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Our Little Swiss Cousin by Wade

He had been in search of chamois


"O,

how I wish I could have gone with you," cried Franz. "I have always longed to visit the good monks and see their brave dogs."

"It must be a terrible tramp over the mountain in winter," the schoolmaster went on. "Yet every year there are some people who need to go that way at that season. How much worse it would be, however, if the monastery were not there, with the priests living in it and giving their lives to help others."

"They say that the cold is so great that the monks cannot stand more than a few years of such a life," said Rudolf.

"It is true," replied the schoolmaster. "Many of them die before their time, while others must after a while go down to warmer lands. The noble dogs that they raise stand the cold much better."

"I have often made a picture for myself of a snow-storm on the St. Bernard," said Carl, thoughtfully. He had not spoken for a long time. "How the drifts pile up and fill the pathway. The snow falls thick and fast, and after a while the poor traveller cannot tell which way to turn. He grows cold and numb; he is quite tired out. At last he gives up hope, and perhaps he sinks down, and perhaps he loses all sense of where he is. Now is the very time that the good monks, watching the storm, loose the dogs. But first, food and reviving drink are fastened to the collars of the trusty animals.

"Off

they bound, down the mountainside, scenting the air on every side. They understand their duty and work faithfully. They find the poor traveller in time to save his life and guide him to the home of the priests. Ah! how I love these good men and their faithful dogs."

"Your cheeks have grown quite rosy with the story, my boy," said the schoolmaster. "The picture in your mind must be bright, indeed. But we cannot praise too highly both the monks and their loving deeds. Sometimes, alas! the dogs do not find the travellers in time, however. Then they can only drag their dead bodies to the monastery, where they will stay till friends of the travellers come to claim them. But enough of this sad thought for to-night; let us talk of other things."

"Dear master," said Franz, "please tell us of other things you have seen this summer. We always love to hear your stories."

"Let me see. O, yes, now I think of something that will interest you boys. I travelled for quite a distance with a hunter. He had been in search of chamois, but he says they are getting very scarce now. He was bringing home only one."

[Illustration: "'FOLLOWING ITS MASTER ABOUT JUST LIKE A DOG.'"]

"It seems a shame to kill the poor creatures," said Carl's father. "They are gentle and harmless, and take pleasure in living where others find only danger. Once I came suddenly upon a herd of them. They seemed to be having a game of chase together, and were frolicking gaily. But at the sound of my footstep they fled like the wind over the snow and ice. In a moment, almost, they were out of sight."

"Why can they climb where no one else is able to go?" asked Carl.

"Behind each hoof there is another called the false hoof," replied the schoolmaster. "I looked at those of the dead chamois the hunter was carrying home. These extra hoofs give the creature the power to hold himself in places which would not be safe without their aid. Their bodies are very light and their legs are slim, while they seem to be entirely without fear of anything save men."


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