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Night.--Desolate Region.--Convent of the Great St. Bernard.--Our
Reception there.--Unhealthiness of the Situation.--The
Superior.--Conversation during Supper.--Coal-mine on the
Mountain.--Night in the Convent.
Dear ----,
After spending a few more days in the same delightful and listless
enjoyments, my friend C---- came over from Lausanne, and we embarked in
the Winkelried, on the afternoon of the 25th September, as she hove-to
off our mole, on her way up the lake. We anchored off Villeneuve in less
than an hour, there being neither port, nor wharf, nor mole at that
place. In a few minutes we were in a three-horse conveyance, called a
diligence, and were trotting across the broad meadows of the Rhone
towards Bex, where we found one of our American families, the T----s, on
their way to Italy.
C---- and myself ate some excellent quails for supper in the public
room. An Englishman was taking the same repast, at another table, near
us, and he inquired for news, wishing particularly to know the state of
things about Antwerp. This led to a little conversation, when I observed
that, had the interests of France been consulted at the revolution of
1830, Belgium would have been received into the kingdom. Our Englishman
grunted at this, and asked me what Europe would have said to it. My
answer was, that when both parties were agreed, I did not see what
Europe had to do with the matter; and that, at all events, the right
Europe could have to interfere was founded in might; and such was the
state of south-western Germany, Italy, Savoy, Spain, and even England,
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that I was of opinion Europe would have been glad enough to take things
quietly. At all events, a war would only have made the matter worse for
the allied monarchs. The other stared at me in amazement, muttered an
audible dissent, and, I make no doubt, set me down as a most disloyal
subject; for, while extending her empire, and spreading her commercial
system, (her Free Trade _a l'Anglaise!_) over every nook and corner of
the earth where she can get footing, nothing sounds more treasonable to
the ears of a loyal Englishman than to give the French possession of
Antwerp, or the Russians possession of Constantinople. So inveterate
become his national feelings on such subjects, that I am persuaded a
portion of his antipathy to the Americans arises from a disgust at
hearing notions that have been, as it were, bred in and in, through his
own moral system, contemned in a language that he deems his own peculiar
property. Men, in such circumstances, are rarely very philosophical or
very just.
We were off in a _char_ with the dawn. Of course you will understand
that we entered the Valais by its famous bridge, and passed St. Maurice,
and the water-fall _a la Teniers_; for you have already travelled along
this road with me. I saw no reason to change my opinion of the Valais,
which looked as chill and repulsive now as it did in 1828, though we
were so early on the road as to escape the horrible sight of the basking
_cretins_, most of whom were still housed. Nor can I tell you how far
these people have been elevated in the scale of men by an increasing
desire for riches.
At Martigny we breakfasted, while the innkeeper sent for a guide. The
canton has put these men under a rigid police, the prices being
regulated by law, and the certificate of the traveller becoming
important to them. This your advocate of the absurdity called Free Trade
will look upon as tyranny, it being more for the interest of human
intercourse than the traveller who arrives in a strange country should
be cheated by a hackney-coachman, or the driver of a cart, or stand
higgling an hour in the streets, than to violate an abstraction that can
do no one any good! If travelling will not take the minor points of free
tradeism out of a man, I hold him to be incorrigible. But such is
humanity! There cannot be even a general truth, that our infirmities do
not lead us to push it into falsehood, in particular practice. Men are
no more fitted to live under a system that should carry out the extreme
doctrines of this theory, than they are fitted to live without law; and
the legislator who should attempt the thing in practice, would soon find
himself in the condition of Don Quixote, after he had liberated the
galley-slaves from their fetters:--in other words, he would be cheated [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]