But we must be moving on; the first tints of sunset are already touching the snow and ice on yonder glacier, and 'Darker grows the valley, more and more forgetting.'
As we descend the sheltered slope to reach the pastures where are the cattle - and the flies! - we come across a host of Bell-Gentian. This is Gentiana acaulis, known vulgarly in our gardens as Gentianella. Though much resembling Gentiana Kochiana, it is smaller, and has not on its throat the green rays of the latter; its dark green leaves, too, are hard and thick, whereas the leaves of Kochiana are dull-green and flabby. These two Gentians are commonly confounded, possibly because there appear to be intermediate forms. Indeed, a not unusual mistake amongst flower - lovers, and especially amongst gardeners, is to call all the Bell-Gentians by the one name, acaulis, thus including Gentiana Clusii, which is less marked with green than Kochiana, and has hard, pointed leaves, standing more erect; and also Gentiana alpina, with green rays, likewise, down the throat of the flower, but with short oval leaves of a yellowish-green. One is inclined to presume that the flora of the Alps has long ago been thoroughly mapped out, discussed, and determined; but such is not really the case. Relatively little there is, perhaps, which is final. In any case, much remains to be done in many directions, and there is still ample occasion for the scientific enthusiast to add lustre to his name. Botany is comparatively a young study - as, indeed, all such studies are young. We have no more heard 'the Last word' on the subject than we have discovered the last plant. 'One of the delights of the observation of live things,' says Mr. W. Beach Thomas, 'is that you are perpetually unlearning established truths,' and of few, if any, things is this more true than of plants, and of that all-round study of plants which Botany should mean.
But here we are at length at the first cow-chalet, and we may as well sit down awhile. We have been walking for nearly five hours, and have earned a meed of repose. Not that five hours' walking is any extraordinary feat in the Alps! With such pure, invigorating air, and so much to absorb attention, five hours pass as easily as, and with no more fatigue than, one hour will pass on a close and dusty high-road in the plains. The flies? No, no; we shall not now be bothered by the flies! Just before sunset is their bed-time, and at that hour they disappear as if by magic. We may sit down with perfect equanimity beside this ancient, storm-worn cross, where the little cow-boy is busily tying up blossoms of the purple Alpine Viola into bunches to dry for Winter use as tea for chills and colds.
How peaceful is the glorious panorama: true type, in every way, of the bright, seductive side of Alpine circumstance!, On yonder tall Alpine Thistle the lovely Apollo butterfly has already closed its vermilion-eyed wings in sleep; from yonder cowshed musically troop the cows, after some hours of comparative seclusion from their enemies, the flies; in yonder rose-blue sky circles a black, dot-like Eagle, searching the landscape for his evening's meal; up yonder mountains creep the purple shades of sundown, invading more and more the bright, ruddy gold of the sunlit cliffs and crags; while everywhere there reigns 'A glister over all the air, A glister as of diamond wine; A dazzled ether shrinking in the shine.'
Truly a scene to ponder over; fit conclusion to a full, round day of fascination! Some there are who will surely dub our day a day of tame performance; will cavil at our want of proper zeal; will say we had shown a more appropriate spirit had we treated with the mountains as zestful climbers should, scaling their topmost peaks away above the last poor weed. Well, well! it is good there should be other views to hand besides our own:
'To him who in the love of Nature holds Communion with her visible forms, she speaks A various language.'
Alpine Garden (La Rambertia) At The Summit Of The Rochers De Naye, In The Clouds At The End Of June.