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    Ch. 16 - The Zäther Dale
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    Ch. 16 - The Zäther Dale

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    Chapter 16
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    Everything was in order, the carriage examined, even a whip with a
    good lash was not forgotten. "Two whips would be best," said the
    ironmonger, who sold it, and the ironmonger was a man of experience,
    which travellers often are not. A whole bag full of "slanter"--that
    is, copper coins of small value--stood before us for bridge-money, for
    beggars, for shepherd's boys, or whoever might open the many
    field-gates for us that obstructed our progress. But we had to do this
    ourselves, for the rain pattered down and lashed the ground; no one
    had any desire to come out in such weather. The rushes in the marsh
    bent and waved; it was a real rain feast for them, and it whistled
    from the tops of the rushes: "We drink with our feet, we drink with
    our heads, we drink with the whole body, and yet we stand on one leg,
    hurra! We drink with the bending willow, with the dripping flowers on
    the bank; their cups run over--the marsh marigold, that fine lady, can
    bear it better! Hurra! it is a feast! it pours, it pours; we whistle
    and we sing; it is our own song. Tomorrow the frogs will croak the
    same after us and say, 'it is quite new!'"

    And the rushes waved, and the rain pattered down with a splashing
    noise--it was fine weather to travel in to Zäther Dale, and to see its
    far-famed beauties. The whip-lash now came off the whip; it was
    fastened on again, and again, and every time it was shorter, so that
    at last there was not a lash, nor was there any handle, for the handle
    went after the lash--or sailed after it--as the road was quite
    navigable, and gave one a vivid idea of the beginning of the deluge.

    One poor jade now drew too much, the other drew too little, and one of
    the splinter bars broke; well, by all that is vexatious, that was a
    fine drive! The leather apron in front had a deep pond in its folds
    with an outlet into one's lap. Now one of the linch-pins came out; now
    the twisting of the rope harness became loose, and the cross-strap was
    tired of holding any longer. Glorious inn in Zäther, how I now long
    more for thee than thy far-famed dale. And the horses went slower, and
    the rain fell faster, and so--yes, so we were not yet in Zäther.

    Patience, thou lank spider, that in the ante-chamber quietly dost spin
    thy web over the expectant's foot, spin my eyelids close in a sleep as
    still as the horse's pace! Patience? no, she was not with us in the
    carriage to Zäther. But to the inn, by the road side, close to the
    far-famed valley, I got at length, towards evening.

    And everything was flowing in the yard, chaotically mingled; manure
    and farming implements, staves and straw. The poultry sat there washed
    to shadows, or at least like stuck-up hens' skins with feathers on,
    and even the ducks crept close up to the wet wall, sated with the wet.
    The stable-man was cross, the girl still more so; it was difficult to
    get them to bestir themselves: the steps were crooked, the floor
    sloping and but just washed, sand strewn thickly on it, and the air
    was damp and cold. But without, scarcely twenty paces from the inn, on
    the other side of the road, lay the celebrated valley, a garden made
    by nature herself, and whose charm consists of trees and bushes, wells
    and purling brooks.

    It was a long hollow; I saw the tops of the trees looming up, and the
    rain drew its thick veil over it. The whole of that long evening did I
    sit and look upon it during that shower of showers. It was as if the
    Venern, the Vettern and a few more lakes ran through an immense sieve
    from the clouds. I had ordered something to eat and drink, but I got
    nothing. They ran up and they ran down; there was a hissing sound of
    roasting by the hearth; the girls chattered, the men drank "sup,"[R]
    strangers came, were shown into their rooms, and got both roast and
    boiled. Several hours had passed, when I made a forcible appeal to the
    girl, and she answered phlegmatically: "Why, Sir, you sit there and
    write without stopping, so you cannot have time to eat."

    [Footnote R: Swedish, _sup_. Danish, _snaps_. German, _schnaps_.
    English, _drams_.]

    It was a long evening, "but the evening passed!" It had become quite
    still in the inn; all the travellers, except myself, had again
    departed, certainly in order to find better quarters for the night at
    Hedemore or Brunbeck. I had seen, through the half-open door into the
    dirty tap-room, a couple of fellows playing with greasy cards; a huge
    dog lay under the table and glared with its large red eyes; the
    kitchen was deserted; the rooms too; the floor was wet, the storm
    rattled, the rain beat against the windows--"and now to bed! said I."

    I slept an hour, perhaps two, and was awakened by a loud bawling from
    the high road. I started up: it was twilight, the night at that period
    is not darker--it was about one o'clock. I heard the door shaken
    roughly; a deep manly voice shouted aloud, and there was a hammering
    with a cudgel against the planks of the yard-gate. Was it an
    intoxicated or a mad man that was to be let in? The gate was now
    opened, but many words were not exchanged. I heard a woman scream at
    the top of her voice from terror. There was now a great bustling
    about; they ran across the yard in wooden shoes; the bellowing of
    cattle and the rough voices of men were mingled together. I sat on the
    edge of the bed. Out or in! what was to be done? I looked from the
    window; in the road there was nothing to be seen, and it still rained.
    All at once some one came up stairs with heavy footsteps: he opened
    the door of the room adjoining mine--now he stood still! I listened--a
    large iron bolt fastened my door. The stranger now walked across the
    floor, now he shook my door, and then kicked against it with a heavy
    foot, and whilst all this was passing, the rain beat against the
    windows, and the blast made them rattle.

    "Are there any travellers here?" shouted a voice; "the house is on
    fire!"

    I now dressed myself and hastened out of the room and down the stairs.
    There was no smoke to be seen, but when I reached the yard, I saw that
    the whole building--a long and extensive one of wood--was enveloped in
    flames and clouds of smoke. The fire had originated in the baking
    oven, which no one had looked to; a traveller, who accidently came
    past, saw it, called out and hammered at the door: and the women
    screamed, and the cattle bellowed, when the fire stuck its red tongue
    into them.

    Now came the fire-engine and the flames were extinguished. By this

    time it was morning. I stood in the road, scarcely a hundred steps
    from the far-famed dale. "One may as well spring into it as walk into
    it!" and I sprang into it; and the rain poured down, and the water
    flowed--the whole dale was a well.

    The trees turned their leaves the wrong side out, purely because of
    the pouring rain, and they said, as the rushes did the day before: "We
    drink with our heads, we drink with our feet, and we drink with the
    whole body, and yet stand on our legs, hurra! it rains, and it pours;
    we whistle and we sing; it is our own song--and it is quite new!"

    Yes, that the rushes also sang yesterday--but it was the same, ever
    the same. I looked and looked, and all I know of the beauty of Zäther
    Dale is, that she had washed herself!
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