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Un billet de loterie. English, Page 2

Jules Verne


  Dal is a modest hamlet consisting of but a few houses; some oneither side of a road that is little more than a bridle-path, othersscattered over the surrounding hills. But they all face the narrowvalley of Vesfjorddal, with their backs to the line of hills to thenorth, at the base of which flows the Maan.

  A little church erected in 1855, whose chancel is pierced by twonarrow stained-glass windows, lifts its square belfry from out a leafygrove hard by. Here and there rustic bridges cross the rivulets thatdance merrily along toward the river. In the distance are two or threeprimitive saw-mills, run by water-power, with a wheel to move thesaw, as well as a wheel to move the beam or the tree; and seen from alittle distance, the chapel, saw-mills, houses, and cabins, all seemto be enveloped in a soft olive haze that emanates from the dark-greenfirs and the paler birches which either singly or in groups extendfrom the winding banks of the Maan to the crests of the loftymountains.

  Such is the fresh and laughing hamlet of Dal, with its picturesquedwellings, painted, some of them, in delicate green or pale pinktints, others in such glaring colors as bright yellow and blood-red.The roofs of birch bark, covered with turf, which is mown in theautumn, are crowned with natural flowers. All this is indescribablycharming, and eminently characteristic of the most picturesque countryin the world. In short, Dal is in the Telemark, the Telemark is inNorway, and Norway is in Switzerland, with thousands of fiords thatpermit the sea to kiss the feet of its mountains.

  The Telemark composes the broad portion of the immense horn thatNorway forms between Bergen and Christiania.

  This dependency of the prefecture of Batsberg, has the mountains andglaciers of Switzerland, but it is not Switzerland. It has giganticwater-falls like North America, but it is not America. The landscapeis adorned with picturesque cottages, and processions of inhabitants,clad in costumes of a former age, like Holland, but it is not Holland.The Telemark is far better than any or all of these; it is theTelemark, noted above all countries in the world for the beauty ofits scenery. The writer has had the pleasure of visiting it. He hasexplored it thoroughly, in a kariol with relays of post-horses--whenhe could get them--and he brought back with him such a vividrecollection of its manifold charms that he would be glad to conveysome idea of it to the reader of this simple narrative.

  At the date of this story, 1862, Norway was not yet traversed by therailroad that now enables one to go from Stockholm to Drontheim, byway of Christiania. Now, an extensive network of iron rails extendsentirely across these two Scandinavian countries, which are so averseto a united existence. But imprisoned in a railroad-carriage, thetraveler, though he makes much more rapid progress than in a kariol,misses all the originality that formerly pervaded the routes oftravel. He misses the journey through Southern Sweden on the curiousGotha Canal, in which the steamboats, by rising from lock to lock,manage to reach an elevation of three hundred feet. Nor does he havean opportunity to visit the falls of Trolletann, nor Drammen, norKongsberg, nor any of the beauties of the Telemark.

  In those days the railroad existed only upon paper. Twenty years wereto elapse before one could traverse the Scandinavian kingdom fromone shore to the other in forty hours, and visit the North Cape onexcursion tickets to Spitzberg.

  In those days Dal was, and may it long remain, the central pointfor foreign or native tourists, these last being for the most partstudents from Christiania. From Dal they could wander over the entireTelemark and Hardanger region, explore the valley of Vesfjorddalbetween Lakes Mjos and Tinn, and visit the wonderful cataracts of theRjukan Tun. The hamlet boasts of but one inn, but that is certainlythe most attractive and comfortable imaginable, and one of themost important also, for it can offer four bed-chambers for theaccommodation of its guests. In a word, it is Dame Hansen's inn.

  A few benches surround the base of its pink walls, which are separatedfrom the ground by a substantial granite foundation. The sprucerafters and weather-boarding have acquired such hardness and toughnesswith age that the sharpest hatchet can make little or no impressionupon them. Between the roughly hewn rafters, which are placedhorizontally one above the other, a mixture of clay and turf formsa stanch roof, through which the hardest winter rains can not forcetheir way.

  Upstairs, in the bedrooms, the ceilings are painted in dark red orblack tints to contrast with the more cheerful and delicate hues ofthe wood-work.

  In one corner of the large hall stands a huge cylinder stove, thepipe of which rises nearly to the ceiling, before it disappears in thekitchen chimney. In another corner stands a tall clock which emitsa sonorous tick-tack, as its carved hands travel slowly around itsenameled face. Here is a secretary, black with age, side by sidewith a massive iron tripod. Upon the mantel is an immense terra-cottacandlestick which can be transformed into a three-branched candelabrumby turning it upside down. The handsomest furniture in the houseadorns this spacious hall--the birch-root table, with its spreadingfeet, the big chest with its richly wrought brass handles, in whichthe Sunday and holiday clothing is kept, the tall arm-chair, hardand uncomfortable as a church-pew, the painted wooden chairs, andthe spinning-wheel striped with green, to contrast with the scarletpetticoat of the spinner.

  Yonder stands the pot in which the butter is kept, and the paddle withwhich it is worked, and here is the tobacco-box, and the grater ofelaborately carved bone.

  And, finally, over the door which opens into the kitchen is a largedresser, with long rows of brass and copper cooking-utensils andbright-colored dishes, the little grindstone for sharpening knives,half-buried in its varnished case, and the egg-dish, old enough toserve as a chalice.

  And how wonderful and amusing are the walls, hung with linentapestries representing scenes from the Bible, and brilliant with allthe gorgeous coloring of the pictures of Epinal.

  As for the guests' rooms, though they are less pretentious, they areno less comfortable, with their spotless neatness, their curtains ofhanging-vines that droop from the turf-covered roof, their huge beds,sheeted with snowy and fragrant linen, and their hangings with versesfrom the Old Testament, embroidered in yellow upon a red ground.

  Nor must we forget that the floor of the main hall, and the floors ofall the rooms, both upstairs and down, are strewn with little twigsof birch, pine, and juniper, whose leaves fill the house with theirhealthful and exhilarating odor.

  Can one imagine a more charming _posada_ in Italy, or a more seductive_fonda_ in Spain? No. And the crowd of English tourists have not yetraised the scale of prices as in Switzerland--at least, they had notat the time of which I write. In Dal, the current coin is not thepound sterling, the sovereign of which the travelers' purse issoon emptied. It is a silver coin, worth about five francs, and itssubdivisions are the mark, equal in value to about a franc, and theskilling, which must not be confounded with the English shilling, asit is only equivalent to a French _sou_.

  Nor will the tourist have any opportunity to use or abuse thepretentious bank-note in the Telemark. One-mark notes are white;five-mark notes are blue; ten-mark notes are yellow; fifty-mark notes,green; one hundred mark notes, red. Two more, and we should have allthe colors of the rainbow.

  Besides--and this is a point of very considerable importance--thefood one obtains at the Dal inn is excellent; a very unusual thingat houses of public entertainment in this locality, for the Telemarkdeserves only too well its surname of the Buttermilk Country. AtTiness, Listhus, Tinoset, and many other places, no bread is to behad, or if there be, it is of such poor quality as to be uneatable.One finds there only an oaten cake, known as _flat brod_, dry, black,and hard as pasteboard, or a coarse loaf composed of a mixture ofbirch-bark, lichens, and chopped straw. Eggs are a luxury, and a moststale and unprofitable one; but there is any quantity of poor beer tobe had, a profusion of buttermilk, either sweet or sour, and sometimesa little coffee, so thick and muddy that it is much more likedistilled soot than the products of Mocha or Rio Nunez.

  In Dame Hansen's establishment, on the contrary, cellar and larderwere alike wel
l-stored. What more could the most exacting touristask than salmon, either salt or smoked--fresh salmon that have nevertasted tainted waters, fish from the pure streams of the Telemark,fowls, neither too fat nor too lean, eggs in every style, crispoaten and barley cakes, fruits, more especially strawberries,bread--unleavened bread, it is here, but of the very bestquality--beer, and some old bottles of that Saint Julien that havespread the fame of French vineyards even to this distant land?

  And this being the case, it is not strange that the inn at Dal is welland favorably known in all the countries of Northern Europe.

  One can see this, too, by glancing over the register in which manytravelers have not only recorded their names, but paid glowingtributes to Dame Hansen's merits as an inn-keeper. The names areprincipally those of Swedes and Norwegians from every part ofScandinavia; but the English make a very respectable showing; and oneof them, who had waited at least an hour for the summit of Gousta toemerge from the morning mist that enveloped it, wrote upon one of thepages:

  "Patientia omnia vincit?"