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List Of Contents | Contents of Saunterings, by Charles Dudley Warner
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people in this bath were said to be second class; but they looked as
well and behaved better than those of the first class, whom we saw in
the establishment at our hotel afterward.

It may be a valuable scientific fact, that the water in these vats,
in which people of all sexes, all diseases, and all nations spend so
many hours of the twenty-four, is changed once a day.  The
temperature at which the bath is given is ninety-eight.  The water is
let in at night, and allowed to cool.  At five in the morning, the
bathers enter it, and remain until ten o'clock,--five hours, having
breakfast served to them on the floating tables, "as they sail, as
they sail."  They then have a respite till two, and go in till five.
Eight hours in hot water!  Nothing can be more disgusting than the
sight of these baths.  Gustave Dore must have learned here how to
make those ghostly pictures of the lost floating about in the Stygian
pools, in his illustrations of the Inferno; and the rocks and
cavernous precipices may have enabled him to complete the picture.
On what principle cures are effected in these filthy vats, I could
not learn.  I have a theory, that, where so many diseases meet and
mingle in one swashing fluid, they neutralize each other.  It may be
that the action is that happily explained by one of the Hibernian
bathmen in an American water-cure establishment.  "You see, sir,"
said he, "that the shock of the water unites with the electricity of
the system, and explodes the disease."  I should think that the shock
to one's feeling of decency and cleanliness, at these baths, would
explode any disease in Europe.  But, whatever the result may be, I am
not sorry to see so many French and Italians soak themselves once a

Out of the bath these people seem to enjoy life.  There is a long
promenade, shaded and picturesque, which they take at evening,
sometimes as far as the Ladders, eight of which are fastened, in a
shackling manner, to the perpendicular rocks,--a high and somewhat
dangerous ascent to the village of Albinen, but undertaken constantly
by peasants with baskets on their backs.  It is in winter the only
mode Leukerbad has of communicating with the world; and in summer it
is the only way of reaching Albinen, except by a long journey down
the Dala and up another valley and height.  The bathers were
certainly very lively and social at table-d'hote, where we had the
pleasure of meeting some hundred of them, dressed.  It was presumed
that the baths were the subject of the entertaining conversation; for
I read in a charming little work which sets forth the delights of
Leuk, that La poussee forms the staple of most of the talk.  La
poussee, or, as this book poetically calls it, "that daughter of the
waters of Loeche," "that eruption of which we have already spoken,
and which proves the action of the baths upon the skin,"--becomes the
object, and often the end, of all conversation.  And it gives
specimens of this pleasant converse, as:

"Comment va votre poussee?"

"Avez-vous la poussee?"

"Je suis en pleine poussee"

"Ma poussee s'est fort bien passee!"

Indeed says this entertaining tract, sans poussee, one would not be
able to hold, at table or in the salon, with a neighbor of either
sex, the least conversation.  Further, it is by grace a la poussee
that one arrives at those intimacies which are the characteristics of
the baths.  Blessed, then, be La poussee, which renders possible such
a high society and such select and entertaining conversation!  Long
may the bathers of Leuk live to soak and converse!  In the morning,
when we departed for the ascent of the Gemmi, we passed one of the
bathing-houses.  I fancied that a hot steam issued out of the
crevices; from within came a discord of singing and caterwauling;
and, as a door swung open, I saw that the heads floating about on the
turbid tide were eating breakfast from the swimming tables.


I spent some time, the evening before, studying the face of the cliff
we were to ascend, to discover the path; but I could only trace its
zigzag beginning.  When we came to the base of the rock, we found a
way cut, a narrow path, most of the distance hewn out of the rock,
winding upward along the face of the precipice.  The view, as one
rises, is of the break-neck description.  The way is really safe
enough, even on mule-back, ascending; but one would be foolhardy to
ride down.  We met a lady on the summit who was about to be carried
down on a chair; and she seemed quite to like the mode of conveyance:
she had harnessed her husband in temporarily for one of the bearers,
which made it still more jolly for her.  When we started, a cloud of
mist hung over the edge of the rocks.  As we rose, it descended to
meet us, and sunk below, hiding the valley and its houses, which had
looked like Swiss toys from our height.  When we reached the summit,
the mist came boiling up after us, rising like a thick wall to the
sky, and hiding all that great mountain range, the Vallais Alps, from
which we had come, and which we hoped to see from this point.
Fortunately, there were no clouds on the other side, and we looked
down into a magnificent rocky basin, encircled by broken and
overtopping crags and snow-fields, at the bottom of which was a green
lake.  It is one of the wildest of scenes.

An hour from the summit, we came to a green Alp, where a herd of cows
were feeding; and in the midst of it were three or four dirty
chalets, where pigs, chickens, cattle, and animals constructed very
much like human beings, lived; yet I have nothing to say against
these chalets, for we had excellent cream there.  We had, on the way
down, fine views of the snowy Altels, the Rinderhorn, the Finster-
Aarhorn, a deep valley which enormous precipices guard, but which
avalanches nevertheless invade, and, farther on, of the Blumlisalp,
with its summit of crystalline whiteness.  The descent to Kandersteg
is very rapid, and in a rain slippery.  This village is a resort for
artists for its splendid views of the range we had crossed: it stands
at the gate of the mountains.  From there to the Lake of Thun is a
delightful drive,--a rich country, with handsome cottages and a
charming landscape, even if the pyramidal Niesen did not lift up its
seven thousand feet on the edge of the lake.  So, through a smiling
land, and in the sunshine after the rain, we come to Spiez, and find
ourselves at a little hotel on the slope, overlooking town and lake
and mountains.

Spiez is not large: indeed, its few houses are nearly all
picturesquely grouped upon a narrow rib of land which is thrust into
the lake on purpose to make the loveliest picture in the world.
There is the old castle, with its many slim spires and its square-
peaked roofed tower; the slender-steepled church; a fringe of old
houses below on the lake, one overhanging towards the point; and the
promontory, finished by a willo drooping to the water.  Beyond, in
hazy light, over the lucid green of the lake, are mountains whose
masses of rock seem soft and sculptured.  To the right, at the foot
of the lake, tower the great snowy mountains, the cone of the
Schreckhorn, the square top of the Eiger, the Jungfrau, just showing
over the hills, and the Blumlisalp rising into heaven clear and

What can one do in such a spot, but swim in the lake, lie on the
shore, and watch the passing steamers and the changing light on the
mountains?  Down at the wharf, when the small boats put off for the
steamer, one can well entertain himself.  The small boat is an
enormous thing, after all, and propelled by two long, heavy sweeps,
one of which is pulled, and the other pushed.  The laboring oar is,
of course, pulled by a woman; while her husband stands up in the
stern of the boat, and gently dips the other in a gallant fashion.
There is a boy there, whom I cannot make out,--a short, square boy,
with tasseled skull-cap, and a face that never changes its
expression, and never has any expression to change; he may be older
than these hills; he looks old enough to be his own father: and there
is a girl, his counterpart, who might be, judging her age by her
face, the mother of both of them.  These solemn old-young people are
quite busy doing nothing about the wharf, and appear to be afflicted
with an undue sense of the responsibility of life.  There is a
beer-garden here, where several sober couples sit seriously drinking
their beer.  There are some horrid old women, with the parchment skin
and the disagreeable necks.  Alone, in a window of the castle, sits a
lady at her work, who might be the countess; only, I am sorry, there
is no countess, nothing but a frau, in that old feudal dwelling.  And
there is a foreigner, thinking how queer it all is.  And while he
sits there, the melodious bell in the church-tower rings its evening



We left Switzerland, as we entered it, in a rain,--a kind of double
baptism that may have been necessary, and was certainly not too heavy
a price to pay for the privileges of the wonderful country.  The wind
blew freshly, and swept a shower over the deck of the little
steamboat, on board of which we stepped from the shabby little pier
and town of Romanshorn.  After the other Swiss lakes, Constance is
tame, except at the southern end, beyond which rise the Appenzell
range and the wooded peaks of the Bavarian hills.  Through the dash
of rain, and under the promise of a magnificent rainbow,--rainbows
don't mean anything in Switzerland, and have no office as
weather-prophets, except to assure you, that, as it rains to-day, so
it will rain tomorrow,--we skirted the lower bend of the lake,--and
at twilight sailed into the little harbor of Lindau, through the
narrow entrance between the piers, on one of which is a small
lighthouse, and on the other sits upright a gigantic stone lion,--a
fine enough figure of a Bavarian lion, but with a comical,
wide-awake, and expectant expression of countenance, as if he might
bark right out at any minute, and become a dog.  Yet in the
moonlight, shortly afterward, the lion looked very grand and stately,

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