9th June 1901: Friendliness Past and Present

9th June 1901. Belloc walked from a mile past Delle to Undervelier

Belloc’s first impression of Switzerland was of ‘haphazard’ (The Path to Rome, p.124) roads, old way markers, and mossy walls. The country sure has changed a lot in the last 118 years.

It was ‘not yet ten’ AM (The Path to Rome, p.128) when Belloc arrived in Porrentruy. He stopped at the first inn he came to and asked for food and a glass of wine. He was given both, and once again, overcharged for the drink. Still generous minded, Belloc says it was so good he would have paid twenty or twenty three times as much for it.

Recognising the space limitations of his book, Belloc tells us he wishes he could tell us about more of the people he met. The ‘shifty priest’ (The Path to Rome, p.129) and anarchist. The latter expressed a desire for ‘no property, no armies, and no governments’ (The Path to Rome, p.130). Belloc opposed the motion and a debate followed. Neither side turned from their views. But, Belloc did not mind. He,

… gave him… a deep and misty glass of cool beer, and pledged him brotherhood, freedom, and equal law.

Hilaire Belloc The Path to Rome (Ignatius Press) p.130

Today, Belloc enjoyed a number of friendly encounters. There was, for example, the wood-cutters who gave him a short-cut over part of the Jura mountains, a woman who showed him another short-cut as she knitted, and a boy who gave him a lift on his cart.

Belloc had a good day. No wonder, then, that as he approached Glovelier, he felt that,

… everything surrounding me was domestic and grateful… I was therefore in a mood for charity and companionship when I came down the last dip and entered Glovelier.

The Path to Rome, p.147

Rather unfortunately, the town itself proved a severe disappointment. It had less than nothing to commend it. Belloc happily admits that ‘if the thought did not seem extravagant I should be for putting it to the sword and burning it all down’! (The Path to Rome, p.147).

Belloc’s antagonism towards the town rests upon the unfriendliness of the people he met in the inn. Yes, he looked as dirty as a tramp but he detected in them ‘a native churlishness which bound their bovine souls in that valley’ (The Path to Rome, p.150).

In the last portion of his entry for today, Belloc records the friendliness of people he has known in the past (or in his own imagination if we are being cynical). There was the friend who he helped cure of a drink problem by instructing him to only drink alcoholic drinks that were made before the Reformation. After doing this, the man ‘became a merry companion’ (The Path to Rome, p.154). Unfortunately, it didn’t last and Martin Luther undid him. Then there were the people of Omaha, Nebraska. They were terrible cooks, but ‘good people’ (The Path to Rome, p.163) for all that.

Tonight, Belloc slept in Undervelier.

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