“Americans make the best husbands,” the American lady said to my wife. I was getting down the bags. “American men are the only men in the world to marry.”
“How long ago did you leave Vevey?” asked my wife.
“Two years ago this fall. It’s her, you know, that I’m taking the canary to.”
“Was the man your daughter was in love with a Swiss?”
“Yes,” said the American lady. “He was from a very good family in Vevey. He was going to be an engineer. They met there in Vevey. They used to go on long walks together.”
“I know Vevey,” said my wife. “We were there on our honeymoon.”
“Were you really? That must have been lovely. I had no idea, of course, that she’d fall in love with him.”
“It was a very lovely place,” said my wife.
“Yes,” said the American lady. “Isn’t it lovely? Where did you stop there?”
“We stayed at the Trois Couronnes,” said my wife.
“It’s such a fine old hotel,” said the American lady.
“Yes,” said my wife. “We had a very fine room and in the fall the country was lovely.”
“Were you there in the fall?”
“Yes,” said my wife.
We were passing three cars that had been in a wreck. They were splintered open and the roofs sagged in.
“Look,” I said. “There’s been a wreck.”
The American lady looked and saw the last car. “I was afraid of that all night,” she said. “I have terrific presentiments about things sometimes. I’ll never travel on a rapide again at night. There must be other comfortable trains that don’t go so fast.”
The train was in the dark of the Gare de Lyons, and then stopped and porters came up to the windows. I handed bags through the windows, and we were out on the dim longness of the platform, and the American lady put herself in charge of one of three men from Cook’s who said: “Just a moment, madame, and I’ll look for your name.”
The porter brought a truck and piled on the baggage, and my wife said good-bye and I said good-bye to the American lady whose name had been found by the man from Cook’s on a typewritten page in a sheaf of typewritten pages which he replaced in his pocket.
We followed the porter with the truck down the long cement platform beside the train. At the end was a gate and a man took the tickets.
We were returning to Paris to set up separate residences.
AN ALPINE IDYLL
IT was hot coming down into the valley even in the early morning. The sun melted the snow from the skis we were carrying and dried the wood. It was spring in the valley but the sun was very hot. We came along the road into Galtur carrying our skis and rucksacks. As we passed the churchyard a burial was just over. I said, “Grüss Gott,” to the priest as he walked past us coming out of the churchyard. The priest bowed.
“It’s funny a priest never speaks to you,” John said.
“You’d think they’d like to say ‘Grüss Gott.’ ”
“They never answer,” John said.
We stopped in the road and watched the sexton shoveling in the new earth. A peasant with a black beard and high leather boots stood beside the grave. The sexton stopped shoveling and straightened his back. The peasant in the high boots took the spade from the sexton and went on filling in the grave—spreading the earth evenly as a man spreading manure in a garden. In the bright May morning the grave-filling looked unreal. I could not imagine anyone being dead.
“Imagine being buried on a day like this,” I said to John.
“I wouldn’t like it.”
“Well,” I said, “we don’t have to do it.”
We went on up the road past the houses of the town to the inn. We had been skiing in the Silvretta for a month, and it was good to be down in the valley. In the Silvretta the skiing had been all right, but it was spring skiing, the snow was only good in the early morning and again in the evening. The rest of the time it was spoiled by the sun. We were both tired of the sun. You could not get away from the sun. The only shadows were made by rocks or by the hut that was built under the protection of a rock beside a glacier, and in the shade the sweat froze in your underclothing. You could not sit outside the but without dark glasses. It was pleasant to be burned black but the sun had been very tiring. You could not rest in it. I was glad to be down away from snow. It was too late in the spring to be up in the Silvretta. I was a little tired of skiing. We had stayed too long. I could taste the snow water we had been drinking melted off the tin roof of the hut. The taste was a part of the way I felt about skiing. I was glad there were other things beside skiing, and I was glad to be down, away from the unnatural high mountain spring, into this May morning in the valley.