The Styrian Wine
Carter by Rudolf
TRANSLATED BY BAYARD QUINCY MORGAN, PH.D.
Assistant Professor of German, University of Wisconsin
Aye, any one not familiar with the Styrian-Carinthian highway
through the valley of the Drau does not know what one of the good old
Austrian imperial highroads in the good old days might undertake.
Hop-up-and-down is its behavior, with snake-like humps, like a jumping
polecat. Serpentine windings? Don't exist there. Straight as an arrow
it heedlessly goes over mountain after mountain, down to the Drau and
up again to airy heights, and any motorist who is slightly in a hurry
will make a miniature descent into hell of some 250 feet, say beyond
Völkermarkt, approaching Lavamünd; the terrified shriek of the ladies
is already resounding at the bottom, but their stomachs would still be
on top of Völkermarkt Hill, obeying the law of inertia, if they could
have passed up through their mouths. And then immediately after, whee!
up a fresh mountain.
This is the way we treat the good old times nowadays. Was not that
road, in its day, built to lengthen life? There you could ponder over
your existence, for your little horses, like peripatetic philosophers,
pushed onward with bobbing heads, laboriously and slowly, slowly.
Ah, but it is a beautiful road, beautiful! Beautiful enough to tarry
on, to die on. The more remote from you, the higher rises,
terrace-fashion, the titanic grandeur of the Alps. Clear to the south,
the gigantic flight of the Sann Valley Dolomites sweeps on beyond the
Obir, and then the ghostly pale Karawanken stare across at you. In the
middle foreground the mighty plateaus of the Ferlacher and Eisenkappler
Country gradually become quieter, and then comes the shining plain,
crisscrossed into sections by groves and gold-gleaming fields, by
pale-green marsh-meadows and red-blooming buckwheat. And with an abrupt
descent from the road you come to the Drau far below, flowing with deep
roar between steep banks thickly set with towering young spears of
spruce, and tussling with rocky boulders; yet from the road one could
not look down upon its battles there in the cool canyon, so precipitous
are its banks, so densely black rises the legion of spruces. Only when
a brook storms under the road and down to the Drau can one see its
grayish flow and spume through the gap belowthe stream that once
halted the German language on its yearning flight toward the blue waves
of that southern sea.
But we on the road, high up in the sunlight, send a whoop shooting
like an arrow across river and plain into the divine vastness of the
distance, toward the glimmering, rocky mountains, and salute as
exultant children the Father of all that is mightiest in us.
Rarely, rarely nowadays does such a ya-oo flit from the wind-swept
height across the valley. For the road has grown desolate and no longer
carries weight. For hours at a time one may vainly hearken to the
rustle of the woods, the deep rumble of the River Drau, without ever
detecting the cheerful home-bound rattle of a rustic cart between
pine-woods and the angle of a mountain. This proud, lofty road no
longer serves a purpose on earth, that once was the soul of the
Of all histories and human destinies those are the most conducive to
meditation which are closely knitted together with a bit of universal
fate, and so let me narrate here for the woeful diversion of men the
story of Florian Hausbaum, who was once the youth and the song of this
Florian Hausbaum was a Styrian of the woods from Mahrenberg, that
same superb, defiantly German Mahrenberg below which the Drau plunges
over titanic boulders, and over which two churches stand face to face,
tower against tower, like locomotives desirous of ramming each other;
the old Slovene Church, and the new German-Evangelical Church.
But Florie Hausbaum's youth saw nothing of the future German
death-struggle there in the wooded valley of the Drau. Every one was
still singing the dear old songs, and Florian sang them best of all. He
learned nothing, he never drudged, he merely sang, as forgetful of toil
as the cricket of the south. And when it was time to go to work, the
good-for-nothing did not care to earn his bread in the cool
spruce-grown ravine with its saw-mills; his cheery, worthless soul felt
drawn to the open, sunny country which reaches up a good stretch along
the Drau westward of Marburg, until Bachern and Possruck bite together
their bristly jaws at the river, making the region wild, precipitous,
In sunny Marburg the wine flows down all the hills in streams to
this very day. But at that time, more than forty years ago, there were
three times as many vineyards, extending clear beyond Maria-Rast and
Zellnitz, and Florian Hausbaum became a wine-carter and made trips into
And so he drove his nodding horses uphill and downhill through his
native village across the border; and in Drauburg, in Lavamünd, in
Völkermarkt, and Klagenfurt, all the inn-keepers waited for him as the
bringer of joy. And he was the lad for that. He sang all the way along
the windblown road, and from all the windows men and maidens nodded to
[Illustration: RUDOLF HANS BARTSCH]
Between Völkermarkt and Lavamünd the liverymen had grown rich on the
relaying which the excellent humps of the road brought them, and there
they also had open purses and open hearts for wine. Hence at the two
ends of his route, where the road did its maddest tricks, Florie was
best loved and known: if for no other reason, because he had so much
time on account of all the getting his breath, staying over night,
feeding, and changing horses.
He too liked best to dwell in that up-and-down world. For he had a
girl in Drauburg, and one in Lavamünd; one at St. Martin and another at
Eis close by (dangerous and burdensome sweethearting), one at
Lippitzbach, one in Völkermarkt, and a warm terminal station at
Klagenfurt. These seven dear yearning creatures were just enough for
him, but he was also just enough for them; for he never skipped one of
them when he went his rounds.
He was a handsome fellow, of that becoming, jolly, light-blond type
of Old Styria which is now beginning to grow rare among the men in the
valley of the Drau. His eyes laughed; nothing else in the world laughed
so, except his road, when the snow had melted away and the first trip
began. Then the little puddles in the road, formed by the melting snow
and rippled by the wind, looked at the sky out of a thousand bright
blue eyes, and there was a wink and a smirk in them all the way from
Drauburg to Klagenfurt.
He loved this road with all the power of his heart, which otherwise,
i.e., for the girls, was far too gay. Besides, the girls changed, but
the road remained. There was but the one, and it was unique.
His life obeyed the laws which God has given for Nature and wine. In
the winter he lay quietly at Marburg, or made little wooden carts. But
when February was past and the wine was seasoned, so that the new
vintage was at last ready for transport, and when the snow trickled off
the roads, then began his regal course, his bridal entry into
Carinthia, his jubilant, earliest march of triumph.
He always wore a flower in his hat, and his nags each got one, too.
But when in the early days of March he drove along the road, only just
freed of snow, he would take a whole supply of violets with him, for in
his blessed, sunny land these sometimes bloomed by the end of February
in special sunny nooks. God of love, what eyes the forest-villagers
along the Drau made at them, and still more the Carinthians, who often
do not receive their violets from heaven before May! They scarcely
would have primulas, while even Florie's horses were wearing violets on
their collars, because he had kept them fresh between his casks.
To all the girls he brought the breath of the Styrian spring with
him, and thus Florie Hausbaum fairly came to personify the spring-time
over the whole length of the Carinthian Road, and as such he was
cheered and loved like a young emperor.
He was happy.
The yellow-hammers perched near the road and sang, the larks rose
high, the sun danced in bretzel-shaped figures in the mirroring
puddles, the sparrows fought in exuberant glee over what Florie's
horses had dropped for them, the relaying liverymen grinned, the
inn-keepers stood planted before their doors waiting for him, and
shouted Hooray, and beside him shook and gurgled the fragrant, mighty
But far before him longing girl-faces were waiting behind the
windows near the long road. Love, love awaited him from one end of the
road to the other. Whether it was the jubilee of his boon-companions,
the relieved At last! of the inn-keepers, or the smothered sigh of
the pretty girlsit was all a part of the same joy.
And these girls were so modest. First because they were Carinthians
(where you don't always have to marry right away), and then because
Florie had always been away all winter, so that nothing but woeful
legend and delightful little stories about him were current. So
recollection was at work in the yearning girlish hearts, and it made
him twice as cheerful, as golden, as laughing, as slender and handsome,
as he was.
But in March he would come along singing and with a violet in his
hat, and as full of intoxicating power as his casks, and would make
them all happy, inn-keepers and girls; there was a quatrain about him
which all the lads along the Carinthian Road used to sing when they
wanted to tease the love-sick girls. It went this way:
A vi'let from the roadside, a kiss for the night:
The Styrian wine-carter is my delight.
He knew what he meant to them all; he knew the feeling of happiness
that radiated from him, and often when he creaked along the road in his
wagon until far into the quiet, hissing night of the Föhn, and
the gleam of a lighted window replied to the swaying light of his
lantern on the horse-collar, he himself would send that same little
ditty out into the yearning, burning spring night with his strong,
clear voice, making the sleepless girls that heard it bite their
pillows with delight.
Such a night it was that brought him a small misfortune and a great
triumph. On that confounded Völkermarkt Hump his cart had got onto the
slope, while he was still filled with the echoes of the sweetness for
the sake of which he had outstayed his time in Lippitzbach. There he
had been received as the outstretched arms of the trees welcome the
roaring Föhn, or the waiting spring earth a warm rain. Now as he
drove on, happiness was still bounding within him, a sea of dreams, but
late, late was the hour. So he drove through the entire night, and at
the gray dawn he had reached the height opposite the Völkermarkt
Hollow. This time he was carting a delicious wine, which seldom grew in
Styria. Farmer Pfriemer in Marburg had become a sworn rival of the
Hungarians, and had begun to export a dark red wine, called Vinaria, so
that the Carinthians might henceforth get a red wine from Styria, too.
The first vintage had turned out sweet and heavy, and now Florian
Hausbaum was carting the seasoned beverage up to Völkermarkt in two
casks, one of them tremendous, the other of very respectable size.
But while he was dreaming thus, his horses had already turned down
the hill. The cart exerted enormous pressure and took the horses off
their feet; at this moment the Styrian wine-carter started into
wakefulness, and while the wagon was thundering downhill with more and
more terrifying speed, he loosened the drag and threw it under the hind
wheel, and at this abrupt braking the wagon leaped mightily into the
air, like a startled rhinoceros. One of the poles on the side cracked,
and the smaller cask toppled over and fell from the cart with a heavy
bum-bum-bum-bum. Florie had tried to throw his weight against it, but
the cask gave his head a severe slanting blow before dropping full
weight into the road.
A stave had sprung, and the pressure made the deep-red fluid gurgle
out in a flood. The white dust of the road, became ruddy. The young
carter had just enough presence of mind to roll the heavy wine-cask
into the grass, and then increasing faintness reeled about him. But
with his last thought he clung to his wine. As he sank down he pressed
his body against the crack from which the wine was streaming out, the
cask leaned heavily against him and crushed him against the groundand
then he knew nothing more.
Many voices wakened him. A girl was crying, an old woman was
storming, the inn-keeper called him by name, the heavy scent of new
wine hung about him. A crowd of people stood around, and the cart was
gone, and the cask resting on him the men pulled away, so that the wine
at once leaped forth again. So they turned the damaged spot up. But he
still lay there as formerly in his delight he had gone along the road,
with his jacket torn open to let the air of spring cool his heart. Only
his festive white shirt had become spotted with red from the spilled
The keeper of the Ox Inn at Völkermarkt, however, nearly fell upon
him and kissed him. He had already been waiting on the hill-top when he
saw the masterless cart, with the one cask, arrive at the bottom of
Steil Valley and stand there; for of themselves the horses would not
climb the hill. Then he had run for aid, and with him everybody that
had been waiting for wine and Florie, and two score people had seen how
the faithful Florian, in spite of unconsciousness and pain, had with
his own body guarded the wine and prevented its escape.
That was a Styrian wine-carter!
Hausbaum was told the whole story while everything was still reeling
about him and head and ribs ached. He had already begun to weep like a
child; but when he learned of his heroic deed, his lips drew down only
four or five times more; then his mouth changed from a horseshoe into a
broad line, and at the end Florie laughed all over his face and so
overpoweringly that all joined in.
Now he was carried in triumph to Völkermarkt, found his horses sound
and contented, and was extolled for the hero he was. For he had
preserved a sacred treasure for Völkermarkt.
This tale ran over half the Carinthian land, and that was the climax
and the highest prosperity of Florian Hausbaum's bright life.
Then, however, his fortunes, his renown, and his importance declined
all at once. Love and acclamation died away, and his calling with all
its joys was crushed with him. And that was because, far below in the
plain across the Drau, the railroad was built.
For another year Florie Hausbaum proudly and loftily carted his wine
into the Carinthian land. Far below him, beyond the stream, they were
working on the long iron serpent; but he did not even look at it.
In the second year he only carted his wine until the early days of
summer. But even on his spring trip his heart grew anxious and heavy.
The girls were no longer starved with love-pangs as formerly, not at
all, for the handsome young engineers, and then the foremen and bosses,
were turning things upside down. There had been dances, dances at
Carnival time, even in the smallest villages.
And then came the day on which the first locomotive, decked out with
flags, branches, ribbons, and flowers, pulled a whole trainful of
jubilation from Marburg to Klagenfurt. Thirty young girls from the
Styrian wine-centre were on the train in their festal finery, going to
dance with the lads of Klagenfurt. All sang and shouted for joy because
the new time had come, the time of youth.
But high up on the lonely road the fair-haired carter, who had
meanwhile reached the shady side of thirty, held his hat with its
fading bouquet before his face. The horses pulled till they trembled,
but below them the iron serpent crawled along, overtook them without
effort, and was lost to sight far ahead. Only a long, mocking whistle
came to them from the distance, from the wooded moors beyond the Drau,
wafted to them by wide-ranging breezes. From that day on it was the
railroad that carried wine and love, wood and happiness, wares and
But on the heights above Florian Hausbaum was making his last trip.
His employer had given him notice. He let his quivering horses rest,
and where in other days an outburst of happiness had made him send a
halloo from the fairest spot far out across the conquered depths toward
the Alps, there he now wept for a whole silly stretch.
Henceforth the road was desolate, at one blowand no one even drove
a cart over it any more. The manure which the farmers had conveyed to
their fields was almost the only one of this world's goods which it
As for Florian Hausbaum, he became a driver for the Ox Inn at
Völkermarkt; that was a little consolation, at least; to settle down
here on the scene of former triumphs, and ever and again to be able to
drive at least a little load of grain or wood over the beloved road. To
be sure, he could no longer reach all his girls with these present
trips. Nor did they need it, for now there was other supply. From over
yonder, from across the Drau, from Prävali, Bleiburg, and Kühnsdorf,
and also from Rückersdorf and Grafenstein, and not to mention the
provincial capital, from there came the new foes, who wore such
handsome red caps when on duty, as resplendent as officers with their
black velvet lapels and the gold rosettes and winged wheels. They were
the young railroad officials, pupils and assistants, and each one was
the Casanova of his district! In those small places there were no other
uniforms, and what was the bouquet on Florian's hat worth, compared
with those caps with gold braid and rosette! They took away his Lisi,
Marianne at St. Martin, and the passionate beauty Resele in the little
hamlet of Eis. At Klagenfurt and Völkermarkt they danced all the girls
away before his very nose, and it was just the winter, toward which he
had looked forward with joyful anticipation, which became the way of
the cross for him, where each stopping-place meant the end of a love
and loyalty. Florie's best quality, his rarity, was of course gone;
from now on he was always on hand, after all, and more than that, he
was no longer the bringer of joy, the messenger of the thawing breeze,
as of yore.
He defended his position with the girls; but as full-bred Styrian he
began quarrels and brawls with his rivals on the railroad, instead of
becoming a railroad man himself. So he was locked up in Klagenfurt for
a couple of weeks, and for the first time this man, hitherto so
open-hearted, so totally without reserve, developed a secret emotional
life: hate of the railroad, and love for his deserted highway.
In reality it was love for his fleeting youth, the unquenchable
thirst of yearning desire for the past, memory! But because the road
had been the scene of his eternally faded greatness, therefore he
attached all this love to it.
The years dropped out of sight in gnawing conflicts with his
steadily thickening blood, and youth was where the violets of Marburg
were, and the songs, and the new wine: with new generations.
For three or four years, indeed, Florie still lived on the echoes of
his victorious days, and was still widely and warmly welcomed. But more
and more strange faces came into the village, and new generations grew
up that had not understood him in his glory of old. Girls of eighteen
and twenty began to develop out of the children of that day, and these
looked upon carter Hausbaum as a relic of the time before the railroad
came, as a venerable ancestor.
Rarer and rarer grew those admirers who would pound on the tavern
table, saying, Ah, old Florie, that was a devil of a lad for you! So
he himself began to play the narrator, and fiercely defended his own
legend. But the more he had to tell, the older he appeared to the
At first he was willingly listened to; then he was regarded as
played out. Now he no longer talked with the old sorrowful ease, but
with passionate bawling and irritation. He boastfully forced his
stories upon people, and lost respect all the more.
Only the road, the old road remained his last sweetheart and
remained quiet and faithful; both had become despised and useless, but
they had clung to each other. Only, when he now drove over italas,
how that too had changed. Formerly he brought along the new wine with
the new spring.
Now he creaked along with the fire-wood for the winter.
His employer had begun a large business in wood; that made
Hausbaum's carting period come in the fall. And so his little wagon
again groaned over the deserted road, uphill, downhill, without his
meeting a human soul. No driver but he was to be seen; he was like the
ghost of the old road. The autumn tempest lodged in the canyon of the
Drau, rebounded from all sides and whirled up, bidding him pull his old
felt hat, on which he had long since given up putting any flowers, far
down on his forehead. The land shook in the roaring sweep of a wrath of
Doomsday, and his aging bones shivered. It was ending, ending; and
where the larks of spring had once whirred about him, there he was now
surrounded by the tittering dances of the withered leaves.
There he often saw once more the old houses with the little windows
behind which he had had his girls, more of them and prettier ones than
any lad in the land. But they had all married out of the houses or
moved away, or had stayed on the spot and become care-worn housekeepers
and mothers, who did not care to recognize him. The windows stared
blindly at him, and no longer knew him for whom they had once opened
like little gates of paradise, in passionate nights of spring. They had
grown dull and gloomy; God knew who was now squatting behind them. But
when from under one of the windows, despite the late October days,
there came the breath of asters and everlasting, and some fresh young
girl-face gazed in surprise toward the bony bachelor, who looked over
inquiringly as with accursed, forlorn eyes, then his old heart would
double up like a fist within him and cause him great pain.
It was all over; like fireworks.
And then, then even his very last sweetheart, which he had regarded
as inalienable, was snatched from him: the highroad.
The first enemy he had merely followed with horrified eyes: the
stinking, dust-whirling rattle-box, which flung the old road behind it
as a spendthrift flings the precious money. But they kept coming
oftener, the loud-colored power vehicles; faster and faster they
became, and harder and harder it was for the carter's old hands to
control the madly rearing horses.
In former days he had always walked beside his horses. Now that he
had grown old and gray, he was very often glad to perch on the seat and
doze there. But just when a short dream had helped him to forget the
bitter change in his life, another of those monsters would roar behind
him its spiteful, deep too-oot, too-oot. Then it behooved him to jump
down in a hurry, pull the nags to one side, and speak to the excited
creatures words of calm, of love and kindness, while his old heart rose
into his throat with fright and hate. But the unknown, insolent machine
was already far ahead, and away off on that terrible hill where the
carter's horses quivered and stamped, where he had to breathe them nine
times and smoked a whole pipe of tobacco before he reached the top, he
would see the monster whizzing upward. As with a shout of joy it
stormed the ascent, so that it seemed to fly out into the air at the
top, before it was engulfed by the next hollow. And mockingly, already
at an incredible distance, the too-oot, too-oot would come back to
him, its bawling tones seeming to ooze away.
The low curs! Their love for this road was like that of the
sportsman for the shy pigeons: love to shoot them. They joyously sought
out this hundred-hilled stretch, and they exulted when they rolled over
these great humps on the second or even the third speed. It was a
delight to make a mock of the old road. Landscape? Beauty? It was
ahead, never anywhere but ahead, ahead.
Florian Hausbaum had thought he must die of wrath and woe when these
road-gobblers appeared, and yet the opposite happened: he had a new
lease of life. At last he had something that once more linked him to
this earth; and if it was a hatred, it led him back to men! Now they
all understood him, now he could once more get first hearing in all the
taverns; he could tell of dangers he had escaped, so that half a
village would hastily collect to hear him repeat the tale; he might
curse and threat without being ridiculed, think up tricks to play, and
wage malicious battles, and once again the bar-rooms resounded with the
old cry, long silenced, Hooray, Florie, good for you! A reg'lar devil,
that Hausbaum. Eyah, that's the old Styrian wine-carter for you!
He found assent, approval, confirmation, wherever he went, and his
superb white hair silenced all contradiction. Venerable and mighty was
the hatred of Florian Hausbaum in all the land, and the eyes of the old
carter again began to sparkle, his cheeks to look red, and his heart
swelled, making the old man look magnificent. He had something to live
On a Sunday in spring he was standing at one end of Völkermarkt, in
the midst of the men-folk who had come from church and were now puffing
at their holiday pipes in God's delicious, mild air. There came a red
motor through the place, quite slowly. A gentle and just citizen was
riding in it, who himself hated the brutality of the speed-maniacs, and
had accustomed himself to drive through towns with the mildness of a
Old Hausbaum was still raging at the last filthy brute, who had
shot through the scattering holiday crowd like a barbarian on his
scythed chariot in the battles of old. His pent-up rage was now vented
upon these travelers, who came so opportunely into his clutches. He
jumped into the path of the machine, the gentleman slowed down still
more and tooted his horn. But Florian Hausbaum did not yield his
ground. So the vehicle stopped.
And now it burst forth, the great speech of the old wine-carter; the
mightiest one in the life of the Styrian, Florian Hausbaum:
You wind-belchers! You road-stinkers, who sent for you? D' you
bring any money into the land? Naw! D' you ever get out even once in
Grafenstein, in Völkermarkt, in Lippitzbach? Or at Eis, at Lavamünd, at
Drauburg or Hohenmauten or Mahrenberg? Naw! You've come from the city,
you tiresome city-dudes and you women with your faces tied up as if you
had the tooth-ache, and you never stop till you're in Marburg again, or
maybe in Graz, 'cause the country inn-keeper's little bit o' grub ain't
good enough for you. But to run down the poor farmer's last goose, run
over children, drive horses crazy, torment their drivers, cover the
Lord God's grain with dust, and dirty up the hay so 't not a beast'll
take a mouthful of it, go bellowing past the church just when the
pastor's talking inside about the Kingdom o' Heaven, and not only that,
but stink like the devil, that's what you like! You're sent by the
devil, you look like the devil, you haven't got any more justice or
mercy than he has, and now go and drive to the devil and break your
necks, that's my wish for you. There, now you can go on stinking!
The ladies in the automobile scolded, the farmers round about
pressed forward threateningly; but the gentleman driving, a quiet,
composed person, merely looked sadly at the gendarme who came hurrying
up, and said, Did you hear all that? Make way for us at least, so that
we shall not be torn to pieces.
He had to crank again. Then he drove away, down into the deep valley
and up the hill beyond and away; but Florian Hausbaum stood like
Siegfried after the battle with the dragon.
The gendarme said to him with some reproach, Right you were,
Florie. But if the gentleman goes to law, I'll have to testify against
you. Then it'll go hard with you; do be sensible in your old age! And
But all the rest were of the opinion that it was quite impossible to
be sensible about this, and Florian was loudly applauded. That was
fine, what you told 'em! Eyah, old Florie. That's right, Styrian folks
know how to use their tongues.
The old carter was quite intoxicated with success and praise. He
knew that his renown would go circling out over the whole country-side,
and every farmer who had been at church this day would carry home the
mighty speech of Florian Hausbaum more accurately than the sermon. He
was great as in the olden days, and his heart swelled with pride.
Then came the shriek of a siren from the other end of the village.
Another stinking devil, they said. Get out of the road, Florie.
But the old carter remained standing there with widespread feet, and
his white hair blew about wildly in the spring breeze. He knew that
signal; it came from a great machine that tore through the country
every day, as if the point were to rescue and prevent a misfortune,
instead of conjuring up one. And this machine was hated throughout the
whole Carinthian land.
Here I stand, shouted the old man in a frenzy, and here I'll stay
and not let a single auto out o' the village!
He had just had a pleasant experience, and thought every machine
would stop for him like the last one. But the monster was already at
hand, and as for stopping, it could not even if the driver had wished
to. An angry shout in the machine, a horrified wail rising from a
hundred voices, and with a mighty leap the automobile crashed over the
toppled obstacle, jumped, dragged, and tore itself along for ten full
paces more, despite brakes and cut-out, and not until then did it come
to a stop. The occupants, wealthy young people, leaped out. There lay
Florie Hausbaum by the roadside.
The automobile had fatally injured him and hurled him to one side.
Now every one ran for aid, and the giddy young people cursed the fact
that their machine was so well known; they feared that assistance here
would be dangerous. But not a soul said a cross word to them. So they
knelt beside the injured white-bearded victim, wiped the blood from his
face, and opened his vest,
As the physician was working over him, Florian Hausbaum awoke once
more in this life.
He looked about him, and drew breaths of pain and affliction. But
the wonderful spring air of that day penetrated even his crushed lungs
like a mild wine in a parched throat. Intoxicating was this air, as of
yore; weak and peaceful, victorious and beloved he was, as of yore:
when he had saved the precious red wine.
Then, in his wandering mind, all his evil days vanished, and all
hatred. Age was forgotten, and at this moment, when his soul began to
flutter its wings like a new butterfly, all the foregoing was blotted
out; there was no longer any suffering, nor dying. Timeless! There was
nothing but spring air, lovely, hopeful spring air. And truly, the evil
days of old age, of mockery, and of the railroad, of autumn tempests on
the road, of a pulse that slackened in the veinsnothing of this could
stand its ground. It was all a mere dream.
For he felt as weak and as happy as on the day when he had almost
sacrificed his glorious youth for a cask of wine. And look, here were
the moist, dark-red spots in the sunlit dust of the road, and the ruby
red on his Sunday shirt flamed even more intensely.
So an unexampled happiness reeled through the Styrian wine-carter's
mind, because his life's greatest day and his deed of heroism were
still upon him. He sobbed in pain and joy, Leave me and catch the
precious wine. It must not run out. People, the sacred wine!
And with the happiness of intoxication he sank into the roseate
dream of eternity.