Rose-pink takes no second place to sky-blue in human esteem. Of all colours, pink - the pink of health, of life, and of perfection - makes perhaps the strongest appeal; and the very natural inclination is for us to linger over such a wondrous series of the freshest pinks as now surrounds us. Nor does this glow of health's own colour find its limits in the Roses. On the disintegrating sides of the rocks to our left is a great quantity of two very lovely Dianthus, Dianthus deltoides, and D). carthusian-orum, the pale blush of the former's large, single blossoms throwing the fiery little clustered flowers of the latter into striking relief. With these Rock-Pinks added to the Roses, harmonious gaiety could go no farther! And the grey-leaved Absinthe - the plant which is in such profusion beneath the Rose-bushes - is just the very setting for this pink and rosy glory. It is an aesthetic and a tuneful blend of colour, which even the most ultra upholder of 'the law against Absinthe' must admire, and admire aboundingly.
We must now scramble up this slope, where stands a waving group of the lovely lilac-plumed Thalictrum, as it were better to avoid passing too close to that cowshed ahead of us. We are not lonely. Many an innocent tourist will call inquisitively at the first cowshed he comes to, and so collect a horde of flies which will not leave his person until sundown - unless he stays his progress during the day, and of set and determined purpose slays them nimbly one by one. We will be wise in our generation, and take this short-cut! There is something really terrible in the persistence of a fly, and when, instead of one, there are sixty or a hundred flies - great iridescent, green-eyed creatures of stealthy habits, making their presence known only when they have dug their proboscis deep into the flesh - the persistence easily becomes maddening! No wonder the cattle will often stampede madly about the mountain-side, driven frantic by this terrible persistence! No wonder that it is often thought kinder to confine the cows to their sheds until sundown, when 'the wicked cease from troubling'!
There is comparatively little of interest in the forest through which we are now passing. Here and there, by the side of our path, and where there is more or less a break in the trees, are a few of that graceful little Masterwort, Astrantia minor, in company with a few plants of Saxifraga rotundi-folia and the yellow Wolfs-bane, or Monkshood (Acordtum Lycoctonum). Occasionally at the base of a pine there is some specimen of Broom-rape, or Orobanche, that curious Orchid-like group of plants which have, it is conjectured, turned parasitic, living on the roots of other plants, their own green leaves having thereby degenerated into dingy-brown scales. Here and there, too, stands in the semi-shade a stately group of the great creamy-plumed Spircea Aruncus, crept up from the valley below. This is La Reine des Bois; and certainly she is Queen of her race in Europe, if not elsewhere. As slowly we arrive above the forest limit, the Rhododendron bushes, laden with blossom, become more numerous, until, the last gnarled and stunted pine being left behind, we find ourselves in the midst of rosy-red acres, bordered with blue Gentian and flecked with orange Arnica - a unique and wonderful sight: Alpine summer in its boldest, most becoming robe. Our path is now winding gently upwards, making for the Col on the sky-line in front of us. We are passing along slopes running sharply down into a deep, rocky, forbidding-looking gorge cut by Spring's torrents from the snow on the Col and flanking peaks. And these slopes are densely clothed with Rhododendron (as Gorse will sometimes clothe our English downs and commons) in fullest blossom, bright rosy-red, sometimes palest pink, and - but this is far from common - sometimes white. Here and there between the bushes is the brilliant orange Arnica montana, the rich red - brown Gentiana purpurea, and occasionally this latter's near relative, the pale greenish-yellow Gentiana punctata. Here and there, too, is the vivid orange-red 'Grimm the Collier' (Hieracium aurantiacum) and the graceful Wintergreen (Pyrola minor), so like a robust blush-tinted Lily-of-the-Valley. Of Orchids there is a goodly number. The small white Coeloglossum albidum; Orchis globosa, with its distinctive lilac turban of blossom; the curious green and brown Frog Orchis (Orchis viridis); the rich brown-red Vanilla Orchid (Nigiitella angusti-f'olia); the Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadenia conopea); and last, but by no means least, the familiar and always welcome Night-scented or Butterfly Orchis (Habernaria bifolia), the 'sweet satyrian with the white flower' of Bacon - or is it Shakespeare ! - in his essay 'Of Gardens.'
Trollius Europaeus (The Globe Flower) And Geranium At The Col De La Forclaz, In June.
Strange to find this latter Orchid consorting with Rhododendron in the Swiss Alps! When last we met it was on the Surrey Downs! But 'sweet satyrian' is not the only feature here which carries our thoughts to England. There are the '. . . chequered butterflies, Like beams of Orient skies.'
Look yonder at that clear-yellow one skipping so briskly over the bushes: it has all the gay allure of the British Pale Clouded-Yellow, of which it must be no very distant cousin. It is Colias Palceno, whose food-plant is the Rhododendron. Its presence is reminiscent of English clover-fields - especially now that a really familiar member of the family, the Dark Clouded-Yellow, comes racing by. Palceno is a very beautiful insect. There is something so broad and pure about its design and colouring. Beautiful as is Edusa, the Dark Clouded-Yellow, or as is Hyale, the Pale Clouded-Yellow, this, their relative, at once strikes us as of greater, simpler refinement - refinement altogether in keeping with Alpine circumstance. Following the rule for insects, the female is more modestly apparelled; but, although she is paler, she is charming - fit consort for her black and citron-coloured lord. Then, again, that bright little chestnut-coloured insect, with thin black markings, flitting so swiftly from Dandelion to Dandelion, is Argynnis Pales, blood-relation of our small Fritillaries. Those Browns, too, playing about among the stones and grasses, are close connections of our Meadow Brown. And there, gambolling in the air, are two bright Blues, which at first sight it is pardonable to mistake for our Large Blue (Lyccena Avion); this, however, is Lycaena Damon, a near relation, though a stranger to English soil. They have settled now on yonder plants of Thyme; and there beside them, deeply absorbed in the sweet blossoms, are one or two brilliant Alpine Coppers (Polyommatus Vergaureae), obviously allied to the Great Copper now extinct in England, but likely, let us hope, to be restored by the good offices of Wicken Fen. A brilliant specimen of the Swallowtail, too, is coming up the slope in rapid, tumbled flight. This insect (Papilio Machaon - another British butterfly likely to benefit by the establishment of Wicken Fen as a preserve) is common throughout Switzerland, straying much higher up into the Alps than the Scarce Swallow-tail (P. Podalirius), though this latter is plentiful along some of the hot and dusty roads of the plains. The absence of Podalirius upon the Alps is due to its conservative taste in food, the Blackthorn and the Sloe ceasing at about 2,000 feet; whereas the Common Swallow-tail adapts its appetite to Alpine food-stuff, and feeds willingly on several of the mountain Umbelliferae.