From whichever side this church is contemplated from without, the magnificent old building has, especially from its lofty tower and spire, something imposing about it; the interior produces the same, nay, perhaps a greater effect. But as the principal entrance is through the armory, and the lesser one is from the side of the church, its full impression is not felt on entering it; nor is it until you arrive at the end of the great aisle that you are aware rightly of its grandeur. All there is great, beautiful, and light. The whole interior is white with gilding. Aloft on the high-vaulted roof there shine, and that from the old time, many golden stars. On both sides, high up, higher than the side-aisles of the church, are large Gothic windows, from which the light streams down. The side-aisles are adorned with old paintings, which represent whole families, women and children, all clad in canonicals, in long robes and large ruffs. In an ordinary way, the figures are all ranged according to age, the oldest first, and then down to the very least child, and stand with folded hands, and look piously with downcast eyes and faces all in one direction, until by length of time the colors have all faded away.
Just opposite to the entrance of the church may be seen, built into the wall, a stone, on which is a bas-relief, and before it a grave. This attracted Otto's attention.
"It is the grave of King John and of Queen Christina, of Prince Francesco and of Christian the Second," said Wilhelm; "they lie together in a small vault!" [Author's Note: On the removal of the church of the Grey Brothers, the remains of these royal parents and two of their children were collected in a coffin and placed here in St. Knud's Church. The memorial stone, of which we have spoken, was erected afterwards.]
"Christian the Second!" exclaimed Otto. "Denmark's wisest and dearest king!"
"Christian the Bad!" said the Kammerjunker, amazed at the tone of enthusiasm in which Otto had spoken.
"Christian the Bad!" repeated Otto; "yes, it is now the mode to speak of him thus, but we should not do so. We ought to remember how the Swedish and Danish nobles behaved themselves, what cruelties they perpetrated, and that we have the history of Christian the Second from one of the offended party. Writers flatter the reigning powers. A prince must have committed crimes, or have lost his power, if his errors are to be rightly presented to future generations. People forget that which was good in Christian, and have painted the dark side of his character, to the formation of which the age lent its part."
The Kammerjunker could not forget the Swedish bloodbath, the execution of Torben Oxe, and all that can be said against the unfortunate king.
Otto drove him completely out of the field, in part from his enthusiasm for Christian the Second, but still more because it was the Kammerjunker with whom he was contending. Sophie took Otto's side, her eye sparkled applause, and the victory could not be other than his.
"What is it that the poet said of the fate of a king?" said Sophie.
"Woe's me for him Who to the world shows more of ill than good! The good each man ascribes unto himself, Whilst on him only rest the crimes o' th' age."
"Had Christian been so fortunate as to have subdued the rebellious nobles," continued Otto, "could he have carried out his bold plans, then they would have called him Christian the Great: it is not the active mind, but the failure in any design, which the world condemns."
Louise nevertheless took the side of the Kammerjunker, and therefore these two went together up the aisle toward the tomb of the Glorup family. Wilhelm and his mother were already gone out of the church.
"I envy you your eloquence!" said Sophie, and looked with an expression of love into Otto's face; she bent herself over the railing around the tomb, and looked thoughtfully upon the stone. Thoughts of love were animated in Otto's soul.
"Intellect and heart!" exclaimed he, "must admire that which is great: you possess both these!" He seized her hand.
A faint crimson passed over Sophie's cheeks. "The others are gone out!" she said; "come, let us go up to the chancel."
"Up to the altar!" said Otto; "that is a bold course for one's whole life!"
Sophie looked jestingly at him. "Do you see the monument there within the pillars?" asked she after a short pause; "the lady with the crossed arms and the colored countenance? In one night she danced twelve knights to death, the thirteenth, whom she had invited for her partner, cut her girdle in two in the dance and she fell dead to the earth!" [Author's Note: In Thiele's Danish Popular Tradition it is related that she was one Margrethe Skofgaard of Sanderumgaard, and that she died at a ball, where she had danced to death twelve knights. The people relate it with a variation as above; it is probable that it is mingled with a second tradition, for example, that of the blood-spots at Koldinghuus, which relates that an old king was so angry with his daughter that he resolved to kill her, and ordered that his knights should dance with her one after another until the breath was out of her. Nine had danced with her, and then came up the king himself as the tenth, and when he became weary he cut her girdle in two, on which the blood streamed from her mouth and she died.]
"She was a northern Turandot!" said Otto; "the stony heart itself was forced to break and bleed. There is really a jest in having the marble painted. She stands before future ages as if she lived—a stone image, white and red, only a mask of beauty. She is a warning to young ladies!"
"Yes, against dancing!" said Sophie, smiling at Otto's extraordinary gravity.
"And yet it must be a blessed thing," exclaimed he, "a very blessed thing, amid pealing music, arm-in-arm with one's beloved, to be able to dance life away, and to sink bleeding before her feet!"
"And yet only to see that she would dance with a new one!" said Sophie.
"No, no!" exclaimed Otto, "that you could not do! that you will not do! O Sophie, if you knew!"—He approached her still nearer, bent his head toward her, and his eye had twofold fire and expression in it.
"You must come with us and see the cats!" said the Kammerjunker, and sprang in between them.
"Yes, it is charming!" said Sophie. "You will have an opportunity, Mr. Thostrup, of moralizing over the perishableness of female beauty!"
"In the evening, when we drive home together," thought Otto to himself consolingly, "in the mild summer-evening no Kammerjunker will disturb me. It must, it shall be decided! Misfortune might subject the wildness of childhood, but it gave me confidence, it never destroyed my independence; Love has made me timid,—has made me weak. May I thereby win a bride?"
Gravely and with a dark glance he followed after Sophie and her guide.
"In vain his beet endeavors were; Dull was the evening, and duller grew."—LUDOLF SCHLEF.
"Seest thou how its little life The bird hides in the wood? Wilt thou be my little wife— Then do it soon. Good! —A bridegroom am I."—Arion.
Close beside St. Knud's Church, where once the convent stood, is now the dwelling of a private man. [Author's Note: See Oehlenschlaeger's Jorney to Funen.] The excellent hostess here, who once charmed the public on the Danish stage as Ida Munster, awaited the family to dinner.
After dinner they wandered up and down the garden, which extended to the Odense River.
In the dusk of evening Otto went to visit the German Heinrich; he had mentioned it to Louise, and she promised to divert attention from him whilst he was away.
The company took coffee in the garden-house; Otto walked in deep thought in the avenue by the side of the river. The beautiful scene before him riveted his eye. Close beside lay a water-mill, over the two great wheels of which poured the river white as milk. Behind this was thrown a bridge, over which people walked and drove. The journeyman-miller stood upon the balcony, and whistled an air. It was such a picture as Christian Winther and Uhland give in their picturesque poems. On the other side of the mill arose tall poplars half-buried in the green meadow, in which stood the nunnery; a nun had once drowned herself where now the red daisies grow.
A strong sunlight lit up the whole scene. All was repose and summer warmth. Suddenly Otto's ear caught the deep and powerful tones of an organ; he turned himself round. The tones, which went to his heart, came from St. Knud's Church, which lay close beside the garden. The sunshine of the landscape, and the strength of the music, gave, as it were, to him light and strength for the darkness toward which he was so soon to go.
The sun set; and Otto went alone across the market-place toward the old corner house, where German Heinrich practiced his arts. Upon this place stood St. Albani's Church, where St. Knud, betrayed by his servant Blake, [Author's Note: Whence has arisen the popular expression of "being a false Blake."] was killed by the tumultuous rebels. The common people believe that from one of the deep cellars under this house proceeds a subterranean passage to the so-called "Nun's Hill." At midnight the neighboring inhabitants still hear a roaring under the marketplace, as if of the sudden falling of a cascade. The better informed explain it as being a concealed natural water-course, which has a connection with the neighboring river. In our time the old house is become a manufactory; the broken windows, the gaps of which are repaired either with slips of wood or with paper, the quantity of human bones which are found in the garden, and which remain from the time when this was a church-yard, give to the whole place a peculiar interest to the common people of Odense.
Entering the house at the front, it is on the same level as the market-place; the back of the house, on the contrary, descends precipitously into the garden, where there are thick old walls and foundations. The situation is thus quite romantic; just beside it is the old nunnery, with its dentated gables, and not far off the ruins, in whose depths the common people believe that there resides an evil being, "the river-man," who annually demands his human sacrifice, which he announces the night before. Behind this lie meadows, villas, and green woods.
On the other side of the court, in a back gate-way, German Heinrich had set up his theatre. The entrance cost eight skillings; people of condition paid according to their own will.
Otto entered during the representation. A cloth constituted the whole scenic arrangement. In the middle of the floor sat a horrible goblin, with a coal-black Moorish countenance and crispy hair upon its head. An old bed-cover concealed the figure, yet one saw that it was that of a woman.
The audience consisted of peasants and street boys. Otto kept himself in the background, and remained unobserved by Heinrich.
The representation was soon at an end, and the crowd dispersed. It was then that Otto first came forward.
"We must speak a few words together!" said he. "Heinrich, you have not acted honestly by me! The girl is not that which you represented her to be; you have deceived me: I demand an explanation!"
German Heinrich stood silent, but every feature eloquently expressed first amazement, and then slyness and cunning; his knavish, malicious eye, measured Otto from top to toe.
"Nay; so then, Mr. Thostrup, you are convinced, are you, that I have been cheating you?" said he. "If so, why do you come to me? In that case there needs no explanation. Ask herself there!" And so saying he pointed to the black-painted figure.
"Do not be too proud, Otto!" said she, smiling; "thou couldst yet recognize thy sister, although she has a little black paint on her face!"
Otto riveted a dark, indignant glance upon her, pressed his lips together, and tried to collect himself. "It is my firm determination to have the whole affair searched into," said he, with constrained calmness.
"Yes, but it will bring you some disagreeables!" said Heinrich, and laughed scornfully.
"Do not laugh in that manner when I speak to you!" said Otto, with flushing cheeks.
Heinrich leaned himself calmly against the door which led into the garden.
"I am acquainted with the head of the police," said Otto, "and I might leave the whole business in his hands. But I have chosen a milder way; I am come myself. I shall very soon leave Denmark; I shall go many hundred miles hence shall, probably, never return; and thus you see the principal ground for my coming to you is a whim: I will know wherefore you have deceived me; I will know what is the connection between you and her."
"Nay; so, then, it is that that you want to know?" said Heinrich, with a malicious glance. "Yes, see you, she is my best beloved; she shall be my wife: but your sister she is for all that, and that remains so!"
"Thou couldst easily give me a little before thou settest off on thy journey!" said Sidsel, who seemed excited by Heinrich's words, and put forth her painted face.
Otto glanced at her with contracted eyebrows.
"Yes," said she, "I say 'thou' to thee: thou must accustom thyself to that! A sister may have, however, that little bit of pleasure!"
"Yes, you should give her your hand!" said Heinrich, and laughed.
"Wretch!" exclaimed Otto, "she is not that which you say! I will find out my real sister! I will have proof in hand of the truth! I will show myself as a brother; I will care for her future! Bring to me her baptismal register; bring to me one only attestation of its reality—and that before eight days are past! Here is my address, it is the envelope of a letter; inclose in it the testimonial which I require, and send it to me without delay. But prove it, or you are a greater villain than I took you for."
"Let us say a few rational words!" said Heinrich, with a constrained, fawning voice. "If you will give to me fifty rix-dollars, then you shall never have any more annoyance with us! See, that would be a great deal more convenient."
"I abide by that which I have said!" answered Otto; "we will not have any more conversation together!" And so saying, he turned him round to go out.
Heinrich seized him by the coat.
"What do you want?" inquired Otto.
"I mean," said Heinrich, "whether you are not going to think about the fifty rix-dollars?"
"Villain!" cried Otto, and, with the veins swelling in his forehead, he thrust Heinrich from him with such force, that he fell against the worm eaten door which led into the garden; the panel of the door fell out, and had not Heinrich seized fast hold on some firm object with both his hands, he must have gone the same way. Otto stood for a moment silent, with flashing eyes, and threw the envelope, on which his address was, at Heinrich's feet, and went out.
When Otto returned to the hotel, he found the horses ready to be put to the carriage.
"Have you had good intelligence?" whispered Louise.
"I have in reality obtained no more than I had before!" replied he; "only my own feelings more strongly convince me than ever that I have been deceived by him."
He related to her the short conversation which had taken place.
The Kammerjunker's carriage was now also brought out; in this was more than sufficient room for two, whereas in the other carriage they had been crowded. The Kammerjunker, therefore, besought that they would avail themselves of the more convenient seat which he could offer; and Otto saw Sophie and her mother enter the Kammerjunker's carriage. This arrangement would shortly before have confounded Otto, now it had much less effect upon him. His mind was so much occupied by his visit to German Heinrich, his soul was filled with a bitterness, which for the moment repelled the impulse which he had felt to express his great love for Sophie.
"I have been made Heinrich's plaything—his tool!" thought he. "Now he ridicules me, and I am compelled to bear it! That horrible being is not my sister!—she cannot be so!"
The street was now quiet. They mounted into the carriage. In the corner house just opposite there was a great company; light streamed through the long curtains, a low tenor voice and a high ringing soprano mingled together in Mozart's "Audiam, audiam, mio bene."
"The bird may not flutter from my heart!" sighed Otto, and seated himself by the side of Louise. The carriage rolled away.
The full moon shone; the wild spiraea sent forth its odor from the road side; steam ascended from the moor-lands; and the white mist floated over the meadows like the daughters of the elfin king.
Louise sat silent and embarrassed; trouble weighed down her heart. Otto was also silent.
The Kammerjunker drove in first, cracked his whip, and struck up a wild halloo.
Wilhelm began to sing, "Charming the summer night," and the Kammerjunker joined in with him.
"Sing with us man," cried Wilhelm to the silent Otto, and quickly the two companies were one singing caravan.
It was late when they reached the hall.
"Destiny often pulls off leaves, as we treat the vine, that its fruits may be earlier brought to maturity."—JEAN PAUL.
It was not until toward morning that Otto fell into sleep. Wilhelm and he were allowed to take their own time in rising, and thus it was late in the day before these two gentlemen made their appearance at the breakfast-table; the Kammerjunker was already come over to the hall, and now was more adorned than common.
"Mr. Thostrup shall be one of the initiated!" said the mother. "It will be time enough this evening for strangers to know of it. The Kammerjunker and my Sophie are betrothed."
"See, it was in the bright moonlight, Mr. Thostrup, that I became such a happy man!" said the Kammerjunker, and kissed the tips of Sophie's fingers. He offered his other hand to Otto.
Otto's countenance remained unchanged, a smile played upon his lips. "I congratulate you!" said he; "it is indeed a joyful day! If I were a poet, I would give you an ode!"
Louise looked at him with an extraordinary expression of pain in her countenance.
Wilhelm called the Kammerjunker brother-in-law, and smiling shook both his hands.
Otto was unusually gay, jested, and laughed. The ladies went to their toilet, Otto into the garden.
He had been so convinced in his own mind that Sophie returned his passion. With what pleasure had she listened to him! with what an expression had her eye rested upon him! Her little jests had been to him such convincing proofs that the hope which he nourished was no self-delusion. She was the light around which his thoughts had circled. Love to her was to him a good angel, which sung to him consolation and life's gladness in his dark moments.
Now, all was suddenly over. It was as if the angel had left him; the flame of love which had so entirely filled his soul, was in a moment extinguished to its last spark. Sophie was become a stranger to him; her intellectual eye, which smiled in love on the Kammerjunker, seemed to him the soulless eye of the automaton. A stupefying indifference went through him, deadly as poison that is infused into the human blood.
"The vain girl! she thought to make herself more important by repelling from her a faithful heart! She should only see how changed her image is in my soul. All the weaknesses which my love for her made me pass over, now step forth with repulsive features! Not a word which she spoke fell to the ground. The diamond has lost its lustre; I feel only its sharp corners!"
Sophie had given the preference to a man who, in respect of intellect, stood far below Otto! Sophie, who seemed to be enthusiastic for art and beauty, for everything glorious in the kingdom of mind, could thus have deceived him!
We will now see the sisters in their chamber.
Louise seemed pensive, she sat silently looking before her.
Sophie stood thoughtfully with a smile upon her lips.
"The Kammerjunker is very handsome, however!" exclaimed she: "he looks so manly!"
"You ought to find him love-worthy!" said Louise.
"Yes," replied her sister, "I have always admired these strong countenances! He is an Axel—a northern blackbearded savage. Faces such as Wilhelm's look like ladies'! And he is so good! He has said, that immediately after our marriage we shall make a tour to Hamburg. What dress do you think I should wear?"
"When you make the journey to Hamburg?" inquired Louise.
"O no, child! to-day I mean. Thostrup was indeed very polite! he congratulated me! I felt, however, rather curious when it was told to him. I had quite expected a scene! I was almost ready to beg of you to tell him first of all. He ought to have been prepared. But he was, however, very rational! I should not have expected it from him. I really wish him all good, but he is an extraordinary character! so melancholy! Do you think that he will take my betrothal to heart? I noticed that when I was kissed he turned himself suddenly round to the window and played with the flowers. I wish that he would soon go! The journey into foreign countries will do him good—there he will soon forget his heart's troubles. To-morrow I will write to Cousin Joachim; he will also be surprised!"
Late in the afternoon came Jakoba, the Mamsell, the preacher, and yet a few other guests.
In the evening the table was arranged festively. The betrothed sat together, and Otto had the place of honor—he sat on the other side of Sophie. The preacher had written a song to the tune of "Be thou our social guardian-goddess;" this was sung. Otto's voice sounded beautifully and strong; he rang his glass with the betrothed pair, and the Kammerjunker said that now Mr. Thostrup must speedily seek out a bride for himself.
"She is found," answered Otto; "but now that is yet a secret."
"Health to the bride!" said Sophie, and rung her glass; but soon again her intellectual eye rested upon the Kammerjunker, who was talking about asparagus and stall-feeding with clover, yet her glance brought him back again to the happiness of his love.
It was a very lively evening. Late in the night the party broke up. The friends went to their chamber.
"My dear, faithful Otto!" said Wilhelm, and laid his hand on his shoulder; "you were very lively and good-humored this evening. Continue always thus!"
"I hope to do so," answered Otto: "may we only always have as happy an evening as this!"
"Extraordinary man!" said Wilhelm, and shook his head. "Now we will soon set out on our journey, and catch for ourselves the happiness of the glorious gold bird!"
"And not let it escape again!" exclaimed Otto. "Formerly I used to say, To-morrow! to-morrow! now I say, To-day, and all day long! Away with fancies and complainings. I now comprehend that which you once said to me, that is. Man can be happy if he only will be so."
Wilhelm took his hand, and looked into his face with a half-melancholy expression.
"Are you sentimental?" inquired Otto.
"I only affect that which I am not!" answered Wilhelm; and with that, suddenly throwing off the natural gravity of the moment, returned to his customary gayety.
The following days were spent in visiting and in receiving visitors. On every post-day Otto sought through the leathern bag of the postman, but he found no letter from German Heinrich, and heard nothing from him. "I have been deceived," said he, "and I feel myself glad about it! She, the horrible one, is not my sister!"
There was a necessity for him to go away, far from home, and yet he felt no longing after the mountains of Switzerland or the luxuriant beauty of the south.
"Nature will only weaken me! I will not seek after it. Man it is that I require: these egotistical, false beings—these lords of everything! How we flatter our weaknesses and admire our virtues! Whatever serves to advance our own wishes we find to be excellent. To those who love us, we give our love in return. At the bottom, whom do I love except myself? Wilhelm? My friendship for him is built upon the foundation,—I cannot do without thee! Friendship is to me a necessity. Was I not once convinced that I adored Sophie, and that I never could bear it if she were lost to me? and yet there needed the conviction 'She loves thee not,' and my strong feeling was dead. Sophie even seems to me less beautiful; I see faults where I formerly could only discover amiabilities! Now, she is to me almost wholly a stranger. As I am, so are all. Who is there that feels right lovingly, right faithfully for me, without his own interest leading him to do so? Rosalie? My old, honest Rosalie? I grew up before her eyes like a plant which she loved. I am dear to her as it! When her canary-bird one morning lay dead in its cage, she wept bitterly and long; she should never more hear it sing, she should never more look after its cage and its food. It was the loss of it which made her weep. She missed that which had been interesting to her. I also interested her. Interest is the name for that which the world calls love. Louise?" He almost spoke the name aloud, and his thoughts dwelt, from a strong combination of circumstances, upon it. "She appears to me true, and capable of making sacrifices! but is not she also very different from all the others? How often have I not heard Sophie laugh at her for it—look down upon her!" And Otto's better feeling sought in vain for a shadow of self-love in Louise, a single selfish motive for her noble conduct.
"Away from Denmark! to new people! Happy he who can always be on the wing, making new friendships, and speedily breaking them off! At the first meeting people wear their intellectual Sunday apparel; every point of light is brought forth; but soon and the festival-day is over, and the bright points have vanished."
"We will set off next week!" said Wilhelm, "and then it shall be—
'Over the rushing blue waters away! We will speed along shores that are verdant and gay!'
Away over the moors, up the Rhine, through the land of champagne to the city of cities, the life-animating Paris!"
"A maiden stood musing, gentle and mild. I grasped the hand of the friendly child, but the lovely fawn shyly disappeared.... From the Rhine to the Danish Belt, beautiful and lovely maidens are found in palaces and tents; yet nobody pleases me."—SCHMIDT VON LUeBECK.
The last day at home was Sophie's birthday. In the afternoon the whole family was invited to the Kammerjunker's, where Jakoba and the Mamsell were to be quite brilliant in their cookery.
A table filled with presents, all from the Kammerjunker, awaited Miss Sophie; it was the first time that he had ever presented to her a birthday gift, and he had now, either out of his own head or somebody's else, fallen on the very good idea of making her a present for every year which she had lived. Every present was suited to the age for which it was intended, and thus he began with a paper of sugar-plums and ended with silk and magnificent fur; but between beginning and end there were things, of which more than the half could be called solid: gold ear-rings, a boa, French gloves, and a riding-horse. This last, of course, could not stand upon the table. It was a joy and a happiness; people walked about, and separated themselves by degrees into groups.
The only one who was not there was Eva. She always preferred remaining at home; and yet, perhaps, to-day she might have allowed herself to have been overpersuaded, had she not found herself so extremely weak.
Silently and alone she now sat at home in the great empty parlor. It was in the twilight; she had laid down her work, and her beautiful, thoughtful eyes looked straight before her: thoughts which we may not unveil were agitating her breast.
Suddenly the door opened, and Wilhelm stood before her. Whilst the others were walking he had stolen away. He knew that Eva was alone at home; nobody would know that he visited her, nobody would dream of their conversation.
"You here!" exclaimed Eva, when she saw him.
"I was compelled to come," answered he. "I have slipped away from the others; no one knows that I am here. I must speak with you, Eva. To-morrow I set off; but I cannot leave home calmly and happily without knowing—what this moment must decide."
Eva rose, her checks crimsoned, she cast down her eyes.
"Baron Wilhelm!" stammered she, "it is not proper that I should remain here!" She was about to leave the room.
"Eva!" said Wilhelm, and seized her hand, "you know that I love you! My feelings are honorable! Say Yes, and it shall be holy to me as an oath. Then I shall begin my journey glad at heart, as one should do. Your assent shall stand in my breast, shall sound in my ear, whenever sin and temptation assail me! It will preserve me in an upright course, it will bring me back good and unspoiled. My wife must you be! You have soul, and with it nobility! Eva! in God's name, do not make a feeble, life-weary, disheartened being of me!"
"O Heavens!" exclaimed she, and burst into tears, "I cannot, and—will not! You forget that I am only a poor girl, who am indebted for everything to your mother! My assent would displease her, and some time or other you would repent of it! I cannot!—I do not love you!" added she, in a tremulous voice.
Wilhelm stood speechless.
Eva suddenly rang the bell.
"What are you doing?" exclaimed he.
The servant entered.
"Bring in lights!" said she; "but first of all you must assist me with these flowers down into the garden. It will do them good to stand in the dew."
The servant did as she bade; she herself carried down one of the pots, and left the room.
"I do not love you!" repeated Wilhelm to himself, and returned to the company which he had left, and where he found all gayety and happiness.
The supper-table was spread in the garden; lights burned in the open air with a steady flame; it was a summer-evening beautiful as the October of the South; the reseda sent forth its fragrance; and when Sophie's health was drunk cannon were fired among the lofty fir-trees, the pines of the North.
The next morning those countenances were dejected which the evening before had been so gay. The carriage drew up to the door. The dear mother and sisters wept; they kissed Wilhelm, and extended their hands to Otto.
"Farewell!" said Louise; "do not forget us!" and her tearful glance rested upon Otto. Eva stood silent and pale.
"You will not forget me!" whispered Otto, as he seized Louise's hand. "I will forget your sister!"
The carriage rolled away; Wilhelm threw himself back into a corner. Otto looked back once more; they all stood at the door, and waved their white handkerchiefs.
"In one short speaking silence all conveys— And looks a sigh, and weeps without a tear." MRS. BROWNING.
"Forgive us our debts as we The debts of others forgive; And lead us not in tempting ways; Apart from evil let us live." A. VON CHAMISSO.
We will not accompany the friends, but will remain behind in Funen, where we will make a bolder journey than they, namely, we will go back one-and-twenty years. We will allow the circumstances of Otto's birth again to come before us. It is a leap backward that we take from 1830 to 1810. We are in Odense, that old city, which takes its name from Odin.
The common people there have still a legend about the origin of the name of the city. Upon Naesbyhoved's Hill [Author's Note: Not far from the city, by the Odense Channel; it is described in Wedel Simonsen's City Ruins.] there once stood a castle; here lived King Odin and his wife: Odense city was not then in existence, but the first building of it was then begun. [Author's Note: The place is given as being that of the now so-called Cross Street.] The court was undecided as to the name which should be given to the city. After long indecision it was at last agreed that the first word which either King or Queen should speak the next morning should be the name given to it. In the early morning the Queen awoke and looked out from her window over the wood. The first house in the city was erected to the roof, and the builders had hung up a great garland, glittering with tinsel, upon the rooftree. "Odin, see!" exclaimed the Queen; and thenceforward the city was called Odensee, which name, since then, has been changed by daily speech to Odense.
When people ask the children in Copenhagen whence they have come, they reply, out of the Peblingsoee. The little children of Odense, who know nothing about the Peblingsoee, say that they are fetched out of Rosenbaek, a little brook which has only been ennobled within the few last years, just as in Copenhagen is the case with Krystal Street, which formerly had an unpleasant name. This brook runs through Odense, and must, in former times, when united with the Odense River, have formed an island where the city at that time stood; hence some people derive the name of Odense from Odins Ei, or Odins Oe, that is, Odin's Island. Be it then as it might, the brook flows now, and in 1810, when the so-called Willow-dam, by the West Gate, was not filled up, it stood, especially in spring, low and watery. It often overflowed its banks, and in so doing overflowed the little gardens which lay on either side. It thus ran concealed through the city until near the North Gate, where it made its appearance for a moment and then dived again in the same street, and, like a little river, flowed through the cellars of the old justice-room, which was built by the renowned Oluf Bagger. [Author's Note: He was so rich that once, when Frederick the Second visited him, he had the room heated with cinnamon chips. Much may be found about this remarkable man in the second collection of Thiele's Popular Danish Legends. His descendants still live in Odense, namely, the family of the printer Ch. Iversen, who has preserved many curiosities which belonged to him.]
It was an afternoon in the summer of 1810; the water was high in the brook, yet two washerwomen were busily employed in it; reed-matting was fast bound round their bodies, and they beat with wooden staves the clothes upon their washing-stools. They were in deep conversation, and yet their labor went on uninterruptedly.
"Yes," said one of them, "better a little with honor, than much with dishonor. She is sentenced; to-morrow she is to go about in the pillory. That is sure and certain! I know it from the trumpeter's Karen, and from the beggar-king's [Author's Note: Overseer of the poor.] wife: neither of them go about with lies."
"Ih, my Jesus!" exclaimed the other, and let her wooden beater fall, "is Johanne Marie to go in the pillory, the handsome girl? she that looked so clever and dressed herself so well?"
"Yes, it is a misfortune!" said the first; "a great misfortune it must be! No, let every one keep his own! say I every day to my children. After the sweet claw comes the bitter smart. One had much better work till the blood starts from the finger-ends."
"Ih, see though!" said the other; "there goes the old fellow, Johanne Marie's father. He is an honest man; he was so pleased with his daughter, and to-morrow he must himself bind her to the pillory! But can she really have stolen?"
"She has herself confessed," returned she; "and the Colonel is severe. I fancy the Gevaldiger is going there."
"The Colonel should put the bridle on his own son. He is a bad fellow! Not long ago, when I was washing yarn there, and was merry, as I always am, he called me 'wench.' If he had said 'woman,' I should not have troubled myself about it, for it has another meaning; but 'wench,' that is rude! Ei, there sails the whole affair!" screamed she suddenly, as the sheet which she had wound round the washing-stool got loose and floated down the stream: she ran after it, and the conversation was broken off.
The old man whom they had seen and compassionated, went into a great house close by, where the Colonel lived. His eyes were cast upon the ground; a deep, silent suffering lay in his wrinkled face; he gently pulled at the bell, and bowed himself deeply before the black-appareled lady who opened to him the door.
We know her—it was the old Rosalie, then twenty years younger than when we saw her upon the western coast of Jutland.
"Good old man!" said she, and laid her hand kindly on his shoulder. "Colonel Thostrup is severe, but he is not, however, inhuman; and that he would be if he let you tomorrow do your office. The Colonel has said that the Gevaldiger should stay at home."
"No!" said the old man, "our Lord will give me strength. God be thanked that Johanne Marie's mother has closed her eyes: she will not see the misery! We are not guilty of it!"
"Honest man!" said Rosalie. "Johanne was always so good and clever; and now"—she shook her head—"I would have sworn for her, but she has confessed it herself!"
"The law must have its course!" said the old man, and tears streamed down his cheeks.
At that moment the door opened, and Colonel Thostrup, a tall, thin man, with a keen eye, stood before them. Rosalie left the room.
"Gevaldiger," said the Colonel, "to-morrow you will not be required to act in your office."
"Colonel," returned the old man, "it is my duty to be there, and, if I may say a few words, people would speak ill of me if I kept away."
On the following forenoon, from the early morning, the square where lay the council-house and head-watch, was filled with people; they were come to see the handsome girl led forth in the pillory. The time began to appear long to them, and yet no sign was seen of that which they expected. The sentinel, who went with measured step backward and forward before the sentry-box, could give no intelligence. The door of the council-house was closed, and everything gave occasion to the report which suddenly was put into circulation, that the handsome Johanne Marie had been for a whole hour in the pillory within the council-house, and thus they should have nothing at all to see. Although it is entirely opposed to sound reason that punishment should be inflicted publicly, it met with much support, and great dissatisfaction was excited.
"That is shabby!" said a simple woman, in whom we may recognize one of the washerwomen; "it is shabby thus to treat the folks as if they were fools! Yesterday I slaved like a horse, and here one has stood two whole hours by the clock, till I am stiff in the legs, without seeing anything at all!"
"That is what I expected," said another woman; "a fair face has many friends! She has known how to win the great people to her side!"
"Do not you believe," inquired a third, "that she has been good friends with the Colonels son?"
"Yes; formerly I would have said No, because she always looked so steady, and against her parents there is not a word to be said; but as she has stolen, as we know she has, she may also have been unsteady. The Colonel's son is a wild bird; riots and drinks does he in secret! We others know more than his father does: he had held too tight a hand over him. Too great severity causes bad blood!"
"God help me, now it begins!" interrupted another woman, as a detachment of soldiers marched out of the guard-house, and at some little distance one from the other inclosed an open space. The door of the council-house now opened, and two officers of police, together with some of the guard, conducted out the condemned, who was placed in the pillory. This was a sort of wooden yoke laid across the shoulders of the delinquent; a piece of wood came forward from this into which her hands were secured: above all stood two iron bars, to the first of which was fastened a little bell; to the other a long fox's tail, which hung down the lack of the condemned.
The girl seemed hardly more than nineteen, and was of an unusually beautiful figure; her countenance was nobly and delicately formed, but pale as death: yet there was no expression either of suffering or shame,—she seemed like the image of a penitent, who meekly accomplishes the imposed penance.
Her aged father, the Gevaldiger, followed her slowly; his eye was determined; no feature expressed that which went forward in his soul: he silently took his place beside one of the pillars before the guard house.
A loud murmur arose among the crowd when they saw the beautiful girl and the poor old father, who must himself see his daughter's disgrace.
A spotted dog sprang into the open space; the girl's monotonous tread, as she advanced into the middle of the square, the ringing of the little bell, and the fox-tail which moved in the wind, excited the dog, which began to bark, and wanted to bite the fox's tail. The guards drove the dog away, but it soon came back again, although it did not venture again into the circle, but thrust itself forward, and never ceased barking.
Many of those who already had been moved to compassion by the beauty of the girl and the sight of the old father, were thrown again by this incident into a merry humor; they laughed and found the whole thing very amusing.
The hour was past, and the girl was now to be released. The Gevaldiger approached her, but whilst he raised his hand to the yoke the old man tottered, and sank, in the same moment, back upon the hard stone pavement.
A shriek arose from those who stood around; the young girl alone stood silent and immovable; her thoughts seemed to be far away. Yet some people fancied they saw how she closed her eyes, but that was only for a moment. A policeman released her from the pillory, her old father was carried into the guard-house, and two policemen led her into the council-house.
"See, now it is over!" said an old glover, who was among the spectators; "the next time she'll get into the House of Correction."
"O, it is not so bad there," answered another; "they sing and are merry there the whole day long, and have no need to trouble themselves about victuals."
"Yes, but that is prison fare."
"It is not so bad—many a poor body would thank God for it; and Johanne Marie would get the best of it. Her aunt is the head-cook, and the cook and the inspector they hang together. It's my opinion, however, that this affair will take the life out of the old man. He got a right good bump as he fell on the stone-pavement; one could hear how it rung again."
The crowd separated.
The last malicious voice had prophesied truth.
Three weeks afterward six soldiers bore a woven, yellow straw coffin from a poor house in East Street. The old Gevaldiger lay, with closed eyes and folded hands, in the coffin. Within the chamber, upon the bedstead, sat Johanne Marie, with a countenance pale as that of the dead which had been carried away. A compassionate neighbor took her hand, and mentioned her name several times before she heard her.
"Johanne, come in with me; eat a mouthful of pease and keep life in you; if not for your own sake, at least for that of the child which lies under your heart."
The girl heaved a wonderfully deep sigh. "No, no!" said she, and closed her eyes.
Full of pity, the good neighbor took her home with her.
A few days passed on, and then one morning two policemen entered the poor room in which the Gevaldiger had died. Johanne Marie was again summoned before the judge.
A fresh robbery had taken place at the Colonel's. Rosalie said that it was a long time since she had first missed that which was gone, but that she thought it best to try to forget it. The Colonel's violent temper and his exasperation against Johanne Marie, who, as he asserted, by her bad conduct, had brought her old, excellent father to the grave, insisted on summoning her before the tribunal, that the affair might be more narrowly inquired into.
Rosalie, who had been captivated by the beauty of the girl and by her modest demeanor, and who was very fond of her, was this time quite calm, feeling quite sure that she would deny everything, because, in fact, the theft had only occurred within the last few days. The public became aware of this before long, and the opinion was that Johanne Marie could not possibly have been an actor in it; but, to the astonishment of the greater number, she confessed that she was the guilty person, and that with such calmness as amazed every one. Her noble, beautifully formed countenance seemed bloodless; her dark-blue eyes beamed with a brilliancy which seemed like that of delirium; her beauty, her calmness, and yet this obduracy in crime, produced an extraordinary impression upon the spectators.
She was sentenced to the House of Correction in Odense. Despised and repulsed by the better class of her fellow-beings, she went to her punishment. No one had dreamed that under so fair a form so corrupt a soul could have been found. She was set to the spinning-wheel; silent and introverted, she accomplished the tasks that were assigned her. In the coarse merriment of the other prisoners she took no part.
"Don't let your heart sink within you, Johanne Marie," said German Heinrich, who sat at the loom; "sing with us till the iron bars rattle!"
"Johanne, you brought your old father to the grave," said her relation, the head-cook; "how could you have taken such bad courses?"
Johanne Marie was silent; the large, dark eyes looked straight before her, whilst she kept turning the wheel.
Five months went on, and then she became ill—ill to death, and gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl—two beautiful and well-formed children, excepting that the girl was as small and delicate as if its life hung on a thread.
The dying mother kissed the little ones and wept; it was the first time that the people within the prison had seen her weep. Her relation the cook sat alone with her upon the bed.
"Withdraw not your hand from the innocent children," said Johanne Marie; "if they live to grow up, tell them some time that their mother was innocent. My eternal Saviour knows that I have never stolen! Innocent am I, and innocent was I when I went out a spectacle of public derision, and now when I sit here!"
"Ih, Jesus though! What do you say?" exclaimed the woman.
"The truth!" answered the dying one. "God be gracious to me!—my children!"
She sank back upon the couch, and was dead.
"Ah! wonderfully beautiful is God's earth, and worthy it is to live contented."—HOeLTY.
We now return to the hall in Funen, to the family which we left there; but autumn and winter are gone whilst we have been lingering on the past. Otto and Wilhelm have been two months away. It is the autumn of 1832.
The marriage of the Kammerjunker and Sophie was deferred, according to her wish, until the second of April, because this day is immortal in the annals of Denmark. In the house, where there now were only the mother, Louise, and Eva, all was quiet. Through the whole winter Eva had become weaker; yet she did not resemble the flowers which wither; there was no expression of illness about her—it was much more as if the spiritual nature overpowered the bodily; she resembled an astral lamp which, filled with light, seems almost resembled be an ethereal existence. The dark-blue eyes had an expression of soul and feeling which attracted even the simple domestics at the hall. The physician assured them that her chest was sound, and that her malady was to him a riddle. A beautiful summer, he thought, would work beneficially upon her.
Wilhelm and Otto wrote alternately. It was a festival-day whenever a letter came; then were maps and plans of the great cities fetched out, and Louise and Eva made the journey with them.
"To-day they are here, to-morrow they will be there," cried they.
"How I envy them both, to see all these glorious things!" said Louise.
"The charming Switzerland!" sighed Eva. "How refreshing the air must be to breathe! How well one must feel one's self there!"
"If you could only go there, Eva," said Louise, "then you would certainly get better."
"Here all are so kind to me; here I am so happy!" answered she. "I am right thankful to God for it. How could I have hoped for such a home as this? God reward you and your good mother for your kindness to me. Once I was so unhappy; but now I have had a double repayment for all my sorrow, and all the neglect I have suffered. I am so happy, and therefore I would so willingly live!"
"Yes, and you shall live!" said Louise. "How came you now to think about dying? In the summer you will perfectly recover, the physician says. Can you hide from me any sorrow? Eva, I know that my brother loves you!"
"He will forget that abroad!" said Eva. "He must forget it! Could I be ungrateful? But we are not suited for each other!" She spoke of her childhood, of long-passed, sorrowful days. Louise laid her arm upon her shoulder: they talked till late in the evening, and tears stood in Louise's eyes.
"Only to you could I tell it!" said Eva. "It is to me like a sin, and yet I am innocent. My mother was so too—my poor mother! Her sin was love. She sacrificed all; more than a woman should sacrifice. The old Colonel was stern and violent. His wrath often became a sort of frenzy, in which he knew not what he did. The son was young and dissipated; my mother a poor girl, but very handsome, I have heard. He seduced her. She had become an unfortunate being, and that she herself felt. The Colonel's son robbed his father and an old woman who lived in the family: that which had been taken was missed. The father would have murdered the son, had he discovered the truth; the son, therefore, sought in his need help from my poor mother. He persuaded her to save him by taking the guilt on herself. The whole affair as regarded her was, he intended, only to come from the domestics. She thought that with her honor all was lost. She, indeed, had already given him the best of which she was possessed. In anguish of heart, and overpowered by his prayers, she said, 'Yes; my father has been angry and undone already.'"
Eva burst into tears.
"Thou dear, good girl!" said Louise, and kissed her forehead.
"My poor mother," continued Eva, "was condemned to an undeserved punishment. I cannot mention it. For that reason I have never had a desire to go to Odense. The old lady in the Colonel's family concealed, out of kindness, her loss; but by accident it was discovered. The Colonel was greatly embittered. My mother was overwhelmed by shame and misfortune: the first error had plunged her into all this. She was taken to the House of Correction in Odense. The Colonel's son shortly afterward went away in a vessel. My unhappy mother was dispirited: nobody knew that she had endured, out of despair and love, a disgrace which she had not deserved. It was not until she lay upon her death-bed, when I and my brother were born, that she told a relation that she was innocent. Like a criminal, in the early morning she was carried to the grave in a coffin of plaited straw. A great and a noble heart was carried unacknowledged to the dead!"
"You had a brother?" inquired Louise, and her heart beat violently. "Did he die? and where did you, poor children, remain?"
"The cook in the house kept us with her. I was small and weak; my brother, on the contrary, was strong, and full of life. He lived mostly among the prisoners. I sat in a little room with my doll. When we were in our seventh year, we were sent for to the old Colonel. His son died abroad; but before his death he had written to the old man, confessing to him his crime, my mother's innocence, and that we were his children! I resembled my father greatly. The old gentleman, as soon as he saw me, was very angry, and said, 'I will not have her!' I remained with my foster-mother. I never saw my brother after that time. The Colonel left the city, and took him with him."
"O God!" cried Louise; "you have still some papers on this subject? Do you not know your brother? It is impossible that it should be otherwise! You are Otto's sister!"
"O Heavens!" exclaimed Eva; her hands trembled, and she became as pale as a corpse.
"You are fainting!" cried Louise, throwing her arm around her waist and kissing her eyes and her cheeks. "Eva! he is your brother! the dear, good Otto! O, he will be so happy with you! Yes, your eyes are like his! Eva, you beloved girl!"
Louise related to her all that Otto had confided to her. She told her about German Heinrich, and how Otto had assisted Sidsel away, and how they had met.
Eva burst into tears. "My brother! O Father in heaven, that I may but live! live and see him! Life is so beautiful! I must not die!"
"Happiness will make you strong! There is no doubt but that he is your brother! We must tell it to mamma. O Heavens! how delighted she will be! and Otto will no longer suffer and be unhappy! He may be proud of you, and happy in you! O, come, come!"
She led Eva out with her to her mother, who was already in bed; but how could Louise wait till next morning?
"May the Lord bless thee, my good child!" said the lady, and pressed a kiss upon her forehead.
Eva related now how the Colonel had, given a considerable sum to her foster-mother; but that was all she was to receive, he had said. Afterward, when the foster-mother died, Eva had still two hundred rix-dollars; and on consideration of this the sister of the deceased had taken Eva to live with her. With her she came to Copenhagen and to Nyboder, and at that time she was ten years old. There she had to nurse a little child—her brother she called it—and that was the little Jonas. As she grew older, people told her that she was handsome. It was now four years since she was followed one evening by two young men, one of whom we know—our moral Hans Peter. One morning her foster-mother came to her with a proposal which drove her to despair. The merchant had seen her, and wished to purchase the beautiful flower. Upon this Eva left her home, and came to the excellent people at Roeskelde; and from that day God had been very good to her.
She sank down upon her knees before the elderly lady's bed. She was not among strangers: a mother and a sister wept with the happy one.
"O that I might live!" besought Eva, in the depths of her heart. As a glorified one she stood before them. Her joy beamed through tears.
The next morning she felt herself singularly unwell. Her feet trembled; her cheeks were like marble. She seated herself in the warm sunshine which came in through the window. Outside stood the trees with large, half-bursting buds. A few mild nights would make the wood green. But summer was already in Eva's heart; there was life's joy and gladness. Her large, thoughtful eyes raised themselves thankfully to heaven.
"Let me not die yet, good God!" prayed she; and her lips moved to a low melody, soft as if breezes passed over the outstretched chords:—
"The sunshine warm, the odorous flowers, Of these do not bereave me! I breathe with joy the morning hours, Let not the grave receive me! There can no pleasant sunbeams fall, No human voice come near me; There should I miss the flow'rets small, There have no friends to cheer me.
Now, how to value life I know— I hold it as a treasure; There is no love i' th' grave below, No music, warmth, or pleasure. On it the heavy earth is flung, The coffin-lid shuts tightly! My blood is warm, my soul is young! Life smiles—life shines so brightly!"
She folded her hands: all became like flowers and gold before her eyes. Afar off was the sound of music: she reeled and sank down upon the sofa which was near her. Life flowed forth from her heart, but the sensation was one of bliss; a repose, as when the weary bow down their heads for sleep.
"Here is a letter!" cried Louise, full of joy, and found her white and cold. Terrified, she called for help, and bent over her.
Eva was dead.
"Knowest thou the mountain and its cloudy paths? where the mule is seeking its misty way."—GOETHE.
The letter was from Wilhelm; every line breathed life's joy and gladness.
"MIA CARA SORELLA!
"Does it not sound beautifully? It is Italian! Now then, I am in that so-often-sung-of Paradise, but of the so much-talked-about blue air, I have as yet seen nothing of consequence. Here it is gray, gray as in Denmark. To be sure Otto says that it is beautiful, that we have the heaven of home above us, but I am not so poetical. The eating is good, and the filth of the people strikes one horribly after being in Switzerland, the enchanting Switzerland! Yes, there is nature! We have made a crusade through it, you may think. But now you shall hear about the journey, and the entrance into 'la bella Italia,' which is yet below all my expectations. I cannot at all bear these feeble people; I cannot endure this monk-odor and untruthfulness. We are come direct from the scenery of Switzerland, from clouds and glaciers, from greatness and power. We travelled somewhat hastily through the valley of the Rhone; the weather was gray, but the whole obtained therefrom a peculiar character. The woods in the lofty ridges looked like heather; the valley itself seemed like a garden filled with vegetables, vineyards, and green meadows. The clouds over and under one another, but the snow-covered mountains peeped forth gloriously from among them, It was a riven cloud-world which drove past,—the wild chase with which the daylight had disguised itself. It kissed in its flight Pissevache, a waterfall by no means to be despised. In Brieg we rested some time, but at two o'clock in the morning began again our journey over the Simplon. This is the journey which I will describe to you. Otto and I sat in the coupee. Fancy us in white blouses, shawl-caps, and with green morocco slippers, for the devil may travel in slippers—they are painful to the feet.
"We both of us have mustaches! I have seduced Otto. They become us uncommonly well, and give us a very imposing air; and that is very good now that we are come into the land of banditti, where we must endeavor to awe the robbers. Thus travelled we. It was a dark night, and still as death, as in the moment when the overture begins to an opera. Soon, indeed, was the great Simplon curtain to be rolled up, and we to behold the land of music. Immediately on leaving the city, the road began to ascend; we could not see a hand before us; around us tumbled and roared the water-courses,—it was as if we heard the pulse of Nature beat. Close above the carriage passed the white clouds; they seemed like transparent marble slabs which were slid over us. We had the gray dawn with us, whilst deep in the valley lay yet the darkness of night; in an hour's time it began to show itself there among the little wooden houses.
"It is a road hewn out of the rocks. The giant Napoleon carried it through the backbone of the earth. The eagle, Napoleon's bird, flew like a living armorial crest over the gigantic work of the master. There it was cold and gray; the clouds above us, the clouds below us, and in the middle space steep rocky walls.
"At regular distances houses (relais) are erected for the travellers; in one of these we drank our coffee. The passengers sat on benches and tables around the great fire-place, where the pine logs crackled. More than a thousand names were written on the walls. I amused myself by writing mamma's, yours, Sophie's, and Eva's; now they stand there, and people will fancy that you have been on the Simplon. In the lobby I scratched in that of Mamsell, and added 'Without her workbox.' Otto was thinking about you. We talked in our, what the rest would call 'outlandish speech,' when I all at once exclaimed, 'It is really Eva's birthday!' I remembered it first. In Simplon town we determined to drink her health.
"We set off again. Wherever the glaciers might fall and destroy the road the rocks have been sprung, and formed into great galleries, through which one drives without any danger. One waterfall succeeds another. There is no balustrade along the road, only the dark, deep abyss where the pine-trees raise themselves to an immense height, and yet only look like rafters on the mighty wall of rock. Before we had advanced much further, we came to where trees no longer grew. The great hospice lay in snow and cloud. We came into a valley. What solitude! what desolation! only naked crags! They seemed metallic, and all had a green hue. The utmost variety of mosses grew there; before us towered up an immense glacier, which looked like green bottle-glass ornamented with snow. It was bitterly cold here, and in Simplon the stoves were lighted; the champagne foamed, Eva's health was drunk, and, only think! at that very moment an avalanche was so gallant as to fall. That was a cannonade; a pealing among the mountains! It must have rung in Eva's ears. Ask her about it. I can see how she smiles.
"We now advanced toward Italy, but cold was it, and cold it remained. The landscape became savage; we drove between steep crags. Only fancy, on both sides a block of granite several miles long, and almost as high, and the road not wider than for two carriages to pass, and there you have a picture of it. If one wanted to see the sky, one was obliged to put one's head out of the carriage and look up, and then it was as if one looked up from the bottom of the deepest well, dark and narrow. Every moment I kept thinking, 'Nay, if these two walls should come together!' We with carriage and horses were only like ants on a pebble. We drove through the ribs of the earth! The water roared; the clouds hung like fleeces on the gray, craggy walls. In a valley we saw boys and girls dressed in sheep-skins, who looked as wild as if they had been brought up among beasts.
"Suddenly the air became wondrously mild. We saw the first fig-tree by the road-side. Chestnuts hung over our heads; we were in Isella, the boundary town of Italy. Otto sang, and was wild with delight; I studied the first public-house sign, 'Tabacca e vino.'
"How luxuriant became the landscape! Fields of maize and vineyards! The vine was not trained on frames as in Germany!—no, it hung in luxuriant garlands, in great huts of leaves! Beautiful children bounded along the road, but the heavens were gray, and that I had not expected in Italy. From Domo d'Ossola, I looked back to my beloved Switzerland! Yes, she turns truly the most beautiful side toward Italy. But there was not any time for me to gaze; on we must. In the carriage there sat an old Signorina; she recited poetry, and made: with her eyes 'che bella cosa!'
"About ten o'clock at night we were in Baveno, drank tea, and slept, whilst Lago Maggiore splashed under our window. The lake and the Borromaen island we were to see by daylight.
"'Lord God!' thought I, 'is this all?' A scene as quiet and riant as this we—have at home! Funen after this should be called Isola bella, and the East Sea is quite large enough to be called Lago Maggiore. We went by the steamboat past the holy Borromeus [Author's Note: A colossal statue on the shore of Lago Maggiore.] to Sesto de Calende; we had a priest on board, who was very much astonished at our having come from so far. I showed him a large travelling map which we had with us, where the Lago Maggiore was the most southern, and Hamburg the most northern point. 'Yet still further off,' said I; 'more to the north!' and he struck his hands together when he perceived that we were from beyond the great map. He inquired whether we were Calvinists.
"We sped through glorious scenes. The Alps looked like glass mountains in a fairy tale. They lay behind us. The air was warm as summer, but light as on the high mountains. The women wafted kisses to us; but they were not handsome, the good ladies!
"Tell the Kammerjunker that the Italian pigs have no bristles, but have a coal-black shining skin like a Moor.
"Toward night we arrived at Milan, where we located ourselves with Reichmann, made a good supper, and had excellent beds; but I foresee that this bliss will not last very long. On the other side of the Apennines we shall be up to the ears in dirt, and must eat olives preserved in oil; but let it pass. Otto adapts himself charmingly to all things; he begins to be merry—that is, at times! I, too, have had a sort of vertigo—I am taken with Italian music; but then there is a difference in hearing it on the spot. It has more than melody; it has character. The luxuriance in nature and in the female form; the light, fluttering movement of the people, where even pain is melody, has won my heart and my understanding. Travelling changes people!
"Kiss mamma for me! Tell Eva about the health-drinking on the Simplon, and about the falling avalanche: do not forget that; that is precisely the point in my letter! Tell me too how Eva blushed, and smiled, and said, 'He thought of me!' Yes, in fact it is very noble of me. My sweet Sophie and her Kammerjunker, Jakoba and Mamsell, must have a bouquet of greetings, which you must arrange properly. If you could but see Otto and me with our mustaches! We make an impression, and that is very pleasant. If the days only did not go on so quickly—if life did not pass so rapidly!
"'Questa vita mortale Che par si bella, a quasi piuma al vento Che la porta a la perde in un momento,' [Note: Guarini]
as we Italians say. Cannot you understand that?
"Thy affectionate brother,
Otto wrote in the margin of the letter, "Italy is a paradise! Here the heavens are three times as lofty as at home. I love the proud pine-trees and the dark-blue mountains. Would hat everybody could see the glorious objects!"
Wilhelm added to this, "What he writes about the Italian heavens is stupid stuff. Ours at home is just as good. He is an odd person, as you very well know!
"'Addic! A rivederci!'"
"Thou art master in thy world. Hast thou thyself, then thou hast all!" —WAHLMANN.
In the summer of 1834 the friends had been absent for two years. In the last year, violet-colored gillyflowers had adorned a grave in the little country church-yard.
"A heart which overflowed with love, Was gone from earth to love and God," were the words which might be read upon the grave-stone.
A withered bouquet of stocks had been found by Louise, with the certificate of Eva's birth and her hymn-book. These were the flowers which Wilhelm had given her that evening at Roeskelde. Among the dry leaves there lay a piece of paper, on which she had written,—"Even like these flowers let the feelings die away in my soul which these flowers inspire it with!"
And now above her grave the flowers which she had loved sent forth their fragrance.
It was Sunday; the sun shone warm; the church-goers, old and young, assembled under the great lime-tree near Eva's grave. They expected their young preacher, who to-day was to preach for the third time.
The gentlefolks would also certainly be there, they thought, because the young Baron was come back out of foreign parts, and with him the other gentleman, who certainly was to have Miss Louise.
"Our new preacher is worth hearing," said one of the peasant women; "such a young man, who actually preaches the old faith! as gentle and as meek in conversation as if he were one of ourselves! And in the pulpit, God help us! it went quite down into my legs the last time about the Day of Judgment!"
"There is Father!" [Note: The general term applied to the preacher by the Danish peasants.] exclaimed the crowd, and the heads of old and young were uncovered. The women courtesied deeply as a young man in priest-robes went into the church-door. His eyes and lips moved to a pious smile, the hair was smooth upon his pale forehead.
"Good day, children!" said he.
It was Hans Peter. He had, indeed, had "the best characters," and thus had received a good living, and now preached effectively about the devil and all his works.
The singing of the community sounded above the grave where the sun shone, where the stocks sent forth their fragrance, and where Eva slept: she whose last wish was to live.
"There is no love i' th' grave below, No music, warmth, or pleasure."
The earth lay firm and heavy upon her coffin-lid.
During the singing of the second hymn a handsome carriage drove up before the church-yard. The two friends, who were only just returned to their home in Denmark, entered the church, together with the mother and Louise.
Travelling and two years had made Wilhelm appear somewhat older; there was a shadow of sadness in his otherwise open and life-rejoicing countenance. Otto looked handsomer than formerly; the gloomy expression in his face was softened, he looked around cheerfully, yet thoughtfully, and a smile was on his lips when he spoke with Louise.
There was in the sermon some allusion made to those who had returned home; for the rest, it was a flowery discourse interlarded with many texts from the Bible. The community shed tears; the good, wise people, they understood it to mean that their young lord was returned home uninjured from all the perils which abound in foreign lands.
The preacher was invited to dinner at the hall. The Kammerjunker and Sophie came also, but it lasted "seven long and seven wide," as Miss Jakoba expressed herself, before they could get through all the unwrapping and were ready to enter the parlor, for they had with them the little son Fergus, as he was called, after the handsome Scotchman in Sir Walter Scott's "Waverley." That was Sophie's wish. The Kammerjunker turned the name of Fergus to Gusseman, and Jacoba asserted that it was a dog's name.
"Now you shall see my little bumpkin!" said he, and brought in a square-built child, who with fat, red cheeks, and round arms, stared around him. "That is a strong fellow! Here is something to take hold of! Tralla-ralla-ralla!" And he danced him round the room.
Sophie laughed and offered her hand to Otto.
Wilhelm turned to Mamsell. "I have brought something for you," said he, "something which I hope may find a place in the work-box—a man made of very small mussel-shells; it is from Venice."
"Heavens! from all that way off!" said she and courtesied.
After dinner they walked in the garden.
Wilhelm spoke already of going the following year again to Paris.
"Satan!" said the Kammerjunker. "Nay, I can do better with Mr. Thostrup. He is patriotic. He lays out his money in an estate. It is a good bargain which you have made, and in a while will be beautiful; there is hill and dale."
"There my old Rosalie shall live with me," said Otto; "there she will find her Switzerland. The cows shall have bells on their necks."
"Lord God! shall they also be made fools of?" exclaimed Jakoba: "that is just exactly as if it were Sophie."
They went through the avenue where Otto two years before had wept, and had related all his troubles to Louise. He recollected it, and a gentle sigh passed his lips whilst his eyes rested on Louise.
"Now, do you feel yourself happy at home?" asked she; "a lovelier summer's day than this you certainly have not abroad."
"Every country has its own beauties," replied Otto. "Our Denmark is not a step child of Nature. The people here are dearest to me, for I am best acquainted with them. They, and not Nature, it is that makes a land charming. Denmark is a good land; and here also will I look for my happiness." He seized Louise's hand; she blushed, and was silent. Happy hours succeeded.
This circle assembled every Sunday; on the third, their delight was greater, was more festal than on any former occasion.
Nature herself had the same expression. The evening was most beautiful; the full moon shone, magnificent dark-blue clouds raised themselves like mountains on the other side the Belt. Afar off sailed the ships, with every sail set to catch the breeze.
Below the moon floated a coal-black cloud, which foretold a squall.
A little yacht went calmly over the water. At the helm sat a boy—half a child he seemed: it was Jonas, the little singing-bird, as Wilhelm had once called him. Last Whitsuntide he had been confirmed, and with his Confirmation all his singer-dreams were at an end: but that did not trouble him; on the contrary, it had lain very heavy upon his heart that he was not to be a fifer. His highest wish had been to see himself as a regimental fifer, and then he should have gone to his Confirmation in his red uniform, with a sabre at his side, and a feather in his hat half as tall as himself. Thus adorned, he might have gone with the girls into the King's Garden and upon the Round Tower, the usual walk for poor children in Copenhagen. On Confirmation-day they ascend the high tower, just as if it were to gain from it a free view over the world. Little Jonas, however, was confirmed as a sailor, and he now sat at the helm on this quiet night.
Upon the deck lay two persons and slept; a third went tranquilly up and down. Suddenly he shook one of the sleepers, and caught hold on the sail. A squall had arisen with such rapidity and strength, that the vessel in a moment was thrown on her side. Mast and sail were below the water. Little Jonas uttered a shriek. Not a vessel was within sight. The two sleepers had woke in time to cling to the mast. With great force they seized the ropes, but in vain; the sail hung like lead in the water. The ship did not right herself.
"Joseph, Maria!" exclaimed one of them, a man with gray hairs and unpleasing features. "We sink! the water is in the hold!"
All three clambered now toward the hinder part of the vessel, where a little boat floated after. One of them sprang into it.
"My daughter!" cried the elder, and bent himself toward the narrow entrance into the cabin. "Sidsel, save thy life!" and so saying, he sprang into the boat.
"We must have my daughter out," cried he. One of the ship's cabin windows was under water; he burst in the other window.
"We are sinking!" cried he, and a horrible scream was heard within.
The old man was German Heinrich, who was about to come with this vessel from Copenhagen to Jutland: Sidsel was his daughter, and therefore he wished now to save her life a second time.
The water rushed more and more into the ship. Heinrich thrust his arm through the cabin-window, he grasped about in the water within; suddenly he caught hold on a garment, he drew it toward him; but it was only the captain's coat, and not his daughter, as he had hoped.
"The ship sinks!" shrieked the other, and grasped wildly on the rope which held the boat fast: in vain he attempted to divide it with his pocket-knife. The ship whirled round with the boat and all. Air and water boiled within it, and, as if in a whirlpool, the whole sunk into the deep. The sea agitated itself into strong surges over the place, and then was again still. The moon shone tranquilly over the surface of the water as before. No wreck remained to tell any one of the struggle which there had been with death.
The bell tolled a quarter past twelve; and at that moment the last light at the hall was extinguished.
"I will go to Paris," said Wilhelm, "to my glorious Switzerland; here at home one is heavy-hearted; the gillyflowers on the grave have an odor full of melancholy recollections. I must breathe the mountain air; I must mingle in the tumult of men, and it is quite the best in the world."
Otto closed his eyes; he folded his hands.
"Louise loves me," said he. "I am so happy that I fear some great misfortune may soon meet me; thus it used always to be. Whilst German Heinrich lives I cannot assure myself of good! If he were away, I should be perfectly tranquil, perfectly happy!"