List Of Contents | Contents of Saunterings, by Charles Dudley Warner
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town at the end of the Rhone Valley Railway, and got into the omnibus
for the hotel; and it was also dark and rainy.  They speak German in
this part of Switzerland, or what is called German.  There were two
very pleasant Americans, who spoke American, going on in the
diligence at half-past five in the morning, on their way over the
Simplex.  One of them was accustomed to speak good, broad English
very distinctly to all races; and he seemed to expect that he must be
understood if he repeated his observations in a louder tone, as he
always did.  I think he would force all this country to speak English
in two months.  We all desired to secure places in the diligence,
which was likely to be full, as is usually the case when a railway
discharges itself into a postroad.

We were scarcely in the omnibus, when the gentleman said to the

"I want two places in the coupe of the diligence in the morning.  Can
I have them? "

"Yah" replied the good-natured German, who did n't understand a word.

"Two places, diligence, coupe, morning.  Is it full?"

"Yah," replied the accommodating fellow.  "Hotel man spik English."

I suggested the banquette as desirable, if it could be obtained, and
the German was equally willing to give it to us.  Descending from the
omnibus at the hotel, in a drizzling rain, and amidst a crowd of
porters and postilions and runners, the "man who spoke English"
immediately presented himself; and upon him the American pounced with
a torrent of questions.  He was a willing, lively little waiter, with
his moony face on the top of his head; and he jumped round in the
rain like a parching pea, rolling his head about in the funniest

The American steadied the little man by the collar, and began,
"I want to secure two seats in the coupe of the diligence in the.

"Yaas," jumping round, and looking from one to another.  "Diligence,
coupe, morning."

"I--want--two seats--in--coupe.  If I can't get them, two--in--

"Yaas banquette, coupe,--yaas, diligence."

"Do you understand?  Two seats, diligence, Simplon, morning.  Will
you get them?"

"Oh, yaas!  morning, diligence.  Yaas, sirr."

"Hang the fellow!  Where is the office?  "And the gentleman left the
spry little waiter bobbing about in the middle of the street,
speaking English, but probably comprehending nothing that was said to
him.  I inquired the way to the office of the conductor: it was
closed, but would soon be open, and I waited; and at length the
official, a stout Frenchman, appeared, and I secured places in the
interior, the only ones to be had to Visp.  I had seen a diligence at
the door with three places in the coupe, and one perched behind; no
banquette.  The office is brightly lighted; people are waiting to
secure places; there is the usual crowd of loafers, men and women,
and the Frenchman sits at his desk.  Enter the American.

"I want two places in coupe, in the morning.  Or banquette.  Two
places, diligence." The official waves him off, and says something.

"What does he say?"

"He tells you to sit down on that bench till he is ready."

Soon the Frenchman has run over his big waybills, and turns to us.

"I want two places in the diligence, coupe," etc, etc, says the

This remark being lost on the official, I explain to him as well as I
can what is wanted, at first,--two places in the coupe.

"One is taken," is his reply.

"The gentleman will take two," I said, having in mind the diligence
in the yard, with three places in the coupe.

"One is taken," he repeats.

"Then the gentleman will take the other two."

"One is taken!  "he cries, jumping up and smiting the table,--" one
is taken, I tell you!"

"How many are there in the coupe?"


"Oh!  then the gentleman will take the one remaining in the coupe and
the one on top."

So it is arranged.  When I come back to the hotel, the Americans are
explaining to the lively waiter "who speaks English" that they are to
go in the diligence at half-past five, and that they are to be called
at half-past four and have breakfast.  He knows all about it,--
"Diligence, half-past four breakfast, Oh, yaas!"  While I have been
at the diligence-office, my companions have secured room and gone to
them; and I ask the waiter to show m to my room.  First, however, I
tell him that we three two ladies and myself, who came together, are
going in the diligence at half-past five, and want to be called and
have breakfaSt. Did he comprehend?

"Yaas," rolling his face about on the top of his head violently.
"You three gentleman want breakfast. What you have?"

I had told him before what we would I have, an now I gave up all hope
of keeping our parties separate in his mind; so I said,
"Five persons want breakfast at five o'clock.  Five persons, five
hours.  Call all of them at half-past four." And I repeated it, and
made him repeat it in English and French.  He then insisted on
putting me into the room of one of the American gentlemen
and then he knocked at the door of a lady, who cried out in
indignation at being disturbed; and, finally, I found my room.  At
the door I reiterated the instructions for the morning; and he
cheerfully bade me good-night.  But he almost immediately came back,
and poked in his head with,--

"Is you go by de diligence?"

"Yes, you stupid."

In the morning one of our party was called at halfpast three, and
saved the rest of us from a like fate; and we were not aroused at
all, but woke early enough to get down and find the diligence nearly
ready, and no breakfast, but "the man who spoke English " as lively
as ever.  And we had a breakfast brought out, so filthy in all
respects that nobody could eat it.  Fortunately, there was not time
to seriously try; but we paid for it, and departed.  The two American
gentlemen sat in front of the house, waiting.  The lively waiter had
called them at half-past three, for the railway train, instead of the
diligence; and they had their wretched breakfast early.  They will
remember the funny adventure with "the man who speaks English," and,
no doubt, unite with us in warmly commending the Hotel Lion d'Or at
Sion as the nastiest inn in Switzerland.


When one leaves the dusty Rhone Valley, and turns southward from
Visp, he plunges into the wildest and most savage part of
Switzerland, and penetrates the heart of the Alps.  The valley is
scarcely more than a narrow gorge, with high precipices on either
side, through which the turbid and rapid Visp tears along at a
furious rate, boiling and leaping in foam over its rocky bed, and
nearly as large as the Rhone at the junction.  From Visp to St.
Nicolaus, twelve miles, there is only a mule-path, but a very good
one, winding along on the slope, sometimes high up, and again
descending to cross the stream, at first by vineyards and high stone
walls, and then on the edges of precipices, but always romantic and
wild.  It is noon when we set out from Visp, in true pilgrim fashion,
and the sun is at first hot; but as we slowly rise up the easy
ascent, we get a breeze, and forget the heat in the varied charms of
the walk.

Everything for the use of the upper valley and Zermatt, now a place
of considerable resort, must be carried by porters, or on horseback;
and we pass or meet men and women, sometimes a dozen of them
together, laboring along under the long, heavy baskets, broad at the
top and coming nearly to a point below, which are universally used
here for carrying everything.  The tubs for transporting water are of
the same sort.  There is no level ground, but every foot is
cultivated.  High up on the sides of the precipices, where it seems
impossible for a goat to climb, are vineyards and houses, and even
villages, hung on slopes, nearly up to the clouds, and with no
visible way of communication with the rest of the world.

In two hours' time we are at Stalden, a village perched upon a rocky
promontory, at the junction of the valleys of the Saas and the Visp,
with a church and white tower conspicuous from afar.  We climb up to
the terrace in front of it, on our way into the town.  A seedy-
looking priest is pacing up and down, taking the fresh breeze, his
broad-brimmed, shabby hat held down upon the wall by a big stone.
His clothes are worn threadbare; and he looks as thin and poor as a
Methodist minister in a stony town at home, on three hundred a year.
He politely returns our salutation, and we walk on.  Nearly all the
priests in this region look wretchedly poor,--as poor as the people.
Through crooked, narrow streets, with houses overhanging and
thrusting out corners and gables, houses with stables below, and
quaint carvings and odd little windows above, the panes of glass
hexagons, so that the windows looked like sections of honey-comb,--we
found our way to the inn, a many-storied chalet, with stairs on the
outside, stone floors in the upper passages, and no end of queer
rooms; built right in the midst of other houses as odd, decorated
with German-text carving, from the windows of which the occupants
could look in upon us, if they had cared to do so; but they did not.
They seem little interested in anything; and no wonder, with their
hard fight with Nature.  Below is a wine-shop, with a little side
booth, in which some German travelers sit drinking their wine, and
sputtering away in harsh gutturals.  The inn is very neat inside, and
we are well served.  Stalden is high; but away above it on the
opposite side is a village on the steep slope, with a slender white
spire that rivals some of the snowy needles.  Stalden is high, but
the hill on which it stands is rich in grass.  The secret of the
fertile meadows is the most thorough irrigation.  Water is carried
along the banks from the river, and distributed by numerous
sluiceways below; and above, the little mountain streams are brought
where they are needed by artificial channels.  Old men and women in
the fields were constantly changing the direction of the currents.
All the inhabitants appeared to be porters: women were transporting

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