But when I reached Quistram I found I could not approach the door of the inn for men, horses, and carts, cows, and pigs huddled together. From the concourse of people I had met on the road I conjectured that there was a fair in the neighbourhood; this crowd convinced me that it was but too true. The boisterous merriment that almost every instant produced a quarrel, or made me dread one, with the clouds of tobacco, and fumes of brandy, gave an infernal appearance to the scene. There was everything to drive me back, nothing to excite sympathy in a rude tumult of the senses, which I foresaw would end in a gross debauch. What was to be done? No bed was to be had, or even a quiet corner to retire to for a moment; all was lost in noise, riot, and confusion.
After some debating they promised me horses, which were to go on to Uddervalla, two stages. I requested something to eat first, not having dined; and the hostess, whom I have mentioned to you before as knowing how to take care of herself, brought me a plate of fish, for which she charged a rix-dollar and a half. This was making hay whilst the sun shone. I was glad to get out of the uproar, though not disposed to travel in an incommodious open carriage all night, had I thought that there was any chance of getting horses.
Quitting Quistram I met a number of joyous groups, and though the evening was fresh many were stretched on the grass like weary cattle; and drunken men had fallen by the road-side. On a rock, under the shade of lofty trees, a large party of men and women had lighted a fire, cutting down fuel around to keep it alive all night. They were drinking, smoking, and laughing with all their might and main. I felt for the trees whose torn branches strewed the ground. Hapless nymphs! your haunts, I fear, were polluted by many an unhallowed flame, the casual burst of the moment!
The horses went on very well; but when we drew near the post-house the postillion stopped short and neither threats nor promises could prevail on him to go forward. He even began to howl and weep when I insisted on his keeping his word. Nothing, indeed, can equal the stupid obstinacy of some of these half-alive beings, who seem to have been made by Prometheus when the fire he stole from Heaven was so exhausted that he could only spare a spark to give life, not animation, to the inert clay.
It was some time before we could rouse anybody; and, as I expected, horses, we were told, could not be had in less than four or five hours. I again attempted to bribe the churlish brute who brought us there, but I discovered that, in spite of the courteous hostess's promises, he had received orders not to go any father.
As there was no remedy I entered, and was almost driven back by the stench--a softer phrase would not have conveyed an idea of the hot vapour that issued from an apartment in which some eight or ten people were sleeping, not to reckon the cats and dogs stretched on the floor. Two or three of the men or women were on the benches, others on old chests; and one figure started half out of a trunk to look at me, whom might have taken for a ghost, had the chemise been white, to contrast with the sallow visage. But the costume of apparitions not being preserved I passed, nothing dreading, excepting the effluvia, warily amongst the pots, pans, milk-pails, and washing-tubs. After scaling a ruinous staircase I was shown a bed-chamber. The bed did not invite me to enter; opening, therefore, the window, and taking some clean towels out of my night- sack, I spread them over the coverlid, on which tired Nature found repose, in spite of the previous disgust.
With the grey of the morn the birds awoke me; and descending to inquire for the horses, I hastened through the apartment I have already described, not wishing to associate the idea of a pigstye with that of a human dwelling.
I do not now wonder that the girls lose their fine complexions at such an early age, or that love here is merely an appetite to fulfil the main design of Nature, never enlivened by either affection or sentiment.