Sophie added, smiling, "You must stay!" To which the Kammerjunker replied with an apology for his travelling-dress.
"We are not strangers!" said the mother; "it is only a family meal! You see the usual circle. You, Mr. Thostrup," added she, with a most obliging manner, "I know so well from Wilhelm's letters, that we are no strangers. The gentlemen are acquainted with each other!"
"I accept the invitation," said the Kammerjunker, "and I will now show you into what a gallop I can put my steed! It is Carl Rise, [Translator's Note: Name of one of the heroes in Waldemar the Conqueror, a romance by Ingemann.] as you see, young lady—you called him so yourself!"
"Yes, ride forward," said Sophie, smiling. "By that means you will oblige my sister. She might otherwise be quite frightened, did she see such a mighty caravan approach the house, did she had not properly prepared the dinner-table."
"As my gracious young lady commands!" said the rider, and sprang forward.
The country became more woody; the road passed various small lakes, almost overgrown with water-lilies and shaded by old trees; the old-fashioned, indented gable-ends of the hall now peeped forth. They drove through an avenue of wild chestnut-trees; the stone pavement here threatened to smash the carriage axles. On the right lay the forge, through the open door of which flew the sparks. A little girl, with bare feet, opened a gate, and they now found themselves in a large open space before the red-painted out-buildings. The ground was covered with straw, and all the cows of the farm were collected here for milking. Here they were obliged to drive, step by step, until by the gateway they reached the larger courtyard, which was inclosed by the barns and the principal building itself. This was surrounded by broad ditches, almost grown over with reeds. Over a solid bridge, resting upon pillars of masonry, and through a principal wing which bore the armorial bearings and initials of the old possessor, they arrived in the innermost court, which was shut in by three wings, the antique one already mentioned, and two others: the fourth side was inclosed by a low trellis-work which adjoined the garden, where the canals lost themselves in a small lake.
"That is an interesting old court!" exclaimed Otto.
"O, that is not to be compared with the Kammerjunker's!" returned Wilhelm: "you should first see his!"
"Yes, you must come over some of these days," said the Kammerjunker. "Silence, Fingal! Silence, Valdine!" cried he to the barking dogs. A couple of turkey-cocks spread their feathers out, and gobbled with all their might. Men and women servants stood at the door: that was their reception!
"Thostrup will have the red room, will he not?" said Wilhelm, and the friends ascended the stairs together.
A pale young girl, not free from freckles, but with eyes full of soul, hastened toward them; this was Wilhelm's youngest sister. She pressed her brother to her breast, and took Otto's hand with kindness. She is not beautiful! was the first impression she made upon him. His chamber was vaulted, and the walls painted in the style of Gobelin tapestry; they represented the whole of Olympus. On the left was an old fire-place, with decorations and a gilt inscription; on the right stood an antiquated canopy-bed, with red damask hangings. The view was confined to the moat and the interior court. But a few minutes and Otto and Wilhelm were summoned to table. A long gallery through two wings of the hall, on one side windows, on the other entrances to the rooms, led to the dining-room. The whole long passage was a picture-gallery. Portraits the size of life, representing noble knights and ladies shining forth in red powdered periwigs, children adorned like their elders, with tulips in their hands, and great hounds by their sides, together with some historical pieces, decorated the walls.
"Have we no garland on the table?" asked Sophie, as she entered the dining-room with the others.
"Only a weak attempt to imitate my sister!" said Louise, smiling.
"But there is not a single flower in the garland! What economy! And yet it is sweet!"
"How tasteful!" exclaimed Otto, examining the garland which Louise had laid.
All kinds of green leaves, with their innumerable shades, a few yellow linden-leaves, and some from the copper-beech, formed, through their varied forms and colors, a tasteful garland upon the white table-cloth.
"You receive a thistle and a withered leaf!" whispered Wilhelm, as Otto seated himself.
"But yet the most beautiful!" answered he. "The copper beech contrasts so sweetly with the whitish-green thistle and the yellow leaf."
"My sister Sophie," said Louise, "lays us each day a different garland;—it is such a pretty decoration! If she is not here we get none; that would have been the case to-day, but when I learned that Wilhelm was coming, and that we," she added, with a friendly glance, "should have two other guests, I in great haste, made an attempt, and"—
"And wished to show how nicely it could be made without robbing your flowers!" interrupted Sophie, laughing. "In reality, I am very cruel! I cut all the heads of her favorites off. To-morrow, as a parody upon her garland of to-day, will I make one of green cabbage and pea-shells!"
"Madeira or port wine?" asked the Kammerjunker, and led the conversation from flowers to articles of food and drink.
"One feels one's self comfortable here at the hall! Miss Louise cares for the body, and Miss Sophie for the soul!"
"And mamma bestows a good cup of coffee," said the mother; "you must also praise me a little!"
"I give music after dinner!" cried Wilhelm; "and thus the whole family will have shown their activity!"
"But no voluntaries!" said the Kammerjunker; "no voluntaries, dear friend! No, a brisk song, so that one can hear what it is! but none of your artificial things!" A right proper blow on the shoulders was intended to soften his expression.
"She sees if the cloth is clean and white —If the bed has pillows and sheets; If the candle fits in the candlestick....
"Modest she is, although you know She makes the whole of the place; And in she slips in the evening glow, To light the room with her merry face "—OEHLENSCHLAeGER
A quiet, busy house-fairy was Louise; the beautiful, fragrant flowers were her favorites. Good-humoredly she smiled at the raillery of her sister, quietly listened to each thoughtless jest; but if any one, in joke, touched upon what was holy to her soul, she was aroused from her calmness and attained a certain eloquence.
We will now become more nearly acquainted with the sisters, and on this account pass over to one of the following days.
An abode together of a week, at a country-seat, will often bring about a greater intimacy than if, throughout a whole winter, people had met in large companies in cities. Otto soon felt himself at home; he was treated as a near relative. Wilhelm related all he knew of the beautiful Eva, and Sophie discovered that she was a romantic character. Mamma pitied the poor child, and Louise wished she had her on the estate: an inn was, after all, no proper place for a respectable girl. They then spoke of the winter enjoyments in Copenhagen, of art, and the theatre. Louise could not speak much with them upon these subjects, although she had seen one play, "Dyveke:" the amiable nature of the actress had spoken deeply to her heart.
Several days had passed; the sky was gray; the young people assembled round the table; they were at no loss for a subject of conversation. All those who have brothers or sons who study well, have remarked how much they are especially fascinated by the lectures on natural philosophy and astronomy; the world, as it were, expands itself before the intellectual eye. We know that the friends, during the past summer, had participated in these lectures, and, like the greater number, were full of these subjects, from the contemplation of a drop of water, with its innumerable animalculae, to the distance and magnitude of stars and planets.
To most of us these are well-known doctrines; to the ladies, also, this was nothing entirely new: nevertheless, it interested them; perhaps partly owing to Otto's beautiful eloquence. The gray, rainy weather led the conversation to the physical explanation of the origin of our globe, as the friends, from Orsted's lectures, conceived it to have been.
"The Northern and Grecian myths agree also with it!" sail Otto. "We must imagine, that in infinite space there floated an eternal, unending mist, in which lay a power of attraction. The mist condensed itself now to one drop—our globe was one enormous egg-shaped drop; light and warmth operated upon this huge world egg, and hatched, not alone ONE creature, but millions. These must die and give way to new ones, but their corpses fell as dust to the centre: this grew; the water itself condensed, and soon arose a point above the expanse of ocean. The warmth of the sun developed moss and plants; fresh islands presented themselves; for centuries did a more powerful development and improvement show themselves, until the perfection was attained which we now perceive!"
"But the Bible does not teach us thus!" said Louise.
"Moses invented his account of the creation," answered Otto; "we keep to Nature, who has greater revelations than man."
"But the Bible is to you a holy book?" asked Louise, and colored.
"A venerable book!" returned Otto. "It contains the profoundest doctrines, the most interesting histories, but also much which belongs not at all to a holy book."
"How can you say such things?" exclaimed Louise.
"Do not touch upon religion in her presence," said Sophie; "she is a pious soul, and believes, without desiring to know wherefore."
"Yes," said Wilhelm, "this winter she became quite angry, and, as I believe, for the first time angry with me, because I maintained that Christ was a man."
"Wilhelm!" interrupted the young girl, "do not speak of that; I feel myself unhappy at this thought; I can and will not see the Holy brought down to my level, and to that of every-day life. It lies in my nature that I commit a sin if I think otherwise than I have learned and than my heart allows me. It is profane, and if you speak longer of religion in this strain I shall leave the room."
At this moment the mother entered. "The festival has commenced," said she; "I have been forced to give my brightest silver skilling. Does Mr. Thostrup know the old custom which is observed here in the country, when beer is brewed for the mowing-feast?"
A piercing cry, as from a horde of savages, at this moment reached the ears of the party.
The friends descended.
In the middle of the brew-house stood a tub, around which danced all the female servants of the estate, from the dairymaids down to the girl who tended the swine; their iron-bound wooden shoes dashed against the uneven flag-stones. The greater number of the dancers were without their jackets, but with their long chemise-sleeves and narrow bodices. Some screamed, others laughed, the whole was blended together in a howl, whilst they danced hand in hand around the tub in which the beer should be brewed. The brewing-maid now flung into it the silver skilling, upon which the girls, like wild Maenades, tore off each other's caps, and with bacchanalian wildness whirled round the tub. By this means should the beer become stronger, and work more intoxicatingly at the approaching mowing-feast.
Among the girls, one especially distinguished herself by her Strong frame of body, and her long black hair, which, now that her cap was torn off, hung in disorder over her red face. The dark eyebrows were grown together. All seemed to rage most violently within her, and in truth she assumed something wild, nay almost brutal. Both arms she raised high in the air, and with outstretched fingers she whirled around.
"That is disgusting!" whispered Otto: "they all look like crazy people."
Wilhelm laughed at it. The wild merriment was lost in a joyous burst of laughter. The girl with the grown-together eyebrows let fall her arms; but still there lay in her glance that wild expression, which the loose hair and uncovered shoulders made still more striking. Either one of the others had had the misfortune to scratch her lip, or else she herself had bitten it in bacchanalian wildness until it bled: she accidentally glanced toward the open door where stood the friends. Otto's countenance became clouded, as was ever the case when anything unpleasant affected him. She seemed to guess his thoughts, and laughed aloud. Otto stepped aside; it was as though he in anticipation felt the shadow which this form would one day cast across his life.
When he and Wilhelm immediately afterward returned to Sophie and Louise, he related the unpleasant impression which the girl had made upon him.
"O, that is my Meg Merrilies!" exclaimed Sophie. "Yes, spite of her youth, do you not find that she has something of Sir Walter Scott's witch about her? When she grows older, she will be excellent. She has the appearance of being thirty, whereas she is said not to be more than twenty years old: she is a true giantess."
"The poor thing!" said Louise; "every one judges from the exterior. All who are around her hate her, I believe, because her eyebrows are grown together, and that is said to be a sign that she is a nightmare:
[Note: This superstition of the people is mentioned in Thieles's Danish traditions: "When a girl at midnight stretches between four sticks the membrane in which the foal lies when it is born, and then creeps naked through it, she will bear her child without pains; but all the boys she conceives will become were-wolves, and all the girls nightmares. You will know them in the daytime by their eyebrows grown together over the nose. In the night she creeps in through the key-hole, and places herself upon the sleeper's bosom. The same superstition is also found in German Grimm speaks thus about it: If you say to the nightmare,—
Old hag, come to-morrow, And I from you will borrow,
it retreats directly, and comes the next morning in the shape of a man to borrow something."]
they are angry with her, and how could one expect, from the class to which she belongs, that she should return scorn with kindness? She is become savage, that she may not feel their neglect. In a few days, when we have the mowing-feast, you yourself will see how every girl gets a partner; but poor Sidsel may adorn herself as much as she likes, she still stands alone. It is truly hard to be born such a being!"
"The unfortunate girl!" sighed Otto.
"O, she does not feel it!" said Wilhelm: "she cannot feel it; for that she is too rude, too much of an animal."
"Were the pease not tender, and the vegetables fresh and sweet as sugar What was the matter with the hams, the smoked goose-breasts, and the herrings? What with the roasted lamb, and the refreshing red-sprinkled head-lettuce? Was not the vinegar sharp, and the nut-oil balmy? Was not the butter as sweet as a nut, the red radishes tender? What?"—VOSS'S Louise.
"Mr. Thostrup shall see the Kammerjunker's old country-seat; to-morrow we must go over."
Louise could not go with them, a hundred small duties chained her to the house. The most important of them all was ironing.
"But that the house-maid can do," said Sophie. "Do come with us."
"When thou seest thy linen nice and neat in thy drawers," returned Louise, "thou wilt certainly pardon me for remaining at home."
"Yes, thou art a glorious girl!" said Sophie; "thou dost deserve to have been known by Jean Paul, and made immortal in one of his books. Thou dost deserve the good fortune of being sung of by such a poet."
"Dost thou call it good fortune," answered the sister, "when the whole world directs its attention to one person?—that must be painful! unhappy! No, it is much better not to be remarked at all. Take my greetings with you, and ask for my Claudius back; they have had it now a whole half year."
"There, they have kept half my sister's library," said Sophie, smiling to Otto. "You must know she has only two books: Mynster's Sermons, and the 'Wandsbecker Boten.'"
The carriage rolled away through the chestnut avenue. "There upon the hill, close by the wood, did I act the elf-maiden," said Sophie. "I was not yet confirmed; there were strangers staying with us at the hall, and we wandered in the beautiful moonlight through the wood. Two of my friends and I hastened toward the hill, took hold of each other's hands and danced in a ring. The day after, two persons of the congregation told the preacher about three elfin-maidens, clad in white, who had danced upon the hill in the moonlight. The elfin-maidens were we; but that our backs were hollow as baking-troughs, and that the hill glanced like silver, was their own invention."
"And in this oak," exclaimed Wilhelm, "when a boy, I killed the first bird which fell from my shot. It was a crow, and was very honorably interred."
"Yes, beneath my sister's weeping-willow," said Sophie. "We buried it in an old chapeaubras, adorned with white bows; the grave was decorated with peony-leaves and yellow lilies. Wilhelm, who was then a big boy, made an oration, and Louise strewed flowers."
"You were little fools!" said the mother. "But see, who comes here?"
"O, my little Dickie, my dwarf of Kenilworth!" exclaimed Sophie, as a little hump-backed man, with thin legs and an old face, approached. He was dressed as a peasant, and bore upon his back a little knapsack of red calfskin, the hairy side turned outward: in this he carried his violin.
"Is he called Dickie?" asked Otto.
"No, that is only a joke of Sophie's," pursued Wilhelm; "she must always make suitable people romantic. He is called commonly 'Musikanti.' The inhabitant of Funen Italianizes most names; otherwise he is called Peter Cripple."
"You will hear his tones," said Sophie. "The day after to-morrow, when we have the mowing-feast, he will he number one. He understands music with which you are scarcely acquainted; he will play you the 'Shoemaker's Dance' as well as 'Cherry-soup:' such dances as these have people here in the country."
"We are now beyond my lands, and upon our neighbor's," said the old lady. "You will see a thorough old mansion."
"Now, I should like to know how the inhabitants will please Mr. Thostrup," said Sophie. "The Kammerjunker you know; he is an excellent country gentleman. His sister, on the contrary, is a little peculiar: she belongs to that class of people who always, even wily the best intentions, say unpleasant things. She has for this quite a rare talent—you will soon experience this; but she does not intend anything so bad. She can also joke! Thank God that you will not remain there over night, otherwise you would experience what she and the Mamsell can invent!"
"Yes, the Mamsell is my friend!" said Wilhelm. "You will see her work-box with all the curiosities. That little box plays a great part: it is always taken out with her when she pays a visit—for the sake of conversation it is brought out; all is then looked through, and every article goes the round of the company. Yes, there are beautiful things to be seen: a little wheelbarrow with a pincushion, a silver fish, and the little yard-measure of silk ribbon."
"Yes, and the amber heart!" said Sophie; "the little Napoleon of cast iron, and the officer who is pasted fast to the bottom of the box: that is a good friend in Odense, she lately told to me in confidence."
"See what beautiful stone fences the Kammerjunker has made!" said the mother. "And how beautifully the cherry-trees grow! He is an industrious man!"
They approached the garden. It was laid out in the old French style, with straight walks, pyramids of box, and white painted stone figures: satyrs and goddesses peeped through the green foliage. You now caught sight of a high tower with a spire; and soon the whole of the old mansion presented itself to view. The water was conveyed away from the broad moats, where the weeping willows with bowed heads and uncovered roots stood in the warm sunshine. A number of work-people were busily employed in clearing the moats of mud, which was wheeled in barrows on both sides.
They soon reached the principal court-yard. The barns and the out-buildings lay on the opposite side. A crowd of dogs rushed forth barking toward the carriage—all possible races, from the large Danish hound, which is known to the Parisian, down to the steward's little pug-dog, which had mixed with this company. Here stood the greyhound, with his long legs, beside the turnspit. You saw all varieties, and each had its peculiar and melodious bark. A couple of peacocks, with bright outspread tails, raised at the same time a cry, which must have made an impression. The whole court-yard had a striking air of cleanliness. The grass was weeded from between the stones; all was swept and arranged in its appointed order. Before the principal flight of steps grew four large lime-trees; their tops, from youth bent together and then clipped short, formed in spring and summer two large green triumphal arches. On the right stood upon an upright beam, which was carved and formed into a pillar, a prettily painted dove-cot; and its gay inhabitants fluttered and cooed around. The peacock-pigeon emulated the peacock in spreading its tail; and the cropper-pigeon elevated itself upon its long legs, and drew itself up, as though it would welcome the strangers with the air of a grand gentleman. The reddish-brown tiles and the bright window-panes were the only things which had a modern air. The building itself, from the stone window-seats to the old-fashioned tower through which you entered, proclaimed its antiquity. In the vaulted entrance-hall stood two immense presses: the quantity of wood which formed them, and the artistical carving, testified to their great age. Above the door were fastened a couple of antlers.
The Kammerjunker's sister, Miss Jakoba, a young lady of about thirty, neither stout nor thin, but with a strange mixture of joviality and indolence, approached them. She appeared to rejoice very much in the visit.
"Well, you are come over, then!" said she to Wilhelm. "I thought you had enough to do with your examination."
Wilhelm smiled, and assured her that after so much study people required relaxation.
"Yes, you doubtless study in handsome boots!" said the young lady, and in a friendly manner turned toward Sophie. "Good heavens, miss!" she exclaimed, "how the sun has burnt your nose! That looks horrible! Don't you ever wear a veil? you, who otherwise look so well!"
Otto was a stranger to her. He escaped such unpleasant remarks. "They should spend the whole day there," insisted Miss Jakoba; but mamma spoke of being at home by noon.
"Nothing will come of that!" said Jakoba. "I have expected you; and we have cooked a dinner, and made preparations, and I will not have had all this trouble in vain. There are some especial dishes for you, and of these you shall eat." This was all said in such a good-humored tone that even a stranger could not have felt himself offended. The Kammerjunker was in the fields looking after his flax; he would soon be back. Squire Wilhelm could in the mean time conduct Mr. Thostrup about the premises: "he would otherwise have nothing to do," said she.
No one must remain in the sitting-room; it was so gloomy there! The walls were still, as in by-gone days, covered with black leather, upon which were impressed gold flowers. No, they should go to the hall—that had been modernized since the Baroness was last there. The old chimney-piece with carved ornaments was removed, and a pretty porcelain stove had taken its place. The walls were covered with new paper from Paris. You could there contemplate all the public buildings of that city,—Notre Dame, Saint Sulpice, and the Tuileries. Long red curtains, thrown over gilt rods, hung above the high windows. All this splendor was admired.
"I prefer the antique sitting-room, after all," said Sophie; "the old chimney-piece and the leather hangings. One fairly lives again in the days of chivalry!"
"Yes, you have always been a little foolish!" said Jakoba, but softened her words by a smile and a pressure of the hand. "No, the hall is more lively. Ah!" she suddenly exclaimed; "Tine has placed her work-box in the window! That is disorder!"
"O, is that the celebrated work-box, with its many fool's tricks?" inquired Wilhelm, as he laughingly took it up.
"There are neither fools nor tricks in the box," said Jakoba. "But only look in the mirror in the lid, and then you will perhaps see one of the two."
"No rude speeches, my young lady!" said Wilhelm; "I am an academical burgher!"
The Kammerjunker now entered, attired in the same riding dress in which we made his acquaintance. He had visited his hay and oats, had seen after the people who were working at the fences, and had been also in the plantation. It had been a warm forenoon.
"Now, Miss Sophie," said he, "do you see how I am clearing out the court? It costs me above five hundred dollars; and still they are the peasants of the estate who clear away the mud. But I shall get a delicate manure-heap, so fit and rich that it's quite a pleasure. But, Jakoba, where is the coffee?"
"Only let it come in through the door," said Jakoba, somewhat angrily. "You certainly ate something before you went from home. Let me attend to the affairs of the ladies, and do thou attend to the gentlemen, so that they may not stand and get weary."
The Kammerjunker conducted the friends up the winding stone stairs into the old tower.
"All solid and good!" said he. "We no longer build in this manner. The loop-holes here, close under the roof, were walled up already in my father's time. But only notice this timber!"
The whole loft appeared a gigantic skeleton composed of beams, one crossing the other. On either side of the loft was a small vaulted chamber, with a brick fire-place. Probably these chambers had been used as guard-rooms; a kind of warder's walk led from these, between the beam-palisade and the broad wall.
"Yes, here," said the Kammerjunker, "they could have had a good lookout toward the enemy. Look through my telescope. You have here the whole country from Vissenberg to Munkebobanke, the Belt, and the heights of Svendborg. Only see! The air is clear. We see both Langeland and Zealand. Here one could, in 1807, have well observed the English fleet."
The three climbed up the narrow ladder and came past the great clock, the leaden weights of which, had they fallen, would have dashed through the stone steps, and soon the gentlemen sat on the highest point. The Kammerjunker requested the telescope, placed it and exclaimed:—
"Did I not think so? If one has not them always under one's eyes they begin playing pranks! Yes, I see it very well! There, now, the fellows who are working at the fences have begun to romp with the girls! they do nothing! Yes, they don't believe that I am sitting here in the tower and looking at them!"
"Then a telescope is, after all, a dangerous weapon!" exclaimed Wilhelm. "You can look at people when they least expect it. Fortunately, our seat lies hidden behind the wood: we are, at all events, safe."
"Yes, that it is, my friend," returned the other; "the outer sides of the garden are still bare. Did I not, last autumn, see Miss Sophie quite distinctly, when she was gathering service-berries in her little basket? And then, what tricks did she not play? She certainly did not think that I sat here and watched tier pretty gambols!"
They quitted the tower, and passed through the so-called Knight's Hall, where immense beams, laid one on the other, supported the roof. At either end of the hall was a huge fireplace, with armorial bearings painted above: the hall was now used as a granary; they were obliged to step over a heap of corn before reaching the family pew in the little chapel, which was no longer used for divine service.
"This might become a pretty little room," said the Kammerjunker, "but we have enough, and therefore we let this, for curiosity's sake, remain in its old state. The moon is worth its money!" and he pointed toward the vaulted ceiling, where the moon was represented as a white disk, in which the painter, with much naivete, had introduced a man bearing a load of coals upon his back; in faithful representation of the popular belief regarding the black spot in the moon, which supposes this to be a man whom the Lord has sent up there because he stole his neighbor's coal. "That great picture on the right, there," pursued he, "is Mrs. Ellen Marsviin; I purchased it at an auction. One of the peasants put up for it; I asked him what he would do with this big piece of furniture—he could never get it in through his door. But do you know what a speculation he had? It was not such a bad one, after all. See! the rain runs so beautifully off the painted canvas, he would have a pair of breeches made out of it, to wear in rainy weather behind the plough; they would keep the rain off! I thought, however, I ought to prevent the portrait of the highly honorable Mrs. Ellen Marsviin being so profaned. I bought it: now she hangs there, and looks tolerably well pleased. The peasant got a knight instead—perhaps one of my own ancestors, who was now cut up into breeches. See, that is what one gets by being painted!"
"But the cupboard in the pillar there?" inquired Otto.
"There, certainly, were Bibles and Prayer-books kept. Now I have in it what I call sweetmeats for the Chancery-counselor Thomsen: old knives of sacrifice, coins and rings, which I have found in the horse-pond and up yonder in the cairns: not a quarter of a yard below the turf we found one pot upon another; round each a little inclosure of stones—a flat stone as covering, and underneath stood the pot, with burnt giants' bones, and a little button or the blade of a knife. The best things are already gone away to Copenhagen, and should the Counselor come, he will, God help me! carry away the rest. That may be, then, willingly, for I cannot use the stuff, after all."
After coffee, the guests wandered through the old garden: the clearing away of the mud was more closely observed, the dairy and pig-sty visited, the new threshing-machine inspected. But now the Russian bath should be also essayed; "it was heated!" But the end of the affair was, that only the Kammerjunker himself made use of it. The dinner-table was prepared, and then he returned. "But here something is wanting!" exclaimed he; left the room, and returned immediately with two large bouquets, which he stuck into an ale-glass which he placed upon the table. "Where Miss Sophie dines, the table must be ornamented with flowers: certainly we cannot lay garlands, as you do!" He seated himself at the end of the table, and wished, as he himself said, to represent the President Lars: they had had the "Wandsbecker Boten" half a year in the house, and it would certainly please Miss Sophie if they betrayed some acquaintance with books. This Lars and the flowers, here, meant quite as much as in the south a serenade under the windows of the fair one.
When, toward evening, the carriage for their return drew up before the door, Otto still stood contemplating some old inscriptions which were built into the tower-wall.
"That you can look at another time," said Jakoba; "now you must be of use a little!" And she reached him the ladies' cloaks.
Amidst promises of a return visit and the parting yelping of the dogs the carriage rolled away.
"I have fairly fallen in love with the old place!" said Sophie.
"The Kaminerjunker gains much upon nearer acquaintance," said Otto.
They bad now reached the furthest extremity of the garden. A flower-rain showered itself over them and the carriage. The Kammerjunker, Jakoba, and the Mamsell, had taken a shorter way, and now waved an adieu to the travellers, whilst at the same time they scattered hyacinths and stocks over them. With a practiced hand Jakoba threw, as a mark of friendship, a great pink straight into Otto's face. "Farewell, farewell!" sounded from both sides, and, accompanied by the sound of the evening-bell from the near village, for it was sunset, the carriage rolled away.
"Dance and stamp Till the shoe-soles drop!" —Danish Popular Song.
On the following day should the much-talked-of mowing-festival take place. It was the hay-harvest which occasioned all this merriment. [Author's Note: It is true that serfdom is abolished, but the peasant is still not quite free; neither can he be so. For his house and land he must pay a tribute, and this consists in labor. His own work must give way to that of his lord. His wagon, which he has had prepared to bring home his own harvest, must, if such be commanded, go to the nobleman's land, and there render service. This is, therefore, a kind of tax which he pays, and for the faithful payment of which he is rewarded by a harvest and mowing-feast; at the latter he receives a certain quantity of brandy, and as much ale as he can drink. The dance generally takes place in the middle of the court-yard, and the dancers themselves must pay their musicians.]
During three afternoons in succession, in the inner court and under free heaven, should a ball be held. Along the walls, rough planks, laid upon logs of wood, formed a row of benches. At both ends of the court lay two barrels of the newly brewed ale, which had received more malt than usual, and which, besides, through the silver skilling, and the magic dance of the maidens round the tub, had acquired extraordinary strength. A large wooden tankard, containing several measures of brandy, stood upon a table; the man who watched the bleaching-ground was placed as a kind of butler to preside at this sideboard. A bread-woman, with new white bread from Nyborg upon her barrow, wheeled into the court, and there established her stall for every one; for it was only liquors the guests received gratis.
The guests now entered the court by pairs; the men, part in jackets, part in long coats which hung down to their ankles. Out of the waistcoat-pocket protruded a little nosegay of sweet-williams and musk. The girls carried their "posies," as they called them, in their neatly folded pocket-handkerchiefs. Two musicians—one quite a young blade, in a laced coat with a stiff cravat, mid the other the well-known Peter Cripple, "Musikanti" as he was called—led the procession. They both played one and the same piece, but each according to his own manner. It was both good and old.
They now began to draw lots, who should dance before the door of the family and who before that of the steward; after which the two parties drew lots for the musicians. The girls seated themselves in a row upon the bench, from whence they were chosen. The gallantry accorded with the ball-room,—the hard stone pavement. Not even had the grass been pulled up, but that would be all right after dancing there the first day. "Nay, why art thou sitting there?" spoken with a kind of morose friendliness, was the invitation to dance; and this served for seven dances. "Only don't be melancholy!" resounded from the company, and now the greater portion moved phlegmatically along, as if in sleep or in a forced dance: the girl with her eyes staring at her own feet, her partner with his head bent toward one side, and his eyes in a direct line with the girl's head-dress. A few of the most active exhibited, it is true, a kind of animation, by stamping so lustily upon the stone pavement that the dust whirled up around them. That was a joy! a joy which had occupied them many weeks, but as yet the joy had not reached its height; "but that will soon come!" said Wilhelm, who, with his sister and Otto, had taken his place at an open window.
The old people meanwhile kept to the ale-barrels, and the brandy. The latter was offered to the girls, and they were obliged, at least, to sip. Wilhelm soon discovered the prettiest, and threw them roses. The girls immediately sprang to the spot to collect the flowers: but the cavaliers also wished to have them, and they were the stronger; they, therefore, boldly pushed the ladies aside, so that some seated themselves on the stone pavement and got no roses: that was a merry bit of fun! "Thou art a foolish thing! It fell upon thy shoulder and thou couldst not catch it!" said the first lover to his lady, and stuck the rose into his waistcoat-pocket.
All got partners—all the girls; even the children, they leaped about to their own singing out upon the bridge. Only ONE stood forlorn,—Sidsel, with the grown-together eyebrows; she smiled, laughed aloud; no one would become her partner. Peter Cripple handed his violin to one of the young men and asked him to play, for he himself wished to stretch his legs a little. The girls drew back and talked with each other; but Peter Cripple stepped quietly forward toward Sidsel, flung his arms around her, and they danced a whirling dance. Sophie laughed aloud at it, but Sidsel directed her extraordinary glance maliciously and piercingly toward her. Otto saw it, and the girl was doubly revolting and frightful in his eyes. With the increasing darkness the assembly became more animated; the two parties of dancers were resolved into one. At length, when it was grown quite dark, the ale barrels become empty, the tankard again filled and once more emptied, the company withdrew in pairs, singing. Now commenced the first joy, the powerful operation of the ale. They now wandered through the wood, accompanying each other home, as they termed it; but this was a wandering until the bright morning.
Otto and Wilhelm were gone out into the avenue, and the peasants shouted to them a grateful "Good night!" for the merry afternoon.
"Now works the witchcraft!" said Wilhelm; "the magical power of the ale! Now begins the bacchand! Give your hand to the prettiest girl, and she will immediately give you her heart!"
"Pity," answered Otto, "that the Maenades of the north possess only that which is brutal in common with those of the south!"
"See, there goes the smith's pretty daughter, to whom I threw the best rose!" cried Wilhelm. "She has got two lovers, one under either arm!"
"Yes, there she goes!" simpered a female voice close to them. It was Sidsel, who sat upon the steps of a stile almost concealed in the darkness, which the trees and the hedge increased still more.
"Has Sidsel no lover?" asked Wilhelm.
"Hi, hi, hi," simpered she; "the Herr Baron and the other gentleman seek, doubtless, for a little bride. Am I beautiful enough? At night all cats are gray!"
"Come!" whispered Otto, and drew Wilhelm away from her. "She sits like some bird of ill omen there in the hedge."
"What a difference!" exclaimed Wilhelm, as he followed; "yes, what a difference between this monster, nay, between the other girls and Eva! She was, doubtless, born in the same poverty, in similar circumstances, and yet they are like day and night. What a soul has been given to Eva! what inborn nobility! It must be, really, more than a mere freak of Nature!"
"Only do not let Nature play her freaks with you!" said Otto, smiling, and raised his hand. "You speak often of Eva."
"Here it was association of ideas," answered Wilhelm. "The contrast awoke remembrance."
Otto entered his chamber—he opened the window; it was a moonlight night. From the near wood resounded laughter and song. They came from the young men and girls, who, on their wandering, gave themselves up to merriment. Otto stood silent and full of thought in the open window. Perhaps it was the moon which lent her paleness to his countenance. On what did he reflect? Upon his departure, perhaps? Only one more day would he remain here, where he felt himself so much at home; but then the journey was toward his own house, to his grandfather, to Rosalie, and the old preacher, who all thought so much of him. Otto stood listening and silent. The wind bore the song more distinctly over from the wood.
"That is their joy, their happiness!" said he. "It might have been my joy also, my happiness!" lay in the sigh which he heaved. His lips did not move, his thoughts alone spoke their silent language. "I might have stood on a level with these; my soul might have been chained to the dust, and yet it would have been the same which I now possess, with which I long to compass all worlds! the same, endowed with this sentiment of pride, which drives me on to active exertion. My fate wavered whether I should become one such as these or whether I should rise into that circle which the world calls the higher. The mist-form did not sink down into the mire, but rose above into the high refreshing air. And am I become happy through this?" His eye stared upon the bright disk of the moon. Two large tears rolled over his pale cheeks. "Infinite Omnipotence! I acknowledge Thy existence! Thou dost direct all; upon Thee will I depend!"
A melancholy smile passed over his lips; he stepped back into the chamber, folded his hands, prayed, and felt rest and peace.
"The travellers roll through the world of men, Like rose leaves in a stream. The past will ne'er come back again, But fade into a dream."—B. S. INGEMANN.
The following day, the last before Otto's departure, whilst he and Wilhelm were walking in the garden, Sophie approached them with a garland made of oak-leaves: this was intended for Otto; they were now really to lose him.
"Sophie will scarcely be up so early to-morrow morning," said Louise; "she is, therefore, obliged to present her garland to-day. I am never missing at the breakfast-table, as you well know; and I shall then bring my bouquet."
"I shall preserve both until we meet again," returned Otto; "they are vignettes to my beautiful summer-dream. When I again sit in Copenhagen, when the rain patters and the winter approaches with cold and a joyless sky, I shall still see before me Funen with its green woods, flowers, and sunshine; it will appear to me that it must still be so there, and that the garland and bouquet are only withered because they are with me in the winter cold."
"In Copenhagen we shall meet again!" said Sophie.
"And I shall see you again with the swallows!" said Louise, "when my flowers spring up again, when we have again warm summer days! As far as I am concerned, you belong to the summer, and not to the cold, calm winter."
Early on the following morning was Sophie, after all, at the breakfast table. That was to honor Otto. Mamma showed herself as the carriage was at the door. Wilhelm would accompany him as far as Odense. It was, therefore, a double leave taking, here and there.
"We will always remain friends, faithful friends!" said Wilhelm, when they parted.
"Faithful friends!" repeated Otto, and they rolled away toward Middelfart; thus far should mamma's own carriage convey the excellent Otto. Wilhelm remained behind in Odense; his coachman drove Otto, and they discoursed upon the way. They passed Vissenberg: the high, wooded hills there have received the name of the Funen Alps. The legend relates of robbers who had here deep passages underneath the high-road, where they hung bells which rang when any one passed above. The inhabitants are still looked upon with suspicion. Vissenberg appears a kind of Itri, between Copenhagen and Hamburg. [Author's Note: "Itri," Fra Diavolo's birthplace, lies in the Neapolitan States, on the highway between Rome and Naples. The inhabitants are not, without reason, suspected of carrying on the robber's trade.] Near the church there formerly lay a stone, on which Knud, the saint, is said to have rested himself when flying from the rebellious Jutlanders. In the stone remained the impression of where he had sat; the hard stone had been softer than the hearts of the rebellious people.
This, and similar legends, the coachman knew how to relate; he was born in this neighborhood, but not in Vissenberg itself, where they make the false notes. [Author's Note: A number of years ago a band of men were seized in Vissenberg who had forged bank-notes.] Every legend gains in interest when one hears it in the place with which it is connected. Funen is especially rich in such relations.
"That cairn elevates itself at Christmas upon four red posts, and one can then see the dance and merriment of the goblins within. Through that peasant's farm there drives every night a glowing coach, drawn by four coal-black horses. Where we now see a pond overgrown with reeds and roots there once stood a church, but it sank as the godless desecrated it; at midnight we still hear their sighs, and hymns of repentance."
It is true that the narrator mixed up together certain leg-ends which related to other places in the country—that he took little springs, and mingled his own thoughts with his relations; but Otto listened to him with great interest. The discourse turned also upon the family at the hall.
"Yes, they are very much liked!" said the coachman; "the gentleman may believe we know how to value them."
"And now, which of the young ladies is the best?" asked Otto.
"Yes, every one is best served by Miss Louise," returned the fellow.
"Miss Sophie is the prettiest," said Otto.
"Yes, she is also very good,—she belongs to the learned ones! She knows German, that she does! she can act comedy very excellently! I once got permission with the rest of the people to be up-stairs in the sitting-room—we stood behind the family; she did not manage her affairs at all badly."
However much the old legends interested Otto, it seemed as though he listened with more pleasure to the simple reasonings of the coachman upon the family who were become so dear to him. Words and thoughts were busied about the objects there. Wilhelm, however, was and still remained the dearest; he recollected with what mildness Wilhelm had stretched forth his hand in reconciliation, when he himself had thrust him from him. Already the happy summer days which he had spent at the country-seat, the whole visit, appeared a beautiful but short dream.
Otto felt an inward impulse to express his gratitude; his pride even, which was a fundamental feature of his character, commanded him to do this. Wilhelm's affection, his desire for a continued friendship, Otto thought he must reward; and on this account he added the following words to the few lines which he gave the coachman before his passage over the Little Belt:—
"Wilhelm, in future we will say thou to each other; that is more confidential!" "He is the first to whom I have given my thou," said Otto, when the letter was dispatched. "This will rejoice him: now, however, I myself have for once made an advance, but he deserves it."
A few moments later it troubled him. "I am a fool like the rest!" said he, and wished he could annihilate the paper. He was summoned on board. The Little Belt is only a river between the two countries; he soon found himself upon Jutland ground; the whip cracked, the wheels turned round, like the wheels of fortune, up and down, yet ever onward.
Late in the evening he arrived at an inn. From his solitary chamber his thoughts flew in opposite directions; now toward the solitary country-seat of his grandfather, among the sand-hills; now toward the animated mansion in Funen, where the new friends resided. He had opened his box and taken out what lay quite at the top, the garland of oak-leaves and the beautiful bouquet of flowers of this morning.
Most people maintain that one dreams at night of that which one has thought much about. According to this, Otto must have thought a deal about the North Sea, for of it he dreamed the whole night,—not of the young ladies.
"The heat-lark warbles forth his sepulchral melodies." S. S. BLICHER.
The peninsula of Jutland possesses nothing of the natural beauty which Zealand and Funen present—splendid beeches and odoriferous clover-fields in the neighborhood of the salt sea; it possesses at once a wild and desolate nature, in the heath-covered expanses and the far-stretching moors. East and west are different; like the green, sappy leaf, and grayish white sea-weed on the sea shore. From the Woods of Marselisborg to the woods south of Coldinger Fjord, is the land rich and blooming; it is the Danish Nature in her greatness. Here rises the Heaven Mountain, with its wilderness of coppice and heather; from here you gaze over the rich landscape, with its woods and lakes, as far down as the roaring Cattegat.
The western coast, on the contrary, lies without a tree, without bushes, with nothing but white sand-hills stretching along the roaring ocean, which scourges the melancholy coast with sand-storms and sharp winds. Between these contrasts, which the east and west coasts present, the Hesperides and Siberia, lies the vast heath which stretches itself from the Lyneborg sand to the Skagen's reef. No hedge shows here the limits of possession. Among the crossing tracks of carriage wheels must thou seek thy way. Crippled oaks, with whitish-green moss overgrown to the outermost branches, twist themselves along the ground, as if fearing storms and the sea-mist. Here, like a nomadic people, but without flocks, do the so-called Tartar bands wander up and down, with their peculiar language and peculiar ceremonies. Suddenly there shows itself in the interior of the heathy wilderness a colony—another, a strange people, German emigrants, who through industry compel the meagre country to fruitfulness.
From Veile, Otto wished to take the road through Viborg, as the most direct and the shortest to his grandfather's estate, which lay between Nisumfjord and Lemvig.
The first heath-bushes accosted him as dear friends of his childhood. The beautiful beech-woods lay behind him, the expanse of heath began; but the heath was dear to him: it was this landscape which formed the basis of many dear recollections.
The country became ever higher with brown heights, beyond which nothing was visible; houses and farms became more rare, the cherry orchards transformed themselves into cabbage-gardens. Only single spots were free from heather, and here grew grass, but short, and like moss or duckweed which grows upon ponds: here birds congregated by hundreds, and fluttered twittering into the air as the carriage drove past.
"You know where to find the green spot in the heath, and how to become happy through it," sighed Otto. "Could I only follow your example!"
At a greater distance rose bare hills, without ling or ploughed land; the prickly heath looked brown and yellow on the sharp declivities. A little boy and girl herded sheep by the way-side; the boy played the Pandean pipe, the little girl sang a psalm,—it was the best song which she knew how to sing to the traveller, in order to win a little present from him.
The day was warm and beautiful, but the evening brought the cold mist from the sea, which, however, in the interior of the country loses something of its power.
"That is a kiss of welcome from my home," said Otto; "the death-kiss of the mermaid! In Funen they call it the elf maiden."
Within the last few years a number of children have been sent from the Orphan Asylum to the heath, in order that, instead of Copenhagen rogues, they may become honest Jutland peasants. Otto had a boy of this description for his coachman. The lad was very contented, and yet Otto became low-spirited from his relation. Recollections from his own life stirred within his breast. "Return thanks to God," said he, and gave the lad a considerable present; "on the heath thou hast shelter and a home; in Copenhagen, perhaps, the sandy beach would have been thy nightly resting-place, hunger and cold the gifts which the day would bring thee."
The nearer he approached the west, the more serious became his frame of mind; it was as if the desolate scenery and cold sea-mist entered his soul. The pictures of the gay country-seat at Funen were supplanted by recollections of his home with his grandfather. He became more and more low-spirited. It was only when a single mile separated him from his home that the thought of surprising his dear friends conquered his melancholy.
He caught sight of the red roof of the house, saw the willow plantations, and heard the bark of the yard-dog. Upon the hillock before the gate stood a group of children. Otto could no longer endure the slow driving through the deep ruts. He sprang out of the carriage, and ran more than he walked. The children on the hillock became aware of him, and all looked toward the side from whence he came.
The slow driving, and his being absorbed in melancholy fancies, had relaxed his powerful frame; but now in one moment all his elasticity returned: his cheeks glowed, and his heart beat loudly.
From the court resounded singing—it was the singing of a psalm. He stepped through the gateway. A crowd of peasants stood with bared heads: before the door stood a carriage, some peasants were just raising a coffin into it. In the doorway stood the old preacher, and spoke with a man clad in black.
"Lord Jesus! who is dead?" were Otto's first words, and his countenance became pale like that of a corpse.
"Otto!" all exclaimed.
"Otto!" exclaimed also the old preacher, astonished; then seized his hand, and said gravely, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!"
"Let me see the face of the dead!" said Otto. Not a tear came to his eye; surprise and sorrow were too great.
"Shall I take out the screws?" inquired the man who had just screwed up the coffin.
"Let him sleep the eternal rest!" said the preacher.
Otto stared at the black coffin in which his grandfather lay. The carriage drove away with it. Otto followed after with the preacher, heard him throw earth upon it, heard words which he did not comprehend, saw the last corner of the coffin, and it was then removed from his sight. All was as a dream to him.
They returned back to the preacher's abode; a pale figure approached him: it was Rosalie—old Rosalie.
"We have here no abiding-place, we all hasten toward futurity!" said the old preacher. "Strengthen yourself now with meat and drink! The body cannot suffer like the soul. We have accompanied him to His sleeping chamber; his bed was well prepared! I have prayed the evening prayer; he sleeps in God, and will awaken to behold His glory. Amen!"
"Otto! thou dear Otto!" said Rosalie. "The bitterest day brings me this joy! How have I thought of thee! Amongst strangers shouldst thou receive the tidings of his death! with no one who could feel for thy sorrow! where thou shouldst see no eye weep for what thou hast lost! Now thou art here! now, when I believed thee so far distant—it is a miracle! Thou couldst only have received the letter to-day which carried the intelligence of thy grandfather's death to thee!"
"I wished to surprise you," said Otto. "A melancholy surprise awaited me!"
"Sit down, my child!" said the preacher, and drew him toward the covered table. "When the tree falls which gave us shade and fruit, from which we, in our own little garden, have planted shoots and sown seeds, we may well look on with sadness and feel our loss: but we must not forget our own garden, must not forget to cherish that which we have won from the fallen tree: we must not cease to live for the living! I miss, like you, the proud tree, which rejoiced my soul and my heart, but I know that it is planted in a better garden, where Christ is the gardener."
The preacher's invitation to remain with him, during his stay, in his house, Otto declined. Already this first night he wished to establish himself in his own little chamber in the house of mourning. Rosalie also would return.
"We have a deal to say to each other," said the old preacher, and laid his hand upon Otto's shoulder. "Next summer you will hardly press my hand, it will be pressed by the turf."
"To-morrow I will come to you," said Otto, and drove back with the old Rosalie to the house.
The domestics kissed the hand and coat of the young master—he wished to prevent this; the old woman wept. Otto stepped into the room; here had stood the corpse, on account of which the furniture had been removed, and the void was all the more affecting. The long white mourning curtains fluttered in tire wind before the open window. Rosalie led him by the hand into the little sleeping-room where the grandfather had died. Here everything yet stood as formerly—the large book case, with the glass doors, behind which the intellectual treasure was preserved: Wieland and Fielding, Millot's "History of the World," and Von der Hagen's "Narrenbuch," occupied the principal place: these books had been those most read by the old gentleman. Here was also Otto's earliest intellectual food, Albertus Julius, the English "Spectator," and Evald's writings. Upon the wall hung pikes and pistols, and a large old sabre, which the grandfather had once worn. Upon the table beneath the mirror stood an hour-glass; the sand had run out. Rosalie pointed toward the bed. "There he died," said she, "between six and seven o'clock in the evening. He was only ill three days; the two last he passed in delirium: he raised himself in bed, and shook the bed posts; I was obliged to let two strong men watch beside him. 'To horse! to horse!' said he; 'the cannons forward!' His brain dreamed of war and battles. He also spoke of your blessed father severely and bitterly! Every word was like the stab of a knife; he was as severe toward him as ever!"
"And did the people understand his words?" asked Otto with a wrinkled brow.
"No, for the uninitiated they were dark words; and even had they possessed any meaning, the men would have believed it was the sickness which spoke out of him. 'There stands the mother with the two children! The one shall fall upon the flank of the enemy and bring me honor and joy. The mother and daughter I know not!' That was all which I heard him say about you and your mother and sister. By noon on the third day the fever had spent itself; the strong, gloomy man was become as weak and gentle as a child; I sat beside his bed. 'If I had only Otto here!' said he. 'I have been severely attacked, Rosalie, but I am now much better: I will go to sleep; that strengthens one.' Smilingly he closed his eyes and lay quite still: I read my prayers, withdrew gently so as not to wake him; he lay there unchanged when I returned. I sat a little while beside his bed; his hands lay upon the coverlid; I touched them, they were ice-cold. I was frightened, touched his brow, his face—he was dead! he had died without a death-struggle!"
For a long time did they converse about the dead man; it was near midnight when Otto ascended the narrow stairs which led to the little chamber in the roof, where as child and boy he had slept. All stood here as it had done the year before, only in nicer order. Upon the wall hung the black painted target, near to the centre of which he had once shot. His skates lay upon the chest of drawers, near to the nodding plaster figure. The long journey, and the overpowering surprise which awaited him on his return, had strongly affected him: he opened the window; a large white sand-hill rose like a wall straight up before it, and deprived him of all view. How often, when a child, had the furrows made by rain in the sand, and the detached pieces, presented to him pictures,—towns, towers, and whole marching armies. Now it was only a white wall, which reminded him of a winding-sheet. A small streak of the blue sky was visible between the house and the steep slope of the hill. Never before had Otto felt, never before reflected, what it was to stand alone in the world, to be lovingly bound to no one with the band of consanguinity.
"Solitary, as in this silent night do I stand in the world! solitary in the mighty crowd of human beings! Only ONE being can I call mine! only ONE being press as kindred to my heart! And I shudder at the thought of meeting with this being—I should bless the thought that she was dead! Father! thou didst ruin one being and make three miserable. I have never loved thee; bitterness germinated within my breast when I became acquainted with thee! Mother! thy features have died out of my recollection; I revere thee! Thou wast all love; to love didst thou offer up thy life—more than life! Pray for me with thy God! Pray for me, ye dead! if there is immortality; if the flesh is not alone born again in grass and the worm; if the soul is not lost in floods of air! We shall be unconscious of it: eternally shall we sleep! eternally!" Otto supported his forehead upon the window-frame, his arm sank languidly, "Mother! poor mother! thou didst gain by death, even if it be merely an eternal sleep,—asleep without dreams! We have only a short time to live, and yet we divide our days of life with sleep! My body yearns after this short death! I will sleep—sleep like all my beloved ones! They do not awaken!" He threw himself upon the bed. The cold air from the sea blew through the open window. The wearied body conquered; he sank into the death-like sleep, whilst his doubting soul, ever active, presented him with living dreams.
"Man seems to me a foolish being; he drives along over the waves of time, endlessly thrown up and down, and descrying a little verdant spot, formed of mud and stagnant moor and of putrid green mouldiness, he cries out, Land! He rows thither, ascends—and sinks and sinks—and is no more to be seen."—The Golden Fleece of GRILLPARZER.
Old Rosalie was pouring out coffee when Otto came down the next morning. Peace and resignation to the will of God lay in her soft countenance. Otto was pale, paler than usual, but handsomer than Rosalie had seen him before: a year had rendered him older and more manly; a handsome, crisp beard curled over his chin; manly gravity lay in his eyes, in which, at his departure, she had only remarked their inborn melancholy glance. With a kind of satisfaction she looked upon this beautiful, melancholy countenance, and with cordial affection she stretched forth her hand toward him.
"Here stands thy chair, Otto; and here thy cup. I will drink to thy welcome. It seems to me long since I saw thee, and yet it is, now I have thee again, only a short time. Were that place only not empty!" and she pointed to the place at the table which the grandfather had used to occupy.
"If I had only seen him!" said Otto.
"His countenance was so gentle in death," said Rosalie. "The severity and gravity which had settled in his eyes were softened away. I was myself present when he was dressed. He had his uniform on, which he always wore upon occasions of ceremony, the sabre by his side and the great hat upon his head. I knew that this was his wish!" Quietly she made the sign of the cross.
"Are all my grandfather's papers sealed?" inquired Otto.
"The most important—those which have the greatest interest for thee," said Rosalie, "are in the hands of the preacher. Last year, the day after thy departure, he gave them to the preacher; thy father's last letter I know is amongst them."
"My father!" said Otto, and glanced toward the ground. "Yes," continued he, "there is truth in the words of Scripture,—the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation!"
"Otto!" said Rosalie, with a beseeching and reproachful look, "thy grandfather was a severe man. Thou last known him, hast seen his darkest moments, and yet then age and cares had softened him: his love to thee calmed every outbreak. Had he only loved thy father as he loved thee, things would, perhaps, have ended better: but we may not judge!"
"And what have I done?" said Otto. "Thou, Rosalie, knowest the history of my life. Is it not as if a curse rested upon me? I was a high-spirited boy, I often occasioned thee tears; yet didst thou always place thyself between me and punishment. It was my evil blood, the blood of my birth in which the curse lay, that drove me on!"
"But thou didst become good and full of love, as thou art now!" said Rosalie.
"Only when I became acquainted with myself and my destiny. In the thoughtlessness of childhood, unacquainted with myself and the world, did I myself have that sign of my misery, which now presses down my soul, cut into my flesh. Yes, Rosalie! I remember this very well, and have clearly preserved this, my earliest recollection before my grandfather took me, and I came here a boy. I remember the great building from whence I was brought, the number of people who there worked, sang, and laughed, and who told me extraordinary stories of how badly people were treated in the beautiful world. This was my parents' home, thought I, when I began to ponder upon parents and their connection with children. It was a large manufactory which they possessed, thought I; I remembered the number of work-people. All played and romped with me. I was wild and full of boisterous spirits a boy of only six years old, but with the perseverance and will of one of ten. Rosalie, thou sawest many proofs of the evil which lay in my blood; it bordered upon insolence. I remembered well the strong, merry Heinrich, who always sang at his loom; he showed me and the others his tattooed breast, upon which he had his whole mournful history imprinted. Upon his arm were his own and his bride's names. That pleased me; I wished to have my name also on my arm. 'It is painful!' said he; 'then thou wilt pipe, my lad!' That was spur enough to make me desire it. I allowed him to puncture my skin, to puncture an O and a T upon my shoulder, and did not cry,—no, not once whilst the powder burnt into it; but I was praised, and was proud to bear the initials—proud of them until three years ago, when I met Heinrich here. I recognized him, but he did not recognize me. I showed him my shoulder, and besought him to read the name, this O and T: but he did not say Otto Thostrup; he named a name which destroyed the happiness of my childhood, and has made me miserable forever!"
"It was a fearful day!" said Rosalie. "Thou didst demand from me an explanation, thy grandfather gave it thee, and thou wast no longer the Otto thou hadst formerly been. Yet wherefore speak of it? Thou art good and wise, noble and innocent. Do not fill thy heart with sorrow from a time which is past, and which, for thy sake, shall be forgotten."
"But Heinrich still lives!" said Otto; "I have met with him, have spoken with him: it was as if all presence of mind forsook me."
"When and where?" asked Rosalie.
Otto related of his walk with Wilhelm in the park, and of the juggler, in whom he had recognized Heinrich. "I tore myself from my friends, I wandered the whole night alone in the wood. O Rosalie, I thought of death! I thought of death as no Christian ought to do. A beautiful morning followed, I wandered beside the sea which I love, and in which I have so often dived. Since that explanation of the initials on my shoulder was suggested, that explanation which reminded me of my unhappy birth, I have never uncovered them before any one. O, I have rubbed thorn with a stone, until they were bloody! The letters are gone, but still I imagine I can read them in the deep scar—that in it I see a Cain's mark! That morning the desire to bathe came upon me. The fresh current infused life once more into my soul. Just then Wilhelm and several acquaintance came down; they called to me and carried off my clothes; my blood boiled; all my unhappiness, which this night had stirred within my soul, again overwhelmed me: it was as though the obliterated initials on my shoulder would reveal themselves in the scar and betray the secret of my grief. Disgust of life seized upon me. I no longer knew what I shouted to them, but it seemed to me as if I must swim out into the stream and never return. I swam until it became night before my eyes. I sank, and Wilhelm rescued me! Never since then have we spoken of this hour! O Rosalie! long is it since I have been able to open my heart as before thee at this moment. What use is it to have a friend if one cannot lay before him one's whole thoughts? To no one have I been able to unfold them but to thee, who already knowest them. I suffer, as a criminal and yet am I innocent,—just as the misshapen, the deformed man, is innocent of his ugliness!"
"I do not possess thy knowledge, Otto," said Rosalie, and pressed his hand; "have never rejoiced in such a clear head as thine; but I have that which thou canst not as yet possess—experience. In trouble, as well as in joy, youth transforms the light cobweb into the cable. Self-deception has changed the blood in thy veins, the thoughts in thy soul; but do not forever cling to this one black spot! Neither wilt thou! it will spur thee on to activity, will enervate thy soul, not depress thee! The melancholy surprise of thy grandfather's death, whom thou didst believe active and well, has now made thee dejected, and thy thoughts so desponding. But there will come better days! happy days! Thou art young, and youth brings health for the soul and body!"
She led Otto into the garden, where the willow plantations protected the other trees from the sharp west wind. The gooseberry-bushes bore fruit, but it was not yet ripe: one bush Otto had planted when a cutting; it was now large. Rosalie had tied the twigs to a palisade, so that, as an espalier, it could thoroughly drink in the sun's rays. Otto regarded the fetters more than the good intention.
"Let it grow free!" said he; "if that brittle palisade should tumble down, the twigs would be broken." And he cut the bands.
"Thou art still the old Otto," said Rosalie.
They went into her little room, where the crucifix, and before it a small vase of flowers, adorned the table. Above the cross hung a garland of withered heather.
"Two years ago didst thou give me that, Otto!" said Rosalie. "There were no more flowers, there was nothing green but the heath, and thou twinedst a garland of it for me. Afterward I would not take it down from the crucifix."
They were interrupted by a visit. It was from the old preacher.
"His coal was coarse, its fashion old; He asked no dress of greater worth Than that which kept from storm and cold The Baptist when he preached on earth." C. J. BORE.
Not alone of Otto's affairs, but also of "the city yonder," as the preacher called Copenhagen, would he speak. Only once a week came the "Viborg Collector" to hint, and the Copenhagen papers were a whole month going their round. "One would willingly advance with the time," said he. Yesterday, at the interment, he had not found it seemly to gratify his desire of hearing dear Otto talk about the city, but to-day he thought it might well be done, and therefore he would not await Otto's visit but come over to pay one himself.
"Thou hast certainly seen our good king?" was his first question. "Lord help the anointed one! he is then as vigorous and active as ever—my good King Frederik!" And now he must relate a trait which had touched his heart, and which, in his opinion, deserved a place in the annals of history. This event occurred the last time that the king was in Jutland; he had visited the interior of the country and the western coast also. When he was leaving a public-house the old hostess ran after him, and besought that the Father would, as a remembrance, write his name with chalk upon a beam. The grand gentlemen wished to deter her, but she pulled at the king's coat; and when he had learned her wish he nodded in a friendly manner, and said, "Very willingly!" and then turned back and wrote his name on the beam. Tears came into the old man's eyes; he wept, and prayed for his king. He now inquired whether the old tree was still standing in the Regent's Court, and then spoke of Nyerup and Abrahamson, whom he had known in his student days.
In fact, after all, he was himself the narrator; each of his questions related to this or that event in his own life, and he always returned to this source—his student-days. There was then another life, another activity, he maintained. His royal idea of beauty had been Queen Matilda. [Translator's Note: The unhappy wife of Christian VII. and daughter of our George III.] "I saw her often on horseback," said he. "It was not then the custom in our country for ladies to ride. In her country it was the fashion; here it gave rise to scandal. God gave her beauty, a king's crown, and a heart full of love; the world gave her—what it can give—a grave near to the bare heath!"
Whilst he so perpetually returned to his own recollections, his share of news was truly not new, but he was satisfied. Copenhagen appeared to him a whole world—a royal city; but Sodom and Gomorrah had more than one street there.
Otto smiled at the earnestness with which he said this.
"Yes, that I know better than thou, my young friend!" continued the old preacher. "True, the devil does not go about like a roaring lion, but there he has his greatest works! He is well-dressed, and conceals his claws and his tail! Do not rely upon thy strength! He goes about, like the cat in the fable, 'pede suspenso,' sneakingly and cautiously! It is, after all, with the devil as it is with a Jutland peasant. This fellow comes to the city, has nothing, runs about, and cleans shoes and boots for the young gentlemen, and by this means he wins a small sum of money. He knows how to spare. He can now hire the cellar of the house in which thou livest, and there commence some small trade. The trade is successful, very successful. It goes on so well that he can hire the lower story; then he gains more profit, and before thou canst look about thee he buys the whole house. See, that is the way with the Jutland peasant, and just the same with the devil. At first he gets the cellar, then the lower story, and at last the whole house!"
"Sure 'tis fair in foreign land, But not so fair as home;
Let me but see thy mountains grand Glaciers and snowy dome!
Let me but hear the sound that tells Of climbing cattle, dressed with bells." The Switzer's Homesickness.
Not until after breakfast did the preacher pass over to Otto's affairs. His grandfather's will made him the sole heir to the large property; a man in Copenhagen, the merchant Berger, should be his guardian, since the preacher did not wish to undertake the office. Rosalie was not forgotten: her devotion and fidelity had won for her a relative's right. Her last days should be free from care: she had truly striven to remove all care from the dead whilst yet he lived. An old age free from care awaited her; but Otto wished that she should also have a happy old age. He imparted his plan to the preacher; but the latter shook his head, thought it was not practicable, and regarded it as a mere fancy—a whim. But such it was not.
Some days passed by. One afternoon Rosalie sat upon a small wooden bench under the cherry-trees, and was making mourning for the winter.
"This is the last summer that we shall sit here," said she; "the last summer that this is our home. Now I am become equally rooted to this spot; it grieves me that I must leave it."
"Thou wast forced to leave thy dear Switzerland," said Otto; "that was still harder!"
"I was then young," answered she. "The young tree may be easily transplanted, but the old one has shot forth deeper roots. Denmark is a good land—a beautiful land!"
"But not the west coast of Jutland!" exclaimed Otto. "For thy green pasture hast thou here heath; for thy mountains, low sand-hills."
"Upon the Jura Mountains there is also heath," said Rosalie. "The heath here often reminds me of my home on the Jura. There also is it cold, and snow can fall already in August. The fir-trees then stand as if powdered over."
"I love Switzerland, which I have never seen," pursued Otto. "Thy relation has given me a conception of the picturesque magnificence of this mountain-land. I have a plan, Rosalie. I know that in the heart of a mountaineer homesickness never dies. I remember well how thy eyes sparkled when thou toldest of the walk toward Le Locle and Neufchatel; even as a boy I felt at thy words the light mountain air. I rode with thee upon the dizzy height, where the woods lay below us like potato fields. What below arose, like the smoke from a charcoal-burner's kiln, was a cloud in the air. I saw the Alpine chain, like floating cloud mountains; below mist, above dark shapes with glancing glaciers."
"Yes, Otto," said Rosalie, and her eyes sparkled with youthful fire; "so looks the Alpine chain when one goes from Le Locle to Neulfchatel: so did I see it when I descended the Jura for the list time. It was in August. The trees, with their autumnal foliage, stood yellow and red between the dark firs; barberries and hips grew among the tall fern. The Alps lay in such a beautiful light, their feet blue as heaven, their peaks snow-white in the clear sunshine. I was in a sorrowful mood; I was leaving my mountains! Then I wrote in my book—O, I remember it so well!—The high Alps appear to me the folded wings of the earth: how if she should raise them! how if the immense wings should unfold, with their gay images of dark woods, glaciers, and clouds! What a picture! At the Last Judgment will the earth doubtless unfold these pinions, soar up to God, and in the rays of His sunlight disappear! I also have been young, Otto," pursued she, with a melancholy smile. "Thou wouldst have felt still more deeply at the sight of this splendor of nature. The lake at the foot of the mountains was smooth as a mirror; a little boat with white sails swam, like a swan, upon its expanse. On the road along which we drove were the peasants beating down chestnuts; the grapes hung in large black bunches. How an impression such as this can root itself in the memory! It is five and thirty years since, and yet I still see that boat with the white sail, the high Alps, and the black grapes."
"Thou shalt see thy Switzerland again, Rosalie," exclaimed Otto; "again hear the bells of the cows upon the green pastures! Thou shalt go once more to the chapel in Franche Compte, shalt visit thy friends at Le Locle, see the subterranean mill, and the Doub fall."
"The mill wheel yet goes round, the water dashes down as in my youth; but the friends are gone, my relatives dispersed! I should appear a stranger there; and when one has reached my age, nature cannot satisfy—one must have people!"
"Thou knowest, Rosalie, my grandfather has settled a sum upon thee so long as thou livest. Now I have thought thou couldst spend thy latter days with thy beloved ones at home, in the glorious Switzerland. In October I take my philosophicum; the following summer I would then accompany thee. I must also see that splendid mountain-land,—know something more of the world than I have yet known. I know how thy thoughts always dwell upon Switzerland. Thither will I reconduct thee; thou wilt feel thyself less lonely there than here in Denmark."
"Thou art carried away by the thoughts of youth, as thou shouldst and must be, thou dear, sweet soul!" said Rosalie, smiling. "At my age it is not so easy."
"We will make short days' journeys," said Otto, "go with the steamboat up the Rhine—that is not fatiguing; and from Basel one is soon in Franche Compte on the Jura."
"No, upon the heath, near Vestervovov, as it is called here, will old Rosalie die; here I have felt myself at home, here I have two or three friends. The family at Lemvig have invited me, have for me a place at table, a little room, and friendly faces. Switzerland would be no longer that Switzerland which I quitted. Nature would greet me as an old acquaintance; it would be to me music, once more to hear the ringing of the cows' bells; it would affect me deeply, once again to kneel in the little chapel on the mountain: but I should soon feel myself a greater stranger there than here. Had it been fifteen years ago, my sister would still have been living, the dear, pious Adele! She dwelt with my uncle close on the confines of Neufchatel, as thou knowest, scarcely a quarter of a mile from Le Locle—the town, as we called it, because it was the largest place in the neighborhood. Now there are only distant relations of mine living, who have forgotten me. I am a stranger there. Denmark gave me bread, it will also give me a grave!"
"I thought of giving thee a pleasure!" said Otto.
"That thou dost by thy love to me!" returned she.
"I thought thou wouldst have shown me thy mountains, thy home, of which thou hast so often spoken!"
"That can I still do. I remember every spot, every tree—all remains so clear in my recollection. Then we ascend together the Jura higher and higher; here are no more vineyards to be found, no maize, no chestnuts only dark pines, huge cliffs, here and there a beech, as green and large as in Denmark. Now we have the wood behind us, we are many feet above the sea; thou canst perceive this by the freshness of the air. Everywhere are green meadows; uninterruptedly reaches our ear the ringing of the cow-bells. Thou as yet seest no town, and yet we are close upon Le Locle. Suddenly the road turns; in the midst of the mountain-level we perceive a small valley, and in this lies the town, with its red roofs, its churches, and large gardens. Close beneath the windows rises the mountain-side, with its grass and flowers; it looks as though the cattle must be precipitated upon the houses. We go through the long street, past the church; the inhabitants are Protestants—it is a complete town of watchmakers. My uncle and Adele also sat the whole day, and worked at wheels and chains. That was for Monsieur Houriet, in Le Locle. His daughters I know; one is called Rosalie, like myself. Rosalie and Lydia, they will certainly have forgotten me! But it is true that we are upon our own journey! Now, thou seest, at the end of the town we do not follow the broad road—that leads to Besancon; we remain in the lesser one, here in the valley where the town lies. The beautiful valley! The green mountain-sides we keep to our right; on it are scattered houses, with large stones upon their steep wooden roofs, and with little gardens tilled with plum-trees. Steep cliff-walls shut in the valley; there stands up a crag; if thou climbest it thou canst look straight into France: one sees a plain, flat like the Danish plains. In the valley where we are, close under the rock, lies a little house; O, I see it distinctly! white-washed and with blue painted window-frames: at the gate a great chained dog. I hear him bark! We step into that quiet, friendly little house! The children are playing about on the ground. O, my little Henry-Numa-Robert! Ah, it is true that now he is older and taller than thou! We descend the steps toward the cellar. Here stand sacks and chests of flour; under the floor one hears a strange roaring; still a few steps lower, and we must light the lamp, for here it is dark. We find ourselves in a great water-mill, a subterranean mill. Deep below in the earth rushes a river—above no one dreams of it; the water dashes down several fathoms over the rushing wheel, which threatens to seize our clothes and whirl us away into the circle. The steps on which we stand are slippery: the stone walls drip with water, and only a step beyond the depth appears bottomless! O, thou wilt love this mill as I love it! Again having reached the light of day, and under free heaven, one only perceives the quiet, friendly little house. Dost thou know, Otto, often as thou hast sat quiet and dreaming, silent as a statue, have I thought of my mill, and the repose which it presented? and yet how wildly the stream roared in its bosom, how the wheels rushed round, and how gloomy it was in the depth!"
"We will leave the mill!" said Otto, and sought to lead her from her reflections back to her own relation. "We find ourselves in the wood, where the ringing of the evening-bell reaches our ear from the little chapel in Franche Compte."
"There stands my father's house!" said Rosalie. "From the corner-window one looks over the wood toward Aubernez, [Author's Note: A village in the canton Neufchatel, lying close upon the river Doub, where it forms the boundary between Switzerland and France.] where the ridge leads over the Doub. The sun shines upon the river, which, far below, winds along, gleaming like the clearest silver."
"And the whole of France spreads itself out before us!" said Otto.
"How beautiful! O, how beautiful!" exclaimed Rosalie, and her eyes sparkled as she gazed before her; but soon her glance became sad, and she pressed Otto's hand. "No one will welcome me to my home! I know neither their joys nor their sorrows—they are not my own family! In Denmark—I am at home. When the cold sea-mist spreads itself over the heath I often fancy I am living among my mountains, where the heather grows. The mist seems to me then to be a snow-cloud which rests over the mountains, and thus, when other people are complaining of the bad weather, I am up among my mountains!"
"Thou wilt then remove to the family at Lemvig?" asked Otto.
"There I am welcome!" returned she.
"Look at the calming sea. The waves still tremble in the depths, and stem to fear the gale.—Over my head is hovering the shadowy mist.—My curls are wet with the filling dew." —OSSIAN.
Otto had not as yet visited the sand-hills on the strand, the fishermen, or the peasants, among whom formerly he had spent all his spare time.
The beautiful summer's day drove him forth, his heart yearned to drink in the summer warmth.
Only the roads between the larger towns are here tolerable, or rather as tolerable as the country will allow. The by-ways were only to be discerned by the traces of cart-wheels, which ran on beside each other; at certain places, to prevent the wheels sinking into the deep sand, ling had been spread; where this is not the case, and the tracks cross each other, a stranger would scarcely find the way. Here the landmark places its unseen boundary between neighboring possessions.
Every farm, every cottage, every hill, was an old acquaintance to Otto. He directed his steps toward Harbooere, a parish which, one may say, consists of sand and water, but which, nevertheless, is not to be called unfruitful. A few of the inhabitants pursue agriculture, but the majority consists of fishermen, who dwell in small houses and have no land.
His first encounter upon his wandering was with one of those large covered wagons with which the so-called eelmen, between the days of St. John and St. Bartholomew, go with eels toward the small towns lying to the south and east, and then, laden with apples and garden produce, return home—articles which are rapidly consumed by the common people. The eelman stopped when he saw and recognized Otto.
"Welcome, Mr. Otto!" said he. "Yes, you are come over abut a sad affair! That Major Thostrup should have gone off so! But there was nothing else to be expected from him he was old enough."
"Death demands his right!" replied Otto, and pressed the man's hand. "Things go, doubtless, well with you, Morten Chraenseu?"
"The whole cart full of eels, and some smoked carp! It is also good to meet with you, Mr. Otto. Upon the land a preacher is very good, but not upon the sea, as they say at home. Yes, you are certainly now a preacher, or will become one?"
"No, I am not studying to become a preacher!" answered Otto.
"No! will you then become a lawyer? It strikes me you are clever enough—you have no need to study any more! You will just go and say a few words to them at home? The grandmother sits and spins yarn for eel-nets. She has now the cataract on the other eye, but her mouth is as well as ever; she does not let herself grow dumb, although she does sit in the dark. Mother provides the baits; she has also enough to do with the hooks."
"But Maria, the lively little Maria?" said Otto.
"The girl? She has gone this year with the other fishergirls to Ringkjoebing, to be hired for the hay and corn harvest; we thought we could do without her at home. But now, God willing! I must travel on." Cordially he shook Otto's hand, and pursued his slow journey.