Looking over some several-days-old papers we observe that the truant Mr. Bergdoll was discovered at Eberbach in Baden. Well, well, we meditate, Herr Bergdoll is not wholly devoid of sense, if he is rambling about that delicious valley of the Neckar. And if we were a foreign correspondent, anxious to send home to the papers a complete story of Herr Bergdoll’s doings in those parts, we would know exactly what to do. We would go straight to the excellent Herr Leutz, proprietor of the Gasthof zum Ochsen in Eberbach, and listen to his prattle. Herr Leutz, whom we have never forgotten (since we once spent a night in his inn, companioned by another vagabond who is now Prof. W.L.G. Williams of Cornell University, so our clients in Ithaca, if any, can check us up on this fact), is the most innocently talkative person we have ever met.
A great many Americans have been to Alt Heidelberg, but not so many have continued their exploration up the Neckarthal. You leave Heidelberg by the Philosophers’ Way (Philosophenweg), which looks over the river and the hills–in this case, lit by a warm July sunset–and follow (on your bicycle, of course) the road which skirts the stream. There are many springs of cold water tinkling down the steep banks on your left, and in the mediaeval-looking village of Hirschhorn you can also sample the excellent beer. The evening smell of sun-warmed grass and a view of one of those odd boats grinding its way up-current by hauling a chain from the river-bed and dropping it again over-stern will do nothing to mar your exhilaration. It will be getting dark when you reach Eberbach, and if you find your way to the Ox, Herr Leutz will be waiting (we hope) in his white coat and gold pince-nez, just as he was in 1912. And then, as you sit down to a cold supper, he will, deliberately and in the kindest way, proceed to talk your head off. He will sit down with you at the table, and every time you think a pause is coming he will seize a mug, rise to his feet (at which you also will sadly lay down your tools and rise, too, bowing stiffly from your hips), and cry: “Also! ich trinke auf Ihr Wohl!” Presently, becoming more assured, the admirable creature abbreviates his formula to the more companionable “zum Wohl!” And as he talks, and his excitement becomes more and more intense, he edges closer and closer to you, and leans forward, talking hard, until his dark beaming phiz quite interposes between your food and its destination. So that to avoid combing his baldish pate with your fork you must pass the items of your meal in quite a sideways trajectory. And if, as happened to our companion (the present Cornell don), you have no special taste for a plump landlord breathing passionately and genially upon your very cheek while you strive to satisfy a legitimate appetite, you may burst into a sudden unpremeditate but uncontrollable screech of mingled laughter and dismay, meanwhile almost falling backward in your chair in an effort to evade the steady pant and roar of those innumerable gutturals.
After supper, a little weary and eager to meditate calmly in the delicious clear evening, and to look about and see what sort of place this Eberbach is, you will slip outside the inn for a stroll. But glorious Herr Leutz is not evadable. He comes with. He takes position between you two, holding each firmly by an elbow so that no escape is possible. In a terrific stream of friendliness he explains everything, particularly expatiating upon the gratification he feels at being honoured by visitors all the way from America. The hills around, which stand up darkly against a speckle of stars, are all discussed for you. One of them is called Katzenbuckel, and doubting that your German may not be able to cope with this quite simple compound, he proceeds to illustrate. He squats in the middle of the street, arching his back like a cat in a strong emotion, uttering lively miaowings and hissings. Then he springs, like the feline in fury, and leaps to his feet roaring with mirth. “You see?” he cries. “A cat, who all ready to spring crouches, that is of our beautiful little mountain the name-likeness.”
Yes, if Bergdoll has been staying in Eberbach, the good Herr Leutz will know all about it.