BY G. A. HENTY
AUTHOR OF 'RUJUB THE JUGGLER' 'IN THE DAYS OF THE MUTINY'
'THE CURSE OF CARNE'S HOLD' ETC.
IN THREE VOLUMES—VOL. III.
CHATTO & WINDUS, PICCADILLY
SPOTTISWOODE AND CO., NEW-STREET SQUARE
NEW LIBRARY NOVELS.
Higher and higher rose the flames as fresh sticks were constantly piled on. The blood again began to circulate through the veins, and enjoyable as the heat was, the sharp tingling in the hands and feet caused the girls acute pain. Then came a feeling of pleasant drowsiness.
'It will do them no harm to go to sleep, I suppose?' Mr. Hawtrey asked Giuseppe.
'No, monsieur. Now that they are warm it is the best thing for them. We will keep up the fire.'
Scarcely a word had yet been spoken. Both Mr. Hawtrey and his friend were completely exhausted. Since they had left the glacier they had staggered along in a half-stupefied condition, feeling that in spite of their exertions they were gradually becoming more and more chilled. As soon as the fire blazed up and there was nothing more to do for the girls, they had thrown themselves down near the fire, and a feeling of drowsiness, against which they had been fighting ever since the storm struck them, was now almost overpowering. Giuseppe produced from his wallet a bottle of wine and some cold meat and bread. These had formed part of the supply that had been brought up for lunch. The rest had been left behind, at the spot where they had started on the glacier.
'Let us eat, monsieur,' he said to Captain Armstrong.
'But the others will want something when they wake.'
'Conrad will start as soon as he has eaten, monsieur, to get help. It is two o'clock now; he will be down at the village in three hours, and will bring up porters and food. The ladies will not be able to walk. It has been a narrow escape.'
'It has indeed. We all owe our lives to you, my good fellows.'
'It is our business,' the man said simply; 'we were wrong in letting you go on to the glacier, but we did not think the storm would have come on so quickly. Sometimes the clouds will be like that for hours before they burst; but it is getting late in the season, and we ought to have run no risks.'
Just as they had finished their meal Giuseppe exclaimed, 'I hear a shout!'
The others listened, and above the roaring of the wind in the pines overhead they heard the sharp bark of a dog.
'It must be a rescue party,' Conrad said, leaping to his feet. 'They are sure to have seen the clouds rolling down the mountains, and would know that there was a storm raging up here,' and accompanied by Giuseppe he hurried away in the direction from which the sound had come, shouting occasionally as they went.
In five minutes Captain Armstrong heard them returning, and the sound of voices and of stumbling feet among the rocks showed that they had a party with them. He rose to his feet just as the figures of the guides, with three or four men, emerged from the mist.
'Thank God we have found you, Armstrong!' Lord Halliburn said, grasping his hand. 'We have had a terrible fright about you all. It was somewhere about eleven when one of the guides ran up to the hotel saying that there was a storm raging amongst the hills, that the clouds had swept across the Mer de Glace, and he was certain the party that had gone up this morning must have been overtaken by it. You may imagine that we lost no time. The guides knew what to do, and got together twenty men, with stretchers and ropes; then we got a lot of blankets from the hotel, and brandy, cold soup, and things of that sort, and started. Till we were more than half way up we were inclined to believe that the fears of the guides were exaggerated, for although we could see the clouds flying fast overhead there was not a breath of wind. However, for the last hour we have had a desperate fight for it. Though we had brought wraps with us, the wind and driving snow were terrible, and we began to despair of ever seeing any of you alive again. We were almost as surprised as delighted when your guides met us and assured me that you were all safe. Where are the others?'
'There they are, sound asleep. The heat of the fire after the bitter cold sent them off at once.'
'Do not disturb them till we have heated some soup and got some boiling water ready,' Giuseppe said. 'Some hot soup for the ladies, and some of the same with some hot spirits and water for the men, will do wonders for them.'
A few minutes later Mr. Hawtrey was roused. He looked round in bewilderment at the men clustered on the other side of the fire.
'Thank you and your friends most heartily, Halliburn, for hurrying so promptly to our rescue,' he said, as soon as he understood the situation. 'One of the guides told me when we got here that he was going to start for help, but that would have meant six or seven hours' delay, and the sooner the girls are in bed the better for them.'
Mr. Fortescue was next aroused, and then he and Mr. Hawtrey woke the girls. They, however, were unable to rise to their feet, their limbs being completely stiffened by cold and fatigue. A basin of hot soup with bread broken into it restored them wonderfully.
'How are we to get down, father?' Dorothy asked.
'You will be carried, dear; the men have brought up stretchers and plenty of blankets and wraps, and there are mules for Fortescue and myself half a mile lower. We can manage to get as far as that, though I feel as if I had been beaten almost into a jelly. It is Lord Halliburn and his friends who have brought this party to our rescue, dear,' for the men had, at the suggestion of the guide, all retired a short distance from the fire when the girls were awakened, as he said that it was better that they should not be confused by seeing themselves surrounded by strange faces.
'It is very good of them,' Dorothy said. 'I was wondering vaguely while I was taking the soup where it had come from, and could not make out what you meant by the stretchers and mules, because I remember we sent those that we came up on, back to the hotel. Where is Lord Halliburn?'
'Halliburn, will you and your friends show yourselves,' Mr. Hawtrey said. 'The ladies are now ready to receive company.'
There was but a short chat, then the stretchers were brought up and the girls helped to take their places upon them. They were then