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"C'est un rien," said Pierre Palassou, the
guide, with a shrug of the shoulders. "It is
the flood avalanche that we are afraid of.
Ah! To hear it come roaring down in summer
when the snows have melted on the mountains
rocks, and stones, and trees, and
rivers of mud, one trembles to think of it."

Fortunately the flood avalanche descends
by another ravine, which you pass just before
reaching Barèges, and the flood has never yet
done more than threaten the village, and
make the approach to it a most unpromising
one. On the whole, therefore, we may fairly say
that the avalanche, or rather the avalanches,
do come down at Barèges in an almost
inconceivably uncomfortable manner, and with a
rapidity of recurrence which it takes one's
breath away to think of. But those who are
most affected by the inconvenience, the
inhabitants, think nothing of it.

"The neighbours are so near," they say,
"and we all help one another! What would
you have more?"

What, indeed! Rightly understood, there
is, under these circumstances, very little more
to be desired.


LONG agohow many years since I do not
like to think of, but it was when I was a
young man, and just beginning the worldI
took delight in being a book-fancier; not a
bibliomaniac, as the profane have it, but an
ardent, eager bibliophilist, gathering together
volumes from the ends of the earth. The
famous collection at Donninghurst attests
pretty well the extent of my labours in this
vineyard. Arrayed in snowy vellum
raiment, or in old tooled calf, or, better still, in
ancient French morocco, they line these shelves
of mine in the oak room, and are still the
admirationperhaps the envyof the
curious. Now that the fit has passed from me,
I look on them as so many memorials of an
old folly, and find myself gazing at them
curiously, as a lover might do at the faded
writings of an unworthy mistress. How I
came to forswear this seductive pursuit, and
flee for ever from the temples of Christie, and
Sotheby, and such famous brethren of the
hammer, I will now try and set forth, as
some entertainment for this passing hour.

When I first went down to Donninghurst,
which was just after leaving Oxford, this
book-fever, as it may be called, was very
strong upon me, and I took exceeding delight
in arranging and cataloguing the contents of
certain great chests which had come down to
me from London. And now, before going
further, I may say a word concerning
Donninghurst itself. It was nothing more than
a small villagea quiet, retired, innocent
little village of the Auburn kind, lying in a
sheltered valley far from the busy hum of
men. To look down from the brow of the
hill upon the ancient church disguised in ivy,
green and brown; upon the little bridge over
the brook which divided the village; upon
the noisy water-mill, the tiers of snowy
cottages sloping down to the water's edge; this
was pleasant and fit recreation for any
contemplative man, and was as fair a prospect
as could be seen upon a long summer's day.

Naturally enough, I had a great liking for
Donninghurst, and were it not for the utter
dearth of all congenial societythat is, of
bibliophilist brethrenI should have pitched
my tent there for good and all. True, there
was the parson, who is traditionally supposed
to be ardent in such matters, but who in our
instance happened unfortunately to be a
placid easy man, full of soft words, and with
little scholarship beyond his Bible; in short,
a smooth shaven respectability, as Mr. Carlyle
would phrase it. I did not, therefore, grieve
very much when I heard, on my second visit,
that this reverend person had passed away to
a brighter sphereto a wealthier parish, that
isand that Doctor Erasmus Ashmole, F.R.S.,
F.S.A., Corres. Mem., &c., &c., had been
appointed in his place. This was joyful news
for me. In those mystic characters I saw
wondrous visions shadowed forth: long Attic
nights, earnest disputations, eager criticism,
unique and matchless exemplars. Soon my
card found its way to the vicarage, and within
a very brief span I found myself in the full
enjoyment of his friendship. I found him a
fierce rude scholar of the true Bentley school
a man that called you Sir in loud tones, after
the Johnsonian mannerwith a way of beating
the table savagely in the warmth of argument.
All the golden visions I had read in
the cabalistic letters were realised to the full.
He had brought down a matchless collection
whole regiments of Editiones Principes;
camel-loads of Fathers, clean and unsullied,
with virgin pages; Bollandists, Variorums,
Aldines, all in superb condition and original
bindings. Elzevirs, too, were there, not to
speak of Plantins, Jansens, Baskervilles, Tonsons,
and other famous Imprinters. There were
also strange black-letter volumescreatures
in ponderous oak covers, with rude metal
fittings. And, last of all, he had brought
down with him an exquisite copy from
Nature's own press, printed in the fairest
characters, one unique and beyond all price;
in short, no other than his own fair daughter,
sweet Miss Lizzie Ashmole.

She was a bright little creature, with a
beaming face and dark brilliant eyes, with
arched pencilled eyebrows and soft wavy
hair worn à la Grecque, which I was told
fell nearly to her feet. Indeed, the other day,
when I went to see a famous Little Lady at
one of our great theatres, I was perfectly
startled at the likeness. No wonder, then,
that Doctor Erasmus loved her, if anything,
better than his books. From long habit, too,
she had caught up some odds and ends of
bibliographical doctrine, upon which she used
to discourse very gracefully; and it was very