But here we are, at the base of the steeper slopes mounting to the Col. We had best leave the path, though it follow an easier gradient; for, by ascending direct, we shall see more of the flowers. We have now left the zone of Rhododendron, and have gone one good step nearer the elite of Alpine things. Here, nestling in the close turf, is the little mauve-flowered Gentiana tenella, growing with that other annual Gentian, the exquisite little bright blue G. nivalis, together with a few plants of its far more local mauve form, said by some to be a distinct variety. And here is a plant of its white form growing close to this colony of G. campestris. Here, also, is the white Alpine Butterwort, or Catchfly (Pinguicula alpina), a member of the vegetation which is far from being a vegetarian! And here, in the hollow, by this patch of melting snow, is the frail little Snowbell (Soldanella pusilla), much smaller than our old friend S. alpina, though bearing an unmistakable likeness to its more ubiquitous relative. And here is yet another link with England and some of the copses of Essex and Cambridgeshire - Primula elatior, the Oxlip! Really, the invasion of the Swiss Alps by the British seems not to be confined to any one creation! What with the Stinging-Nettle, the Yellow Colt's-foot, the 'sweet satyrian,' the Oxlip, and that Cabbage-White Butterfly fluttering up the slope over there, the invasion appears as much vegetable and insect as human!
Once again, then, we catch a glimpse of the difficulty, and even, strictly speaking, the impossibility of drawing sharp, dogmatic lines anywhere in circumstance. The so-called hard-and-fast principle of 'each country for its countrymen' is merely the relative principle of a season. Men may raise and maintain vast fleets and armies for the protection and imposition of this principle, but the inevitable trend of things is towards 'share and share alike.' Men may attempt to resist this trend of things - they may make all strenuous efforts to negative it - but in the end their efforts are so many efforts in its favour. The trend is, in spite of all, for nation to absorb nation. And are there no indications of this trend in other creations than Man? May it not be that the goal of brotherhood is not for him alone? May it not be that evolution is diminishing disabilities and extending adaptability in other directions besides that of the human species? Have we to suppose that, apart from Man, the last word upon the tendency to relative ubiquity is expressed to-day by the Horse, the Sparrow, the House-fly, or the Nettle? There is much temptation to think that we have not; there seems much to indicate that Man has no monopoly of the tourist spirit, precursor of settlement. A not altogether pleasing prospect this, contemplating it through present-day-glasses. Beauty - as we now understand it - must suffer if Brotherhood is to gain, for variety must, obviously, be suppressed to a large extent. And, with us of to-day, 'variety is charming,' and is, indeed, of the very salt of life.
But we are out for a little mild botany, not for cloudy philosophy! Our excuse must be that our surroundings provoke such reflections. There is so little here of the hustle and bustle of the world, or, at any rate, of civilization. All around us Nature seems so placid. Speaking vaguely, 'the things that matter in life' are, for the nonce, far-distant, and the temptation is to lapse into abstractions. Our wayward speculations have, in any case, carried us over the ground, for here we are on the Col! Orthodoxy would have us expatiate upon the view, which is superb, truly superb, vibrating as it is with those actinic rays so belauded of photographers, so beloved of Alpine flowers; but we are bent more upon the vegetable details of the immediate foreground - and (oh, exceptional incident!) we have with us no Kodak! What is that field of silvery, shimmering white just below us, where the sparkling little stream is overflowing its usual course? It must be Cotton-Grass; not the common Cotton-Grass with pendant white tassels, but Eriophorum Scheuchzeri, sometimes known as the Hare's-tail Rush, with one large, erect, silky, white plume - an ideal thing of which to gather a quantity for the winter decoration of our vases. When it is seen growing, as is not infrequently the case, with quantities of the laughing-blue Bavarian Gentian, the harmonious delight of colour is such as is verily 'fit food for the gods'! Gentiana bavarica, like many another water-loving Alpine, is not a marsh plant, as is the Cotton-Grass; when this Gentian associates with the Cotton-Grass, it is always upon the drier, more substantial spots amid the marshy ground. Those who see such plants growing in moist ground, and who wish to succeed with them in their gardens at home, should remember that throughout the long winter months here in the Alps the ground is frozen hard and dry. Failure will dog all attempts to treat this Gentian (and many another Alpine which loves water during the summer) as a bog-plant in England.
Now, bearing to the right, we will follow along the slopes which lead to the turfy shoulder of the peak on the opposite side of the gorge to that by which we ascended. There is much the same flora on these slopes as on the last steep slopes before we reached the Col, except that here, on this stony shelf over which we are passing, is a quantity of the always fascinating little trailing Alpine, Linaria alpina, or Alpine Toad-Flax, with its charming mauve and orange blossoms and cool, grey-green foliage. There exists a variety which has no orange lips, but it is very much more local, and is not growing here; nor is its extremely uncommon pink form, reported as having been recently found in the neighbourhood of Bourg St. Pierre. This Toad-Flax is obviously a member of the family of Snapdragon, and its blossom bears a strong likeness to the Mother-of-Thousands or Wandering Sailor (Linaria cymbalaria) of our English walls. The popular family name of Toad-Flax is said to be derived from the common yellow Snapdragon of the plains, whose appearance, before flowering, resembles a many-leaved plant of Flax, and the mouth of whose yellow blossom is supposed to resemble that of a Toad.