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Title: A Little Swiss Sojourn
Author: Howells, William Dean, 1837-1920
Language: English
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                      A LITTLE SWISS SOJOURN

                         BY W. D. HOWELLS


                            NEW YORK


_Tourists at Montreux_ (frontispiece)

_Sign of the White Cross Inn_

_Entrance to Villeneuve_

_Post-office, Villeneuve_

_The Castle of Chillon_

_A Railroad Servant_

_A Bit of Villeneuve_

_The Prisoner of Chillon_

_One of the Fountains_

_"They helped to make the hay in the marshes"_

_Cattle at the Fountains_

_Washing Clothes in the Lake_

_Flirtation at the Fountains_

_The Wine-press_

_Castle of Aigle_

_The Market at Vevay_

_The Market, Vevay--A Bargain before the Notary_

_Germans at Montreux_

_Church Terrace, Montreux_

_Tour up the Lake_


First Paper

[Illustration: _Sign of the White Cross Inn_]


Out of eighty or ninety days that we passed in Switzerland there must
have been at least ten that were fair, not counting the forenoons before
it began to rain, and the afternoons when it cleared up. They said that
it was an unusually rainy autumn, and we could well believe it; yet I
suspect that it rains a good deal in that little corner of the Canton
Vaud even when the autumn is only usually rainy. We arrived late in
September and came away early in December, and during that time we had
neither the fevers that raged in France nor the floods that raged in
Italy. We Vaudois were rather proud of that, but whether we had much
else to be proud of I am not so certain. Of course we had our Alpine
scenery, and when the day was fair the sun came loafing up over the
eastern mountains about ten o'clock in the morning, and lounged down
behind the western tops about half-past three, after dinner. But then he
left the eternal snows of the Dent-du-Midi all flushed with his light,
and in the mean time he had glittered for five hours on the "_bleu
impossible_" of the Lake of Geneva, and had shown in a hundred changing
lights and shadows the storied and sentimentalized towers of the Castle
of Chillon. Solemn groups and ranks of Swiss and Savoyard Alps hemmed
the lake in as far as the eye could reach, and the lateen-sailed craft
lent it their picturesqueness, while the steamboats constantly making
its circuit and stopping at all the little towns on the shores imparted
a pleasant modern interest to the whole effect, which the trains of the
railroad running under the lee of the castle agreeably heightened.


The Swiss railroad was always an object of friendly amusement with the
children, who could not get used to having the trains started by a small
Christmas-horn. They had not entirely respected the English engine, with
the shrill falsetto of its whistle, after the burly roar of our
locomotives; and the boatswain's pipe of the French conductor had
considerably diminished the dignity of a sister republic in their minds;
but this Christmas-horn was too droll. That a grown man, much more
imposingly uniformed than an American general, should blow it to start a
real train of cars was the source of patriotic sarcasm whenever its
plaintive, reedy note was heard. We had come straight through from
London, taking the sleeping-car at Calais, and rolling and bounding over
the road towards Basle in a fashion that provoked scornful comparisons
with the Pullman that had carried us so smoothly from Boston to Buffalo.
It is well to be honest, even to our own adulation, and one must confess
that the sleeping-car of the European continent is but the nervous and
hysterical daughter of the American mother of sleeping-cars. Many
express trains are run without any sleeper, and the charges for berths
are ludicrously extravagant--five dollars apiece for a single night. It
is not strange that the native prefers to doze away the night
bolt-upright, or crouched into the corners of his repellently padded
carriage, rather than toss upon the expensive pallet of the
sleeping-car, which seems hung rather with a view to affording
involuntary exercise than promoting dear-bought slumber. One advantage
of it is that if you have to leave the car at five o'clock in the
morning, you are awake and eager to do so long before that time. At the
first Swiss station we quitted it to go to Berne, which was one of the
three points where I was told by the London railway people that my
baggage would be examined. I forget the second, but the third was Berne,
and now at Delemont I looked about for the customs officers with the
anxiety which the thought of them always awakens in the human heart,
whether one has meant to smuggle or not. Even the good conscience may
suffer from the upturning of a well-packed trunk. But nobody wanted to
examine our baggage at Delemont, or at the other now-forgotten station;
and at Berne, though I labored hard in several dialects with all the
railway officials, I could not get them to open one of our ten trunks or
five valises. I was so resolute in the matter that I had some difficulty
to keep from opening them myself and levying duty upon their contents.


It was the first but not the last disappointment we suffered in
Switzerland. A friend in London had congratulated us upon going to the
Vaud in the grape season. "For thruppence," he said, "they will let you
go into the vineyards and eat all the grapes you can hold." Arrived upon
the ground, we learned that it was six francs fine to touch a grape in
the vineyards; that every field had a watch set in it, who popped up
between the vines from time to time, and interrogated the vicinity with
an eye of sleepless vigilance; and that small boys of suspicious
character, whose pleasure or business took them through a vineyard, were
obliged to hold up their hands as they passed, like the victims of a Far
Western road agency. As the laws and usages governing the grape culture
run back to the time of the Romans, who brought the vine into the Vaud,
I was obliged to refer my friend's legend of cheapness and freedom to an
earlier period, whose customs we could not profit by. In point of fact,
I could buy more grapes for thruppence in London than in the Vaud; and
the best grapes we had in Switzerland were some brought from Italy, and
sold at a franc a pound in Montreux to the poor foreigners who had come
to feast upon the wealth of the local vineyards.

It was the rain that spoiled the grapes, they said at Montreux, and
wherever we complained; and indeed the vines were a dismal show of
sterility and blight, even to the spectator who did not venture near
enough to subject himself to a fine of six francs. The foreigners had
protected themselves in large numbers by not coming, and the natives who
prosper upon them suffered. The stout lady who kept a small shop of
ivory carvings at Montreux continually lamented their absence to me:
"Die Fremden kommen nicht, dieses regenes Wetter! Man muss Geduldt
haben! Die Fremden kommen nicht!" She was from Interlaken, and the
accents of her native dialect were flavored with the strong waters which
she seemed always to have been drinking, and she put her face close up
to that of the good, all-sympathizing Amerikaner who alone patronized
her shop, and talked her sorrows loudly into him, so that he should not

[Illustration: _Entrance to Villeneuve_]


But one must not be altogether unreasonable. When we first came in sight
of the lake the rain lifted, and the afternoon sun gushed out upon a
world of vineyards. In other words, the vines clothe all the little
levels and vast slopes of the mountain-sides as far up as the cold will
let the grapes grow. There is literally almost no other cultivation, and
it is a very pretty sight. On top of the mountains are the chalets with
their kine, and at a certain elevation the milk and the wine meet, while
below is the water of the lake, so good to mix with both. I do not know
that the Swiss use it for that purpose, but there are countries where
something of the sort would be done.

When the train put us down at Villeneuve, among railway people as
indifferent as our own at country stations, and much crosser and more
snubbing, the demand for grapes began with the party who remained with
the baggage, while a party of the second part went off to find the
_pension_ where we were to pass the next three months. The grape-seekers
strolled up the stony, steaming streets of the little town, asking for
grapes right and left, at all the shops, in their imperfect French, and
returned to the station with a paper of gingerbread which they had
bought at a jeweller's. I do not know why this artist should have had it
for sale, but he must have had it a long time, for it was densely
inhabited. Afterwards we found two shops in Villeneuve where they had
the most delicious _petits gâteaux_, fresh every day, and nothing but
the mania for unattainable grapes prevented the first explorers from
seeing them.

In the mean time the party of the second part had found the pension--a
pretty stone villa overlooking the lake, under the boughs of tall
walnut-trees, on the level of a high terrace. Laurel and holly hemmed it
in on one side, and southward spread a pleasant garden full of roses and
imperfectly ripening fig-trees. In the rear the vineyards climbed the
mountains in irregular breadths to the belt of walnuts, beyond which
were only forests and pastures. I heard the roar of the torrent that
foamed down the steep; the fountain plashed under the group of laurels
at the kitchen door; the roses dripped all round the house; and the lake
lapped its shores below. Decidedly there was a sense of wet.

The house, which had an Italian outside covered with jasmine and
wistarias, confessed the North within. There was a huge hall stove, not
yet heated, but on the hearth of the pleasant salon an acceptable fire
of little logs was purring. Beside it sat a lady reading, and at a table
her daughter was painting flowers. A little Italian, a very little
English, a good deal of French, helped me to understand that
mademoiselle the landlady was momentarily absent, that the season was
exceptionally bad, and that these ladies were glad of the sunshine which
we were apparently bringing with us. They spoke with those Suissesse
voices, which are the sweetest and most softly modulated voices in the
world, whether they come from the throat of peasant or of lady, and can
make a transaction in eggs and butter in the market-place as musical as
chanted verse. To the last these voices remained a delight, and the
memory of them made most Italian women's voices a pang when we heard
them afterwards.


At first we were the only people in the house besides these Swiss ladies
and their son and brother, but later there came two ladies from
Strasburg, and with them our circle was complete at the table and around
the evening lamp in the drawing-room. I am bound to say for the circle,
outside of ourselves, that it was a cultivated and even intellectual
company, with traits that provoked unusual sympathy and interest. But
those friendly people are quite their own property, and I have no
intention of compelling them to an involuntary celebrity in these pages,
much as I should like to impart their quality to my narrative. In the
Strasbourgeoises we encountered again that pathos of an insulted and
down-trodden nationality which had cast its melancholy over our Venice
of Austrian days. German by name and by origin, these ladies were
intensely French in everything else. They felt themselves doomed to
exile in their own country, they abhorred their Prussian masters, and
they had no name for Bismarck that was bad enough. Our Swiss, indeed,
hated him almost as bitterly. Their sympathies had been wholly with the
French, and they could not repress a half-conscious dread of his
principle of race nationality, which would be fatal to Switzerland, one
neither in race nor religion, but hitherto indivisible in her ancient
freedom. While he lives this fear can never die in Swiss hearts, for
they know that if he will, he can, in a Europe where he is the only real

Mademoiselle sat at the chief place of the table, and led the talk,
imparting to it a flavor of humorous good sense very characteristic. The
villa had been her father's country-house, and it abounded in a
scholar's accumulations of old books in divers languages. She herself
knew literature widely in the better way that it was once read. The
memories of many years spent in Florence made common Italian ground for
us, and she spoke English perfectly.

As I wish to give a complete notion of our household, so far as it may
be honestly set down, I will add that the domestics were three. Two of
them, the cook and the housemaid, were German Swiss, of middle class,
who had taken service to earn what money they could, but mainly to learn
French, after the custom of their country, where the young people of a
French or Italian canton would in like manner resort to a German
province. The third was Louis, a native, who spoke his own _patois_, and
found it sufficient for the expression of his ideas. He was chiefly
employed about the grounds; in-doors his use was mostly to mount the
peculiar clogs used for the purpose, and rub the waxed floors till they
shone. These floors were very handsome, of hard woods prettily inlaid;
and Louis produced an effect upon them that it seemed a pity to mar with
muddy shoes.

I do not speak of Alexis, the farmer, who appeared in domestic
exigencies; but my picture would be incomplete without the portrait of
Poppi. Poppi was the large house-dog, who in early life had intended to
call himself Puppy, but he naturally pronounced it with a French accent.
He was now far from young, but he was still Poppi. I believe he was the
more strictly domestic in his habits because an infirmity of temper had
betrayed him into an attack upon a neighbor, or a neighbor's dog, and it
was no longer safe for him to live much out-of-doors. The confinement
had softened his temper, but it had rendered him effeminate and
self-indulgent. He had, in fact, been spoiled by the boarders, and he
now expected to be present at meals, and to be fed with choice morsels
from their plates. As the cold weather came on he developed rheumatism,
and demanded our sympathy as well as our hospitality. If Elise in
waiting on table brushed him with her skirts, he set up a lamentable
cry, and rushed up to the nearest guest, and put his chin on the table
for his greater convenience in being comforted. At a dance which we had
one evening Poppi insisted upon being present, and in his efforts to
keep out of the way and in the apprehensions he suffered he abandoned
himself to moans and howls that sometimes drowned the piano.

Yet Poppi was an amiable invalid, and he was on terms of
perfect friendship with the cats, of which there were three
generations--Boulette, Boulette's mother, and Boulette's grandmother.
They were not readily distinguishable from one another, and I really
forget which it was that used to mount to the dining-room window
without, and paw the glass till we let her in; but we all felt that it
was a great accomplishment, and reflected credit upon us.


The vineyard began immediately behind the laurels that enclosed the
house, and at a little distance, where the mountain began to lift from
the narrow plateau, stood the farmer's stone cottage, with the stables
and the wine-vaults under the same roof. Mademoiselle gave us grapes
from her vines at dinner, and the walnut-trees seemed public property,
though I think one was not allowed to knock the nuts off, but was only
free of the windfalls. A little later they were all gathered, and on a
certain night the girls and the young men of the village have the custom
to meet and make a frolic of cracking them, as they used in husking corn
with us. Then the oil is pressed out, and the commune apportions each
family its share, according to the amount of nuts contributed. This nut
oil imparts a sentiment to salad which the olive cannot give, and
mushrooms pickled in it become the most delicious and indigestible of
all imaginable morsels. I have had dreams from those pickled mushrooms
which, if I could write them out, would make my fortune as a romantic

The Swiss breakfast was our old friend the Italian breakfast, with
butter and Gruyère cheese added to the milk and coffee. We dined at one
o'clock, and at six or seven we supped upon a meal that had left off
soup and added tea, in order to differ from the dinner. For all this,
with our rooms, we paid what we should have paid at a New Hampshire
farm-house; that is, a dollar a day each.

But the air was such as we could not have got in New Hampshire for twice
the money. It restored one completely every twenty-four hours, and it
not only stimulated but supported one throughout the day. Our own air is
quite as exciting, but after stirring one up, it leaves him to take the
consequences, whereas that faithful Swiss air stood by and helped out
the enterprise. I rose fresh from my forenoon's writing and eager to
walk; I walked all afternoon, and came in perfectly fresh to supper. One
can't speak too well of the Swiss air, whatever one says of the Swiss

[Illustration: _Post-office, Villeneuve_]


Whenever it came out, or rather whenever the rain stopped, we pursued
our explorations of the neighborhood. It had many interesting features,
among which was the large Hôtel Byron, very attractive and almost empty,
which we passed every day on our way to the post-office in Villeneuve,
and noted two pretty American shes in eye-glasses playing croquet amid
the wet shrubbery, as resolutely cheerful and as young-manless as if
they had been in some mountain resort of our own. In the other direction
there were simple villas dropped along the little levels and ledges, and
vineyards that crept to the road's edge everywhere. There was also a
cement factory, busy and prosperous; and to make us quite at home, a
saw-mill. Above all, there was the Castle of Chillon; and one of the
first Sundays after our arrival we descended the stone staircased steps
of our gardened terrace, dripping with ivy and myrtle, and picked our
steps over the muddy road to the old prison-fortress, where, in the
ancient chapel of the Dukes of Savoy, we heard an excellent sermon from
the _pasteur_ of our parish. The castle was perhaps a bow-shot from our
pension: I did not test the distance, having left my trusty cross-bow
and cloth-yard shafts in Boston; but that is my confirmed guess. In
point of time it is much more remote, for, as the reader need not be
reminded, it was there, or some castle like it, almost from the
beginning, or at least from the day when men first began to fight for
the possession of the land. The lake-dwellers are imagined to have had
some sort of stronghold there; and it is reasonably supposed that
Romans, Franks, and Burgundians had each fortified the rock. Count Wala,
cousin of Charlemagne, and grandson of Charles Martel, was a prisoner in
its dungeon in 830 for uttering some words too true for an age
unaccustomed to the perpetual veracity of our newspapers. Count Wala,
who was also an abbot, had the misfortune to speak of Judith of Bavaria
as "the adulterous woman," and when her husband, Louis le Debonair, came
back to the throne after the conspiracy of his sons, the lady naturally
wanted Wala killed; but Louis compromised by throwing him into the rock
of Chillon. This is what Wala's friends say: others say that he was one
of the conspirators against Louis. At any rate, he was the first great
captive of Chillon, which was a political prison as long as political
prisoners were needed in Switzerland. That is now a good while ago.

[Illustration: _The Castle of Chillon_]

Chillon fell to the princes of the house of Savoy in 1033, and Count
Peter, whom they nicknamed Little Charlemagne for his prowess and his
conquests, built the present castle, after which the barons of the Pays
de Vaud and the Duke of Cophingen (whoever he may have been) besieged
Peter in it. Perhaps they might have taken him. But the wine was so
good, and the pretty girls of the country were so fond of dancing! They
forgot themselves in these delights. All at once Little Charlemagne was
upon them. He leaves his force at Chillon, and goes by night to spy out
the enemy at Villeneuve, returning at dawn to his people. He came back
very gayly; when they saw him so joyous, "What news?" they asked. "Fine
and good," he answers; "for, by God's help, if you will behave
yourselves well, the enemy is ours." To which they cried with one voice,
"Seigneur, you have but to command." They fell upon the barons and the
duke, and killed a gratifying number of their followers, carrying the
rest back to Chillon, where Peter "used them not as prisoners, but
feasted them honorably. Much was the spoil and great the booty."

Afterwards Peter lost the castle, and in retaking it he launched fifty
thousand shafts and arrows against it. "The castle was not then an
isolated point of rock as we now see it, but formed part of a group of


Two or three centuries later--how quickly all those stupid, cruel, weary
years pass under the pen!--the spirit of liberty and protestantism began
to stir in the heads and hearts of the burghers of Berne and of Geneva.
A Savoyard, Francis de Bonivard, prior of St. Victor, sympathized with
them. He was noble, accomplished, high-placed, but he loved freedom of
thought and act. Yet when a deputation of reformers came to him for
advice, he said: "It is to be wished, without doubt, that the evil
should be cast out of our midst, provided that the good enters. You burn
to reform our Church; certainly it needs it; but how can you reform it,
deformed as you are? You complain that the monks and priests are
buffoons; and you are buffoons; that they are gamblers and drunkards,
and you are the same. Does the hate you bear them come from difference
or likeness? You intend to overthrow our clergy and replace them by
evangelical ministers. That would be a very good thing in itself, but a
very bad thing for you, because you have no happiness but in the
pleasures the priests allow you. The ministers wish to abolish vice, but
there is where you will suffer most, and after having hated the priests
because they are so much like you, you will hate their successors
because they are so little like you. You will not have had them two
years before you will put them down. Meanwhile, if you trust me, do one
of two things: if you wish to remain deformed, as you are, do not wonder
that others are like you; or, if you wish to reform them, begin by
showing them how."

[Illustration: _A Railroad Servant_]

This was very odd language to use to a deputation of reformers, but I
confess that it endears the memory of Bonivard to me. He was a
thoroughly charming person, and not at all wise in his actions. Through
mere folly he fell twice into the hands of his enemies, suffered two
years' imprisonment, and lost his priory. To get it back he laid siege
to it with six men and a captain. The siege was a failure. He trusted
his enemy, the duke, and was thrown into Chillon, where he remained a
sort of guest of the governor for two years. The duke visited the castle
at the end of that time. "Then the captain threw me into a vault lower
than the lake, where I remained four years. I do not know whether it was
by order of the duke or from his own motion, but I do know that I then
had so much leisure for walking that I wore in the rock which formed the
floor of the dungeon a _pathlet_ [_vionnet_], or little path, as if one
had beaten it out with a hammer." He was fastened by a chain four feet
in length to one of the beautiful Gothic pillars of the vault, and you
still see where this gentle scholar, this sweet humorist, this wise and
lenient philosopher, paced to and fro those weary years like a restless
beast--a captive wolf, or a bear in his pit. But his soul was never in
prison. As he trod that _vionnet_ out of the stone he meditated upon his
reading, his travels, the state of the Church and its reform, politics,
the origin of evil. "His reflections often lifted him above men and
their imperfect works; often, too, they were marked by that scepticism
which knowledge of the human heart inspires. 'When one considers things
well,' he said, 'one finds that it is easier to destroy the evil than to
construct the good. This world being fashioned like an ass's back, the
fardel that you would balance in the middle will not stay there, but
hangs over on the other side.'"

Bonivard was set free by the united forces of Berne and Geneva,
preaching political and religious liberty by the cannon's mouth, as has
had so often to happen. That too must have seemed droll to Bonivard when
he came to think it over in his humorous way. "The epoch of the
Renaissance and the Reformation was that of strong individualities and
undaunted characters. But let no one imagine a resemblance between the
prior of St. Victor and the great rebels his contemporaries, Luther,
Zwinglius, and Calvin. Like them he was one of the learned men of his
time; like them he learned to read the Evangels, and saw their light
disengage itself from the trembling gleams of tradition; but beyond that
he has nothing in common with them. Bonivard is not a hero; he is not
made to obey or to command; he is an artist, a kind of poet, who treats
high matters of theology in a humorous spirit; prompt of repartee,
gifted with happy dash; his irony has lively point, and he likes to
season the counsels of wisdom with _sauce piquante_ and rustic
bonhomie.... He prepares the way for Calvin, while having nothing of the
Calvinist; he is gay, he is jovial; he has, even when he censures, I
know not what air of gentleness that wins your heart."

[Illustration: _A Bit of Villeneuve_]


This and all the rest that I know of Bonivard I learn from a charming
historical and topographical study of Montreux and its neighborhood, by
MM. Rambert, Lebert, etc.; and I confess it at once, for fear some one
else shall find me out by simply buying the book there. It leaves you
little ground for classifying Bonivard with the great reformers, but it
leaves you still less for identifying him historically with Byron's
great melodramatic Prisoner of Chillon. If the Majority have somewhere
that personal consciousness without which they are the Nonentity, one
can fancy the liberal scholar, the humorous philosopher, meeting the
romantic poet, and protesting against the second earthly captivity that
he has delivered him over to. Nothing could be more alien to Bonivard
than the character of Byron's prisoner; and all that equipment of six
supposititious brothers, who perish one by one to intensify his
sufferings, is, it must be confessed, odious and ridiculous when you
think of the lonely yet cheerful sceptic pacing his _vionnet_, and
composing essays and verses as he walked. Prisoner for prisoner, even if
both were real, the un-Byronic Bonivard is much more to my mind. But the
poet had to make a Byronic Bonivard, being of the romantic time he was,
and we cannot blame him. The love of his sentimentality pervades the
region; they have named the nearest hotel after him, and there is a
_Sentier Byron_ leading up to it. But, on the other hand, they have
called one of the lake steamboats after Bonivard, which, upon the whole,
I should think would be more satisfactory to him than the poem. At any
rate, I should prefer it in his place.


The fine Gothic chapel where we heard our pasteur preach was whitewashed
out of all memory of any mural decoration that its earlier religion may
have given it; but the gloss of the whitewash was subdued by the dim
light that stole in through the long slits of windows. We sat upon
narrow wooden seats so very hard that I hope the old dukes and their
court were protected by good stout armor against their obduracy, and
that they had not to wait a quarter of an hour for the holy father to
come walking up the railroad track, as we had for our pasteur. There
were but three men in the congregation that day, and all the rest were
Suissesses, with the hard, pure, plain faces their sex wear mostly in
that country. The choir sat in two rows of quaintly carved seats on each
side of the pulpit, and the school-master of the village led the
singing, tapping his foot to keep time. The pastor, delicate and wan of
face, and now no longer living, I came afterwards to know better, and to
respect greatly for his goodness and good sense. His health had been
broken by the hard work of a mountain parish, and he had vainly spent
two winters in Nice. Now he was here as the assistant of the
superannuated pastor of Villeneuve, who had a salary of $600 a year from
the Government; but how little our preacher had I dare not imagine, or
what the pastor of the Free Church was paid by his parishioners. M.
P---- was a man of culture far above that of the average New England
country minister of this day; probably he was more like a New England
minister of the past, but with more of the air of the world. He wore the
Genevan bands and gown, and represented in that tabernacle of the
ancient faith the triumph of "the Religion" with an effectiveness that
was heightened by the hectic brightness of his gentle, spiritual eyes;
and he preached a beautiful sermon from the beautiful text, "Suffer
little children," teaching us that they were the types, not the models,
of Christian perfection. There was first a prayer, which he read; then a
hymn, and one of the Psalms; then the sermon, very simply and decorously
delivered; then another hymn, and prayer. Here, and often again in
Switzerland, the New England that is past or passing was recalled to me;
these Swiss are like the people of our hill country in their faith, as
well as their hard, laborious lives; only they sang with sweeter voices
than our women.

The wood-carving of the chapel, which must have been of the fourteenth
century or earlier, was delightfully grotesque, and all the queerer for
its contrast with the Protestant, the Calvinistic, whitewash which one
of our fellow-boarders found here in the chapel and elsewhere in the
castle _un peu vulgaire_--as if he were a Boston man. But the whole
place was very clean, and up the corner of one of the courts ran a strip
of Virginia-creeper, which the Swiss call the Canada vine, blood-red
with autumn. There was also a rose-tree sixty years old stretching its
arms abroad, over the ancient masonry, and feeling itself still young in
that sheltered place.

We saw it when we came later to do the whole castle, and to revere the
dungeon where Bonivard wore his _vionnet_ in the rock. I will not
trouble the reader with much about the Hall of Justice and the Chamber
of Tortures opening out of it, with the pulley for the rack formerly
used in cross-questioning prisoners. These places were very interesting,
and so were the bedchambers of the duke and duchess, and the great Hall
of the Knights. The wells or pits, armed round with knife points,
against which the prisoner struck when hurled down through them into the
lake, have long had their wicked throats choked with sand; and the bed
hewn out of the rock, where the condemned slept the night before
execution, is no longer used for that purpose--possibly because the only
prisoners now in Chillon are soldiers punished for such social offences
as tipsiness. But the place was all charmingly mediæval, and the more so
for a certain rudeness of decoration. The artistic merit was purely
architectural, and this made itself felt perhaps most distinctly in the
prison vaults, which Longfellow pronounced "the most delightful dungeon"
he had ever seen. A great rose-tree overhung the entrance, and within we
found them dry, wholesome, and picturesque. The beautiful Gothic pillars
rose like a living growth from the rock, out of which the vault was half
hewn; but the iron rings to which the prisoners were chained still hung
from them. The columns were scribbled full of names, and Byron's was
among the rest. The _vionnet_ of Bonivard was there, beside one of the
pillars, plain enough, worn two inches deep and three feet long in the
hard stone. Words cannot add to the pathos of it.

[Illustration: _The Prisoner of Chillon_]


Nothing could be more nobly picturesque than the outside of Chillon. Its
base is beaten by the waves of the lake, to which it presents wide
masses of irregularly curving wall, pierced by narrow windows, and
surmounted by Mansard-roofs. Wild growths of vines and shrubs break the
broad surfaces of the wall, and out of the shoulders of one of the
towers springs a tall young fir-tree. The water at its base is intensely
blue and unfathomably deep. This is what nature has done; as for men,
they have hugely painted the lakeward wall of the castle with the arms
of the Canton Vaud, which are nearly as ugly as the arms of Ohio; and
they have wrought into the roof of the tallest tower with tiles of a
paler tint the word "Chillon," so that you cannot possibly mistake it
for any other castle.

[Illustration: _One of the Fountains_]


First and last, we hung about Chillon a good deal, both by land and by
water. For the latter purpose we had to hire a boat; and deceived by the
fact that the owner spoke a Latin dialect, I attempted to beat him down
from his demand of a franc an hour. "It's too much," I cried. "It's the
price," he answered, laconically. Clearly I was to take it or leave it,
and I took it. We did not find our fellow-republicans flatteringly
polite, but we found them firm, and, for all I know, honest. At least
they seemed as honest as we were, and that is saying a great deal. What
struck us from the beginning was the surliness of the men and the
industry of the women; and I am persuaded that the Swiss Government is
really carried on by the house-keeping sex. At any rate, the postmaster
of Villeneuve was a woman; her little girl brought the mail up from the
railway station in a hand-cart, and her old mother helped her to
understand my French. They were rather cross about it, and one day, with
the assistance of a child in arms, they defeated me in an attempt I made
to get a postal order. I dare say they thought it quite a triumph; but
it was not so very much to be proud of. At that period my French, always
spoken with the Venetian accent of the friend with whom I had studied it
many years before, was taking on strange and wilful characteristics,
which would have disabled me in the presence of a much less formidable
force. I think the only person really able to interpret me was the
amiable mistress of the Croix Blanche, to whose hostelry I went every
day for my after-dinner coffee. She knew what I wanted whenever I asked
for it, and I simplified my wants so as to meet her in the same spirit.
The inn stood midway of the village street that for hundreds of yards
followed the curve of the lake shore with its two lines of high stone
houses. At one end of it stood a tower springing out of an almost
fabulous past; then you came to the first of three plashing fountains,
where cattle were always drinking, and bareheaded girls washing
vegetables for the pot. Aloft swung the lamps that lighted the village,
on ropes stretching across the street. I believe some distinction was
ascribed to Villeneuve for the antiquity of this method of
street-lighting. There were numbers of useful shops along the street,
which wandered out into the country on the levels of the Rhone, where
the mountains presently shut in so close that there was scarcely room
for the railway to get through. What finally became of the highway I
don't know. One day I tried to run it down, but after a long chase I was
glad to get myself brought back in a diligence from the next village.

[Illustration: _"They helped to make the hay in the marshes"_]

The road became a street and ceased to be so with an abruptness that
admitted nothing of suburban hesitation or compromise, and Villeneuve,
as far as it went, was a solid wall of houses on either side. It was
called Villeneuve because it was so very, very old; and in the level
beyond it is placed the scene of the great Helvetian victory over the
Romans, when the Swiss made their invaders pass under the yoke. I do not
know that Villeneuve witnessed that incident, but it looks and smells
old enough to have done so. It is reasonably picturesque in a
semi-Italian, semi-French fashion, but it is to the nose that it makes
its chief appeal. Every house has a cherished manure heap in its back
yard, symmetrically shaped, with the projecting edges of the straw
neatly braided: it is a source of family pride as well as profit. But it
is chiefly the odor of world-old human occupation, otherwise
indescribable, that pervades the air of Villeneuve, and makes the
mildest of foreign sojourners long for the application of a little
dynamite to its ancient houses. Our towns are perhaps the ugliest in the
world, but how open to the sun and wind they are! how free, how pure,
how wholesome!

On week-days a cart sometimes passed through Villeneuve with a most
disproportionate banging over the cobble-stones, but usually the walls
reverberated the soft tinkle of cow-bells as the kine wound through from
pasture to pasture and lingered at the fountains. On Sundays the street
was reasonably full of young men in the peg-top trousers which the Swiss
still cling to, making eyes at the girls in the upper windows. These
were the only times when I saw women of any age idle. Sometimes through
the open door I caught a glimpse of a group of them busy with their
work, while a little girl read to them. Once in a crowded café, where
half a hundred men were smoking and drinking and chattering, the girl
who served my coffee put down a volume of Victor Hugo's poems to bring
it. But mostly their literary employments did not go beyond driving the
cows to pasture and washing clothes in the lake, where they beat the
linen with far-echoing blows of their paddles. They helped to make the
hay on the marshes beyond the village, and they greatly outnumbered the
men in the labors of the vintage. They were seldom pretty either in face
or figure; they seemed all to have some stage of goitre; but their
manners were charming, and their voices, as I have said, angelically
sweet. Our pasteur's wife said that there was a great deal of pauperism
in Villeneuve, "because of the drunkenness of the men and the disorder
of the women;" but I saw only one man drunk in the streets there, and
what the disorders of the women were I don't know. Possibly their labors
in the field made them poor house-keepers, though this is mere
conjecture. Divorce is theoretically easy, but the couple seeking it
must go before a magistrate every four months for two years and insist
that they continue to desire it. This makes it rather uncommon.

[Illustration: _Cattle at the Fountains_]

If the women were not good-looking, if their lives of toil stunted and
coarsened them, the men, with greater apparent leisure, were no
handsomer. Among the young I noticed the frequency of what may be called
the republican face--thin and aquiline, whether dark or fair. The
Vaudois as I saw them were at no age a merry folk. In the fields they
toiled silently; in the cafés, where they were sufficiently noisy over
their new wine, they talked without laughter, and without the shrugs and
gestures that enliven conversation among other Latin peoples. They had a
hard-favored grimness and taciturnity that with their mountain scenery
reminded me of New England now and again, and gave me the bewildered
sense of having dropped down in some little anterior America. But there
was one thing that marked a great difference from our civilization, and
that was the prevalence of uniforms, for which the Swiss have the true
European fondness. This is natural in a people whose men all are or have
been soldiers; and the war footing on which the little republic is
obliged to keep a large force in that ridiculous army-ridden Europe must
largely account for the abandonment of the peaceful industries to women.
But the men are off at the mountain chalets too, and they are away in
all lands, keeping hotels, and amassing from the candle-ends of the
travelling public the fortune with which all Swiss hope to return home
to die.

[Illustration: _Washing Clothes in the Lake_]


Sometimes the country people I met greeted me, as sometimes they still
do in New Hampshire, but commonly they passed in silence. I think the
mountains must have had something to do with hushing the people: far and
near, on every hand, they rise such bulks of silence. The chief of their
stately company was always the Dent-du-Midi, which alone remains
perpetually snow-covered, and which, when not hooded in the rain-bearing
mists of that most rainy autumn, gave back the changing light of every
hour with new splendors, though of course it was most beautiful in the
early sunsets. Then its cold snows warmed and softened into something
supernally rosy, while all the other peaks were brown and purple, and
its vast silence was thrilled with a divine message that spoke to the
eye. Across the lake and on its farther shores the mountains were dimly
blue; but nearer, in the first days of our sojourn, they were green to
their tops. Away up there we could see the lofty steeps and slopes of
the summer pastures, and set low among them the chalets where the
herdsmen dwelt. None of the mountains seemed so bare and sterile as
Mount Washington, and though they were on a sensibly vaster scale than
the White Mountains generally, I remembered the grandeur of Chocorua and
Kearsarge in their presence. But my national--not to say my
hemispheric--pride suffered a terrible blow as the season advanced. I
had bragged all my life of the glories of our American autumnal foliage,
which I had, in common with the rest of my countrymen, complacently
denied to all the rest of the world. Yet here, before my very eyes, the
same beautiful miracle was wrought. Day after day the trees on the
mountain-sides changed, and kindled and softly smouldered in a thousand
delicate hues, till all their mighty flanks seemed draped in the
mingling dyes of Indian shawls. Shall I own that while this effect was
not the fiery gorgeousness of our autumn leaves, it was something
tenderer, richer, more tastefully lovely? Never!

[Illustration: _Flirtation at the Fountains_]

The clouds lowering, and as it were loafing along, among the tops and
crags, were a perpetual amusement, and when the first cold came it was
odd to see a cloud in a sky otherwise clear stoop upon some crest, and
after lingering there awhile drift off about its business, and leave the
mountain all white with snow. This grew more and more frequent, and at
last, after a long rain, we looked out on the mountains whitened all
round us far down their sides, while it was still summer green and
summer bloom in the valley. The moon rose and blackened the mountains
below the crags of snow, which shone out above like one of her own dead
landscapes. Slowly the winter descended, snow after snow, keeping a line
beautifully straight along the mountain-sides, till it reached the
valley and put out our garden roses at last. The hard-wood trees lost
their leaves, and stretched dim and brown along the lower ranges; the
pines straggled high up into the snows. The Jura, far across the lake;
was vaguely roseate, with an effect of perpetual sunset; the
Dent-du-Midi lost the distinction of its eternal drifts; and the cold
not only descended upon us, but from the frozen hills all round us
hemmed us in with a lateral pressure that pierced and chilled to the
marrow. The mud froze, and we walked to church dry-shod. It was quite
time to fire the vestibule stove, which, after fighting hard and smoking
rebelliously at first, sobered down to its winter work, and afforded
Poppi's rheumatism the comfort for which he had longed pined.

Second Paper


The winter and the vintage come on together at Villeneuve, and when the
snows had well covered the mountains around, the grapes in the valley
were declared ripe by an act of the Commune. There had been so much rain
and so little sun that their ripeness was hardly attested otherwise.
Fully two-thirds of the crop had blackened with blight; the imperfect
clusters, where they did not hang sodden and mildewed on the vines, were
small and sour. It was sorrowful to see them; and when, about the middle
of October, the people assembled in the vineyards to gather them, the
spectacle had none of that gayety which the poets had taught me to
expect of it. Those poor clusters did not

          "reel to earth
    Purple and gushing,"

but limply waited the short hooked knife with which the peasants cut
them from their stems; and the peasants, instead of advancing with
jocund steps and rustic song to the sound of the lute and tabor and
other convenient instruments, met in obedience to public notice duly
posted about the Commune, and set to work, men, women, and children
alike silent and serious. So many of the grapes are harvested and
manufactured in common that it is necessary the vintage should begin on
a fixed day, and no one was allowed to anticipate or postpone. Some cut
the grapes, and dropped them into the flattish wooden barrels, which
others, after mashing the berries with a long wooden pestle, bore off
and emptied frothing and gurgling into big casks mounted on carts. These
were then driven into the village, where the mess was poured into the
presses, and the wine crushed out to the last bitter dregs. The
vineyards were a scene of activity, but not hilarity, though a little
way off they looked rather lively with the vintagers at work in them. We
climbed to one of them far up the mountain-side one day, where a family
were gathering the grapes on a slope almost as steep as a house roof,
father, mother, daughter, son-in-law, big boy, and big girl all silently
busy together. There were bees and wasps humming around the tubs of
crushed grapes in the pale afternoon sun; the view of the lake and the
mountains was inspiring; but there was nothing bacchanalian in the
affair, unless the thick calves of the girl, as she bent over to cut the
clusters, suggested a Mænad fury. These poor people were quite songless,
though I am bound to say that in another vineyard I did hear some of the
children singing. It had momentarily stopped raining; but it soon began
again, and the vintage went sorrowfully on in the mud. All Villeneuve
smelt of the harsh juice and pulp arriving from the fields in the
wagons, carts, tubs, and barrels which crowded the streets and
sidewalks, and in divers cavernous basements the presses were at work,
and there was a slop and drip of new wine everywhere. After dark the
people came in from the fields and gossiped about their doors, and the
red light of flitting lanterns blotched the steady rainpour. Outside of
the village rose the black mountains, white at the top with their snows.

[Illustration: _The Wine-press_]

In the cafés and other public places there were placards advertising
American wine-presses, but I saw none of them in use. At a farm-house
near us we looked on at the use of one of the old-fashioned Swiss
presses. Under it lay a mighty cake of grapes, stems, and skins, crushed
into a common mass, and bulging farther beyond the press with each turn
of the screw, while the juice ran in a little rivulet into a tub below.
When the press was lifted, the grapes were seen only half crushed. Two
peasants then mounted the cake, and trimmed it into shape with
long-handled spades, piling the trimmings on top, and then bringing the
press down again. They invited us with charming politeness to taste the
juice, but their heavy boots bore evidence of too recent a visit to the
cherished manure heap, and we thanked them with equal courtesy.

This grape cake, when it had yielded up its last drop, would be broken
to pieces and scattered over the fields as a fertilizer. The juice would
meanwhile have been placed to ferment in the tuns, twelve and thirteen
feet deep, which lay in the adjoining cellar.

For weeks after the vintage people were drinking the new wine, which
looked thick and whitish in the glasses, at all the cafés. It seemed to
be thought a dainty beverage, but our scruples against it remained, and
I cannot say what its effect upon the drinkers might be. Perhaps it had
properties as a "sweet, oblivious antidote" which rendered necessary the
placard we saw in the café of the little Hôtel Chillon:

    "Die Rose blüht,
       Der Dorn der sticht;
     Wer gleich bezahlt
       Vergisst es nicht."

Or, in inadequate English:

    The roses bloom,
      The thorns they stick;
    No one forgets
      Who settles quick.

The relation of the ideas is not very apparent, but the lyric cry is
distinctly audible.


One morning, a week before the vintage began, we were wakened by the
musical clash of cow-bells, and for days afterwards the herds came
streaming from the chalets on all the mountains round to feed upon the
lowland pastures for a brief season before the winter should house them.
There was something charming to ear and eye in this autumnal descent of
the kine, and we were sorry when it ended. They thronged the village in
their passage to the levels beside the Rhone, where afterwards they lent
their music and their picturesqueness to the meadows. With each herd
there were two or three goats, and these goats thought they were cows;
but, after all, the public interest of this descent of the cows was not
really comparable to that of the fall elections, now coming on with
handbills and newspaper appeals very like those of our own country at
like times. In the cafés, the steamboats, the railway stations, the
street corners, vivid posters warned the voters against the wiles of the
enemy, and the journals urged the people of the Canton Vaud to be up and
doing; they declared the issue before them a vital one, and the crisis a
crisis of the greatest moment.

[Illustration: _Castle of Aigle_]

In the mean time the people in our pension, who were so intelligent and
well informed about other things, bore witness to the real security of
the State, and the tranquillity of the Swiss mind generally concerning
politics, by their ignorance of the name of their existing President.
They believed he was a man of the name of Schultz; but it appeared that
his name was not at all Schultz, when we referred the matter to our
pasteur. It was from him, indeed, that I learned nearly all I knew of
Swiss politics, and it was from his teaching that I became a
conservative partisan in the question, then before the voters, of a
national free-school law. The radicals, who, the pasteur said, wished
Switzerland to attempt the role "_grande nation_," had brought forward
this measure in the Federal legislature, and it was now, according to
the sensible Swiss custom, to be submitted to a popular vote. It
provided for the establishment of a national bureau of education, and
the conservatives protested against it as the entering wedge of
centralization in government affairs. They contended that in a country
shared by three races and two religions education should be left as much
as possible to the several cantons, which in the Swiss constitution are
equivalent to our States. I am happy to say that the proposed law was
overwhelmingly defeated; I am happy because I liked the pasteur so much,
though when I remember the sympathetic bric-à-brac dealer at Vevay, who
was a radical, but who sold me some old pewters at a very low price, I
can't help feeling a little sorry too. However, the Swiss still keep
their old school law, under which each canton taxes itself for
education, as our States do, though all share in the advantages of the
universities, which are part of the public-school system.

The parties in Switzerland are fortunately not divided by questions of
race or religion, but the pasteur owned that the Catholics were a
difficult element, and had to be carefully managed. They include the
whole population of the Italian cantons, and part of the French and
German. In Geneva and other large towns the labor question troublesomely
enters, and the radicals, like our Democrats, are sometimes the
retrograde party.

The pasteur spoke with smiling slight of the Père Hyacinthe and the
Döllinger movements, and he confessed that the Protestants were cut up
into too many sects to make progress among the Catholic populations. The
Catholics often keep their children out of the public schools, as they
do with us, but these have to undergo the State examinations, to which
all the children, whether taught at home or in private schools, must
submit. He deplored the want of moral instruction in the public schools,
but he laughed at the attempts in France to instil non-religious moral
principles: when I afterwards saw this done in the Florentine ragged
schools I could not feel that he was altogether right. He was a member
of the communal school committee, and he told me that this body was
appointed by the syndic and council of each commune, who are elected by
the people. To some degree religion influences local feeling, the
Protestant Church being divided into orthodox and liberal factions;
there is a large Unitarian party besides, and agnosticism is a
qualifying element of religious thought.

Outside of our pension I had not many sources of information concerning
the political or social life at Villeneuve. I knew the village
shoemaker, a German, who had fixed his dwelling there because it was so
_bequem_, and who had some vague aspirations towards Chicago, whither a
citizen of Villeneuve had lately gone. But he was discouraged by my
representation, with his wax, his awl, and his hammer, successively
arranged as New York, Cleveland, and Chicago, on his shoe-bench, of the
extreme distance of the last from the seaboard. He liked his neighbors
and their political system; and so did the _portier_ at the Hôtel Byron,
another German, with whom I sometimes talked of general topics in
transacting small affairs of carriage hire and the like, and who invited
me to notice how perfectly well these singular Swiss, in the midst of a
Europe elsewhere overrun with royalties, got on without a king, queen,
or anything of the kind. In his country, he said, those hills would be
covered with fortifications, but here they seemed not to be thought

[Illustration: _The Market at Vevey_]

I made friends with the _instituteur_ of the Villeneuve public school,
who led the singing at church, and kept the village book-store; and he
too talked politics with me, and told me that all elections were held on
Sunday, when the people were at leisure, for otherwise they would not
take the time to vote. He was not so clear as to why they were always
held in church, but that is the fact; and sometimes the sacred character
of the place is not enough to suppress boisterous party feeling, though
it certainly helps to control it.

After divine service on election Sunday I went to the Croix Blanche for
my coffee, to pass the time till the voting should begin. On the church
door was posted a printed summons to the electors, and on the café
billiard tables I found ballots of the different parties scattered.
Gendarmes had also distributed them about in the church pews; they were
enclosed in envelops, which were voted sealed. On a table before the
pulpit the ballot-box--a glass urn--was placed; and beside it sat the
judges of election, with lists of the registered voters. But in any
precinct of the canton an elector who could prove that he had not voted
at home might deposit his ballot in any other. The church bell rang for
the people to assemble, and the voting began and ended in perfect quiet.
But I could not witness an election of this ancient republic, where
Freedom was so many centuries old, without strong emotion; it had from
its nature and the place the consecration of a religious rite.


The church itself was old--almost as old as Swiss freedom, and older
than the freedom of the Vaud. The Gothic interior, which had once, no
doubt, been idolatrously frescoed and furnished with statues, was now
naked and coldly Protestant; one window, partly stained, let in a little
colored light to mix with the wintry day that struck through the others.
The pulpit was in the centre of the church, and the clerk's desk
diagonally across from it. The floor was boarded over, but a chill
struck through from the stones below, and the people seemed to shiver
through the service that preceded the election. When the pasteur mounted
the pulpit they listened faithfully, but when the clerk led the psalm
they vented their suffering in the most dreadful groaning that ever
passed for singing outside of one of our country churches.

It was all very like home, and yet unlike it, for there is much more
government in Switzerland than with us, and much less play of
individuality. In small communes, for example, like Villeneuve, there
are features of practical socialism, which have existed apparently from
the earliest times. Certain things are held in common, as mountain
pasturage and the forests, from which each family has a provision of
fuel. These and other possessions of the commune are "confided to the
public faith," and trespass is punished with signal severity. The trees
are felled under government inspection, and the woods are never cut off
wholesale. When a tree is chopped down a tree is planted, and the floods
that ravage Italy from the mountains denuded of their forests are
unknown to the wiser Swiss. Throughout Switzerland the State insures
against fire, and inflicts penalties for neglect and carelessness from
which fires may result. Education is compulsory, and there is a rigid
military service, and a show of public force everywhere which is quite
unknown to our unneighbored, easy-going republic. I should say, upon the
whole, that the likeness was more in social than in political things,
strange as that may appear. There seemed to be much the same freedom
among young people, and democratic institutions had produced a kindred
type of manners in both countries. But I will not be very confident
about all this, for I might easily be mistaken. The Swiss make their
social distinctions as we do; and in Geneva and Lausanne I understood
that a more than American exclusivism prevailed in families that held
themselves to be peculiarly good, and believed themselves very old.

Our excursions into society at Villeneuve were confined to a single tea
at the pasteur's, where we went with mademoiselle one evening. He lived
in a certain Villa Garibaldi, which had belonged to an Italian refugee,
now long repatriated, and which stood at the foot of the nearest
mountain. To reach the front door we passed through the vineyard to the
back of the house, where a huge dog leaped the length of his chain at
us, and a maid let us in. The pasteur, in a coat of unclerical cut, and
his wife, in black silk, received us in the parlor, which was heated by
a handsome porcelain stove, and simply furnished, much like such a room
at home. Madame P----, who was musical, played a tempestuously
representative composition called "L'Orage" on the upright piano, and
joined from time to time in her husband's talk about Swiss affairs,
which I have already allowed the reader to profit by. They offered us
tea, wine, grapes, and cake, and we came away at eleven, lighted home
through the vineyards by Louis, the farm boy, with his lantern.

[Illustration: _The Market, Vevay--A Bargain before the Notary_]

Another day mademoiselle did us the pleasure to take us to her sister,
married, and living at Aigle--a clean, many-hotelled, prosperous town, a
few miles off, which had also the merit of a very fine old castle. We
found our friends in an apartment of a former convent, behind which
stretched a pretty lawn, with flowers and a fountain, and then vineyards
to the foot of the mountains and far up their sides. We entered the
court by a great stone-paved carriage-way, as in Italy, and we found the
drawing-room furnished with Italian simplicity, and abounding in
souvenirs of the hostess's long Florentine sojourn; but it was fortified
against the Swiss winter by the tall Swiss stove. The whole family
received us, including the young lady daughter, the niece, the
well-mannered boys and their father openly proud of them, and the
pleasant young English girl who was living in the family, according to a
common custom, to perfect her French. This part of Switzerland is full
of English people, who come not always for the French, but often for the
cheapness which they find equally there.

Mr. K---- was a business man, well-to-do, well educated, agreeable, and
interesting; his house and his table, where we sat down to the mid-day
dinner of the country, were witness to his prosperity. I hope it is no
harm, in the interest of statistics, to say that this good Swiss dinner
consisted of soup, cold ham put up like sausage, stuffed roast beef
which had first been boiled, cauliflower, salad, corn-starch pudding,
and apples stewed whole and stuck full of pine pips. There was abundance
of the several kinds of excellent wine made upon the estate, both white
and red, and it was freely given to the children. Mr. K---- seemed
surprised when we refused it for ours; and probably he could have given
us good reason for his custom. His boys were strong, robust, handsome
fellows; he had a charming pride in showing us the prizes they had taken
at school; and on the lawn they were equally proud to show the gymnastic
feats they had learned there. I believe we are coming to think now that
the American schools are better than the Swiss; but till we have
organized something like the Swiss school excursions, and have learned
to mix more open air with our instruction, I doubt if the Swiss would
agree with us.

After dinner we went to the _vente_, or charitable fair, which the young
ladies of the town were holding in one of the public buildings. It was
bewilderingly like the church fair of an American country town, socially
and materially. The young ladies had made all sorts of pretty
knick-knacks, and were selling them at the little tables set about the
room; they also presided, more or less alluringly, at fruit, coffee, and
ice-cream stands; and--I will not be sure, but I _think_--some of them
seemed to be flirting with the youth of the other sex. There was an
auction going on, and the place was full of tobacco smoke, which the
women appeared not to mind. A booth for the sale of wine and beer was
set off, and there was a good deal of amiable drinking. This was not
like our fairs quite; and I am bound to say that the people of Aigle had
more polished manners, if not better, than our country-town average.

To quit this scene for the castle of Aigle was to plunge from the
present into my favorite Middle Ages. We were directly in the times when
the Lords of Berne held the Vaud by the strong hand, and forced
Protestant convictions upon its people by the same vigorous methods. The
castle was far older than their occupation, but it is chiefly memorable
as the residence of their bailiffs before the independence of the Vaud
was established after the French Revolution. They were hard masters, but
they left political and religious freedom behind them, where perhaps
neither would have existed without them. The castle, though eminently
picturesque and delightfully Gothic, is very rudely finished and
decorated, and could never have been a luxurious seat for the bailiffs.
It is now used by the local courts of law; a solitary, pale, unshaven
old prisoner, who seemed very glad of our tribute-money, inhabited its
tower, and there was an old woman carding wool in the baronial kitchen.
Her little grandson lighted a candle and showed us the _oubliettes_,
which are subterranean dungeons, one above the other, and barred by
mighty doors of wood and iron. The outer one bore an inscription, which
I copied:

     "Doubles grilles a gros cloux,
      Triples portes, fortes Verroux,
      Aux âmes vraiment méchantes
      Vous représentez l'Enfer;
      Mais aux âmes innocentes
    Vous n'êtes que du bois, de la pierre, & du fer!"

[Illustration: _Germans at Montreux_]

But these doors, thus branded as representing the gates of hell to
guilty souls, and to the innocent being merely wood, stone, and iron,
sufficed equally to shut the blameless in, and I doubt if the reflection
suggested was ever of any real comfort to them. For one thing, the
captives could not read the inscription; it seems to have been intended
rather for the edification of the public.

We visited the castle a second time, to let the children sketch it; and
even I, who could not draw a line, became with them the centre of
popular interest. Half a dozen little people who had been playing
"snap-the-whip" left off and crowded round, and one of the boys profited
by the occasion to lock into the barn, near which we sat, a peasant who
had gone in to fodder his cattle. When he got out he criticised the
pictures, and insisted that one of the artists should put in a certain
window which he had left out of the tower. Upon the whole, we liked him
better as a prisoner.

"What would you do," I asked the children, "if I gave you a piece of
twenty-five centimes?"

They reflected, and then evidently determined to pose as good children.
"We would give it to our mamma."

"Now don't you think," I pursued, "that it would be better to spend it
for little cakes?"

This instantly corrupted them, and they cried with one voice, "Oh yes!"

Out of respect to me the oldest girl made a small boy pull up his
stocking, which had got down round his ankle, and then they took the
money and all ran off. Later they returned to show me that they had got
it changed into copper and shared equally among them. They must have
spent an evening of great excitement talking us over.

The October sun set early, chill, and disconsolate after a rain. A weary
peasant with a heavy load on his back, which he looked as if he had
brought from the dawn of time, approached the castle gate, and bowed to
us in passing. I was not his feudal lord, but his sad, work-worn aspect
gave me as keen a pang as if I had been.


The Pays de Vaud is also the land of castles, and the visitor to Vevay
should not fail to see Blonay Castle, the seat of the ancient family
which, with intervals of dispossession, has possessed it ever since the
Crusades. It is only a little way off, on the first rise of the hills,
from which it looks over the vineyards on inexpressible glories of lake
and distant mountains, and it is most nobly approached through steeps of
vine and grove. Apparently it is kept up in as much of the sentiment of
the past as possible, and one may hire its baronial splendor fully
furnished; for the keeper told it had been occupied by an English family
for the last three winters. The finish, like that of the castle of
Aigle, is rude, but the whole place is wonderfully picturesque and
impressive. The arched gateway is alone worth a good rent; the long
corridors from which the chambers open are suitable to ghosts fond of
walking exercise; the superb dining-room is round, and the floor is so
old that it would shake under the foot of the lightest spectre. The
_répertoire_ of family traditions is almost inexhaustible, and doubtless
one might have the use of them for a little additional money. One of the
latest is of the seventeenth century, when the daughter of the house was
"the beautiful Nicolaïde de Blonay, before whom many adorers had bent
the knee in vain. Among them, a certain Tavel de Villars, vanquished the
proud beauty by his constancy. But the marriage was delayed. Officer in
the service of France, Tavel was detained by his military duties. In the
mean time Jean-François de Blonay, of another branch of the family, the
Savoyard branch, fell in love with his cousin, and twice demanded her in
marriage. Twice he was refused. Then, listening only to his passion, he
assembled some of his friends, and hid himself with them near the
castle. They watched the comings and goings of the baron, and suddenly
profiting by his absence, they entered his dwelling and carried off the
fair Nicolaïde, who, transported to Savoy, rewarded the boldness of her
captor by becoming his wife. This history, which resembles that of the
beautiful Helen, and is not less authentic, kindled the fiercest
hostilities between the Tavel and Blonay families; the French and
Italian ambassadors intervened; and it all ended in a sentence
pronounced at Berne against the Blonays--a sentence as useless as it was
severe--for the principal offenders had built a nest for their loves in
domains which they possessed in Savoy. The old baron alone felt its
effects. He was severely reprimanded for having so ill fulfilled his
paternal duties."

The good burghers of Berne--the Lords as they called themselves--were in
fact very hard with all their Vaudois subjects. "Equally merciless to
the vanities and the vices, they confounded luxury and drunkenness in
their rules, pleasures and bad manners. They were no less the enemies of
innovations. Coffee at its introduction was stigmatized as a devilish
invention; tea was no better; as to tobacco, whether snuffed or smoked,
it was worse yet. Low-necked dresses and low-quartered shoes were
rigorously forbidden. Games and all dances, 'except three modest dances
on wedding-days,' were unlawful.... The Sabbath was strictly observed;
silence reigned in the villages, even those remotest from the church,
until the divine service of the afternoon was closed; no cart might pass
in the street, and no child play there.... In short, all their
ordinances and regulations witness a firm design on the part of their
Excellencies 'to revive among all those under their domination a life
and manners truly Christian.' The Pays de Vaud under this régime
acquired its moral and religious education. A more serious spirit
gradually prevailed. The Bible became the book _par excellence_, the
book of the fireside, and on Sunday the exercises of devotion took the
place of the public amusements."

[Illustration: _Church Terrace, Montreux_]

When the regicides fled from England after the Restoration they could
not have sought a more congenial refuge than such a land as this. One of
them, as is known, died in Vevay by the shot of an assassin sent to
murder him by Charles II.; with another he is interred in the old Church
of St. Martin there; and I went there to revere the tombs of Ludlow and
Broughton. While I was looking about for them a familiar name on a
tablet caught my eye, and I read that "William Walter Phelps, of New
Jersey, and Charles A. Phelps, of Massachusetts, his descendants beyond
the seas," had set it there in memory of the brave John Phelps, who was
so anxious to be known as clerk of the court which tried Charles Stuart
that he set his name to every page of its record.

That tablet was the most interesting thing in the old church; but I
found Vevay quaint and attractive in every way. It is, as all the world
knows, the paradise of pensions and hotels and boarding-schools, and one
may live well and study deeply there for a very little money. It was
part of our mission to lunch at the most gorgeous of the hotels, and to
look upon such of our fellow-countrymen as we might see there, after our
long seclusion at Villeneuve; and we easily found all the splendor and
compatriotism we wanted. The hotel we chose stood close upon the lake,
with a superb view of the mountains, and its evergreens in tubs stood
about the gravelled spaces in a manner that consoled us with a sense of
being once more in the current of polite travel. The waiter wanted none
of our humble French, but replied to our timorous advances in that
tongue in a correct and finally expensive English. Under the stimulus of
this experience we went to a bric-à-brac shop and bought a lot of
fascinating old pewter platters and flagons, and then we went recklessly
shopping about in all directions. We even visited an exhibition of Swiss
paintings, which, from an ethical and political point of view, were
admirable; and we strolled delightedly about through the market, where
the peasant women sat and knitted before their baskets of butter, fruit,
cheese, flowers, and grapes, and warbled their gossip and their bargains
in their angelic Suissesse voices, while their husbands priced the
cattle and examined the horses. It was all very picturesque, and
prophesied of the greater picturesqueness of Italy, which we were soon
to see.


In fact, there was a great deal to make one think of Italy in that
region; but the resemblance ended mostly with the Southern architecture
and vegetation. Our lake coast had its own features, one of the most
striking of which was its apparent abandonment to the use and pleasure
of strangers. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that the water was
everywhere bordered by hotels and pensions. Such large places as Vevay
and Lausanne had their proper life, of course, but of smaller ones, like
Montreux, the tourist seemed to be in exclusive possession. In our walks
thither we met her--when the tourist was of that sex--young, gay,
gathering the red leaves of the Virginia-creeper from the lakeward
terraces of the highway; we met him, old, sick, pale, munching the sour
grapes, and trying somehow to kill the time. Large listless groups of
them met every steamboat from which we landed, and parties of them
encountered us on every road. "A hash of foreigners," the Swiss call
Montreux, and they scarcely contribute a native flavor to the dish. The
Englishman no longer characterizes sojourn there, I should say; the
Americans, who pay and speak little or no French, and the Russians, who
speak beautiful French but do not pay, are there in about equal
abundance; there are some French people; but if it came to my laying my
hand upon my heart, I should say there seemed more Germans than any
other nationality at Montreux. They are not pretty to look at, and
apparently not pleasant; and it is said that the Swiss, who digest them
along with the rest of us, do not like them. In fact, the Germans seem
everywhere to take their new national consequence ungraciously.

Besides the foreigners, there is not much to see at Montreux, though one
must not miss the ancient church which looks out from its lofty place
over the lake, and offers the visitor many seats on its terrace for the
enjoyment of the same view. The day we went he had pretty well covered
the gravel with grape-skins; but he had left the prospect undisturbed.

What struck me principally in Montreux was its extreme suitability to
the purposes of the international novelist. It was full of sites for
mild incidents, for tacit tragedies, for subdued flirtations, and
arrested improprieties. I can especially recommend the Kursaal at
Montreux to my brother and sister fictionists looking about for a pretty
_entourage_. Its terrace is beaten by the billows of the restless lake,
and in soft weather people sit at little tables there; otherwise they
take their ices inside the café, and all the same look out on the
Dent-du-Midi, and feel so bored with everybody that they are just in the
humor to be interested in anybody. There is a very pretty theatre in the
Kursaal, where they seldom give entertainments, but where, if you ever
go, you see numbers of pretty girls, and in a box a pale,
delicate-looking middle-aged Englishman in a brown velvet coat, with his
two daughters. The concert will be very good, and a young man of
cultivated sympathies and disdainful tastes could have a very pleasant
time there. For the rest, Montreux offers to the novelist's hand perhaps
the crude American of the station who says it is the cheapest place he
has struck, and he is going to stick it out there awhile; perhaps the
group of chattering American school-girls; perhaps the little Jewish
water-color painter who tells of his narrow escape from the mad dog,
which having broken his chain at Bouveret, had bitten six persons on the
way to Clarens, and been killed by the gendarmes near Vevay; perhaps two
Englishwomen who talk for half an hour about their rooms at the hotel,
and are presently joined by their husbands, who pursue the subject.
These are the true features of modern travel, and for a bit of pensive
philosophy, or to have a high-bred, refined widow with a fading sorrow
encountered by a sensitive nature of the other sex, there is no better
place than the sad little English church-yard at Montreux. It is full of
the graves of people who have died in the search for health far from
home, and it has a pathos therefore which cannot be expressed. The
stones grow stained and old under the laurels and hollies, and the
rain-beaten ivy creeps and drips all over the grassy mounds. Yes, that
is a beautiful, lonely, heart-breaking place. Now and again I saw
black-craped figures silently standing there, and paid their grief the
tribute of a stranger's pang as I passed, happy with my children by my


I did not find Aigle and Blonay enough to satisfy my appetite for
castles, and once, after several times passing a certain _château meublé
à louer_ in the levels of the Rhone Valley, I made bold to go in and ask
to look at it. I loved it for the certain Louis XV. grandiosity there
was about it; for the great clock in the stable wall; for the balcony
frescos on the front of the garden-house, and for the arched driveway to
the court. It seemed to me a wonderfully good thing of its kind, and I
liked Napoleon's having lodged in it when his troops occupied
Villeneuve. It had, of course, once belonged to a rich family, but it
had long passed out of their hands into those of the sort of farmer-folk
who now own it, and let it when they can. It had stood several years
empty, for the situation is not thought wholesome, and the last tenant
had been an English clergyman, who kept a school in it for baddish boys
whom no one else could manage, and who were supposed to be out of harm's
way there.

I followed a young man whom I saw going into the gateway, and asked him
if I could see the house. He said "Yes," and summoned his mother, a
fierce-looking little dame, in a black Vaudois cap, who came out of a
farm-house near with jingling keys, and made him throw open the whole
house, while she walked me through the sad, forgotten garden, past its
silent fountain, and through its grove of pine to the top of an orchard
wall, where the Dent-du-Midi showed all its snow-capped mass. Within,
the château was very clean and dry; the dining-room was handsomely
panelled, and equipped with a huge porcelain stove; the shelves of the
library were stocked with soberly bound books, and it was tastefully
frescoed; the pretty chambers were in the rococo taste of the fine old
rococo time, with successive scenes of the same history painted over the
fireplaces throughout the suite; the drawing-room was elegant with silk
hangings and carved mirrors; and the noble staircase, whose landing was
honored with the bust of the French king of the château's period, looked
as if that prince had just mounted it. All these splendors, with the
modern comfort of hot and cold water wherever needed, you may have, if
you like, for $500 a year; and none of the castles I saw compared with
this château in richness of finish or furnishing. I am rather particular
to advertise it because a question, painfully debating itself in my mind
throughout my visit, as to the sum I ought to offer the woman was
awkwardly settled by her refusing to take anything, and I feel a
lingering obligation. But, really, I do not see how the reader, if he
likes solitary state, or has "daughters to educate," or baddish boys to
keep out of mischief, or is wearing out a heavy disappointment, or is
suffering under one of those little stains or uneasy consciences such as
people can manage so much better in Europe--I say I do not see how he
could suit himself more perfectly or more cheaply than in that pensively
superb old château, with its aristocratic seclusion, and possibly
malarious, lovely old garden.

[Illustration: _Tour up the Lake_]


Early in October, before the vintage began, we seized the first fine
day, which the Dent-du-Midi lifted its cap of mists the night before to
promise, and made an early start for the tour of the lake. Mademoiselle
and her cousins came with us, and we all stood together at the steamer's
prow to watch the morning sunshine break through the silvery haze that
hung over Villeneuve, dimly pierced by the ghostly poplars wandering up
the road beside the Rhone. As we started, the clouds drifted in
ineffable beauty over the mountain-sides; one slowly dropped upon the
lake, and when we had sailed through it we had come in sight of the
first town on the French border, which the gendarmes of the two nations
seemed to share equally between them. All these lake-side villages are
wonderfully picturesque, but this first one had a fancy in chimney-tops
which I think none of the rest equalled--some were twisted, some shaped
like little chalets; and there were groups of old wood-colored roofs and
gables which were luxuries of color. A half-built railroad was
struggling along the shore; at times it seemed to stop hopelessly; then
it began again, and then left off, to reappear beyond some point of hill
which had not yet been bored through or blown quite away. I have never
seen a railroad laboring under so many difficulties. The landscape was
now grand and beautiful, like New England, now pretty and soft, like Old
England, till we came to Evains-les-Bains, which looked like nothing but
the French watering-place it was. It looked like a watering-place that
would be very gay in the season; there were lots of pretty boats; there
was a most official-looking gendarme in a cocked hat, and two jolly
young priests joking together; and there were green, frivolous French
fishes swimming about in the water, and apparently left behind when the
rest of the brilliant world had flown.

Here the little English artist who had been so sociable all the way from
Villeneuve was reinforced by other Englishmen, whom we found on the much
more crowded boat to which we had to change. Our company began to
diversify itself: there were French and German parties as well as
English. We changed boats four times in the tour of the lake, and each
boat brought us a fresh accession of passengers. By-and-by there came
aboard a brave Italian, with birds in cages and gold-fish in vases, with
a gay Southern face, a coral neck button, a brown mustache and imperial,
and a black-tasselled red fez that consoled. He was the vividest bit of
color in our composition, though we were not wanting in life without
him. There began to be some Americans besides ourselves, and a pretty
girl of our nation, who occupied a public station at the boat's prow,
seemed to know that she was pretty, but probably did not. She will
recognize herself in this sketch; but who was that other pretty maiden,
with brown eyes wide apart, and upper lip projecting a little, as if
pulled out by the piquant-nose? I must have taken her portrait so
carefully because I thought she would work somewhere into fiction; but
the reader is welcome to her as she is. He may also have the
_spirituelle_ English girl who ordered tea, and added, "I want some
kätzchens with my tea." "Kätzchens! Kätzchen is a little cat." "Yes;
it's a word of my own invention." These are the brilliant little
passages of foreign travel that make a voyage to Europe worth while. I
add to this international gallery the German girl in blue calico, who
had so strong a belief that she was elegantly dressed that she came up
on deck with her coffee, and drank it where we might all admire her. I
intersperse also the comment that it is the Germans who seem to prevail
now in any given international group, and that they have the air of
coming forward to take the front seats as by right; while the English,
once so confident of their superiority, seem to yield the places to
them. But I dare say this is all my fancy.

I am sure, however, of the ever-varying grandeur and beauty of the Alps
all round us. Those of the Savoyard shore had a softer loveliness than
the Swiss, as if the South had touched and mellowed them, as it had the
light-colored trousers which in Geneva recalled the joyous pantaloons of
Italy. These mountains moulded themselves one upon another, and deepened
behind their transparent shadows with a thousand dimmer and tenderer
dyes in the autumnal foliage. From time to time a village, gray-walled,
brown-roofed, broke the low helving shore of the lake, where the poplars
rose and the vineyards spread with a monotony that somehow pleased; and
at Nyon a twelfth-century castle, as noble as Chillon, offered the
delight of its changing lines as the boat approached and passed.

At Geneva we had barely time to think Rousseau, to think Calvin, to
think Voltaire, to drive swiftly through the town and back again to the
boat, fuming and fretting to be off. There is an old town, gravely
picturesque and austerely fine in its fine old burgherly, Calvinistic,
exclusive way; and outside the walls there is a new town, very clean,
very cold, very quiet, with horse-cars like Boston, and a new
Renaissance theatre like Paris. The impression remains that Geneva is
outwardly a small moralized Bostonian Paris; and I suppose the reader
knows that it has had its political rings and bosses like New York. It
also has an exact reproduction of the Veronese tombs of the Scaligeri,
which the eccentric Duke of Brunswick, who died in Geneva, willed it the
money to build; like most fac-similes, they are easily distinguishable
from the original, and you must still go to Verona to see the tombs of
the Scaligeri. But they have the real Mont Blanc at Geneva, bleak to the
eye with enduring snow, and the Blue Rhone, rushing smooth and swift
under the overhanging balconies of quaint old houses. With its neat
quays, azure lake, symmetrical hotel fronts, and white steamboats,
Geneva was like an admirable illustration printed in colors, for a
holiday number, to imitate a water-color sketch.

When we started we were detained a moment by conjugal affection. A lady,
who had already kept the boat waiting, stopped midway up the gang-plank
to kiss her husband in parting, in spite of the captain's loud cries of
"Allez! Allez!" and the angry derision of the passengers. We were in
fact all furious, and it was as much as a mule team with bells, drawing
a wagon loaded with bags of flower, and a tree growing out of a tower
beside the lake, could do to put me in good-humor. Yet I was not really
in a hurry to have the voyage end; I was enjoying every moment of it,
only, when your boat starts, you do not want to stop for a woman to kiss
her husband.

Again we were passing the wild Savoyard shore, where the yellow tops of
the poplars jutted up like spires from the road-sides, and on the
hill-sides tracts of dark evergreens blotted their space out of the
vaster expanses of autumn foliage; back of all rose gray cliffs and
crags. Now and then we met a boat of our line; otherwise the blue
stretch of the water was broken only by the lateen-sails of the
black-hulked lake craft. At that season the delicate flame of the
Virginia-creeper was a prominent tint on the walls all round the lake.

Lausanne, which made us think Gibbon, of course, was a stately stretch
of architecture along her terraces; Vevay showed us her quaint market
square, and her old church on its heights; then came Montreux with its
many-hotelled slopes and levels, and chalets peeping from the brows of
the mountains that crowd it upon the lake. All these places keep
multitudes of swans, whose snow reddened in the sunset that stained the
water more and more darkly crimson till we landed at Villeneuve.


When December came, and the vintage and elections were over, and the
winter had come down into the valley to stay, Italy called to us more
and more appealingly.

Yet it was not so easy to pull up and go. I liked the row-boat on the
lake, though it was getting too cold and rough for that; I liked the way
the railway guards called out "Verney-Montreux!" and "Territey-Chillon!"
as they ran alongside the carriages at these stations; I liked the
pastel portraits of mademoiselle's grandmothers on the gray walls of our
pretty chamber that overlooked the lake, and overheard the lightest lisp
of that sometimes bellowing body of water; I liked the notion of the
wild-ducks among the reeds by the Rhone, though I had no wish to kill
them; I liked our little corner fireplace, where I covered a log of the
_grand bois_ every night in the coals, and found it a perfect line of
bristling embers in the morning; I liked Poppi and the three generations
of Boulettes; and, yes, I liked mademoiselle and all her boarders; and I
hated to leave these friends. Mademoiselle made a grand Thanksgiving
supper in honor of the American nation, for which we did our best to
figure both at the table, where smoked a turkey driven over the Alps
from his Italian home for that fête (there are no Swiss turkeys), and in
the dance, for which he had wellnigh disabled us. Poppi was in uncommon
tune that night, and the voice of this pensive rheumatic lent a unique
interest to every change of the Virginia reel.

But these pleasures had to end; it grew colder and colder; we had long
since consumed all the old grape-roots which constituted our _petit
bois_, and we were ravaging our way through an expensive pile of _grand
bois_ without much effect upon the climate. One morning the most
enterprising spirit of our party kindled such a mighty blaze on our
chamber hearth that she set the chimney on fire, thus threatening the
Swiss republic with the loss of the insurance, and involving
mademoiselle in I know not what penalties for having a chimney that
could be set on fire. By the blessing of Heaven, the vigor of
mademoiselle, and the activity of Louis and Alexis the farmer, the
flames were subdued and the house saved. Mademoiselle forgave us, but we
knew it was time to go, and the next Sunday we were in Florence.


*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Little Swiss Sojourn" ***

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