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Jules Verne is almost synonymous with nineteenth-century science fiction. Who can forget Captain Nemo and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas or Robur of Master of the World? And what science fiction buff isn’t aware of A Journey to the Interior of the Earth or From the Earth to the Moon! But the French author wrote much more than science fiction! And not just Around the World in Eighty Days. Here is one of those “forgotten” works. Ticket No. “9672” is a fascinating tale of two women who live in a Norway Inn. Dame Hansen is a foolish creature whose mistakes must be dealt with by her daughter Hulda. Coming to their aid is their brother Joel and the remarkable Sylvius Hogg, who helps them all after the young Hansens rescue him from the edge of the Rjukanfos Waterfall. A rare delight from Verne’s pen, Ticket is a treat for all.
195 pages, with a reading time of ~ 3 hours (48,952 words), and first published in 1887. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2009.
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“What time is it?” inquired Dame Hansen, shaking the ashes from her pipe, the last curling rings from which were slowly disappearing between the stained rafters overhead.
“Eight o’clock, mother,” replied Hulda.
“It isn’t likely that any travelers will come to-night. The weather is too stormy.”
“I agree with you. At all events, the rooms are in readiness, and if any one comes, I shall be sure to hear them.”
“Has your brother returned?”
“Didn’t he say he would be back to-night?”
“No, mother. Joel went to take a traveler to Lake Tinn, and as he didn’t start until very late, I do not think he can get back to Dal before to-morrow.”
“Then he will spend the night at Moel, probably.”
“Yes; unless he should take it into his head to go on to Bamble to see Farmer Helmboe.”
“And his daughter Siegfrid.”
“Yes. Siegfrid, my best friend, whom I love like a sister!” replied the young girl, smiling.
“All, well, Hulda, shut up the house, and let’s go to bed.”
“You are not ill, are you, mother?”
“No; but I want to be up bright and early to-morrow morning. I must go to Moel.”
“Why, we must be laying in our stock of provisions for the coming summer, and–”
“And I suppose the agent from Christiania has come down with his wagon of wines and provisions.”
“Yes; Lengling, the foreman at the saw-mill, met him this afternoon, and informed me of the fact as he passed. We have very little left in the way of ham and smoked salmon, and I don’t want to run any risk of being caught with an empty larder. Tourists are likely to begin their excursions to the Telemark almost any day now; especially, if the weather should become settled, and our establishment must be in a condition to receive them. Do you realize that this is the fifteenth of April?”
“The fifteenth of April!” repeated the young girl, thoughtfully.
“Yes, so to-morrow I must attend to these matters,” continued Dame Hansen. “I can make all my purchases in two hours, and I will return with Joel in the kariol.”
“In case you should meet the postman, don’t forget to ask him if there is a letter for us–”
“And especially for you. That is quite likely, for it is a month since you heard from Ole.”
“Yes, a month–a whole month.”
“Still, you should not worry, child. The delay is not at all surprising. Besides, if the Moel postman has nothing for you, that which didn’t come by the way of Christiania may come by the way of Bergen, may it not?”
“Yes, mother,” replied Hulda. “But how can I help worrying, when I think how far it is from here to the Newfoundland fishing banks. The whole broad Atlantic to cross, while the weather continues so bad. It is almost a year since my poor Ole left me, and who can say when we shall see him again in Dal?”
“And whether we shall be here when he returns,” sighed Dame Hansen, but so softly that her daughter did not hear the words.
Hulda went to close the front door of the inn which stood on the Vesfjorddal road; but she did not take the trouble to turn the key in the lock. In hospitable Norway, such precautions are unnecessary. It is customary for travelers to enter these country inns either by night or by day without calling any one to open the door; and even the loneliest habitations are safe from the depredations of thieves or assassins, for no criminal attempts against life or property ever disturb the peace of this primitive land.
The mother and daughter occupied two front rooms on the second story of the inn–two neat and airy, though plainly furnished rooms. Above them, directly under the sloping roof, was Joel’s chamber, lighted by a window incased in a tastefully carved frame-work of pine.
From this window, the eye, after roaming over the grand mountain horizon, returned with delight to the narrow valley through which flowed the Maan, which is half river, half torrent.
A wooden staircase, with heavy balusters and highly polished steps, led from the lower hall to the floors above, and nothing could be more neat and attractive than the whole aspect of this establishment, in which the travelers found a comfort that is rare in Norwegian inns.
Hulda and her mother were in the habit of retiring early when they were alone, and Dame Hansen had already lighted her candle, and was on her way upstairs, when a loud knocking at the door made them both start.
“Dame Hansen! Dame Hansen!” cried a voice.
Dame Hansen paused on the stairs.
“Who can have come so late?” she exclaimed.
“Can it be that Joel has met with an accident?” returned Hulda, quickly.
And she hastened toward the door.
She found a lad there–one of the young rascals known as skydskarls, that make a living by clinging to the back of kariols, and taking the horse back when the journey is ended.
“What do you want here at this hour?” asked Hulda.
“First of all to bid you good-evening,” replied the boy, mischievously.
“Is that all?”