A Bit Of Pyrenean Scenery.
Viewed from some points along the valley, the bridge of Napoleon, as it is called, is the most picturesque structure of its kind that I have ever seen, its pure white marble standing out in beautiful relief against the sky, while through its curving frame the picture of dark forests and imposing mountains is a sight to linger evermore in the memory. The last time I beheld it was at sunset, when we had stopped our carriage to look back upon it, captivated by its loveliness. Beyond, a solitary mountain summit gleamed resplendent in the sunset glow; above it, several tiny pink and white clouds looked like soft rose petals lightly blown across the evening sky; the marble arch itself, a miracle of grace and beauty, seemed like a silver crescent, suspended from the velvety blue dome of heaven. One moment, as the rays of the declining sun fell full upon it, the spotless structure flushed like a mighty opal, "A rose of fire, shut in a veil of snow;" then suddenly its glory vanished; the arch turned white and cold, and seemed the phantom of a bridge, rather than solid stone. Reluctantly we drove on down the valley, realizing, with a sigh, that the sands of another happy day had ebbed away. Another Pyrenean drive of perfect comfort, although conducted through a narrow gorge whose savage grandeur equals that of portions of the Alpine Via Mala, brought us one day to Cauterets, more than three thousand feet above the sea. In spite of its altitude and isolation from the outer world, we found this more of a town than any we had seen within the limits of the mountains. Two hundred and fifty houses and some thirteen hundred permanent inhabitants give to this place, which Nature made so difficult of access, quite an urban air. I liked it less, however, on this account. The quiet of Eaux Bonnes was recollected with a sigh of regret, when, rising from the paved streets of this little town there came to us a constant din of rattling carriages, cracking whips, and horses' hoofs, together with the clatter of wooden shoes and a continual murmur of voices; for, in the limited area in front of the hotels (which, by the way, are admirable), guides, coachmen, servants, peasants, itinerant merchants, and scores of tourists seemed to be coming and going, expostulating, quarreling, bargaining, or gossiping at every hour of the day and night.
One Of The Pyrenees.
Like almost all the other notable resorts within the shadow of the Pyrenees, Cauterets owes its existence and prosperity to its healing waters. In fact, these baths have always been more popular than those of Eaux Bonnes or Eaux Chaudes. French royalty has been frequently represented here, and one of the springs at Cauterets is said to have been visited by Julius Caesar, and now bears his name. At all events, that the old Roman conquerors of Gaul and Spain knew of these waters and their healing properties seems to be beyond question. With these advantages, the bathing establishment at Cauterets is, as we might expect, unusually fine. It is a marble structure, handsome without and luxurious within, - containing white-tiled bath-rooms and two spacious apartments for swimming. Above these, a broad marble stairway leads to reading and billiard rooms, a cafe, a restaurant, and a small theatre. The use of these waters is, however, a serious affair, to be directed only by the resident physicians. The latest scientific appliances are employed, and one can be treated here in almost every conceivable way, from spraying to steaming, and from showering to soaking. For those who are not invalids, however, the chief inducement for a visit to Cauterets is the number of excursions to be made from it. The most enjoyable of these I found to be the expedition to the Lac de Gaube, a journey of about three hours on foot or horseback. We started early in the morning, and the exhilarating ride up a wild crevice in the mountains, flanked now by granite precipices, now by huge black fir-trees, forms one of my most delightful recollections of the Pyrenees. At intervals halts were made beside the waterfalls which, here as elsewhere in these wooded mountains, are both numerous and beautiful. The Lac de Gaube, the ultimate object of the excursion, is one of the loneliest sheets of water in the world. Nearly six thousand feet above the sea, it lies in lofty isolation for almost the entire year, and even in the "season" is rarely seen by tourists. Yet it abundantly repays a visit, for, aside from its own beauty, above this lake, whose waters are of an exquisite green color, rises the famous Vignemale, one of the highest peaks of the Pyrenees, its sides and summit dazzling with eternal snow. As we approached this place we saw, standing upon an isolated rock, a solitary man, whose meagre silhouette outlined itself against the sky, like an exclamation-point of wretchedness. Our guide, who told us he was the keeper of a little restaurant here, called to him several times without securing a response. Presently, however, he turned and came slowly toward us.