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In the last scene of my captivity, things passed
quite differently to what I had expected.

On the 21st of February, the cold struck me
as increasing in severity; I therefore
determined not to lose an instant. I had to open a
passage wide enough for the sledge to pass
through; but I could throw back the snow into
the chalet, and that made my task easier. I
immediately set to work, and laboured at it so
heartily, that at last I felt tired. I was obliged
to rest awhile. I lighted a fire.

Scarcely had the smoke risen in the air, when
I heard a great noise outside. My first thought
was that the wolves had got scent of me,
and that they were on the point of devouring
me. I violently shut to the door. My fright
did not last long, for I soon heard myself
distinctly called by name, and I even thought I
could recognise the voice. I answered with all
my strength.

Instantly there arose, in the direction of the
door, a confused sound of voices, like that of
people excited by their work in hand. In a
few minutes, a tolerably wide opening completed
the passage which I had begun. It was my father.
He scarcely waited for the breach in the snow to
be fairly open. He darted with a cry into the
chalet. I was in his arms.

"And your grandfather?" he asked.

I was too much overcome to answer: I led
him into the dairy. He knelt beside the grave;
I did the same; and, as I endeavoured to tell him
in detail what had passed, he saw, by my agitation,
that the attempt was beyond my strength.

The men who accompanied him had entered.
They were my two uncles, and Pierre, our
servant. They all embraced me. They saw my
preparations, and approved of them. They
decided to start immediately. My liberators had
fastened to their feet small pieces of board
armed with little points. They had brought a
couple of pairs besides. Ah! one of them was
useless; I put on the other. Pierre took
charge of the sledge. The wolves now might
come if they pleased; we were all armed. My
father took me by the hand, and laid on my
shoulder a light gun which I knew how to use.

"This is not the time," he said, "to remove
my father's mortal remains. We will come and
fetch them as soon as the season allows us,
when they shall decently receive the last
respect due to them, in the village cemetery."

"You have divined," I replied, "my
grandfather's last wishes."

We retired for an instant into the dairy; my
uncles were with us. After a few moments of
silence, my father, all in tears, exclaimed,

"Adieu! father. No doubt I am doing what
you would request me to do, in removing this
lad as soon as possible, whose fate must have
caused you as much apprehension as it has
given us. Father, adieu!"

We departed; our eyes were full of tears.
The descent was rapid but fatiguing. I was
especially dazzled by the light of the sun
and the brilliancy of the snow. The cold was
severe, and I did not complain; it was what
had saved me.

After travelling over the snow with no other
accident than sinking in a little from time to
time, we arrived at the spot, still a long way
from the village, up to which they had opened
the road in their endeavours to reach us. I was
astonished to see the immense labour it must
have cost; and I comprehended that, without
the frost, a long time must still have elapsed
before I could be delivered.

"You would have been rescued in the month
of December, if the frost had held on," my
father said; "but the snow softened, and we
had no choice but to work as hard as we could
at this undertaking. You must know, my dear
Louis, that our neighbours have been wanting
neither in charity nor zeal; but, within the
memory of man, never was there such a heavy
fall of snow. Four times did we open the road,
and four times was it drifted up again."

"Was it blocked up from the first day?" I

My father then informed me of a very
unfortunate circumstance. He nearly lost his life
from the sliding of a mass of snow, as he was
descending the mountain. They picked him up
in a dying state at the edge of a ravine, and, a
few paces further on, they found my
grandfather's stick, and my bottle.

My father was carried home senseless, where
he continued for three days in a precarious
condition. They lost all that time in searching for
us amongst the snow at the bottom of the
ravine. When my father came to himself, it was
too late to make any attempt in our favour,
which would already have been very dangerous,
if not impossible, after the first day.

All our neighbours came out to meet me,
testifying their friendly disposition; and I blushed
to have ever doubted it. Everybody is curious
to see Blanchette. She is overwhelmed with
caresses on my account. She is treated to the
best hay and the dryest litter; she will be the
most pampered and the happiest of goats.

God has saved my life. He has not
permitted my grandfather to behold his family
again. But the good friend whom I have
lost, taught me never to murmur at the
decrees of Providence.

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