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EVERYBODY knows, in a general way, that the finest place in the worldis -- or, alas, was -- the Dutch borough of Vondervotteimittiss. Yetas it lies some distance from any of the main roads, being in asomewhat out-of-the-way situation, there are perhaps very few of myreaders who have ever paid it a visit. For the benefit of those whohave not, therefore, it will be only proper that I should enter intosome account of it. And this is indeed the more necessary, as withthe hope of enlisting public sympathy in behalf of the inhabitants, Idesign here to give a history of the calamitous events which have solately occurred within its limits. No one who knows me will doubtthat the duty thus self-imposed will be executed to the best of myability, with all that rigid impartiality, all that cautiousexamination into facts, and diligent collation of authorities, whichshould ever distinguish him who aspires to the title of historian.

By the united aid of medals, manuscripts, and inscriptions, I amenabled to say, positively, that the borough of Vondervotteimittisshas existed, from its origin, in precisely the same condition whichit at present preserves. Of the date of this origin, however, Igrieve that I can only speak with that species of indefinitedefiniteness which mathematicians are, at times, forced to put upwith in certain algebraic formulae. The date, I may thus say, inregard to the remoteness of its antiquity, cannot be less than anyassignable quantity whatsoever.

Touching the derivation of the name Vondervotteimittiss, I confessmyself, with sorrow, equally at fault. Among a multitude of opinionsupon this delicate point- some acute, some learned, some sufficientlythe reverse -- I am able to select nothing which ought to beconsidered satisfactory. Perhaps the idea of Grogswigg- nearlycoincident with that of Kroutaplenttey -- is to be cautiouslypreferred. -- It runs: -- Vondervotteimittis -- Vonder, lege Donder-- Votteimittis, quasi und Bleitziz- Bleitziz obsol: -- pro Blitzen.'This derivative, to say the truth, is still countenanced by sometraces of the electric fluid evident on the summit of the steeple ofthe House of the Town-Council. I do not choose, however, to commitmyself on a theme of such importance, and must refer the readerdesirous of information to the 'Oratiunculae de RebusPraeter-Veteris,' of Dundergutz. See, also, Blunderbuzzard 'DeDerivationibus,' pp. 27 to 5010, Folio, Gothic edit., Red and Blackcharacter, Catch-word and No Cypher; wherein consult, also, marginalnotes in the autograph of Stuffundpuff, with the Sub-Commentaries ofGruntundguzzell.

Notwithstanding the obscurity which thus envelops the date of thefoundation of Vondervotteimittis, and the derivation of its name,there can be no doubt, as I said before, that it has always existedas we find it at this epoch. The oldest man in the borough canremember not the slightest difference in the appearance of anyportion of it; and, indeed, the very suggestion of such a possibilityis considered an insult. The site of the village is in a perfectlycircular valley, about a quarter of a mile in circumference, andentirely surrounded by gentle hills, over whose summit the peoplehave never yet ventured to pass. For this they assign the very goodreason that they do not believe there is anything at all on the otherside.

Round the skirts of the valley (which is quite level, and pavedthroughout with flat tiles), extends a continuous row of sixty littlehouses. These, having their backs on the hills, must look, of course,to the centre of the plain, which is just sixty yards from the frontdoor of each dwelling. Every house has a small garden before it, witha circular path, a sun-dial, and twenty-four cabbages. The buildingsthemselves are so precisely alike, that one can in no manner bedistinguished from the other. Owing to the vast antiquity, the styleof architecture is somewhat odd, but it is not for that reason theless strikingly picturesque. They are fashioned of hard-burned littlebricks, red, with black ends, so that the walls look like achess-board upon a great scale. The gables are turned to the front,and there are cornices, as big as all the rest of the house, over theeaves and over the main doors. The windows are narrow and deep, withvery tiny panes and a great deal of sash. On the roof is a vastquantity of tiles with long curly ears. The woodwork, throughout, isof a dark hue and there is much carving about it, with but a triflingvariety of pattern for, time out of mind, the carvers ofVondervotteimittiss have never been able to carve more than twoobjects -- a time-piece and a cabbage. But these they do exceedinglywell, and intersperse them, with singular ingenuity, wherever theyfind room for the chisel.

The dwellings are as much alike inside as out, and the furniture isall upon one plan. The floors are of square tiles, the chairs andtables of black-looking wood with thin crooked legs and puppy feet.The mantelpieces are wide and high, and have not only time-pieces andcabbages sculptured over the front, but a real time-piece, whichmakes a prodigious ticking, on the top in the middle, with aflower-pot containing a cabbage standing on each extremity by way ofoutrider. Between each cabbage and the time-piece, again, is a littleChina man having a large stomach with a great round hole in it,through which is seen the dial-plate of a watch.

The fireplaces are large and deep, with fierce crooked-lookingfire-dogs. There is constantly a rousing fire, and a huge pot overit, full of sauer-kraut and pork, to which the good woman of thehouse is always busy in attending. She is a little fat old lady, withblue eyes and a red face, and wears a huge cap like a sugar-loaf,ornamented with purple and yellow ribbons. Her dress is oforange-colored linsey-woolsey, made very full behind and very shortin the waist -- and indeed very short in other respects, not reachingbelow the middle of her leg. This is somewhat thick, and so are herankles, but she has a fine pair of green stockings to cover them. Hershoes -- of pink leather -- are fastened each with a bunch of yellowribbons puckered up in the shape of a cabbage. In her left hand shehas a little heavy Dutch watch; in her right she wields a ladle forthe sauerkraut and pork. By her side there stands a fat tabby cat,with a gilt toy-repeater tied to its tail, which 'the boys' havethere fastened by way of a quiz.

The boys themselves are, all three of them, in the garden attendingthe pig. They are each two feet in height. They have three-corneredcocked hats, purple waistcoats reaching down to their thighs,buckskin knee-breeches, red stockings, heavy shoes with big silverbuckles, long surtout coats with large buttons of mother-of-pearl.Each, too, has a pipe in his mouth, and a little dumpy watch in hisright hand. He takes a puff and a look, and then a look and a puff.The pig- which is corpulent and lazy -- is occupied now in picking upthe stray leaves that fall from the cabbages, and now in giving akick behind at the gilt repeater, which the urchins have also tied tohis tail in order to make him look as handsome as the cat.

Right at the front door, in a high-backed leather-bottomed armedchair, with crooked legs and puppy feet like the tables, is seatedthe old man of the house himself. He is an exceedingly puffy littleold gentleman, with big circular eyes and a huge double chin. Hisdress resembles that of the boys -- and I need say nothing fartherabout it. All the difference is, that his pipe is somewhat biggerthan theirs and he can make a greater smoke. Like them, he has awatch, but he carries his watch in his pocket. To say the truth, hehas something of more importance than a watch to attend to -- andwhat that is, I shall presently explain. He sits with his right legupon his left knee, wears a grave countenance, and always keeps oneof his eyes, at least, resolutely bent upon a certain remarkableobject in the centre of the plain.

This object is situated in the steeple of the House of the TownCouncil. The Town Council are all very little, round, oily,intelligent men, with big saucer eyes and fat double chins, and havetheir coats much longer and their shoe-buckles much bigger than theordinary inhabitants of Vondervotteimittiss. Since my sojourn in theborough, they have had several special meetings, and have adoptedthese three important resolutions:

'That it is wrong to alter the good old course of things:'

'That there is nothing tolerable out of Vondervotteimittiss:' and-

'That we will stick by our clocks and our cabbages.'

Above the session-room of the Council is the steeple, and in thesteeple is the belfry, where exists, and has existed time out ofmind, the pride and wonder of the village -- the great clock of theborough of Vondervotteimittiss. And this is the object to which theeyes of the old gentlemen are turned who sit in the leather-bottomedarm-chairs.

The great clock has seven faces -- one in each of the seven sides ofthe steeple -- so that it can be readily seen from all quarters. Itsfaces are large and white, and its hands heavy and black. There is abelfry-man whose sole duty is to attend to it; but this duty is themost perfect of sinecures -- for the clock of Vondervotteimittis wasnever yet known to have anything the matter with it. Until lately,the bare supposition of such a thing was considered heretical. Fromthe remotest period of antiquity to which the archives havereference, the hours have been regularly struck by the big bell. And,indeed the case was just the same with all the other clocks andwatches in the borough. Never was such a place for keeping the truetime. When the large clapper thought proper to say 'Twelve o'clock!'all its obedient followers opened their throats simultaneously, andresponded like a very echo. In short, the good burghers were fond oftheir sauer-kraut, but then they were proud of their clocks.

All people who hold sinecure offices are held in more or lessrespect, and as the belfry -- man of Vondervotteimittiss has the mostperfect of sinecures, he is the most perfectly respected of any manin the world. He is the chief dignitary of the borough, and the verypigs look up to him with a sentiment of reverence. His coat-tail isvery far longer -- his pipe, his shoe -- buckles, his eyes, and hisstomach, very far bigger -- than those of any other old gentleman inthe village; and as to his chin, it is not only double, but triple.

I have thus painted the happy estate of Vondervotteimittiss: alas,that so fair a picture should ever experience a reverse!

There has been long a saying among the wisest inhabitants, that 'nogood can come from over the hills'; and it really seemed that thewords had in them something of the spirit of prophecy. It wanted fiveminutes of noon, on the day before yesterday, when there appeared avery odd-looking object on the summit of the ridge of the eastward.Such an occurrence, of course, attracted universal attention, andevery little old gentleman who sat in a leather-bottomed arm-chairturned one of his eyes with a stare of dismay upon the phenomenon,still keeping the other upon the clock in the steeple.

The

By the time that it wanted only three minutes to noon, the drollobject in question was perceived to be a very diminutiveforeign-looking young man. He descended the hills at a great rate, sothat every body had soon a good look at him. He was really the mostfinicky little personage that had ever been seen inVondervotteimittiss. His countenance was of a dark snuff-color, andhe had a long hooked nose, pea eyes, a wide mouth, and an excellentset of teeth, which latter he seemed anxious of displaying, as he wasgrinning from ear to ear. What with mustachios and whiskers, therewas none of the rest of his face to be seen. His head was uncovered,and his hair neatly done up in papillotes. His dress was atight-fitting swallow-tailed black coat (from one of whose pocketsdangled a vast length of white handkerchief), black kerseymereknee-breeches, black stockings, and stumpy-looking pumps, with hugebunches of black satin ribbon for bows. Under one arm he carried ahuge chapeau-de-bras, and under the other a fiddle nearly five timesas big as himself. In his left hand was a gold snuff-box, from which,as he capered down the hill, cutting all manner of fantastic steps,he took snuff incessantly with an air of the greatest possibleself-satisfaction. God bless me! -- here was a sight for the honestburghers of Vondervotteimittiss!

To speak plainly, the fellow had, in spite of his grinning, anaudacious and sinister kind of face; and as he curvetted right intothe village, the old stumpy appearance of his pumps excited no littlesuspicion; and many a burgher who beheld him that day would havegiven a trifle for a peep beneath the white cambric handkerchiefwhich hung so obtrusively from the pocket of his swallow-tailed coat.But what mainly occasioned a righteous indignation was, that thescoundrelly popinjay, while he cut a fandango here, and a whirligigthere, did not seem to have the remotest idea in the world of such athing as keeping time in his steps.

The good people of the borough had scarcely a chance, however, to gettheir eyes thoroughly open, when, just as it wanted half a minute ofnoon, the rascal bounced, as I say, right into the midst of them;gave a chassez here, and a balancez there; and then, after apirouette and a pas-de-zephyr, pigeon-winged himself right up intothe belfry of the House of the Town Council, where thewonder-stricken belfry-man sat smoking in a state of dignity anddismay. But the little chap seized him at once by the nose; gave it aswing and a pull; clapped the big chapeau de-bras upon his head;knocked it down over his eyes and mouth; and then, lifting up the bigfiddle, beat him with it so long and so soundly, that what with thebelfry-man being so fat, and the fiddle being so hollow, you wouldhave sworn that there was a regiment of double-bass drummers allbeating the devil's tattoo up in the belfry of the steeple ofVondervotteimittiss.

There is no knowing to what desperate act of vengeance thisunprincipled attack might have aroused the inhabitants, but for theimportant fact that it now wanted only half a second of noon. Thebell was about to strike, and it was a matter of absolute andpre-eminent necessity that every body should look well at his watch.It was evident, however, that just at this moment the fellow in thesteeple was doing something that he had no business to do with theclock. But as it now began to strike, nobody had any time to attendto his manoeuvres, for they had all to count the strokes of the bellas it sounded.

'One!' said the clock.

'Von!' echoed every little old gentleman in every leather-bottomedarm-chair in Vondervotteimittiss. 'Von!' said his watch also; 'von!'said the watch of his vrow; and 'von!' said the watches of the boys,and the little gilt repeaters on the tails of the cat and pig.

'Two!' continued the big bell; and

'Doo!' repeated all the repeaters.

'Three! Four! Five! Six! Seven! Eight! Nine! Ten!' said the bell.

'Dree! Vour! Fibe! Sax! Seben! Aight! Noin! Den!' answered theothers.

'Eleven!' said the big one.

'Eleben!' assented the little ones.

'Twelve!' said the bell.

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'Dvelf!' they replied perfectly satisfied, and dropping their voices.

'Und dvelf it is!' said all the little old gentlemen, putting uptheir watches. But the big bell had not done with them yet.

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'Thirteen!' said he.

'Der Teufel!' gasped the little old gentlemen, turning pale, droppingtheir pipes, and putting down all their right legs from over theirleft knees.

'Der Teufel!' groaned they, 'Dirteen! Dirteen!! -- Mein Gott, it isDirteen o'clock!!'

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Why attempt to describe the terrible scene which ensued? AllVondervotteimittiss flew at once into a lamentable state of uproar.

'Vot is cum'd to mein pelly?' roared all the boys -- 'I've been ongryfor dis hour!'

'Vot is com'd to mein kraut?' screamed all the vrows, 'It has beendone to rags for this hour!'

'Vot is cum'd to mein pipe?' swore all the little old gentlemen,'Donder and Blitzen; it has been smoked out for dis hour!' -- andthey filled them up again in a great rage, and sinking back in theirarm-chairs, puffed away so fast and so fiercely that the whole valleywas immediately filled with impenetrable smoke.

Meantime the cabbages all turned very red in the face, and it seemedas if old Nick himself had taken possession of every thing in theshape of a timepiece. The clocks carved upon the furniture took todancing as if bewitched, while those upon the mantel-pieces couldscarcely contain themselves for fury, and kept such a continualstriking of thirteen, and such a frisking and wriggling of theirpendulums as was really horrible to see. But, worse than all, neitherthe cats nor the pigs could put up any longer with the behavior ofthe little repeaters tied to their tails, and resented it byscampering all over the place, scratching and poking, and squeakingand screeching, and caterwauling and squalling, and flying into thefaces, and running under the petticoats of the people, and creatingaltogether the most abominable din and confusion which it is possiblefor a reasonable person to conceive. And to make matters still moredistressing, the rascally little scape-grace in the steeple wasevidently exerting himself to the utmost. Every now and then onemight catch a glimpse of the scoundrel through the smoke. There hesat in the belfry upon the belfry-man, who was lying flat upon hisback. In his teeth the villain held the bell-rope, which he keptjerking about with his head, raising such a clatter that my ears ringagain even to think of it. On his lap lay the big fiddle, at which hewas scraping, out of all time and tune, with both hands, making agreat show, the nincompoop! of playing 'Judy O'Flannagan and PaddyO'Rafferty.'

Affairs being thus miserably situated, I left the place in disgust,and now appeal for aid to all lovers of correct time and fine kraut.Let us proceed in a body to the borough, and restore the ancientorder of things in Vondervotteimittiss by ejecting that little fellowfrom the steeple.

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