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VII. Alpenrosen and Goat's-Milk Henry van Dyke

Section II.

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    "Hurrah for John-Mary! Hurrah for his art!
    Hurrah for all teachers as skilful as he!
    Hurrah for us all, who have now taken part
    In singing together in do . . re . . mi."

It was very primitive, and I do not suppose that the celebration was even mentioned in the newspapers of the great world; but, after all, has not the man who wins such a triumph as this in the hearts of his own people, for whom he has made labour beautiful with the charm of art, deserved better of fame than many a crowned monarch or conquering warrior? We should be wiser if we gave less glory to the men who have been successful in forcing their fellow-men to die, and more glory to the men who have been successful in teaching their fellow-men how to live.

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But the Festa of Cortina did not remain all day on this high moral plane. In the afternoon came what our landlady called "allerlei Dummheiten." There was a grand lottery for the benefit of the Volunteer Fire Department. The high officials sat up in a green wooden booth in the middle of the square, and called out the numbers and distributed the prizes. Then there was a greased pole with various articles of an attractive character tied to a large hoop at the top--silk aprons, and a green jacket, and bottles of wine, and half a smoked pig, and a coil of rope, and a purse. The gallant firemen voluntarily climbed up the pole as far as they could, one after another, and then involuntarily slid down again exhausted, each one wiping off a little more of the grease, until at last the lucky one came who profited by his forerunners' labours, and struggled to the top to snatch the smoked pig. After that it was easy.

Such is success in this unequal world; the man who wipes off the grease seldom gets the prize.

Then followed various games, with tubs of water; and coins fastened to the bottom of a huge black frying-pan, to be plucked off with the lips; and pots of flour to be broken with sticks; so that the young lads of the village were ducked and blackened and powdered to an unlimited extent, amid the hilarious applause of the spectators. In the evening there was more music, and the peasants danced in the square, the women quietly and rather heavily, but the men with amazing agility, slapping the soles of their shoes with their hands, or turning cartwheels in front of their partners. At dark the festivities closed with a display of fireworks; there were rockets and bombs and pin-wheels; and the boys had tiny red and blue lights which they held until their fingers were burned, just as boys do in America; and there was a general hush of wonder as a particularly brilliant rocket swished into the dark sky; and when it burst into a rain of serpents, the crowd breathed out its delight in a long-drawn "Ah-h-h-h!" just as the crowd does everywhere. We might easily have imagined ourselves at a Fourth of July celebration in Vermont, if it had not been for the costumes.

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Little Rivers
Henry van Dyke

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