November Interruption #3

The week after next, things will be back to normal, and I’ll have a post about snowshoeing and some painting updates!  However, in NaNoland, par for today is 35,000 words, and I’m sitting at 18,336.  I should point out now that this is my eighth NaNoWriMo, and I’ve won once.  However, I’m compelled to try, since I’m at least enjoying the story more than I did last year.  So, this week we’re carrying on with another excerpt from Scrambles Amongst the Alps.  This time, a lighter moment from pages 59-60, as Edward takes his climbing gear through customs into France and then into Switzerland.

I crossed the Channel on the 29th of July, 1863, embarrassed by the possession of two ladders, each twelve feet long, which joined together like those used by firemen, and shut up like parallel rulers. My luggage was highly suggestive of housebreaking [that is, burglary], for, besides these, there were several coils of rope and numerous tools of suspicious appearance; and it was reluctantly admitted into France, but it passed through the custom-house with less trouble than I anticipated, after a timely expenditure of a few francs.

I am not in love with the douane. It is the purgatory of travelers, where uncongenial spirits mingle together for a time before they are separated into rich and poor. The douaniers look upon tourists as their natural enemies: see how eagerly they pounce upon the portmanteaus! One of them has discovered something. He has never seen its like before, and he holds it aloft in the the face of its owner with inquisitorial insolence: “But what is this?” The explanation is but half satisfactory “But what is this?” says he, laying hold of a little box. “Powder.” “But that is forbidden to carry of powder on the railway.” “Bah!” says another and older hand, “pass the effects of monsieur;” and our countryman—whose cheeks had begun to redden under the stares of his fellow-travelers—is allowed to depart with his half-worn tooth-brush, while the discomfited douanier gives a mighty shrug at the strange habits of those “whose insular position excludes them from the march of continental ideas.”

My real troubles commenced at Susa. The officials there, more honest and more obtuse than the Frenchmen, declined at one and the same time to be bribed or to pass my baggage until a satisfactory account of it was rendered; and as they refused to believe the true explanation, I was puzzled what to say, but was presently relieved from the dilemma by one of the men, who was cleverer than his fellows, suggesting that I was going to Turin to exhibit in the streets—that I mounted the ladder and balanced myself on the end of it, then lighted my pipe and put the point of the baton in its bowl, and caused the baton to gyrate around my head. The rope was to keep back the spectators, and an Englishman in my company was the agent. “Monsieur is acrobat, then?” “Yes, certainly.” “Pass the effects of monsieur the acrobat!”


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