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.