resemblance which they
present, when seen from Chamonix, to a row of huge black mules tramping
up the white mountain side.
[Illustration: THE GLACIER DES BOSSONS, MONT BLANC.]
I mention these features because the best route to the summit of Mont
Blanc lies over the glaciers and snow fields and between the walls of
the great trough I have described, and the first station is at the
Grands Mulets, where a cabin for the accommodation of climbers has
existed for many years. From the foot of the Aiguille du Midi, at the
Pierre a l'Echelle, across the Glacier des Bossons to the rocks of the
Grands Mulets the distance is about a mile and a quarter, and the
perpendicular increase of elevation nearly two thousand feet. The
passage seldom presents any difficulty, except to inexperienced persons,
although at times many crevasses must be crossed, particularly at what
is called the Junction, just above the point where the Glacier des
Bossons and the Glacier de Taconnaz are divided by the Montagne de la
Cote. Here some underlying irregularity of the rocks, deep beneath the
surface of the mighty river of ice, causes the formation of a labyrinth
of fissures and crevasses, overhung with towering seracs, or ice
turrets; and the ice descends between the Grands Mulets and the rock
wall in front of the Gros Bechat in a sort of motionless
cascade--motionless, that is to say, except when cracks break apart into
yawning chasms, and massive blocks tumble into the depths.
Even a practised climber is occasionally compelled to look to his steps
in passing the Junction. On my return I witnessed an accident in this
place which proved at the same time the reality of the danger and the
usefulness in sudden crises of the mountaineer's rope. A tourist
descending from the Grands Mulets was passing, under an impending serac,
around the head of a crevasse, where the only footway was a few inches
of ice hewn with the axe. Being heedless or nervous, his feet shot from
under him, and with a yell he plunged into the pit. Luckily, he was tied
to the rope between two guides, one of whom had passed the dangerous
corner, while the other, behind, had also a safe footing. As he fell the
guides braced themselves, the rope zipped, and the unfortunate
adventurer hung clutching and kicking at the polished blue wall. He had
really descended but a few feet into the crevasse, though to him
doubtless it seemed a hundred, and with a surprising display of
strength, or skill, the guides hauled him out by simply tightening the
rope. One of them pulled back and the other forward, and between them
the sprawling victim rose with the strain to the brink of the chasm,
where a third man dexterously caught and landed him.
[Illustration: REFUGE STATION AT THE GRANDS MULETS, MONT BLANC.]
Madame Marke and Olivier Gay were not so fortunate near this spot in
1870. A bridge of snow spanning a crevasse gave way beneath them, and,
the rope breaking, they disappeared and perished in the abyss.
We reached the Grands Mulets in the middle of the afternoon. Here the
great majority of amateur climbers are content to terminate their ascent
of Mont Blanc. The experience of getting as far as this point and back
again is, as the incidents just related show, anything but
insignificant, and may prove not only exciting but even tragic. Yet, of
course, the real work, the tug of war between human endurance and the
obstacles of untamed nature, is above. The Grands Mulets formed the
stopping place in some of the earliest attempts to climb Mont Blanc,
more than a hundred years ago. Here Jacques Balmat, the hero of the
first ascent, passed an awful night alone, amid the cracking of glaciers
and the shaking of avalanches, before his final victory over the peak in
1786. In the spirit which led the Romans to surname the conqueror of
Hannibal "Scipio Africanus," the exultant Chamonniards called their hero
"Balmat de Mont Blanc." He, too, finally perished by a fall from a
precipice in 1834, and to-day there are those who whisper that his
spirit can be seen flitting over the snowy wastes before every new
The cabin at the Grands Mulets is furnished with rough bunks and cooking
apparatus, and during the summer a woman, Adele Balmat, assisted by the
guides, acts as hostess for this high-perched "inn," ten thousand feet
above sea level.
It is customary to leave the Grands Mulets for the ascent to the summit
soon after midnight, in order to get over the immense snow slopes before
the action of the sun has loosened the avalanches and weakened the
crevasse bridges. But we did not start until half-past three in the
morning. The waning moon, hanging over the Dome du Gouter, gave
sufficient light to render a lantern unnecessary, and dawn was near at
hand. Threatening bands of clouds attracted anxious glances from
Couttet, and it was evident that a change of weather impended. But we
clambered over the rocks to the crevassed slopes below the Gouter, and
We were now approaching the higher and narrower portion of the immense
cleft or channel in the mountain that I have described. On our right
towered the Dome du Gouter, and on the left the walls of the Mont Maudit
and its outlying pinnacles. Snowy ridges and peaks shone afar in the
moonlight on all sides. It was a wilderness of white.
[Illustration: ADELE BALMAT, HOSTESS AT THE GRANDS MULETS STATION.]
At the height of twelve thousand feet we came upon the Petit Plateau, a
comparatively horizontal lap of snow which is frequently swept clear
across with avalanches of ice descending from the enormous seracs that
hang like cornices upon the precipices above. The frosty splinters of a
recent downfall sparkled and crunched under our feet. It is one of the
most dangerous places on the mountain. "Men have lost their lives here
and will again lose them," is the remark of Mr. Conway, the Himalayan
climber, in describing his passage of the place. "Many times I have
crossed it," said Monsieur Vallot, the mountain meteorologist, last
summer, "but never without a sinking of the heart, and the moment we are
over the Petit Plateau I always hear my guides, trained and fearless
men, mutter, 'Once more we are out of it.'"
Knowing these things, it is needless to say that I found the Petit
Plateau keenly interesting. The menacing seracs leaned from the cliffs,
glittering icily, and threw black shadows upon the _neve_ beneath,
but suffered us to pass unmolested.
Above the Petit Plateau is a steep ascent called the Grands Montees
which taxes the breath. Having surmounted this, we were on the Grand
Plateau, a much wider level than the other, edged with tremendous ice
cliffs and crevasses, and situated at an elevation of thirteen thousand
feet. For some time now it had been broad day, but the clouds had
thickened rapidly, and the summit was wrapped and completely hidden in
them. Blasts of frigid wind began to whistle about us, driving stinging
pellets of ice into our faces. We quickened our steps, for it would not
do to be caught in a storm here. The Grand Plateau has taken more lives
than its ill-starred neighbor below.
A BLINDING STORM OF SNOW AND WIND.
We now bore off to the right, in order to clamber up the side of the
great channel, or depression, that we had thus far followed, because at
its upper end, where it meets the base of the crowning pyramid of Mont
Blanc, it abuts against ice-covered precipices that no mortal will ever
scale. Snow commenced to fall, and the wind rose. As we neared the crest
of the ridge connecting the Dome du Gouter with the Bosses du Dromadaire
and the summit, the tempest burst fiercely upon us. In an instant we
were enveloped by a cloud of whirling snow that blotted out sky and
mountains alike. It drove into my eyes, and half blinded me. It was so
thick that objects a few yards away would have been concealed even
without a violent wind to confuse the vision. At times Couttet, close
ahead of me, was visible only in a kind of gray outline, like a wraith.
On an open plain such a storm in such a temperature would have had its
dangers for a traveller seeking his way. We were seeking our way, not on
an open plain, but two miles and a half above sea level, in a desert of
snow and ice, encompassed with precipices, chasms, and pitfalls,
treading on we knew not what, assailed by a wild storm, all landmarks
obliterated, and our footsteps filling so fast with drifted snow that in
two minutes we could not see from what direction we had last come.
In such a situation the imagination becomes dramatic. The night before I
had been reading the account of the loss, in 1870, of Dr. Bean, Mr.
Randall, and the Rev. Mr. Corkendale, together with five guides and
three porters, eleven persons in all, in just such a storm and within
sight of this spot. And now as we stumbled along I repeated to myself,
almost word for word, Dr. Bean's message to his wife, found when his
body was discovered:
"September 7, evening--My dear Hessie: We have been two days on Mont
Blanc in the midst of a terrible hurricane of snow; we have lost our
way, and are in a hole scooped in the snow at an altitude of fifteen
thousand feet. I have no longer any hope of descending. Perhaps this
notebook will be found and sent to you. We have nothing to eat, my feet
are already frozen, and I am exhausted. I have strength to write only a
few words more. I have left means for C.'s education; I know you will
employ them wisely. I die with faith in God and with loving thoughts of
you. Farewell to all. We shall meet again in heaven--I think of you
The bodies of five of these victims were found but a few feet aside from
the proper route which in clear weather would have led to safety; the
other six had disappeared.
While such cheerful recollections were running through my mind I noticed
that we were no longer ascending, and that Couttet, whom I had not
troubled with questions as long as he showed no hesitation, was bearing
now this way and now that, and occasionally stopping and peering about
with spread nostrils, like a dog seeking a trail. Clearly we were on the
top of the highest elevation in our neighborhood, for the wind now came
point blank in our faces out of the white abyss of the atmosphere, and
almost blew me off my feet.
"Have you lost the way?" I asked.
"I'll find it," Couttet replied.
"Where are we?"
"Near the Bosses."
"Isn't there a refuge hut on the Bosses?"
"Can we reach it?"
Couttet did not immediately reply, but looked up and about, as if trying
to pierce the driving snow with his gaze. "If I could catch sight of the
rocks," at length he said.
Suddenly the gale seemed to split the clouds, and for an instant a
vision opened of blue sky over our heads, and endless slopes of snow,
falling one below another, under our feet. I saw that we were standing
on the rounded back of a snowy ridge. Just in front the white surface
dipped and disappeared in a vast gulf of air, where flying clouds were
torn against the black jagged points of lower mountains. Above our
level, to the left, rocks appeared projecting through the covering of
snow. I knew that these must belong to the Bosses du Dromadaire, and
that the hut we sought was perched on one of them.
All this the eye caught in a twinkling, for the storm curtain was lifted
only to be as quickly dropped again, shutting out both the upper and the
lower world, and leaving us isolated on the slippery roof ridge of
Europe. At the same time the wind increased its violence, and the cold
became more penetrating. I pulled my fingers out of the digits of my
woollen gloves, and gripped my iron-shod baton between thumb and
knuckles. We now had our bearings, thanks to the momentary glance, and
it behooved us not to lose them, for the storm was every instant growing
worse. At times it was not the simplest thing in the world to keep one's
feet in the face of the blasts. I was too fresh from reading the history
of Mont Blanc not to remember that a few years ago Count Villanova and
two guides were blown from another nearby ridge into the very abyss
whose jaws had just opened before us, where their bodies lie
undiscovered to this day.
Moving cautiously, we began to descend, in order to cross the neck which
stretches between the Dome du Gouter and the Bosses. When we wandered a
little to the right the surface commenced to pitch off, and we knew what
that meant--beware! Once when we had veered too far to the left,
staggering down hill under the blows of the storm, and able to see but a
few feet away, we stopped as if a shot had arrested us. Another step or
two would have carried us over a precipice of ice, whose blue wall fell
perpendicularly from the brittle edge at our feet into cloud-choked
depths. We had gone down our roof to the eaves. Not a word was spoken,
but with instant unanimity we turned and scrambled up again, Couttet in
the lead, and the porter breathing hard at my heels. Such a scene in the
fraction of a second is photographed on the memory for a lifetime.
In a little while we began to ascend another slope, to which we had felt
our way, and this was surely the swelling hump of the first of the
Bosses, and the rocks must be near at hand. Another opportune gap in the
clouds, which left us for an instant surrounded with retreating walls of
vapor, confirmed that opinion, and vindicated the mountaineering skill
of Couttet, who had found the way though way there was none. A quick,
breathless scramble up a confused heap of ice and slippery points of
rock brought us at last to the refuge.
[Illustration: PASSAGE OF A CREVASSE, MONT BLANC.]
A NIGHT OF SCANT SHELTER AND NO FOOD.
Couttet shook and banged the door, making a noise that did not penetrate
far through the whistling air, and, with cold fingers, began fumbling at
the latch, when, to my surprise, the door opened and a muffled voice
bade us enter. An Englishman who had started with his guides at midnight
from the Grands Mulets, and three or four of Monsieur Janssen's porters,
had already sought refuge in the hut. Icicles hung about my face, and my
clothes were as stiff as chain armor. There was no fire in the little
hut and no means of making any. My watch, when I was able to get it out
of my pocket, showed the time to be a quarter to nine A.M.
Pulling off our shoes and putting on dry stockings as quickly as
possible, we imitated the example of the man who had let us in, and who
no sooner closed the door than he tumbled back into his bunk and buried
himself in the rough woollen blankets which the Alpine Club has provided
for the use of those who may need them.
In about an hour the storm lightened, and the Englishman and the porters
started back to the Grands Mulets. I consulted Couttet about making a
dash for the summit; but he thought it would be better to wait awhile,
and better still to follow the others down the mountain. To this last
proposition I decidedly objected, although Couttet was right, as it
turned out; for in another hour the storm, which had not entirely ceased
at any time, whipped itself into renewed fury, and before noon the wind
was howling and shrieking with demoniac energy, and flinging gritty snow
and ice in blinding clouds against the hut, which, situated on a ridge,
was completely exposed. Fortunately it is strongly built and solidly
anchored. While I entertained no reasonable doubt of its security, yet
when a blast of extraordinary fierceness made it tremble, as if it were
holding itself with desperate grip upon the rocks, I could not help
picturing it, in imagination, taking flight at last, and sailing high
over the mountains in the wild embrace of the tempest.
Time moved with a dreadfully slow pace. The only way to keep warm was to
remain in the bunk under a pile of blankets. Once, in my impatience, I
got out and painfully hauled on my shoes, which were as cold as ice, and
as hard almost; but my feet were blistered through lack of previous
exercise, and after hobbling and shivering for a few minutes on the
narrow floor, which was partly covered with a constantly accumulating
deposit of snow, as fine and dry as flour and as frigid as though it had
come straight from the Arctic Circle, I hurried back under the blankets.
The invading snow penetrated through cracks that one could hardly see,
around the door and the little square window.
At last noon came, and we ate our remaining morsels of dry bread, which
finished our provisions. We had brought along only enough to provide a
lunch on the way to the summit, intending to be back at the Grands
Mulets not later than midday. Then the long afternoon dragged its weary
hours, while the storm got higher, shriller, and colder, and the sense
of our isolation became keener. Finally daylight began to fade. Slowly
the light grew dim in the window at my feet, until it was a mere
glimmer. Since we had to stay, we thanked the storm for hastening the
fall of night. When the gloom became so dense that even the window had
disappeared, Couttet lit a tallow dip, but it would not remain upright
in its improvised holder, and the freezing draughts that stole through
the hut kept it flickering so that he finally put it out, and we
remained in the dark, not "seein' things," like Eugene Field's youthful
hero, but hearing things no less uncanny. The wind whistled, moaned,
screeched, growled, and occasionally shouted with such startling
imitation of human voices that I once asked Couttet if some one were not
calling for help. But investigation showed that we were alone on our
tempestuous perch, and that the cry of agony had been uttered by the
hurricane, or the wind-lashed rocks.
[Illustration: PASSAGE OF A CREVASSE. MONT BLANC.]
Supperless, we wrapped our blankets closer, got ears and noses under,
and tried to sleep. I had a few naps, but the roar outside, and the
shaking of the hut as the storm smote it again and again, rendered
continuous sleep impossible. Something had been loosened on the roof
close overhead, and it rattled and banged as if the destruction of the
hut had actually begun. It was a queer sound, angry, imperious,
menacing, and it produced a quaking sensation. Sometimes it would die
down, and, with a final rap or two, entirely cease. Then it would
resume, with perhaps five strokes to the second, increasing to ten, then
to twenty, and quickly rising to an ear-splitting r-r-r-h, terminated
with a bang! bang!! bang!!! that made the heart leap, while the hut
seemed to rock on its foundations.
Getting out of the bunk, I found by the sense of touch that the powdery
snow-drifts were becoming steadily deeper on the floor. This recalled
another incident which had greatly interested me during my preliminary
reading at Chamonix. The winter before, Monsieur Janssen's men had
stored some of the heavier materials for his observatory near these
rocks. At the opening of summer they could not be found, and no one knew
what had become of them. Finally, as the snows melted and fell from the
peak in slides and avalanches, the missing articles were uncovered,
having been buried in a white grave forty feet deep.
And so the wild night passed, until with tedious deliberation the little
window made a hole in the darkness, and I knew that morning was at hand.
The howling without was as loud as ever, and the fine snow was packed
high upon the window, shutting out a good share of the light. The floor
was covered with white drifts, and my shoes had swallowed snow; but
being hard and dry, it was easily shaken out. There was no fire to be
built and no breakfast to be prepared. But it was impossible to lie
still, even for the sake of keeping warm, and pulling on our shoes we
stamped about the floor, and occasionally opened the door to see what
the storm was about. Along about eight o'clock it began to lighten, and
my hopes rose. We could catch an occasional glimpse of the crowning peak
and of the observatory, which we knew contained two or three of
Janssen's men and some provisions. An hour later, when the storm seemed
about at an end, and we were preparing to ascend to the top, we saw the
men from the observatory coming down. They warned us that the snow above
was in bad condition, and, believing that more foul weather was to come,
they were embracing this opportunity to get down. Couttet proposed that
we should accompany them, especially as they reported nothing left to
eat at the observatory, but I declined. Again the event proved that he
was right, for while we waited a little before starting out, the storm
fell upon us once more. Then Couttet insisted upon descending, and I did
not think it wise to oppose his decision, knowing that it was based upon
experience and that he had nothing to gain and something to lose in
returning without having conducted his "monsieur" to the summit.
[Illustration: A BIRTHPLACE OF AVALANCHES, MONT BLANC.]
A SECOND ATTEMPT FOR THE SUMMIT.
We put on the rope and scrambled down, but when we got upon the neck
below the Bosses the clouds whirled off and the burnished sun stood over
the white peak, too splendid to be looked upon.
"Couttet, we must go up," I exclaimed.
"As you say," he replied; and we turned upon our track.
We had got back to the hut and started up the steep arete above it, when
the sun disappeared, the air turned white, and the wind resumed its
wrestle. So powerful was it that on our narrow ridge it had the
advantage of us, and we crouched behind a projecting point.
"It is too perilous," said Couttet, "and we must descend. I will not
take the risk."
I saw it was necessary to yield, and down we went. Hunger was beginning
to tell, and we made haste. Where the slopes were not seamed with open
crevasses we "glissaded," which is a very expeditious and exhilarating
method of getting down a mountain, although unsafe unless one is certain
of his ground. Sometimes we slid on our feet, steadying ourselves with
our batons or ice-axes, and sometimes I sat on the hard snow and glided
like a Turk on a toboggan slide, the tassel of my woollen cap fluttering
behind in the wind. We took the unbridged crevasses with flying leaps,
and so plunged rapidly downward, with frequent keen regrets on my part,
because the weather seemed mending again. But it would not do to turn
back now in our half-famished condition, and we were glad when the
Grands Mulets hove in sight below, a black squadron in a sea of snow.
[Illustration: M. JANSSEN'S OBSERVATORY ON TOP OF MONT BLANC.]
In Chamonix I took a day or two to thaw out and mend bruises, and then
ran over to Martigny, crossed the Grand St. Bernard, the St. Gotthard,
and the Grimsel passes, spent a week in William Tell's country, prowling
about the ruins of old castles and the sites of legendary battles, and
finally settled down in Milan to feast my eyes on the pinnacles of its
wondrous cathedral. But my failure to reach the top of Mont Blanc cast a
perceptible shadow over everything I saw.
One day, the 27th of August, as I stood on the cathedral spire, the sun
lay warm upon the Alps, and Mont Blanc shone in the distance. "It is
time to go," I said to myself; and descending, I hurried to my hotel and
packed a gripsack. The night express via Mont Cenis placed me in Geneva
the next morning in time to catch the first train for Cluses. The same
evening the diligence landed me in Chamonix. I sent for Couttet.
"Mont Blanc in the morning," I said.
"Delighted, monsieur; we'll do it this time."
"Storm or no storm?"
It so happened that I was to hear one more story of disaster before
getting to the top of Mont Blanc. While I watched the distant mountain
from the Milan cathedral spire the closing scene of a new tragedy was
being enacted amid its merciless crevasses. Dr. Robert Schnurdreher, an
advocate of Prague, accompanied by Michael Savoye, guide, and Laurent
Brou, porter, ascended Mont Blanc from the Italian side on August 17th,
and passed the night in the hut on the Bosses du Dromadaire where, six
days before, I had had a stormy experience. But now the weather was
superb, and when, on the morning of the 18th, they started to descend to
Chamonix, no thought of impending evil could have oppressed their minds.
They passed the Grand Plateau and the Petit Plateau in safety, and
reached the labyrinth of crevasses between the cliffs of the Dome du
Gouter and the Grands Mulets. Just what happened then no one will ever
know, but there they disappeared from the world of the living.
[Illustration: VIEW FROM THE SUMMIT OF MONT BLANC, SHOWING THE
MATTERHORN IN THE DISTANCE.]
Eight days went by, and then a telegram was received at Chamonix from
the family of the guide Savoye, in Courmayer, Italy, inquiring if he and
his party had been seen. All Chamonix comprehended in an instant the
significance of that telegram, and thirty guides started post haste for
The fact was now recalled that several days before some of Monsieur
Janssen's porters had noticed an ice axe lying on the snow a little
aside from the ordinary route. They thought nothing of it at the time,
supposing that the implement had either been thrown away, or left behind
by some one who would return to get it. This abandoned axe now became
the first object of the search. Having discovered it, the guides knew
well where to look for its owner. The axe lay on a slope of snow almost
as hard as ice, and at the foot of the slope was the inevitable
crevasse; not one of the largest, being only fifteen feet wide by two
hundred long, and one hundred deep, but all too sufficient. They crept
to the edge, and peered into the gloomy depths. There lay the missing
men, still tied together. Schnurdreher and Savoye had apparently been
killed at once; but there was heart-rending evidence that Brou had
survived the fall, and made a pitiful effort to scale the perpendicular
walls of the ice chasm. Enclosed in bags of rough sacking, the bodies
were dragged with ropes down to the Pierre Pointue, and thence carried
to Chamonix. This is a time-honored procedure in such cases. Every boy
in Chamonix understands how a body should be brought down from Mont
On the night of my arrival Savoye and Brou had just been buried at
Chamonix, and money was being raised for the relief of their almost
destitute families. But Schnurdreher, in his mountain dress, with his
spiked shoes on his feet, still lay at the undertaker's, awaiting the
coming of his relatives.
A RACE FOR THE SUMMIT.
The morning of August 29th was cloudless, and with the same outfit as
before, but with a scion of the house of Balmat for porter in place of
the man who had filled that office on the first occasion, I started once
more for the frosty topknot of Europe. At the Grands Mulets we found two
Germans with their retinue of guides and porters, six persons in all,
who were also bound for the summit. They left the Grands Mulets at
midnight, and we followed them three-quarters of an hour later. There
was no moon, and Couttet carried a lantern. On reaching the Petit
Plateau we saw the lights of the other party flashing ahead of us, and
at the foot of the Grands Montees we overtook them. They had talked
confidently of making the ascent in extraordinarily quick time, and some
good-natured chaffing now passed between Couttet and the rival guides. I
had had no thought of a race; but I defy anybody, under the
circumstances in which we were placed, not to experience a little
spurring from the spirit of emulation. Jerking the rope to attract
Couttet's attention, I told him in a low voice to pass the others at the
"We'll do it on the Grand Plateau," he whispered.
Five minutes later, however, the advance party paused to take breath. We
immediately broke out of their tracks in the snow and started to pass
around them; but they instantly accepted the challenge, and a scrambling
race began up the steep slope. Sometimes we sank so deep that time was
lost in extricating our legs, and again we slipped back, which was even
more annoying than sticking fast. The powdery snow flew about like dust,
and was occasionally dumped into my face by the piston-like action of my
knees. The lanterns jangled and flickered wildly, and in their shifting
and uncertain light, with our odd habiliments, we must have resembled a
company of mad demons on a lark.
Such a race in such a place could only last a couple of minutes, and it
was soon over, the American coming out ahead. Getting upon the Grand
Plateau, we did not stop to rest, but broke into a dog trot.
"Whatever happens, Couttet, we must be first at the top."
"Very well, monsieur."
From the Grand Plateau there are two ways to the summit: one by the
Bosses du Dromadaire, which we followed on the first attempt; the other,
which we now adopted, by the "Corridor." This is a steep furrow, crossed
by an ice precipice with a great crevasse near its foot, which leads
upward from the left-hand border of the Grand Plateau to a snowy saddle
between the Mont Maudit and a precipitous out-cropping of rock called
the Mur de la Cote. A faint glimmer of approaching dawn now lay on part
of the rim of mountains surrounding us.
When we reached the foot of the Corridor the lights of the other party
were not visible. But here step-cutting became necessary, and this
delayed us so much that presently I caught dancing gleams from the
pursuing lanterns moving rapidly at the bottom of the bowl of night out
of which we were climbing. They were fast gaining upon us.
"We must hurry, Couttet!"
"Yes, but no man goes quick here who does not go for the last time."
In fact, our position had an appearance of peril. We were part way up
the frozen precipice that cuts across the Corridor, and were balancing
ourselves on an acute wedge of ice which stood off several feet in front
of the precipice, being separated from it by a deep cleft. The outer
side of this wedge, whose edge we were traversing lengthwise, pitched
down into the darkness and ended, I believe, in a crevasse. Presently we
reached a place where the precipice overhung our precarious footway, and
an inverted forest of icicles depended above us.
"Make as little noise as possible, and step gently," said Couttet.
This is a familiar precaution in the High Alps, where the vibrations of
sound sometimes act the part of the trigger of a gun and let loose
terrific energies ready poised for action. The clinking of particles of
ice that shot from our feet into the depths distracted attention from
the beautiful play of the light of the lanterns on some of the hanging
At last we attained a point where it was possible, by swinging round a
somewhat awkward corner, to get upon the roof of the precipice. This we
found so steep that occasional steps had also to be cut there.
The lights of the pursuers had approached the foot of the wall, and
though now invisible, we knew the party was ascending close behind,
taking advantage of the steps we had made. This spurred us on, although
I was beginning to suffer some inconvenience from the rarity of the air,
and had to stop to breathe much oftener than I liked. In truth, the
spurt we had made, beginning at the Grands Montees, involved an
over-expenditure of energy whose effects I could not escape, and nature
was already demanding usury for the loan.
As we approached the ridge of the saddle, day rose blushing in the east,
and Couttet put out the lantern. Turning to the right, we hurried in
zigzags up the slippery Mur de la Cote, stopping to cut steps only when
strictly necessary. While we were ascending this wall the sun appeared,
and hung for a moment, a great, dazzling, fire-colored circle, on a
distant mountain rim. Below us for a long time the great valleys
remained filled with gloom, while out of and around there rose hundreds
of peaks, tipped with pink and gold. But very few of the towering giants
now reached to our level, and in a little while we should be above them
Once on top of the Mur we had level going again for a space, and
hurrying to the base of the crowning dome, which swells upward another
thousand feet, we began its ascent without stopping. About half way up
the dome the highest visible rocks of Mont Blanc on this side break
through the Mur. They are called the Petits Mulets. We had nearly
reached them when, looking back, I saw the heads of the other party
appearing on the brink of the Mur. They looked up at us hanging right
above them on the white slope, while Couttet carried my handkerchief,
streaming triumphantly in the morning wind, from the end of his baton.
Waving their hands, they sat down and gave up the race. While they
lunched we pushed upward more slowly, and at six o'clock entered the
door of Monsieur Janssen's observatory, fifteen thousand seven hundred
and seventy-seven feet above the sea.
My first look was directed to the Matterhorn, which, thirty-five miles
away, pierced the morning sky with its black spike. Glittering near it
were the snow turrets of Monte Rosa, the Dent Blanche, and all the
marvellous circle of peaks that stand around Zermatt. There was not a
cloud to break the view. On one side lay Italy; on the other France. It
would be impossible to imagine the wild scene immediately below us. The
tremendous slopes of snow falling away on all sides, now in steep
inclines and now in broken precipices, ever down and down, were not
after all so imposing as the jagged pinnacles of bare rock that sprang
out of them.
There was something peculiarly savage, almost menacing, in the aspect of
these lower mountains, pressing in serried ranks around their
white-capped chief. They seemed to shut us far away from the human world
below, and one felt that he had placed himself entirely in the hands of
nature. This was her realm, where she acknowledged no laws but her own,
and was incapable of sympathy, pity, or remorse.
BY MARY STEWART CUTTING,
Author of "The Coupons of Fortune," "Henry," and other stories.
When Mr. William Belden walked out of his house one wet October evening
and closed the hall door carefully behind him, he had no idea that he
was closing the door on all the habits of his maturer life and entering
the borders of a land as far removed from his hopes or his imagination
as the country of the Gadarenes.
He had not wanted to go out that evening at all, not knowing what the
fates had in store for him, and being only too conscious of the comfort
of the sitting-room lounge, upon which, after the manner of the suburban
resident who travelleth daily by railways, he had cast himself
immediately after the evening meal was over. The lounge was in
proximity--yet not too close proximity--to the lamp on the table; so
that one might have the pretext of reading to cover closed eyelids and a
general oblivion of passing events. On a night when a pouring rain
splashed outside on the pavements and the tin roofs of the piazzas, the
conditions of rest in the cosey little room were peculiarly attractive
to a man who had come home draggled and wet, and with the toil and wear
of a long business day upon him. It was therefore with a sinking of the
heart that he heard his wife's gentle tones requesting him to wend his
way to the grocery to purchase a pound of butter.
"I hate to ask you to go, William dear, but there really is not a scrap
in the house for breakfast, and the butter-man does not come until
to-morrow afternoon," she said deprecatingly. "It really will only take
you a few minutes."
Mr. Belden smothered a groan, or perhaps something worse. The butter
question was a sore one, Mrs. Belden taking only a stated quantity of
that article a week, and always unexpectedly coming short of it before
the day of replenishment, although no argument ever served to induce her
to increase the original amount for consumption.
"Cannot Bridget go?" he asked weakly, gazing at the small, plump figure
of his wife, as she stood with meek yet inexorable eyes looking down at
"Bridget is washing the dishes, and the stores will be closed before she
can get out."
"Can't one of the boys--" He stopped. There was in this household a god
who ruled everything in it, to whom all pleasures were offered up, all
individual desires sacrificed, and whose Best Good was the greedy and
unappreciative Juggernaut before whom Mr. Belden and his wife prostrated
themselves daily. This idol was called The Children. Mr. Belden felt
that he had gone too far.
"William!" said his wife severely, "I am surprised at you. John and
Henry have their lessons to get, and Willy has a cold; I could not think
of exposing him to the night air; and it is so damp, too!"
Mr. Belden slowly and stiffly rose from his reclining position on the
sofa. There was a finality in his wife's tone before which he succumbed.
The night air _was_ damp. As he walked along the street the water
slopped around his feet, and ran in rills down his rubber coat. He did
not feel as contented as usual. When he was a youngster, he reflected
with exaggerated bitterness, boys were boys, and not treated like
precious pieces of porcelain. He did not remember, as a boy, ever having
any special consideration shown him; yet he had been both happy and
healthy, healthier perhaps than his over-tended brood at home. In his
day it had been popularly supposed that nothing could hurt a boy. He
heaved a sigh over the altered times, and then coughed a little, for he
had a cold as well as Willy.
The streets were favorable to silent meditation, for there was no one
out in them. The boughs of the trees swished backward and forward in the
storm, and the puddles at the crossings reflected the dismal yellow
glare of the street lamps. Every one was housed to-night in the pretty
detached cottages he passed, and he thought with growing wrath of the
trivial errand on which he had been sent. "In happy homes he saw the
light," but none of the high purpose of the youth of "Excelsior" fame
stirred his heart--rather a dull sense of failure from all high things.
What did his life amount to anyway, that he should count one thing more
trivial than another? He loved his wife and children dearly, but he
remembered a time when his ambition had not thought of being satisfied
with the daily grind for a living and a dreamless sleep at night.
"'Our life is but a sleep and a forgetting,'" he thought grimly, "in
quite a different way from what Wordsworth meant." He had been one of
the foremost in his class at college, an orator, an athlete, a favorite
in society and with men. Great things had been predicted for him. Then
he had fallen in love with Nettie; a professional career seemed to place
marriage at too great a distance, and he had joyfully, yet with some
struggles in his protesting intellect, accepted a position that was
offered to him--one of those positions which never change, in which men
die still unpromoted, save when a miracle intervenes. It was not so good
a position for a family of six as it had been for a family of two, but
he did not complain. He and Nettie went shabby, but the children were
clothed in the best, as was their due.
He was too wearied at night to read anything but the newspapers, and the
gentle domestic monotony was not inspiring. He and Nettie never went out
in the evenings; the children could not be left alone. He met his
friends on the train in that diurnal journey to and from the great city,
and she occasionally attended a church tea; but their immediate and
engrossing world seemed to be made up entirely of persons under thirteen
years of age. They had dwelt in the place almost ever since their
marriage, respected and liked, but with no real social life. If Mr.
Belden thought of the years to come, he may be pardoned an unwonted
sinking of the heart.
It was while indulging in these reflections that he mechanically
purchased the pound of butter, which he could not help comparing with
Shylock's pound of flesh, so much of life had it taken out of him, and
then found himself stepping up on the platform of the station, led by
his engrossing thoughts to pass the street corner and tread the path
most familiar to him. He turned with an exclamation to retrace his way,
when a man pacing leisurely up and down, umbrella in hand, caught sight
"Is that you, Belden?" said the stranger. "What are you doing down here
"I came out on an errand for my wife," said Belden sedately. He
recognized the man as a young lawyer, much identified with politics; a
mere acquaintance, yet it was a night to make any speaking animal seem a
friend, and Mr. Belden took a couple of steps along beside him.
"Waiting for a train?" he said.
"Oh, thunder, yes!" said Mr. Groper, throwing away the stump of a cigar.
"I have been waiting for the last half hour for the train; it's late, as
usual. There's a whole deputation from Barnet on board, due at the
Reform meeting in town to-night, and I'm part of the committee to meet
"Where is the other part of the committee?" asked Mr. Belden.
"Oh, Jim Crane went up to the hall to see about something, and Connors
hasn't showed up at all; I suppose the rain kept him back. What kind of
a meeting we're going to have I don't know. Say, Belden, I'm not up to
this sort of thing. I wish you'd stay and help me out--there's no end of
swells coming down, more your style than mine."
"Why, man alive, I can't do anything for you," said Mr. Belden. "These
carriages I see are waiting for the delegation, and here comes the train
now; you'll get along all right."
He waited as the train slowed into the station, smiling anew at little
Groper's perturbation. He was quite curious to see the arrivals. Barnet
had been the home of his youth, and there might be some one whom he
knew. He had half intended, earlier in the day, to go himself to the
Reform meeting, but a growing spirit of inaction had made him give up
the idea. Yes, there was quite a carload of people getting out--ladies,
"Why, Will Belden!" called out a voice from the party. A tall fellow in
a long ulster sprang forward to grasp his hand. "You don't say it's
yourself come down to meet us. Here we all are, Johnson, Clemmerding,
Albright, Cranston---all the old set. Rainsford, you've heard of my
cousin, Will Belden. My wife and Miss Wakeman are behind here; but we'll
do all the talking afterward, if you'll only get us off for the hall
"Well, I am glad to see you, Henry," said Mr. Belden heartily. He thrust
the pound of butter hastily into a large pocket of his mackintosh, and
found himself shaking hands with a score of men. He had only time to
assist his cousin's wife and the beautiful Miss Wakeman into a carriage,
and in another moment they were all rolling away toward the town hall,
with little Mr. Groper running frantically after them, ignored by the
visitors, and peacefully forgotten by his friend.
The public hall of the little town--which called itself a city--was all
ablaze with light as the party entered it, and well filled,
notwithstanding the weather. There were flowers on the platform where
the seats for the distinguished guests were placed, and a general air of
radiance and joyful import prevailed. It was a gathering of men from all
political parties, concerned in the welfare of the State. Great measures
were at stake, and the election of governor of immediate importance. The
name of Judge Belden of Barnet was prominently mentioned. He had not
been able to attend on this particular occasion, but his son had come
with a delegation from the county town, twenty miles away, to represent
his interests. On Mr. William Belden devolved the task of introducing
the visitors; a most congenial one, he suddenly found it to be.
His friends rallied around him as people are apt to do with one of their
own kind when found in a foreign country. They called him Will, as they
used to, and slapped him on the shoulder in affectionate abandon. Those
among the group who had not known him before were anxious to claim
acquaintance on the strength of his fame, which, it seemed, still
survived him in his native town. It must not be supposed that he had not
seen either his cousin or his friends during his sojourn away from them;
on the contrary, he had met them once or so in two or three years, in
the street, or on the ferry-boat--though they travelled by different
roads--but he had then been but a passing interest in the midst of
pressing business. To-night he was the only one of their kind in a
strange place---his cousin loved him, they all loved him. The expedition
had the sentiment of a frolic under the severer political aspect.
In the welcome to the visitors by the home committee Mr. Belden also
received his part, in their surprised recognition of him, almost
amounting to a discovery.
"We had no idea that you were a nephew of Judge Belden," one of them
said to him, speaking for his colleagues, who stood near.
Mr. William Belden bowed, and smiled; as a gentleman, and a rather
reticent one, it had never occurred to him to parade his family
connections. His smile might mean anything. It made the good
committeeman, who was rich and full of power, feel a little
uncomfortable, as he tried to cover his embarrassment with effusive
cordiality. In the background stood Mr. Groper, wet, and breathing hard,
but plainly full of admiration for his tall friend, and the position he
held as the centre of the group. The visitors referred all arrangements
At last they filed on to the platform--the two cousins together.
"You must find a place for the girls," said Henry Belden, with the
peculiar boyish giggle that his cousin remembered so well. "By George,
they _would_ come; couldn't keep 'em at home, after they once got
Jim Shore to say it was all right. Of course, Marie Wakeman started it;
she said she was bound to go to a political meeting and sit on the
platform; arguing wasn't a bit of use. When she got Clara on her side I
knew that I was doomed. Now, you couldn't get them to do a thing of this
kind at home; but take a woman out of her natural sphere, and she
ignores conventionalities, just like a girl in a bathing-suit. There
they are, seated over in that corner. I'm glad that they are hidden from
the audience by the pillar. Of course, there's that fool of a Jim, too,
"You don't mean to say she's at it yet?" said his cousin William.
"'At it yet'! She's never stopped for a moment since you kissed her that
night on the hotel piazza after the hop, under old Mrs. Trelawney's
window--do you remember that, Will?"
Mr. William Belden did indeed remember it; it was a salute that had
echoed around their little world, leading, strangely enough, to the
capitulation of another heart--it had won him his wife. But the little
intimate conversation was broken off as the cousins took the places
allotted to them, and the business of the meeting began.
If he were not the chairman, he was appealed to so often as to almost
serve in that capacity. He became interested in the proceedings, and in
the speeches that were made; none of them, however, quite covered the
ground as he understood it. His mind unconsciously formulated
propositions as the flow of eloquence went on. It therefore seemed only
right and fitting toward the end of the evening, when it became evident
that his Honor the Mayor was not going to appear, that our distinguished
fellow-citizen, Mr. William Belden, nephew of Judge Belden of Barnet,
should be asked to represent the interests of the county in a speech,
and that he should accept the invitation.
He stood for a moment silent before the assembly, and then all the old
fire that had lain dormant for so long blazed forth in the speech that
electrified the audience, was printed in all the papers afterward, and
fitted into a political pamphlet.
He began with a comprehensive statement of facts, he drew large and
logical deductions from them, and then lit up the whole subject with
those brilliant flashes of wit and sarcasm for which he had been famous
in bygone days. More than that, a power unknown before had come to him;
he felt the real knowledge and grasp of affairs which youth had denied
him, and it was with an exultant thrill that his voice rang through the
crowded hall, and stirred the hearts of men. For the moment they felt as
he felt, and thought as he thought, and a storm of applause arose as he
ended--applause that grew and grew until a few more pithy words were
necessary from the orator before silence could be restored.
He made his way to the back of the hall for some water, and then, half
exhausted, yet tingling still from the excitement, dropped into an empty
chair by the side of Miss Wakeman.
"Well done, Billy," she said, giving him a little approving tap with her
fan. "You were just fine." She gave him an upward glance from her large
dark eyes. "Do you know you haven't spoken to me to-night, nor shaken
hands with me?"
"Let us shake hands now," he said, smiling, flushed with success, as he
looked into the eyes of this very pretty woman.
"I shall take off my glove first--such old friends as we are! It must be
a real ceremony."
She laid a soft, white, dimpled hand, covered with glistening rings, in
his outstretched palm, and gazed at him with coquettish plaintiveness.
"It's so _lovely_ to see you again! Have you forgotten the night
you kissed me?"
"I have thought of it daily," he replied, giving her hand a hearty
squeeze. They both laughed, and he took a surreptitious peep at her from
under his eyelids. Marie Wakeman! Yes, truly, the same, and with the
same old tricks. He had been married for nearly fourteen years, his
children were half grown, he had long since given up youthful
friskiness, but she was "at it" still. Why, she had been older than he
when they were boy and girl; she must be for--He gazed at her soft,
rounded, olive cheek, and quenched the thought.
"And you are very happy?" she pursued, with tender solicitude. "Nettie
makes you a perfect wife, I suppose."
"Perfect," he assented gravely.
"And you haven't missed me at all?"
"Can you ask?" It was the way in which all men spoke to Marie Wakeman,
married or single, rich or poor, one with another. He laughed inwardly
at his lapse into the expected tone. "I feel that I really breathe for
the first time in years, now that I'm with you again. But how is it that
you are not married?"
"What, after I had known you?" She gave him a reproachful glance. "And
you were so cruel to me--as soon as you had made your little Nettie
jealous you cared for me no longer. Look what I've declined to!" She
indicated Jim Shore, leaning disconsolately against the cornice, chewing
his moustache. "Now don't give him your place unless you really want to;
well, if you're tired of me already--thank you ever so much, and I
_am_ proud of you to-night, Billy!"
Her lustrous eyes dwelt on him lingeringly as he left her; he smiled
back into them. The lines around her mouth were a little hard; she
reminded him indefinably of "She;" but she was a handsome woman, and he
had enjoyed the encounter. The sight of her brought back so vividly the
springtime of life; his hopes, the pangs of love, the joy that was his
when Nettie was won; he felt an overpowering throb of tenderness for the
wife at home who had been his early dream.
The last speeches were over, but Mr. William Belden's triumph had not
ended. As the acknowledged orator of the evening he had an ovation
afterward; introductions and unlimited hand-shakings were in order.
He was asked to speak at a select political dinner the next week; to
speak for the hospital fund; to speak for the higher education of woman.
Led by a passing remark of Henry Belden's to infer that his cousin was a
whist player of parts, a prominent social magnate at once invited him to
join the party at his house on one of their whist evenings.
"My wife, er--will have great pleasure in calling on Mrs. Belden," said
the magnate. "We did not know that we had a good whist player among us.
This evening has indeed been a revelation in many ways--in many ways.
You would have no objection to taking a prominent part in politics,
if you were called upon? A reform mayor is sadly needed in our
city--sadly needed. Your connection with Judge Belden would give great
weight to any proposition of that kind. But, of course, all this is in
Mr. Belden heard his name whispered in another direction, in connection
with the cashiership of the new bank which was to be built. The
cashiership and the mayoralty might be nebulous honors, but it
_was_ sweet, for once, to be recognized for what he was--man of
might; a man of talent, and of honor.
There was a hurried rush for the train at the last on the part of the
visitors. Mr. William Belden snatched his mackintosh from the peg
whereon it had hung throughout the evening, and went with the crowd,
talking and laughing in buoyant exuberance of spirits. The night had
cleared, the moon was rising, and poured a flood of light upon the wet
streets. It was a different world from the one he had traversed earlier
in the evening. He walked home with Miss Wakeman's exaggeratedly tender
"Good-by, dear Billy!" ringing in his ears, to provoke irrepressible
smiles. The pulse of a free life, where men lived instead of vegetating,
was in his veins. His footstep gave forth a ringing sound from the
pavement; he felt himself stalwart, alert, his brain rejoicing in its
sense of power. It was even with no sense of guilt that he heard the
church clocks striking twelve as he reached the house where his wife had
been awaiting his return for four hours.
She was sitting up for him, as he knew by the light in the parlor
window. He could see her through the half-closed blinds as she sat by
the table, a magazine in her lap, her attitude, unknown to herself,
betraying a listless depression. After all, is a woman glad to have all
her aspirations and desires confined within four walls? She may love her
cramped quarters, to be sure, but can she always forget that they are
cramped? To what does a wife descend after the bright dreams of her
girlhood! Does she really like above all things to be absorbed in the
daily consumption of butter, and the children's clothes, or is she
absorbed in these things because the man who was to have widened the
horizon of her life only limits it by his own decadence?
She rose to meet her husband as she heard his key in the lock. She had
exchanged her evening gown for a loose, trailing white wrapper, and her
fair hair was arranged for the night in a long braid. Her husband had a
smile on his face.
"You look like a girl again," he said brightly, as he stooped and kissed
her. "No, don't turn out the light, come in and sit down a while longer,
I've ever so much to tell you. You can't guess where I've been this
"At the political meeting," she said promptly.
"How on earth did you know?"
"The doctor came here to see Willy, and he told me he saw you on the
way. I'm glad you did go, William; I was worrying because I had sent you
out; I did not realize until later what a night it was."
"Well, I am very glad that you did send me," said her husband. He lay
back in his chair, flushed and smiling at the recollection. "You ought
to have been there, too; you would have liked it. What will you say if I
tell you that I made a speech--yes, it is quite true--and was applauded
to the echo. This town has just waked up to the fact that I live in it.
And Henry said--but there, I'll have to tell you the whole thing, or you
can't appreciate it."
His wife leaned on the arm of his chair, watching his animated face
fondly, as he recounted the adventures of the night. He pictured the
scene vividly, and with a strong sense of humor.
"And you don't say that Marie Wakeman is the same as ever?" she
interrupted, with a flash of special interest. "Oh, William!"
"_She_ called me Billy." He laughed anew at the thought. "Upon my
word, Nettie, she beats anything I ever saw or heard of."
"Did she remind you of the time you kissed her?"
"Yes!" Their eyes met in amused recognition of the past.
"Is she as handsome as ever?"
"Um--yes--I think so. She isn't as pretty as you are."
"Oh, Will!" She blushed and dimpled.
"I declare, it is true!" He gazed at her with genuine admiration. "What
has come over you to-night, Nettie?--you look like a girl again."
"And you were not sorry when you saw her, that--that--"
"Sorry! I have been thinking all the way home how glad I was to have won
my sweet wife. But we mustn't stay shut up at home as much as we have;
it's not good for either of us. We are to be asked to join the whist
club--what do you think of that? You used to be a little card fiend once
upon a time, I remember."
She sighed. "It is so long since I have been anywhere! I'm afraid I
haven't any clothes, Will. I suppose I _might_--"
"Take the money I had put aside for Mary's next quarter's music lessons;
I do really believe a little rest would do her good."
"It would--it would," said Mr. Belden with suspicious eagerness. Mary's
after-dinner practising hour had tinged much of his existence with gall.
"I insist that Mary shall have a rest. And you shall join the reading
society now. Let us consider ourselves a little as well as the children;
it's really best for them, too. Haven't we immortal souls as well as
they? Can we expect them to seek the honey dew of paradise while they
see us contented to feed on the grass of the field?"
"You call yourself an orator!" she scoffed.
He drew her to him by one end of the long braid, and solemnly kissed
her. Then he went into the hall and took something from the pocket of
his mackintosh which he placed in his wife's hand--a little wooden dish
covered with a paper, through which shone a bright yellow substance--the
pound of butter, a lump of gleaming fairy gold, the quest of which had
changed a poor, commonplace existence into one scintillating with magic
Fairy gold, indeed, cannot be coined into marketable eagles. Mr. William
Belden might never achieve either the mayoralty or the cashiership, but
he had gained that of which money is only a trivial accessory. The
recognition of men, the flashing of high thought to high thought, the
claim of brotherhood in the work of the world, and the generous social
intercourse that warms the earth--all these were to be his. Not even his
young ambition had promised a wider field, not the gold of the Indies
could buy him more of honor and respect.
At home also the spell worked. He had but to speak the word, to name the
thing, and Nettie embodied his thought. He called her young, and happy
youth smiled from her clear eyes; beautiful, and a blushing loveliness
enveloped her; clever, and her ready mind leaped to match with his in
thought and study; dear, and love touched her with its transforming fire
and breathed of long-forgotten things.
If men only knew what they could make of the women who love them--but
they do not, as the plodding, faded matrons who sit and sew by their
household fires testify to us daily.
Happy indeed is he who can create a paradise by naming it!
[Illustration: FIGURE I.--APPARATUS USED BY PROFESSOR W.F. MAGIE IN
TAKING A SKIAGRAPH OF A HAND.
The Ruhmkorff coil in the background; the Crookes tube in front of it;
under the hand is the photographic plate in its plate-holder.]
THE USE OF THE ROeNTGEN X RAYS IN SURGERY.
BY W.W. KEEN, M.D., LL.D.
The nineteenth century resembles the sixteenth in many ways. In or about
the sixteenth we have the extensive use of the mariner's compass and of
gunpowder, the discovery of printing, the discovery and exploration of
America, and the acquisition of territory in the New World by various
European states. In the nineteenth century we have the exploration of
Africa and the acquisition of territory in its interior, in which the
various nations of Europe vie with each other again as three centuries
before; the discovery of steam, and its ever-growing application to the
transportation of goods and passengers on sea and land; of the
spectroscope, and through it of many new elements, including helium in
the sun, and, later, on the earth; of argon in the earth's atmosphere;
of anaesthetics and of the antiseptic methods in surgery, and, lastly,
the enormous recent strides in electrical science.
Not only has electricity been applied to transportation and the
development of light and power; but the latest discovery by Professor
Roentgen of the X rays seems destined, possibly, not only to
revolutionize our ideas of radiation in all its forms on the scientific
side, but also on the practical side to be of use in the domain of
medicine. It is, therefore, with great pleasure that I accede to the
request of the editor of this Magazine to state briefly what has been
achieved in the department of medicine up to the present time.
The method of investigating the body by means of the X rays is very
simple, as is shown in Figure 1. The Crookes tube, actuated from a
storage battery or other source of electricity through a Ruhmkorff coil,
is placed on one side of the body. If need be, instead of using the
entire tube, the rays from the most effective portion of it only are
allowed to impinge upon the part of the body to be investigated, through
an opening in a disk of lead interposed between the Crookes tube and the
body. On the other side of the part to be investigated is placed a quick
photographic plate shut up in its plate-holder, and is exposed to the
rays emanating from the tube for a greater or less length of time. The
parts of the plate not protected by the body are acted upon by the rays,
through the lid of the plate-holder (to which the rays are pervious),
while the tissues of the body act, feebly or strongly, as the case may
be, as obstacles to the rays. Hence, the part of the plate thus
protected is less acted upon than the rest, and a shadow is produced
upon the plate. The soft tissues of the body form but a very slight
obstacle to the passage of the rays, and, hence, throw very faint
shadows on the plate. The more dense portions, presenting a greater
obstacle to the passage of the rays, throw deeper shadows; hence the
bones are seen as dark shadows, the soft parts as lighter ones. That the
flesh or soft parts are not wholly permeable to the rays is well shown
in the skiagraph--i.e., a "shadow picture"--of a foot. (Figure
2.) Where two toes overlap, it will be observed that there is a deeper
shadow, like the section of a biconvex lens.
[Illustration: FIGURE 2.--SKIAGRAPH OF A FOOT, SHOWING AN EXTRA BONE IN
THE GREAT TOE, WHICH WAS REMOVED BY PROFESSOR MOSETIG.
(From the "British Medical Journal.")]
When we attempt to skiagraph the thicker portions of the body, for
example, the shoulder, the thigh, or the trunk, even the parts
consisting only of flesh obstruct the rays to such an extent, by reason
of their thickness, that the shadows of the still more dense tissues,
like the thigh bone, the arm bone, or the bones of the trunk, cannot be
distinguished from the shadows of the thicker soft parts. Tesla
("Electrical Review," March 11, 1896) has to some extent overcome these
difficulties by his improved apparatus, and has skiagraphed, though
rather obscurely, the shoulder and trunk, and Rowland has been able to
do the same. Doubtless when we are able to devise apparatus of greater
penetration, and to control the effect of the rays, we shall be able to
skiagraph clearly even through the entire thickness of the body.
It might be supposed that clothing or surgical dressings would prove an
obstacle to this new photography, but all our preconceived notions
derived from the ordinary photograph must be thrown aside. The bones of
the forearm or the hand can be as readily skiagraphed through a
voluminous surgical dressing or through the ordinary clothing, as when
the parts are entirely divested of any covering. Even bed-ridden
patients can be skiagraphed through the bed-clothes, and, therefore,
without danger from exposure.
[Illustration: FIGURE 3.--SKETCH OF A BABY'S FOOT AS SEEN THROUGH THE
(From the "American Journal of the Medical Sciences," March, 1896.)]
[Illustration: FIGURE 4.--SKETCH OF A BABY'S KNEE AS SEEN THROUGH THE
(From the "American Journal of the Medical Sciences," March, 1896.)]
One of the principal difficulties of the method at present is the time
ordinarily required to obtain a good picture. Usually this time may be
stated at in the neighborhood of an hour, though many good skiagraphs
have been taken in a half hour or twenty minutes. It is stated that
Messrs. McLeennan, Wright, and Keele of Toronto have reduced the
necessary time to one second, and that Mr. Edison has taken even
instantaneous pictures; but I am not aware of the publication of any
pictures showing how perfect these results are. Undoubtedly, as a result
of the labors of so many scores of physicists and physicians as are now
working at the problem, before long we shall be able to skiagraph at
least the thinner parts of the body in a very brief interval. The
brevity of the exposure will also better the pictures in another way. At
present, if the attempt is made to skiagraph the shoulder or parts of
the trunk, we have to deal with organs which cannot be kept motionless,
since the movements incident to breathing produce a constant to and fro
movement of the shoulder, the lungs, the heart, the stomach, the liver,
and other organs which, hereafter, may be made accessible to this
process. There is no serious discomfort excepting the somewhat irksome
necessity of remaining absolutely still.
Another method of seeing the denser tissues of the body is by direct
observation. A means of seeing through the thinner parts of the body,
such as the fingers or the toes, has been devised simultaneously by
Salvioni of Italy, and Professor Magie of Princeton. Their instruments
are practically identical, consisting of a hollow cylinder a few inches
long, one end of which is applied to the eye, the other end, instead of
having a lens, being covered by a piece of paper smeared with a
phosphorescent salt, the double cyanide of platinum and barium. When the
hand is held before a Crookes tube, and is looked at through the
cylinder, we can see the bones of the hand or foot almost as clearly as
is shown in Figure 2. It has not yet, I believe, been applied to thicker
parts of the body. Figures 3 and 4 show a baby's foot and knee as seen
through this tube. The partial development of the bones accounts for the
peculiar appearance. There is no bony knee-pan, or patella, at birth,
and the bones of the toes consist only of cartilage, which is
translucent, and therefore not seen. The name given by Professor
Salvioni to this sort of "spy-glass"--if one may apply this term to an
instrument which has no glass--is that of "cryptoscope" (seeing that
which is hidden). The name suggested by Professor Magie is "skiascope"
(seeing a shadow.)
This leads me to say a word in reference to the nomenclature. The very
unfortunate name "shadowgraph" has been suggested and largely used in
the newspapers, and even in medical journals. It has only the merit of
clearness as to its meaning to English-speaking persons. It is, however,
an abominable linguistic crime, being an unnatural compound of English
and Greek. "Radiograph" and its derivatives are equally objectionable as
compounds of Latin and Greek. The Greek word for shadow is "skia," and
the proper rendering, therefore, of shadowgraph is "skiagraph,"
corresponding to photograph.
The first question that meets us in the use of the method in medicine is
what normal constituents of the body are permeable or impermeable to the
X rays. It may be stated, in a general way, that all of the fleshy parts
of the body are partially permeable to the rays in a relatively short
time; and if the exposure is long enough, they become entirely
permeable, so that no shadow is cast. Even the bones, on
_prolonged_ exposure, do not present a sufficient obstacle to the
passage of the rays, and the shadow originally cast becomes obliterated.
Hence, skiagraphs of the same object exposed to the rays for varying
times may be of value in showing the different tissues. The most
permeable of the normal tissues are cartilage or gristle, and fat. A
kidney (out of the body) is stated by Dr. Reid of Dundee to show the
difference between the rind, or secreting portion, which is more
transparent, and the central portion, consisting chiefly of conducting
tubes, which is less transparent. On the contrary, in the brain the gray
cortex, or rind, is less transparent than the white nerve tubules in the
The denser fibrous tissues, such as the ligaments of joints and the
tendons or sinews of muscles, cast very perceptible shadows, so that
when we come to a thick tendon like the tendo Achillis, the shadow
approaches even the density of the shadow cast by bone. I presume that
it is for the same reason (the dense fibrous envelope, or sclerotic
coat) that the eye-ball is not translucent to the rays, as is seen in
Figure 5, of a bullock's eye.
[Illustration: FIGURE 5.--SKIAGRAPH OF A BULLOCK'S EYE.
(From the "American Journal of the Medical Sciences," March 1896.)]
Mr. Arthur H. Lea has ingeniously suggested that the translucency of the
soft parts of the living and of those of the dead body might show a
difference, and that, if such were the case, it might be used as a
definite test of death. Unfortunately Figure 6, of a dead hand, when
contrasted with Figure 11, of a living hand, shows virtually no
difference, and the method cannot be used as a positive proof of death.
That we are not able at present to skiagraph the soft parts of the body,
does not imply that we shall not be able to do it hereafter; and should
this be possible, especially with our increasing ability to penetrate
thick masses of tissue, it is evident, without entering into details,
that the use of the X rays may be of immense importance in obstetrics.
The bones, however, as is seen in nearly all of the skiagraphs
illustrating this paper, cast well-defined shadows. This is at once an
advantage and a hindrance. To illustrate the latter first, even one
thickness of bone is difficult to penetrate, so that the attempt to
skiagraph the opening which had been made in a skull of a living person
by a trephine entirely failed, since the bone upon the opposite side of
the skull formed so dense an obstacle that not the slightest indication
of the trephine opening appeared. To take, therefore, a skiagraph of a
brain through two thicknesses of skull, with our present methods, is an
impossibility. Even should the difficulty be overcome, it is very
doubtful whether there would be any possibility of discovering diseases
of the brain, since diseased tissues, such as cancer, sarcoma, etc., are
probably as permeable to the X rays as the normal tissues. Thus Reid
("British Medical Journal," February 15, 1896) states that a cancerous
liver showed no difference in permeability to the rays through its
cancerous and its normal portions.
Foreign bodies, such as bullets, etc., in the brain may be discovered
when our processes have become perfected. Figure 7 shows two buck-shot
skiagraphed inside of a baby's skull, and therefore through two
thicknesses of bone. It must be remembered, however, that not only are
the bones of a baby's skull much less thick than those of an adult's
skull, but they are much less densely ossified, and so throw far less of
The dense shadows cast by bone are, at least at present, an insuperable
obstacle to skiagraphing the soft translucent organs of the body which
are enclosed within a more or less complete bony case, as the rays will
be intercepted by the bones. Efforts, therefore, to skiagraph the heart,
the lungs, the liver, and stomach, and all the pelvic organs, probably
will be fruitless to a greater or less extent until our methods are
improved. While a stone in a bladder outside the body would undoubtedly
be perceptible, in the body the bones of the pelvis prevent any
successful picture being taken.
[Illustration: FIGURE 6.--SKIAGRAPH OF A DEAD HAND AND WRIST, SHOWING
TWO BUCK-SHOT AND A NEEDLE EMBEDDED IN THE FLESH.
("American Journal of the Medical Sciences," March, 1896.)]
To turn from the hindrances to the advantages of the application of the
method to the bones, one of the most important uses will be in diseases
and injuries of bones. In many cases it is very difficult to determine,
even under ether, by the most careful manipulations, whether there is a
fracture or a dislocation, or both combined. When any time has elapsed
after the accident, the great swelling which often quickly follows such
injuries still further obscures the diagnosis by manipulation. The X
rays, however, are oblivious, or nearly so, of all swelling, and the
bones can be skiagraphed in the thinner parts of the body at present,
say up to the elbow and the ankle, with very great accuracy. Thus,
Figure 8 shows the deformity from an old fracture of the ulna (one of
the bones of the forearm) very clearly.
By this means we shall be able to distinguish between fracture and
dislocation in obscure cases. Thus Mr. Gray ("British Medical Journal,"
March 7, 1896), in a case of injury to an elbow, was enabled to
diagnosticate and successfully to replace a very rare dislocation, which
could not be made out by manipulation, but was clearly shown by the X
rays. We may also possibly be able to determine when the bones are
properly adjusted after a fracture; and all the better, since the
skiagraph can be taken through the dressings, even if wooden splints
have been employed. If plaster of Paris is used (and it is often the
best "splint") this is impermeable to the rays.
That this method will come into general use, however, is very unlikely,
since the expense, the time, and the trouble will be so great that it
will be impracticable to use it in every case, especially in hospitals
or dispensaries, where crowds of patients have to be attended to in a
relatively brief time. In the surgical dispensary alone of the Jefferson
Medical College Hospital, about one hundred patients are in attendance
between twelve and two o'clock every day, and all the time of a large
number of assistants is occupied with dressing the cases. It would be
manifestly an utter impossibility to skiagraph the many fractures which
are seen there daily, considering that it would take from half an hour
to an hour of the time of not less than two or three assistants skilled
not only in surgery, but also in electricity, to skiagraph a single
fracture. Now and then, in obscure cases, however, the method will be
undoubtedly of great service, as in the case above described.
[Illustration: FIGURE 7.--SKIAGRAPH OF A BABY'S SKULL, SHOWING TWO
BUCK-SHOT PLACED UNDER THE SKULL.
("American Journal of the Medical Sciences," March, 1896.)]
Too hasty conclusions, especially in medico-legal cases, may easily be
reached. We do not yet know, by skiagraphs of successful results after
fracture, just how such bones look during the process of healing, and,
therefore, we cannot yet be sure that the skiagraph of an unsuccessful
case is an evidence of unskilfulness on the part of the surgeon.
In diseases of bone, which are obscure, it has already proved of great
advantage, as in a case related by Mr. Abrahams ("British Medical
Journal," February 22, 1896). A lad of nineteen, who had injured his
little finger in catching a cricket ball, had the last joint of the
finger bent at a slight angle, and he could neither flex nor extend it.
Any attempt to do so caused great pain. The diagnosis was made of a
fracture extending into the joint, and that the joint having become
ossified, nothing short of amputation would give relief. Mr. Sydney
Rowland skiagraphed the hand, and showed that there was only a bridge of
bone uniting the last two joints of the finger. An anaesthetic was
administered, and with very little force the bridge of bone was snapped,
the finger saved, and the normal use of the hand restored.
Deformities of bone can be admirably shown. Thus Figure 9 ("British
Medical Journal," February 15, 1896) shows the deformity of the last two
toes of the foot, due to the wearing of tight shoes. (Owing to the
accidental breaking of the plate, only a part of the foot is shown.) The
lady whose foot was thus skiagraphed stated that she had suffered
tortures from her boots, so that walking became a penance, and she even
wanted the toes amputated. Relief was obtained by wearing broad-toed
boots, which gave room for the deformed toes. Another admirable
illustration of a similar use of the method is seen in Figure 2, from a
case of Professor Mosetig in Vienna. The last joint of the great toe was
double the ordinary size, and by touch it was recognized that there were
two bones instead of one. The difficulty was to determine which was the
normal bone, and which the extra bone that ought to be removed. The
moment the skiagraph was taken, it was very clear which bone should be
removed. Bony tumors elsewhere can also be diagnosticated and properly
treated. Possibly, also, we may be able to determine the presence of
dead bone, though I am not aware of any such skiagraphs having been
[Illustration: FIGURE 8.--SKIAGRAPH OF THE LEFT FOREARM OF A LIVING
SUBJECT, SHOWING AT THE POINT MARKED "B" A DEFORMITY FROM AN OLD
(Taken at the State Physical Laboratory, Hamburg, and published in the
"British Medical Journal.")]
Diseases and injuries of the joints will be amenable to examination by
this method. Figure 10 shows an elbow joint with tuberculous disease.
The bones of the arm and forearm are clearly seen, and between them, is
a light area due to granulation-tissue, or to fluid, probably of
tuberculous nature, which is translucent to the rays. The picture
confirms the prior diagnosis of tuberculous disease, and shows that the
joint will have to be opened and treated for the disease. Deposits of
uric acid in gouty diseases of the joints will undoubtedly be shown by
these methods, but this will scarcely be of any help in the treatment.
Whether light will be thrown on other diseases of the joints is a
problem not yet solved.
Analogous to the bony tissues are the so-called ossified (really,
calcified) arteries. In the dead body, arteries filled with substances
opaque to the X rays, such as plaster of Paris or cinnabar mixtures,
have already been skiagraphed successfully. It is not at all improbable
that calcified arteries in the living subject may be equally well shown.
So, too, when we are able to skiagraph through thick tissues, we may be
able to show such deposits in the internal organs of the body. Stones in
various organs, such as the kidney, will be accessible to examination so
soon as our methods have improved sufficiently for us to skiagraph
through the thicker parts of the trunk. The presence of such stones in
the kidney is very often inferential, and it will be a great boon, both
to the surgeon and the patient, if we shall be able to demonstrate
positively their presence by skiagraphy. For the reason already given
(the pelvic bones which surround the bladder), it is doubtful whether we
can make use of it in stone in the bladder. Gall stones, being made not
of lime and other similar salts, as are stones in the kidney and
bladder, but of cholesterine, are, unfortunately, permeable to these
rays; and it is, therefore, doubtful whether the X rays will be of any
service to us in determining their presence.
The chief use of the method up to the present time, besides determining
the diseases, injuries, and abnormities of bone, has been in determining
with absolute accuracy the presence of foreign bodies, especially of
needles, bullets, or shot and glass. It is often extremely difficult to
decide whether a needle is actually present or not. There may be a
little prick of the skin, and no further positive evidence, as the
needle is often imperceptible to touch. The patient, when
cross-questioned, is frequently doubtful whether the needle has not
dropped on the floor; and it might be, in some cases, a serious question
whether an exploratory operation to find a possible needle might not do
more harm than the needle. Moreover, though certainly present, to locate
it exactly is often very difficult; and even after an incision has been
made, though it may be embedded in a hand or foot, it is no easy task to
[Illustration: FIGURE 9.--SKIAGRAPH OF A HUMAN FOOT, SHOWING THE
DEFORMITY IN THE LAST TWO TOES CAUSED BY TIGHT BOOTS.
(Skiagraphed by Mr. Sydney Rowland, and published in the "British
The new method is a great step in advance in the line of precision of
diagnosis, and, therefore, of correct treatment. About half a dozen
cases have already been reported in the medical journals in which a
needle was suspected to be in the hand or the foot, and, in some
instances, had been sought for fruitlessly by a surgeon, in which the
use of the X rays demonstrated absolutely, not only its presence, but
its exact location, and it has then been an easy matter to extract it.
So, too, in an equal number of cases, bullets and shot have been
located, even after a prior fruitless search, and have been successfully
extracted. Figure 6 is the skiagraph of the hand of a cadaver which
shows a needle deeply embedded in the thumb, and also two buck-shot,
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