798 THE ICE MAIDEN
up when the old is worn out,' he continued. And when uncle was in a very communicative mood, he would tell of his youthful years, and of still earlier times, the strong times of his father, when Wallis was, as he expressed it, a closed bag, full of sick people and miserable cretins. 1 But the French soldiers came in,' he said, ' and they were the proper doctors, for they killed the disease at once, and they killed the people who had it too. They knew all about fighting, did the French, and they could fight in more than one way. Their girls could make conquests too,' and then uncle would laugh and nod to his wife, who was a Frenchwoman by birth. ' The French hammered away at our stones in famous style ! They hammered the Simplon road through the rocks—such a road that I can now say to a child of three years, " Go to Italy, only keep to the high road," and the child will arrive safely in Italy if it does not stray from the road.'
And then uncle would sing a French song, and cry * Hurrah for Napoleon Bonaparte !'
Here Rudy for the first time heard them tell of France and Lyons, the great town on the Rhone, where his uncle had been.
Not many years were to elapse before Rudy should become an expert chamois hunter ; his uncle said he had the stuff for it in him, and accordingly taught him to handle a rifle, to take aim, and shoot; and in the hunting season he took the lad with him into the mountains and let him drink the warm blood of the chamois, which cures the huntsman of giddiness ; he also taught him to judge of the various times when the avalanches would roll down the mountains, at noon or at evening, according as the sunbeams had shone upon the place ; he taught him to notice the way the chamois sprang, that Rudy might learn to come down firmly on his feet; and told him that where the rocky cleft gave no support for the foot, a man must cling by his elbows, hips, and legs, and that even the neck could be used as a support in case of need. The chamois were clever, he said—they posted sentinels ; but the hunter should be more clever still—keep out of the line of scent, and lead them astray ; and one day when Rudy was out hunting with uncle, the latter hung his coat and