A diligence is a sort of stage coach
used in France and Switzerland, and generally on the
continent of Europe. It is constructed very differently,
however, from an American stage coach, being divided
into four distinct compartments. Rollo had seen
a diligence in Paris, and so he could understand very
easily the conversation which ensued between himself
and his uncle in respect to the seats which they should
take in the one in which they were to travel to Berne.
In order, however, to enable the reader of this book
to understand it, I must here give a brief description
of this kind of vehicle. The engraving on page
77 is a very faithful representation of one of them.
There are three windows in the side of it. Each
of these windows leads to a different compartment
of the coach. In addition to these three compartments,
there is, over the foremost of these, on the top of
the coach, another, making four in all. This
compartment on the top is called the banquette.
These coaches are so large that they
have a conductor. The man who drives sometimes
sits on a small seat placed in front of the banquette,
and sometimes he rides on one of the horses. In
either case, however, he has nothing to do but to
attend to his team. The passengers and the baggage
are all under the conductor’s care.
The compartment immediately beneath
the banquette, which is the front compartment of the
body of the coach, is called the coupe.
The coupe extends across the whole coach, from one
side to the other; but it is quite narrow. It
has only one seat, a seat facing the horses, with
places upon it for three passengers. There are
windows in front, by which the passengers can look
out under the coachman’s seat when there is
a coachman’s seat there. The doors leading
to the coupe are in the sides.
The compartment immediately behind
the coupe is called the interior. It is
entirely separate from the coupe. There are two
seats, which extend from one side of the coach to
the other, and have places upon them for three passengers
each, making six in all. The three passengers
who sit on one of these seats must, of course, ride
with their backs to the horses. The doors leading
to the interior are in the sides. In fact, the
interior has within exactly the appearance of a common
hackney coach, with seats for six passengers.
Behind the interior is the fourth
compartment, which is called the rotonde.
It is like a short omnibus. The door is behind,
and the seats are on the sides. This omnibus
compartment is so short that there is only room for
three people on each side, and the seats are not very
Very genteel people, who wish to be
secluded and to ride somewhat in style, take the coupe.
The seats in the coupe are very comfortable, and there
is a very good opportunity to see the country through
the front and side windows. The price is much
higher, however, for seats in the coupe than in any
other part of the diligence.
The mass of common travellers generally
take places in the interior. The seats there
are comfortable, only there is not a very good opportunity
to see the country; for there are only two windows,
one on each side, in the top of the door.
People who do not care much about
the style in which they travel, but only desire to
have the best possible opportunity to view the country
and to have an amusing time, generally go up to the
banquette. The places here are cheaper than they
are even in the interior, and very much cheaper than
they are in the coupe.
The cheapest place of all, however,
is in the rotonde, which is the omnibus-like
compartment, in the end of the diligence, behind.
This compartment is generally filled with laborers,
soldiers, and servants; and sometimes nurses and children
are put here.
The baggage is always stored upon
the top of the diligence, behind the banquette, and
directly over the interior and the rotonde.
It is packed away very carefully there, and is protected
by a strong leather covering, which is well strapped
down over it. All these things you see plainly
represented in the engraving.
We now return to the conversation
which was held between Rollo and Mr. George at the
close of their breakfast.
“I have got some letters to
write after breakfast,” said Mr. George, “and
I should like to go directly to my room and write them.
So I wish you would find out when the diligence goes
next to Berne, and take places in it for you and me.”
“Well,” said Rollo, “I
will; only how shall I do it? Where shall I go?”
“I don’t know any thing
about it,” replied Mr. George. “The
guide book says that there is a diligence from Basle
to Berne; and I suppose there is an office for it
somewhere about town. Do you think you can find
“I’ll try,” said
Rollo. “But how do we take seats in it?
Is there a book for us to write our names in, with
the place where they are to call for us?”
“I do not know any thing about
it,” said Mr. George. “All I know
is, that I want to go to Berne with you some way or
other in the diligence, and I wish to have you plan
and arrange it all.”
“Well,” said Rollo, “I
will, if I can find out. Only tell me what places
I shall take.”
“I don’t care particularly
about that,” replied Mr. George; “only
let it be where we can see best. It must be either
in the coupe or in the banquette. We can’t
see at all, scarcely, in the other compartments.”
“Well,” said Rollo, “I
should like to be where I can see. But would you
rather it would be in the coupe, or in the banquette?”
“That is just as you please,”
replied Mr. George. “There are some advantages
in being in the banquette.”
“What are they?” asked Rollo.
“There are four advantages,”
replied Mr. George. “First, it is up very
high, and is all open, so that you have a most excellent
chance to see.”
“Yes,” said Rollo. “I shall
“The second advantage,”
said Mr. George, “is, that it costs less.
The places in the banquette are quite cheap.”
“Yes,” said Rollo.
“I like that. So we can save some of our
“The third advantage,”
continued Mr. George, “is, that we have a great
deal better opportunity to hear talking there.
There are usually five persons in that part of the
coach the coachman, the conductor, and
three passengers. That is, there will be one passenger
besides you and me. He will probably be talking
with the conductor part of the time, and the conductor
will be talking with the coachman, and we shall be
amused by hearing what they say.”
“But there are six persons
in the interior,” said Rollo, “to talk.”
“True,” replied Mr. George;
“but, then, they are usually not so sociable
there as they are up on the banquette. Besides,
the noise of the wheels on the hard gravel roads is
so loud there that we cannot hear very well.
Then, moreover, when we stop to change horses, the
hostlers and postilions come out, and our coachman
and conductor often have a great deal of amusing conversation
with them, which we can hear from the banquette; but
we could not hear it, or see the process of harnessing
and unharnessing, from the interior, nor even very
well from the coupe.”
“Well,” said Rollo.
“I like that. But that makes only three
advantages. You said there were four.”
“Yes,” said Mr. George.
“But as to the fourth, I do not know whether
you will consider it an advantage or not.”
“What is it?” said Rollo. “I’ve
no doubt but I shall.”
“Why, in getting up and down
to and from the banquette you will have a great deal
of hard climbing to do.”
“Yes,” said Rollo.
“I shall like that. They are all advantages very
great advantages indeed.”
So Rollo fully determined in his own
mind that he would take places on the banquette.
He thought that there was one disadvantage in that
part of the coach; and that was, that in case of storm
the rain would drive in directly upon them; but he
found in the end that an excellent provision was made
against this contingency.
The young gentlemen had now finished
their breakfasts; and so they rose and went out to
what Rollo called the gallery, to see the embossed
map of Switzerland which he said that he had seen
hanging there. The plan of this hotel was very
peculiar. In the centre of it was a very large,
open hall, almost like a court, only it was covered
above with a roof and lighted by a skylight.
Around this hall there was, in each story, an open
gallery, with a railing on one side, over which you
could look down to the floor below; and on the other
side, at short intervals, there were doors leading
to the various apartments. Between these doors,
and against the walls, were hanging maps, plans, pictures,
and other embellishments, which gave to these galleries
a very attractive appearance. Here and there,
too, on the different stories, there were sofas or
other seats, with persons sitting upon them. Some
were sewing, and some were attending children who
were playing near. At the two ends of the hotel
there were broad staircases connected with these galleries
and leading from one to the other. Besides the
galleries there were long corridors, extending each
way from the centre of the building to ranges of apartments
situated in the wings. The hotel, in fact, was
very spacious, and it was very admirably arranged.
Rollo conducted Mr. George to the
third story; and there, hanging against the wall,
he found the embossed map of Switzerland which he had
described. Mr. George and Rollo took this map
down from its nail, and, seating themselves upon a
settee which was near, they held it before them and
examined it very attentively for some time. Mr.
George showed Rollo the great central valley of Switzerland,
with the ranges of mountains on each side of it.
He showed him, too, the great slope of land which
extended over the whole northern part of Switzerland.
It was bounded on the north by the River Rhine and
the frontier, and on the south by the great range
of mountains which separated it from the valley.
He showed him, too, the numerous lakes which were scattered
over the surface of it.
“You see,” said he, “that
the waters which come out from the glaciers and the
snow fields, and down through the chasms and ravines
in the mountain sides, flow on till they come to some
valley or place of comparatively low land; and they
spread all over this depression, and flow into it
more and more until they fill it up and make a lake
there. When the lake is full the surplus waters
run off clear wherever they find a channel.”
“Is that the way the lakes are formed?”
“Yes,” said Mr. George.
“You will see that it is so when we get up to
“Up to them?” said Rollo.
“You mean down to them.”
“No,” said Mr. George.
“The lakes are up quite high. Many of them
are far up the sides of the mountains. The water,
in leaving them, runs very rapidly, showing that there
is a great descent in the land where they are flowing.
Sometimes, in fact, these streams and rivers, after
they leave the lakes, form great cataracts and cascades
in getting down to the level country below.
“But now,” continued Mr.
George, “I must go to my writing, and you may
see what you can do about the diligence.”
So Mr. George went away towards his
room, leaving Rollo to hang up the embossed map and
then to determine how he should go to work to ascertain
what he was to do.
Rollo found less difficulty than he
had anticipated in procuring places in the diligence.
He first inquired of the clerk, at the office of the
hotel. The clerk offered to send a porter with
him to show him the way to the diligence office; but
Rollo said that he would prefer to go himself alone,
if the clerk would tell him in what part of the town
So the clerk gave Rollo the necessary
direction, and Rollo went forth.
He found the diligence office very
easily. In fact, he recognized the place at once
when he came near it, by seeing several diligences
standing before it along the street. He entered
under an archway. On entering, he observed several
doors leading to various offices, with inscriptions
over each containing the names of the various towns
to which the several diligences were going. At
length he found BERNE.
Rollo did not know precisely in what
way the business at such an office was to be transacted;
but he had learned from past experience that all that
was necessary in order to make himself understood in
such cases was, to speak the principal words that
were involved in the meaning that he was intending
to convey, without attempting to make full and complete
sentences of them. In cases where he adopted this
mode of speaking he was accustomed usually to begin
by saying that he could not speak French very well.
Accordingly, in this instance he went
to the place where the clerk was sitting and said,
“I do not speak French very
well. Diligence to Berne. Two places.
“Yes, yes,” said the clerk. “I
understand very well.”
The clerk then told him what the price
would be of two seats on the banquette, and Rollo
paid the money. The clerk then made out and signed
two very formal receipts and gave them to Rollo.
Rollo walked back towards the hotel,
studying his receipts by the way; but he could not
understand them, as they were in the German language.