1 was beginning to take itself something of the shape of the human profile. By four the back of the head was good, the military cap was pretty good, the nose was bold and strong, the upper lip sharp, but not pretty, and there was a great goatee that shot straight aggressively forward from the chin.

At four-thirty the nose had changed its shape considerably, and the altered slant of the sun had revealed and made conspicuous a huge buttress or barrier of naked rock which was so located as to answer very well for a shoulder or coat-collar to this swarthy and indiscreet sweetheart who had stolen out there right before everybody to pillow his head on the Virgin's white breast and whisper soft sentimentalities to her in the sensuous music of the crashing ice-domes and the boom and thunder of the passing avalanche--music very familiar to his ear, for he had heard it every afternoon at this hour since the day he first came courting this child of the earth, who lives in the sky, and that day is far, yes--for he was at this pleasant sport before the Middle Ages drifted by him in the valley; before the Romans marched past, and before the antique and recordless barbarians fished and hunted here and wondered who he might be, and were probably afraid of him; and before primeval man himself, just emerged from his four-footed estate, stepped out upon this plain, first sample of his race, a thousand centuries ago, and cast a glad eye up there, judging he had found a brother human being and consequently something to kill; and before the big saurians wallowed here, still some eons earlier. Oh yes, a day so far back that the eternal son was present to see that first visit; a day so far back that neither tradition nor history was born yet and a whole weary eternity must come and go before the restless little creature, of whose face this stupendous Shadow Face was the prophecy, would arrive in the earth and begin his shabby career and think of a big thing. Oh, indeed yes; when you talk about your poor Roman and Egyptian day-before-yesterday antiquities, you should choose a time when the hoary Shadow Face of the Jungfrau is not by. It antedates all antiquities known or imaginable; for it was here the world itself created the theater of future antiquities. And it is the only witness with a human face that was there to see the marvel, and remains to us a memorial of it.

By 4:40 P.M. the nose of the shadow is perfect and is beautiful. It is black and is powerfully marked against the upright canvas of glowing snow, and covers hundreds of acres of that resplendent surface.

Meantime shadow No. 2 has been creeping out well to the rear of the face west of it--and at five o'clock has assumed a shape that has rather a poor and rude semblance of a shoe.

Meantime, also, the great Shadow Face has been gradually changing for twenty minutes, and now, 5 P.M., it is becoming a quite fair portrait of Roscoe Conkling. The likeness is there, and is unmistakable. The goatee is shortened, now, and has an end; formerly it hadn't any, but ran off eastward and arrived nowhere.

By 6 P.M. the face has dissolved and gone, and the goatee has become what looks like the shadow of a tower with a pointed roof, and the shoe had turned into what the printers call a "fist" with a finger pointing.

If I were now imprisoned on a mountain summit a hundred miles northward of this point, and was denied a timepiece, I could get along well enough from four till six on clear days, for I could keep trace of the time by the changing shapes of these mighty shadows of the Virgin's front, the most stupendous dial I am acquainted with, the oldest clock in the world by a couple of million years.

I suppose I should not have noticed the forms of the shadows if I hadn't the habit of hunting for faces in the clouds and in mountain crags--a sort of amusement which is very entertaining even when you don't find any, and brilliantly satisfying when you do. I have searched through several bushels of photographs of

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book