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

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At Longarone we breakfasted for the second time, and entered the narrow gorge of the Piave. The road was cut out of the face of the rock. Below us the long lumber-rafts went shooting down the swift river. Above, on the right, were the jagged crests of Monte Furlon and Premaggiore, which seemed to us very wonderful, because we had not yet learned how jagged the Dolomites can be. At Perarolo, where the Boite joins the Piave, there is a lump of a mountain in the angle between the rivers, and around this we crawled in long curves until we had risen a thousand feet, and arrived at the same Hotel Venezia, where we were to dine.

While dinner was preparing, the Deacon and I walked up to Pieve di Cadore, the birthplace of Titian. The house in which the great painter first saw the colours of the world is still standing, and tradition points out the very room in which he began to paint. I am not one of those who would inquire too closely into such a legend as this. The cottage may have been rebuilt a dozen times since Titian's day; not a scrap of the original stone or plaster may remain; but beyond a doubt the view that we saw from the window is the same that Titian saw. Now, for the first time, I could understand and appreciate the landscape-backgrounds of his pictures. The compact masses of mountains, the bold, sharp forms, the hanging rocks of cold gray emerging from green slopes, the intense blue aerial distances--these all had seemed to be unreal and imaginary--compositions of the studio. But now I knew that, whether Titian painted out-of-doors, like our modern impressionists, or not, he certainly painted what he had seen, and painted it as it is.

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The graceful brown-eyed boy who showed us the house seemed also to belong to one of Titian's pictures. As we were going away, the Deacon, for lack of copper, rewarded him with a little silver piece, a half-lira, in value about ten cents. A celestial rapture of surprise spread over the child's face, and I know not what blessings he invoked upon us. He called his companions to rejoice with him, and we left them clapping their hands and dancing.

Driving after one has dined has always a peculiar charm. The motion seems pleasanter, the landscape finer than in the morning hours. The road from Cadore ran on a high level, through sloping pastures, white villages, and bits of larch forest. In its narrow bed, far below, the river Boite roared as gently as Bottom's lion. The afternoon sunlight touched the snow-capped pinnacle of Antelao and the massive pink wall of Sorapis on the right; on the left, across the valley, Monte Pelmo's vast head and the wild crests of La Rochetta and Formin rose dark against the glowing sky. The peasants lifted their hats as we passed, and gave us a pleasant evening greeting. And so, almost without knowing it, we slipped out of Italy into Austria, and drew up before a bare, square stone building with the double black eagle, like a strange fowl split for broiling, staring at us from the wall, and an inscription to the effect that this was the Royal and Imperial Austrian Custom-house.

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Little Rivers
Henry van Dyke

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