List Of Contents | Contents of Saunterings, by Charles Dudley Warner
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

to the level of the window, and who cross themselves and go out after
the first tune; and the two bread-and-butter English young ladies,
one of whom asks the other in the midst of the performance, if she
has thought yet to count the pipes,--a thoughtful verification of
Murray, which is very commendable in a young woman traveling for the
improvement of her little mind.

One has heard so much of this organ, that he expects impossibilities,
and is at first almost disappointed, although it is not long in
discovering its vast compass, and its wonderful imitations, now of a
full orchestra, and again of a single instrument.  One has not to
wait long before he is mastered by its spell.  The vox humana stop
did not strike me as so perfect as that of the organ in the Rev.
Mr. Hale's church in Boston, though the imitation of choir-voices
responding to the organ was very effective.  But it is not in tricks
of imitation that this organ is so wonderful: it is its power of
revealing, by all its compass, the inmost part of any musical

The last piece we heard was something like this: the sound of a bell,
tolling at regular intervals, like the throbbing of a life begun;
about it an accompaniment of hopes, inducements, fears, the flute,
the violin, the violoncello, promising, urging, entreating,
inspiring; the life beset with trials, lured with pleasures,
hesitating, doubting, questioning; its purpose at length grows more
certain and fixed, the bell tolling becomes a prolonged undertone,
the flow of a definite life; the music goes on, twining round it, now
one sweet instrument and now many, in strife or accord, all the
influences of earth and heaven and the base underworld meeting and
warring over the aspiring soul; the struggle becomes more earnest,
the undertone is louder and clearer; the accompaniment indicates
striving, contesting passion, an agony of endeavor and resistance,
until at length the steep and rocky way is passed, the world and self
are conquered, and, in a burst of triumph from a full orchestra, the
soul attains the serene summit.  But the rest is only for a moment.
Even in the highest places are temptations.  The sunshine fails,
clouds roll up, growling of low, pedal thunder is heard, while sharp
lightning-flashes soon break in clashing peals about the peaks.  This
is the last Alpine storm and trial.  After it the sun bursts out
again, the wide, sunny valleys are disclosed, and a sweet evening
hymn floats through all the peaceful air.  We go out from the cool
church into the busy streets of the white, gray town awed and

And such a ride afterwards!  It was as if the organ music still
continued.  All the world knows the exquisite views southward from
Freiburg; but such an atmosphere as we had does not overhang them
many times in a season.  First the Moleross, and a range of mountains
bathed in misty blue light,--rugged peaks, scarred sides, white and
tawny at once, rising into the clouds which hung large and soft in
the blue; soon Mont Blanc, dim and aerial, in the south; the lovely
valley of the River Sense; peasants walking with burdens on the white
highway; the quiet and soft-tinted mountains beyond; towns perched on
hills, with old castles and towers; the land rich with grass, grain,
fruit, flowers; at Palezieux a magnificent view of the silver,
purple, and blue mountains, with their chalky seams and gashed sides,
near at hand; and at length, coming through a long tunnel, as if we
had been shot out into the air above a country more surprising than
any in dreams, the most wonderful sight burst upon us,--the
low-lying, deep-blue Lake Leman, and the gigantic mountains rising
from its shores, and a sort of mist, translucent, suffused with
sunlight, like the liquid of the golden wine the Steinberger poured
into the vast basin.  We came upon it out of total darkness, without
warning; and we seemed, from our great height, to be about to leap
into the splendid gulf of tremulous light and color.

This Lake of Geneva is said to combine the robust mountain grandeur
of Luzerne with all the softness of atmosphere of Lake Maggiore.
Surely, nothing could exceed the loveliness as we wound down the
hillside, through the vineyards, to Lausanne, and farther on, near
the foot of the lake, to Montreux, backed by precipitous but
tree-clad hills, fronted by the lovely water, and the great mountains
which run away south into Savoy, where Velan lifts up its snows.
Below us, round the curving bay, lies white Chillon; and at sunset we
row down to it over the bewitched water, and wait under its grim
walls till the failing light brings back the romance of castle and
prisoner.  Our garcon had never heard of the prisoner; but he knew
about the gendarmes who now occupy the castle.


Not the least of the traveler's pleasure in Switzerland is derived
from the English people who overrun it: they seem to regard it as a
kind of private park or preserve belonging to England; and they
establish themselves at hotels, or on steamboats and diligences, with
a certain air of ownership that is very pleasant.  I am not very
fresh in my geology; but it is my impression that Switzerland was
created especially for the English, about the year of the Magna
Charta, or a little later.  The Germans who come here, and who don't
care very much what they eat, or how they sleep, provided they do not
have any fresh air in diningroom or bedroom, and provided, also, that
the bread is a little sour, growl a good deal about the English, and
declare that they have spoiled Switzerland.  The natives, too, who
live off the English, seem to thoroughly hate them; so that one is
often compelled, in self-defense, to proclaim his nationality, which
is like running from Scylla upon Charybdis; for, while the American
is more popular, it is believed that there is no bottom to his

There was a sprig of the Church of England on the steamboat on Lake
Leman, who spread himself upon a center bench, and discoursed very
instructively to his friends,--a stout, fat-faced young man in a
white cravat, whose voice was at once loud and melodious, and whom
our manly Oxford student set down as a man who had just rubbed
through the university, and got into a scanty living.

"I met an American on the boat yesterday," the oracle was saying to
his friends, "who was really quite a pleasant fellow.  He--ah really
was, you know, quite a sensible man.  I asked him if they had
anything like this in America; and he was obliged to say that they
had n't anything like it in his country; they really had n't.  He was
really quite a sensible fellow; said he was over here to do the
European tour, as he called it."

Small, sympathetic laugh from the attentive, wiry, red-faced woman on
the oracle's left, and also a chuckle, at the expense of the
American, from the thin Englishman on his right, who wore a large
white waistcoat, a blue veil on his hat, and a face as red as a live

"Quite an admission, was n't it, from an American?  But I think they
have changed since the wah, you know."

At the next landing, the smooth and beaming churchman was left by his
friends; and he soon retired to the cabin, where I saw him
self-sacrificingly denying himself the views on deck, and consoling
himself with a substantial lunch and a bottle of English ale.

There is one thing to be said about the English abroad: the variety
is almost infinite.  The best acquaintances one makes will be
English,--people with no nonsense and strong individuality; and one
gets no end of entertainment from the other sort.  Very different
from the clergyman on the boat was the old lady at table-d'hote in
one of the hotels on the lake.  One would not like to call her a
delightfully wicked old woman, like the Baroness Bernstein; but she
had her own witty and satirical way of regarding the world.  She had
lived twenty-five years at Geneva, where people, years ago, coming
over the dusty and hot roads of France, used to faint away when they
first caught sight of the Alps.  Believe they don't do it now.  She
never did; was past the susceptible age when she first came; was
tired of the people.  Honest?   Why, yes, honest, but very fond of
money.  Fine Swiss wood-carving?  Yes.  You'll get very sick of it.
It's very nice, but I 'm tired of it.  Years ago, I sent some of it
home to the folks in England.  They thought everything of it; and it
was not very nice, either,--a cheap sort.  Moral ideas?  I don't care
for moral ideas: people make such a fuss about them lately (this in
reply to her next neighbor, an eccentric, thin man, with bushy hair,
shaggy eyebrows, and a high, falsetto voice, who rallied the witty
old lady all dinner-time about her lack of moral ideas, and
accurately described the thin wine on the table as "water-
bewitched").  Why did n't the baroness go back to England, if she was
so tired of Switzerland?  Well, she was too infirm now; and, besides,
she did n't like to trust herself on the railroads.  And there were
so many new inventions nowadays, of which she read.  What was this
nitroglycerine, that exploded so dreadfully?  No: she thought she
should stay where she was.

There is little risk of mistaking the Englishman, with or without his
family, who has set out to do Switzerland.  He wears a brandy-flask,
a field-glass, and a haversack.  Whether he has a silk or soft hat,
he is certain to wear a veil tied round it.  This precaution is
adopted when he makes up his mind to come to Switzerland, I think,
because he has read that a veil is necessary to protect the eyes from
the snow-glare.  There is probably not one traveler in a hundred who
gets among the ice and snow-fields where he needs a veil or green
glasses: but it is well to have it on the hat; it looks adventurous.
The veil and the spiked alpenstock are the signs of peril.
Everybody--almost everybody--has an alpenstock.  It is usually a
round pine stick, with an iron spike in one end.  That, also, is a
sign of peril.  We saw a noble young Briton on the steamer the other
day, who was got up in the best Alpine manner.  He wore a short

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: