As we ruefully contemplated a supperless couch, a comely young woman, who had been looking us over from a room in the rear of the bar, came smilingly forward and volunteered to do the best she could for us. She was evidently the rough fellow’s wife, goddess of the kitchen, and final court of appeal. What a difference a good-natured, good-looking woman makes in a place! ’Tis a glimpse into the obvious, but there are occasions on which such commonplaces shine with a blessed radiance, and the moment when our attractive hostess flowered out upon us from her forbidding background was one of them. With her on our side, we forgot our fears, and, with an assured air, asked her husband to show us to our rooms. Lamp in hand, he led us up staircases and along corridors—for the hotel was quite a barracks—thawing out into conversation on the way. The place, he explained, was a little out of order, owing to “the ball”—an event he referred to as a matter of national knowledge, and being, we understood, the annual ball of harvesting. The fact of the lamps not burning properly, and there being no water or towels in our rooms, was due, he explained, to this disorganizing festival; as also the circumstance of our doors having no knobs to them. “The young fellows at the ball did carry on so,” he said, chuckling with reminiscence of that orgiastic occasion. The Sheldon Center gallants were evidently the very devil; and those vanished door-knobs provoked pictures in our minds of Lupercalian revels, which, alas! we had come too late to share.
We should have found anything good that our hostess cared to set before us—so potent a charm is amiability—and I am sure no man need wish for a better supper than the fried eggs and fried potatoes which copiously awaited us down-stairs. As Colin washed his down with coffee, like a true Franco-American, and I washed down mine with English breakfast tea, we pulled out our pipes and smiled contentment at each other.
“Shall we have a chapter of the wisdom of Paragot before bed?” I said, and, going to our small, carefully selected knapsack library, I found the gay-hearted fantastical book we had promised to read together on our wayfaring; and so the day drew to a good end.
Over the head of my bed hung a highly-coloured reproduction of Leonardo’s “Last Supper,” and stuck in its frame was a leaf of blessed palm—by which tokens I realized that my slumbers were to be under the wing of the ancient Mother. As I closed my eyes, the musical chime of a great bell, high up somewhere in the outer night, fell in benediction upon the darkness. So I fell asleep in Europe, after all.
WHERE THEY SING FROM MORNING TILL NIGHT