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Saunterings - The Man Who Speaks English Post by :redryder Category :Nonfictions Author :Charles Dudley Warner Date :May 2012 Read :1660

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Saunterings - The Man Who Speaks English

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What does he say?"

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

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

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

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

"One is taken," is his reply.

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

"One is taken," he repeats.

"Then the gentleman will take the other two."

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

"How many are there in the coupe?"


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

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

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

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

"Is you go by de diligence?"

"Yes, you stupid."

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

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