But you must go now.
Now, before the grip of the great city has been fastened upon it; before the axe of the “dago” clears out the wilderness of underbrush; before the landscape gardener, the sanitary engineer, and the contractor pounce upon it and strangle it; before the crimes of the cast-iron fountain, the varnished grapevine arbor, with seats to match, the bronze statues presented by admiring groups of citizens, the rambles, malls, and cement-lined caverns, are consummated; before the gravel walk confines your steps, and the granite curbing imprisons the flowers, as if they, too, would escape.
Now, when the tree lies as it falls; when the violets bloom and are there for the picking; when the dogwood sprinkles the bare branches with white stars, and the scent of the laurel fills the air.
Touch the button some day soon for an hour along the Bronx.
Do not tell me dogs cannot talk. I know better. I saw it all myself. It was at Sterzing, that most picturesque of all the Tyrolean villages on the Italian slope of the Brenner, with its long, single street, zigzagged like a straggling path in the snow,—perhaps it was laid out in that way,—and its little open square, with shrine and rude stone fountain, surrounded by women in short skirts and hobnailed shoes, dipping their buckets. On both sides of this street ran queer arcades sheltering shops, their doorways piled with cheap stuffs, fruit, farm implements, and the like, and at the far end, it was almost the last house in the town, stood the old inn, where you breakfast. Such an old, old inn! with swinging sign framed by fantastic iron work, and decorated with overflows of foaming ale in green mugs, crossed clay pipes, and little round dabs of yellow-brown cakes. There was a great archway, too, wide and high, with enormous, barn-like doors fronting on this straggling, zigzag, sabot-trodden street. Under this a cobble-stone pavement led to the door of the coffee-room and out to the stable beyond. These barn-like doors keep out the driving snows and the whirls of sleet and rain, and are slammed to behind horse, sleigh, and all, if not in the face, certainly in the very teeth of the winter gale, while the traveler disentangles his half-frozen legs at his leisure, almost within sight of the blazing fire of the coffee-room within.
Under this great archway, then, against one of these doors, his big paws just inside the shadow line,—for it was not winter, but a brilliant summer morning, the grass all dusted with powdered diamonds, the sky a turquoise, the air a joy,—under this archway, I say, sat a big St. Bernard dog, squat on his haunches, his head well up, like a grenadier on guard. His eyes commanded the approaches down the road, up the road, and across the street; taking in the passing peddler with the tinware, and the girl with a basket strapped to her back, her fingers knitting for dear life, not to mention so unimportant an object as myself swinging down the road, my iron-shod alpenstock hammering the cobbles.