He unmoored a boat, and we were rowed across a subterranean lake which was nothing more or less than liquid salt. We were in an enormous cavern, lighted only by candles here and there on the banks of the lake. The walls glittered fitfully with the crystals of salt, and there was not a sound except the dipping of the oars into the dark water.
Arriving at the other side, we continued to go down corridor after corridor, sometimes descending, sometimes mounting flights of steps, always seeing nothing but salt—salt—salt.
In one place, artificially lighted, there are exhibited all the curious formations of salt, with their beautiful crystals and varied colours. It takes about an hour to explore the mine, and then comes what to us was the pleasantest part of all. There is a tiny narrow gauge road, possibly not over eighteen inches broad, upon which are eight-seated, little open cars. It seems that, in spite of sometimes descending, we had, after all, been ascending most of the time, for these cars descend of their own momentum from the highest point of the salt mine to its mouth. The roar of that little car, the occasional parties of pedestrians we passed, crowded into cavities in the salty walls (for the free hour had struck), who shouted to us a friendly good luck, the salt wind whistling past our ears and blowing out our lanterns, made of that final ride one of the most exhilarating that we ever took.
But, of course, from now on in describing rides we must always except “the swift descent.”
We were wondering where we should go next with the delicious idle wonder of those who drop off the train at a moment’s notice if a fellow passenger vouchsafes an alluring description of a certain village, or if the approach from the car window attracts. Only those who have bound themselves down on a European tour to an itinerary can understand the freedom and delight of idle wanderings such as ours. We never feel compelled to go on even one mile from where we thought for a moment we should like to stop.
It was Jimmie who made this plan possible, without the friction and unnecessary expense which we should have incurred had we followed this plan, and bought tickets from one city to another, but in fussing around information bureaux and railway stations, Jimmie unearthed the information that one can buy circular tickets of a certain route, embodying from one to three months in time, and including all the spice for a picturesque trip of Germany and Austria, where one would naturally like to travel. By purchasing these little books with the tickets in the form of coupons at the railway station we saved the additional fee which the tourist agent usually exacts, and this frugal act so filled us with joy that our trip proved unusually expensive, for at every stop we indulged in a small extravagance which we felt that we could well afford on account of this accidental saving at the start. We have been so amply repaid at every pause on our journey that it has become a matter of pride with Jimmie and me to have no falling off from the standard we had set. Therefore Jimmie came and sat down by me one morning and said: