Книга Three Men on the Bummel. Содержание - Chapter XII

Chapter XII

We are grieved at the earthly instincts of the German-A superb view, but no restaurant-Continental opinion of the Englishman— That he does not know enough to come in out of the rain-There comes a weary traveller with a brick-The hurting of the dog-An undesirable family residence-A fruitful region-A merry old soul comes up the hill-George, alarmed at the lateness of the hour, hastens down the other side-Harris follows him, to show him the way-I hate being alone, and follow Harris-Pronunciation specially designed for use of foreigners.

A thing that vexes much the high-class Anglo-Saxon soul is the earthly instinct prompting the German to fix a restaurant at the goal of every excursion. On mountain summit, in fairy glen, on lonely pass, by waterfall or winding stream, stands ever the busy Wirtschaft. How can one rhapsodise over a view when surrounded by beer-stained tables? How lose one's self in historical reverie amid the odour of roast veal and spinach?

One day, on elevating thoughts intent, we climbed through tangled woods.

"And at the top," said Harris, bitterly, as we paused to breathe a space and pull our belts a hole tighter, "there will be a gaudy restaurant, where people will be guzzling beefsteaks and plum tarts and drinking white wine."

"Do you think so?" said George.

"Sure to be," answered Harris; "you know their way. Not one grove will they consent to dedicate to solitude and contemplation; not one height will they leave to the lover of nature unpolluted by the gross and the material."

"I calculate," I remarked, "that we shall be there a little before one o'clock, provided we don't dawdle."

"The 'mittagstisch' will be just ready," groaned Harris, "with possibly some of those little blue trout they catch about here. In Germany one never seems able to get away from food and drink. It is maddening!"

We pushed on, and in the beauty of the walk forgot our indignation. My estimate proved to be correct.

At a quarter to one, said Harris, who was leading:

"Here we are; I can see the summit."

"Any sign of that restaurant?" said George.

"I don't notice it," replied Harris; "but it's there, you may be sure; confound it!"

Five minutes later we stood upon the top. We looked north, south, east and west; then we looked at one another.

"Grand view, isn't it?" said Harris.

"Magnificent," I agreed.

"Superb," remarked George.

"They have had the good sense for once," said Harris, "to put that restaurant out of sight."

"They do seem to have hidden it," said George. "One doesn't mind the thing so much when it is not forced under one's nose," said Harris.

"Of course, in its place," I observed, "a restaurant is right enough."

"I should like to know where they have put it," said George.

"Suppose we look for it?" said Harris, with inspiration.

It seemed a good idea. I felt curious myself. We agreed to explore in different directions, returning to the summit to report progress. In half an hour we stood together once again. There was no need for words. The face of one and all of us announced plainly that at last we had discovered a recess of German nature untarnished by the sordid suggestion of food or drink.

"I should never have believed it possible," said Harris: "would you?"

"I should say," I replied, "that this is the only square quarter of a mile in the entire Fatherland unprovided with one."

"And we three strangers have struck it," said George, "without an effort."

"True," I observed. "By pure good fortune we are now enabled to feast our finer senses undisturbed by appeal to our lower nature. Observe the light upon those distant peaks; is it not ravishing?"

"Talking of nature," said George, "which should you say was the nearest way down?"

"The road to the left," I replied, after consulting the guide book, "takes us to Sonnensteig-where, by-the-by, I observe the 'Goldener Adler' is well spoken of-in about two hours. The road to the right, though somewhat longer, commands more extensive prospects."

"One prospect," said Harris, "is very much like another prospect; don't you think so?"

"Personally," said George, "I am going by the left-hand road." And Harris and I went after him.

But we were not to get down so soon as we had anticipated. Storms come quickly in these regions, and before we had walked for quarter of an hour it became a question of seeking shelter or living for the rest of the day in soaked clothes. We decided on the former alternative, and selected a tree that, under ordinary circumstances, should have been ample protection. But a Black Forest thunderstorm is not an ordinary circumstance. We consoled ourselves at first by telling each other that at such a rate it could not last long. Next, we endeavoured to comfort ourselves with the reflection that if it did we should soon be too wet to fear getting wetter.

"As it turned out," said Harris, "I should have been almost glad if there had been a restaurant up here."

"I see no advantage in being both wet AND hungry," said George. "I shall give it another five minutes, then I am going on."

"These mountain solitudes," I remarked, "are very attractive in fine weather. On a rainy day, especially if you happen to be past the age when-"

At this point there hailed us a voice, proceeding from a stout gentleman, who stood some fifty feet away from us under a big umbrella.

"Won't you come inside?" asked the stout gentleman.

"Inside where?" I called back. I thought at first he was one of those fools that will try to be funny when there is nothing to be funny about.

"Inside the restaurant," he answered.

We left our shelter and made for him. We wished for further information about this thing.

"I did call to you from the window," said the stout gentleman, as we drew near to him, "but I suppose you did not hear me. This storm may last for another hour; you will get SO wet."

He was a kindly old gentleman; he seemed quite anxious about us.

I said: "It is very kind of you to have come out. We are not lunatics. We have not been standing under that tree for the last half-hour knowing all the time there was a restaurant, hidden by the trees, within twenty yards of us. We had no idea we were anywhere near a restaurant."

"I thought maybe you hadn't," said the old gentleman; "that is why I came."

It appeared that all the people in the inn had been watching us from the windows also, wondering why we stood there looking miserable. If it had not been for this nice old gentleman the fools would have remained watching us, I suppose, for the rest of the afternoon. The landlord excused himself by saying he thought we looked like English. It is no figure of speech. On the Continent they do sincerely believe that every Englishman is mad. They are as convinced of it as is every English peasant that Frenchmen live on frogs. Even when one makes a direct personal effort to disabuse them of the impression one is not always successful.

It was a comfortable little restaurant, where they cooked well, while the Tischwein was really most passable. We stopped there for a couple of hours, and dried ourselves and fed ourselves, and talked about the view; and just before we left an incident occurred that shows how much more stirring in this world are the influences of evil compared with those of good.

A traveller entered. He seemed a careworn man. He carried a brick in his hand, tied to a piece of rope. He entered nervously and hurriedly, closed the door carefully behind him, saw to it that it was fastened, peered out of the window long and earnestly, and then, with a sigh of relief, laid his brick upon the bench beside him and called for food and drink.

There was something mysterious about the whole affair. One wondered what he was going to do with the brick, why he had closed the door so carefully, why he had looked so anxiously from the window; but his aspect was too wretched to invite conversation, and we forbore, therefore, to ask him questions. As he ate and drank he grew more cheerful, sighed less often. Later he stretched his legs, lit an evil-smelling cigar, and puffed in calm contentment.

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