The brothers of the eelman were active fishermen, as their father had been before them; and although they were all married they lived together. The swarm of children was not insignificant; young and old formed one family, in which the old grandmother had the first voice.
Otto approached the dwelling; before it lay a little plot of land, planted with potatoes and carrots, and also beds of onions and thyme. Two large bull-dogs, with sharp teeth and wicked eyes, rushed toward Otto. "Tyv! Grumsling!" shrieked a voice, and the dogs let fall their tails and drew back, with a low growl, toward the house. Here at the threshold sat an old woman in a red woolen jacket, with a handkerchief of the same material and same color about her neck, and upon her head a man's black felt hat. She spun. Otto immediately recognized the old blind grandmother.
"God's peace be in the house!" said he.
"That voice I have not heard for a year and a day!" replied the old woman, and raised her head, as if she would see him with her dead eyes. "Are not you Major Thostrup's Otto? You resemble him in the voice. I thought, truly, that if you came here you would pay us a visit. Ide shall leave the baits and put on the kettle, that you may have a cup of coffee. Formerly you did not use to despise our entertainment. You have not grown proud with your journey, have you? The coffee-vetch [Author's Note: Astragalus baeticus is used as a substitute for coffee, and is principally grown upon the sand-hills west of Holmsland. It is first freed from the husk, and then dried and roasted a little.] is good; it is from Holmsland, and tastes better than the merchant's beans." The dogs still growled at Otto. "Cannot you stupid beasts, who have still eyes in your heads to see with, recognize that this is the Major's Otto?" cried she wrathfully, and gave them several good blows with her hand.
Otto's arrival created a great stir in the little household that he was welcome, you might see by every countenance.
"Yes," said the grandmother, "now you are grown much wiser in the town, could, very likely, were it needful, write an almanac! You will very likely have found for yourself a little bride there, or will you fetch one out of Lemvig? for no doubt she must be from a town! Yes, I have known him ever since he was a little fellow; yonder, on the wall, he made, out of herrings' heads, the living devil, just as he lives and breathes. He thrust our sucking-pig into the eel-cart, between the casks. We sought a whole day after the sucking-pig without finding him, and he was forced to make the journey with them to Holstebro. Yes, he was a wild fellow! Later, when he was obliged to learn so much, he became sad. Yes, yes, within the last years his books have overdone him!"
"Yes, many a time has he put out to sea with my husband!" pursued one of the daughters-in-law. "One night he remained out with him. How anxious the French Mamsell at the hall was about him!"
"He was never haughtty," said the grandmother. "He nibbled his dried fish with the fresh fish, and drank a little cup of water, although he was used to better things at home. But to-day we have white bread, fresh and good; it came yesterday from Lemvig."
The brandy-glass, with its wooden, red-painted foot, was placed before Otto. Under the bed there was an anker of brandy,—"a little stock," as all stranded goods are here called.
Otto inquired after the married sons. They were with their men on the shore, ready to embark on their fishing expedition, The grandmother would accompany him thither; they were not yet departed: she should first take them provisions.
The old woman took her stick, the dog sprang forward, and now commenced their wandering among the sand-hills, where their huts or booths, built with rafters and smeared with earth, stood. Around lay the refuse of fish,—heads and entrails, thrown about. The men were just then busied in carrying the trough and fishing-tackle [Author's Note: A "Bakke" consists of three lines, each of 200 Danish ells, or about 135 yards, and of 200 fishing-hooks; the stretched "Bakke" is thus about 200 yards, with 600 hooks; these are attached to the line with strings half an ell long and as thick as fine twine. To each "Bakke" belongs a square trough, on which it is carried on board. To a larger fishing-boat are reckoned six lots of hooks; each lot has eight to nine "Bakkes."] on board.
The open sea lay before them, almost as bright as a mirror, for the wind was easterly. Near to them paused a horseman; he was partly dressed like a peasant, with riding-breeches on, which were buttoned down at the sides.
"Have you heard the news?" he cried to Otto. "I come from Ringkjoebing. At Merchant Cohen's I have read the German paper; there is a revolution in France! Charles X. is fled with the whole royal family. Yes, in Paris, there is fine work!"
"The French are a wild people!" said the grandmother. "A king and a queen they have beheaded in my time; now they will do the same with these. Will our dear Lord suffer that such things be done to His anointed?"
"There will be war again!" said one of the fishermen.
"Then more horses will go out of the country," said the stranger, pressed Otto's hand, and vanished behind the sandhills.
"Was not that the horse-dealer from Varde?" inquired Otto.
"Yes, he understands languages," said the fisherman; "and thus he is acquainted with foreign affairs sooner than we. Then they are now fighting in France! Blood flows in the streets; it will not be so in Denmark before the Turk binds his horse to the bush in the Viborg Lake. And then, according to the prophecy of the sibyl, it will be near the end of the world."
Meanwhile, everything was prepared for their embarkation. If Mr. Otto would take the further oar, and was inclined to pass the night on the sea, there was a place for him in the boat. But he had promised Rosalie to be back before evening. The grandmother now prayed, kneeling with the others, and immediately after quick strokes of the oars the flat boat rowed away from the shore. The fate of France was forgotten; their calling occupied the fishermen.
The old woman seemed to listen to the strokes of the oars; her dead eyes rested immovably on the sea. A sea-mew passed close to her in its flight. "That was a bird!" said she. "Is there no one here beside ourselves?"
"No; no one at all," answered Otto, carelessly.
"Is no one in the hut, no one behind the sand-hills?" again asked the grandmother. "It was not on account of the dried meat that I came here—it was not to wet my face on the shore; I speak with you alone, which I could not do in the house. Give me your hand! Now that the old man rests in the grave, you yourself will guide the rudder; the estate will be sold, and you will not come again to the west coast. Our Lord has made it dark before my eyes before He has closed my ears and given me leave to go. I can no longer see you, but I have you in my thought as you looked before you left our land. That you are handsomer now I can easily imagine; but gayer you are not! Talk you certainly can, and I have heard you laugh; but that was little better than the two last years you were here. Once it was different with you—no fairy could be wilder than you!"
"With years one becomes more quiet," said Otto, and gazed with astonishment at the blind woman, who did not leave go his hand. "As a boy I was far too merry—that could not continue; and that I should now be grave, I have, as you will see, sufficient reason—I have lost my last support."
"Yes, truly, truly!" repeated she slowly, and as if pondering; then shook her head. "That is not the reason. Do you not believe in the power of the devil? our Lord Christ forgive me! do not you believe in the power of wicked men? There is no greater difference between the human child and the changeling brat which the underground spirits lay in his stead in the cradle, than there is between you when you were a boy and you as you became during the last year of your stay here. 'That comes from books, from so much learning,' said I to other people. Could I only have said so to myself! But you shall become gay; the trouble of your heart shall wither like a poisonous weed. I know whence it sprung, and will, with God's help, heal it. Will you solemnly promise, that no soul in the world shall learn what we speak of in this hour?"
"What have you to say to me?" asked Otto, affected by the extraordinary earnestness of the old woman.
"The German Heinrich, the player! You remember him well? He is to blame for your grief! Yes, his name drives the blood more quickly through your pulse. I feel it, even if I cannot see your face."
"The German Heinrich!" repeated Otto, and his hand really trembled. Had Heinrich, then, when he was here three years ago, told her and the fishermen that which no human being must know,—that which had destroyed the gayety of his youth? "What have I to do with the German Heinrich?"
"Nothing more than a pious Christian has to do with the devil!" replied she, and made the sign of the cross. "But Heinrich has whispered an evil word in your ear; he has banished your joyous humor, as one banishes a serpent."
"Has he told you this?" exclaimed Otto, and breathed more quickly. "Tell me all that he has said!"
"You will not make me suffer for it!" said she. "I am innocent, and yet I have cooperated in it: it was only a word but a very unseemly word, and for it one must account at the day of judgment!"
"I do not understand you!" said Otto, and his eyes glanced around to see whether any one heard. They were quite alone. In the far distance the boat with the fishermen showed itself like a dark speck.
"Do you remember how wild you were as a boy? How you fastened bladders to the cat's legs and tail, and flung her out of the loft-window that she might fly? I do not say this in anger, for I thought a deal of you; but when you became too insolent one might wall say, 'Can no one, then, curb this lad?' See, these words I said!—that is my whole fault, but since then have lain heavy on my heart. Three years ago came the German Heinrich, and stayed two nights in our house; God forgive it us! Tricks he could play, and he understood more than the Lord's Prayer—more than is useful to a man. With one trick you were to assist him, but when he gave you the goblet you played your own tricks, and he could make nothing succeed. You would also be clever. Then he cast an evil eye upon you, although he was still so friendly and submissive, because you were a gentleman's child. Do you remember—no, you will certainly have forgotten—how you once took the baits of the hooks off and hung my wooden shoes on instead? Then I said in anger, and the anger of man is never good, 'Can no one, then, tame this boy for me? He was making downright fun of you to your own face,' said I to the player. 'Do you not know some art by which you can tame this wild-cat?' Then he laughed maliciously, but I thought no more of the matter. The following day, however, he said, 'Now I have curbed the lad! You should only see how tame he is become; and should he ever again turn unruly, only ask him what word the German Heinrich whispered in his ear, and you shall. Then see how quiet he will become. He shall not mock this trick!' My heart was filled with horror, but I thought afterward it really meant nothing. Ei! ei! from the hour he was here you are no longer the same as formerly; that springs from the magical word he whispered in your ear. You cannot pronounce the word, he told me; but by it you have been enchanted: this, and not book-learning, has worked the change. But you shall be delivered! If you have faith, and that you must have, you shall again become gay, and I, spite of the evil words which I spoke, be able to sleep peacefully in my grave. If you will only lay this upon your heart, now that the moon is in its wane, the trouble will vanish out of your heart as the disk of the moon decreases!" And saying this she drew out of her pocket a little leather purse, opened it and took out a piece of folded paper. "In this is a bit of the wood out of which our Saviour's cross was made. This will draw forth the sorrow from your heart, and bear it, as it bore Him who took upon Himself the sorrow of the whole world!" She kissed it with pious devotion, and then handed it to Otto.
The whole became clear to him. He recollected how in his boyish wantonness he had caused Heinrich's tricks to miscarry, which occasioned much pleasure to the spectators, but in Heinrich displeasure: they soon again became friends, and Otto recognized in him the merry weaver of the manufactory, as he called his former abode. They were alone, Otto asked whether he did not remember his name: Heinrich shook his head. Then Otto uncovered his shoulder, bade him read the branded letters, and heard the unhappy interpretation which gave the death-blow to his gayety. Heinrich must have seen what an impression his words made upon the boy: he gained through them an opportunity of avenging himself, and at the same time of bringing himself again into repute: as a sorcerer. He had tamed him, whispered he to the old woman,—he had tamed the boy with a single word. At any future wantonness of Otto's, gravity and terror would immediately return should any one ask him, What word did the German Heinrich whisper into thy ear? "Only ask him," had Heinrich said.
In a perfectly natural manner there lay, truly, enchantment in Heinrich's words, even although it were not that enchantment which the superstition of the old woman would have signified. A revelation of the connection of affairs would have removed her doubts, but here an explanation was impossible to Otto. He pressed her hand, besought her to be calm; no sorrow lay heavy on his heart, except the loss of his dear grandfather.
"Every evening have I named your name it my prayers," said the old grandmother. "Each time when the harbingers of bad weather showed themselves, and my sons were on the sea, so that we hung out flags or lighted beacons as signals, did I think of the words which had escaped my lips, and which the wicked Heinrich had caught up; I feared lest our Lord might cause my children to suffer for my injustice."
"Be calm, my dear old woman!" said Otto. "Keep for yourself the holy cross, on the virtue of which you rely; may it remove each sorrow from your own heart!"
"No, I am guilty of my own sorrow! yours has a stranger laid upon your heart! Only the sorrow of the guiltless will the cross bear."
The beautiful sentiment which, unconsciously to her, lay in these words, affected Otto. He accepted the present, preserved it, sought to calm the old woman, and once more at parting glanced toward the splendid sea expanse which formed its own boundary.
It was almost evening before he reached the house where Rosalie awaited him. His last scene with the blind fisher-woman had again thrown him into his gloomy mood. "After all, she really knows nothing!" said he to himself. "This Heinrich is my evil angel! might he only die soon!" It was in Otto's soul as if he could shoot a ball through Heinrich's heart. "Did he only lie buried under the heather, and with him my secret! I will have blood! yes, there is something devilish in man! Were Heinrich only dead! But others live who know my birth,—my sister! my poor, neglected sister, she who had the same right to intellectual development as myself! How I fear this meeting! it will be bitter! I must away. I will hence—here will my life-germ be stifled! I have indeed fortune—I will travel! This animated France will drive away these whims, and—I am away, far removed from my home. In the coming spring I shall be a stranger among strangers!" And his thoughts melted into a quiet melancholy. In this manner he reached the hall.
"L'Angleterre jalouse et la Grece homerique, Toute l'Europe admire, et la jeune Amerique Se leve et bat des mains du bord des oceans. Trois jours vous ont suffi pour briser vos entraves. Vous etes les aines d'une race de braves, Vous etes les fits des geans!" V. HUGO, Chants du Crepuscule.
"Politiken, mine Herrer!" MORTONS' Lystspil: den Hjemkomne Nabob
"In France there is revolution!" was the first piece of information which Otto related. "Charles X. has flown with his family. This, they say, is in the German papers."
"Revolution?" repeated Rosalie, and folded her hands. "Unhappy France! Blood has flowed there, and it again flows. There I lost my father and my brother. I became a refugee—must seek for myself a new father-land." She wiped away a tear from her cheek, and sunk into deep meditation. She knew the horrors of a revolution, and only saw in this new one a repetition of those scenes of terror which she had experienced, and which had driven her out into the world, up into the north, where she struggled on, until at length she found a home with Otto's grandfather—a resting abode.
Everything great and beautiful powerfully affected Otto's soul; only in one direction had he shown no interest—in the political direction, and it was precisely politics which had most occupied the grandfather in his seclusion. But Otto's soul was too vivacious, too easily moved, too easily carried away by what lay nearest him. "One must first thoroughly enter into life, before the affairs of the world can seize upon us!" said he. "With the greater number of those who in their early youth occupy themselves with politics, it is merely affectation. It is with them like the boy who forces himself to smoke tobacco so as to appear older than he really is." Beyond his own country, France was the only land which really interested Otto. Here Napoleon had ruled, and Napoleon's name had reached his heart—he had grown up whilst this name passed from mouth to mouth; the name and the deeds of the hero sounded to him, yet a boy, like a great world adventure. How often had he heard his grandfather, shaking his head, say, "Yes, now newspaper writers have little to tell since Napoleon is quiet." And then he had related to him of the hero at Arcole and among the Pyramids, of the great campaign against Europe, of the conflagration at Moscow, and the return from Elba.
Who has not written a play in his childhood? Otto's sole subject was Napoleon; the whole history of the hero, from the snow-batteries at Brienne to the rocky island in the ocean. True, this poem was a wild shoot; but it had sprung from an enthusiastic heart. At that time he preserved it as a treasure. A little incident which is connected with it, and is characteristic of Otto's wild outbreaks of temper when a boy, we will here introduce.
A child of one of the domestics, a little merry boy with whom Otto associated a good deal, was playing with him in his garret. Otto was then writing his play. The boy bantered him, pulling the paper at the same time. Otto forbade him with the threat,—"If thou dost that again I will throw thee out of the window!" The boy again immediately pulled at the paper. In a moment Otto seized him by the waist, swung him toward the open window, and would certainly have thrown him out, had not Rosalie fortunately entered the room, and, with an exclamation of horror, seized Otto's arm, who now stood pale as death and trembling in every limb.
In this manner had Napoleon awoke Otto's interest for France. Rosalie also spoke, next to her Switzerland, with most pleasure of this country. The Revolution had livingly affected her, and therefore her discourse regarding it was living. It even seemed to the old preacher as though the Revolution were an event which he had witnessed. The Revolution and Napoleon had often fed his thoughts and his discourse toward this land. Otto had thus, without troubling himself the least about politics, grown up with a kind of interest about France. The mere intelligence of this struggle of the July days was therefore not indifferent to him. He still only knew what the horse-dealer had related; nothing of the congregation, or of Polignac's ministry: but France was to him the mighty world-crater, which glowed with its splendid eruptions, and which he admired from a distance.
The old preacher shook his head when Otto imparted this political intelligence to him. A king, so long as he lived, was in his eyes holy, let him be whatever sort of a man he might. The actions of a king, according to his opinion, resembled the words of the Bible, which man ought not to weigh; they should be taken as they were. "All authority is from God!" said he. "The anointed one is holy; God gives to him wisdom; he is a light to whom we must all look up!"
"He is a man like ourselves!" answered Otto. "He is the first magistrate of the land, and as such we owe him the highest reverence and obedience. Birth, and not worth, gives him the high post which he fills. He ought only to will that which is good; to exercise justice. His duties are equally great with those of his subjects."
"But more difficult, my son!" said the old man. "It is nothing, as a flower, to adorn the garland; more difficult is it to be the hand which weaves the garland. The ribbon must be tight as well as gently tied; it must not cut into the stems, and yet it must not be too loose. Yes, you young men talk according to your wisdom! Yes, you are wise! quite as wise as the woman who kept a roasted chicken for supper. She placed it upon a pewter plate upon the glowing coals, and went out to attend to her affairs. When she returned the plate was melted, and the chicken lay among the ashes. 'What a wise cat I have!' said she; 'she has eaten I the plate and left the chicken!' See, you talk just so, and regard things from the same foolish point of view. Do not speak like the rest of them in the city! 'Fear God, and honor the king!' We have nothing to argue with these two; they transact their business between them! The French resemble young students; when these have made their examen artium they imagine they are equal to the whole world: they grow restive, and give student-feasts! The French must have a Napoleon, who can give their something to do! If they be left to themselves they will play mad pranks!"
"Let us first see what the papers really say," replied Otto.
The following day a large letter arrived; it was from Wilhelm:—
"My excellent Otto,—We have all drunk to Otto Thostrup's health. I raised the glass, and drank the health. The friendship's dissonance YOU has dissolved itself into a harmonious THOU, and thou thyself hast given the accord. All at home speak of thee; even the Kammerjunker's Mamsell chose lately thee, and not her work-box, as a subject of conversation. The evening as thou drovest over the Jutland heaths I seated myself at the piano, and played thy whole journey to my sisters. The journey over the heath I gave them in a monotonous piece, composed of three tones, quite dissimilar to that composed by Rousseau. My sisters were near despair; but I told them it was not more uninteresting than the heath. Sometimes I made a little flight, a quaver; that was the heath-larks which flew up into the air. The introduction to the gypsy-chorus in 'Preciosa' signified the German gypsy-flock. Then came the thema out of 'Jeannot and Collin'—'O, joyous days of childhood!'—and then thou wast at home. I thundered powerfully down in the bass; that was the North Sea, the chorus in thy present grand' opera. Thou canst well imagine that it was quite original.
"For the rest, everything at home remains in its old state. I have been in Svendborg, and have set to music that sweet poem, 'The Wishes,' by Carl Bagger. His verses seem to me a little rough; but something will certainly come out of the fellow! Thy own wishes are they which he has expressed. Besides this, the astonishing tidings out of France have given us, and all good people here, an electrical shock. Yes, thou in thy solitude hast certainly heard nothing of the brilliant July days. The Parisians have deposed Charles X. If the former Revolution was a blood-fruit, this one is a true passionflower, suddenly sprung up, exciting astonishment through its beauty, and as soon as the work is ended rolling together its leaves. My cousin Joachim, who as thou knowest is just now at Paris, has lived through these extraordinary days. The day before yesterday we received a long, interesting letter from him, which gave us—of the particulars as well as of the whole—a more complete idea than the papers can give us. People assemble in groups round the post-houses to receive the papers as they arrive. I have extracted from my cousin's letter what has struck me most, and send thee these extracts in a supplement. Thou canst thus in thy retirement still live in the world. A thousand greetings from all here. Thou hast a place in mamma's heart, but not less so in mine.
"Thy friend and brother,
"P. S.—It is true! My sister Sophie begs thee to bring her a stone from the North Sea. Perhaps thou wilt bring for me a bucket of water; but it must not incommode thee!"
This hearty letter transported Otto into the midst of the friendly circle in Funen. The corner of the paper where Wilhelm's name stood he pressed to his lips. His heart was full of noble friendship.
The extract which Wilhelm had made from his cousin's letter was short and descriptive. It might be compared with a beautiful poem translated into good prose.
In the theatre we interest ourselves for struggling innocence; but we are still more affected when the destiny of a whole nation is to be decided. It is on this account that "Wilhelm Tell" possesses so much interest. Not of the single individual is here the question, but of all. Here is flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bone. Greater than the play created by the poet was the effect which this description of the July days produced upon Otto. This was the reality itself in which he lived. His heart was filled with admiration for France, who fought for Liberty the holy fight, and who, with the language of the sword, had pronounced the anathema of the age on the enemies of enlightenment and improvement.
The old preacher folded his hands as he heard it; his eyes sparkled: but soon he shook his head. "May men so judge the anointed ones of God? 'He who taketh the sword shall perish by the sword!'"
"The king is for the people," said Otto; "not the people for the king!"
"Louis XVIth's unhappy daughter!" sighed Rosalie; "for the third time is she driven from her father-land. Her parents and brothers killed! her husband dishonored! She herself has a mind and heart. 'She is the only man among the Bourbons,'" said Napoleon.
The preacher, with his old-fashioned honesty, and a royalist from his whole heart, regarded the affair with wavering opinion, and with fear for the future. Rosalie thought most of those who were made unhappy of the royal ladies and the poor children. Each followed the impulse of their own nature, and the instinctive feeling of their age; thus did Otto also, and therefore was his soul filled with enthusiasm. Enthusiasm belongs to youth. His thoughts were busied with dreams of Paris; thither flew his wishes. "Yes, I will travel!" exclaimed he; "that will give my whole character a more decided bias: I will and must," added he in thought. "My sorrow will be extinguished, the recollections of my childhood be forgotten. Abroad, no terrific figures, as here, will present themselves to me. My father is dead, foreign earth lies upon his coffin!"
"But the office—examination!" said the old preacher, "pass that first. It is always good to have this in reserve, even if thou dost make no use of it. Only make this year thy philosophicum."
"And in the spring I shall travel," said Otto.
"That depends upon thy guardian, my son!" said the preacher.
Several days passed, and Otto began to feel it solitary in his home—all moved here in such a confined circle. His mind was accustomed to a wider sphere of action. He began to grow weary, and then the hours travel with the snail's pace.
"...minutterna ligesom raecka og straerka sig. Man kaenner behof at goere sa med." [Note: Sketches of Every-day Life.]
He thought of his departure.
"Thou must take the road through Lemvig," said Rosalie. "I will then visit the family there for a few days; it will make them quite happy to see thee, and I shall then be so much longer with thee. That thou wilt do, wilt thou not?"
The day was fixed when they should travel.
The evening previous, Otto paid his last visit to the preacher. They spoke together a long time about the deceased grandfather. The preacher gave up several papers to Otto; among them also his father's last letter.
In honor of Otto, a bottle of wine was placed upon the table.
"To thy health, my son!" said the preacher, raising his glass. "We shall hardly spend another evening together. Thou wilt have much to learn before thou comest as far as I. The world has more thorn-bushes than gold-mountains. The times look unsettled. France commences a new description of campaign in Europe, and certainly will draw along with it all young men: formerly it was the conquerer Napoleon who led to the field; now it is the idea of liberty! May the Lord preserve our good king, and then it will remain well with us! Thou, Otto, wilt fly out into the wide world—hadst thou only first passed thy examination for office! But when and where-ever thou mayest fly, remember on all occasions the words of Scripture.
"We all desire to rule. Phaeton wished to drive the chariot of the sun, but not understanding how to guide the reins, he set fire to the countries, precipitated himself from the chariot, and broke his neck. I have no one in the city of Copenhagen whom I can ask thee to greet for me. All the friends of my youth are scattered to the east and to the west. If any of them still be in the city, they will certainly have forgotten me. But shouldst thou ever go to the Regent's Court, and smoke with the others a pipe under the tree, think of me. I have also sat there when I was young like thee; when the French Revolution drove also the blood quicker through my veins, and thoughts of freedom caused me to carry my head more high. The dear old tree! [Author's Note: At the end of the last century it was felled, and two younger ones, which are now in full growth, planted in its stead.] Yes, but one does not perceive in it, as in me, how many years have passed since then!"
He pressed a kiss on Otto's forehead, gave him his blessing, and they parted.
Otto was in a melancholy mood; he felt that he had certainly seen the old man for the last time. When he arrived at home he found Rosalie busy hacking. The following morning, by earliest dawn, they were to travel toward Lemvig. Otto had not been there within these two last years. In old times the journey thither had always been to him a festival, now it was almost indifferent to him.
He entered his little chamber; for the last time in his life he should now sleep there. From the next morning commenced, so it seemed to him, a new chapter in his life. Byron's "Farewell" sounded in his ears like an old melody:—
"Fare thee well, and if forever, Still for ever fare thee well."
At break of day the carriage rolled away with him and old Rosalie. Both were silent; the carriage moved slowly along the deep ruts. Otto looked back once more. A lark rose, singing above him.
"It will be a beautiful day!" said the coachman; his words and the song of the lark Rosalie regarded as a good omen for Otto's whole journey.
"Geske.—Have you put syrup in the coffee? Henrich.—Yes, I have. Geske.—Be so good, dear madams, be so kind as to be contented." HOLBERG'S Political Pewterer.
Lemvig lies, as is well known, on an arm of the Limfjord. The legend relates, that in the Swedish war a troop of the enemy's cavalry compelled a peasant here to mount his horse and serve as a guide. Darkness came on; they found themselves already upon the high sand-banks. The peasant guided his horse toward a steep precipice; in a farm-house on the other side of the fjord they perceived a light. "That is Lemvig," said the peasant; "let us hasten!" He set spurs to his horse, the Swedes followed his example, and they were precipitated into the depth: the following morning their corpses were found. The monument of this bold Lemvig peasant consists of this legend and in the songs of the poets; and these are the monuments which endure the longest. Through this legend the bare precipice receives an intellectual beauty, which may truly compare itself with the naturally beautiful view over the city and the bay.
Rosalie and Otto drove into the town. It was two years since he had been here; everything seemed to him, during this time, to have shrunk together: wherever he looked everything was narrow and small. In his recollection, Lemvig was very much larger.
They now drew up before the merchant's house. The entrance was through the shop, which was decorated with wooden shoes, woolen gloves, and iron ware. Close within the door stood two large casks of tea. Over the counter hung an extraordinary stuffed fish, and a whole bunch of felt hats, for the use of both sexes. It was a business en gros and en detail, which the son of the house managed. The father himself was number one in Lemvig; he had ships at sea, and kept open house, as they call it, in the neighborhood.
The sitting-room door opened, and the wife herself, a stout, square woman, with an honest, contented countenance, stepped out and received the guests with kisses and embraces. Alas! her good Jutland pronunciation cannot be given in writing.
"O, how glorious that the Mamsell comes and brings Mr. Thostrup with her! How handsome he is become! and how grown! Yes, we have his mark still on the door." She drew Otto along with her. "He has shot up more than a quarter of a yard!"
He looked at the objects which surrounded him.
"Yes," said she, "that instrument we have had since you were last here; it is a present to Maren from her brother. She will now sing; you something. It is astonishing what a voice she has! Last Whitsuntide she sang in the church with the musical people; she sang louder than the organ!"
Otto approached the sofa, over which a large piece of needlework hung, in a splendid gold frame. "That is Maren's name-sampler," said the mistress of the house. "It is very pretty. See! there stand all our names! Can Mr. Thostrup guess who this is? Here are all the figures worked in open stitch. That ship, there, is the Mariane, which was called after me. There you see the Lemvig Arms—a tower which stands on the waves; and here in the corner, in regular and irregular stitches, is her name, 'Maren, October the 24th, 1828.' Yes, that is now two years since. She has now worked a cushion for the sofa, with a Turk upon it. It went the round of the city—every one wished to see it; it is astonishing how Maren can use her hands!"
Rosalie inquired after the excellent girl.
"She is preparing the table," said the lady. "Some good friends are coming to us this evening. The secretary will also come; he will then play with Maren. You will doubtless, in Copenhagen, have heard much more beautiful music; ours is quite simple, but they sing from notes: and I think, most likely the secretary will bring his musical-box with him. That is splendid! Only lately he sang a little song to the box, that was much better than to the larger instrument; for I must say he has not the strong chest which Maren has."
The whole family assembled themselves for the first time at the dinner-table. The two persons who took the lowest places at table appeared the most original; these were the shopman and the aunt. Both of them had only at dinner the honor of being with the family; they were quite shut out from the evening parties.
The shopman, who in the shop was the first person, and who could there speak a few words, sat here like a quiet, constrained creature; his hair combed toward one side, and exhibiting two red, swollen hands: no sound escaped his lips; kissing the hand of the lady of the house, at coming and going, was all he did beside eat.
The aunt, who was not alone called so by the family, but by the whole of Lemvig, was equally sparing of her words, but her face was constantly laughing. A flowered, red cotton cap fitted close to the thin face, giving something characteristic to the high cheek-bones and hanging lip. "She assisted in the household, but could take no part in genteel company," as the lady expressed herself. She could never forget how, at the Reformation Festival, when only the singers sang in the church, aunt began singing with them out of her book, so that the churchwarden was forced to beg her to be silent; but this she took very ill, and declared she had as notch right as the others to praise God, and then sang in defiance. Had she not been "aunt," and not belonged to the family to which she did, she would certainly have been turned out.
She was now the last person who entered and took her place at table. Half an hour had she been sought after before she was found. She had stood at the end of the garden, before the wooden trellis. Grass had been mown in the field behind the garden, and made into a rick; to see this she had gone to the trellis, the odor had agreeably affected her; she had pressed her face against the trellis-work, and from contemplation of it had fallen into thought, or rather out of thought. There she was found, and the dreamer was shaken into motion. She was again right lively, and laughed each time that Otto looked at her. He had his seat between Maren and the lady of the house, at the upper end of the table. Maren was a very pretty girl—little, somewhat round, white and red, and well-dressed. A vast number of bows, and a great variety of colors, were her weak side. She was reading at this time "Cabal and Love."
"Thou art reading it in German!" said the mother.
"Yes, it must be a beautiful piece. I speak German very well, but when I wish to read it I get on too slowly with it: I like to get to the end of a book!"
The husband had his place at the head of the table. A little black cap sat smoothly on his gray hair, and a pair of clever eyes sparkled in his countenance. With folded hands he prayed a silent prayer, and then bowed his head, before he allowed the dinner to be served. Rosalie sat beside him. Her neighbor on the right seemed very talkative. He was an old soldier, who in his fortieth year had gone as lieutenant with the land's troops, and had permission to wear the uniform, and therefore sat there in a kind of military coat, and with a stiff cravat. He was already deep in Polignac's ministry and the triumph of the July days; but he had the misfortune to confound Lafitte and Lafayette together. The son of the house only spoke of bull-calves. The lady at the table was a little mamsell from Holstebro, who sat beside him, dressed like a girl for Confirmation, in a black silk dress and long red shawl. She was in grand array, for she was on a visit. This young lady understood dress-making, and could play upon the flute; which, however, she never did without a certain bashfulness: besides this, she spoke well, especially upon melancholy events. The bottle of wine only circulated at the upper end of the table; the shopman and aunt only drank ale, but it foamed gloriously: it had been made upon raisin-stalks.
"He is an excellent man, the merchant, whom you have received as guardian, Mr. Thostrup," said the master of the house. "I am in connection with him."
"But it is strange," interrupted the lady, "that only one out of his five daughters is engaged. If the young ladies in Copenhagen do not go off better than that, what shall we say here?"
"Now Mr. Thostrup can take one of them," said the husband. "There is money, and you have fortune also; if you get an office, you can live in floribus!"
Maren colored, although there was no occasion for coloring; she even cast down her eyes.
"What should Mr. Thostrup do with one of them?" pursued the wife. "He shall have a Jutland maiden! There are pretty young ladies enough here in the country-seats," added she, and laid the best piece of meat upon his plate.
"Do the royal company give pretty operas?" asked Maren, and gave another direction to the conversation.
Otto named several, among others Der Freischuetz.
"That must be horrible!" said the lieutenant. "They say the wolf-glen is so natural, with a waterfall, and an owl which flutters its wings. Burgomaster Mimi has had a letter from a young lady in Aarhuus, who has been in Copenhagen, and has seen this piece. It was so horrible that she held her hand before her face, and almost fainted. They have a splendid theatre!"
"Yes, but our little theatre was very pretty!" said the lady of the house. "It was quite stupid that the dramatic company should have been unlucky. The last piece we gave is still clear in my recollection; it was the 'Sandsesloese.' I was then ill; but because I wished so much to see it, the whole company was so obliging as to act it once more, and that, too, in our sitting-room, where I lay on the sofa and could look on. That was an extraordinary mark of attention from them! Only think—the burgomaster himself acted with them!"
In honor of the strangers, coffee was taken after dinner in the garden, where, under the plum-trees, a swing was fixed. Somewhat later a sailing party was arranged. A small yacht belonging to the merchant lay, just unladen, near the bridge of boats.
Otto found Maren and the young lady from Holstebro sitting in the arbor. Somewhat startled, they concealed something at his entrance.
"The ladies have secrets! May one not be initiated?"
"No, not at all!" replied Maren.
"You have manuscript poems in the little book!" said Otto, and boldly approached. "Perhaps of your own composition?"
"O, it is only a memorandum-book," said Maren, blushing. "When I read anything pretty I copy it, for we cannot keep the books."
"Then I may see it!" said Otto. His eye fell upon the written sheet:—
"So fliessen nun zwei Wasser Wohl zwischen mir und Dir Das eine sind die Thraenen, Das andre ist der See!" [Note: Des Knaben Wunderhorn.]
he read. "That is very pretty! 'Der verlorne Schwimmer,' the poem is called, is it not?"
"Yes, I have copied it out of the secretary's memorandum-book; he has so many pretty pieces."
"The secretary has many splendid things!" said Otto, smiling. "Memorandum-book, musical snuff-box"—
"And a collection of seals!" added the young lady from Holstebro.
"I must read more!" said Otto; but the ladies fled with glowing cheeks.
"Are you already at your tricks, Mr. Thostrup?" said the mother, who now entered the garden. "Yes, you do not know how Maren has thought of you—how much she has spoken of you. You never wrote to us; we never heard anything of you, except when Miss Rosalie related us something out of your letters. That was not nice of you! You and Maren were always called bride and bridegroom. You were a pair of pretty children, and your growth has not been disadvantageous to either of you."
At four o'clock the evening party assembled—a whole swarm of young ladies, a few old ones, and the secretary, who distinguished himself by a collection of seals hanging to a long watch-chain, and everlastingly knocking against his body; a white shirt-frill, stiff collar, and a cock's comb, in which each hair seemed to take an affected position. They all walked down to the bay. Otto had some business and came somewhat later. Whilst he was crossing, alone, the court-yard, he heard, proceeding from the back of the house, a fearful, wild cry, which ended in violent sobbing. Terrified, he went nearer, and perceived the aunt sitting in the middle of a large heap of turf. The priestess at Delphi could not have looked more agitated! Her close cap she had torn from her head; her long, gray hair floated over her shoulders; and with her feet she stamped upon the turf, like a willful child, until the pieces flew in various directions. When she perceived Otto she became calm in a moment, but soon she pressed her thin hands before her face and sobbed aloud. To learn from her what was the matter was not to be thought of.
"O, she is only quarrelsome!" said the girl, to whom Otto had turned for an explanation. "Aunt is angry because she was not invited to sail with the company. She always does so,—she can be quite wicked! Just lately, when she should have helped me to wring out the sheets, she always twisted them the same way that I did, so that we could never get done, and my hands hurt me very much!"
Otto walked down to the bay. The sail was unfurled, the secretary brought out his musical-box, and, accompanied by its tones, they glided in the burning sunshine over the water.
On the other side tea was to be drunk, and then Maren was to sing. Her mother asked her to sing the song with the strong tones, so that Otto might hear what a voice she had.
She sang "Dannevang." Her voice had uncommon power, but no style, no grace.
"Such a voice, I fancy, you have not heard in the theatre at Copenhagen?" said the secretary, with dogmatical gravity.
"You might wish yourself such a chest!" said the lieutenant.
The secretary should now sing; but he had a little cold, which he had always.
"You must sing to the musical-box!" said the lady, and her wish was fulfilled. If Maren had only commenced, one might have believed it a trial of skill between Boreas and Zephyr.
They now walked about, drank tea, and after this they were to return to the house, there to partake of fish and roast meat, a piece of boxed ham, and other good things.
Otto could by no means be permitted to think of leaving them the following morning; he must remain a few days, and gather strength, so that in Copenhagen he might apply himself well to work. But only one day would he enjoy all the good things which they heaped upon him. He yearned for other people, for a more intellectual circle. Two years before he had agreed splendidly with them all, had found them interesting and intellectual; now he felt that Lemvig was a little town, and that the people were good, excellent people.
The following play again brought capital cookery, good foul, and good wine—that was to honor Mr. Thostrup. His health was drunk, Maren was more confidential, the aunt had forgotten her trouble, and again sat with a laughing face beside the constrained shopman. They must, it is true, make a little haste over their dinner, for the fire-engine was to be tried; and this splendor, they maintained, Otto must see, since he so fortunately chanced to lie there.
"How can my mother think that this will give Mr. Thostrup pleasure?" said Maren. "There is nothing to see in it."
"That has given him pleasure formerly!" answered the mother. "It is, also, laughable when the boys run underneath the engine-rain, and the stream comes just in their necks."
She spoke of the former Otto and of the present one—he was become so Copenhagenish, so refined and nice, as well in the cut of his clothes as in his manners; yet she still found an opportunity of giving him a little hint to further refinement. Only think! he took the sugar for his coffee with his fingers!
"But where are the sugar-tongs, the massive silver sugar-tongs?" asked she. "Maren, dost thou allow him to take the sugar with his fingers?"
"That is more convenient!" answered Otto. "I do that always."
"Yes, but if strangers had been here," said the hostess, in a friendly but teaching tone, "we must, like that grand lady you know of, have thrown the sugar out of the window."
"In the higher circles, where people have clean fingers, they make use of them!" said Otto. "There would be no end of it if one were to take it with the sugar-tongs."
"They are of massive silver!" said the lady, and weighed them in her hand.
Toward evening Rosalie went into the garden under the plum trees.
"These, also, remind me of my mountains," said she; "this is the only fruit which will properly flourish there. Lemvig lies, like La Locle, in a valley," and she pointed, smiling, to the surrounding sand-hills. "How entirely different it is here from what it is at home on thy grandfather's estate! There I have been so accustomed to solitude, that it is almost too lively for me here. One diversion follows another."
It was precisely this which Otto did not like. These amusements of the small towns wearied him, and he could not delight himself with them, no longer mingle in this life.
He wished to set out early the following morning. It would be too exhausting to drive along the dry road in the sun's heat, they all declared; he must wait until the afternoon, then it would be cooler; it was, also, far pleasanter to travel in the night. Rosalie's prayers decided him. Thus, after dinner and coffee, the horses should be put into the carriage.
It was the last day. Maren was somewhat in a grave mood. Otto must write in her album. "He would never come to Lemvig again," said she. As children they had played with each other. Since he went to Copenhagen she had, many an evening, seated herself in the swing near the summer-house and thought of him. Who knows whether she must not have done so when she copied out of the secretary's memorandum-book, the verses,—
"So fliessen nun zwei Wasser Wohl zwischen mir and Dir?"
The sea certainly flows between Aarhuus and Copenhagen.
"Maren will perhaps go over for the winter," said the mother; "but we dare not speak too much about it, for it is not yet quite settled. It will really make her gayer! lately she has been very much inclined to melancholy, although God knows that we have denied her no pleasure!"
There now arrived a quantity of letters from different acquaintance, and from their acquaintance: if Mr. Thostrup would have the goodness to take care of this to Viborg, these to Aarhuus, and the others as far as Copenhagen. It was a complete freight, such as one gets in little towns, just as though no post went through the country.
The carriage stopped before the door.
Rosalie melted into tears. "Write to me!" said she. "Thee I shall never see again! Greet my Switzerland when thou comest there!"
The others were merry. The lady sang,—
"O could I, like a cloud, but fly!"
The young lady from Holstebro bowed herself before him with an Album-leaf its her hand, upon which she must beg Mr. Thostrup to write her something. Maren gave him her hand, blushed and drew back: but as the carriage rolled away she waved her while handkerchief through the open window: "Farewell! Farewell!"
"Stop! cried Patroclus, with mighty, thundering voice." —WILSTER'S Iliad.
The parting with Rosalie, the hospitality of the family, and their sincere sympathy, touched Otto; he thought upon the last days, upon his whole sojourn in his home. The death of his grandfather made this an important era in his life. The quiet evening and the solitary road inclined him still more to meditation.
How cheering and interesting had been a visit to Lemvig in former times! Then it furnished matter for conversation with Rosalie for many weeks; it now lay before him a subject of indifference. The people were certainly the same, therefore the change must have taken place in himself. He thought of Copenhagen, which stood so high, and of the people there.
"After all, the difference is not so great!" said he. "In Copenhagen the social foci are more numerous, the interests more varied; each day brings a fresh topic of conversation, and one can choose one's society. The multitude, on the contrary, has something citizenish; it obtrudes itself even from beneath the ball-dress which shows itself at court; it is seen in the rich saloon of the wholesale merchant, as well as in the house of the brandy distiller, whose possessions give to him and his two brewers the right of election. It is the same food which is presented to us; in the small towns one has it on earthenware, in Copenhagen on china. If one had only the courage, in the so-called higher classes, to break through the gloss which life in a greater circle, which participation in the customs of the world, has called forth, one should soon find in many a lady of rank, in many a nobleman who sits not alone in the theatre, on the first bench, merely that empty common earthenware; and that, as with the merchant's wife in Lemvig, a dejeuner or a soiree, like some public event, will occupy the mind before and after its occurrence. A court-ball, at which either the son or daughter has figured, resembles the most brilliant success in an examination for office. We laugh at the authorities of Lemvig, and yet with us the crowd runs after nothing but authorities and newspapers. This is a certain state of innocence. How many a poor officer or student must play the subordinate part of the shopman at the table of the rich, and gratefully kiss the hand of the lady of the house because she has the right of demanding gratitude? And in the theatre, with the multitude, what does not 'an astonishing chest' do? A strength of voice which can penetrate right through the leather of the mind gains stormy applause, whilst taste and execution can only be appreciated by the few. The actor can be certain of applause if he only thunder forth his parting reply. The comedian is sure of a shout of bravo if he puts forth an insipidity, and rubs his legs together as if replying with spirit and humor. The massive plate in the house gives many a lady the boldness to teach that in which she herself might perhaps have been instructed. Many a lady, like the Mamsell from Holstebro, dresses always in silk and a long shawl, and if one asks after her profession one finds it consists at most in dress-making; perhaps she does not even possess the little accompanying talent of playing the flute. How many people do not copy, like Maren, out of other people's memorandum-books, and do not excel musical-boxes! still one hears a deal of musical snuff-box music, and is waited upon by voices which are equally as insignificant as the secretary's."
These were pretty much Otto's reflections, and certainly it was a good feeling which lay at the bottom of them. Let us remember in our judgment that he was so young, and that he had only known Copenhagen one year; otherwise he would most certainly have thought quite differently.
Night spread itself over the heath, the heavens were clear. Slowly the carriage wound along through the deep sand. The monotonous sound, the unchanging motion, all rendered Otto sleepy. A falling star shot like a fire column across the sky—this woke him for a moment; he soon again bowed his head and slept, fast and deep. It was an hour past midnight, when he was awoke by a loud cry. He started up—the fire burnt before them; and between it and the horse stood two figures, who had taken hold of the leather reins. Close beside them was a cart, under which was placed a sort of bed, on which slept a woman and some children.
"Will you drive into the soup-kettle?" asked a rough voice, whilst another scolded in a gibberish which was unintelligible to Otto.
It had happened to the coachman as to him, only that the coachman had fallen asleep somewhat later; the horses had lost their track, and uncertain, as they had long been, they were now traversing the impassable heath. A troop of the so-called Scavengers, who wander through these districts a nomadic race, had here taken up their quarters for the night, had made a fire and hung the kettle over it, to cook some pieces of a lamb they had stolen on their journey.
"They were about half a mile from the highway," said an elderly woman who was laying some bushes of heath under the kettle.
"Half a mile?" replied a voice from the other side of the cart, and Otto remarked a man who, wrapped in a large gray riding-cloak, had stretched himself out among the heather. "It is not a quarter of a mile to the highway if people know how to direct their course properly!"
The pronunciation of the man was somewhat foreign, but pure, and free from the gibberish which the others employed in their speech. The voice seemed familiar to Otto, his ear weighed each syllable, and his blood ran quicker through his veins: "It is the German Heinrich, the evil angel of my life!" he felt, and wrapt himself closer in his mantle, so that his countenance was concealed.
A half-grown lad came forward and offered himself as a guide.
"But the lad must have two marks!" said the woman.
Otto nodded assent, and glanced once more toward the man in whom he believed he recognized the German Heinrich; the man had again carelessly stretched himself among the heath, and did not seem inclined to enter into farther discourse.
The woman desired the payment in advance, and received it. The boy led the horses toward one side; at the moment the fire flare up between the turf-sods, a great dog, with a loose cord about his neck, sprang forward and ran barking after the carriage, which now travelled on over the heath in the gloomy night.
"Poetry does not always express sorrow; the rainbow can also arch across a cloudless blue firmament."—JEAN PAUL.
We again find ourselves in Copenhagen, where we meet with Otto, and may every day expect Wilhelm, Miss Sophie, and the excellent mamma; they would only stay a few weeks. To learn tidings of their arrival, Otto determined to pay a visit where they were expected; we know the house, we were present at the Christmas festival: it was here that Otto received his noble pedigree.
We will now become somewhat better acquainted with the family. The husband had a good head, as people sat, had an excellent wine-cellar, and was, as one of the friends maintained, a good l'hombre player. But the soul of the house, the animating genius, which drew into this circle all that possessed life and youth, was the wife. Beautiful one could by no means call her, but, enchanted by her natural loveliness, her mind, and her unaffectedness, you forgot this in a few moments. A rare facility in appreciating the comic of every-day life, and a good-humored originality in its representation, always afforded her rich material for conversation. It was as if Nature, in a moment of thoughtlessness, had formed an insipid countenance, but immediately afterward strove to make good her fault by breathing into it a soul, which, even through pale blue eyes, pale cheeks, and ordinary features, could make her beauty felt.
When Otto entered the room he heard music. He listened: it must be either Weyse or Gerson.
"It is the Professor Weyse," said the servant, and Otto opened the door softly, without knocking.
The astral-lamp burnt upon the table; upon the sofa sat two young ladies. The mistress of the house nodded Otto a friendly welcome, but then smiling laid her finger on her lips, as a sign of silence, and pointed to a chair, on which he seated himself, and listened to the soft tones, which, like spirits, floated from the piano at which the musician sat. It was as if the slumbering thoughts and feelings of the soul, which in every breast find a response, even among the most opposite nations, had found a voice and language. The fantasies died away in a soft, spiritual piano. Thus lightly has Raphael breathed the Madonna di Foligno upon the clouds; she rests there as a soap-bubble rests upon velvet. That dying away of the tomes resembled the thoughts of the lover when his eye closes, and the living dream of his heart imperceptibly merges and vanishes in sleep. Reality is over.
Here also the tones ceased.
"Der Bettelvogt von Ninive Zog hinab zum Genfersee, Hm, hm!" [Author's Note: An old popular German song.]
commenced the musician once more, with an originality and spirit which influenced the whole company. Far too soon did he again break off, after he had enchanted all ears by his own treasures, as well as by the curiosities of the people's life in the world of sound. Only when he was gone did admiration find words; the fantasies still echoed in every heart.
"His name deserves to be known throughout Europe!" said the gracious lady; "how few people in the world know Weyse and Kuhlau!"
"That is the misfortune of a musician being born in a small country," said Otto. "His works become only manuscript for friends; his auditory extends only from Skagen to Kiel: there the door is closed."
"One must console one's self that everything great and good becomes at length known," said the cousin of the family, who is known to us by his verses for the Christmas-tree. "The nations will become acquainted with everything splendid in the kingdom of mind, let it bloom in a small or in a large country. Certainly during this time the artist may have died, but then he must receive compensation in another world."
"I truly believe," returned the gracious lady, "that he would wish a little in advance here below, where it is so ordered that the immortal must bow himself before the mortal."
"Certainly," replied Otto; "the great men of the age are like mountains; they it is which cause the land to be seen from afar, and give it importance, but in themselves they are bare and cold; their heights are never properly known."
"Very beautiful," said the lady; "you speak like a Jean Paul."
At this moment the door opened, and all were surprised by the entrance of Miss Sophie, Wilhelm, and the dear mamma. They were not expected before the following evening. They had travelled the whole day through Zealand.
"We should have been here to dinner," said Sophie, "but my brother could not get his business finished in Roeskelde; then he had forgotten to order horses, and other little misadventures occurred: six whole hours we remained there. Mamma contracted quite a passion there—she fell fairly in love with a young girl, the pretty Eva."
"Yes, she is a nice creature!" said the old lady. "Had I not reason, Mr. Thostrup? You and my Wilhelm had already made her interesting to me. She has something so noble, so refined, which one so rarely meets with in the lower class; she deserves to come among educated people."
"Otto, what shall our hearts say," exclaimed Wilhelm, "when my good mother is thus affected?"
They assembled round the tea-table. Wilhelm addressed Otto with the confidential "thou" which Otto himself had requested.
"We will drink together in tea and renew our brotherhood."
Otto smiled, but with such a strangely melancholy air, and spoke not a word.
"He's thinking about the old grandfather," thought Wilhelm, and laid his hand upon his friend's shoulder. "The Kammerjunker and his ladies greet thee!" said he. "I believe the Mamsell would willingly lay thee in her own work-box, were that to be done."
Otto remained quiet, but in his soul there was a strange commotion. It would be a difficult thing to explain this motive, which belonged to his peculiarity of mind; it entered among the mysteries of the soul. The multitude call it in individuals singularity, the psychologist finds a deeper meaning in it, which the understanding is unable to fathom. We have examples of men, whose strength of mind and body were well known, feeling faint at the scent of a rose; others have been thrown into a convulsive state by touching gray paper. This cannot be explained; it is one of the riddles of Nature. A similar relaxing sensation Otto experienced when he, for the first time, heard himself addressed as "thou" by Wilhelm. It seemed to him as though the spiritual band which encircled them loosened itself, and Wilhelm became a stranger. It was impossible for Otto to return the "thou," yet, at the same time, he felt the injustice of his behavior and the singularity, and wished to struggle against it; he mastered himself, attained a kind of eloquence, but no "thou" would pass his lips.
"To thy health, Otto," said Wilhelm, and pushed his cup against Otto's.
"Health!" said Otto, with a smile.
"It is true," began the cousin, "I promised you the other day to bring my advertisements with me; the first volume is closed." And he drew from his pocket a book in which a collection of the most original Address-Gazette advertisements, such as one sees daily, was pasted.
"I have one for you," said the lady; "I found it a little time since. 'A woman wishes for a little child to bottle.' Is not that capital?"
"Here is also a good one," said Wilhelm, who had turned over the leaves of the book: "'A boy of the Mosaic belief may be apprenticed to a cabinet-maker, but he need not apply unless he will eat everything that happens to be in the house.' That is truly a hard condition for the poor lad."
"Almost every day," said the cousin, "one may read, 'For the play of to-day or to-morrow is a good place to be had in the third story in the Christenbernikov Street.' The place is a considerable distance from the theatre."
"Theatre!" exclaimed the master of the house, who now entered to take his place at the tea-table, "one can soon hear who has that word in his mouth; now is he again at the theatre! The man can speak of nothing else. There ought, ready, to be a fine imposed, which he should pay each time he pronounces the word theatre. I would only make it a fine of two skillings, and yet I dare promise that before a month was over he would be found to pay in fines his whole pocket-money, and his coat and boots besides. It is a real mania with the man! I know no one among my young friends," added he, with an ironical smile at Wilhelm,—"no, not one, who has such a hobby-horse as our good cousin."
"Here thou art unjust to him!" interrupted his wife; "do not place a fine upon him, else I will place thee in a vaudeville! Thy life is in politics; our cousin's in theatrical life; Wilhelm's in thorough-bass; and Mr. Thostrup's in learned subjects. Each of you is thus a little nail in the different world-wheels; whoever despises others shows that he considers his wheel the first, or imagines that the world is a wheelbarrow, which goes upon one wheel! No, it is a more complicated machine."
Later in the evening, when the company broke up, Otto and Wilhelm went together.
"I do not think," said Wilhelm, "that thou hast yet said thou to me. Is it not agreeable to thee?"
"It was my own wish, my own request," replied Otto. "I have not remarked what expressions I have employed." He remained silent. Wilhelm himself seemed occupied with unusual thoughts, when he suddenly exclaimed: "Life is, after all, a gift of blessings! One should never make one's self sorrows which do not really exist! 'Carpe diem,' said old Horace."
"That will we!" replied Otto; "but now we must first think of our examination."
They pressed each other's hands and parted.
"But I have heard no thou!" said Wilhelm to himself "He is an oddity, and yet I love him! In this consists, perhaps, my own originality."
He entered his room, where the hostess had been cleaning, and had arranged the books and papers in the nicest order. Wilhelm truly called it disorder; the papers in confusion and the books in a row. The lamp even had a new place; and this was called order!
Smiling, he seated himself at the piano; it was so long since they had said "Good day" to each other! He ran over the keys several times, then lost himself in fantasies. "That is lovely!" he exclaimed. "But it is not my property! What does it belong to? It melts into my own feelings!" He played it again. It was a thema out of "Tancredi," therefore from Rossini, even the very composer whom our musical friends most looked down upon; how could he then guess who had created those tones which now spoke to his heart? His whole being he felt penetrated by a happiness, a love of life, the cause of which he knew not. He thought of Otto with a warmth which the latter's strange behavior did not deserve. All beloved beings floated so sweetly before his mind. This was one of those moments which all good people know; one feels one's self a member of the great chain of love which binds creation together.
So long as the rose-bud remains folded together it seems to be without fragrance; yet only one morning is required, and the fine breath streams from the crimson mouth. It is only one moment; it is the commencement of a new existence, which already has lain long concealed in the bud: but one does not see the magic wand which works the change. This spiritual contrast, perhaps, took place in the past hour; perhaps the last evening rays which fell upon the leaves concealed this power! The roses of the garden must open; those of the heart follow the same laws. Was this love? Love is, as poets say, a pain; it resembles the disease of the mussel, through which pearls are formed. But Wilhelm was not sick; he felt himself particularly full of strength and enjoyment of life. The poet's simile of the mussel and the pearl sounds well, but it is false. Most poets are not very learned in natural history; and, therefore, they are guilty of many errors with regard to it. The pearl is formed on the mussel not through disease; when an enemy attacks her she sends forth drops in her defense, and these change into pearls. It is thus strength, and not weakness, which creates the beautiful. It would be unjust to call love a pain, a sickness; it is an energy of life which God has planted in the human breast; it fills our whole being like the fragrance which fills each leaf of the rose, and then reveals itself among the struggles of life as a pearl of worth.
These were Wilhelm's thoughts; and yet it was not perfectly clear to him that he loved with his whole soul, as one can only love once.
The following forenoon he paid a visit to Professor Weyse.
"You are going to Roeskelde, are you not?" asked Wilhelm. "I have heard you so often play the organ here in Our Lady's church, I should very much like to hear you there, in the cathedral. If I were to make the journey, would you then play a voluntary for me?"
"You will not come!" said the musician.
"I shall come!" answered Wilhelm, and kept his word. Two days after this conversation he rolled through the streets of Roeskelde.
"I am come for a wager! I shall hear Weyse play the organ!" said he to the host, although there was no need for an apology.
Bulwer in his romance, "The Pilgrims of the Rhine," has with endless grace and tenderness called forth a fairy world. The little spirits float there as the breath of air floats around the material reality; one is forced to believe in their existence. With a genius powerful as that which inspired Bulwer, glorious as that which infused into Shakespeare the fragrance we find breathed over the "Midsummer-night's Dream," did Weyse's tones fill Wilhelm; the deep melodies of the organ in the old cathedral had indeed attracted him to the quiet little town! The powerful tones of the heart summoned him! Through them even every day things assumed a coloring, an expression of beauty, such as Byron shows us in words, Thorwaldsen in the hard stone, Correggio in colors.
We have by Goethe a glorious poem, "Love a Landscape-painter." The poet sits upon a peak and gazes before him into the mist, which, like canvas spread upon the easel, conceals all heights and expanses; then comes the God of Love and teaches him how to paint a picture on the mist. The little one now sketches with his rosy fingers a picture such as only Nature and Goethe give us. Were the poet here, we could offer him no rock on which he might seat himself, but something, through legends and songs, equally beautiful. He would then sing,—I seated myself upon the mossy stone above the cairn; the mist resembled outstretched canvas. The God of Love commenced on this his sketch. High up he painted a glorious still, whose rays were dazzling! The edges of the clouds he made as of gold, and let the rays penetrate through them; then painted he the fine light boughs of fresh, fragrant trees; brought forth one hill after the other. Behind these, half-concealed, lay a little town, above which rose a mighty church; two tall towers with high spires rose into the air; and below the church, far out, where woods formed the horizon, drew he a bay so naturally! it seemed to play with the sunbeams as if the waves splashed up against the coast. Now appeared flowers; to the fields and meadows he gave the coloring of velvet and precious stones; and on the other side of the bay the dark woods melted away into a bluish mist. "I can paint!" said the little one; "but the most difficult still remains to do." And he drew with his delicate finger, just where the rays of the sun fell most glowingly, a maiden so gentle, so sweet, with dark blue eyes and cheeks as blooming as the rosy fingers which formed the picture. And see! a breeze arose; the leaves of the trees quivered; the expanse of water ruffled itself; the dress of the maiden was gently stirred; the maiden herself approached: the picture itself was a reality! And thus did the old royal city present itself before Wilhelm's eyes, the towers of the cathedral, she tay, the far woods, and—Eva!
The first love of a pure heart is holy! This holiness may be indicated, but not described! We return to Otto.
"A man only gains importance by a poet's fancy, when his genius vividly represents to our imagination a clearer, but not an ennobled image of men and objects which have an existence; then alone he understands how to idealize."—H. HERTZ.
We pass on several weeks. It was toward the end of September, the examen philosophicum was near. Preparations for this had been Otto's excuse for not yet having visited the family circle of his guardian, the merchant Berger. This was, however, brought about by Otto's finding one day, when he went to speak with his guardian, the mistress of the house in the same room. We know that there are five daughters in the house, and that only one is engaged, yet they are all well-educated girls—domestic girls, as their mother assured her friend upon more than one occasion.
"So, then, I have at length the honor of making your acquaintance," said Mrs. Berger, "this visit, truly, is not intended either for me or the children, but still you must now drink a cup of coffee with us. Within it certainly looks rather disorderly; the girls are making cloaks for the winter. We will not put ourselves out of the way for you: you shall be regarded as a member of the family: but then you must come to us in a friendly way. Every Thursday our son-in-law dines with us, will you then be contented with our dinner? Now you shall become acquainted with my daughters."
"And I must to my office," said the husband; "therefore let us consider Thursday as an appointment. We dine at three o'clock, and after coffee Laide gives us music."
The lady now conducted Otto into the sitting-room, where he found the four daughters in full activity with a workwoman. The fifth daughter, Julle, was, as they had told him, gone to the shops for patterns: yesterday she had run all over the town, but the patterns she received were not good.
The lady told him the name of each daughter; their characteristics he naturally learnt later.
All the five sisters had the idea that they were so extremely different, and yet they resembled each other to a hair. Adelaide, or Laide, as she was also called, was certainly the prettiest; that she well knew also, therefore she would have a fur cape, and no cloak; her figure should be seen. Christiane was what one might call a practical girl; she knew how to make use of everything. Alvilde had always a little attack of the tooth-ache; Julle went shopping, and Miss Grethe was the bride. She was also musical, and was considered witty. Thus she said one evening when the house-door was closed, and groaned dreadfully on its hinges, "See now, we have port wine after dinner." [Translator's Note: A pun which it is impossible to translate. The Danish word Portviin according to sound, may mean either port wine or the creaking of a door.] The brother, the only son of the house, with whom we shall become better acquainted, had written down this conceit; "but that was only to be rude toward her," said Miss Grethe. "Such good ideas as this I have every hour of the day!"
We ought really to accuse these excellent girls of nothing foolish; they were very good and wise. The lover, Mr. Svane, was also a zealous wit; he was so lively, they said. Every one with whom he became a little familiar he called immediately Mr. Petersen, and that was so droll!
"Now the father has invited Mr. Thostrup to come on Thursday!" said the lady. "I also think, if we were to squeeze ourselves a little together, he might find a place with us in the box; the room is, truly, very confined."
Otto besought them not to incommode themselves.
"O, it is a large box!" said the lady, but she did not say how many of them were already in it. Only eleven ladies went from the family itself. They were obliged to go to the theatre in three parties, so that people might not think; if they all went together, there was a mob. One evening, when the box had been occupied by eighteen persons, beside several twelve-year old children, who had sat in people's laps, or stood before them, and the whole party had returned home in one procession, and were standing before the house door to go in, people streamed together, imagining there was some alarm, or that some one had fallen into convulsions. "What is the matter?" they asked, and Miss Grethe immediately replied, "It is a select company!" [Translator's Note: A select or shut-out company. We regret that this pun, like the foregoing one, is untransferable into English.] Since that evening they returned home in separate divisions.
"It is really a good box!" said Alvilde; "if we had only other neighbors! The doors are opening and shutting eternally, and make a draught which is not bearable for the teeth. And then they speak so loud! the other night I did not hear a single word of the pretty song about Denmark."
"But did you lose much through that?" asked Otto, smiling, and soon they found themselves very much at variance, just as if they had been old acquaintances. "I do not think much of these patriotic scraps, where the poet, in his weakness, supports himself by this beautiful sentiment of patriotism in the people. You will certainly grant that here the multitude always applauds when it only hears the word 'Father-land,' or the name of 'Christian IV.' The poet must give something more; this is a left-handed kind of patriotism. One would really believe that Denmark were the only country in the world!"
"Fie, Mr. Thostrup!" said the lady: "do you not then love your father-land?"
"I believe I love it properly!" returned he: "and because it really possesses so much that is excellent do I desire that only what is genuine should be esteemed, only what is genuine be prized."
"I agree in the main with Mr. Thostrup," said Miss Grethe, who was busied in unpicking and turning her cloak, in order, as she herself said, to spoil it on the other side. "I think he is right! If a poem is well spoken on the stage, it has always a kind of effect. It is just the same as with stuffs—they may be of a middling quality and may have an unfavorable pattern, but if they are worn by a pretty figure they look well after all!"
"I am often vexed with the public!" said Otto. "It applauds at improper places, and sometimes exhibits an extraordinary innocence."
"Those are 'the lords of the kingdom of mind,'" said Miss Grethe, smiling.
[Note: "We are the lords of the kingdom of mind! We are the stem which can never decay!" —Students' Song, by CHRISTIAN WINTHER.]
"No, the neighbors!" replied Otto quickly.
At this moment Miss Julle entered. She had been wandering from shop to shop, she said, until she could bear it no longer! She had had the stuffs down from all the shelves, and at length had succeeded so far as to become possessed of eight small pieces—beautiful patterns, she maintained. And now she knew very well where the different stuffs were to be had, how wide they were, and how much the yard. "And whom did I meet?" said she; "only think! down the middle of East Street came the actor—you know well! Our little passion! He is really charming off the stage."
"Did you meet him?" said Laide. "That girl is always lucky!"
"Mr. Thostrup," said the mother, presenting him, for the young lady seemed to forget him entirely, so much was she occupied with this encounter and her patterns.
Julle bowed, and said she had seen him before: he had heard Mynster, and had stood near the chair where she sat; he was dressed in an olive-green coat.
"Then you are acquainted with each other!" said the lady. "She is the most pious of all the children. When the others rave about Spindler and Johanne Schoppenhauer, she raves about the clergyman who confirmed her. You know my son? He became a student a year before you. He sees you in the club sometimes."
"There you will have seen him more amiable than you will find him at home," said Adelaide. "Heaven knows he is not gallant toward his sisters!"
"Sweet Laide, how can you say so!" cried the mother. "You are always so unjust toward Hans Peter! When you become better acquainted with him, Mr. Thostrup, you will like him; he is a really serious young man, of uncorrupted manners. Do you remember, Laide, how he hissed that evening in the theatre when they gave that immoral piece? And how angry he is with that 'Red Riding Hood?' O, the good youth! Besides, in our family, you will soon meet with an old acquaintance—in a fortnight a lady out of Jutland will come here. She remains the winter here. Do you not guess who it is? A little lady from Lemvig!"
"Maren!" exclaimed Otto.
"Yes, truly!" said the lady. "She is said to have such a beautiful voice!"
"Yes, in Lemvig," remarked Adelaide. "And what a horrible name she has! We must christen her again, when she comes. She must be called Mara, or Massa."
"We could call her Massa Carara!" said Grethe.
"No; she shall be called Maja, as in the 'Every-day Tales,'" said Christiane.
"I am of Jane's opinion!" said the mother. "We will christen her again, and call her Maja."
Men are not always what they seem.—LESSING.
Our tale is no creation of fancy; it is the reality in which we live; bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh. Our own time and the men of our own age we shall see. But not alone will we occupy ourselves with every-day life, with the moss on the surface; the whole tree, from the roots to the fragrant leaves, will we observe. The heavy earth shall press the roots, the moss and bark of every-day life adhere to the stern, the strong boughs with flowers and leaves spread themselves out, whilst the sun of poetry shall shine among them, and show the colors, odor, and singing-birds. But the tree of reality cannot shoot up so soon as that of fancy, like the enchantment in Tieck's "Elves." We must seek our type in nature. Often may there be an appearance of cessation; but that is not the case. It is even so with our story; whilst our characters, by mutual discourse, make themselves worthy of contemplation, there arises, as with the individual branches of the tree, an unseen connection. The branch which shoots high up in the air, as though it would separate itself from the mother-stem, only presses forward to form the crown, to lend uniformity to the whole tree. The lines which diverge from the general centre are precisely those which produce the harmony.
We shall, therefore, soon see, though these scenes out of every-day life are no digression from the principal events, nothing episodical which one may pass over. In order still sooner to arrive at a clear perception of this assertion, we will yet tarry a few moments in the house of Mr. Berger, the merchant; but in the mean time we have advanced three weeks. Wilhelm and Otto had happily passed their examen philosophicum. The latter had paid several visits, and was already regarded as an old friend of the family. The lover already addressed him with his droll "Good day, Mr. Petersen;" and Grethe was witty about his melancholy glance, which he was not always able to conquer. She called it "making faces," and besought him to appear so on the day of her funeral.
The object of the five sisters' first Platonic love had been their brother. They had overwhelmed him with caresses and tenderness, had admired and worshipped him. "The dear little man!" they called him; they had no other. But Hans Peter was so impolite and teasing toward the dear sisters, that they were found to resign him so soon as one of them had a lover. Upon this lover they all clung. Each one seemed to have a piece of him. He was Grethe's bridegroom, would be their brother-in-law. They might address him with the confidential thou, and even give him a little kiss.
Otto's appearance in the family caused these rays to change their direction. Otto was handsome, and possessed of fortune; either of which often suffices to bow a female heart. Beauty bribes the thoughtless; riches, the prudent.
Maren, or as she was here called, Maja, had arrived. The young ladies had already pulled off some of her bows, arranged her hair differently, and made one of her silk handkerchiefs into an apron; but, spite of all this finesse, she still remained the lady from Lemvig. They could remove no bows from her pronunciation. She had been the first at home; here she could not take that rank. This evening she was to see in the theatre, for the first time, the ballet of the "Somnambule."
"It is French!" said Hans Peter; "and frivolous, like everything that we have from them."
"Yes, the scene in the second act, where she steps out of the window," said the merchant; "that is very instructive for youth!"
"But the last act is sweet!" cried the lady. "The second act is certainly, as Hans Peter very justly observed, somewhat French. Good heavens! he gets quite red, the sweet lad!" She extended her hand to him, and nodded, smiling, whereupon Hans Peter spoke very prettily about the immorality on the stage. The father also made some striking observation.
"Yes," said the lady, "were all husbands like thee, and all young men like Hans Peter, they would speak in another tone on the stage, and dress in another manner. In dancing it is abominable; the dresses are so short and indecent, just as though they had nothing on! Yet, after all, we must say that the 'Somnambule' is beautiful. And, really, it is quite innocent!"
They now entered still deeper into the moral: the conversation lasted till coffee came.
Maren's heart beat even quicker, partly in expectation of the play, through hearing of the corruptions of this Copenhagen Sodom. She heard Otto defend this French piece; heard him speak of affectation. Was he then corrupted? How gladly would she have heard him discourse upon propriety, as Hans Peter had done. "Poor Otto!" thought she; "this is having no relations, but being forced to struggle on in the world alone."
The merchant now rose. He could not go to the theatre. First, he had business to attend to; and then he must go to his club, where he had yesterday changed his hat.
"Nay, then, it has happened to thee as to Hans Peter!" said the lady. "Yesterday, in the lecture-room, he also got a strange hat. But, there, thou hast his hat!" she suddenly exclaimed, as her eye fell upon the hat which her husband held in his hand. "That is Hans Peter's hat! Now, we shall certainly find that he has thine! You have exchanged them here at home. You do not know each other's hats, and therefore you fancy this occurred from home."
One of the sisters now brought the hat which Hans Peter had got in mistake. Yes, it was certainly the father's. Thus an exchange in the house, a little intermezzo, which naturally, from its insignificance, was momentarily forgotten by all except the parties concerned, for to them it was an important moment in their lives; and to us also, as we shall see, an event of importance, which has occasioned us to linger thus long in this circle. In an adjoining room will we, unseen spirits, watch the father and son. They are alone; the family is already in the theatre. We may, indeed, watch them—they are true moralists. It is only a moral drawn from a hat.
But the father's eyes rolled, his cheeks glowed, his words were sword-strokes, and must make an impression on any disposition as gentle as his son's; but the son stood quiet, with a firm look and with a smile on his lips, such as the moral bestows. "You were in the adjoining room!" said he. "Where it is proper for you to be there may I also come."
"Boy!" cried the father, and named the place, but we know it not; neither know we its inhabitants. Victor Hugo includes them in his "Children's Prayer," in his beautiful poem, "La Priere pour Tous." The child prays for all, even "for those who sell the sweet name of love."
[Note: "Prie!... Pour les femmes echevelees Qui vendent le doux nom d'amour!"]
"Let us be silent with each other!" said the son. "I am acquainted with many histories. I know another of the pretty Eva!"—
"Eva!" repeated the father.
We will hear no more! It is not proper to listen. We see the father and son extend their hands. It appeared a scene of reconciliation. They parted: the father goes to his business, and Hans Peter to the theatre, to anger himself over the immorality in the second act of the "Somnambule."
"L'amour est pour les coeurs, Ce que l'aurore est pour les fleurs, Et le printemps pour la nature."—VIGUE.
"Love is a childish disease and like the small-pox. Some die, some become deformed, others are more or less scarred, while upon others the disease does not leave any visible trace."—The Alchemist, by C. HAUCH.