But how should I tell all the little incidents which made that lazy voyage so delightful? Favonius was the ideal host, for on water, as well as on land, he knows how to provide for the liberty as well as for the wants of his guests. He understands also the fine art of conversation, which consists of silence as well as speech. And when it comes to angling, Izaak Walton himself could not have been a more profitable teacher by precept or example. Indeed, it is a curious thought, and one full of sadness to a well-constituted mind, that on the Ristigouche “I. W.” would have been at sea, for the beloved father of all fishermen passed through this world without ever catching a salmon. So ill does fortune match with merit here below.
At last the days of idleness were ended. We could not
“Fold our tents
like the Arabs,
and as silently steal away;”
but we took down the long rods, put away the heavy reels, made the canoes fast to the side of the house, embarked the three horses on the front deck, and then dropped down with the current, swinging along through the rapids, and drifting slowly through the still places, now grounding on a hidden rock, and now sweeping around a sharp curve, until at length we saw the roofs of Metapedia and the ugly bridge of the railway spanning the river. There we left our floating house, awkward and helpless, like some strange relic of the flood, stranded on the shore. And as we climbed the bank we looked back and wondered whether Noah was sorry when he said good-bye to his ark.
“Nay, let me tell you, there be many that have forty times our estates, that would give the greatest part of it to be healthful and cheerful like us; who, with the expense of a little money, have ate, and drank, and laughed, and angled, and sung, and slept securely; and rose next day, and cast away care, and sung, and laughed, and angled again; which are blessings rich men cannot purchase with all their money.”—Izaak Walton: The Complete Angler.
A great deal of the pleasure of life lies in bringing together things which have no connection. That is the secret of humour—at least so we are told by the philosophers who explain the jests that other men have made—and in regard to travel, I am quite sure that it must be illogical in order to be entertaining. The more contrasts it contains, the better.
Perhaps it was some philosophical reflection of this kind that brought me to the resolution, on a certain summer day, to make a little journey, as straight as possible, from the sea-level streets of Venice to the lonely, lofty summit of a Tyrolese mountain, called, for no earthly reason that I can discover, the Gross-Venediger.