A Tramp Abroad — Volume 05 eBook: Page2

Mark Twain (1994)


  The next afternoon we started for a walk up the Unteraar glacier, withthe intention of, at all events, getting as far as the Huette which isused as a sleeping-place by most of those who cross the Strahleck Passto Grindelwald. We got over the tedious collection of stones and DEBRISwhich covers the PIED of the GLETCHER, and had walked nearly three hoursfrom the Grimsel, when, just as we were thinking of crossing over to theright, to climb the cliffs at the foot of the hut, the clouds, which hadfor some time assumed a threatening appearance, suddenly dropped, anda huge mass of them, driving toward us from the Finsteraarhorn, poureddown a deluge of HABOOLONG and hail. Fortunately, we were not far froma very large glacier-table; it was a huge rock balanced on a pedestalof ice high enough to admit of our all creeping under it for GOWKARAK.A stream of PUCKITTYPUKK had furrowed a course for itself in the iceat its base, and we were obliged to stand with one FUSS on each side ofthis, and endeavor to keep ourselves CHAUD by cutting steps in the steepbank of the pedestal, so as to get a higher place for standing on,as the WASSER rose rapidly in its trench. A very cold BZZZZZZZZEEEaccompanied the storm, and made our position far from pleasant; andpresently came a flash of BLITZEN, apparently in the middle of ourlittle party, with an instantaneous clap of YOKKY, sounding like a largegun fired close to our ears; the effect was startling; but in a fewseconds our attention was fixed by the roaring echoes of the thunderagainst the tremendous mountains which completely surrounded us. Thiswas followed by many more bursts, none of WELCHE, however, was sodangerously near; and after waiting a long DEMI-hour in our icy prison,we sallied out to talk through a HABOOLONG which, though not so heavyas before, was quite enough to give us a thorough soaking before ourarrival at the Hospice.

  The Grimsel is CERTAINEMENT a wonderful place; situated at the bottomof a sort of huge crater, the sides of which are utterly savage GEBIRGE,composed of barren rocks which cannot even support a single pine ARBRE,and afford only scanty food for a herd of GMWKWLLOLP, it looks as ifit must be completely BEGRABEN in the winter snows. Enormous avalanchesfall against it every spring, sometimes covering everything to the depthof thirty or forty feet; and, in spite of walls four feet thick, andfurnished with outside shutters, the two men who stay here when theVOYAGEURS are snugly quartered in their distant homes can tell you thatthe snow sometimes shakes the house to its foundations.

  Next morning the HOGGLEBUMGULLUP still continued bad, but we made up ourminds to go on, and make the best of it. Half an hour after we started,the REGEN thickened unpleasantly, and we attempted to get shelter undera projecting rock, but being far to NASS already to make standing atall AGREABLE, we pushed on for the Handeck, consoling ourselves with thereflection that from the furious rushing of the river Aar at ourside, we should at all events see the celebrated WASSERFALL in GRANDEPERFECTION. Nor were we NAPPERSOCKET in our expectation; the waterwas roaring down its leap of two hundred and fifty feet in a mostmagnificent frenzy, while the trees which cling to its rocky sidesswayed to and fro in the violence of the hurricane which it brought downwith it; even the stream, which falls into the main cascade at rightangles, and TOUTEFOIS forms a beautiful feature in the scene, was nowswollen into a raging torrent; and the violence of this "meeting of thewaters," about fifty feet below the frail bridge where we stood, wasfearfully grand. While we were looking at it, GLUeECKLICHEWEISE a gleamof sunshine came out, and instantly a beautiful rainbow was formed bythe spray, and hung in mid-air suspended over the awful gorge.

  On going into the CHALET above the fall, we were informed that a BRUECKEhad broken down near Guttanen, and that it would be impossible toproceed for some time; accordingly we were kept in our drenchedcondition for EIN STUNDE, when some VOYAGEURS arrived from Meiringen,and told us that there had been a trifling accident, ABER that we couldnow cross. On arriving at the spot, I was much inclined to suspect thatthe whole story was a ruse to make us SLOWWK and drink the more at theHandeck Inn, for only a few planks had been carried away, and thoughthere might perhaps have been some difficulty with mules, the gap wascertainly not larger than a MMBGLX might cross with a very slight leap.Near Guttanen the HABOOLONG happily ceased, and we had time to walkourselves tolerably dry before arriving at Reichenback, WO we enjoyed agood DINE at the Hotel des Alps.

  Next morning we walked to Rosenlaui, the BEAU IDEAL of Swiss scenery,where we spent the middle of the day in an excursion to the glacier.This was more beautiful than words can describe, for in the constantprogress of the ice it has changed the form of its extremity and formeda vast cavern, as blue as the sky above, and rippled like a frozenocean. A few steps cut in the WHOOPJAMBOREEHOO enabled us to walkcompletely under this, and feast our eyes upon one of the loveliestobjects in creation. The glacier was all around divided by numberlessfissures of the same exquisite color, and the finest wood-ERDBEEREN weregrowing in abundance but a few yards from the ice. The inn stands in aCHARMANT spot close to the COTE DE LA RIVIERE, which, lower down, formsthe Reichenbach fall, and embosomed in the richest of pine woods,while the fine form of the Wellhorn looking down upon it completes theenchanting BOPPLE. In the afternoon we walked over the Great Scheideckto Grindelwald, stopping to pay a visit to the Upper glacier by the way;but we were again overtaken by bad HOGGLEBUMGULLUP and arrived at thehotel in a SOLCHE a state that the landlord's wardrobe was in greatrequest.

  The clouds by this time seemed to have done their worst, for a lovelyday succeeded, which we determined to devote to an ascent of theFaulhorn. We left Grindelwald just as a thunder-storm was dying away,and we hoped to find GUTEN WETTER up above; but the rain, which hadnearly ceased, began again, and we were struck by the rapidly increasingFROID as we ascended. Two-thirds of the way up were completed whenthe rain was exchanged for GNILLIC, with which the BODEN was thicklycovered, and before we arrived at the top the GNILLIC and mist becameso thick that we could not see one another at more than twenty POOPOOdistance, and it became difficult to pick our way over the rough andthickly covered ground. Shivering with cold, we turned into bed with adouble allowance of clothes, and slept comfortably while the windhowled AUTOUR DE LA MAISON; when I awoke, the wall and the window lookedequally dark, but in another hour I found I could just see the formof the latter; so I jumped out of bed, and forced it open, though withgreat difficulty from the frost and the quantities of GNILLIC heaped upagainst it.

  A row of huge icicles hung down from the edge of the roof, and anythingmore wintry than the whole ANBLICK could not well be imagined; but thesudden appearance of the great mountains in front was so startlingthat I felt no inclination to move toward bed again. The snow whichhad collected upon LA FENTRE had increased the FINSTERNISS ODER DERDUNKELHEIT, so that when I looked out I was surprised to find that thedaylight was considerable, and that the BALRAGOOMAH would evidently risebefore long. Only the brightest of LES E'TOILES were still shining; thesky was cloudless overhead, though small curling mists lay thousands offeet below us in the valleys, wreathed around the feet of the mountains,and adding to the splendor of their lofty summits. We were soon dressedand out of the house, watching the gradual approach of dawn, thoroughlyabsorbed in the first near view of the Oberland giants, which brokeupon us unexpectedly after the intense obscurity of the evening before."KABAUGWAKKO SONGWASHEE KUM WETTERHORN SNAWPO!" cried some one, as thatgrand summit gleamed with the first rose of dawn; and in a few momentsthe double crest of the Schreckhorn followed its example; peak afterpeak seemed warmed with life, the Jungfrau blushed even more beautifullythan her neighbors, and soon, from the Wetterhorn in the east to theWildstrubel in the west, a long row of fires glowed upon mighty altars,truly worthy of the gods.

  The WLGW was very severe; our sleeping-place could hardly be DISTINGUEEfrom the snow around it, which had fallen to a depth of a FLIRK duringthe past evening, and we heartily enjoyed a rough scramble EN BAS tothe Giesbach falls, where we soon found a warm climate. At noon the daybefore Grindelwald the thermometer could not have stood at less than 100degrees Fahr. in the sun; and in the evening, judging from the iciclesformed, and the state of the windows, ther
e must have been at leasttwelve DINGBLATTER of frost, thus giving a change of 80 degrees during afew hours.

  I said:

  "You have done well, Harris; this report is concise, compact, wellexpressed; the language is crisp, the descriptions are vivid and notneedlessly elaborated; your report goes straight to the point, attendsstrictly to business, and doesn't fool around. It is in many ways anexcellent document. But it has a fault--it is too learned, it is muchtoo learned. What is 'DINGBLATTER'?

  "'DINGBLATTER' is a Fiji word meaning 'degrees.'"

  "You knew the English of it, then?"

  "Oh, yes."

  "What is 'GNILLIC'?

  "That is the Eskimo term for 'snow.'"

  "So you knew the English for that, too?"

  "Why, certainly."

  "What does 'MMBGLX' stand for?"

  "That is Zulu for 'pedestrian.'"

  "'While the form of the Wellhorn looking down upon it completes theenchanting BOPPLE.' What is 'BOPPLE'?"

  "'Picture.' It's Choctaw."

  "What is 'SCHNAWP'?"

  "'Valley.' That is Choctaw, also."

  "What is 'BOLWOGGOLY'?"

  "That is Chinese for 'hill.'"

  "'KAHKAHPONEEKA'?"

  "'Ascent.' Choctaw."

  "'But we were again overtaken by bad HOGGLEBUMGULLUP.' What does'HOGGLEBUMGULLUP' mean?"

  "That is Chinese for 'weather.'"

  "Is 'HOGGLEBUMGULLUP' better than the English word? Is it any moredescriptive?"

  "No, it means just the same."

  "And 'DINGBLATTER' and 'GNILLIC,' and 'BOPPLE,' and 'SCHNAWP'--are theybetter than the English words?"

  "No, they mean just what the English ones do."

  "Then why do you use them? Why have you used all this Chinese andChoctaw and Zulu rubbish?"

  "Because I didn't know any French but two or three words, and I didn'tknow any Latin or Greek at all."

  "That is nothing. Why should you want to use foreign words, anyhow?"

  "They adorn my page. They all do it."

  "Who is 'all'?"

  "Everybody. Everybody that writes elegantly. Anybody has a right to thatwants to."

  "I think you are mistaken." I then proceeded in the following scathingmanner. "When really learned men write books for other learned mento read, they are justified in using as many learned words as theyplease--their audience will understand them; but a man who writes a bookfor the general public to read is not justified in disfiguring his pageswith untranslated foreign expressions. It is an insolence toward themajority of the purchasers, for it is a very frank and impudent way ofsaying, 'Get the translations made yourself if you want them, thisbook is not written for the ignorant classes.' There are men who knowa foreign language so well and have used it so long in their dailylife that they seem to discharge whole volleys of it into their Englishwritings unconsciously, and so they omit to translate, as much ashalf the time. That is a great cruelty to nine out of ten of the man'sreaders. What is the excuse for this? The writer would say he only usesthe foreign language where the delicacy of his point cannot be conveyedin English. Very well, then he writes his best things for the tenth man,and he ought to warn the nine other not to buy his book. However, theexcuse he offers is at least an excuse; but there is another set ofmen who are like YOU; they know a WORD here and there, of a foreignlanguage, or a few beggarly little three-word phrases, filched from theback of the Dictionary, and these are continually peppering into theirliterature, with a pretense of knowing that language--what excuse canthey offer? The foreign words and phrases which they use have theirexact equivalents in a nobler language--English; yet they think they'adorn their page' when they say STRASSE for street, and BAHNHOF forrailway-station, and so on--flaunting these fluttering rags of povertyin the reader's face and imagining he will be ass enough to takethem for the sign of untold riches held in reserve. I will let your'learning' remain in your report; you have as much right, I suppose, to'adorn your page' with Zulu and Chinese and Choctaw rubbish as others ofyour sort have to adorn theirs with insolent odds and ends smouched fromhalf a dozen learned tongues whose A-B ABS they don't even know."

  When the musing spider steps upon the red-hot shovel, he first exhibitsa wild surprise, then he shrivels up. Similar was the effect of theseblistering words upon the tranquil and unsuspecting Agent. I can bedreadfully rough on a person when the mood takes me.

  CHAPTER XXXI

  [Alp-scaling by Carriage]

  We now prepared for a considerable walk--from Lucerne to Interlaken,over the Bruenig Pass. But at the last moment the weather was so goodthat I changed my mind and hired a four-horse carriage. It was a hugevehicle, roomy, as easy in its motion as a palanquin, and exceedinglycomfortable.

  We got away pretty early in the morning, after a hot breakfast, andwent bowling over a hard, smooth road, through the summer loveliness ofSwitzerland, with near and distant lakes and mountains before and aboutus for the entertainment of the eye, and the music of multitudinousbirds to charm the ear. Sometimes there was only the width of the roadbetween the imposing precipices on the right and the clear cool water onthe left with its shoals of uncatchable fish skimming about through thebars of sun and shadow; and sometimes, in place of the precipices, thegrassy land stretched away, in an apparently endless upward slant,and was dotted everywhere with snug little chalets, the peculiarlycaptivating cottage of Switzerland.

  The ordinary chalet turns a broad, honest gable end to the road, andits ample roof hovers over the home in a protecting, caressing way,projecting its sheltering eaves far outward. The quaint windows arefilled with little panes, and garnished with white muslin curtains,and brightened with boxes of blooming flowers. Across the front of thehouse, and up the spreading eaves and along the fanciful railings ofthe shallow porch, are elaborate carvings--wreaths, fruits, arabesques,verses from Scripture, names, dates, etc. The building is wholly ofwood, reddish brown in tint, a very pleasing color. It generally hasvines climbing over it. Set such a house against the fresh green of thehillside, and it looks ever so cozy and inviting and picturesque, and isa decidedly graceful addition to the landscape.

  One does not find out what a hold the chalet has taken upon him, untilhe presently comes upon a new house--a house which is aping the townfashions of Germany and France, a prim, hideous, straight-up-and-downthing, plastered all over on the outside to look like stone, andaltogether so stiff, and formal, and ugly, and forbidding, and so out oftune with the gracious landscape, and so deaf and dumb and dead to thepoetry of its surroundings, that it suggests an undertaker at a picnic,a corpse at a wedding, a puritan in Paradise.

  In the course of the morning we passed the spot where Pontius Pilate issaid to have thrown himself into the lake. The legend goes that afterthe Crucifixion his conscience troubled him, and he fled from Jerusalemand wandered about the earth, weary of life and a prey to torturesof the mind. Eventually, he hid himself away, on the heights of MountPilatus, and dwelt alone among the clouds and crags for years; but restand peace were still denied him, so he finally put an end to his miseryby drowning himself.

  Presently we passed the place where a man of better odor was born. Thiswas the children's friend, Santa Claus, or St. Nicholas. There are someunaccountable reputations in the world. This saint's is an instance. Hehas ranked for ages as the peculiar friend of children, yet it appearshe was not much of a friend to his own. He had ten of them, and whenfifty years old he left them, and sought out as dismal a refuge from theworld as possible, and became a hermit in order that he might reflectupon pious themes without being disturbed by the joyous and other noisesfrom the nursery, doubtless.

  Judging by Pilate and St. Nicholas, there exists no rule for theconstruction of hermits; they seem made out of all kinds of material.But Pilate attended to the matter of expiating his sin while he wasalive, whereas St. Nicholas will probably have to go on climbing downsooty chimneys, Christmas eve, forever, and conferring kindness on otherpeople's children, to make up for deserting his own. His bones are kep
tin a church in a village (Sachseln) which we visited, and are naturallyheld in great reverence. His portrait is common in the farmhouses ofthe region, but is believed by many to be but an indifferent likeness.During his hermit life, according to legend, he partook of the breadand wine of the communion once a month, but all the rest of the month hefasted.

  A constant marvel with us, as we sped along the bases of the steepmountains on this journey, was, not that avalanches occur, but that theyare not occurring all the time. One does not understand why rocksand landslides do not plunge down these declivities daily. A landslipoccurred three quarters of a century ago, on the route from Arth toBrunnen, which was a formidable thing. A mass of conglomerate two mileslong, a thousand feet broad, and a hundred feet thick, broke away from acliff three thousand feet high and hurled itself into the valley below,burying four villages and five hundred people, as in a grave.

  We had such a beautiful day, and such endless pictures of limpid lakes,and green hills and valleys, and majestic mountains, and milky cataractsdancing down the steeps and gleaming in the sun, that we could not helpfeeling sweet toward all the world; so we tried to drink all themilk, and eat all the grapes and apricots and berries, and buy all thebouquets of wild flowers which the little peasant boys and girls offeredfor sale; but we had to retire from this contract, for it was too heavy.

  At short distances--and they were entirely too short--all along theroad, were groups of neat and comely children, with their wares nicelyand temptingly set forth in the grass under the shade trees, and as soonas we approached they swarmed into the road, holding out their basketsand milk bottles, and ran beside the carriage, barefoot and bareheaded,and importuned us to buy. They seldom desisted early, but continued torun and insist--beside the wagon while they could, and behind it untilthey lost breath. Then they turned and chased a returning carriage backto their trading-post again. After several hours of this, without anyintermission, it becomes almost annoying. I do not know what we shouldhave done without the returning carriages to draw off the pursuit.However, there were plenty of these, loaded with dusty tourists andpiled high with luggage. Indeed, from Lucerne to Interlaken we hadthe spectacle, among other scenery, of an unbroken procession offruit-peddlers and tourists carriages.