One of our favorite amusements at lunch-time is to walk down to Henry Rosa’s pastry shop, and buy a slab of cinnamon bun. Then we walk round Washington Square, musing, and gradually walking round and engulfing the cinnamon bun at the same time. It is surprising what a large circumference those buns of Henry’s have. By the time we have gnashed our way through one of those warm and mystic phenomena we don’t want to eat again for a month.
The real reason for the cinnamon bun is to fortify us for the contemplation and onslaught upon a tragic problem that Washington Square presents to our pondering soul.
Washington Square is a delightful place. There are trees there, and publishing houses and warm green grass and a fire engine station. There are children playing about on the broad pavements that criss-cross the sward; there is a fine roof of blue sky, kept from falling down by the enormous building at the north side of the Square. But these things present no problems. To our simple philosophy a tree is a vegetable, a child is an animal, a building is a mineral and this classification needs no further scrutiny or analysis. But there is one thing in Washington Square that embodies an intellectual problem, a grappling of the soul, a matter for continual anguish and decision.
On the west side of the Square is the Swiss consulate, and, it is this that weighs upon our brooding spirit. How many times we have paused before that quiet little house and gazed upon the little red cross, a Maltese Cross, or a Cross of St. Hieronymus; or whatever the heraldic term is, that represents and symbolizes the diplomatic and spiritual presence of the Swiss republic. We have stood there and thought about William Tell and the Berne Convention and the St. Gothard Tunnel and St. Bernard dogs and winter sports and alpenstocks and edelweiss and the Jungfrau and all the other trappings and trappists that make Switzerland notable. We have mused upon the Swiss military system, which is so perfect that it has never had to be tested by war; and we have wondered what is the name of the President of Switzerland and how he keeps it out of the papers so successfully. One day we lugged an encyclopedia and the Statesman’s Year Book out to the Square with us and sat down on a bench facing the consulate and read up about the Swiss cabinet and the national bank of Switzerland and her child labor problems. Accidentally we discovered the name of the Swiss President, but as he has kept it so dark we are not going to give away his secret.
Our dilemma is quite simple. Where there is a consulate there must be a consul, and it seems to us a dreadful thing that inside that building there lurks a Swiss envoy who does not know that we, here, we who are walking round the Square with our mouth full of Henry Rosa’s bun, once spent a night in Switzerland. We want him to know that; we think he ought to know it; we think it is part of his diplomatic duty to know it. And yet how can we burst in on him and tell him that apparently irrelevant piece of information?
We have thought of various ways of breaking it to him, or should we say breaking him to it?
Should we rush in and say the Swiss national debt is $—-, or —- kopecks, and then lead on to other topics such as the comparative heights of mountain peaks, letting the consul gradually grasp the fact that we have been in Switzerland? Or should we call him up on the telephone and make a mysterious appointment with him, when we could blurt it out brutally?
We are a modest and diffident man, and this little problem, which would be so trifling to many, presents inscrutable hardships to us.