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and seated himself at the long table where we were ending our dinner, in order to begin bis. My nephew was making some inquiry of the garçon about the steamers that start from Khel down the Rhine, in order to form his plans respecting his return to England, when the individual in question addressed him in English, and offered to give him any information that might be of service to him in the matter. He added, that he had resided for many years at Strasburg. The person who thus offered himself to our notice had very much the look of a Jew. He was, I conjectured, about fifty years old, and seemed to be of a class of men who hover between the rank of a gentleman and that of the middling orders. We soon found he was commercial; but of what grade, if high or low, we could not tell. To my astonishment he told us he was an Englishman, and went every year to Birmingham and the north; for he spoke English with a more foreign accent than do many foreigners. He had also a strange way of uttering several of our words. He told Us, true enough, that we should find the Swiss inns dear, and the landlords and the Swiss people in general very imposing; but that we should see a country which was magnifishent.
Something he said about voitures to be hired at Strasburg, induced us to turn our serious attention to a subject we had more than once deemed worthy consideration; namely, should we, or should we not, hire one-horses, driver, and all, to take us onward, and to engage it for our tour through Switzerland; for, being ambitious travellers, we resolved not to think of turning our faces again towards England till we should have looked at the top of Mont Blanc. After due deliberation, the voiture scheme was carried nem. con.
On the morrow, therefore, my nephew applied to the commissionaire or valet de pluce, one or more of those serviceable cheats being to be found at every hotel — I say cheats, because it is not very common to find them other, though we did so in more instances than one. The commissionaire soon produced his man, a voiturier with whom, no doubt, he was on terms of the best understanding. This personage attempted
all the customary wiles and maneuvres to carry his point in an exorbitant demand. My nephew produced the code of laws, and fairly laid them down, respecting voiture travelling, from Murray's book; but he might as well have applied to those of Solon for authority: the rogues persisted, supporting each other in their terms and demands, till at length my nephew determined to refer the matter to a court of appeal, and proposed calling in as council the master of the hotel. Monsieur the commissionaire did not at all approve this mode of reference, and it was quite amusing to see the furious look he gave when our party in the business resolved to carry it into effect. On the appearance of the landlord the terms were speedily lowered to those of justice and reason, the hour of departure fixed, and all necessary matters arranged.
But the voiturier soon returned to say that he had forgotten he could not go till the next day, having long been engaged to carry on the present some German officer to a great military feast to be given in the neighbourhood. This delay would not suit us, for as my nephew's
time was limited to the day and the hour, the loss of even one, in such a journey, might lose him the sight of Mont Blanc: he therefore said he must procure another voiturier ; but here (the master of the hotel now being out of the way) the commissionaire again interposed, being resolved to make us wait the convenience of his friend, and totally to disregard ours. He therefore scrupled not to tell at once a most unblushing falsehood, and to declare there was no other voiturier to be had in the whole town of Strasburg! My nephew came to us once more to consult what was to be done; and as we all agreed the scheme was laid to compel us to go with none but the man in question, we resolved to act for ourselves, and to try to procure places in the diligence of that evening as far as Friburg. This settled, on my nephew being about to sally forth to secure the places himself, the commissionaire was visited with a sudden return of his memory, and now declared he had till that moment forgotten there was another voiturier to be had; and, if my nephew would but wait his return, he would go and see after him.
In a short time he returned, accompanied by an old man in a blue smock-frock, who had the dress, appearance, and manner of a German peasant. He was the voiturier acting for his master. The bargain was speedily made: we were to give him twenty francs per day when on a journey, and, if we halted, ten for each day of rest; whilst, when on the road, he was not to go less than ten stunden (a stunden is a league) per day, should we require it; and if we dismissed him, no matter how far or how near from Strasburg, at the same rate of stundens per day, he was to be paid on his return the same sum as when upon the journey with ourselves. This is paying what is called the backfare. For these terms we were to have the use of the carriage (a wide roomy open one, with a head in case of foul weather), the horses, and driver; and the sum agreed upon was to cover all expenses for the driver or the cattle
upon the road (the provision for the first going under the name of drinkgelt)—all for barriers, turn
kes, or accidents that might befal the carriage or the horses during the journey proposed.