Otto's blood flowed faster; never had he seen Sophie more beautiful. The audience, however, could not entirely forget the comic scene which they had just witnessed; there was heard a faint suppressed laughter.
This at length was able to take its free course when the following picture presented itself, where the Kammerjunker, as the Somnambule, his hand half-concealing the extinguished light, showed himself at the open window.
A most stormy burst of applause was awarded to the actors.
"Miss Sophie has arranged the whole!" cried the Kammerjunker, and now her name sounded from the lips of all the audience.
Not before two days did Wilhelm return. He and Otto slept in the same apartment. Otto told of the tableaux, and said how lovely Eva had been as Hero.
"That I can well believe," replied Wilhelm, but did not enter further into the subject; he laughed about the Kammerjunker and the disarranged group.
Otto again named Eva, but Wilhelm lightly passed over this subject in his replies. Otto could not fathom their connection.
"Shall we not go to sleep?" said Wilhelm; they wished each other good-night, and it was quiet.
The old man Sleep, as Tieck has described him, with the box out of which he brings his dream-puppets, now commenced his nightly dramatic adventures, which lasted until the sun shone in through the window.
"He draws nearer and nearer to her. 'O, give my hope an answer by this pink-flower.' She sighs: 'O, I will—no—I will not.'" The Dancer, by PALUDAN-MUeLLER
"I shall get to know!" thought Otto. "This violent love cannot be evaporated." He paid attention to every little occurrence. Eva was the same quiet, modest creature as formerly—a house-fairy who exercised a friendly influence over all. Wilhelm spoke with her, but not with passion, neither with affected indifference. However, we cannot entirely rely upon Otto's power of observation: his glance was directed too often toward a dearer object—his attention was really directed to Sophie.
They walked in the garden.
"Once as you certainly know," said Otto, "your brother had a fancy for the pretty Eva. Is it not, therefore, somewhat dangerous her living here? Has your mother been prudent?"
"For Wilhelm I am quite unconcerned!" answered Sophie. "Only take care of yourself! Eva is very amiable, and has very much changed for the better since she came here. My sister Louise quite raves about her, and my mother regards her almost as an adopted daughter. You have certainly remarked that she is not kept in the background. Yet she is weak; she resembles the tender mountain-flowers which grow in ice and snow, but which bow their heads in the soft mountain air, when it is warmed by the sun. It really seems to me that she is become weaker since she has enjoyed our care and happy days. When I saw her at Roeskelde she was far more blooming."
"Perhaps she thinks of your brother—thinks of him with quiet sorrow?"
"That I do not think is the case," replied Sophie; "otherwise Louise would have heard something of it. She possesses Eva's entire confidence. You may make yourself easy, if you are jealous!"
"What make you conjecture this? My thoughts are directed above, and not beneath me!" said he, with a kind of pride, "I feel that I could never fall in love with Eva. Feel love toward her? no! Even when I think of it, I feel almost as though I had some prejudice against her. But you joke; you will rally me, as you have so often done. We shall soon part! Only two months longer shall I remain in Denmark! Two long years abroad! How much may occur in that time! Will you think of me—really think of me, Miss Sophie?" He bent, and kissed her hand.
Sophie became crimson. Both were silent.
"Are you here!" said the mother, who came out of a side walk.
Otto stooped lower, and broke one of the beautiful stocks which hung over the border.
"Are you taking Louise's favorite flowers?" said she, smiling. "This bed is declared to be inviolable."
"I was so unfortunate as to break it!" said Otto, confused.
"He wished to gather the dark-red pink for my table-garland!" said Sophie. "If he took it, my conscience would be clear!"
And they all three walked along speaking of cherries, gooseberries, of the linen on the bleaching-ground, and of the warm summer's day.
In the evening Eva and the two sisters sat at their work, Otto and Wilhelm had taken their seats beside them. They spoke of Copenhagen.
Sophie knew how to introduce a number of little anecdotes, which she had gathered among the young ladies there. Otto entered into her ideas, and knew cleverly how to support what she said. What in reality interested young ladies was discussed.
"When a girl is confirmed, all manner of fancies awake!" said Otto. "She experiences a kind of inclination for the heart of man; but this may not be acknowledged, except for two friends to the clergyman and the physician. For these she has quite a passion, especially for the former; she stands in a kind of spiritual rapport with him. His physical amiability melts into the spiritual. Thus her first love one may designate clergyman-love."
"That is well said!" exclaimed Sophie.
"He preaches himself so deeply into her heart!" pursued Otto. "She melts into tears, kisses his hand, and goes to church; but not for the sake of God, but on account of the sweet clergyman!"
"O, I know that so well!" said Sophie, and laughed.
"Fie! you do not mean so!" said Louise; "and I do not know how you can say such a thing Mr. Thostrup! That is frightful! You do not in the least know a young girl's soul! do not know the pure feeling with which she inclines herself to the man who has laid open before her the holy things of religion! Do not make sport of the innocent, the pure, which is so far removed from every earthly impression!"
"I assure you," said Otto, smiling, "were I a poet, I would make the clergyman-love ridiculous in a hundred witty epigrams; and were I a teacher, I would protest against it from the chair."
"That would be scattering poison into a well!" said Louise. "You, as a man, do not know the pure, the holy sentiment which exists in a young girl's bosom. Eva, thou art certainly of my opinion?"
"Neither is this Mr. Thostrup's opinion?" answered she, and looked at him with a mild gravity.
Wilhelm laughed aloud.
"Alas, I am no sturdy oak! Alas, I'm but the flower That wakes the kiss of May! And when has fled its little hour, Will voice of Death obey."—RUCKERT.
The following afternoon came visitors—two young ladies from Nyborg, friends of Sophie and Louise. Before dinner they would take a walk through the wood to an inclosure where the flax was in bloom. Otto was to accompany them.
"I am also of the party!" said the Kammerjunker, who just galloped into the court-yard as the ladies, with Otto, were about setting out on their excursion. Thus the whole company consisted of five ladies and two gentlemen.
"The cows are not in the field over which we must go, are they?" asked Eva.
"No, my good girl!" returned Sophie; "you may be quite easy! Besides, we have two gentlemen with us."
"Yes; but they would not be able to protect us from the unruly bullocks!" said Louise. "But we have nothing to fear. Where we are going the cows do not go until after they are milked. I am no heroine! Besides, it is not long since one bullock nearly gored the cowherd to death. He also gored Sidsel a great hole in her arm just lately: you remember the girl with her eyebrows grown together?"
"There is also in the wood a wild sow, with eleven sucking pigs!" said Sophie, in ironical gravity; "it would not be agree able to meet with her!"
"She is almost as dangerous as the bullocks!" said the Kammerjunker, and laughed at Eva.
The conversation took another turn.
"Shall we not visit Peter Cripple?" asked Sophie. "The gentlemen can then see the smith's pretty daughter; she is really too beautiful to be his wife!"
"Is Peter Cripple married?" inquired Otto.
"No, the wedding will be held on Sunday!" replied the Kammerjunker; "but the bride is already in the house. The bans were published last Sunday, and they immediately commenced housekeeping together. This often takes place even earlier, when a man cannot do without a wife. She has taken him on account of his full money-bags!"
"Yes, with the peasant it is seldom love which brings about the affair!" said Louise. "Last year there was quite a young girl who married a man who might have been her grandfather. She took him only, she said, because he had such a good set of earthenware."
"These were very brittle things to marry upon!" remarked Otto.
Meantime they were nearly come to the edge of the wood. Here stood a little house; hops hung luxuriantly over the hedge, the cat stood with bent back upon the crumbling edge of the well.
Sophie, at the head of the whole company, stepped into the room, where Peter Cripple sat on the table sewing; but, light and active as an elf, he sprang down from the table to kiss her hand. The smith's pretty daughter was stirring something in an iron pot in the hearth. St. John's wort, stuck between the beams and the ceiling, shot forth in luxuriant growth, prophesying long life to the inhabitants of the house. On the sooty ceiling glittered herrings' souls, as a certain portion of the herring's entrails is called, and which Peter Cripple, following the popular belief, had flung up to the ceiling, convinced that so long as they hung there he should be freed from the ague.
Otto took no part in the conversation, but turned over a quantity of songs which he found; they were stitched together in a piece of blue tobacco-paper. The principal contents were, "New, Melancholy Songs," "Of the Horrible Murder," "The Audacious Criminal," "The Devil in Salmon Lane," "Boat's Fall," and such things; which have now supplanted, among the peasants, the better old popular songs.
With Louise, Eva, and one of the ladies from Nyborg, Otto slowly preceded the others, who had still some pleasantries to say before leaving Peter Cripple and his bride.
"Shall we not go over the inclosure to the cairn?" said Louise. "It is clear to-day; we shall see Zealand. The others will follow us; here, from the foot-path, they will immediately discover us."
Otto opened the gate and they went through the inclosure. They had already advanced a considerable way, when the Kammerjunker and his ladies reached the foot-path from which they could see the others.
"They are going to the cairn," said he.
"Then they will have a little fright!" said Sophie. "Down in the corner of the inclosure lie the young cattle. They may easily mistake them for cows, and the wild bullocks!"
"Had we not better call them back?" asked the other lady.
"But we must frighten them a little," said Sophie. "Shout to them that there are the cows!"
"Yes, that I can do with a clear conscience!" said the Kammerjunker; and he shouted as loud as he could, "There are the cows! Turn back! turn back!"
Eva heard it the first. "O God!" said she, "hear what they are calling to us!"
Otto glanced around, but saw no cows.
"They are standing still!" said Sophie; "call once again!"
The Kammerjunker shouted as before, and Sophie imitated the lowing of the cows. At this noise the young cattle arose.
Louise now became aware of them. "O heavens!" exclaimed she; "there, down in the corner of the inclosure, are all the cows!"
"Let us run!" cried Eva, and took to flight.
"For God's sake, do not run!" cried Otto; "walk slowly and quietly, otherwise they may come!"
"Come away, away!" resounded from the wood.
"O Lord!" shrieked Eva, when she saw the creatures raise their tails in the air as soon as they perceived the fugitives.
"Now they are coming!" cried the lady who accompanied them, and sent forth a loud scream.
Eva fled first, as if borne by the wind; the lady followed her, and Louise ran on after them.
Otto now really saw all the cattle, which, upon the ladies flight, had instinctively followed, chasing over the field after them in the same direction.
Nothing now remained for him but, like the others, to reach the gate. This he opened, and had just closed again, when the cattle were close upon them, but no one had eyes to see whether the cattle were little or big.
"Now there is no more danger!" cried Otto, as soon as he had well closed the gate; but the ladies still fled on, passing among the trees until they reached the spot where the Kammerjunker and his two ladies awaited them with ringing laughter.
Sophie was obliged to support herself against a tree through all the amusement. It had been a most remarkable spectacle, this flight; Eva at the head, and Mr. Thostrup rushing past them to open the gate. Louise was pale as death, and her whole body trembled; the friend supported her arm and forehead on a tree, and drew a long breath.
"Bah!" again cried Sophie, and laughed.
"But where is Eva?" asked Otto, and shouted her name.
"She ran here before me!" said Louise; "she is doubtless leaning against a tree, and recovering her strength."
"Eva!" cried Sophie. "Where is my hero: 'I want a hero!'" [Author's Note: Byron's Don Juan.]
Otto returned to seek her. At this moment Wilhelm arrived.
The Kammerjunker regretted that he had not seen the race with them, and related the whole history to him.
"O come! come!" they heard Otto shout. They found him kneeling in the high grass. Eva lay stretched out on the ground; she was as pale as death; her head rested in Otto's lap.
"God in heaven!" cried Wilhelm, and flung himself down before her. "Eva! Eva! O, she is dead! and thou art to blame for it, Sophie! Thou hast killed her!" Reproachfully he fixed his eyes on his sister. She burst into tears, and concealed her face in her hands.
Otto ran to the peasant's cottage and brought water. Peter Cripple himself hopped like a mountain-elf behind him through the high nettles and burdocks, which closed above and behind him again.
The Kammerjunker took Eva in his strong arms and carried her to the cottage. Wilhelm did not leave hold of her hand. The others followed in silence.
"Try and get her home," said Wilhelm; "I myself will fetch the physician!" He rushed forth, and hastened through the wood to the ball, where he ordered the men to bring out a sedan-chair for the invalid; then had horses put into one of the lightest carriages, seated himself in it as coachman, and drove away to Nyborg, the nearest town, which, however, was distant almost twenty miles.
Sophie was inconsolable. "It is my fault!" she said, and wept.
Otto found her sitting before the house, under an elder-tree. She could not endure to see Eva's paleness.
"You are innocent," said Otto. "Believe me, to-morrow Eva will be completely restored! She herself," added he, in an assuaging tone, "behaved in an imprudent manner. I warned her not to run. Her own terror is to blame for all."
"No, no," returned Sophie; "my folly, my extravagance, has caused the whole misfortune!"
"Now it is much better," said the Kammerjunker, coming out of the house. "She must be devilish tender to fly before a few calves! I really must laugh when I think of it, although it did come to such an end!"
The men now arrived whom Wilhelm had sent with the sedan-chair.
Eva thought she could walk, if she might lean upon some one; but it would be better, her friends thought, if she were carried.
"Dost thou feel any pain?" asked Louise, and gave her a sisterly kiss on the brow.
"No, none at all," replied Eva. "Do not scold me for having frightened you so. I am so fearful, and the bullock were close behind us."
"They were, God help me, only calves!" answered the Kammerjunker; "they wished to play, and only ran because you ran!"
"It was a foolish joke of mine!" said Sophie, and seized Eva's hand. "I am very unhappy about it!"
"O no!" said Eva, and smiled so pensively, yet happily. "To-morrow I shall be quite well again!" Her eye seemed to seek some one.
Otto understood the glance. "The physician is sent for. Wilhelm has himself driven over for him."
Toward the middle of the wood the mother herself approached them; she was almost as pale as Eva.
All sought to calm her; Eva bowed her head to kiss the good lady's hand. The Kammerjunker told the story to her, and she shook her head. "What an imprudent, foolish joke!" said she; "here you see the consequences!"
Not before late in the afternoon did Wilhelm return with the physician; he found his patient out of all danger, but prescribed what should still be done. Quiet and the warm summer air would do the most for her.
"See," said Otto, when, toward evening he met Sophie in the garden, "to-day Wilhelm did not conceal his feelings!"
"I fear that you are right!" returned Sophie. "He loves Eva, and that is very unfortunate. Tell me what you know about it."
"I know almost nothing!" said Otto, and told about little Jonas and the first meeting with Eva.
"Yes, that he has told us already himself! But do you know nothing more?" Her voice became soft, and her eyes gazed full of confidence into Otto's.
He related to her the short conversation which he had had last autumn with Wilhelm, how angry he had been with his candid warning, and how since then they had never spoken about Eva.
"I must confide my fear to our mother!" said Sophie. "I almost now am glad that he will travel in two months, although we shall then lose you also!"
And Otto's heart beat; the secret of his heart pressed to his lips; every moment he would speak it. But Sophie had always still another question about her brother; they were already out of the garden, already in the court-yard, and yet Otto had said nothing.
Therefore was he so quiet when, late in the evening, he and Wilhelm entered their chamber. Wilhelm also spoke no word, but his eye repeatedly rested expectantly on Otto, as if waiting for him to break the silence. Wilhelm stepped to the open window and drank in the fresh air, suddenly he turned round, flung his arms round Otto, and exclaimed, "I can no longer endure it! I must say it to some one! I love her, and will never give her up, let every one be opposed! I have now silently concealed my feelings for some months; I can do so no longer, or I shall become ill, and for that I am not made!"
"Does she know this?" asked Otto.
"No, and yes! I do not know what I should answer! Here at home I have never spoken alone with her. The last time when Weyse played on the organ at Roeskelde I had bought a pretty silk handkerchief, and this I took with me for her; I know not, but I wished to give her pleasure. There came a woman past with lovely stocks; I stood at the open window; she offered me a bouquet, and I bought it. 'Those are lovely flowers!' said Eva, when she entered. 'They will fade with me!' said I; 'put them in water and keep there for yourself!' She wished only to have a few, but I obliged her to take them all: she blushed, and her eyes gazed strangely down into my soul. I know not what sort of a creature I became, but it was impossible for me to give her the handkerchief; it seemed to me that this would almost be an offense. Eva went away with the flowers, but the next morning it seemed to me that she was uneasy; I fancied I saw her color come and go when I bade her adieu! She must have read the thoughts in my soul!"
"And the handkerchief?" interrupted Otto.
"I gave it to my sister Sophie," said Wilhelm.
"Tell me What would my heart? My heart's with thee, With thee would have a part." GOETHE'S West-oestlicher Divan.
"There stands the man again— The man with gloomy mien." Memories of Travel, by B. C. INGEMANN.
Several days passed; the fine crimson again returned to Eva's cheeks. The first occasion of her going out with the others was to see the rape-stalks burned. These were piled together in two immense stacks. In the morning, at the appointed hour, which had been announced through the neighborhood that no one might mistake it for a conflagration, the stalks were set fire to. This took place in the nearest field, close beside the hall, where the rape-seed was threshed upon an out-spread sail.
The landscape-painter, Dahl, has given us a picture of the burning Vesuvius, where the red lava pours down the side of the mountain; in the background one sees across the bay as far as Naples and Ischia: it is a piece full of great effect. Such a splendid landscape is not to be found in flat Denmark, where there are no great natural scenes, and yet this morning presented even there a picture with the same brilliant coloring. We will study it. In the foreground there is a hedge of hazels, the nuts hang in great clusters, and contrast strongly with their bright green against the dark leaves; the blue chicory-flower and the blood-red poppy grew on the side of the ditch, upon which are some tall rails, over which the ladies have to climb: the delicate sylph-like figure is Eva. In the field, where nothing remains but the yellow stubble, stand Otto and Wilhelm; two magnificent hounds wag their tails beside them. To the left is a little lake, thickly overgrown with reeds and water-lilies, with the yellow trollius for its border. In the front, where the wood retreats, lie, like a great stack, the piled-together rape-stalks: the man has struck fire, has kindled the outer side of them, and with a rapidity like that of the descending lava the red fire flashes up the gigantic pile. It crackles and roars within it. In a moment it is all a burning mound; the red flames flash aloft into the blue air, high above the wood which is now no longer visible. A thick black smoke ascends up into the clear air, where it rests like a cloud. Out of the flames, and even out of the smoke, the wind carries away large masses of fire, which, crackling and cracking, are borne on to the wood, and which fill the spectator with apprehension of their falling upon the nearest trees and burning up leaf and branch.
"Let us go further off," said Sophie; "the heat is too great here."
They withdrew to the ditch.
"O, how many nuts!" exclaimed Wilhelm; "and I do not get one of them! I shall go after them if they be ripe."
"But you have grapes and other beautiful fruit!" said Eva smiling. "We have our beautiful things at home!"
"Yes, it is beautiful, very beautiful at home!" exclaimed Wilhelm; "glorious flowers, wild nuts; and there we have Vesuvius before us!" He pointed to the burning pile.
"No," said Sophie; "it seems to me much more like the pile upon which the Hindoo widow lays herself alive to be burned! That must be horrible!"
"One should certainly be very quickly dead!" said Eva.
"Would you actually allow yourself to be burned to death, if you were a Hindoo widow—after, for instance, Mr. Thostrup, or after Wilhelm," said she, with a slight embarrassment, "if he lay dead in the fire?"
"If it were the custom of the country, and I really had lost the only support which I had in the world—yes, so I would!"
"O, no, no!" said Louise.
"In fact it is brilliant!" exclaimed Sophie.
"Burning is not, perhaps, the most painful of deaths!" said Otto, and plucked in an absent manner the nuts from the hedge. "I know a story about a true conflagration."
"What is it like?" asked Wilhelm.
"Yet it is not a story to tell in a large company; it can only be heard when two and two are together. When I have an opportunity, I shall tell it!"
"O, I know it!" said Wilhelm. "You can relate it to one of my sisters there, whichever you like best! Then I shall—yes, I must relate it to Eva!"
"It is too early in the day to hear stories told!" said Louise; "let us rather sing a song!"
"No, then we shall have to weep in the evening," replied Wilhelm. And they had neither the song nor the story.
Mamma came wandering with Vasserine, the old, faithful hound: they two also wished to see how beautiful the burning looked. It succeeded excellently with the rape-stalks; but the other burning, of which the story was to be told, it did not yet arrive at an outbreak! It might be expected, however, any hour in the day.
In the evening Otto walked alone through the great chestnut avenue. The moon shone brightly between the tree-branches. When he entered the interior court Wilhelm and Sophie skipped toward him, but softly, very softly. They lifted their hands as if to impress silence.
"Come and see!" said Sophie; "it is a scene which might be painted! it goes on merrily in the servants' hall; one can see charmingly through the window!"
"Yes, come!" said Wilhelm.
Otto stole softly forward. The lights shone forth.
Within there was laughter and loud talking; one struck upon the table, another sung,—
"And I will away to Prussia land, Hurrah! And when I am come to Prussia land, Hurrah!" [Note: People's song.]
Otto looked in through the window.
Several men and maids sat within at the long wooden table at the end of this stood Sidsel in a bent attitude, her countenance was of a deep crimson; she spoke a loud oath and laughed—no one imagined that they were observed. All eyes were riveted upon a great fellow who, with his shirt-sleeves rolled up, and a pewter tankard in his hand, was standing there. It was the German Heinrich, who was exhibiting to them his conjuring tricks. Otto turned pale; had the dead arisen from the bier before him it could not have shocked him more.
"Hocus-pocus Larifari!" cried Heinrich within, and gave the tankard to a half-grown fellow, of the age between boy and man.
"If thou hast already a sweetheart," said he; "then the corn which is within it will be turned to flour; but if thou art still only a young cuckoo, then it will remain only groats."
"Nay, Anders Peersen!" said all the girls laughing, "now we shall see whether thou art a regular fellow!"
Sophie stole away.
The echoing laughter and clapping of hands announced the result.
"Is it not the same person who was playing conjuring tricks in the park?" inquired Wilhelm.
"Yes, certainly," replied Otto; "he is to me quite repulsive!" And so saying, he followed Sophie.
Late in the evening, when all had betaken themselves to rest, Wilhelm proposed to Otto that they should make a little tour, as he called it.
"I fancy Meg Merrilies, as my sister calls Sidsel," said he, "has made a conquest of the conjuror, although he might be her father. They have been walking together down the avenue; they have been whispering a deal together; probably he will to-night sleep in one of the barns. I must go and look after him; he will be lying there and smoking his pipe, and may set our whole place on fire. Shall we go down together? We can take Vasserine and Fingel with us."
"Let him sleep!" said Otto; "he will not be so mad as to smoke tobacco in the straw! To speak candidly, I do not wish to be seen by him. He was several times at my grandfather's house. I have spoken with him, and now that I dislike him I do not wish to see him!"
"Then I will go alone!" said Wilhelm.
Otto's heart beat violently; he stood at the open window and looked out over the dark wood, which was lit up by the moon. Below in the court he heard Wilhelm enticing the dogs out. He heard yet another voice, it was that of the steward, and then all was again silent. Otto thought upon the German Heinrich and upon Sophie, his life's good and bad angels; and he pictured to himself how it would be if she extended to him her hand—was his bride! and Heinrich called forth before her the recollections which made his blood curdle.
It seemed to him as if something evil impended over him this night. "I feel a forewarning of it!" said he aloud.
Wilhelm came not yet back.
Almost an hour passed thus. Wilhelm entered, both dogs were with him; they were miry to their very sides.
"Did you meet any one?" inquired Otto.
"Yes, there was some one," said Wilhelm, "but not in the barn. The stupid dogs seemed to lose their nature; it was as if there was a somebody stealing along the wall, and through the reeds in the moat. The hounds followed in there; you can see how they look!—but they came the next moment back again, whined, and hung down their ears and tails. I could not make them go in again. Then the steward was superstitious! But, however, it could only be either the juggler, or one of the servant-men who had stilts. How otherwise any one could go in among the reeds without getting up to their necks, I cannot conceive!"
All was again perfectly still without. The two friends went to the open window, threw their arms over each other's shoulders, and looked out into the silent night.
"Bring' haeusliche Huelfe Incubus! incubus. Tritt herhor und mache den Schluss." GOETHE's Faust.
"Es giebt so bange Zeiten, Es giebt so trueben Muth!"—NOVALIS.
The next morning Wilhelm related his evening adventure at the breakfast-table; the sisters laughed at it. The mother, on the contrary, was silent, left the room, and after some time returned.
"There have been thieves here!" said she, "and one might almost imagine that they were persons in the household itself. They have been at the press where the table-linen is kept, and have not been sparing in their levies. The beautiful old silver tankard, which I inherited from my grandmother, is also missing. I would much sooner have given the value of the silver than have lost that piece!"
"Will not the lady let it be tried by the sieve?" asked the old servant: "that is a pretty sure way!"
"That is nothing but superstition," answered she; "in that way the innocent may so easily be suspected."
"As the lady pleases!" said the servant, and shook his head.
In the mean time a search through the house was instituted. The boxes of the domestics were examined, but nothing was discovered.
"If you would only let the sieve be tried!" said the old servant.
In the afternoon Otto went into the garden; he fell into discourse with the gardener, and they spoke of the theft which had occurred.
"It vexes every one of us," said he, "because we think much of the lady, and of the whole family. And some one must, nevertheless, be suspected. We believe that it was Sidsel, for she was a good-for-nothing person! We folks tried among ourselves with the sieve, but however, at the mention of her name, if it did not move out of its place. We had set it upon the point of a knife, and mentioned the name of every person about the place, but it stood as if it were nailed quite fast. But there was really something to see, which not one of us would have believed. I'll say no more about it, although we had every one of us our own thoughts. I would have taken my oath of it."
Otto pressed him to mention the person who was suspected.
"Yes, to you perhaps, I may mention it," replied he; "but you will not say anything about it? As we were standing today, at noon, around the sieve, and it did not move at Sidsel's name, she became angry, because a word bad been let fall which could not be agreeable to her if she were innocent. She drew herself up as if in a passion, and said to us, 'But there are also in the hall a many people besides us, who may slip and slide! There are strangers here, and the fine Mamsell, and the farmers. Yes, I suspect no one, but every one ought to be named!'
"And so we did it. Yes, we mentioned even your name, Mr. Thostrup, although we knew very well that you were guiltless of the charge; but we would not excuse any one. The sieve stood quite entirely still until we mentioned Eva's name, and then it moved. Not one of us actually could believe it, and the servant Peter said also that it was because of the draught from the chimney. We mentioned yet once more all the names, and the sieve stood still until we came to Eva's, and then we perceived very plainly a movement. The servant Peter at the same moment gave a great blow to the sieve, so that it fell to the ground, and he swore that it was a lie, and that he would answer for Eva. I would have done so too; but yet it was very extraordinary with the sieve! Most of the folks, however, have their own thoughts, but no one venture to express them to the gentry who think so much of her. I cannot, however, rightly reconcile it to myself!"
"She is innocent!" said Otto; and it amazed him that any one should cast the slightest suspicion on Eva. He thought of German Heinrich and Sidsel, who alone appeared to him suspicious. There then occurred to him an experiment of which he had heard from Rosalie. It now seemed to him available, and, physiologically considered, much more certain than that with the sieve.
"Probably it may lead to a discovery," said he, after he had communicated his whole plan to Sophie and the steward.
"Yes, we mast try it!" said she; "it is excellent! I also will be put to the proof, although I am initiated into the mystery."
"Yes, you, your sister, Wilhelm, Eva, we all of us must," said Otto. "Only I will not do the speaking: that the steward must do."
"That is proper, very proper!" replied she: "it shall be tried this evening when it is dark."
The time came; the steward assembled the people.
"Now I know," said he, "how we shall find the thief!"
All were to remain in the first room: within a side-room, which was quite dark, there stood in a corner on the right hand a copper kettle; to this every person as they came in, one by one, were to go and lay their hand down on the flat bottom of the kettle. The hand of every one who was innocent would be brought out again white and pure, but the hand of the criminal would be severely burned, and would become black as a coal.
"He who now," said the steward, addressing them, "has a good conscience, may go with this and our Lord into the innermost room, lay his hand upon the bottom of the kettle, and show it to me. Now I go to receive you all!"
The daughters went, the friends, Eva, and all the household. The steward questioned them as they came in: "Answer me, upon thy conscience, did thy hand touch the flat bottom of the kettle?"
All replied, "Yes!"
"Then show me your hand!" said he; and they showed them, and all were black: Sidsel's alone was white.
"Thou art the thief!" said the steward. "Thy evil conscience has condemned thee. Thou hast not touched the kettle; hast not laid thy hand upon it, or it would have become as black as that of the others. The kettle was blackened inside with turpentine smoke; they who came with a good conscience, knowing that their hands would remain pure like their consciences, touched the kettle fearlessly and their hands became black! Thou hast condemned thyself! Confess, or it will go worse with thee!"
Sidsel, uttered a horrible cry and fell down upon her knees.
"O God, help me!" said she, and confessed that she was the thief.
A chamber high up in the roof was prepared as a prison; here the delinquent was secured until the affair, on the following day, should be announced to the magistrate.
"Thou shalt be sent to Odense, and work upon the treadmill!" said Wilhelm: "to that thou belongest!"
The family assembled at the tea-table. Sophie joked about the day's adventure.
"Poor Sidsel!" said Eva.
"In England she would be hanged," said Wilhelm; "that would be a fine thing to see!"
"Horrible!" replied Louise; "they must die of terror in going to the gallows."
"Nay, it is very merry," said Wilhelm. "Now you shall hear what glorious music has been set to it by Rossini!" And he played the march from "Gazza Ladra," where a young girl is led to the gallows.
"Is it not merry?" asked he. "Yes, he is a composer!"
"To me it seems precisely characteristic," answered Otto. "They are not the feelings of the girl which the composer wished to express; it is the joy of the rude rabble in witnessing an execution—to them a charming spectacle, which is expressed in these joyous tones: it is a tragic opera, and therefore he chose exactly this character of expression!"
"It is difficult to say anything against that," replied Wilhelm; "yet what you assert I have not heard from any other person."
"When a soldier is executed they play some lively air," said Otto; "the contrast in this case brings forth the strongest effect!"
The servant now entered, and said with a smile that Peter Cripple, the "new-married man," as he called him, was without and wished to speak to the Baron Wilhelm.
"It is about a waltz," said he, "which the Baron had promised to him!"
"It is late for him to come into the court!" said Sophie "the peasants generally go to bed with the sun."
In the lobby stood the announced Peter in his stocking-feet, with his hat in one hand and a great stick in the other. He knew, he said, that it was still daytime with the gentlefolks; he was just coming past the hall and thought that he could, perhaps, have that Copenhagen Waltz which the Baron had promised him: he should want it to-morrow night to play at a wedding, and, therefore, he wished to have it now that he might practice it first of all.
Sophie inquired after his young wife, and said something merry. Louise gave him a cup of tea, which he drank in the lobby. Otto looked at him through the open door; he made comical grimaces, and looked almost as if he wished to speak with him. Otto approached him, and Peter thrust a piece of paper into his hand, making at the same time a significant gesture indicative of silence.
Otto stepped aside and examined the dirty piece of paper, which was folded together like a powder and sealed with a lump of wax. On the outside stood, in scarcely legible characters,
"TotH' WeL-borne, Mr. Odto Tustraab."
He endeavored, in the first place, to read it in the moonlight; but that was scarcely possible.
After considerable labor he made out the meaning of this letter, written, as it was in a half-German, half-Danish gibberish, of the orthography of which we have given a specimen in the direction. The letter was from the German Heinrich. He besought Otto to meet him this evening in the wood near Peter Cripple's house, and he would give to him an explanation which should be worth the trouble of the walk. It would occasion, he said, much trouble and much misery to Mr Thostrup if he did not go.
A strange anxiety penetrated Otto. How could he steal away without being missed? and yet go he both must and should. An extraordinary anxiety drove him forth.
"Yes, the sooner the better!" said he, hastening down the steps and leaping in haste over the low garden-fence lest the gate should, perhaps, make a noise. He was very soon in the wood: he heard the beating of his own heart.
"Eternal Father!" said he, "strengthen my soul! Release me from this anxiety which overpowers me! Let all be for the best!"
He had now reached Peter Cripple's house. A figure leaned against the wall; Otto paused, measured it with his eye to ascertain who it was, and recognized German Heinrich.
"What do you want with me?" inquired Otto.
Heinrich raised his hand in token of silence, beckoned him forward, and opened a little gate which led to the back of the house. Otto mechanically followed him.
"It goes on badly at the hall," said Heinrich. "Sidsel is really put in prison, and will be taken to-morrow to Odense, to the red house by the river."
"It is what she has deserved!" said Otto. "I did not bring it about."
"O no!" answered Heinrich; "in a certain way we bring nothing about; but you can put in a good word for her. You must see that this punishment does not befall her."
"But the punishment is merited!" replied Otto; "and how can I mix myself up in the affair? What is it that you have to say to me?"
"Yet, the good gentleman must not get angry!" began Heinrich again; "but I am grieved about the girl. I can very well believe that he does not know her, and therefore it gives him no trouble; but if I were now to whisper a little word in his ear? She is your own sister, Mr. Thostrup!"
All grew dark before Otto's eyes; a chill as of death went through his blood; his hands held firmly by the cold wall, or he must have sunk to the earth; not a sound escaped his lips.
German Heinrich laid his hand in a confidential manner upon his shoulder, and continued in a jeering, agitated tone, "Yes, it is hard for you to hear! I also struggled a long time with myself before I could make up my mind to tell you. But a little trouble is preferable to a great one. I had some talk with her yesterday, but I did not mention you, although it seemed queer to me at my heart that the brother should sit at the first table with the young ladies, and the sister be farm swine-maiden. Now they have put her in prison! I am very sorry for her and you too, Mr. Thostrup, for it is disagreeable! If the magistrate come to-morrow morning, and she fall into the claws of the red angel, it will not be so easy to set her at liberty again! But yet you could, perhaps, help her; as, for instance, to-night! I could make an opportunity—I would be in the great avenue beyond the hall. If she could get thus far she would be safe; I would then conduct her out of this part of the country. I may as well tell you that we were yesterday half-betrothed! She goes with me; and you can persuade the gracious lady at the hall to let the bird fly!"
"But how can I? how can I?" exclaimed Otto.
"She is, however, always your sister!" said Heinrich, and they both remained silent for a moment. "Then I will," said Heinrich, "if all be still at the hall, wait in the avenue as the bell goes twelve."
"I must!" exclaimed Otto; "I must! God help me!"
"Jesu, Maria, help!" said Heinrich, and Otto left him.
"She is my sister! she, the most horrible of all!" sighed he; his knees trembled, and he leaned against a tree for support: his countenance was like that of the dead; cold sweat-drops stood upon his brow. All around him lay the dark night-like wood; only to the left glimmered, between the bushes, the moonlight reflected from the lake.
"Within its depths," sighed he, "all would be forgotten—my grief would be over! Yet, what is my sin? Had I an existence before I was born upon this globe? Must I here be punished for sins which I then committed?"
His dark eye stared lifelessly out of his pale countenance. Thus sit the dead upon their graves in the silent night; thus gazes the somnambulist upon the living world around him.
"I have felt this moment before—this moment which now is here; it was the well-spring whence poison was poured over my youthful days! She is my sister! She? unhappy one that I am!"
Tears streamed from his eyes, it was a convulsive weeping; he cried aloud, it was impossible to him to suppress his voice; he sank half down by the tree and wept, for it was night in his soul: silent, bitter tears flowed, as the blood flows when the heart is transpierced. Who could breathe to him consolation? There lay no balsam in the gentle airs of the clear summer night, in the fragrance of the wood, in the holy, silent spirit of nature. Poor Otto!
"Weep, only weep! it gives repose, A world is every tear that flows,— A world of anguish and unrest, That rolleth from the troubled breast.
"And hast thou wept whilst tears can flow, A tranquil peace thy heart will know; For sorrow, trivial or severe, Hath had its seat in every tear.
"Think'st thou that He, whose love beholds The worm the smallest leaf enfolds,— That He, whose power sustains the whole Forgets a world—thy human soul?"
"Mourir! c'est un instant de supplice: mais vivre?" —FREDERIC SOULIE.
The physician from Nyborg, who had been on a visit to a sick person in the neighborhood, took this opportunity of calling on the family and inquiring after Eva's health. They had prayed him to stay over the night there, and rather to drive hone in the early morning than so late in the evening. He allowed himself to be persuaded. Otto, on his return, found him and the family in deep conversation. They were talking of the "Letters of a Wandering Ghost."
"Where have you been?" asked Sophie, as Otto entered.
"You look so pale!" said Louise; "are you ill?"
"I do not feel well!" replied Otto; "I went therefore down into the garden a little. Now I am perfectly recovered." And he took part in the conversation.
The overwhelming sorrow had dissolved itself in tears. His mind had raised itself up again from its stupefaction, and sought for a point of light on which to attach itself. They were talking of the immense caves of Maastricht, how they stretch themselves out into deep passages and vast squares, in which sound is lost, and where the light, which cannot reach the nearest object, only glimmers like a point of fire. In order to comprehend this vacuity and this darkness, the travellers let the guide extinguish his torch, and all is night; they are penetrated, as it were, with darkness; the hand feels after a wall, in order to have some restraint, some thought on which to repose itself: the eye sees nothing; the ear hears nothing. Horror seizes on the strongest mind: the same darkness, the same desolate emotion, had Heinrich's words breathed into Otto's soul; therefore he sank like the traveller to the earth: but as the traveller's whole soul rivets itself by the eye upon the first spark which glimmers, to kindle again the torch which is to lead him forth from this grave, so did Otto attach himself to the first awakening thought of help. "Wilhelm? his soul is noble and good, him will I initiate into my painful secret, which chance had once almost revealed to him."
But this was again extinguished, as the first spark is extinguished which the steel gives birth to. He could not confide himself to Wilhelm; the understanding which this very confidence would give birth to between them, must separate them from each other. It was humiliating, it was annihilating. But for Sophie? No, how could he, after that, declare the love of his heart? how far below her should he be placed, as the child of poverty and shame! But the mother of the family? Yes, she was gentle and kind; with a maternal sentiment she extended to him her hand, and looked upon him as on a near relation. His thoughts raised themselves on high, his hands folded themselves to prayer; "The will of the Lord alone be done!" trembled involuntarily from his lips. Courage returned refreshingly to his heart. The help of man was like the spark which was soon extinguished; God was an eternal torch, which illumined the darkness and could guide him through it.
"Almighty God! thou alone canst and willest!" said he; "to thou who knowest the heart, do thou alone help and lead me!"
This determination was firmly taken; to no human being would he confide himself; alone would he release the prisoner, and give her up to Heinrich. He thought upon the future, and yet darker and heavier than hitherto it stood before him. But he who confides in God can never despair the only thing that was now to be done was to obtain the key of the chamber where Sidsel was confined, and then when all in the house were asleep he would dare that which must be done.
Courage and tranquillity return into every powerful soul when it once sees the possibility of accomplishing its work. With a constrained vivacity Otto mingled in the conversation, no one imagining what a struggle his soul had passed through.
The disputation continued. Wilhelm was in one of his eloquent moods. The doctor regarded the "Letters of the Wandering Ghost" as one of the most perfect books in the Danish literature. Once Sophie had been of the same opinion, now she preferred Cooper's novels to this and all other books.
"People so easily forget the good for the new," said Wilhelm; "if the new is only somewhat astonishing, the many regard the author as the first of writers. The nation is, aesthetically considered, now in its period of development. Every really cultivated person, who stands among the best spirits of his age, obtains, whilst he observes his own advance in the intellectual kingdom, clearness with regard to the development of his nation. This has, like himself, its distinct periods; in him some important event in life, in it some agitating world convulsion, may advance them suddenly a great leap forward. The public favor is unsteady; to-day it strews palm-branches, to-morrow it cries, 'Crucify him!' But I regard that as a moment of development. You will permit me to make use of an image to elucidate my idea. The botanist goes wandering through field and wood, he collects flowers and plants; every one of these had, while he gathered it, his entire interest, his whole thought—but the impression which it made faded before that of its successor: nor is it till after a longer time that he is able to enjoy the whole of his treasures, and arrange them according to their worth and their rareness. The public seizes alike upon flowers and herbs; we hear its assiduous occupation with the object of the moment, but it is not yet come into possession of the whole. At one time, that which was sentimental was the foremost in favor, and that poet was called the greatest who best knew how to touch this string; then it passed over to the peppered style of writing, and nothing pleased but histories of knights and robbers. Now people find pleasure in prosaic life, and Schroeder and Iffland are the acknowledged idols. For us the strength of the North opened heroes and gods, a new and significant scene. Then tragedy stood uppermost with us. Latterly we have begun to feel that this is not the flesh and blood of the present times. Then the fluttering little bird, the vaudeville, came out to us from the dark wood, and enticed us into our own chambers, where all is warm and comfortable, where one has leave to laugh, and to laugh is now a necessity for the Danes. One must not, like the crowd, inconsiderately place that as foremost which swims upon the waters, but treasure the good of every time, and arrange them side by side, as the botanist arranges his plants. Every people must, under the poetical sunshine, have their sentimental period, their berserker rage, their enjoyment of domestic life, and their giddy flights beyond it; it must merge itself in individuality before it can embrace the beauty of the whole. It is unfortunate for the poet who believes himself to be the wheel of his age; and yet he, with his whole crowd of admirers, is, as Menzel says, only a single wheel in the great machine—a little link in the infinite chain of beauty."
"You speak like a Plato!" said Sophie.
"If we could accord as well in music as we do in poetry," said Otto, "then we should be entirely united in our estimation of the arts. I love that music best which goes through the ear to the heart, and carries me away with it; on the contrary, if it is to be admired by the understanding, it is foreign to me."
"Yes, that is your false estimation of the subject, dear friend!" said Wilhelm: "in aesthetics you come at once to the pure and true; but in music you are far away in the outer court, where the crowd is dancing, with cymbals and trumpets, around the musical golden calf!"
And now the aesthetic unity brought them into a musical disunity. On such occasions, Otto was not one to be driven back from his position; he very well knew how to bear down his assailant by striking and original observations: but Otto, this evening, although he was animated enough—excited, one might almost say—did not exhibit the calmness, the decision in his thoughts and words, which otherwise would have given him the victory.
It was a long hour, and one yet longer and more full of anxiety, which commenced with supper. The conversation turned to the events of the day. Otto mingled in it, and endeavored therefrom to derive advantage; it was a martyrdom of the soul. Sophie praised highly his discovery.
"If Mr. Thostrup had not been here," said she, "then we should hardly have discovered the thief. We must thank Mr. Thostrup for it, and really for a merry, amusing spectacle."
They joked about it alai laughed, and Otto was obliged to laugh also.
"And now she sits up there, like a captive, in the roof!" said he; "it must be an uncomfortable night to her!"
"Oh, she sleeps, perhaps, better than some of us others!" said Wilhelm: "that will not annoy her!"
"She is confined in the gable chamber, out in the court, is she not?" inquired Otto: "there she has not any moonlight."
"Yes, surely she has!" answered Sophie; "it is in the gable to the right, hooking toward the wood, that she is confined. We have placed her as near to the moon as we could. The gable on the uppermost floor is our keep."
"But is it securely locked?" inquired Otto.
"There is a padlock and a great bar outside the door; those she cannot force, and no one about the place will do such a piece of service for her. They dislike her, every one of them."
They rose up from the table; the bell was just on the stroke of eleven.
"But the Baron must play us a little piece!" said the physician.
"Then Mr. Thostrup will sing us the pretty Jutlandish song by Steen-Blicher!" exclaimed Louise.
"O yes!" said the mother, and clapped Otto on the shoulder.
"Do sing!" said Wilhelm; all besought him to do so, and Otto sang the Jutlandish song for them.
"See, you sang that with the proper humor," said Sophie, and clapped her hands in applause. With that all arose, offered to him their hands, and Wilhelm whispered to him, yet so that the sisters heard it, "This evening you have been right amiable!"
Otto and Wilhelm went to their sleeping-room.
"But, my good friend," said Wilhelm, "what did you really go into the garden for? Be so good as to confess to me: you were not unwell! You did not go only into the garden! you went into the wood, and you remained a long time there! I saw it! You made a little visit to the handsome woman while the fiddler was here, did you not? I do not trust you so entirely!"
"You are joking!" answered Otto.
"Yes, yes," continued Wilhelm, "she is a pretty little woman. Do you not remember how, last year at the mowing-feast, I threw roses at her? Now she is Peter Cripple's wife. When she comes with her husband then we have, bodily, 'Beauty and the Beast.'"
That which Otto desired was, that Wilhelm should now soon go to sleep, and, therefore, he would not contradict him; he confessed even that the young wife was handsome, but added that she, as Peter Cripple's wife, was to him like a beautiful flower upon which a toad had set itself,—it would be disgusting to him to press the flower to his lips.
The friends were soon in bed. They bade each other good night, and seemed both of them to sleep; and with Wilhelm this was the case.
Otto lay awake; his pulse throbbed violently.
Now the great hall clock struck twelve. All was still, quite still; but Otto did not yet dare to raise himself. It struck a quarter past the hour. He raised himself slowly, and glanced toward the bed where Wilhelm lay. Otto arose and dressed himself, suppressing the while his very breathing. A hunting-knife which hung upon the wall, and which belonged to Wilhelm, he put in his pocket; and lifted up, to take with him, the fire-tongs, with which he intended to break the iron staple that held the padlock. Yet once more he looked toward Wilhelm, who slept soundly. He opened the door, and went out without his shoes.
He looked out from the passage-windows to see if lights were visible from any part of the building. All was still; all was in repose. That which he now feared most was, that one of the dogs might be lying in the lobby, and should begin to bark. But there was not one. He mounted up the steps, and went into the upper story.
Only once before had he been there; now all was in darkness. He felt with his hands before him as he went.
At length he found a narrow flight of stairs which led into a yet higher story. The opening at the top was closed, and he was obliged to use his whole strength to open it. At length it gave way with a loud noise. This was not the proper entrance; that lay on the opposite side of the story, and had he gone there he would have found it open, whereas this one had not been opened for a long time.
The violent efforts which he had made caused him great pain, both in his neck and shoulders; but he was now at the very top of the building, close before the door he sought, and the moonlight shone in through the opening in the roof.
By the help of the hunting-knife and the fire-tongs he succeeded in forcing the door, and that without any very considerable noise. He looked into a small, low room, upon the floor of which some dirty coverlets were thrown.
Sidsel slept deeply and soundly with open mouth. A thick mass of hair escaped from beneath her cap, upon her brow; the moonlight fell, through the window-pane in the roof, upon her face. Otto bowed himself over her and examined the coarse, unpleasing features. The thick, black eyebrows appeared only like one irregular streak.
"She is my sister!" was the thought which penetrated him. "She lay upon the same bosom that I did! The blood in these limbs has kinship with that in mine! She was the repelled one, the rejected one!"
He trembled with pain and anguish; but it was only for a short time.
"Stand up!" cried he, and touched the sleeper.
"Ih, jane dou! [Author's Note: An exclamation among the common people of Funen, expressive of terror.] what is it?" cried she, half terrified, and fixed her unpleasant eyes wildly upon him.
"Come with me!" said Otto, and his voice trembled as he spoke. "German Heinrich waits in the avenue! I will help you out! Hence; to-morrow it will be too late!"
"What do you say?" asked she, and still looked at him with a bewildered mien.
Otto repeated his words.
"Do you think that I can get away?" asked she, and seized him by the arm, as she hastily sprang up.
"Only silently and circumspectly!" said Otto.
"I should not have expected theft from you!" said she. "But tell me why you do it?"
Otto trembled; it was impossible for him to tell her his reasons, or to express the word,—"Thou art my sister!"
His lips were silent.
"To many a fellow," said she, "have I been kinder than I ought to have been, but see whether any of them think about Sidsel! And you do it! You who are so fine and so genteel!"
Otto pressed together his eyelids; he heard her speak; an animal coarseness mingled itself with a sort of confidential manner which was annihilating to him.
"She is my sister!" resounded in his soul.
"Come now! come now!" and, descending the steps, she followed after him.
"I know a better way!" said she, as they came to the lowest story. She seized his arm and they again descended a flight of steps.
Suddenly a door opened itself, and Louise, still dressed, stepped forth with a light. She uttered a faint cry, and her eye riveted itself upon the two forms before her.
But still more terribly and more powerfully did this encounter operate upon Otto. His feet seemed to fail him, and, for a moment, every object moved before his eyes in bright colors. It was the moment of his severest suffering. He sprang forth toward Louise, seized her hand, and, pale as death, with lifeless, staring eyes, half kneeling, besought of her, with an agitated voice:—
"For God's sake, tell no one of that which you have seen! I am compelled to serve her—she is my sister! If you betray my secret I am lost to this world—I must die! It was not until this evening that I knew this to be the case! I will tell you all, but do not betray me! And do you prevent tomorrow any pursuit after her! O Louise! by the happiness of your own soul feel for the misery of mine! I shall destroy myself if you betray me!"
"O God!" stammered Louise. "I will do all—all! I will be silent! Conduct her hence, quick, that you may meet with no one!"
She seized Otto's hand; he sank upon his knee before her, and looked like a marble image which expressed manly beauty and sorrow.
Louise bent herself with sisterly affection over him; tears flowed down her cheeks; her voice trembled, but it was tranquillizing, like the consolation of a good angel. With a glance full of confidence in her, Otto tore himself away. Sidsel followed him and said not a word.
He led her to the lowest story and opened for her, silently, a window, through which she could descend to the garden, and thence easily reach the avenue where German Heinrich waited for her. To have accompanied her any further was unnecessary; it would have been venturing too much without any adequate cause. She stood now upon the window-sill—Otto put a little money into her hand.
"The Lord is above us!" said he, in a solemn voice. "Never forget Him and endeavor to amend your life! All may yet be well!" He involuntarily pressed her hand in his. "Have God always in your thoughts!" said he.
"I shall get safely away, however," said she, and descended into the garden; she nodded, and vanished behind the hedge.
Otto stood for a while and listened whether any noise was heard, or whether any dog barked. He feared for her safety. All was still.
Just as sometimes an old melody will suddenly awake in our remembrance and sound in our ear, so awoke now a holy text to his thoughts. "Lord, if I should take the wings of the morning, and should fly to the uttermost parts of the sea, thither thou wouldst lead me, and thy right hand would hold me fast! Thou art near to us! Thou canst accomplish and thou willest our well-being! Thou alone canst help us!"
In silence he breathed his prayer.
He returned to his chamber more composed in mind. Wilhelm seemed to sleep; but as Otto approached his bed he suddenly raised himself, and looked, inquiringly, around him.
"Who is there?" exclaimed he; "you are dressed! where have you been?" He was urgent in his inquiry.
Otto gave a joking reason.
"Let me have your hand!" said he. Otto gave it to him, he felt his pulse.
"Yes, quite correct!" said he; "the blood is yet in commotion. One sees plain enough that there is no concealing things! Here was I sleeping in all innocence, and you were running after adventures. You wicked bird!"
The thoughts worked rapidly in Otto's soul. If Louise would only be silent, no one would dream of the possibility of his having part in Sidsel's flight. He must allow Wilhelm quietly to have his joke.
"Was not I right?" asked Wilhelm.
"And if now you were so," replied Otto, "will you tell it to any one?"
"Do you think that I could do such a thing?" replied Wilhelm; "we are all of us only mortal creatures!"
Otto gave him his hand. "Be silent!" he said.
"Yes, certainly," said Wilhelm; and, according to his custom, strengthened it with an oath. "Now I have sworn it," said he; "but when there is an opportunity you must tell me more about it!"
"Yes, certainly," said Otto, with a deep sigh. Before his friend he no longer stood pure and guiltless.
They slept. Otto's sleep was only a hateful dream.
"...Wie entzueckend Und suess es ist, in einer schoenen Seele, Verherrlicht uns zu fuehlen, es zu wissen, Das uns're Fruede fremde Wangen roethet, Und uns're Angst in fremdem Busen zittert, Das uns're Leiden fremde Augen naessen." SCHILLER.
"How pale!" said Wilhelm the next morning to Otto. "Do you see, that is what people get by night-wandering?"
"How so?" inquired Otto.
Wilhelm made a jest of it.
"You have been dreaming that!" said Otto.
"How do you mean?" replied Wilhelm; "will you make me fancy that I have imagined it? I was really quite awake! we really talked about it; I was initiated in it. Actually I have a good mind to give you a moral lecture. If it had been me, how you would have preached!"
They were summoned to breakfast. Otto's heart was ready to burst. What might he not have to hear? What must he say?
Sophie was much excited.
"Did you, gentlemen, hear anything last night?" she inquired. "Have you both slept?"
"Yes, certainly," replied Wilhelm, and looked involuntarily at Otto.
"The bird is flown, however!" said she; "it has made its escape out of the dove-cote."
"What bird?" asked Wilhelm.
"Sidsel!" replied she; "and, what is oddest in the whole affair is, that Louise has loosed her wings. Louise is quite up to the romantic. Think only! she went up in the night to the topmost story, unlocked the prison-tower, gave a moral lecture to Sidsel, and after that let her go! Then in the morning comes Louise to mamma, relates the whole affair, and says a many affecting things!"
"Yes, I do not understand it," said the mother, addressing Louise. "How you could have had the courage to go up so late at night, and go up to her! But it was very beautiful of you! Let her escape! it is, as you say, best that she should. We should all of us have thought of that last evening!"
"I was so sorry for her!" said Louise; "and by chance it happened that I had a great many things to arrange after you were all in bed. Everything was so still in the house, it seemed to me as if I could hear Sidsel sigh; certainly it was only my own imagination, but I could do no other than pity her! she was so unfortunate! Thus I let her escape!"
"Are you gone mad?" inquired Wilhelm; "what a history is this? Did you go in the night up to the top of the house? That is an unseasonable compassion!"
"It was beautiful!" said Otto, bending himself involuntarily, and kissing Louise's hand.
"Yes, that is water to his mill!" exclaimed Wilhelm. "I think nothing of such things!"
"We will not talk about it to anyone," said the mother. "The steward shall not proceed any further in it. We have recovered the old silver tankard, and the losing that was my greatest trouble. We will thank God that we are well rid of her! Poor thing! she will come to an unfortunate end!"
"Are you still unwell, Mr. Thostrup?" said Sophie, and looked at him.
"I am a little feverish," replied he. "I will take a very long walk, and then I shall be better."
"You should take a few drops," said the lady.
"O, he will come to himself yet!" said Wilhelm; "he must take exercise! His is not a dangerous illness."
Otto went into the wood. It was to him a temple of God; his heart poured forth a hymn of thanksgiving. Louise had been his good angel. He felt of a truth that she would never betray his secret. His thoughts clung to her with confidence. "Are you still unwell?" Sophie had said. The tones of her voice alone had been like the fragrance of healing herbs; in her eye he had felt sympathy and—love. "O Sophie!" sighed he. Both sisters were so dear to him.
He entered the garden and went along the great avenue; here he met Louise. One might almost have imagined that she had sought for him: there was no one but her to be seen in the whole avenue.
Otto pressed her hand to his lips. "You have saved my life!" said he.
"Dear Thostrup!" answered she, "do not betray yourself. Yon have come happily out of the affair! Thank God! my little part in it has concealed the whole. For the rest I have a suspicion. Yes, I cannot avoid it. May not the whole be an error? It is possible that she is that which you said! Tell me all that you can let me know. From this seat we can see everybody who comes into the avenue. No one can hear us!"
"Yes, to you alone I can confide it!" said Otto; "to you will I tell it."
He now related that which we know about the manufactory, which he called the house, in which German Heinrich had first seen him, and had tattooed his initials upon his shoulder; their later meeting in the park, and afterwards by St. Ander's Cross.
Louise trembled; her glance rested sympathizingly upon Otto's pale and handsome countenance. He showed her the letter which had been brought to him the last evening, and related to her what Heinrich had told him.
"It may be so," said Louise; "but yet I have not been able to lose the idea all the morning that you have been deceived. Not one of her features resembles yours. Can brother and sister be so different as you and she? Yet, be the truth as it may, promise me not to think too much about it. There is a good Ruler above who can turn all things for the best."
"These horrible circumstances," said Otto, "have robbed me of the cheerfulness of my youth. They thrust themselves disturbingly into my whole future. Not to Wilhelm—no, not to any one have I been able to confide them. You know all! God knows that you were compelled to learn them. I leave myself entirely in your hands!"
He pressed her hand silently, and with the earnest glance of confidence and truth they looked at each other.
"I shall speedily leave my native country," said Otto. "It may be forever. I should return with sorrow to a home where no happiness awaited me. I stand so entirely alone in the world!"
"But you have friends," said Louise; "sincere friends. You must think with pleasure of returning home to Denmark. My mother loves you as if she were your own mother. Wilhelm and Sophie—yes, we will consider you as a brother."
"And Sophie?" exclaimed Otto.
"Yes, can you doubt it?" inquired Louise.
"She knows me not as you know me; and if she did?"—He pressed his hands before his eyes and burst into tears. "You know all: you know more than I could tell her," sighed he. "I am more unfortunate than you can believe. Never can I forget her—never!"
"For Heaven's sake compose yourself!" said Louise rising. "Some one might come, and you would not be able to conceal your emotion. All may yet be well! Confide only in God in heaven!"
"Do not tell your sister that which I have told you. Do not tell any one. I have revealed to you every secret which my soul contains."
"I will be to you a good sister," said Louise, and pressed his hand.
They silently walked down the avenue.
The sisters slept in the same room.
At night, after Sophie had been an hour in bed, Louise entered the chamber.
"Thou art become a spirit of the night," said Sophie. "Where hast thou been? Thou art not going up into the loft again to-night, thou strange girl? Had it been Wilhelm, Thostrup, or myself who had undertaken such a thing, it would have been quite natural; but thou"—
"Am I, then, so very different to you all?" inquired Louise. "I should resemble my sister less than even Mr. Thostrup resembles her. You two are so very different!"
"In our views, in our impulses, we very much resemble each other!" said Sophie.
"He is certainly not happy," exclaimed Louise. "We can read it in his eyes."
"Yes, but it is precisely that which makes him interesting!" said Sophie; "he is thus a handsome shadow-piece in everyday life."
"Thou speakest about it so calmly," said Louise, and bent over her sister, "I would almost believe that it was love."
"Love!" exclaimed Sophie, raising herself up in bed, for now Louise's words had become interesting to her; "whom dost thou think that he loves?"
"Thyself," replied Louise, and seized her sister's hand.
"Perhaps?" returned Sophie. "I also made fun of him! It certainly went on better when our cousin was here. Poor Thostrup!"
"And thou, Sophie," inquired Louise, "dost thou return his love?"
"It is a regular confession that thou desirest," replied she. "He is in love—that all young men are. Our cousin, I can tell thee, said many pretty things to me. Even the Kammerjunker flatters as well as he can, the good soul! I have now resolved with myself to be a reasonable girl. Believe me, however, Thostrup is in an ill humor!"
"If the Kammerjunker were to pay his addresses to you, would you accept him?" asked Louise, and seated herself upon her sister's bed.
"What can make you think of such a thing?" inquired she. "Hast thou heard anything?—Thou makest me anxious! O Louise! I joke, I talk a deal; but for all that, believe me, I am not happy!"
They talked about the Kammerjunker, about Otto, and about the French cousin. It was late in the night. Large tears stood in Sophie's eyes, but she laughed for all that, and ended with a quotation from Jean Paul.
Half an hour afterward she slept and dreamed; her round white arm lay upon the coverlet, and her lips moved with these words:
"With a smile as if an angel Had just then kissed her mouth." [Note: Christian Winther.]
Louise pressed her countenance on the soft pillow, and wept.
"A swarm of colors, noise and screaming, Music and sights, past any dreaming, The rattle of wheels going late and early,— All draw the looker-on into the hurly-burly." TH. OVERSKOU.
A few days passed on. Otto heard nothing of German Heinrich or of his sister. Peter Cripple seemed not to be in their confidence. All that he knew was, that the letter which he had conveyed to Otto was to be unknown to any one beside. As regarded German Heinrich, he believed that he was now in another part of tire country; but that at St. Knud's fair, in Odense, he would certainly find him.
In Otto's soul there was an extraordinary combating. Louise's words, that he had been deceived, gave birth to hopes, which, insignificant as the grain of mustard-seed, shot forth green leaves.
"May not," thought he, "German Heinrich, to further his own plans, have made use of my fear? I must speak with him; he shall swear to me the truth."
He compared in thought the unpleasing, coarse features of Sidsel, with the image which his memory faintly retained of his little sister. She seemed to him as a delicate creature with large eyes. He had not forgotten that the people about them had spoken of her as of "a kitten that they could hardly keep alive." How then could she now be this square-built, singularly plain being, with the eyebrows growing together? "I must speak with Heinrich," resolved he; "she cannot be my sister! so heavily as that God will not try me."
By such thoughts as these his mind became much calmer. There were moments when the star of love mirrored itself in his life's sea.
His love for Sophie was no longer a caged bird within his breast; its wings were at liberty; Louise saw its release; it was about to fly to its goal.
St. Knud's fair was at hand, and on that account the family was about to set out for Odense. Eva was the only one who was to remain at home. It was her wish to do so.
"Odense is not worth the trouble of thy going to see," said Sophie; "but in this way thou wilt never increase thy geographical knowledge. In the mean time, however, I shall bring thee a fairing—a husband of honey cake, ornamented with almonds."
Wilhelm thought that she should enjoy the passing pleasure, and go with them; but Eva prayed to stay, and she had her will.
"There is a deal of pleasure in the world," said Wilhelm, "if people will only enjoy it. If one day in Paris is a brilliant flower, a day at Odense fair is also a flower. It is a merry, charming world that we live in! I am almost ready to say with King Valdemar, that if I might keep—yes, I will say, the earth, then our Lord might willingly for me keep heaven: there it is much better than we deserve; and God knows whether we may not, in the other world, have longings after the old world down here!"
"After Odense fair?" asked Sophie ironically.
Otto stood wrapped in his own thoughts. This day, he felt, would be one of the most remarkable in his life. German Heinrich must give him an explanation. Sophie must do so likewise Could he indeed meet with success from them both? Would not sorrow and pain be his fairings?
The carriage rolled away.
From the various cross-roads came driving up the carriages of the gentry and the peasants; the one drove past the other; and as the French and English Channel collects ships from the Atlantic Ocean, so did the King's Road those who drove in carriages, those who rode on horseback, and those who went on foot.
Behind most of the peasant-vehicles were tied a few horses, that went trotting on with them. Mamsells from the farms sat with large gloves on their red arms and hands. They held their umbrellas before their faces on account of the dust and the sun.
"The Kammerjunker's people must have set off earlier than we," said Sophie, "otherwise they would have called for us."
Otto looked inquiringly at her. She thought on the Kammerjunker!
"We shall draw up by Faugde church," said Sophie. "Mr. Thostrup can see Kingo's [Author's Note: The Bishop of Funen, who died in 1703.] grave—can see where the sacred poet lies. Some true trumpeting angels, in whom one can rightly see how heavy the marble is, fly with the Bishop's staff and hat within the chapel."
Otto smiled, and she thought also about giving him pleasure.
The church was seen, the grave visited, and they rapidly rolled along the King's Road toward Odense, the lofty tower of whose cathedral had hailed them at some miles' distance.
We do not require alone from the portrait-painter that he should represent the person, but that he should represent him in his happiest moment. To the plain as well as to the inexpressive countenance must the painter give every beauty which it possesses. Every human being has moments in which something intellectual or characteristic presents itself. Nature, too, when we are presented only with the most barren landscape, has the same moments; light and shadow produce these effects. The poet must be like the painter; he must seize upon these moments in human life as the other in nature.
If the reader were a child who lived in Odense, it would require nothing more from him than that he should say the words, "St. Knud's fair;" and this, illumined by the beams of the imagination of childhood, would stand before him in the most brilliant colors. Our description will be only a shadow; it will be that, perhaps, which the many will find it to be.
Already in the suburbs the crowd of people, and the outspread earthenware of the potters, which entirely covered the trottoir, announced that the fair was in full operation.
The carriage drove down from the bridge across the Odense River.
"See, how beautiful it is here!" exclaimed Wilhelm.
Between the gardens of the city and a space occupied as a bleaching ground lay the river. The magnificent church of St. Knud, with its lofty tower, terminated the view.
"What red house was that?" inquired Otto, when they had lost sight of it.
"That is the nunnery!" replied Louise, knowing what thought it was which had arisen in his mind.
"There stood in the ancient times the old bishop's palace, where Beldenak lived!" said Sophie. "Just opposite to the river is the bell-well, where a bell flew out of St. Albani's tower. The well is unfathomable. Whenever rich people in Odense die, it rings down below the water!"
"It is not a pleasant thought," said Otto, "that it rings in the well when they must die."
"One must not take it in that way now!" said Sophie, laughing, and turned the subject. "Odense has many lions," continued she, "from a king's garden with swans in it to a great theatre, which has this in common with La Scala and many Italian ones, that it is built upon the ruins of a convent. [Note: That of the Black Brothers.]
"In Odense, aristocracy and democracy held out the longest," said Wilhelm, smiling; "yet I remember, in my childhood, that when the nobles and the citizens met on the king's birthday at the town-house ball, that we danced by ourselves."
"Were not, then, the citizens strong enough to throw the giddy nobles out of the window?" inquired Otto.
"You forget, Mr. Thostrup, that you yourself are noble!" said Sophie. "I was really the goddess of fate who gave to you your genealogical tree."
"You still remember that evening?" said Otto, with a gentle voice, and the thoughts floated as gayly in his mind as the crowd of people floated up and down in the streets through which they drove.
Somewhere about the middle of the city five streets met; and this point, which widens itself out into a little square, is called the Cross Street: here lay the hotel to which the family drove.
"Two hours and a quarter too late!" said the Kammerjunker, who came out to meet them on the steps. "Good weather for the fair, and good horses! I have already been out at the West-gate, and have bought two magnificent mares. One of them kicked out behind, and had nearly given me a blow on the breast, so that I might have said I had had my fairing! Jakoba is paying visits, drinking chocolate, and eating biscuits. Mamsell is out taking a view of things. Now you know our story."
The ladies went to their chamber, the gentlemen remained in the saloon.
"Yes, here you shall see a city and a fair, Mr. Thostrup!" said the Kammerjunker, and slapped Otto on the shoulder.
"Odense was at one time my principal chief-city," said Wilhelm; "and still St. Knud's Church is the most magnificent I know. God knows whether St. Peter's in Rome would make upon me, now that I am older, the impression which this made upon me as a child!"
"In St. Knud's Church lies the Mamsell with the cats," said the Kammerjunker.
"The bishop's lady, you should say," returned Wilhelm. "The legend relates, that there was a lady of a Bishop Mus who loved her cats to that degree that she left orders that they should be laid with her in the grave. [Author's Note: The remains of the body, as well as the skeletons of the cats, are still to be seen in a chapel on the western aisle of the church.] We will afterward go and see them."
"Yes, both the bishop's lady and the cats," said the Kammerjunker, "look like dried fish! Then you must also see the nunnery and the military library."
"The Hospital and the House of Correction!" added Wilhelm.
The beating of a drum in the street drew them to the window. The city crier, in striped linsey-woolsey jacket and breeches, and with a yellow band across his shoulders, stood there, beat upon his drum, and proclaimed aloud from a written paper many wonderful things which were to be seen in the city.
"He beats a good drum," said the Kammerjunker.
"It would certainly delight Rossini and Spontini to hear the fellow!" said Wilhelm. "In fact Odense would be, at New Year's time, a city for these two composers. You must know that at that season drums and fifes are in their glory. They drum the New Year in. Seven or eight little drummers and fifers go from door to door, attended by children and old women; at that time they beat both the tattoo and the reveille. For this they get a few pence. When the New Year is drummed-in in the city they wander out into the country, and drum there for bacon and groats. The New Year's drumming in lasts until about Easter."
"And then we have new pastimes," said the Kammerjunker.
"Then come the fishers from Stige, [Author's Note: A fishing village in Odense Fjord.] with a complete band, and carrying a boat upon their shoulders ornamented with a variety of flags. After that they lay a board between two boats, and upon this two of the youngest and the strongest have a wrestling-match, until one of them falls into the water. The last years they both have allowed themselves to tumble in. And this has been done in consequence of one young man who fell in being so stung by the jeers which his fall had occasioned that he left, that same day, the fishing village, after which no one saw him. But all the fun is gone now! In my boyhood the merriment was quite another thing. It was a fine sight when the corporation paraded with their ensign and harlequin on the top! And at Easter, when the butchers led about a bullock ornamented with ribbons and Easter-twigs, on the back of which was seated a little winged boy in a shirt. They had Turkish music, and carried flagons with them! See! all that have I outlived, and yet I am not so old. Baron Wilhelm must have seen the ornamented ox. Now all that is past and gone; people are got so refined! Neither is St. Knud's fair that which it used to be."
"For all that, I rejoice that it is not so!" said Wilhelm. "But we will go into the market and visit the Jutlanders, who are sitting there among the heath with their earthenware. You will stand a chance there, Mr. Thostrup, of meeting with an old acquaintance; only you must not have home-sickness when you smell the heather and hear the ringing of the clattering pots!"
The ladies now entered. Before paying any visits they determined upon making the round of the market. The Kammerjunker offered his arm to the mother. Otto saw this with secret gladness, and approached Sophie. She accepted him willingly as an attendant; they must indeed get into the throng.
As in the Middle Ages the various professions had their distinct streets and quarters, so had they also here. The street which led to the market place, and which in every-day life was called the "Shoemaker Street," answered perfectly to its name. The shoemakers had ranged their tables side by side. These, and the rails which had been erected for the purpose, were hung over with all kinds of articles for the feet; the tables themselves were laden with heavy shoes and thick-soled boots. Behind these stood the skillful workman in his long Sunday coat, and with his well-brushed felt-hat upon his head.
Where the shoemakers' quarter ended that of the hatters' began, and with this one was in the middle of the great market-place, where tents and booths formed many parallel streets. The booth of galanterie wares, the goldsmith's, and the confectioner's, most of them constructed of canvas, some few of them of wood, were points of great attraction. Round about fluttered ribbons and handkerchiefs; round about were noise and bustle. Peasant-girls out of the same village went always in a row, seven or eight inseparables, with their hands fast locked in each other; it was impossible to break the chain; and if people tried to press through them, the whole flock rolled together in a heap.
Behind the booths there lay a great space filled with wooden shoes, coarse earthenware, turners' and saddlers' work. Upon tables were spread out toys, generally rudely made and coarsely painted. All around the children assayed their little trumpets, and turned about their playthings. The peasant-girls twirled and twisted both the work-boxes and themselves many a time before the bargain was completed. The air was heavy with all kinds of odors, and was spiced with the fragrance of honey-cake.
Here acquaintances met each other-some peasant-maidens, perhaps, who had been born in the same village, but since then had been separated.
"Good day!" exclaimed they, took each other by the hand, gave their arms a swing, and laughed.
That was the whole conversation: such a one went on in many places.
"That is the heather!" exclaimed Otto, as he approached the quarter where the Jutland potters had their station; "how refreshing is the odor!" said he, and stooping down seized a twig fresh and green, as if it had been plucked only yesterday.
"Aye, my Jesus though! is not that Mr. Otto!" exclaimed a female voice just beside him, and a young Jutland peasantwoman skipped across the pottery toward him. Otto knew her. It was the little Maria, the eelman's daughter, who, as we may remember at Otto's visit to the fisher's, had removed to Ringkjoebing, and had hired herself for the hay and cornharvest—the brisk Maria, "the girl," as her father called her. She had been betrothed in Ringkjoebing, and married to the rich earthenware dealer, and now had come across the salt-water to Odense fair, where she should meet with Mr. Otto.
"Her parents lived on my grandfather's estate," said Otto to Sophie, who observed with a smile the young wife's delight in meeting with an acquaintance of her childhood. The husband was busily employed in selling his wares; he heard nothing of it.
"Nay, but how elegant and handsome you are become!" said the young wife: "but see, I knew you again for all that! Grandmother, you may believe me, thinks a deal about you! The old body, she is so brisk and lively; it does not trouble her a bit that she cannot see! You are the second acquaintance that I have met with in the fair. It's wonderful how people come here from all parts of the world! The players are here too! You still remember the German Heinrich? Over there in the gray house, at the corner of the market, he is acting his comedy in the gateway."
"I am glad that I have seen you!" said Otto, and nodded kindly. "Greet them at home, and the grandmother, for me!"
"Greet them also from me!" said Sophie smiling. "You, Mr. Thostrup, must for old acquaintance sake buy something. You ought also to give me a fairing: I wish for that great jug there!"
"Where are you staying!" cried Wilhelm, and came back, whilst the rest went forward.
"We would buy some earthenware," said Sophie. "Souvenir de Jutland. The one there has a splendid picture on it!"
"You shall have it!" said Otto. "But if I requested a fairing from you, I beseech of you, might I say"—
"That it possibly might obtain its worth from my hand," said Sophie, smiling. "I understand you very well—a sprig of heather? I shall steal!" said she to the young wife, as she took a little sprig of heath and stuck it into his buttonhole. "Greet the grandmother for me!"
Otto and Sophie went.
"That's a very laughing body!" said the woman half aloud, as she looked after them; her glance followed Otto, she folded her hands—she was thinking, perhaps, on the days of her childhood.
At St. Knud's church-yard Otto and Sophie overtook the others. They were going into the church. On the fair days this and all the tombs within it were open to the public.