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

Section V.

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Read the inscriptions, too, in their quaint German. Some of them are as humourous as the epitaphs in New England graveyards. I remember one which ran like this:

    Here lies Elias Queer,
    Killed in his sixtieth year;
    Scarce had he seen the light of day
    When a waggon-wheel crushed his life away.

And there is another famous one which says:

    Here perished the honoured and virtuous maiden,

This tablet was erected by her only son.

But for the most part a glance at these Marterl und Taferl, which are so frequent on all the mountain-roads of the Tyrol, will give you a strange sense of the real pathos of human life. If you are a Catholic, you will not refuse their request to say a prayer for the departed; if you are a Protestant, at least it will not hurt you to say one for those who still live and suffer and toil among such dangers.

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After we had walked for four hours up the Tauernthal, we came to the Matreier-Tauernhaus, an inn which is kept open all the year for the shelter of travellers over the high pass that crosses the mountain-range at this point, from north to south. There we dined. It was a bare, rude place, but the dish of juicy trout was garnished with flowers, each fish holding a big pansy in its mouth, and as the maid set them down before me she wished me "a good appetite," with the hearty old-fashioned Tyrolese courtesy which still survives in these remote valleys. It is pleasant to travel in a land where the manners are plain and good. If you meet a peasant on the road he says, "God greet you!" if you give a child a couple of kreuzers he folds his hands and says, "God reward you!" and the maid who lights you to bed says, "Goodnight, I hope you will sleep well!"

Two hours more of walking brought us through Ausser-gschloss and Inner-gschloss, two groups of herdsmen's huts, tenanted only in summer, at the head of the Tauernthal. Midway between them lies a little chapel, cut into the solid rock for shelter from the avalanches. This lofty vale is indeed rightly named; for it is shut off from the rest of the world. The portal is a cliff down which the stream rushes in foam and thunder. On either hand rises a mountain wall. Within, the pasture is fresh and green, sprinkled with Alpine roses, and the pale river flows swiftly down between the rows of dark wooden houses. At the head of the vale towers the Gross-Venediger, with its glaciers and snow-fields dazzling white against the deep blue heaven. The murmur of the stream and the tinkle of the cow-bells and the jodelling of the herdsmen far up the slopes, make the music for the scene.

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Little Rivers
Henry van Dyke

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