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Title:      Twelve Stories [1945]
Author:     Steen Steensen Blicher [1782-1848]
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Language:   English
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Date first posted:          June 2003
Date most recently updated: June 2003

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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      Twelve Stories [1945]
Author:     Steen Steensen Blicher [1782-1848]

TRANSLATED FROM THE DANISH BY Hanna Astrup Larsen [1873-1945]

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY SIGRID UNDSET [1882-1949]

1945
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS
PRINCETON
FOR THE AMERICAN-SCANDINAVIAN FOUNDATION NEW YORK




CONTENTS


STEEN STEENSEN BLICHER, by Sigrid Undset

THE JOURNAL OF A PARISH CLERK

THE ROBBERS' DEN

TARDY AWAKENING

ALAS, HOW CHANGED!

THE PARSON AT VEJLBYE

GYPSY LIFE

THE HOSIER AND HIS DAUGHTER

MARIE

THE GAMEKEEPER AT AUNSBJERG

AN ONLY CHILD

THREE HOLIDAY EVES

BRASS-JENS

NOTES




STEEN STEENSEN BLICHER

BY SIGRID UNDSET


IN an autobiographical sketch, written in his fifty-seventh year, Steen
Blicher ends his record of a life spent in tireless activity and almost
constant misfortune, with the following words:

"Finally, he has made numerous contributions to the public journals--at
first sometimes anonymously--through which he has mainly tried to call
attention to imperfections and abuses, to arouse the spirit of his
people to a more vigorous life, and to further patriotism at the expense
of selfishness. He has had--and still has--to fight misfortunes and
heavy sorrows. Several times he has been in peril of his life from
accidents when driving, from runaway horses, from illness. . . . But
during all his tribulations he has held firmly to his chosen motto:
'Lord, when Thy hand is heavy upon me, Thou makest me strong.'"

No doubt Blicher was in perfectly good faith when he wrote these words,
convinced that he had stated two vitally important facts about himself.
His conscience assured him that, in spite of the scant and tardy
recognition he had met as an author and a poet--and he cannot have been
unaware of the fact that in his vast literary output were some short
stories and poems of rare originality and exquisite beauty--he had never
flagged in his unselfish devotion to his people and in his efforts to
serve the material and spiritual needs of his native land. And even if
it seemed to him as though an unkind fate had persecuted him ever since
he became a man, the poverty-stricken village pastor remained steadfast
in his trust in God. He had grown up among a people whose lives were
bare, harsh, and difficult, and he had accepted the fact that God does
not coddle His children. He treats them as grown-up sons and daughters,
who must be able to face misery and carry the responsibility for what
they bring upon themselves and their fellow men. After all, this life is
short, uncertain--like a mirage; for hope of adjustment and consolation
a man must look beyond the sunken graves where withering grass and dead
flowers rustle in the wind from the moors. In spite of his shortcomings
as a pastor, dire as they were, Blicher was'in his own way a deeply
pious man. And in his own strange way he was also a man of rare
fortitude.




I


Steen Steensen Blicher was born on October 11, 1782, in the parsonage of
Vium in Jutland, where his father, Niels Blicher, was a minister. For
five generations the forefathers of Steen Blicher had been clergymen.
Most of his relatives on his father's side were parsons.

Since the Lutheran Reformation such families, wholly devoted to the
ministry, had become quite common in the Scandinavian countries. A
peasant's son who had managed to work his way through the Latin school
and the University, ending up as the minister of a country parish, would
make every effort to prevent his children from sinking back into the
ranks of the common people. He would strive hard to make it possible for
his sons to study divinity, and try to marry his daughters to curates
and vicars. Usually a minister's income was very modest. And if his
predecessor had left a widow, she had a right to be pensioned from his
tithes, the basic income of the living. It might even happen that there
was more than one minister's widow in the parish. When Steen Blicher was
given the living of Thorning and Lysgaard, no fewer than three widows
claimed their share of his income. Small wonder that the country parsons
were often inordinately eager to make some extra money at the expense of
their parishioners--"Parson's purse is never filled," says an old
proverb--or that they often were denounced for neglecting their duties
as shepherds of souls, while they devoted their energies to the tilling
of the parsonage acres, to literary work, or whatever extraneous
activities they had a natural inclination for.

Yet the Church offered by far the easiest way for a lad who wanted to
escape from the unfree and uncertain conditions to which the peasants,
at least in Denmark and Sweden, were subject. The lack of personal
liberty and security was far worse than the economic stringency, for, in
spite of the latter, farmers sometimes managed to become quite
well-to-do. But under a rural system where all but a handful of the
peasants were tenants under great or small landlords, and bound to work
on the fields of the manor, even if they had to neglect their own
holdings; where the squire had the right to inflict bodily punishment on
his tenants; where the _Stavnsbaand_ institution held the men tied to
their native village as long as they were of an age to serve in the
militia in case of war; and where the lord of the manor could send a
young man away to be made a soldier if he had a grudge against him, the
opportunity to change this life of virtual serfdom for the life of a
clergyman must have seemed immensely tempting. Yet the commoner, even as
a clergyman, did not escape the domination of the nobleman, who to a
great extent possessed the right to give away the living attached to the
church or churches on his domain. Many of these country squires might be
kind and pious men, yet they could not help regarding the clergy as just
an order of upper servants; in fact, it was not unusual that the
minister had for a time served as valet or tutor to sons of the squire,
while he was trying to finance his studies in the Capital. The situation
of the parson between his patron and his parishioners, and subject to
the former, was as between the bark and the wood. And the parishioners
were prone to regard their parson with suspicion and accuse him, justly
or unjustly, of toadying to his lordship and trying to squeeze as much
as possible in emoluments out of his flock.

Nevertheless, the minister had come a long way from the status of his
humbler ancestors. He was addressed as Herr--Herr Sören, Herr Jens (not
until the eighteenth century did it become usual to address him by his
surname). And a young man who had a genuine yearning after knowledge and
was inclined to the pursuit of literature and scholarship would usually
have to approach such goals by way of the Church. The marvel is not that
the spiritual life of the Scandinavian countries lagged in the first
centuries after the Reformation, nor that the moral and intellectual
standard of the clergy on the whole was none too brilliant.  The marvel
is that, in spite of so many obstacles, a number of clergymen were still
able to achieve as much as they did, as scholars, poets, educators of
the people, and as men of erudition.

Niels Blicher lived up to the best traditions of his class, when he
tried to introduce improved methods of agriculture among his
parishioners, and made propaganda for inoculation against smallpox. He
joined the company of those eighteenth-century clergymen who wrote
"topographical descriptions" of the district where they lived and
worked, storing up for generations to come an immense amount of
information about the soil and climate, the health conditions, the
farming methods, the morals and customs and superstitions of the country
people of the times. Niels Blicher's book about his parish of Vium is
delightful. His numerous exercises in Latin verse-making at least amused
himself.

He had married Christine Marie Curz, a minister's daughter, descended
from the famous Bishop Bang of Odense, who in his turn claimed descent
from the illustrious house of Hvide--that great and noble clan which in
the Middle Ages had given to their country a number of heroes of ballads
and history. They had been great warriors, great statesmen, founders of
cities, builders of churches and abbeys, loyal servants of the great
kings of Denmark, until one of them turned regicide and several of them
rebelled against less great kings, and made war on their native land.
Blicher mentions this relationship of his with the Hvide lords, but it
does not seem to have occupied his fantasy unduly. (To poor Herman Bang
a century later the thought of his descent from the house of Hvide
became an obsession.) But Steen Blicher had ever since his childhood had
an intimate knowledge of the rural aristocracy of Denmark, and for him
it did not possess much glamour. Like his contemporaries, Blicher took
for granted that a nobleman ought to be a noble man, and sometimes was.
But he also took for granted that people very often are not what they
ought to be. He was keenly aware of the way a man's outlook on life and
his behavior is conditioned by the virtues and vices of the class he has
been born into, and he quietly enjoyed the rich variety of manners and
tastes and ambitions brought about by different environment. But good or
bad, funny or vicious in an entertaining way, to Blicher the squire and
his lady, the poor and the wealthy peasants, the gypsy and his woman
flitting across the lonely Jutland moors outside the border line of
ordered society, were just human beings, of whom no two are alike but
all deserving of interest and sympathy.

Blicher scarcely ever mentions his mother. No memory of Marie Curz seems
to have entered into the world of his imagination. He was her eldest
son. Two children died in infancy. A fourth, a boy five years younger
than Steen, survived. According to the scanty information that has been
gleaned about Niels Blicher's wife, she was queer and melancholy almost
from the beginning of their married life. Soon after the birth of her
youngest son she became hopelessly insane.

Her uncle was _Etatsraad_ Steen de Steensen, owner of the manor of
Aunsbjerg. The _Etatsraad_ (Counsellor of State, an honorary title not
involving practical duties) was a kindly man; and probably because his
small namesake could not be properly cared for at home with the invalid
mother, Steen was frequently carried off to Aunsbjerg to spend some time
with this distinguished relative and his strong-minded lady. Another
relative of his mother's was Fr. von Schinckel, owner of Hald--of all
Danish country seats the richest in legends and traditions. Beautifully
situated on an inland lake near Viborg, the old capital of Jutland, the
von Schinckel home was surrounded by the ruins of a prehistoric
stronghold, a medieval castle, and an earlier manor. The Schinckels took
their turn in caring for the little boy, who for all practical purposes
was motherless. Indeed, it seems as if the only taste of womanly
tenderness and a woman's caresses Steen Blicher had as a child were the
kisses the wanton young Charlotte Schinckel showered upon him, when she
was in the mood. At Aunsbjerg the boy felt as if he were in a cage, and
Hald was not much better. Yet what he had heard and observed from his
footstool of the doings of the grown-up people about him, stayed in his
memory, and a belated understanding of the things he had seen happen at
Aunsbjerg and at Hald became an important part of his inspiration later
on. A number of his finest tales have for a setting these two old
Jutland country houses.

In those days, however, he always longed to get away from these strict
ladies, to go home to Vium and the parsonage. His mother's condition may
have been something dark and frightening that children often evolve an
elaborate technique to ignore or circumvent. And his father tried to
make up to his two young sons for the shortcomings of their home. He was
their tutor and their friend; he let them accompany him on his visits to
the poor and the sick of the parish, and on his excursions to collect
material for his "Topography of the Shire of Vium."

At that time the parish straddled the border line between the fertile
eastern plains and gentle valleys of the east coast and the vast and
desolate high moor, _Ahlheden,_ which occupied the interior of the
Jutland peninsula all the way from the northern sandy spit of Skagen
down to the marshy lowlands of Slesvig, continuing with some
interruptions into the moors of northwestern Germany.

Since the dawn of Danish history the Jutlanders had enjoyed the
reputation of being the toughest, shrewdest, most stubborn of Danes.
Nowhere else had the peasantry fought so hard and so long for their
ancient Northern freedom against the system of oppression from the
South, which slowly and gradually engulfed the rural populations of
Denmark and Sweden during the later Middle Ages and the time of the
Reformation. Fierce uprisings of the peasants had to be crushed in blood
before the State and the aristocracy could subdue them--and in Jutland
the peasants were never wholly subdued. Nevertheless, the reason why
Jutland even during the centuries of rural unfreedom had the largest
percentage of owner-farmers in Denmark may not have been the
much-vaunted stubbornness of the Jutland mind. On the contrary, cause
and effect probably worked the other way around, as in Norway.  There
the resistance of the peasants against attempts to deprive them of their
old freedoms was helped by the natural conditions of the country, which
did not favor the building up of large estates, since most of the arable
land was in scattered patches separated by rocky and infertile ground;
and the independence thus preserved strengthened the peasants'
individualism and sense of personal dignity. So in the parts of Jutland
where small and isolated farms nestled among wide marshes and on the
outskirts of the barren moorland, the greedy noblemen were not tempted
to build up their estates. Here the farmer-owner survived, while the
fertile eastern counties, where the peasants had always lived in
villages and tilled their land under a system of strip-farming, came
under the domination of the gentry. But even here the Jutlanders never
tamely submitted to their master. If he was too unjust or arbitrary, he
was met with grumbling obstruction or sullen resistance. The rebellious
peasant who retaliated against a beating or an insult to his girl by
killing the squire or his overseer could still escape to the great
forests and the moor--haunts of the numerous robber gangs who made the
highways unsafe. As everywhere, when the common people suffer
oppression, the rebel outlaws became popular heroes, their deeds of
daring and their generosity towards the poor, the stuff ballads and
tales are made of. As a child Steen Blicher must have imbibed a great
deal of this robber lore.

Behind the village with its green pastures and fields was the somber
world of the moor. Wave upon wave of hills, dark with brown heather,
rolled all the way towards the distant horizon, where the rows of great
burial mounds from the Bronze Age topped the ridges--memorials of the
time when the ancient _Haervej,_ the trail of the Danish warriors of
old, traversed the peninsula from north to south. In between the hills,
sluggish creeks and stagnant swamps daubed the murky landscape with
patches of pale green. In the hollows, copses of stunted oak bowed to
the winter storms and managed to keep alive, yielding shelter to the
game birds that abounded on the moor. The roads of the moorland had made
themselves: they were the ruts dug out by the creaking wooden wheels of
oxcarts, or yellow and sandy tracks worn by the hoofs of innumerable
cattle, which the drovers bought from the farmers along the Limfjord and
herded south to fatten in the marshes of Sönderjylland, before they were
marketed in Hamburg or northern Germany. To a sensitive boy with a vivid
imagination they were also the roads leading back through the history of
his country, into the dim past of the race.

Sometimes the wanderer on the moor would suddenly come upon a tiny
homestead with low walls of turf and clay almost disappearing under the
overhanging thatched roof. A slender column of yellow peat smoke curling
upwards under the wide sky, some shy, barefooted children fleeing at the
sight of a stranger, a few sheep seeking their meager food in the
heather, told of a life lived many miles away from the nearest neighbor.
Yet the inside of the cottage might look snug, or even prosperous, with
solid furniture, curtained beds swelling with bolsters and linen sheets,
an array of copper pots and pewter tankards by the fireplace. The
challenge of the infertile moorland had been accepted by an industrious
and thrifty population, which turned to sundry home industries. The only
domestic animals that could be kept in any number were sheep, and so the
spinning of wool and the knitting of woollen garments kept whole
families busy, men as well as women. Scattered among the hills were pits
of a kind of clay that made excellent pottery, and the "Black
Jutlanders," handmade pots and pans and dishes, were carted all over
Denmark and shipped from Jutland ports to neighboring countries, even as
far as to the Netherlands. Usually middlemen skimmed the cream off the
business, but even so the makers might achieve a modest competence and
by the thrift of several generations amass a small fortune.

The love of the moor was planted in the heart of Steen Blicher when as a
child his father took him along on his trips--and it was also his father
who initiated him in the noble art of the hunter. It seems that Niels
Blicher let his boys have a gun as soon as they were big enough to tote
one; and his friends in the manors of the neighborhood, who appreciated
the parson as a member of their hunting parties, let the lads run along
with the men. The spell of the wild and desolate dark land, which would
turn into a riot of purple and rose colors for a few weeks in blossom
time; the everlasting trill of the skylarks under the immense vault; the
hot summer days when the distant grave-mounds seemed to float above
ground and dance in the hot, trembling air; the teeming life of wild
things, birds and hares and foxes, in winter time even now and again a
stray wolf; the tales about outlaws and gypsies; the friendliness of the
moorland people, hospitable as the Arabs of the desert--these were the
treasures Steen Blicher laid up in his boyhood. Later the moor was
destined to become his inspiration, his happy hunting ground, his refuge
from misery and heartbreak.




II


According to Blicher, he was a frail child and dull at school. Finally,
though, he must have made some progress with his studies, for when he
was admitted to the Latin School in Randers at the age of fourteen, he
was placed in the third form, among boys most of whom were his seniors.
He may have had private tutors at home, but evidently Niels Blicher had
himself been the chief instructor of his sons.

Just before he left his home for school, something happened to the
adolescent that probably influenced his whole life for the worse. His
father had recently been promoted to the living of Randlev, and here
young Steen made the acquaintance of a girl of sixteen, newly married to
a doctor, but staying for a few summer weeks as a guest with relatives.
The girl took it into her head to flirt outrageously with the
thirteen-year-old lad--hugging, petting, kissing him lavishly in public
as well as when they were alone. Avowedly, the young grass widow merely
indulged in an innocent pastime; technically, the parson's boy was still
a child. Moreover, according to the tastes of the time, "page-love" was
so sweet, the admired pattern being the love of Cherubino for the
Countess in Mozart's opera. To the boy the caresses of the plump and
pretty little brunette were a dangerous intoxication--a stormy awakening
of his emotions and his senses (though Blicher goes out of his way to
deny that his passion for the doctor's wife had much to do with
sensuality). When the lady left Randlev to return to her husband, Steen
waved a last adieu to his beloved from the stone fence of the vicarage
garden. Afterwards he grovelled in the grass, wishing that his heart
would really break, and that he might die.

Friends of Ernestine Blicher, the sixteen-year-old widow Steen Blicher
married fifteen years later, describe her almost in the same words as he
has used about his first love--small and plump and pretty, with an
abundance of nut-brown curls. So it is very likely that the romping of a
flighty married girl with the schoolboy Blicher had a good deal to do
with his marriage to a woman who helped to make his life a tragedy.

The Latin School at Randers was a good one, according to the standards
of the day. The headmaster and some of the other masters were gifted
teachers who knew how to make the strong meat of classical learning
palatable to young boys and foster in them a genuine zest for
intellectual activity. Steen Blicher was not quite seventeen years old
when he left school for Copenhagen, where, according to the pattern of
studies of the time, the final examination and the graduation from
school to University took place. Steen acquitted himself very honorably
and settled down to the study of theology--certainly not because he felt
any special vocation for the ministry, but because he had always been
destined for it.

He witnessed the attack of the British Fleet under Nelson and Parker on
the navy of the "Twin Kingdoms," Norway and Denmark, April 2, 1801.
Blicher enlisted in the Students' Volunteer Defense Corps, but this time
he was not called upon to prove his valor. The naval engagement had
ended in a stalemate, with heavy losses on both sides. The Danish and
Norwegian seadogs fought back with fierce courage and considerable
skill. But Nelson called for a parley and pretended that, unless an
armistice was entered upon, he would have to burn the captured Danish
ships with the men in them. The Crown-Prince-Regent Frederik was a very
brave man, but he was also very tender-hearted. The undecided battle of
Copenhagen was turned into a diplomatic defeat. Denmark and Norway had
to quit the League of the Armed Neutrals and submit to letting England
search their merchant ships for contraband. Moreover, Denmark's ally
Russia at the same time signed a peace treaty with England. For six
years Denmark stayed outside the Napoleonic wars, enjoying a period of
unusual prosperity.

Ever since he had taken over the rule for his insane father, Crown
Prince Frederik and his Cabinet had worked untiringly to liberate the
Danish peasantry and improve their condition. The right of the squire to
inflict bodily punishment on his tenants was abolished; tenants could
not be evicted from their farms without having the case tried in a court
of justice, and the eviction must be made by rural policemen, not by the
squire's people. Most important of these amendments was the abolition of
the _Stavnsbaand,_ which took the recruiting out of the hands of the
landowners. In place of it, conscription based on a census of all adult
males was introduced; and in the mind of the Danes a national
conscripted army and personal freedom for all men became twin ideas.
Credit institutions were established expressly to help the farmers to
buy their homesteads on easy terms. The transition of the peasants from
tenants to freeholders made new strides in these years of prosperity.
Several estates were bought by so-called "manor butchers," to be
parcelled out and sold on speculation. But the driving force in this
work of emancipation had been the Crown Prince and his helpers, most of
them noblemen from the highest Danish aristocracy. It was only natural
that the common men of Denmark should look upon their autocratic monarch
with a love and a loyalty which none of his later disastrous mistakes
could weaken, and also that the Danes on the whole should regard their
noblemen as the cream of the nation, in spite of the black sheep and the
dullards and the crackpots in their ranks. They really had seen a number
of their great lords stand out as men of true moral greatness.
Revolutions might be all right in other countries, but in this
enlightened corner of the world similar reforms were brought about
peacefully, and now, with enlightenment about to penetrate the whole
nation, there was no telling how far small Denmark might go as an
example to the world of a model country.

This smugness and conservatism of the Danes in the beginning of the
nineteenth century and their excessive royalism were to have fatal
consequences in the long run, but in the days of Blicher's youth these
were scarcely apparent. In his tale "A Fortnight in Jutland" his, or
rather his father's, memories of the Jacobin Club of Viborg have become
a source of rich fun, and the fact that the Baron of the tale is an
out-and-out rascal does nothing to mitigate Blicher's scorn of the
provincial revolutionaries.

Blicher was not called upon to fight for his country in the summer of
1801, but the nervous tension of the time may have had something to do
with the breakdown in health he now suffered. A sunstroke together with
a chest trouble prostrated the sensitive youth, and the doctors held out
no hope of recovery from what they called his "incurable hectic
condition." It seems to have been a case of advanced consumption. But
Blicher's Jutland stubbornness was roused by this death sentence. He did
not care to linger on as an invalid; he would try to cure himself by
drastic treatment, or else succumb quickly.

Though he was so weak that he could scarcely cross the room without
becoming exhausted, he went for a walk every day, and little by little
he was able to extend his promenades. To strengthen his ailing lungs he
started playing the flute. And when his health had improved somewhat he
took a situation as tutor to young Lauridz Foss, whose wealthy bourgeois
father had bought a manor on the island of Falster. In an age when ideas
about infection and contagious diseases were of the haziest kind, nobody
objected to the consumptive Mr. Blicher's acting as tutor to a lad only
a few years his junior. The situation offered ample opportunities of
outdoor life for mentor as well as pupil. The two young men went
duck-hunting in ditches and marshes, sometimes soaking wet for days on
end; tramped across the country with guns and dogs; shot seabirds and
seals from a rowboat; or during the winter, when the fjord was icebound
and bitter winds cut through their clothing, went hunting on skates
among the outer islets. As by a miracle, this indifference to the state
of his health turned the wan and emaciated candidate for death into a
lean, tanned, sturdy young man--at least that is what Steen Blicher
tells us. Moreover, he insists that, except for a few attacks of acute
illness, he ever after enjoyed a gloriously robust health, which none of
his adversities could shake.

In the time left over from their outdoor activities, Blicher and his
pupil managed to get along with their studies well enough for Lauridz
Foss to pass the examinations at the University of Copenhagen in due
time and graduate with distinction. And the friendship between Steen
Blicher and Lauridz Foss lasted all their lives. Meetings, sometimes
made happier still by hunting trips, and the exchange of letters and
greetings kept green the attachment between the two men, and after the
death of Steen Blicher his former pupil wrote some very touching
reminiscences of the good man and great genius he had loved so
faithfully.

During his stay in Falster Blicher made one more acquaintance that
became a lifelong love with him. He discovered the poems of Ossian.
Macpherson's book was still widely held to be a genuine translation of
ancient Gaelic lays. To young Blicher from Jutland, the highland moors
of Scotland, where heroes and bards of old moved to their tragic fates
in an everlasting mist, and lovely maidens mourned their dead lovers to
the strains of the harp, merged with the moors at home. Family
traditions and old wives' tales he had heard as a boy were glorified in
the sorrows of the blind Ossian and the faithful Malvina.

Probably Blicher already toyed with the idea of translating Ossian into
Danish during his stay in Falster, though he did not start work on it
until later. His translations of Ossian appeared, one volume in 1807, a
second in 1809. Opinion about Macpherson's rank as a poet has changed
since the time when Ossian was the craze of the literary world all over
Europe. I still think he was no mean poet, and my lingering love for
Macpherson's misty world of gloom and doom dates back to a summer in my
maternal grandfather's old-fashioned Danish garden, where as a
schoolgirl I read Blicher's rendering in the green shadow of the elder
arbor.--To Blicher "the Bard of Morven" remained a kind of tutelary
spirit as long as he lived. In the dark years that lay ahead he was to
find consolation in communing with the heroes and heroines of Ossian's
world, flitting about him on his own moors. His second daughter, his
favorite child, he had named Malvina after the widowed bride of the dead
Oscar.

But the young man who returned from his stay in Falster in 1803 to
resume his studies for the ministry in Copenhagen had no misgivings
about the future. He was, according to his own words, quite a "mahogany
fellow," which in the slang of the time meant a dandy. He was musical
and played several instruments with more or less skill, he had a nice
singing voice, he danced, was sociable and keenly interested in poetry
and public matters. And there would always be an opportunity to get out
of town and go hunting when he felt like it.

Yet he does not seem to have been a member of any of the literary clubs
or coteries that flourished among the Copenhagen students and young
writers. The stir caused by the introduction of the Romantic movement
from Germany evidently left him cold. In spite of the British outrage
against Denmark, Blicher loved English poetry and literature, though not
uncritically. Byron he disliked. But he liked the English. Their
politicians might be ruthless and unhampered by moral niceties, but he
loved their language, and he liked the humaneness of the English people.
Germany was another story. As a Jutlander he knew his and his ancestors'
neighbor, whose political intrigues and policy of infiltration in the
southern part of Jutland were backed by a mean and greedy people.

He was terribly poor, but he was used to straitened circumstances from
his home. And when after a while he was given a scholarship that
included lodgings in one of the colleges for indigent students, of which
Copenhagen had several, he immediately offered to share his quarters
with a friend who was as poor as himself. In justice to Blicher it
should not be forgotten that, if later he degenerated into an inveterate
borrower, hopelessly unreliable in money matters, he was always willing
to share what he had, if he had anything at all, with whoever happened
to come along.

Meanwhile it became evident that Denmark could not possibly be kept out
of the European wars much longer. The sympathy of the people was with
England, but the plight of Germany under the heel of Napoleon made the
Danes forget their old grudge against the nation which innumerable times
had played the aggressor against Denmark. "We want to keep what is ours,
but we want all other people to do the same." A Danish army of defense
was stationed at the southern frontier to fight off a possible French
invasion. But among the measures proposed at the meeting in Tilsit
between Napoleon and the Emperor of Russia was an "invitation" to
Denmark to lend her navy for an attack on Great Britain. Reckless, and
not too well informed on European matters, the British Government of
Canning decided to forestall this eventuality, and in the late summer of
1807 a large British fleet appeared in Danish waters. Denmark was
offered "protection" and colonies after the war as payment for the
"loan" of her navy to the English. The Crown Prince refused: "With what
would you pay for the honor of Denmark?" Then the British landed their
invasion army and shelled Copenhagen until approximately one third of
the city was razed and burnt to the ground--among buildings that
suffered were the cathedral and the University. After a defense of four
days, the city capitulated. The British carried away the large and
modern navy together with much war material, and six hundred vessels of
the merchant marine. Denmark was in the war on the side of Napoleon
until his defeat, and had to pay the price.

Steen Blicher had fought with the defenders of the city. When he
returned to seek his lodgings after the capitulation, they were gone,
and so were all his earthly possessions, including his first
manuscripts. For a while he had to go home to his father in Jutland.
Napoleon had sent an army, mainly of Spanish auxiliaries, into Jutland,
as he had planned a joint French and Danish attack on Sweden. The attack
never came off, but Blicher made the acquaintance of a number of French
and Spanish soldiers and officers, and liked them. He acquired a
fondness for their languages--according to himself strong enough to make
him learn both French and Spanish quite well.

He returned to Copenhagen, and in 1809 he was able to finish his studies
and graduate "with distinction." Then he applied, not for a living in
the Church, but to be appointed teacher at his old school in Randers.

The teachers of the "learned schools" were appointed by royal decree.
And as the King, Frederik VI, who had succeeded his insane father in
1808, was the very type of paternalistic monarch who manages to keep an
eye on an incredible number of his State employees, it is likely that
the way Blicher acquitted himself of his duties as a teacher was
remembered and held against him for years in the offices of the
government in Copenhagen.

Soon after his arrival in Randers the new "Adjunct," as was Blicher's
title, married the widow of his uncle, Pastor Peder Daniel Blicher of
Spentrup. The bride, Ernestine, was not quite seventeen years old and
the mother of a baby boy. Her father was a petty government official who
had been imprisoned for embezzlement, and after the breaking-up of her
Copenhagen home the girl Ernestine came to Pastor Blicher as a nursemaid
for his children by his second wife. She was considered very
good-looking, small and plump, with an abundance of dark curls. She was
also said to be very flighty. She had been a widow only for a couple of
months when she became engaged to a young agriculturist, but when he was
killed in an accident she was reported to have exclaimed, "How
lucky--for I have just become engaged to the overseer of Hald!" Then she
married Steen Blicher.

He was evidently in love with his "sweet Neste"--his pet name for his
wife. She may have reminded him of his first love. But it certainly
would not make her less attractive that her late husband had left her a
tidy sum of money. Blicher immediately invested part of it in a house.

It was a bad thing that the house was situated so far from the school
that Adjunct Blicher habitually came late for his classes. But it was
worse that he very soon began to neglect his duties as a teacher
shamelessly--cancelling classes, or simply not turning up at the school
for a day or a couple of days, without giving any excuse. All we know is
that Blicher was a welcome guest at the hunting parties of the
neighboring landed gentry and farmers, and that he enjoyed the
duck-shooting in the estuary of the river Gudenaa.

In a little more than a year he had made himself impossible as a member
of the staff of his country's "learned schools." He had also made away
with Ernestine's fortune. His own explanation is that the money was lost
because of the deterioration of the Danish currency during the war
years. That is probably true as far as it goes. But he was always a bad
manager of his finances, and it seems that he had already in Randers
forged the first links in that chain of debts which he dragged along
until his death. The house in Randers was sold, and it is uncertain
whether Blicher succeeded in saving anything at all out of his first
financial shipwreck.




III


His damaging record as a teacher was probably the reason Blicher did not
try to get another position under the government. Instead he returned to
his father in Randlev, to take over as the pastor's tenant the farming
of the land that belonged to the vicarage. Occasionally he aided his
father in his ministerial duties, but it was understood that farming was
to be his real job.

Now Blicher was keenly interested in the problems of agriculture. The
rotation of crops was still a new departure among the Jutland peasants.
Blicher practised the method himself and preached it to his neighbors.
The breeding of sheep was the mainstay of the agriculture of Jutland,
but according to time-honored custom the farmers let their sheep run
loose, herded by small boys or girls who were unable to hinder them from
doing a great deal of harm to the crops. Blicher invented a movable
sheep-pen, a large frame on wheels which prevented the animals from
doing damage and kept the field evenly manured. He also advised the
peasants to cultivate a greater variety of crops and to produce more for
home consumption, as a means to improving the health of the coming
generations. He proposed that the villagers should enlarge their arable
land by co-operative draining of the low-lying marshes, of which the
parish had vast areas. He recommended cultivation of flax on the fertile
lands of the east coast in order that a linen industry could supplement
the woollen industry of the moors.

Blicher's theories were usually sound enough, but he preferred to write
and make propaganda for his ideas instead of toiling steadily in his own
fields and barnyard. As a practising farmer he was never a success. He
was simply incapable of sticking to the tasks it was his business to
mind, when he felt like doing something else.

Having begun to write for the newspapers, he discovered more and more
topics he wanted to write about. He wrote about the Jews, fighting with
might and main whatever was to be found in Denmark of anti-Semitic
prejudice. He proposed the founding of "Magdalen homes," where fallen
girls could be reclaimed and reintegrated into respectable society. The
cause of the Greeks, struggling to throw off the yoke of the Turks,
fired his enthusiasm, and he even composed a proclamation in English
verse, calling upon Britain to make war on Turkey. He wanted his country
to abolish capital punishment, "that the government who first of all
struck off the fetters from our black brethren may also give the world
the first example of a more humane treatment of criminals." (Denmark had
been the first country to abolish Negro slavery in her colonies.)

His journalistic efforts got him involved in a number of newspaper
controversies, some of which went on for months. Now and then he had
written verse, enough to make a slim volume which was published by an
obscure Jutland firm. The collection contains one of his loveliest and
most famous poems, "My native land is the brown land of the heather--."
No anthology of Danish poetry would be complete without it.

Meanwhile Blicher's economy had become a sorry mess. And he had a family
of young children. He had to try and get into the ministry in order to
earn a living. But for some time it seemed as if all his applications
for vacant parishes were in vain. In 1819 he composed an advertisement:
"A graduate in theology wants a situation as gamekeeper or forest ranger
in a gentleman's establishment. Besides his main work he offers in his
spare time to give instruction in the Latin, Greek, German, French,
Italian, .and English languages. Can produce first-class recommendations
as to his skill as a hunter."

It may be questioned if Blicher really had intended to advertise in the
newspapers for a job as gamekeeper. He showed the draft to a hunting
companion of his, a gentleman of some influence, and through his good
offices he was at last appointed vicar of the parishes of Thorning and
Lysgaard. The church of Lysgaard had formerly been served by the parson
of Vium, so here Blicher was to mount his father's old pulpit. He
returned to that part of Jutland which he loved with his whole soul, the
somber moor and the poor, sandy soil he had tramped as a small boy. In
1819 he moved into the vicarage of Thorning with his wife and six small
children, the eldest being his stepson.

He dragged with him a burden of debt. Among other things he owed taxes
for several years. The income of the parishes of Thorning and Lysgaard
was modest, and the buildings of the vicarage were badly in need of
repairs, which the parson had to make mainly at his own expense.
Struggling with his private difficulties, he nevertheless took time to
work for the betterment of the village schools in his twin parishes, for
the improvement of the peasants' methods of farming, and for a number of
causes which he considered beneficial to the common people. And when he
had worked till he was tired, writing and talking about matters of
public welfare, Blicher felt that he had really deserved a long, lonely
stroll, with his dog and his gun, in among the hills, to look for grouse
and woodcock in the heather. His parishioners were not quite satisfied
with the way he fulfilled his duties as minister. Particularly the
people in the village of Lysgaard complained that Mr. Blicher had not
held the number of divine services in their church to which they were
entitled. But when he proposed that they should send horses and carriage
after him, as his own carriage was the worse for wear, the Lysgaard
farmers refused.




IV


In the city of Aarhus lived a printer, a certain Mr. Elmquist, who at
this time decided that, as a sideline to his printing business, he would
cater to the reading public of Jutland with a magazine offering short
stones, popular articles, poems, and so on. This kind of publication,
the precursor of the pulp magazines of today, enjoyed an immense
popularity in Germany. Mr. Elmquist borrowed for his venture the title
of one of the most popular, _Lesefrüchte,_ which means "windfallen
fruit." But Elmquist translated it _Laesefrugter,_ "fruits of reading,"
and intimated his intention of filling its pages with translations which
he could print without paying for them. However, Mr. Elmquist also
approached Pastor Blicher to ask for his collaboration. In order to add
to his meager income, Blicher for six years provided the Aarhus magazine
with "translations" from sundry European languages, that is, he retold
stories he had read, abridging or altering them according to his fancy.
But he also let Elmquist print some of his poems and a number of
original tales, for which he drew mainly upon his memories of the
Jutland of his childhood, on old traditions, and on his intimate
knowledge of his countrymen, from the gentry to the gypsies. Thus were
printed for the first time a number of short stories, some of them
peerless masterpieces of Danish prose-writing. In 1823 Elmquist first
published "The Journal of a Parish Clerk."

To give an American public some idea of how _Steen Steensen Blichers
Noveller_ are beloved by his Danish admirers, one might possibly compare
his position with that of Jane Austen among the British. But the Danish
Blicher-worshippers are a much larger proportion of the nation, for in
Denmark the "highbrows" are to be found among fishermen and farmers as
well as among the elite of Danish artists and scholars. Moreover,
Blicher's tales have a more profound human appeal than those of the
brilliant Englishwoman, while his artistic skill, when he is at his
best, is as consummate as Jane Austen's. You will meet lovers of
Blicher--men and women, who have read and re-read his tales any number
of times to enjoy again the old remembered beauties and discover new
perfections--on trains or in boarding houses, at a family party or by a
café table, when a casual mention of Blicher's name will unite you in a
kind of delightful freemasonry. (I was initiated in the cult when my
Danish mother read to me the first part of "Marie," ending with the
words of the old fisherman's wife when her husband permits the adoption
of the babe saved from the ocean, "In Jesus' name! She is a loan of
God's from the sea." Some years later I was entrusted with the precious
volume and read for myself the sequel, which nearly broke my heart. And
when my first book had been published, my mother gave me "for
remembrance" an edition of Blicher's poems about the bird life of
Jutland, _Traekfuglene,_ with a dedication, "that as a writer you will
always look up to Steen Blicher as your model, for profound integrity,
fearless acceptance of life as it is, and truthfulness in telling what
you know.")

The time of Steen Blicher is known as the Golden Age of Danish
literature. The impact of the Romantic movement in Germany had touched
off an explosion like fireworks of young geniuses in the North. The
liberation of emotion, the faith in intuition, the yearning for unity of
nature and spirit, the rediscovery of the secret places of the mind,
created a new kind of poetry. The battle cry of freedom for the nations,
the pondering on the past of the races and on that mystic entity called
the soul of a nation, fired the enthusiasm of the young writers of
Denmark and Sweden. (Norway had regained her national independence in
1814 under difficult circumstances, and her energies and emotions were
occupied with practical problems, almost to the exclusion of the arts
and literature, until the coming of Henrik Wergeland--and he did not
belong to any movement; he was a movement and a literature in himself.)
But the Romantic movement in Denmark rapidly developed a character of
its own. After all, freedom for the whole people was no new idea in the
Northern nations; it was rather a resurrection of the spirit of the
fathers of old who, in the words of the Swede Thorild, were "no man's
masters, no man's slaves." But this liberation had been well under way
in Denmark a long time before the Romantic movement started. Interest in
the past of the Northern nations had never been dead, and now it became
an inspiration not only to the scholars but also to the poets and
artists, who invested the Northern past with glamourous beauty. To the
Northern people interest in real men and women with the weaknesses and
strength of our common human nature had always been greater than their
enthusiasm for ideal constructions of heroes and heroines. It is this
taste for real life, its glories and its miseries, which makes the
Icelandic sagas so vital that they appeal to us still by their timeless
human quality as something contemporary, while most of the great
literature of the Middle Ages of which they were a part seems to belong
to another world than our own. Instead of dreamy nostalgia for the
faraway, the world beyond the horizon, Oehlenschlaeger and Grundtvig,
and later Hans Christian Andersen and Christian Winther, gave their love
wholeheartedly to the men and women of their own native land, to the
past and the present and the future of their country, the sights and
sounds of Denmark's nature. No hankering for the "Blue Flower" of
Romanticism--the roses and the wild flowers, the oaks and beeches rooted
in the soil of their homeland were all they desired.

A strong undercurrent of realism was present also in the Romantic
literature of Denmark--even when the writers looked for the usual
romantic stuff in a Southern or Oriental background and wrote of
picturesque countries which they did not know much about, but dreamed
all the more vividly. Yet however much the world of their imagination
was rooted in the realities they knew and loved, their aim was to invest
this world with the grandeur of fates larger than everyday life, and
transfigure it with beautiful and noble emotions. Like the painters of
their age, they made their studies in the field, but used their sketches
for carefully composed canvases of balancing lines and rich colors. And
when they wrote of their own land they wrote as lovers and glorified the
things they loved. With a warm and healthy sensualism, as innocent of
the convulsions of passion as of the repressions due to fear or bad
conscience, the Danish poets exulted voluptuously in the loveliness of
Denmark--the silence and the cool dusk of the beechwoods, the blue
Sounds flung like embracing arms of the ocean around the sea-born
country, the waving field of yellow grain bordered with cornflowers and
poppies. And voluptuously sweet were to them the women of Denmark,
fair-haired and white-bosomed, virtuous yet friendly and warm--adorable
sweethearts, loyal wives, strong and tender mothers. The common men of
Denmark were "the merry sons of nature," sturdy, brave, clever, and
honest. Many of the writers of the Golden Age were the sons of country
parsons and had spent their childhood among the peasants, or they came
from the homes of the poor. But they did not feel called upon to tell
about their origin, except to praise the attractive sides, and forecast
the ideals they aimed at and fondly hoped their countrymen would live up
to in the future.

Blicher loved his native Jutland without any desire to idealize either
his home or his own people. The world he knew was full of good and evil
things, of bitterness and bliss and humdrum trivialities, but he
accepted everything--it was his world. He accepted it as a loyal son
accepts his mother, or a faithful husband the wife who has been his
partner through a long life. Jutland belonged to him, and he belonged to
Jutland. Underneath his conscious love of this corner of the earth was a
deep, almost unconscious conviction that he could no more uproot himself
from this soil and this people than he could cease to breathe.

In a nation as highly cultured as the Danish of his time, where the art
of good writing was so widely appreciated and the love of poetry so
intense, a genius like Steen Blicher's was bound to be discovered and
recognized before long, even if he did publish his work in an obscure
provincial magazine. Literary circles in Copenhagen became aware of this
lone bird who liked to call himself "the heath lark," this country
parson who wrote in a way all his own, different from the others, but
sometimes, oh, how splendidly well! "Realism" was a word that had not
yet become fashionable, but the critics of Copenhagen praised Mr.
Blicher's originality: his tales were profoundly true to nature, his
scenery new and interesting, and his style had the directness of oral
narrative,

_En Landsbydegns Dagbog_ ("The Journal of a Parish Clerk") is probably
the most widely beloved of his tales. Certainly it combines all the
qualities of his finest work.  [Footnote: _A Degn_--parish clerk--in the
Lutheran churches of Scandinavia is the minister's assistant during
divine service, leading the singing of hymns and reciting some of the
prayers. He was also traditionally the schoolmaster of the village
elementary school. As a man of some education his position was an
intermediate one between the clergy and the villagers. Sometimes the
_Degn_ was a student of theology who had failed to pass his
examinations--as happened to two of Blicher's sons, who became village
_Degns._]

The matter of the story Blicher has partly taken from the history of the
celebrated Mistress Marie Grubbe who, like Blicher's Miss Sophie, was
born at Tjele. Her first husband was Count Ulrik Frederik Gyldenlöve,
natural son of the King, and governor of Norway. Marie ran away from him
with her sister's husband, a dissolute Danish nobleman, and for years
the couple travelled all over Europe, dissipating a tidy fortune. Then
Marie had to return to her father at Tjele. The double divorce of
Gyldenlöve from Marie and of Ane Grubbe from her adulterous husband left
the lady with a damaged reputation, and in the opinion of all sensible
people she ought to have been grateful for her good luck when a
neighboring squire nevertheless asked for her hand in marriage. But she
came to detest her second husband, too, and took for her lover the
overseer at Tjele, Sören Möller. After a thundering scandal and a second
divorce, Marie Grubbe married her peasant lover. When the young
Professor Holberg in 1711 fled plague-stricken Copenhagen, he went to
stay at a very modest inn on the island of Falster and discovered that
the innkeeper was Sören Möller and his landlady the former Countess
Gyldenlöve. Marie evidently took pleasure in meeting once again a young
man of culture and wide reading.  To the quietly friendly Norwegian she
spoke freely of her unusual life and told him how she had loathed her
first husband, who was considered the handsomest and most accomplished
gentleman in the Twin Kingdoms. And none of her other highborn lovers
had been able to hold her affection.  But she was perfectly satisfied
with her present husband, even if he beat her occasionally when he was
drunk. A short time afterwards Sören Möller killed a man and was
sentenced to hard labor for life. Marie carried on, keeping the inn for
sailors and fishermen, and died a year or so after her husband had been
taken away from her.

J. P. Jacobsen used the story of Marie Grubbe for an elaborate
psychological novel. Blicher has simplified the tale. His Miss Sophie is
a giddy young girl who has an affair with her father's gamekeeper and
elopes with him. When Morten Vinge, who loved the fair and gay young
creature, meets her again, she is a coarse and embittered and ugly old
harridan. Her sordid story is entirely without glamour, and it fills the
heart of Morten Vinge with revulsion and terrible sadness. Blicher also
has moved the story forward in time. Marie Grubbe was born in the middle
of the seventeenth century--Blicher's story is set in an
eighteenth-century milieu, the age he knew intimately from living
tradition. Blicher was quite well read in history, but like Sir Walter
Scott he is rarely able to make his stories come to life unless he tells
about the times of his father and grandfather. To him, as to Scott, the
atmosphere and the language of this age are the atmosphere and language
of his own childhood: here he had no need to imitate old letters and
writings--he culled the quaint and old-fashioned expressions from the
living lips of the old people around him, those he was fond of and those
he was afraid of or amused by, and he knew every shading in the old
folks' way of expressing human emotions. In that other masterpiece of
Blicher's, "The Parson at Vejlbye," the entries in the diary of the
young judge pulsate with the troubles and hopes of an upright,
high-spirited, and warmhearted man. The sedate language adequately
expresses his indignation at the attempt to corrupt his integrity, his
love for the parson's sweet daughter, his concern for his hot-tempered
father-in-law, his horror and his despair as the tragedy unfolds.

For "The Parson at Vejlbye" Blicher also utilized an old story, but
again treated it in his own way. According to the documents in the case,
some twenty years had passed since the disappearance of the servant of
Sören Quist, parson at Vejlbye, when plotters framed the evidence and
bought false witnesses who sent the luckless clergyman to his death
under the headman's axe. With his strong feeling for close-knit
composition, Blicher makes the discovery of the remains of Niels Bruus
occur immediately after the man's quarrel with the irascible Herr Sören
and his disappearance from the vicarage. The sleepwalker motif is
Blicher's own invention. It adds to the grimness of the tragedy that the
framed minister ultimately lets himself be persuaded to believe he must
be guilty, though unwittingly, of the murder of his hired man. But to
the fundamentally straight and honorable Herr Sören it is a consolation
to believe that he dies a victim of justice and not of injustice. To him
it would have spelled despair if he had been able to see through the
full hideousness of the plot that was his undoing.

The best tales of Blicher are those in which he tells the story of such
simple, strong, and loyal souls. This does not mean that these people
are simple-minded. Morten Vinge has a keen, curious, and adaptable mind.
The boy who spends his few pennies on a stack of Latin books just to
keep up his knowledge of the beloved language, even after he has had to
give up his hope of going to a Latin School, takes up quite as eagerly
the study of the French language which he hears the gentry speak. He
thoroughly enjoys his initiation in the gallant sport of hunting; for
all his kindheartedness he feels a healthy satisfaction when he has
proved he can fight and make a good soldier. His journal mirrors his
adaptable mind, but his heart never changes: from boyhood to old age
Morten Vinge remains the same true and good man, grateful towards
whoever befriends him, humble before God, and upright among men. The
parson at Vejlbye and his son-in-law, the judge, are canny Jutlanders
with plenty of sound common sense, but their emotional life is
beautifully simple and pure. The emigre French nobleman who ends his
days as gamekeeper with a rustic Jutland gentleman is a kind of
psychological detective, shrewdly unmasking the murderer of a young
peasant girl. Then he marries the other girl, for whose sake the
murderer killed his sweetheart, and gives his name to the unborn child
of the criminal. About his life with the young wife he married out of
chivalrous pity, enough is said when Blicher tells how the widow died of
a broken heart a short time after her elderly husband had been found
dead out in the heather. The gypsy woman Linka Smaelem, who carries her
crippled husband on her back, as they wander homeless all over Austria,
Germany, and the Jutland peninsula; Marie, the waif saved as a baby from
the Western Ocean; and Cecil, the daughter of the prosperous hosier, can
no more take back their hearts, once they have given their love to a
man, than they can stop their hearts from beating. Faithfulness with
them is scarcely a virtue, since it is the very essence of their being.

But so is their roguery to his knaves and thieves. Horrible, or merry
and winning, they follow the bent of their natures with perfect
simplicity and no conscience to trouble them. And his loose women cannot
possibly be called fallen women; they are amoral far more than immoral,
creatures to whom the rules and restrictions society tries to impose
upon their appetites have no real meaning. They overstep them as lightly
as they would a stile in a hedgerow. Miss Sophie, and Charlotte
Schinckel in "An Only Child"--whom Blicher had known when he was a small
boy--follow the bent of their natures without shame or remorse. If they
have to learn by experience that the primrose path leads to a sad
ending, they may turn bitter or subdued, but not repentant. In "Tardy
Awakening," written after Blicher had made the shattering discovery of
his own wife's unfaithfulness, he has drawn with a few light and sure
touches the picture of a promiscuous woman. Lazy and demure, she has
lulled her husband into an illusion that he is a happily married man:
_"Die holde Sittsamkeit bey Tage"_ is his whispered, rather indiscreet
confidence to his friend. The quotation is from Wieland and the whole
passage runs: _"Die Wohllust ist sie in der Nacht, die holde Sittsamkeit
bey Tage."_ He never suspected he was sharing her "love" with almost any
man who happened to be with her in a convenient situation.

The narrative style of Blicher is based partly upon the art of the
peasants who had been handing down their traditions and legends by word
of mouth and partly upon the way the old ladies and gentlemen of his
childhood used to talk. He must have possessed an unfalteringly
sensitive ear for variations in the inflections of voices and in the
ways people express themselves. His tales "Marie" and "The Hosier and
His Daughter" both tell the stories of young girls who lose their minds
when their deep and faithful love for a young man has been frustrated.
In both of them he uses the same device of letting an old woman tell the
tragedy of the girl. But what a subtle difference in the way they tell
it! The fisherman's widow from the stern west coast who says, "Look, out
there where ships are sailing now, there my cradle stood," whose men are
laid to rest somewhere out there beyond the sand bars, with all her pity
for Marie and Jörgen, is inured to hard fates and misery; and she tells
the story of the ill-fated lovers quietly and tersely. The hosier's
widow is much more voluble, and interrupts her narrative of the ghastly
end to the love between her daughter and the poor suitor--when he
returned prosperous and acceptable to Cecil's father--with sighs and
sorrowful exclamations. She has so long felt safe in her life of
comparative ease, and the terrible thing that destroyed her comfortable
household has left her broken, longing for sympathy even from the
stranger who happens to come to her door. Of course the style developed
by a more or less illiterate people for entertainment in the form of
storytelling, and for the oral preservation of their traditions, is
always highly elaborate, and at its best usually of consummate beauty
and vigor. Blicher loved and appreciated the values of this rural art of
storytelling. In his tales _Bette-Fanden_ (Little Scratch) and _Tre
Helligaftener_ ("Three Holiday Eves") [Footnote: Lutheran Protestantism
could never make the Scandinavian people give up the old custom of
keeping the eve of the great feasts of the liturgical year as half-holy
days, with celebrations in the evening--the Vigils of Catholic times.
The evening before Christmas is still in Denmark and Norway the holiest
and best beloved feast of the year.]  he uses it with perfect mastery.
The rules and theories of the rising school of Copenhagen esthetes, led
by the young and energetic Johan Ludvig Heiberg, he despised, and he had
not much patience with that brilliant would-be dictator of taste in
Denmark. Blicher, the realist before Realism, knew masters he liked
better. It was a custom in his part of Jutland for the peasants to
gather sometimes in a cottage or in a farm kitchen, to entertain each
other with singing and storytelling, while young and old, men and women,
busily knitted the stockings and mittens which were to earn for them the
ready money upon which their modest prosperity was built. The dialect of
Jutland--so different from the language of the educated part of the
nation and also from the dialects of the islands, that to Danes outside
the peninsula it is difficult to understand and sounds funny--had
scarcely ever been committed to writing, or at least only as a comical
element in plays and poems written in the common language. Blicher loved
this homely dialect, and in tales and poems where he used it, brought
out all its latent beauty and power to express the shy and sweet
emotions of a reticent and stronghearted people, the courage of men and
women faced with grief and hardship which they accept uncomplainingly,
the sly humor of a tribe who in an eminent degree have been gifted with
the Danish virtue of self-irony. When his collection of dialect stories
and ballads was published in 1842, under the title of _E Bindstouw_ (The
Knitting-Bee), fifteen years of loving labor lay behind the slim volume,
which has become a treasured classic of Danish literature.

Later, when his genius seemed on the wane, the danger of this narrative
style became apparent, and much of Blicher's work during his decline is
merely wordy and a little tiresome (though "Three Holiday Eves" was
written only a few years before he died). He himself was aware of his
tendency to become chatty and created an alter ego, his "Cousin Peer the
Fiddler" as the narrator of his loosely knit, usually only mildly
amusing, humorous tales. The wistfulness and resigned sadness of "Alas,
How Changed" is unique among the stones attributed to Peer Fiddler--many
of his own emotions during a life filled with frustrations went into it.




V


In 1825 Blicher was promoted to the living of Spentrup and Gassum, where
his uncle, Ernestine's first husband, had been pastor. In fact, when he
wrote his application for this appointment, he mentioned that it would
mean the fulfillment of his wife's dearest hope, if she might return to
the scenes of her happy youth. The income of the living of Spentrup and
Gassum was good enough, and together with the money he could make by his
writings it might have saved him financially, if he had not already been
so deep in debt, the father of a family of seven children besides a
stepchild, and a hopelessly bad manager.

However, to Steen Blicher the outlook for a while seemed quite bright.
He was reinstated in the good graces of the King, who even a couple of
times granted him modest sums of money from his private funds, as an aid
to pay his debts. According to the custom of the times, Blicher
addressed his supplications to the paternalistic monarch and asked for
assistance when his need became too pressing. In 1823 he had edited a
volume of poems called _Bautastene_ (Memorial Stones) about great and
good Danish men. It contained contributions from several well-known
authors. The best known today is Blicher's own ballad on Sören Kanne,
the peasant who saved a group of shipwrecked sailors. To the Danes, an
unmilitary but fiercely courageous people, the heroism of a lifesaver
has always seemed the finest kind of courage. Blicher now enjoyed some
recognition as an author, and in 1825 he severed his connection with Mr.
Elmquist and his _Laesefrugter_ and started as an editor with a
magazine of his own, _Nordlyset_ (The Northern Light). A printer in
near-by Randers was willing to act as publisher. However, when a tragedy
of his, _Johanna Grey,_ at long last, after several delays caused by a
management which did not have much faith in Blicher as a dramatist, was
produced at the Royal Theater in Copenhagen, it proved a failure and was
taken off the boards after three performances.

Of literary friends Blicher had only one who remained really close to
him through the years. Bernhard Severin Ingemann and Steen Steensen
Blicher seemed in many ways to be absolute contrasts--they were of
different natures, had different fates, and lived very different lives.
The young Ingemann had begun as a writer of highly exalted poetry,
romantic horror stories (some of them deserving to be included in the
volumes of spine-chillers that have again become the fashion, as they
are really good in a gruesome way), and had been very successful with
his romantic tragedies in smoothly flowing verse. He married his first
love, a young lady of delicate beauty and angelic virtue, and was given
a professorship at the academy of Sorö, a medieval abbey converted into
a public school on the lines of the English institutions.  In a
beautiful villa on the shores of a charming inland lake, Ingemann lived
a happy married life, the happiness somewhat damped by childlessness and
by the frail health of Mrs. Ingemann. His historical novels of the
Danish Middle Ages have been favorite reading for generations of Danish
children. But his lasting fame among the poets of Denmark he won by his
Morning and Evening Hymns, in which profound piety is blended with the
keenest sense of the moods and sights and sounds of the Danish
countryside. In verse of exquisite purity and naturalness he hails the
risen Christ in the sunrise of a Sunday morning in summer time.
Awakening birds and little children singing their hymns in the village
orphanage unite in a chorus of praise to the God of love.  Nightfall,
when the woods are swallowed up in darkness and silence under the stars,
brings to his lips the words of the disciples on the road to Emmaus,
"Remain with us, dear Master--."

Yet Ingemann was the one faithful friend who always understood Blicher's
genius, so unlike his own, and who never joined with those admirers who
murmured that, granted the poor parson of Spentrup was really an
extraordinarily gifted writer, more was the pity that he made such a
sorry mess of his life, and by and by became a disgrace to the cloth.

Blicher embarked upon his duties in his new parish with a great display
of energy--especially to promote the material well-being of his flock
with a number of projects of the kind he loved to make propaganda for.
Passionately as he loved his moors, he nevertheless dreamed of making at
least parts of the wide wasteland add something to the natural resources
of his country. When the _Ahl,_ the hard crust of stonelike sand or
porous sandstone, was broken, it must be possible to plant hardy
evergreens some places on the moor and by and by get a crop of fuel
other than the peat the Jutlanders were wont to burn. And perhaps some
time, when the land had been prepared by the planting of pine forests,
it might become arable. Blicher's idea of utilizing the moors was taken
up by Colonel Enrico Dalgas, after Denmark in 1864 had lost Holstein and
Slesvig to Germany, under the slogan: "What we have lost without can be
won within." Under Dalgas' untiring leadership the reclamation of this
barren though beautiful part of Jutland became a reality--today the
parts of Blicher's Jutland that are still left untouched by cultivation
are protected as national parks. But Blicher had the vision--and at
great expense he planted in pine some outlying land belonging to the
vicarage. Never chary when he could lay hands on a bit of cash, he gave
the money for a bathing pool and gymnastic equipment for the village
school, so that the children would get some athletic training. He
resumed his advocacy for the cultivation of flax, for the draining of
marshy meadows, and a number of other causes which he considered of
national importance.

Since the Blichers had moved to Spentrup, old Pastor Niels Blicher, no
longer able to fulfill the duties of a minister, had made his home with
them. Steen Blicher and his father were deeply attached to each other.
Theirs were kindred natures with the same love of the land and the
folkways of Jutland, and the close companionship between father and son
was a source of much happiness to both men. But Blicher's wife could
scarcely have been pleased to have a father-in-law, who was gradually
growing blind and dependent on other people's help, added to the
household.

It seems that Blicher did not suspect, until Fate dealt him the blow
from which he never recovered, that there was anything wrong with his
marriage. He was satisfied with his "sweet Neste," and if she scolded
him for his untidy habits, indifference to his personal appearance, and
disregard of his clerical dignity, if she complained of their straitened
circumstances and the crowd of young children teeming all over their
poor home, her husband listened calmly, with some vague consoling words.
He took for granted that such scenes occurred among all married couples.
He made no bones about the fact that he was partial to his hunting
flask, and when among boon companions he freely imbibed the national
beverage of Jutland, _Thevandsknaegt_--hot strong tea liberally laced
with the cheap rum that flowed plentifully into Denmark as long as she
possessed her colonies in the Virgin Islands. He felt sure that if his
family was not better provided for, certainly it was not his fault. He
was a hardworking man, always busy with his numerous activities.
Moreover, he was a tender father and an affectionate husband--surely
Ernestine had no serious reason to be dissatisfied, now they were
settled in her dear old home in Spentrup.

Some among Blicher's biographers have made out a case for the defense of
Mrs. Blicher. Certainly she had plenty of reasons to complain of her lot
as the wife of Steen Blicher. The modest fortune left to her by her
first husband had disappeared in no time at all under his hands.
Ernestine liked to have a nice, comfortable home, and she was a
competent housekeeper, but it was impossible to keep her house well
ordered, clean, and neat with all those children about and her husband
trampling all over her scrubbed floors in muddy boots, dirty from the
fields, dirty from duck-hunting, letting his dogs run all over the
place, dropping his guns and papers and samples of his agricultural and
other experiments at random. A woman born to be a poet's wife, with an
understanding of her husband's genius, might have had the patience and
forbearance necessary to put up with Blicher's lack of domestic virtues
and make their marriage a success of a sort in spite of all. Ernestine
was not in the least interested in the literary efforts of her husband
and boasted that she had never read a line of the "trash" he wrote. She
liked lively company and going to great and noisy parties, she loved
dancing and flirting, and when the well-to-do farmers of the
neighborhood with their servants and guests gathered for an evening's
merrymaking, as the local custom was, Mrs. Blicher would appear and take
part in the fun with more abandon than her husband's confreres and
especially their wives thought seemly for the wife of a minister.

In the Scandinavian countries December 11 is Term Day, popularly called
the Devil's birthday. Blicher in his memoirs darkly hints at a Term Day
which forever terminated his illusions about happiness on earth. On
December 11, 1827, the birthday of Ernestine Blicher had been celebrated
in the vicarage of Spentrup. In the night after the party Blicher
chanced to surprise Ernestine and one of their guests in a situation
that no wishful thinking could explain away. Early in the new year
Blicher wrote to his bishop that circumstances had forced him to
separate from his wife.

It never came to a legal separation. Mrs. Blicher took rooms in the
neighboring town of Randers, and her husband himself drove her to her
new abode. Outside her front door he solemnly kissed his wife, saying,
"Good-bye, sweet Ernestine, now we two are never to meet again." Before
long it was the talk of the town that Pastor Blicher called on his wife
almost every day. When her baby was born it seems that Blicher refused
at first to acknowledge it, but after a while he accepted the paternity
and even came to be quite fond of the boy. Less than a year after the
fatal Term Day, Ernestine Blicher was back again in the vicarage. But
the patched-up marriage rapidly deteriorated. A tenth child was born to
the Blichers--a feeble-minded little girl. Steen Blicher and Ernestine
drifted apart more and more. Soon they rarely saw each other or
exchanged words--they stayed under the same roof, and that was all.
Ernestine developed a taste for young and brawny farm hands. At one time
her husband's coachman was her favorite. And he had successors. A
neighboring parson sadly commented on the conditions in the parish of
Spentrup, "The Pastor is a drunkard, his wife Magna Adultera."

Yet Steen Blicher carried on his efforts to promote a number of causes
aimed at the improvement of the material and spiritual conditions of the
people. His work on a description of the Shire of Viborg and another on
the Shire of Skanderborg furnished him with excuses for rambling widely
all over Jutland. And the old complaint that he neglected his duties as
clergyman were raised in Spentrup and Gassum, as they had been heard
from Thorning and Lysgaard. His insatiable curiosity about human nature
and his kindly understanding of all sorts and conditions of men made him
seek the hospitality of laymen and colleagues everywhere, but he could
not help feeling that he was not everywhere a welcome guest. It was a
long, long time since the young Steen Blicher had been a "mahogany
fellow." The Pastor of Spentrup was disgracefully indifferent to
cleanliness and looked a fright in his dirty old clothes; and as
everybody knew, he drank too much, whenever he had an opportunity to do
so. It may have been a feeling of kinship, a mixed emotion of pity and
envy, which made Steen Blicher devote so much of his interest and
sympathy to the study of the alien, dark-skinned people that flitted
mysteriously all over the Jutland peninsula, with no fixed abodes, even
if they had their favorite haunts in out-of-the-way places on the moor.
They called themselves Wanderers or Travellers, but the peasants' name
for them was _Natmaend,_ nightmen, or _Kjeltringer,_ rogues. Undoubtedly
there was a strong gypsy strain in the Jutland rogues--drawings by
contemporary artists as well as old photographs in the files of the
police show that much. But they had forgotten their native Romany
language and adopted _Rotvaelsk,_ the secret language of crooks and
thieves in Germany and Austria--in fact, many of them extended their
wanderings from Jutland far down into Central Europe and back again.
Besides his famous tale of the faithful gypsy woman and her crippled
man, Blicher wrote a great deal about the Wandering People in his
topographical as well as in his fictional work. In a short story, "The
Unbaptized," he tells about the faithful love of two gypsy brothers
from the day they stood as small boys by the corpse of their mother,
killed in a roadside brawl, until their death as old men. In "A
Fortnight in Jutland" he has sketched the famous female robber chieftain
Big-Margrethe, not without sympathy. And to the end of his life he took
a keen interest in their language and their habits.




VI


In 1835 the leading Copenhagen publishing house of Reitzel decided to
bring out an edition of Blicher's collected short stories. And in 1836
he managed to get financial aid, so that he could make a journey into
Sweden, apparently in connection with his plan to write a dictionary of
peasant dialects. This was the only time Steen Blicher ever left his
native land. Almost all the other Danish writers who were his
contemporaries travelled widely abroad--in Germany, France, and above
all in Italy, which to the Danish painters and poets of the Golden Age
became another spiritual mother country. Hans Christian Andersen, who in
spite of his innumerable handicaps was a man of terrifying vitality and
indomitable will power, even managed to see Turkey, to make a voyage on
the Danube, to visit princes in Germany and Dickens in England. Steen
Blicher after his short trip to Sweden never had another opportunity to
go abroad. He yearned to see England and Norway, but even the short
voyage to the latter country he was never able to make.

His transfer to the relatively good living of Spentrup and Gassum, and
his income from his literary work--at times quite
considerable--nevertheless failed to help him out of the financial
quagmire which more and more engulfed poor Pastor Blicher. He was the
father of ten children and had for years cared for his old blind father;
also for some time he had sheltered the three orphaned children of his
younger brother in his home. Now his older children were growing up, and
it soon became evident that they could not possibly be called promising
young people, at least not as to their prospects of worldly success. Of
his sons only the eldest, Peder Daniel, ever graduated from the
University of Copenhagen. Following in the footsteps of his forefathers,
he became a minister in one of the smallest and poorest parishes in
Denmark, He was never promoted to a better one and resigned, while he
was still a fairly young man, eking out an existence on his small
pension and whatever money he could make by teaching. Blicher's second
son, Jens Fredrik, lingered on for years as a student of divinity in
Copenhagen, but never passed the final examinations. Finally he married
and became a _Landsbydegn._ And a _Landsbydegn_ also became the third
son, Francisco--named by his father after a Spanish officer, a friend of
his youth. For the younger Blicher boys a University education was out
of the question. According to their father, one was "in the
transportation business," that is, he became an omnibus driver in
Copenhagen. Another was an assistant in a bookshop, another employed "in
agriculture." His stepson, Niels Blicher, had been considered a wild,
bad boy ever since he was an adolescent--which probably was not entirely
the fault of young Niels. In the opinion of their neighbors, his mother
hated the boy and did her best to drive him out of the home. So Niels
enlisted for service with the troops on the Virgin Islands, got into
trouble, was somehow redeemed by his stepfather, but afterwards went
from bad to worse. Among the tribulations of Steen Blicher's last years
was the periodic appearance of Niels, a tramp and a drunkard, not
unacquainted with the police in several places of northern Jutland.

Blicher evidently was a tender father, even if he was utterly unable to
influence his offspring for their own good. In his various supplications
for assistance he speaks of all his children as "dependent," years after
the older ones were of an age when they ought to have been
self-supporting. The children evidently preferred to stay in the poor
and disorderly home, dependent on their easygoing father whom they loved
and admired, and whose shortcomings and faults they copied, with sad
consequences to themselves. The judgment of people who had known the
sons of Steen Blicher is rather unanimous: they were all nice, friendly
men, but, more is the pity, they were quite unable to resist the
temptation of the bottle.

Of Blicher's daughters the eldest, Christiane, was supposed to keep
house for this family of lazy and inefficient males. His second
daughter, Malvina, was his favorite child. When Blicher in 1837 was
taken seriously ill with rheumatic fever, Malvina nursed him in a way
that earned for her her father's touching gratitude, expressed in simple
and moving stanzas. Next summer she married a landless farmer, Rasmus
Berg, and the couple took over the farming of the parsonage acres of
Spentrup. They did not succeed as farmers either in Spentrup or any of
the other places where they tried their luck, and according to the talk
of the neighborhood the fault was mainly Malvina's. She was no good as a
farmer's wife, spending her time reading, playing, and singing and doing
a little fine needlework, but never putting her hands to honest hard
work. Her husband gallantly insisted that he was to blame for this, he
loved her so much, he would not permit her to become a drudge. Malvina
Blicher is said to have been very pretty, taking after her mother as to
looks, but, thank God, not as to morals.

Complaints of the way Pastor Blicher fulfilled, or failed to fulfill,
his duties as a minister piled up. So did his debts. He was in arrears
with his taxes for years, and unpaid bills flooded the vicarage. Sorrow
and troubles, together with the memory of his late serious illness,
filled him with a new, resigned sadness. In the opening stanzas of his
poem _Traekfuglene, En Naturconcert_ (Migrating Birds, a Concert of
Nature) he speaks in simple and beautiful lines about his own death,
which may be approaching--he too is a migrating bird, and he has heard
the voice of Winter; maybe the cage will soon be opened and the prisoner
of life set free. But his intimate knowledge of bird life and his
eternal love of Danish nature allowed him to forget his melancholy, as
he lovingly observed and vividly sketched the annual procession of
migrating birds over Jutland, in one of his loveliest works.

Undaunted in spite of all his misfortunes, Steen Blicher busied himself
with all the questions and causes he felt in duty bound to support as a
Danish patriot. As he advanced in years, his outlook had become more and
more liberal, not to say radical. In so far he followed a trend common
to an increasing number of Danes. Though their love for the person of
their old King Frederik VI was as warm and sincere as ever, the nation
had seen how his policy had time and again led Denmark to the very brink
of disaster. Now it was evident to most Danes that the old trust in an
autocratic monarch who singlehanded, or almost singlehanded, managed the
vital interests of the country, was outdated. The times of the
eighteen-thirties were serious, the immediate future seemed fraught with
grave dangers. Now the nation must demand its right to participate when
the fate of Denmark was to be decided.

One of the burning questions of the day was the growing tension between
the kingdom and the united duchies of Slesvig and Holstein. Holstein was
German land and had always been peopled by Germans, Slesvig was
fundamentally and purely Danish. But according to an old treaty of 1460
it had been declared that under one Duke the two principalities were to
be _"up ewig ungedeelt"--_never to be separated. The German minority
within the realm of Denmark had unearthed this old document and worked
it for all it was worth as an excuse to hasten the German infiltration
of Slesvig, the introduction of the German language in the church and in
the schools, of German usages and bylaws, of German officialdom in
Slesvig. The plan of the Holsteiners was to join the league of German
principalities and drag Slesvig along with them. The fact that the King
was growing very old, that he had no son, and that the right of his
cousin, the Crown Prince, to inherit the Dukedom could be disputed
according to the Holstein rules of succession, aggravated the situation.

To meet the emergency of the troubled times, in 1831, King Frederik by a
decree had created advisory councils, to be elected by representatives
of the Estates of the realm. There were to be four of these Advisory
Assemblies, one for the Danish Islands, one for Jutland, one for
Slesvig, and one for Holstein. Though they were given only advisory
powers, the statutes granted them a great deal of real influence. They
were empowered to propose new laws and amendments, and all new laws of
the realm were to be presented for them to scrutinize and express
judgment upon, especially laws pertaining to taxation and matters which
might impose new burdens on the people. However, when the Assemblies,
according to the opinion of the King, were too outspoken in their
criticism of the financial situation, which certainly was bad, and when
a crop of newspapers, most of them devoted to criticism of the
government, sprouted in the wake of the Assemblies, King Frederik became
indignant and in a proclamation to his subjects told them that We, the
royal We, are alone capable of judging the true interests of Our
kingdom. This of course gave new impetus to the budding political
radicalism in Denmark. Yet, when the old King died in 1839, all Denmark
mourned him wholeheartedly as a good man of profound integrity, a true
father of his people, and a man tried through great and bitter
misfortunes.

His successor, Christian VIII, was received with great expectations. As
a young prince he had been governor of Norway in 1814, when the Union
with Denmark came to an end and the Norwegians took their fate into
their own hands, proclaiming, in defiance of all the European powers,
that their country was free, sovereign, and would be independent.
Elected to be king of Norway under the name of Christian Frederik, he
promulgated the Norwegian Constitution of May 17, 1814, at that time the
most radically democratic any European state had dared to write for
itself. But when it became evident that to preserve her independence
Norway would have to make her peace with Sweden and accept Bernadotte as
her future king on condition that he leave the Constitution intact and
the sovereignty of Norway respected, Christian Frederik loyally
abdicated and left the land he had loved with youthful ardor. "To save
the Constitution is the all-important thing." Now the Danes hoped he
would listen to the public demand for a democratic constitution and give
to Denmark something like the Constitution of Norway. However, with
Christian VIII youth and youthful ardor were things of the past. He was
perfectly aware that the time for absolute monarchy was over, but he
believed in gradual progress, and the introduction of democracy by
stages--not least because of the perils rampant in a realm with a strong
minority of German nationality intriguing and looking for opportunities
to make trouble and tear a bit of Denmark away from the mother country.
For, above all, Christian VIII had become a Danish patriot, passionately
eager to secure the welfare of his country.

Meanwhile, Steen Blicher all on his own had started agitation for an
idea which--like so many of Blicher's ideas--was to succeed only
partially during his lifetime, but nevertheless was destined to become
an influence in the spiritual life of the Danish people in times to
come. He would summon Danish men and women to a meeting on the
Himmelbjerg, the highest point in Jutland--and, for that matter, in all
Denmark. Here, during a popular festival assembly, representatives of
all classes and walks of life in the nation were to meet in a patriotic
endeavor to strengthen the national consciousness of all Danes and make
them pledge themselves to work for the good of their native land.

Himmelbjerg means "Heaven Hill," and the Danes, when teased because of
this ambitious name for a hill of very modest elevation, will eagerly
explain that the name was not given because any Danes imagined their
highest hill as soaring towards the skies, but because the view from the
summit is of heavenly beauty. At the foot of the wooded slopes lovely
lakes, surrounded by great forests, feed the calm rivers and rivulets
that meander towards the distant horizon and the expanse of dark moors,
through beautiful valleys where fine farms nestle in the folds of the
landscape. Blicher had discovered this glorious view on one of his long
hikes, away from domestic troubles and the tedious duties of a parish
priest. He had used it as a backdrop for one of his tales, and the
rather indifferent story is relieved by beautiful word pictures of the
landscape. Evidently he had never forgotten his first impression of the
spot, where the glories of his beloved land had unfolded so movingly
before his eyes.

The first Himmelbjerg festival took place in 1839, with Blicher as the
leader and main speaker. It was a great success, even if the
participation was not too large--for it was a new departure. But the
young people who had gathered under his pulpit were enthusiastic about
the whole idea, and the singing of Danish songs and the merrymaking were
all Blicher could have hoped for. Among his topics was the new national
army based on extended conscription, which he hailed with jubilation;
since among the Danes service in the army of their country was
considered a privilege and an honor. He called upon all Danes to pledge
themselves to a sacred cause, the strengthening of true Danishness. His
fanciful idea, that the Danes ought to introduce a "national costume"
and free themselves from dependence on the fashions of foreign lands, as
well as his proposal that all Danes should address each other with the
hearty _Du_ (Thou) of the peasant dialects, were more in the line of
fads, fondly cherished by this unconventional clergyman.

Meanwhile his private affairs had arrived at a crisis. In the fall of
1839 an auction was called at the vicarage of Spentrup. Furniture,
livestock, etc., belonging to Pastor Blicher was to be publicly
auctioned away to cover his unpaid taxes and sundry other debts. Among
articles to be sold the advertisement mentioned the iron stoves of the
house. This at last roused the admirers of Blicher the poet, and the
leading newspaper of Jutland, the _Randers Avis,_ in moving words called
upon the readers to contribute to the collection it had started, to "pay
a first installment on a sacred national debt" and relieve the Bard of
Jutland of his financial embarrassment. The collection turned out a
success: well-to-do people responded with donations, some of them very
generous. But what touched Steen Blicher to the quick was the
innumerable contributions of small sums from the common people, many of
them veritable widow's mites. The auction was staved off, and for a time
Steen Blicher's economic misery was substantially relieved.

In 1840 the Himmelbjerg festival very nearly failed to come off. The
owner of the grounds protested that his crops and pasture lands had been
so badly damaged by the crowds making their way to the summit, he did
not want to see them there another year. Blicher let loose his scorn and
fury in the papers. But King Christian VIII came to the rescue; he
bought the grounds where the festivals were to be held as well as the
right of way up to the top of the hill. Now the future of the
Himmelbjerg meetings seemed secure. And Blicher joyfully accepted the
nickname, given him first by scoffers at the proceedings, the
Himmelbjerg Parson.

The Himmelbjerg festivals were attacked with considerable bitterness by
German and German-minded newspapers. After all, the peninsula of Jutland
from Holstein to the spit of Skagen is a small area, and the leaders of
the attempts at Germanization of South Jutland were perfectly aware
that the counterblast launched by the Danish poet-pastor might easily
become a grave menace to their activities. Blicher replied with a call
to all Danes to liberate themselves from German bureaucracy--he hated
with all his heart this hardy perennial weed.

But from 1843 on Blicher was quietly pushed aside from his post as
leader of the Himmelbjerg festivals and deprived of his cherished part
as the soul and spirit of the meetings. There were various reasons. And
in spite of the fact that this loss of leadership was to Steen Blicher a
heartbreaking tragedy, it is not too difficult to understand why many of
his original co-workers tried to put the old man in a less conspicuous
place at the festivals.

The Danes have a word for a drunkard; they say he is _forfalden.
Forfalden til staerke Drikke_ is the whole phrase, and it means a man is
enslaved by his love of hard liquor. But taken singly the word
_forfalden_ also means disintegrating, ruined. And it seems that even
the most fervent admirers of Steen Blicher's genius could hardly refute
the charges made against him by decent everyday people--such as his
fellow ministers of the diocese, and well-to-do citizens of the
district, not to mention his poor parishioners: genius or no genius, Mr.
Blicher was sadly _forfalden,_ disintegrating as a character, and a
disgrace to the cloth.

Once, when as a young girl I visited my mother's home in Denmark and
discussed with a young lad, a friend and fellow-Blicherite, the merits
of the master's work, my old great-aunt, herself a parson's daughter
from Jutland, interrupted us brutally, "Oh, yes, he was a very gifted
poet. But, children, if you had seen him! He visited us once at
Laestrup--he was forever wandering all over the country; he never stayed
in his parish. He was filthier than any of the beggars that used to come
to our back door. And lousy--oh, yes, he was that, too. The maid who had
to clean his room when he left us the next day was quite sick with
disgust.--No, I never met Mr. Blicher--Mother would not permit us girls
to come into the living room when he called at our home." I shall never
forget the pang of grief and pity I felt at the words of the old lady,
nor the fury of my friend at her narrow-mindedness. The worst of it was
that this aunt of mine was really an exceedingly broad-minded old woman.
Imbued with the ideas of the eighteenth century, she was so broad-minded
as to scare and scandalize the bourgeois mind of another generation by
her opinions on life and human nature.

But worse than by his filthy habits and his lack of restraint when the
bottles appeared on a convivial table in cottage or hall, Steen Blicher
disgusted even admirers of his literary work by his brazen attempts to
borrow money from friends or stray acquaintances. The relief afforded
him by the national collection proved to have been temporary--very much
so.

His mismanagement of his ministerial duties had become a scandal that
had to be stopped. So in 1841 he was granted from public funds a subsidy
that would enable him to engage a curate and devote himself to his
writing and other activities. It was intimated that if his son, Jens
Frederik, would finish his studies, so that he could be ordained and
return to Spentrup as his father's curate, that would be a very
satisfactory solution. But Jens Frederik did not pass his examinations.
And so a certain Mr. Lakiaer moved in as curate to Mr. Blicher.

To celebrate his liberation from the onerous duties of his parishes, and
to look after his interests with the publishers, Steen Blicher travelled
to Copenhagen and remained for several weeks in the capital. But he did
not get in very close touch with literary circles. He took a fancy to
the low taverns that line the old canals, the haunts of sailors, but
also of all the riffraff that prey on sailors ashore. Blicher, who
always felt perfectly at ease among the so-called common people, may
have enjoyed the company as much as the bad liquor. But when he emerged,
drunk and quarrelsome, he several times collided with the Copenhagen
police--and rumor probably did nothing to minimize the disgraceful
nature of his escapades in the underworld of Copenhagen.

Meanwhile it looked as if Mr. Lakiaer got along very well with the
family in Spentrup, and soon he became engaged to marry the eldest
daughter, Christiane--according to the time-honored custom of
Scandinavian clerical homes, where the curate usually marries the
minister's daughter, if such a female is available. But one Sunday
morning, when Christiane entered the bedroom of her fiance to bring him
the usual Danish morning snack, a cup of tea and some slices of bread
and butter, before he had to get up and go about his duty in the village
church, Mr. Lakiaer lay dead in his bed. He had committed suicide,
putting a bullet through his brain.

To Blicher and his family this was a shattering grief. And the vacancy
after Mr. Lakiaer was never filled; Blicher was not to get another
curate. Jens Frederik had accepted a situation as a _Landsbydegn_ and
given up the idea of becoming a minister. Blicher and his parishioners
had to get along as well, or as badly, as they could.

But in this time of his deepest misery Steen Blicher was still able to
write some of his artistically most finished short stories. And even if
most of _E Bindstouw,_ his garland of dialect stories and poems, had
been written years ago, he must have put the finishing touches to this
masterpiece of his before it was published in 1842. And there is other
evidence that Steen Blicher possibly was not so ruined by drink as his
kind neighbors would make out to be the case. His Jutland stubbornness
as well as his ingrained dislike of order, cleanliness, and rules of
conventional behavior may have induced him willfully to appear more
broken down by an irregular life than he really was. One of his
biographers--Jeppe Aakiaer, I believe--has unearthed a number of small
notebooks in which Blicher after his hunting trips used to enter the bag
of the day. These entries prove that almost up to the end of his life he
was the same splendid marksman he had been since he was a mere youth.
And it seems improbable that he could have retained such sureness of eye
and hand, if he had been as badly _forfalden_ as he was supposed to be.

When Reitzel in 1846 published his collected short stories and poems in
six volumes, Blicher had won nation-wide recognition: together with a
great deal of dross and many things stamped with the carelessness of too
hasty production, there were gems that will be treasured by his people
as long as the Danes speak and write Danish. But next year, in 1847, the
inevitable happened: Pastor Blicher was requested to apply for a release
from his office as minister to the twin parishes of Spentrup and
Gassum.

Pastor Blicher had to apply, so that he could be "graciously relieved"
with a pension. And while his fate, and the fate of his former parish,
was still pending, Death mercifully relieved Steen Blicher from the
sorrows and cares of life.

Christian VIII died on January 20, 1848, and with grave misgivings the
Danish people saw his son and heir, unreliable, unpredictable Prince
Frederik, ascend to the throne in a time of dire peril to the country.
And on March 23 open insurrection broke out in Holstein. But when it
happened Steen Blicher was on his deathbed in his bare, poor study in
the vicarage of Spentrup. A lingering typhoid fever slowly drained the
life out of him. His son Francisco and his daughter-in-law, who had been
sent for, were the only ones to be with him when he passed away, quietly
as a candle burns out.

The "Prisoner of Life" was set free; the strange bird who had always
known that his life on earth was a migration towards another world had
left the land that had become too wintry for him. Of the ideas he had
broadcast so liberally, with such disregard for what ordinary
common-sense people mean by happiness and the respect of one's fellow
men, very many became firmly rooted in the soil of Denmark, to flourish
in times of adversity and in times of prosperity for the nation,
spreading like the forests he had dreamed of, which were to make his
barren moors fertile and life-giving to his people, even if the price
must be the passing of that wild and melancholy beauty that had been the
true home of his heart. His fame as one of the great masters of the
Danish tongue, and as a mind that knew the mind of his own race more
intimately than most others, has grown through the years--overshadowing
the memory of his frailties and his misfortunes, until the tragedy of
Steen Blicher's life only made his genius dearer to his nation.





THE JOURNAL OF A PARISH CLERK

[_En Landsbydegns Dagbog,_ 1824]


FÖULUM, January 1, 1708.

GOD give us all a happy New Year! and preserve our good Pastor Sören. He
blew out the candle last night, and mother says he will not live to see
next New Year; but I dare say it means nothing.--We had a merry evening.
When Pastor Sören took off his cap after supper, and said _"Agamus
gratias,"_ he pointed to me instead of to Jens. It is the first time I
have said grace in Latin. A year ago today Jens said it, and then I
opened my eyes wide, for then I didn't understand a word, but now I know
half of Cornelius. Just think if I could become pastor at Föulum! Oh,
how happy my dear parents would be if they might live to see that day.
And then if the Pastor's Jens could become bishop of Ribe--as his father
says--well, who can tell? It is all in God's hands. His will be done!
_Amen in nomine Jesu._

FÖULUM, September 3, 1708.

Yesterday by the grace of God I completed my fifteenth year. Now Jens is
not much ahead of me in Latin. I work harder at home than he does; I
study hard while he is running about with Peer Gamekeeper. That's hardly
the way to become a bishop. I am sorry for Pastor Sören; he can't help
seeing it. The tears come into his eyes sometimes when he says, _"Mi
fili! mi fili! otium est pulvinar diaboli_."--At New Year we shall begin
the study of Greek. Pastor Sören has given me a Greek Testament.
"They're queer crow's feet, are they not? They must seem like a
whetstone in your eyes," he said kindly, and pinched my ear, as he
always does when he is pleased. But heyday, won't he be surprised when
he finds that I can read it quite fast already!

FÖULUM, _die St. Martini._

Things are going badly with Jens. Pastor Sören was so angry with him
that he talked Danish to him all day. To me he spoke in Latin. I once
overheard him saying to himself, _"Vellem hunc esse filium meum"_ He
meant me. And how Jens did stammer at his Cicero! I know very well why,
for day before yesterday, while his father was attending a wedding in
Vinge, he was with Peer Gamekeeper in Lindum woods, and--God help us!--a
wild boar had torn his breeches. He lied to his mother and said the
Thiele bull had done it, but she gave him a good box on the
ear--_habeat!_

FÖULUM, _Calendis Januar, 1709._

_Proh, dolor_ Pastor Sören is dead. _Vae me miserum!_ When we had sat
down to the table Christmas Eve he put away his spoon and looked long
and sadly at Jens. _"Fregisti cor meum"_ he said with a sigh, and went
into his bedchamber. Alas, he never rose again. I have visited him every
day since then, and he has given me much good advice and admonition; but
now I shall never see him again. Thursday I saw him for the last time.
Never shall I forget what he said, after a very moving address to me,
"God, give my son an upright heart!" He folded his thin hands, and sank
back on the pillow. _"Pater! in manus tuas committo spiritum meum."_
Those were his last words. When I saw the mistress put her apron to her
eyes, I ran out of the room, feeling very unhappy. Jens was standing
outside the door, crying. _"Seras dat poenas turpi poenitentia,"_ I
thought, but he fell on my neck and sobbed. God forgive him his
wildness! That is what has grieved me most.

FÖULUM, _Pridie iduum Januarii MDCCIX._

Yesterday my dear father went to Viborg to arrange for my dinners when I
am to go to school. How I long for that time to come! I study all day,
but the days are so short now, and mother says we cannot afford to use
candles to read by. I can't make head or tail of that letter to
Tuticanus. No--things were different when the good Pastor Sören was
living. _Eheu mortuus est!_

It is a terrible winter. Heaven and earth are one whirl; there is a
snowdrift that reaches to the rooftree of our barn. Last night Jens shot
two hares in our vegetable garden--he seems to have forgotten his poor
father. But if Peer Gamekeeper finds out about it, there will be
trouble.

FÖULUM, _Idibus Januarii MDCCIX._

Father has not come home yet, and the weather is as bad as ever. If only
he does not lose his way! There is Jens on top of our barn carrying his
gun and a brace of birds in his hand--he is coming in here.

They were partridges he had shot on Mads Madsen's dunghill, and he
wanted mother to roast them for him, but she was afraid of the squire,
and refused.

FÖULUM, _XVIII Calend. Februar._

Alas the day! My dear father is frozen to death. The man at Kokholm
found him in a snowdrift and brought him home in his cart. I have cried
till I can't see out of my eyes--and mother, too. God help us both!

FÖULUM, February 18, 1709.

I hardly know Jens; he had gotten a green coat and a green feather in
his hat. "There, you can see," he said. "Now I'm a hunter. What are you?
A schoolboy, a Latin grind!"--"Yes, God help us," I replied. "There will
be no more Latin. I can become a pastor where you're a bishop. My mother
is not going to starve to death while I sing at people's doors in
Viborg. I have to stay home and earn a living for her. Oh, Jens, if your
father had lived!"--"Don't let us talk about it," he said. "Anyway, I'd
never in all my days have learned Latin--devil take the stupid stuff!
Why don't you try to get service at the squire's? There you'll have a
fine time and live well."--"How should I get in there?" I
replied.--"We'll try anyway," said Jens, and ran away. After all, Jens
has a kind heart, but he is wild and flighty. Six weeks ago he buried
his sainted father, and three weeks ago his mother followed her husband.
But now it is as if it didn't concern him. He can cry one moment, and
laugh the next.

THIELE, May 1, 1709.

So now I am a servant in the squire's family. Good-bye pastorate!
Good-bye Latin! Oh, my precious books! _Valete, pluri-mum! Vendidi
libertatem_ for twelve dollars. The eight must go to my poor mother, and
the squire has promised her besides a part in all the trees that are
felled in the forest, so she will neither freeze nor starve. It is
really Jens who has gotten me this place. He has a lot to say here in
the big house. He is a devil of a fellow, or rather cock of the walk.
The housekeeper put a big piece of cake in his hand; the dairy woman
smirked at him, the chambermaid likewise, and even one of the young
ladies nodded kindly as she passed him. It looks as if he may become
gamekeeper in place of Peer. The worst of it is that he has gotten into
the habit of swearing worse than any sailor.

THIELE, March 12, 1709.

I am getting along very well, God be thanked. We are six servants to
wait on the master and mistress, the young master, and the two young
ladies. I have time to read, and I don't neglect my beloved books. Of
course it is not of any use, but I can't leave them alone. Yesterday the
books of our dear Pastor Sören were sold. I bought for two dollars and
got as many as I could carry away. Among them were a number of Ovidius;
one is entitled _Ars amoris_ and another _Remedium amoris._ I am going
to read them first; I do want to know what they are all about. Once I
happened to get hold of them in Pastor Sören's study, but he snatched
them away from me, saying, _"Abstine manus!_ Hands off! That's nothing
for you."

THIELE, June 3, 1709.

If I could only learn French! The family never speak anything but French
at table, and I don't understand a word of it. Today they were speaking
about me, for they looked at me several times. Once I came near dropping
a plate. I was standing right behind Miss Sophie's chair, when she
turned and looked me full in the face. She is a beautiful young lady,
Miss Sophie--it is a joy to look at her.

THIELE, September 13, 1709.

Yesterday was a day full of commotion. The family from Viskum were here,
and there was a big hunt. I was along and had one of the squire's guns.
At first all went well, but then a wolf passed close to me. I was so
frightened, I almost dropped the gun, and quite forgot to shoot. Jens
was standing by my side and shot the wolf. "You're a blockhead," he
said, "but I won't tell on you." Soon after the squire passed me.
"You're a bungler, Martin," he said. "You must have been bribed."--"I
humbly beg your pardon, sir," I replied. "I am quite innocent, but
someone must have slandered me. God helping, I will serve you honestly
and truly, sir." At that he was pleased to laugh, and said, "You're a
great bungler." But that was not the end of it, for when the family were
at table they began to talk about the wolf again, asked me, "How much
did he give you?" and so forth. I don't know just what they meant, but
at least I could understand that they were making fun of me in French
and in Danish, too. Even Miss Sophie was laughing at me to my face--that
hurt me most of all. I wonder if I couldn't learn that snuffling
gibberish. Surely it can't be more difficult than Latin.

THIELE, October 2, 1709.

It's not impossible--I see that now. French is nothing but garbled
Latin. In a box of old books that I bought there was a French
translation of _Metamorphoses_--it came in quite pat. The Latin I had
learned before. But one thing seems odd to me. When I listen to them
talking up there, I can't make out a French word in what they are
saying--it's certainly not Ovidius they're discussing.

I must learn to shoot. The squire wants me to go along when he hunts,
but there I can never please him; he either scolds me or laughs at
me--and sometimes he does both at once: I don't carry the gun right, I
don't take aim right, and I don't shoot right. "Look at Jens!" says the
squire. "He's a hunter. You carry the gun as if it were a scythe slung
over your shoulder, and when you take aim you look as if you were
falling backward." Miss Sophie, too, laughs at me--but laughing is very
becoming to her; she has such beautiful teeth.

THIELE, November 7, 1709.

Yesterday I shot a fox; the squire called me a good _garçon_ and made me
a present of an inlaid powder horn. Jens's instruction has borne fruit.
This shooting is quite good fun.--I am getting along better with the
French; I am catching on to the pronunciation. One day I listened at the
door when the French governess was giving the young ladies their lesson.
When they were through and had gone upstairs, I contrived to look at the
book to find out which one they were using. Good gracious! How surprised
I was! It was one that I too have, one called _L'École du Monde._ So now
I stand outside the door every day with my book in my hand, listening to
them. It works very well. After all, the French language is much
prettier than I realized; it sounds lovely when Miss Sophie speaks it.

THIELE, December 13, 1709.

Yesterday God saved my gracious master's life by my poor hand. We had a
battue in Lindum woods. Just as we were opposite Graakjaer, a wild boar
rushed out and made straight for the squire. He fired, and hit it all
right, but did not kill it, and the boar went for him. The squire was
not frightened; he drew his hanger and was about to plunge it in the
breast of the boar when it broke in two. Now, what was to be done? It
all happened so quickly that no one could reach him. I ran toward him,
but in the same moment I saw the squire on the back of the boar, and off
it dashed with him. "Fire!" he cried to the bailiff, who had been
standing next to him on the left--but the bailiff didn't dare to. "Fire,
in the devil's name," he called to Jens as he passed him. Jens's gun
missed fire. Then the boar turned and passed close to me. "Fire, Martin,
or the boar will ride to hell with me," he screamed. In the name of God,
I thought, and aimed for the animal's hindquarters, and was lucky enough
to crush both its thighs. Glad was I, and happy were we all, the squire
especially. "That was a master shot," he said. "And now you keep the
gun, since you can use it so well. And listen," he said to the bailiff,
"you mollycoddle! Mark me the biggest beech in the forest for his
mother. Jens can go home and fix his gun." Then, when we came home in
the evening, there was a questioning and narrating. The squire patted me
on the shoulder, and Miss Sophie smiled on me so kindly that my heart
was in my throat.

THIELE, January n, 1710.

A _plaisant_ weather! The sun rises red as a burning coal. It looks so
_curieux_ as it shines through the white trees, and all the trees look
as if they had been powdered, and the branches hang around them down to
the ground. The old Grand Richard is badly battered; a couple of its
limbs are broken already. It was just such a day a week ago when we
drove to Fussingöe, and I was standing on the runners of Miss Sophie's
sleigh. She wanted to handle the reins herself, but after about fifteen
minutes her small fingers began to feel cold. _"J'ai froid,"_ she said
to herself. "Do you want me to drive, Miss?" I asked.--_"Comment!"_ she
said. "Do you understand French?"--_"Un feu, mademoiselle,"_ I replied.
She turned round and looked me full in the face. I took one of the reins
in either hand, and thus had both my arms round her. I tried to hold
them far apart in order not to come too near her, but whenever the
sleigh gave a jolt and threw her against me, it seemed as if I had
touched a hot stove. I felt as if I were flying through space with her,
and we were at Fussingöe before I knew it. If she had not called out,
_"Tenez, Martin! arretez-vous!"_ I should have driven on to Randers or
to the world's end. I wonder if she isn't going out driving today! But
there is Jens with the squire's gun, which he has cleaned--so I suppose
we are going out hunting again.

THIELE, February 13, 1710.

I don't feel well. It is as if a heavy stone were weighing on my chest.
I can't keep my food down, and at night I can't sleep. Last night I had
a strange dream. It seemed to me that I was standing on the runners of
Miss Sophie's sleigh, and then suddenly I was sitting in the sleigh and
had her on my lap. My right arm was around her waist, and her left
around my neck. She bent down and kissed me, but in the same moment I
awakened. Oh, I wanted so much to go on dreaming!--It is a fine book she
lent me. I amuse myself reading it every night. Oh, if one could be as
happy as the Tartarean prince! The more French I read the better I like
it; I am almost forgetting my Latin on account of it.

THIELE, March 13, 1710.

Yesterday, as we were coming home from hunting snipes, the squire said
to me, "And I hear that you understand French?"--"A little, sir," I
replied.--"But then you can't wait on table; we couldn't open our mouths
with you there."--"Oh, sir," I cried, "you don't mean to send me
away?"--_"Point de tout"_ he replied. "From now on you shall be my
_valet de chambre._ And when Master Kresten goes to Paris, you shall go
with him. What do you say to that?" I was so moved that I couldn't say a
word, but kissed his hand. But although I look forward to going, I dread
the thought of leaving, and I really think my health has worsened since
then.

THIELE, May 1, 1710.

Wretched creature that I am! Now I know what is the matter with me.
Ovidius has described my distemper exactly. If I am not mistaken, it is
called _Amor,_ which means "love" or "infatuation," and the person I am
enamored of must without a doubt be Miss Sophie. Miserable fool that I
am! What will this lead to? I must try his _Remedia amoris._ A few
minutes ago I saw her standing in the hall and talking to Jens. It cut
me to the heart as with a knife. I could have shot him through the head,
but then she skipped past me with a smile--I felt as when I am out
hunting and the quarry comes within range of my gun; my heart pounds
against my ribs, and I can hardly get my breath, and my eyes are as if
they were glued to the animal--_ah, malheureux que je suis!_

THIELE, June 17, 1710.

How empty and tiresome the house seems. The family are away and won't be
back for a week. How shall I get through it? I don't want to do
anything. My gun hangs there dirty and rusty, and I don't care to bother
about cleaning it. How can Jens and the rest of them be so gay and
happy! They're jabbering and roaring with laughter till the yard gives
echo--while I sigh like a bittern. Oh, Miss Sophie, if only you were a
peasant girl or I a prince!

THIELE, June 28, 1710.

Now the house looks to me as if it had been newly whitewashed and
embellished. The trees in the garden have taken on a lovely light green
color, and everybody looks kind. Miss Sophie has come home. She came in
through the gate like the sun piercing a cloud; but nevertheless I
trembled like a leaf. It's both good and bad to be in love.

THIELE, October 4, 1710.

We had a magnificent hunt today. Three hundred beaters were posted in
Hvidding copse, for they had come from Viskum and Fussingöe with all
their hounds. We of Thiele were on the spot at dawn. There was no wind,
and a thick layer of fog covered the land; only the beacon hills could
be seen above it. Within the fog we could hear the heavy footsteps of
the beaters and occasionally the baying of a hound. "There they are
coming from Viskum," said the squire; "I know Chasseur's bark."--"And
now they are coming from Fussingöe, too," said Jens. "That's Perdrix
baying." Still we couldn't see anything on account of the fog, but as
they came nearer we heard the rumbling of the carts, the breathing of
the horses, the talk and laughter of the gamekeepers. The huntsmen were
already putting the beaters in their positions; we could hear them
whispering and hushing those who were inclined to talk too loud, and
sometimes using their sticks. From the west and the south the
gamekeepers came driving in, and behind them came the carts with the
hounds, their tails wagging over the side of the carts and sometimes a
head protruding--only to get a box on the ear from the huntsmen's boys.
Now the squire himself posted us all down the long valley that runs
through the copse. When he was ready, he blew his whistle, and the
hornblowers started to play a merry piece. The hounds were loosed, and
it was not long before they began baying, first one, then two, then the
whole pack. Hares, foxes, and deer darted back and forth in the
brushwood on the hills. Now and then a shot rang out, echoing down
through the valley. We could not see the beaters, but we heard them
shouting and calling when a hare or a deer tried to break through. I
held my place and shot two foxes and a buck before lunch. While we were
eating, the hounds were called in and tied up, but the hornblowers
played. When it was over, off we went again. Just then two carriages
stopped at the entrance to the valley with the ladies, among them Miss
Sophie. That saved a fox, for while I was looking up at them, he slipped
past me. Before nightfall the copse was cleared of game. We must have
shot about thirty animals, and Master Kresten, who had killed the most
foxes, was honored by a piece played on the bugle.

THIELE, December 17, 1710.

Yesterday I followed my dear mother to her last resting-place. The new
pastor--God reward him for it!--honored her passing with a funeral
sermon that lasted an hour and three quarters. She was a good and loving
mother to me. God give her a blessed awakening!

THIELE, January 23, 1711.

What a miserable winter! No sleighing yet! I have been longing for it
ever since Martinmas, but in vain. Rain and wind, southerly gales, and
dreary weather. Last year at this time we drove to Fussingöe. When I
think of that night! The moon shone as bright as a silver platter on the
blue sky, throwing our shadows to the side of the road on the white
snow. Sometimes I leaned over till my shadow mingled with that of Miss
Sophie; then it seemed to me that we two were one. A cold wind blew in
our faces and carried her sweet breath back to me; I drank it in like
wine. Oh, fool that I am!--lovesick fool that I am!  What good do such
thoughts do me? Sunday I am going to Copenhagen with Master Kresten, and
there we are going to stay all summer. I dare say I shall be dead before
Mayday.--_Ah, mademoiselle Sophie, adieu! un éternel adieu!_

AT SEA BETWEEN SAMSÖE AND ZEALAND, February 3, 1711.

The sun is setting behind my dear Jutland; the reflection lies over the
calm sea like an endless path of fire. It seems to bring a greeting from
my home. Alas! it is far away, and I am getting farther and farther away
from it. I wonder what they are doing now at Thiele! My right ear is
burning--perhaps it is Miss Sophie who is talking about me? Alas, no! I
am only a poor servant; why should she think of me?--any more than the
skipper who is walking up and down on the deck with arms crossed. Every
little while he looks toward the north; I wonder what he sees there? "A
Swede," he says. God help us in His mercy and goodness!

KALLUNDBORG, February 4, 1711.

Now I know what war is. I have been in battle, and--the Lord of Sabaoth
be praised!--victory was ours. It was, as the skipper said, a Swedish
privateer. Early this morning, as soon as it was light, we saw him only
two miles away from us; they said he was chasing us. "Are there any of
you passengers," said the skipper, "who have courage and stout hearts
and would like to try a bout with that Swedish fellow?"--"I have a good
rifle," replied Master Kresten, "and my servant has one. What of it,
Morten, shall we try this kind of hunt for once?"--"As you please,
Master Kresten," I said, ran down into the cabin, loaded our rifles, and
brought them up on deck together with powder and shot. There were two
soldiers from Jutland who came up from the hold, and they had each a
blunderbuss, and the skipper had a Spanish gun as long as himself. The
mate and the sailors armed themselves with axes and marlinspikes. "Can't
we sail away from him, my good skipper?" I asked.--"The devil we can,"
he replied. "Don't you see he's gaining on us for all he's worth? We
shall soon be hearing his cannon. But if you're scared, you can go home
and crawl into your mother's bureau drawer." In the same moment the
smoke poured from the Swedish ship, and then we heard a terrific noise
and a whizzing over our heads. Before long there was another explosion,
and then another, and the last cannon ball tore a splinter from our
mast. Then a strange feeling came over me; my heart pounded, and there
was a ringing and a buzzing in my ears. But when the Swede came so near
that we could reach him with our rifles, and I had taken my first shot,
then I felt as if I were out hunting. The Swede came nearer and nearer.
We stood in the shelter of the cabin and fired at him across our stern
as fast as we could. Several of his people fell, most of them hit by the
young master or me. "If we can shoot a snipe, Morten, surely we can hit
a Swede, when he stands still," he said.--"Brave fellows!" said the
skipper. "Do you see the Swedish captain, the man with the big sabre,
who's walking up and down? If you can pick him off, we've won the game!"
I aimed at him, pressed the trigger, and as I took my rifle from my
cheek, I saw him fall and strike the deck with his nose. "Hurrah!" cried
the skipper, and we all cheered.  But the privateer turned round and
sailed away. With the Danish flag flying aloft we sailed into
Kallundborg Fjord, proud and happy, for not a man had been wounded,
although the cannon balls flew over and through the ship. The tutor,
Monsieur Hartman, was the only one who saw his own blood, and that
happened in a curious way. He was lying in the skipper's bunk smoking
his pipe when the battle commenced. A little later I came down to fetch
tow for the bullets. _"Martin,"_ said he, _'quid hoc sibi vult?"_ But
before I could answer, a bullet flew through the cabin window and shot
away his pipe which he was holding out over the edge of the bunk--and
the mouthpiece pierced his palate.

Now we are in port and on dry land, where rest is sweet after such a
bout.

COPENHAGEN, June 2, 1711.

My head is full of all the strange things I have seen. I can't dispose
them in my mind, for one chases the other like clouds in a wind. But the
most curious thing is that I have almost gotten over my lovesickness.
The longer I stay here, the less it seems to me I long for Miss Sophie,
and I am almost ready to believe there are just as beautiful maidens in
Copenhagen. If I were to write a footnote to _Ovidii Remedium amoris,_ I
would recommend a trip to the Capital as one of the best cures for that
dangerous malady.

ANCHORED UNDER KRONBORG, September 12, 1711.

Oh, gracious Heaven! What have I not lived through! What wretchedness
and misery have I not seen with these my eyes! God has visited our sins
upon us and stricken the people with boils. They died like flies round
about me, but I, unworthy that I am, was saved from the jaws of death.
Oh, my dear young master!  What shall I say when I come back without
him? But I did not leave him till he had drawn his last breath; I risked
my life for him, and yet God preserved it--praised be His name! When I
think of those days of horror, my heart is ready to break. Silent and
full of fear, we sat from morning till night in our lonely apartment,
gazing at each other and sighing.  Once in a while we looked down into
the empty streets that used to swarm with people. Now and then a
mournful figure would walk across the pavement like a ghost. Inside the
windows we could see people sitting like prisoners, most of them as
immovable as if they were painted portraits. But when they heard the
hollow rumbling of the dead-carts, they would rush away from the windows
in order not to see the dreadful sight. I saw it but once, and wanted no
more. There those black angels of death drove their long carts, full of
corpses piled up like dead cattle. In the back of one cart hung the head
and arms of a young woman; her eyes stared horribly in the
blackish-yellow face, and her long hair swept the street. Then my young
master was shaken for the first time; he tottered into his bedchamber
and lay down on his deathbed; but I sighed in my heart: "Like sheep they
are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them.  But God will redeem my
soul from the power of the grave: for He shall receive me. Selah!"

THIELE, September 29, 1711.

So now I am here again. When I went in through the door my heart pounded
in me almost as on the day we fought the Swede. And when I came in to
the family and saw them all in black, then I wept like a child, and they
wept, too. I could hardly speak for tears, and before I had finished the
_affreuse_ story, the squire turned away and went into his bedchamber.
God comfort them in His mercy, amen!

THIELE, October 8, 1711.

Today we went hunting for the first time since my return. Alas, it was
not as in former days and gave but little satisfaction! "Martin," said
the squire again and again to me, "we miss Master Kresten!" He sighed
so that it cut me to the heart. We came home long before nightfall with
one poor little hare.

THIELE, November 2, 1711.

The house is getting lively again; we are expecting exalted company: His
Excellency Lord Gyldenlöve and retinue. He is going to stay a few weeks
and amuse himself with the chase. Yesterday the family discussed the
matter at table. "He is of royal blood and a perfect gentleman," said
the mistress, looking at Miss Sophie. She blushed, looked down at her
plate, and smiled, but I grew cold as ice through my whole body. Alas,
alas! I thought I had been cured of my foolish infatuation, but I feel
the distemper has come back in even greater force. I struggle like a
partridge in a snare, but it is of no avail. Oh, that I were a thousand
miles from here!

THIELE, November 14, 1711.

At last His Excellency has arrived, in all his glory and grandeur. Two
running footmen with tall, silver-trimmed caps came trotting into the
yard half a mile ahead of him. They posted themselves with their long
motley staves on either side of the big door. The mistress waddled in at
one door and out another; never have I seen her in such _égalité._ Miss
Sophie was standing in the drawing room and looking now at the mirror,
now out of the window. She didn't even see me when I passed through the
room. At last he himself came in a carnage drawn by six yellow horses, a
handsome and _magnifique_ gentleman. He looked both distinguished and
gracious, and yet I felt there was something repulsive about him. His
smile seemed to me sickly sweet, and his eyes blinked as if he were
looking at the sun. Though he bowed to each member of the family, it
seemed as though he only bowed in order to draw himself up all the
higher. When he came to Miss Sophie, the blood rose slightly in his
face, and he whispered or lisped a long French compliment. At table he
never took his eyes from her, not even when he was speaking to someone
else. She threw a glance at him occasionally; but I burned my hand on
the plates, and today it is full of blisters. Would it were only the
hand that pained me!

THIELE, November 20, 1711.

Yes, it's certain enough; there will be a _mariage._ One need only look
at the mistress. When she sees Miss Sophie, she lays her head back like
a duck that has got its crop full, turns as if she were on the point of
going to sleep, and then she gabbles: _"Un cavalier accompli, ma fille!
n'est-ce pas vrai? et il vous dime, c'est trop clair?"_ Yes, more's the
pity, it is plain enough; and she loves him in return, that is plain,
too. May she be happy.

THIELE, December 4, 1711.

As yet His Excellency has not profited much from the chase. Twice we
have set out, but each time he has wearied of it before we had gone half
way. There is a quarry in the house at home that draws him like a
magnet. Alas! Would that I had not left Copenhagen!

THIELE, December 8, 1711.

Today the _mariage_ was declared. The wedding is to be in a week. Where
shall I hide till then? I can't bear it. When he puts his arm around her
waist, it is as though someone stuck a knife into my heart--

Good heavens! I believe Jens is as badly smitten as I am. When I told
him about the _mariage,_ he thrust his gun so hard against the ground
that the butt broke, and then he dashed out on the heath with the broken
piece in his hand. So I am not the only fool in the world.

THIELE, December 16, 1711.

Miss Sophie has the smallpox. Oh, how I tremble for her life! Would that
I might die in her place; but they say I can't get this sickness more
than once. Her lovely face is full of blisters.

THIELE, December 19, 1711.

Here is great sorrow and lamentation. Miss Marie is dead, and the squire
is inconsolable, but the mistress speaks only about the funeral and how
that is to be arranged. Miss Sophie will probably be the next to go, for
she is very poorly. His Excellency, her fiance, is getting ready to
leave--good riddance!

THIELE, March 13, 1712.

So now I have risen from my long illness. I thought it would have been
my last, and prayed to God in my heart for deliverance. But it seems
that I am to wander in this vale of tears yet a while--it is His
will--let it be done! It seems as though I had risen from the dead, and
I feel as though this illness had lasted three years instead of three
months. Yesterday I saw her for the first time since I was stricken, and
I kept my countenance. I could almost believe that the illness had taken
with it my foolish infatuation.

She was a little pale and did not look particularly happy. Nor has she
any reason to be happy, more's the pity. His Excellency is surely a
great libertine. The other day I saw through a crack in my door how he
caught hold of the mistress' maid and that in a very unseemly manner.
Oh, my poor young lady! If I were His Excellency I would worship her as
an angel from heaven.

THIELE, May i, 1712.

His Excellency has gone away and left his fiancee here. He is plainly
tired of her already, and--God forgive me!--if I don't think she is
tired of him, too. She certainly is not pining for him; for she is just
as merry and _vive_ or even more so; but once in a while she is a bit
overbearing. Sometimes she speaks to me as if I were a beggar, sometimes
as if I were her equal. I almost think she wants to make game of
me--poor creature that I am! I am afraid I have not yet come to my
senses, for she can make me happy or depressed as she pleases.

THIELE, June 3, 1712.

My health is gone forever, and my youthful gaiety is a thing of the
past. I am dull and heavy in my whole being and have no pleasure in
anything. I don't care to hunt, and I don't care to read; my gun and my
_Ovidius_ are both equally dusty. French, which used to give me so much
enjoyment, I cannot bear either to hear or to read--it is a deceitful
language.

THIELE, June 24, 1712.

I have exchanged bedchambers with Jens. He was bent on getting mine,
because he was afraid to lie near the cemetery, the silly fool! After
all, that is where some time he will lie forever. I am well pleased with
the change; from my window I can see the graves of my dear parents--they
are at peace--God give their souls great joy in heaven! Over there is
Pastor Sören's grave; the thistles are growing on it already--I must
pull them up!

THIELE, December 13, 1712.

The mistress' maid has a little son. She has declared a lace-peddler to
be the father, but everybody in the house knows who is the guilty one.
Miss Sophie has even joked about it. I don't see how she could, but she
takes things lightly--such is not my nature.

THIELE, February 27, 1713.

Am I dreaming or am I awake? Have my senses deceived me, or was she
really mine? Yes, she was mine--I have embraced her with these my arms;
she has lain on my breast, and covered my face with kisses--with hot
kisses. Now I wish I could die, for I shall never be so happy again.
But, no! What is the matter with me? What have I done? Oh, I don't know
what I am writing--I believe I am going out of my mind.

THIELE, March 5, 1713.

Let me recall in my memory those douce moments! Let me reflect on the
rapture I felt; it is only now that I seem to awaken as from an
intoxication.--The squire came home from the chase, while Jens had
stayed behind in the forest to dig out Tax who was stuck in a pit. I
knew very well that he would not come home before daylight, and I had an
impulse to lie in my old room. I had just gone to sleep when I was
awakened by a kiss. Startled, I sat up and was about to cry out, when I
felt a soft hand on my mouth and an arm around my neck, and a sweet
voice whispering--heavens! it was hers--hers whom I don't dare to name.
Then--then--oh, sinner that I am! hardened sinner that I am! I have
betrayed my master! and I can't even repent it from my heart.  Whenever
I want to do penance, I am held back by a secret rapture which mocks my
remorse. I feel it: I long to repeat the transgression which I ought to
curse. "Ever mine!" were the first words I could utter, but then she
tore herself from my embrace with a low cry, and--I was alone.  The door
creaked and I sat up in bed; I wondered if it had been a wraith. Oh, why
did she flee? Why then did she come of herself, uncalled, untempted? Has
she loved me as I have loved her, silently, deeply, passionately?

THIELE, March 6, 1713.

Oh, world, world! How art thou false! Honesty has passed away, virtue
and honor are trampled under foot! Yet why do I complain? Am I better
than he? Is my sin less because I believe my love is greater? Ah, I only
got my deserts; one of us is as good as the other--one betrays the
other. Ha, you deceitful woman, you Potiphar's wife! That was why you
cried out and fled when you heard my voice. So it was old habit, a
beaten path, when you sought my bed--no, Jens's bed! Old love, old sin!
While I worshipped you, while I looked up to you with veneration as to a
holy angel, you were whoring with my fellow servant!

It was midnight. Intoxicated with sweet memories I strolled around in
the garden. In a dim walk I saw something stirring--something that told
me it was she. With quickened steps I hurried to the spot--it was she!
Yes, it was she, but how did I find her? On Jens's lap, with her arms
around his neck. Quickly they started away from each other, and I stood
as if I were sinking into an abyss.  The sun found me in the same place;
I shivered with cold, trembled like an aspen leaf. Oh, thou wretched,
thou false, thou corrupt world!

THIELE, March 9, 1713.

I have seen her for the first time since that night of sin. A quick
blush passed over her face; she let her eyes flit around the room in
order not to look at me. I felt myself getting hot and cold. As soon as
we were alone, she passed me rapidly saying with half-closed eyes,
_"Silence!"_ She was out of the door before I was quite conscious of
something pressed into my hand.

THIELE, April 13, 1713.

Everything is discovered. The master, the mistress, the entire household
know it, and it is Mademoiselle Lapouce who has found them out and
exposed them. Miss Sophie sometimes amused herself by raillery at her
expense, and this she had taken note of. No one has suspected that the
sly woman understood a word of Danish, and so they must have said
something carelessly in her presence from which she got wind of what was
happening. She has followed the scent until she ran them down. Heavens!
what a commotion! The squire ran around with his gun threatening to
shoot Jens; but Jens was on his horse and already far away. The young
lady was locked in the corner room in order that the squire should not
lay violent hands on her. Good heavens! What will be the end of it! I
tremble whenever I hear his voice. My conscience condemns me and makes a
coward of me. Remorse and fear have so overpowered me that they have
driven love and jealousy out of my heart. I wish I were fifteen leagues
under the ground.

THIELE, April 14, 1713.

The young lady is gone! Last night she escaped through a window. Jens
has surely been here and abducted her; for about midnight someone saw
two persons on one horse, but on account of the dark, he could not see
whether both were men. They were on the road to Viborg, and we have been
out, every man of us, all day long hunting for them. We came back
without finding them. I heard a rumor that they had crossed Skiern
bridge, but I shall certainly take care not to come near them. Alas!
alas! what a world we live in! My poor master! I am afraid he will take
his death over it. He lies on his bed, and doesn't allow any human being
to come near him.

THIELE, April 20, 1713.

Today I was called in to the squire. Oh, Thou gracious Saviour! How pale
and shrunken he was! He will not live, that I could plainly see.
"Martin," said he, when I came in, "is that you? Come over here to me."
As soon as I heard his voice I burst into tears. Formerly it sounded as
if he were speaking out of a barrel, and when he called out of the big
door, "Martin, bring the dogs!" the house shook, and chickens and ducks
flew up startled. But now he spoke so low and his voice was so feeble
that my heart was ready to break. "Martin," he said, "have you seen any
snipes?"--"No, dear master," I replied sobbing. "I haven't been out at
all."--"Oh, haven't you?" he said. "I shall never shoot any more."--"Oh,
you may," I said. "God can yet help you."--"No, Martin," he said, "I am
nearing the end. If I had only had Kresten!" At that he pressed two
tears back into his hollow eyes. "Where is Vaillant?" he asked.--"He is
lying in front of the fire," I replied.--"Call him," said he. The dog
came and laid his head on the edge of the bed. The master patted him a
long time and looked sadly at him. "You have been a faithful servant,"
he said. "You have not left me. When I am dead, you must shoot him and
bury him under the big ash outside the cemetery, but shoot him carefully
and don't let him suspect what you are about to do--promise me
that!"--"Yes, dear master," I said.--"I don't want him to belong to
strangers," he said, as he sank back on the pillow. "My hunter and
Donner (his favorite gun) and my sword-belt I want you to have. You must
never part with my Blis. When he gets so old that he can't eat any more,
you must shoot him."--"Yes, dear master," I said; I could hardly speak
for weeping.--"And there on the table is a wad, that's for you, for your
faithful service. Go now, Martin, and pray to God for my sinful soul." I
kissed the hand he held out to me, and stumbled down to my own
bedchamber. Oh, may God give him a blessed end! He was a good and
gracious master to me.

THIELE, May 3, 1713.

So now he too is departed! Now I have not a friend on earth. Here I
cannot stay; I must out in the world and get rid of my melancholy
thoughts. Poor Vaillant! When I took my gun he leaped joyfully around
me; he did not know I was leading him to his death. No, such a shot I
will never fire again as long as I live. When I pulled the trigger, and
he heard the click, he began to wag his tail and look around as if he
expected a quarry, and least of all suspected that he himself was the
object. When the shot was fired, and he writhed in the throes of death,
I felt as if the heart would burst out of my breast. Oh, my dear blessed
master! That was the last, the hardest service I have done you.

SAILING PAST THUNÖE, May 17, 1713.

For the second time--perhaps the last time--I am saying farewell to
thee, my beloved native land. Farewell, thou green forest, thou brown
heath! Farewell all the joys of my youth!  It was with a lighter heart
that I ploughed these wild waves two years ago. Then I had my kind
master; now he is in his grave, and my young master, too; she--whom I
would like to forget--is roving around in the wide world, God knows
where and how. I too shall try my luck and eat my bread among strangers.
Yes, I am going to try war, it will give bread or death. Blis and I
shall go together, he is my last friend on earth.

SWEDEN, June 13, 1716.

Here I sit, a captive in a foreign land. That is what my sword has
brought me to. My colonel and I cleared a space among the enemy, but we
were only two against ten. Alas, my old Blis! You found death, would
that I had found it, too!

STOCKHOLM, August 14, 1717.

This cannot go on much longer. They have dragged me from one fortress to
another, tempted and threatened me to make me enter their service, but I
would rather starve to death in a dungeon than fight against my rightful
king and lord. But rather than that I would win my freedom. I will try
it and find either that or death.

NORRKÖPING, February 3, 1718.

So I became a Swedish soldier after all! However long I fled and hid
like a hunted beast in forests and mountain clefts, they found me at
last. What could I do? Better be under God's open sky among swords and
guns than within the four walls of a prison! They have promised me that
I should never have to fight against my countrymen, but only against the
Muscovite--perhaps he has the bullet with the name of Morten Vinge.

SIBERIA, May 15, 1721.

Lord my God! How strange are Thy ways! Many thousand miles from Denmark,
I go about in a rough and dreary land; I walk over frozen rivers and
wade in snow to my knees, while at home forest and field are putting on
their green summer dress.  Outside my old chamber window the apple tree
is blossoming, the linnet is chirping in the gooseberry hedge, the
starling sits on the well-curb and whistles a jolly piece, and the lark
is singing overhead. Here wolves are howling, bears are grunting, hawks
and ravens are crying in the black forests. Where, I wonder, is the end
of this wilderness? And where is the end of my miserable life?

RIGA, September 2, 1743.

Shall I really live the day when I see my native land once more? Four
and twenty long, sorrowful years, four and twenty winters I have hunted
sable and marten in the forests of Siberia. How weary of life have I not
been this long, long time! But I will wait patiently till my Lord and
Saviour calls me. Perhaps He will lay my weary limbs to rest in my
native soil. Ah, there I see the Danish flag with the precious sign of
the Cross and of our salvation. My soul, praise the Lord, and all that
in me is His holy name!

FALSTER, October 23, 1743.

Once more near death, and once more saved from it! In storm and bad
weather I approached my beloved native land. The waves crushed our ship
and threatened to devour us; but the Lord succored me, His hand upheld
me--nor will He withdraw it from me now, though I wander, poor and half
naked, among strangers.

CORSELIDSE, November 2, 1743.

I have found a place of refuge, a shelter from the storms of the world,
a godly and generous lord who has taken me into service and promised to
provide for me to the day of my death. So I shall not move again before
I am carried to my last home.

CORSELIDSE, May 1, 1744.

What a lovely land this is! Everything in full bloom! The woods are
green and the meadow is green. Flowers everywhere! In Siberia it is
still winter. God be thanked for such an exchange! My master is very
fond of me. I often have to sit for hours telling him about the war and
about all the countries I have wandered through. And if he likes to
hear, I like to talk; I take pleasure in recalling to memory the
innumerable misfortunes I have endured.

CORSELIDSE, July 2, 1744.

Oh, Thou Father of Mercy! Was this bitter cup still left for me! Were
the old wounds to be opened again! Ay, for such was Thy will.--I have
seen her--her? Ah, no, not her! a fallen angel I have seen, an
apparition of darkness. Often have I wished for death, but now--now I
loathe my life--I cannot write any more.

CORSELIDSE, August 8, 1744.

It is not for my pleasure that I once more take up my pen; but if anyone
after my death should come upon this journal, I want him to see how sin
rewards its children.

On that distressful day I was enjoying a walk in our beautiful garden.
As I passed the open gate, I saw standing there a man whose face seemed
familiar to me in spite of a thick black beard streaked with grey and a
lowering look in his eyes that almost frightened me. "So you are here,
too?" he said with a strange grin. The cane fell from my hand, and I
trembled in every limb--it was Jens! "Good Lord my God!" said I. "Do I
find you here! Where is Miss Sophie?"--He burst out with a loud oath,
"No longer Miss or Madame either, but if you want to see my dearly
beloved wife, she's lying down there, weeding. Sophy!" he cried, "here's
an old acquaintance." Then she turned half around, looked at me for a
moment, and went on weeding. I could not see the least sign of emotion
in her face--this face!--this once lovely face! How changed it was!
--pale and wan, wrinkled, sullen as if it had never smiled. A ragged
hood with long tatters of black lace made it look still darker. Dirty
remnants of clothes that had once been handsome and fine hung about her
heavy, ill-shaped body. I felt as if I were almost getting sick, and not
a tear came into my eyes. A fear, a loathing, as when one suddenly sees
a viper, seized me. I could neither speak nor stir from the spot. Jens
roused me from my stupor. "Now she isn't as handsome," he cried, "as
when she crept into bed with you." I shuddered. "The gilding has worn
off," he went on, "but she still has her fine spirit, high and mighty
she is still, and spiteful, and she can cackle. Hey, gracious lady, talk
to us!" She was silent, and pretended not to hear, though he spoke
loudly enough. "Now it doesn't please her to speak," he said, "but when
we get home, she'll set her mouth going. Haven't you got something for a
drink, Morten, for old acquaintance's sake?" I gave him something, and
went up to the house like a sleepwalker. My master was standing by the
garden door. "Do you know those people;" he asked.--"Ah, good God," I
said. "Yes, I have known them many years ago."--"They're a bad lot," he
said. "She is shrewish and full of cussedness, and he drinks like a
sponge. They have lived for a couple of years in a house down on the
beach. He fishes, and she works by the day in the garden. They say she
is come of decent people?" Then at last my tears began to flow, and
relieved the pressure on my heart. I told him who she was, and his
horror was as great as my sorrow.

CORSELIDSE, September 14, 1744.

I doubt that I shall stay here. I no longer feel happy, since I know
that she is near me and I can't avoid seeing her often. As yet I have
not spoken with her, for I shun her as an evil spirit. Jens seeks me
with an importunity that pleases neither me nor my master. When I smell
his breath reeking with brandy, I feel as if someone were offering me
poison to drink. He has told me their story--oh, how terrible it is, how
loathsome. They have strolled around from one place to another in
Denmark and Germany; he played the bugle, and she sang and played the
lute. In this way they made enough to subsist, and when it was not
enough, she practised another trade which it wrings my heart to think
of. At last that had to be given up, and they would have died of want if
my kind master had not taken pity on them.--God forgive me, but I could
almost wish I was back in Siberia.

CORSELIDSE, May 1, 1745.

God bless my kind, generous master! He has understood my wish: to end my
days in the place where I was born; and so he has arranged--without my
knowledge--for a good place for me with the new family at Thiele. On
Tuesday I shall take ship at Stubbekjöbing. God reward him for it in all
eternity.

AT SEA BETWEEN ZEALAND AND SAMSÖE, June 4, 1745.

"Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul:
but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body." I feel
the force of these words of the Saviour. When in my youth, on these
waters, I stood before the bullets of the Swedes, I felt better than in
the garden at Corselidse when I saw the fallen angel of my youth. Swords
and bullets, stabbing and cutting, wounds and death are as nothing
against the wasting of a soul, against the destruction of an innocent
soul. If I had seen her beautiful body torn by wild beasts, it could not
have wrung my heart as now when I found her ruined, corrupted,
contemptible, lost beyond redemption. As she lay there digging in the
dirt, it seemed to me that she buried my last hope, my last vestige of
faith in honor and virtue. But I will say, as the old Turk who shared my
captivity in Siberia used to say even amidst the greatest sufferings:
"God is great." Yes, and merciful. He can do far more than we poor human
beings understand.

THIELE, July 4, 1745.

At last I have entered my winter haven. For more than thirty years I
have been tossed about on the wild ocean waves of the world, in order to
end where I began. What have I achieved? What have I gained? A grave--a
resting-place with my parents. That is something, indeed not so little;
I have friends and acquaintances here both above and under the ground.
The apple tree still stands outside my window; it too has grown older,
there's a canker in its trunk, the storms have bowed its head, and its
limbs are covered with moss like the grey hair on the head of an old
man. On the way to the church I see the big ash under the roots of which
I buried poor Vaillant. So I remember many a tree, many a heather-grown
hill, and even the dead stones that have stood here unchanged and seen
one generation after another grow up and pass away. The generation that
I knew is gone. New masters, new servants--I am a stranger, and an alien
among them all.

THIELE, September 2, 1749.

Today it is fifty-six years since I first saw the light of this world.
Lord my God, what has become of these years? of these many thousands of
days? Where are the pleasures of my youth? They are gone with the
friends of my youth. It was at this time of the year that we used to
enjoy the delights of the chase. How merrily it went when we set out in
the morning; the huntsmen calling, the hounds baying, and the horses
stamping, as impatient as we ourselves. Sometimes we went after the
black cocks on the heath, sometimes after the wild game in the forest.
Singing and with horns blowing we rode out and came back. Now it's quiet
as a monastery; the new master doesn't care about the chase. Silent and
solitary, the gamekeeper goes out, and quietly he comes home. This
generation is joyless like myself.

THIELE, January 12, 1751.

A calm, glorious winter night! Everything that I see is blue or white.
The moon has driven away the stars and shines alone. So beautifully it
shone many, many years ago when I was coachman for Miss Sophie. My young
soul shone as brightly and merrily as the moon, and hers too was pure,
unspotted as this newfallen snow. Now my soul is dark as the heath when
the snows of winter have melted, and hers--if she is still living--must
be like a Siberian valley after a flood: darkly furrowed by streams of
water, thickly strewn with tussocks, stones, and fallen trees. Yea,
Lord, Lord! "When Thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, Thou
makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is
vanity."

FOULUM, May 12, 1753.

Last Sunday I officiated for the first time as parish clerk of Thiele
and Vinge. The squire called me on his deathbed. I am now living in my
father's house; but I am living here alone. All the friends of my youth
have long since gone to rest; I alone am left as a stripped tree on the
heath, but in due time I shall be gathered to them, as the last of my
line. These pages will be the only memorial of me. If anyone--when I am
dead and gone--should read them, he will sigh and say: "As for man, his
days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the
wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know
it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to
everlasting."





THE ROBBERS' DEN

[_Røverstuen,_ 1827]

THE STAG RIDER


THE islands of Denmark wear such a charming, friendly, peaceful aspect
that when we try to imagine their origin, our thoughts are never carried
back to any violent convulsion of nature; they do not seem to have been
cast up by earthquakes or furrowed by mighty floods, but rather to have
risen gently from the falling waters of the sea. The plains are level
and wide; the hills are few, small, and gently rounded. No steep bluffs,
no deep hollows remind us of the labor pangs of the earth. The forests
do not cling wildly to sky-high mountains, but range themselves as
hedgerows around the fruitful fields. The brooks do not dash down as
frothing waterfalls through deep, dark clefts, but glide along, clear
and tranquil, between reeds and bushes.

When we leave the lovely island of Fyn and sail to Jutland, we feel at
first as if we had only crossed a river and can hardly convince
ourselves that we are now on the mainland, so nearly related to the
islands is the countenance of the peninsula. But the farther inland we
get the more the landscape changes: the valleys become deeper, the hills
more precipitous; the forests look older and more decrepit; many a
rush-grown bog, many a bit of ground covered with low heather, great
rocks on the high backs of the fields--all testify to a lower state of
culture and a smaller population. Narrow roads with deep ruts separated
by high ridges indicate less travel and less intercourse between the
inhabitants. The houses of the people become poorer and poorer, lower
and lower, the farther we go, as if they were ducking before the violent
onslaught of the west wind. As the moors become larger and more
frequent, the churches and villages are fewer and farther apart. On the
farms the light frames for drying hay give way to stacks of black peat
and the orchards to cabbage plots. Great bogs covered with heather,
carelessly and wastefully used, proclaim: here are plenty of them. No
hedges, no rows of willows make division between man and man; one might
think that all was held in common.

When at last we reach the backbone of Jutland, immense flat plains are
spread out before our eyes; at first they are strewn with grave-mounds,
but gradually the number is lessened, which would indicate that this
region was never cultivated in olden times. Not without reason we
imagine that this high back of land was the first part of the peninsula
to appear--lifting itself up from the ocean, tumbling the waters down on
either side--and that waves rolling down have washed up hills and
hollowed out valleys. In the eastern part of this heather-grown plain we
occasionally encounter groups of low, shrubby oaks, which serve the
wayfarer as a compass, for the crowns of the trees are all bent toward
the east. Otherwise we see but few touches of green on the great
heather-clad slopes; an occasional patch of green grass or a young aspen
with its quivering leaves surprises us into asking: how did you come
here? If a brook or a river runs through the heath, no strip of meadow
or bushy growth proclaims its presence; deep down between hollowed banks
it winds secretly and with speed, as if it were hurrying to get out of
the desert.

Across such a brook a young, well-dressed man was riding one fine autumn
day. He was headed for a small rye field which had been cultivated by
turning the crust and burning it to ashes. The owner and his family were
just engaged in reaping it, when the rider approached and asked the way
to the manor of Aunsbjerg. After the peasant had answered the question
with another, as to where the traveller came from, and had told him what
he already knew, namely that he had lost his way, he called a boy who
was stacking the sheaves and told him to show the traveller the road.
But before the boy could obey the order, an apparition appeared that for
the moment held both rider and harvesters spellbound. From the top of
the nearest heather-clad hill there dashed down toward them, with the
velocity of a storm, a stag with a man on its back. The man--who was
tall and burly and dressed in brown from top to toe--was caught between
the antlers of the royal stag, which were thrown far back after the
manner of these animals when they are running at full speed. The strange
rider had probably lost his hat during the ride, for his long black hair
flew out from the back of his head like the mane of a galloping horse.
His hand was in constant motion trying to stick a knife into the neck of
the stag, but the mad pace prevented him from taking aim. When the stag
rider came near enough to the amazed beholders--which did not take
long--he was recognized by the peasant, who called out,

"Hey, Mads, where are you going?"

"The deer and the devil know!" replied Mads, but before the answer was
out of his mouth he was so far away that the last word hardly reached
the ears of the questioner. In a few minutes both stag and man were
gone.

"Who was that?" asked the stranger without turning his eyes from the
spot where the centaur had disappeared.

"Oh," said the peasant, "he's a poor fellow who's called Mads Hansen, or
Black Mads; he has a little house on the other side of the river. I
guess food is pretty scarce there--he has a lot of kids--so he gets
along as best he can. He comes over on this side once in a while and
takes a deer--but today it looks as if the deer had taken him--if it was
a real deer," he added thoughtfully. "God deliver us from evil! Mads is
a reckless chap--but still I don't know anything but what's honest and
decent about him. He shoots a bit of a deer once in a while, but what of
it? There are plenty of them--too many, if one might say so. You can see
for yourself how they've nibbled the ears off my rye. But, halloo!
There's Niels Gamekeeper. See if you can catch Black Mads! Today he's
better mounted than you."

As he spoke, a hunter came riding at a long, rapid trot from the same
direction where they had first caught sight of the stag rider.

"Have you seen Black Mads?" he cried out to them from a distance.

"We saw someone riding a deer, but we couldn't make out whether he was
black or white, for he went so fast it was all we could do to keep our
eyes on him," replied the peasant.

"Devil take him!" said the hunter, as he reined in his horse to allow it
to breathe a moment. "I saw him up in Haverdale, where he was sneaking
'round after a stag. I kept behind a hill so's not to disturb him. He
fired, the stag fell down, and Mads jumped on the back of him to kill
him. But when the stag felt the knife, he got up, caught Mads between
his antlers, and halloo! I got his gun, but I'd rather have had
himself."

With these words he started his horse at a trot and hurried after the
poacher, one gun on his pommel and the other slung over his back in a
strap.

The traveller was going in about the same direction and started off with
his guide as fast as the boy could run after divesting himself of his
wooden shoes. When they had gone a good mile, and had gained the top of
a hill that sloped down to the stream, they caught sight of both riders.
The first had come to the end of his mad ride. The stag had fallen dead
in the river at a place where the water was very low. Its slayer was
still standing astride it, trying to free himself from the branches of
the animal's horns which had pierced his clothes. Just as he had gotten
loose and sprung ashore, the gamekeeper--who had lost sight of
him--came dashing past our traveller, holding the reins with one hand
and the gun with the other. A few yards from the unlucky stag rider he
stopped his horse and with the comforting words, "I'll be the death of
you, you son of a bitch!" lifted his gun to his cheek.

"Wait, wait!" cried the culprit. "Hold on a bit, Niels! What's your
hurry? Let's talk it over."

"No more talking," said the enraged hunter. "Now I've caught you
red-handed."

"Oh, just wait a little bit!" repeated the other. "Just let me say an
Our Father!"

"So you're going to pray, are you?" said Niels, as he lowered his gun
slightly from his cheek. "You won't get to heaven anyway."

"Then it'll be your fault, Niels," said the other, "when you want to
kill me right in the midst of my sins."

"Serves you right, you stag thief," cried Niels, once more laying his
cheek against the butt end of the gun.

"Hey, hey!" cried Mads again, "wait just a wee bit! If you shoot me now,
then--oh, do take that gun from your eye! I can't stand to have anybody
pointin' at me with a loaded gun." Niels lifted his head once more. "If
you shoot me, you'll be broken on the wheel yourself."

"The devil I will!" replied the gamekeeper with a forced laugh.

"Niels, Niels!" cried the other. "Here are witnesses. But, listen, I'm
goin to give you another piece of advice. Now you've got me sure enough;
I can't get away from you. Why don't you take me up to the house? Then
the squire can do what he pleases with me. That way we'll both keep our
lives and you'll get a good big reward besides."

At that moment the traveller rode up, and called to the gamekeeper, "For
God's sake, my friend, don't do anything rash, but hearken to what the
man says."

"The man's a scoundrel," said the gamekeeper, but nevertheless uncocked
his gun and laid it down on the pommel. "But since the strange gentleman
begs for him, I'll spare his life. But you're crazy, Mads," he said
turning to the poacher, "for now you'll be pushing the wheelbarrow all
your life. If you'd let me shoot you, there would have been an end of
it. Well, come along then, you scoundrel, and keep next to me. Shake
your legs now!" With that they started out, and the traveller, who was
also going to Aunsbjerg, joined them.

They went on for a while without speaking a word, except that the
gamekeeper now and then broke the silence with a grunt or an oath or a
word of abuse. At last the poacher began talking along a new and less
passionate tack.

"Don't you think it's rather hard on me to have to wade in this tall
heather?" he said.

"You're used to it, you dog," replied Niels.

"You might let me sit up behind you," said the poacher with a sly
glance, but in a tone which showed that he did not expect his appeal to
be favorably received.

"Ho, ho!" replied the gamekeeper with a guffaw. "You've ridden enough
for today. Now you can stir your long stumps."

"Now then, Niels Gamekeeper," murmured the other. "Don't take on so.
You're so darn contrairy today."

Niels Gamekeeper made no reply to this, but whistled a tune while he
took his tobacco pouch and pipe from his game-bag. When he had filled
his pipe, he was going to light it, but the tinder wouldn't catch fire.

"I'll have to help you," said Mads, and without waiting for an answer,
he struck fire with his own tinder, blew on it, and handed it to the
gamekeeper, but while Niels received it, Mads caught the butt end of the
gun which was lying across the pommel, tore it out of the strap with a
mighty pull, and leaped three paces backward in the heather. It was all
done with a swiftness which one would hardly have believed the heavy and
rather elderly poacher to be capable of.

"Now it's my turn," he said. "Don't you think I might smash you like a
toadstool, my dear Niels? But you were reasonable before, and that's
your good luck now."

The poor gamekeeper, pale and trembling with rage, looked at his enemy
without being able to say a single word.

"A little while ago," said Mads, "you were raging so that anybody else
couldn't get in a word, but if I hadn't heard then how you used your
mouth, I might be thinking you'd left it home at Aunsbjerg. Light your
pipe, or the tinder will go out--you're looking at my tinder box--I
guess you don't think it was a good exchange you made. Sure, this is
better"--he patted the butt end of the gun--"but I'll give it back to
you if you'll let me have mine." Niels reached over his head, took the
poacher's gun and gave it to him with one hand, at the same time as he
held out the other to receive his own.

"Wait a bit," said Mads. "First you must promise me--but never mind, you
won't keep any promise anyway; but if some day you should hear something
pop out on the heath, then don't get mad, but think of today and Renard
Foxtail."

He turned to the traveller. "Is your horse used to shootin'?"

"Shoot away!" said the stranger.

Mads held the gamekeeper's gun like a pistol with one hand and fired up
in the air.

"It sounds just like hitting a door with a clay pot," he said.

Then he took out the flint and gave the gun to his opponent, saying,
"Here's your shooter. It won't hurt anybody now. Good-bye, and thanks
for today!" So saying, he slung his own gun over his back and walked off
in the direction where he had left the stag.

The gamekeeper, whose tongue seemed to have been bound by some magic
power, now let loose his pent up rage in a stream of oaths and curses,
beginning, "Now may the devil," etc., etc.

It is unfortunate for you as for me, dear reader, that my Muse is not
genuinely humorous, for if she had been, I should have had the best
opportunity here to embellish my story with the most forceful oaths,
compared to which those that enliven our comedy stage would sound like
the yapping of a lap dog against the roaring of a lion. But my Muse has
never been able to understand the inner meaning of conversation at
Gammel Strand; therefore you will have to fill out _ad libitum_ the
numerous lapses in the conversation of Niels Gamekeeper and other
geniuses of his kind. I will simply relate--though with all proper
reservations regarding the said Niels Gamekeeper's legal right to the
devil and his kingdom--the further conversation between him and the
stranger on their way to Aunsbjerg.

The latter, whose sympathy had turned from the escaped poacher to the
almost despairing gamekeeper, tried to console him as best he could.

But you have really lost nothing," he said at last, "except the
miserable pleasure of ruining a man and his whole family--"

"Lost nothing!" exclaimed the gamekeeper. "That's all you know about it.
Lost nothing! As sure as I'm a sinner, that dog has spoiled my good
gun."

"How so?" said the traveller. "Spoiled your gun? Load it and put in
another flint."

"Shucks!" said Niels with an angry laugh. "It'll shoot neither hare nor
deer after this. It's bewitched, I tell you, and only one thing can
help--ah, there's one sunning itself in the wheel rut--he won't eat any
more young larks today."

With these words he stopped his horse, put a flint in the gun, cocked
it, and jumped down. The stranger, who was quite uninitiated in the
science of hunting and knew neither its terminology nor its magic, also
stopped in order to see what the green-coat would do. Dragging his horse
along, he advanced a few steps, and with the barrel of his gun poked at
something lying in the road. The stranger now saw that it was a viper.

"In with you!" said the gamekeeper, prodding it with his gun. At last he
got its head into the barrel, held the gun up and shook it until the
snake was entirely inside the barrel. Thereupon he fired off the gun
with its strange wadding, not a single particle of which remained. "If
that doesn't help," he said, "then no one can cure it except Mads or
Renard Foxtail."

The stranger smiled a bit skeptically both at the witchcraft and the
curious way in which the spell was broken, but having already made the
acquaintance of one practitioner of the black art, he wished to learn
something about the other, who bore such an unusual and meaningful name.
In reply to his questions, the gamekeeper, as he loaded his gun, told
the following:

"Renard Foxtail--as they call him, because he can lure all the foxes in
the country to come to him--he's ten times worse than Black Mads. He can
make himself proof against both lead and silver buttons--the son of a
bitch. Once I and the squire came upon him down in the valley there
standing over a deer he'd just shot and was skinning. We rode right up
to him, and he didn't see us till we were within twenty paces of him.
But do you s'pose Renard was scared? He just looked 'round at us and
went right on with the deer. 'Now we've got you,' said the squire.
'Niels, let him have it!  I'll answer for everything.' I gave him a load
of slug right in his broad back, but he didn't mind it any more than if
it had been a popgun.  The fellow just turned his face to us for a
minute and went right on with his skinning. Then the squire himself
fired--and it was just the same. He was just cutting the skin from the
head of the deer, and not till he had rolled it up did he pick up his
little rifle, which was lying on the ground, looked at us, and said,
'Now I guess it's my turn, and if you don't get away from here, I'll try
if I can't shoot a hole in one of you.' That's the kind of fellow Renard
Foxtail is."

After this tale, which is just as strange but more true than many which
we import from abroad, the travellers continued on their way to
Aunsbjerg.




AUNSBJERG


IF YOU, dear reader, begin the perusal of a Danish book which, mind you,
is not a translation, and if this book should find favor in your sight,
then you will certainly propound the reasonable question, "Who has been
this author's example and model?" For that a Danish writer--_in specie_
a poet--should have the temerity or self-confidence to venture out on
the slippery ice of authorship without foreign guidance is neither
conceivable nor advisable. If furthermore you read the critical
reviews--_in specie--_the Danish Pasquino--you will be confirmed in your
supposition; for in these reviews you will often read: "Our author has
evidently formed himself on A. or B. or C.," and--if he is one of those
bearing the stamp of approval--"Our poet has succeeded in capturing the
spirit of D. or E. or F.," or--if he is one of the unprivileged--"This
product is a poor imitation of G. or H. or I." Now then, if my little
stories or--if you prefer--novelettes have pleased you, have you not
asked yourself, "Who is this author's example and model? L .........

No, for that his heroes and heroines are not angelic enough. V . . d . .
V . . . .? No, not that either! For that they are not devilish enough.
Furthermore, he doesn't begin his chapters _ad modum'._ 'In his
large-flowered green damask dressing gown, with the snow-white
red-topped cotton nightcap on his venerable head, the
eighty-five-year-old gentleman sat in his grandfather's chair,
softly-cushioned with orange-yellow silken fleece,' etc., etc., or: 'On
a spirited, chestnut-colored Arab, chewing its foam-flecked silver
bridle, the wondrously beautiful maiden rode through the vaulted portal
of the castle,'" etc., etc. "Is it possible," you ask further, "that our
author may have formed himself on H ....... or R ...... or A . . .? No,
for that his adventures are too reasonable, too credible and
commonplace; he has too little commerce with ghosts, goblins, trolls,
werewolves, vampires, and devils." "Who in the world can it be?" you
persist. "It must be someone. W . , , , . S . . . .?

On my word, that's the man!" Alas, dear kind reader, you have not found
the right one even yet. You do me too much honor; his perfections are
his own and neither I nor anyone else can take them away from him, and
his faults--if he has any--I will leave to C ...... and others who can
fill a sheet with the description of a shawl and how it is worn, writers
who cannot introduce us into a peasant's hut without making vis
acquainted with every chair in the room, every hen on its perch, every
rag the innocent children have on, who wherever they convey us refuse to
pass a stick or a stone in the road without making us read an elaborate
description of it. After all, this Scotch manner pays better in other
countries than here, where people would rather borrow books than pay for
them, where lending libraries and reading societies see to it that
authors should not leave their marriageable daughters manuscripts for a
dowry. No, my esteemed reader, if I had followed this practice, we
should still have been standing at Karup river, lost in contemplation of
its heather-grown banks, or we should have followed its winding course
with the accuracy of a surveyor right to the place where the Limfjord
would have stopped our progress. If I had been S .... we should at this
moment have been pleasantly employed in counting the brown spots on
Niels Gamekeeper's white pointer (of whom we haven't yet said a single
word) or the grouse in his game-bag. But--it cannot be otherwise--I gang
my own gait, though crooked and unsteady. If you will follow me, I shall
regard it as an honor and aj pleasure.  Sometimes I stand still, then I
walk, then I run, and once in a while I take a start and make a mighty
leap, as now for example from Karup river to Aunsbjerg. And if you want
to give me a pattern, let it be the author Siegfried von Lindenberg--in
view of this long, chatty, parenthetic introduction.

To sum up, A. and B. and C. have their peculiar beauties--which let them
keep! And perhaps they are not entirely free from faults--what should I
do with them? I have enough with my own. No, I would prefer that you
should not say, "The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands
of Esau"; I would rather you should say, "It is Esau wholly and
altogether." And if I should not always please you, if my Pegasus should
sometimes run too fast, sometimes be balky, then kindly remember that it
has not been trained by an equestrian artist, but has its own crochets,
which neither you nor I can cure it of. Mount it, my honored friend, and
ride with me in through Aunsbjerg gate and let us see what kind of an
adventure--short or long, credible or incredible--we shall meet there.

I seldom hear the word "manor house" without thinking of ghosts. These
venerable remains of antiquity--once inhabited by doughty knights and
decorous ladies, whom we think of as stern and serious, stiff as to
dress and manner, rigid as to mind, hard and stark even in love--these
fathom-thick walls, these long, dark, narrow passages, these vaulted
cellars seem to us to invite the spirits of midnight; the wide, open
fireplaces seem made for those airy creatures that would rather pass
through the chimney than the door. Nor do I think there is any old manor
house that does not harbor such nightly visitors, and that has not at
least one gloomy chamber, a corner room or a tower closet, where
everything is not as it should be and where no one likes to sleep alone.

I am happy to state that Aunsbjerg is in this respect as well equipped
as any manor house in the country; and I hope soon to see the night when
I can treat my reader to a genuine phantasmagoria; but all in good time!
Therefore I will now proceed with my story in chronological order.

When the two riders had entered the gate to the farmyard, they turned
toward the stable, the gamekeeper showing the way, and each unsaddled
his own horse. From there they walked through the shady lane of lime
trees up to the court in front of the manor. The house consisted of
three wings. The main building to the left was two stories high and had
an attic which enjoyed the designation "tower," perhaps because it was
felt that no manor should be without a tower, and a name--as we
know--is often enough to satisfy people. I have heard a room containing
a bookcase and a score of books thickly covered with dust, a cupboard
with bottles and glasses, a table with writing materials, and a
cushioned easy chair called a "study." I have seen a cluster of a couple
of hundred stunted trees called "the forest" and a carp pool called "the
lake." In the same way a clothes cupboard is called a "wardrobe," a
couple of peasant farms and half a score of houses an "estate," and the
rent collector of this domain a "manager" or an "inspector."

The central wing, which was also faced with brick but was only one story
high, housed the numerous servants, from the bailiff to the boy that
took care of the dogs. The right wing was the home of the tenant farmer.
In the corner between the two stood the wooden horse, at that time just
as indispensable in a manor house as the escutcheon of the noble house
over the main portal.

In the same moment when the gamekeeper opened the gate leading to the
inner court, a window was opened on the ground floor of the main
building, revealing a head and bust picture which I think I ought to
describe in order to assist the reader--who has seen similar pictures
painted--in guessing the period when the present events took place. The
lord of the manor, whose heavy figure filled the broad window, was clad
in a dark green velvet jacket with a row of buttons coming all the way
up to the throat, large revers, and pockets with big buttons. A black
periwig--not of the solidly built-up kind, but with a roll extending all
around the head--concealed his hair entirely.  The part of his dress
that was visible consisted therefore of only two simple pieces, but
inasmuch as his whole person will appear later, I had better, in order
to avoid repetition, mention the other three parts of his costume; on
top of the periwig he wore a tight-fitting green cap with a brim
standing out to both sides, something like the black shovel-hat which
parsons and afterwards parish clerks wore within the memory of men now
living; his feet were covered with a pair of high, wide, spurred boots,
and long black trousers of the kind that a few old peasants even in our
time have worn under the name "rolled breeches," completed the visible
part of his costume.

"Niels!" the squire called. The gamekeeper showed his companion the door
where he was to go in, and then, with his small three-cornered hat in
his hand, stepped over to the window, where the honorable and well-born
squire regularly, rain or shine, gave audience to the servants in the
house and the tenant farmers on the estate. The gamekeeper here had to
observe the same ceremony as everybody else, although when out hunting
the relation between master and servant was less constrained; as long as
that lasted, the strict rules of etiquette were suspended.

"Who's that?" began the squire with a nod sideways in the direction of
the stranger.

'The new clerk, my lord," was the answer.

"Is that all? I thought it was somebody. What have you got there?" asked
the squire nodding toward the game-bag.

"The old cock and two chickens, my lord." (This "my lord" we will omit
for the future, but it must be understood as following every remark.)

"That isn't much after two days' hunting," said the squire. "Didn't you
get any deer?"

"Not this time," said Niels sighing. "When poachers use stags to ride
on, there can't be any for us." This cryptic utterance of course
required an explanation, but as the reader already has heard the story,
we will direct our attention to what was going on behind the squire's
broad back.

There stood the young engaged couple, Junker Kaj and Mistress Mette. The
young man was five-and-twenty, handsome, elegant, and perfectly dressed
according to the latest mode. In order to show by what means a maiden's
heart was attacked and conquered in those days, I must not neglect the
account of the young man's outward appearance, and I will begin with the
feet, in order to rise in my description. The said feet were encased in
broad-nosed, low boots, the tops of which flopped in wide folds around
the small of his legs. From them white silk stockings extended to a
handbreadth above his knees, where they ended with a strip of the finest
lace. Then came a pair of tight-fitting black velvet breeches, of which
only a little was seen, because an enormously long vest, also of black
velvet, came down over them. A coat of crimson cloth held together with
a clasp over the frilled shirt front, with a rov_ of large covered
buttons, and short sleeves reaching only to the wrist but having cuffs
turned up to the elbow, completed his costume. All his hair was brushed
smoothly into a long, stiff queue which was tied in the back of the
neck.

I should deserve but little thanks from my feminine readers if I did not
with the same accuracy portray the gracious young lady, but in her case
I can be more brief, summina; her up in three main articles: 1) The
pointed, high-heeled, silver-buckled shoes; 2) the little red,
gold-laced cap coming down in a tongue on her forehead and completely
hiding her hair, which was brushed up under it; 3) the dress of damask
with large flowers on a sky-blue ground, the sleeves coming only a
little below the elbows, the waist long, but not tight-laced, and
leaving the shoulders and bosom uncovered. To those who know and
properly admire the beauty of the present styles it will seem
inconceivable that a lady so attired could strike fire from a masculine
heart, since the only attractive part of the picture was the bare
shoulders and bosom; but I must add that Mistress Mette's face was
really so exceedingly beautiful it might easily make one forget her
clothes.

These two handsome young people then stood behind the old gentleman,
hand in hand, and--as it seemed--engaged in playful love-making. The
young gentleman tried every little while to snatch a kiss, but the young
lady just as often turned away her face, not exactly with aversion, but
with an arch smile. The strangest part of it was that every time she
bent her head back she glanced past her father into the court, although
there was nothing to be seen (for the gamekeeper stood too near the wall
under the window) except the wooden horse and the new clerk who, as soon
as he had entered the office, seated himself by the window. The fact
that, although he had the title of clerk, he was a handsome young man
signified little, for in the first place he had a huge scar cutting
across one cheek, and secondly, thirdly, fourthly, and fifthly, he was
dressed simply as a clerk and nothing else. What this costume looked
like I do not feel it is proper to relate, now that I have just
described the costumes of persons of quality. Nor do I think it
necessary to dwell long on Mistress Mette's mother, the good Mistress
Kirsten, who sat by another window, contemplating with a pleased smile
the amorous play of the two young people.

The good old lady had every reason to be gratified at this match, since
it was her own doing from first to last. In a whole herd of junkers--as
the squire expressed it jokingly in the language of the chase--she had
got the scent of the fattest, and was the first to give tongue after
him. Inasmuch as the young man was an only child, heir to Palstrup and
several other estates, and, as for his birth, had sixteen known
ancestors, the marriage was soon decided upon by the parents and their
decision announced to the children. The bridegroom, who had just
returned from Paris when Mistress Kirsten sighted him, was well
satisfied, and why should he not be? Mistress Mette was young and
beautiful, an only child, heir to Aunsbjerg, where the deer, the wild
boars, and the crofters were just as good as at Palstrup, while the
grouse and ducks were much better. As for the bride, she was so
perfectly submissive under the iron will of her parents that for the
present we will leave unanswered the question of whether her own fancy
turned to the young man. We know that the heart of a maiden prefers to
make its own choice, and sometimes a suitor is rejected for no reason
but that he is the choice of the parents. Nevertheless, if Junker Kaj is
but the first, we need have no fears for him.

After this--not wholly unnecessary--digression, we will go on with our
story. When the gamekeeper had rendered an account of his mishap--which
he did not dare to conceal, inasmuch as the clerk, the peasant boy who
had acted as his guide, and even the stag rider himself might tell the
tale--the squire, almost beside himself with rage, burst out into a
torrent of the most heartfelt curses on the poacher; and during this
rain of invective some drops fell on poor Niels, who in his fear of the
angry master had to swallow his own equally hearty curses.

As soon as the first gust of stormy wrath had subsided and given room to
reflection, a plan was made for prompt and sufficient revenge: the
audacious miscreant was to be seized and, as one easily convicted of
poaching, was to be turned over to the arm of the law and, after proper
procedure, sent to the prison of Bremerholm. But to catch him--there was
the rub; for if he got the least wind of danger, he would flee and leave
his wife and children behind him. The squire, who had been wounded in
his tenderest spot, was for setting out immediately. There was enough
left of the day to enable them to reach the hut of Black Mads at
nightfall. But the mistress, whose revenge always showed more careful
planning and more mature consideration, argued with her impetuous lord
and master, saying that darkness would also aid the flight of the
criminal or--if that were prevented--a desperate defense on his part. It
would be better, therefore, to start a little after midnight; then the
entire armed forces could encircle the hut at daybreak and conquer it.
This proposal was unanimously adopted, and the visiting junker was
invited to share the dangers and honors of the expedition. The bailiff
of the estate, who came to report the arrival of the new clerk and to
present his letter of recommendation from the bailiff of Vestervig, was
ordered to hold himself in readiness together with the gardener, the
overseer of the farm, and the stablemen, and was told to engage a
peasant cart to follow the expedition.




THE NISSE


WHO does not know--at least by name--this creature whose pranks almost
always are just good-natured frolics? Who has not heard of his chubby
little figure and his red Jacobin cap--symbol of uninhibited liberty?
Who does not know that the house he chooses for his abode is perfectly
safe from fires and other disasters? (In order not to forget it I will
mention at once _in parenthesi_ that there is also a ship Nisse whose
function it is to plan during the night--in a sort of shadow
drawing--all the work that has to be done the next day: weigh anchor or
cast it, hoist the sails or take them in, furl them, or reef them, which
means a storm. He doesn't even think he is too good to swab the deck,
but will do this humble work very nicely. Those who know him say that
this _spiritus navalis_ shows his kinship with the house or land Nisse
by his pranks. He turns the weather vane, blows out the light in the
binnacle, teases the ship's dog, and if there is a passenger on board
who is prone to seasickness, one can see the rogue with a heart-rending
expression vomiting into the bucket. If the ship is about to be lost, he
will jump overboard the night before it sails, and either climb on board
another ship or swim ashore. Finally, I must remark that, inasmuch as
very few people are privileged to see this airy sprite, his warnings are
not often heeded.)

The house Nisse, which is the one that concerns us especially, is a real
blessing to the home which he honors by his presence-, it is safe
against fire, storm, and thieves. Who then would be offended by the
little fellow's capers? When sometimes he takes a ride on the horse in
the stall, it is no doubt only in order to give the animal healthy
exercise. When he milks a cow before the maid gets there, it is only to
make her rise earlier in the morning. And even if he steals an egg in
the hen-house once in a while, chases the cat in the attic, or upsets a
chamber pot, who would be angry with him for that or begrudge him the
dish of Christmas porridge which no thoughtful housewife fails to set
out for him in a corner of the attic? It is only in case this is
neglected that he shows a slight trace of vindictiveness. Then the
housewife may be pretty sure that her porridge will be burned, or her
soup will get bitter, or the ale will turn sour, or the milk won't
curdle, or she can churn all day and not get butter.

Well, then: such a little domestic hobgoblin had haunted Aunsbjerg from
time immemorial and is probably haunting it yet, although it would seem
that this manor was not his only place of abode, for sometimes years
would pass in which no one would notice him at all. But just at the time
of our story he seemed to have resumed his doings--or undoings, if you
prefer.

The gardener would occasionally miss some of his loveliest flowers or
several of the largest and ripest peaches; the strangest part of it was
that both would sometimes in the morning be found in Mistress Mette's
chamber, from which one would naturally conclude that the lady stood
very high in the favor of said Nisse. Furthermore, the stablemen
declared that many a night there was something wrong with the horses and
in the morning one of them would be as dirty as if it had been used for
a long, wild ride. They vowed--and who would doubt them?--that they had
often run out into the stable, but then everything had all of a sudden
been perfectly quiet. Once only they had thought they caught a glimpse
of the unlucky red cap, and after that they did not mix in the affairs
of the Nisse, which was certainly wise on their part.

Weight was added to these tales when Niels Gamekeeper, one night he came
home from Viborg and was neither drunk nor crazy, nevertheless had not
been able to find the road from Demstrup to the manor, although it was
straight as a string, and there was moonlight. Whether he wanted to or
not, he was forced out into the elder bog, where the red cap several
times peeped out between the stems of the trees. As he was a brave man,
he called out to the sprite, but every time he opened his mouth he would
fall, and then he would hear a ghastly laughter that sounded like the
cackling of a black cock or the neighing of a horse-snipe. When at last,
with clothes muddy and torn, he had managed to get out of the boggy
wood, he heard behind him the treating of the roe deer, and the
whistling of the gambet, although it was not the mating season for
either roe deer or snipe. Such exceptionable testimony did not fail to
make an impression on the personnel of the manor, especially the
feminine part of it. And even the squire himself received such tidings
in thoughtful silence.

Such was the state of things when the expedition against Black Mads was
undertaken, an event which made an epoch in the history of Aunsbjerg and
for years to come was used as a point to measure history from, as thus:
"It was the same year that we went hunting for Black Mads," or "It was
two, or it was three years after," etc. Those who remained at home
waited all day with tense expectation for news of the attacking army.
Noon came--evening--midnight--and yet nothing was seen or heard of it.
They consoled themselves by thinking that perhaps the culprit had been
taken directly from his home to Viborg; in that case the day might have
gone, and after such an exhausting march it was only fair that the
troops should be given an evening's refreshment and a night's rest in
town. With this plausible hypothesis both the family and the servants
went to-bed, and only one servant kept watch. Finally, an hour after
midnight, Junker Kaj and his groom returned. But before I go on, it
would be most proper to explain the reason for their late return and the
failure of the others to come at all.

The poacher's hut, which he himself had built in the most primitive
fashion with walls of green turf, and roof of heather resting on rafters
made of oak branches bent and tied together, had an excellent strategic
position considered as a fortress. Right in the middle of a great bog
measuring fully eight miles in circumference, there rose a little
hillock which was never under water even in the most violent sudden
thaws, and to which at least no horseman could come except by way of a
narrow strip of firm land that went winding among turf-pits and
quagmires. On this hillock Black Mads had built his idyllic house, and
there he with wife and four children lived by the chase. The larger game
animals were eaten fresh, salted, or smoked. The smaller were sold
secretly together with the skins of deer and foxes, and for the money
they bought bread and salt. Milk the wife and children begged of the
farmers in the neighborhood.

The day was beginning to break when the Aunsbjerg squire and his army
reached the bog. Niels Gamekeeper, who knew the locality, rode ahead and
successfully led the united forces to the place where the hut was
supposed to be. No hut was to be seen, and yet there was light enough to
see it if it had been there. The first thing Niels had recourse to--as
usual with him in all trouble and bewilderment--was a long and vigorous
oath. The squire, who rode up to learn what had occasioned this
heartfelt outpouring, gave his gamekeeper an equally heartfelt
good-morning, and accused him of having lost his way and taken them to
the wrong place. But Niels, who was sure of his point, declared and even
called a dozen of the black angels to witness that the hut was there,
but that Mads had made it invisible, no doubt with the aid of his good
friend of the horse's hoof, for he certainly knew how to bedevil your
eyesight.

The squire was almost ready to accept this explanation as the most
plausible, when Junker Kaj, who had ridden ahead, exclaimed, "There's
been a fire here!" At that all crowded in, and soon they discovered that
the hut was reduced to an ash heap in which a few embers still
smouldered. This discovery led Niels to the conclusion that "the said
long-tailed person had taken him and his whole brood." Junker Kaj,
however, was of the opinion that Mads had himself first burned down the
hut and then fled.  During this debate it had become full daylight; the
site of the fire was searched, but nothing was found except ashes,
embers, bits of coal, and charred bones which the hunters identified as
those of deer. Acting on the hypothesis of the junker, they decided to
search the surrounding heaths, for after all the fugitive with family
and baggage could not have gone very far. With this in view, the
pursuers were divided into four parties to scour the country in all four
quarters. Junker Kaj with his groom and one other man chose the eastern
way, possibly to be nearer Aunsbjerg and his ladylove; but all his
efforts were fruitless, he rode hither and thither, exhausting himself,
his men, and his horses, but all in vain. Sometimes he thought he saw
something moving in the distance, but closer investigation proved it to
be sheep or stacks of heath turf.  Once he was sure that he saw human
beings just about in the spot where the German church now stands, but
the nearer he approached, the more indistinct grew the figures, and at
last they disappeared entirely. The groom explained this optical
illusion by telling an old legend: in olden times a battle had been
fought here, and the spirits of the fallen would sometimes re-enact the
bloody game. As a herdsboy he had often at sunrise seen whole regiments
marching, mounted officers dashing up and down before the ranks, enemy
armies mixing and fighting, now one forced back, now the other. In his
grandfather's time they had even been able to hear the commands of the
officers, the blaring of trumpets, the clashing of arms, the cries of
the wounded. But the junker, who had heard something about fata morgana
and who at sea had witnessed similar phenomena, laughed at his visionary
servant, and in his heart cursed the black poacher and all his
descendants to the fourth generation.  Unfortunately the organizers of
this ill-fated excursion had forgotten--which sometimes happens in more
important wars--to provide that necessary foundation for heroism, food.
One third of Junker Kaj's division was therefore sent out to forage, but
when evening came and the man had not returned, the starving young
gentleman decided to turn his face homeward. But this was more easily
said than done, for the horses were just as exhausted and just as hungry
and thirsty as the riders. They made very slow progress and did not get
out of the heath before darkness fell. The result was that they lost
their way and did not get to Aunsbjerg till after midnight.

In order to avoid doubling on my tracks again, I will now briefly relate
what happened to the other three divisions. They had just as poor luck
and found nothing of what they were looking for. In vain they searched
every peat bog; in vain they encircled every valley and hollow, every
mound and hill; in vain they questioned people in all the near-by
villages and farms: no one had seen or heard anything of Black Mads. The
day passed, and it became necessary to look for a place to spend the
night. The squire himself landed at Rydhauge, where he spent two
pleasant days shooting grouse before he returned to his home.

My honored readers, particularly my feminine readers, as many of you as
start to read this true story! for your own sake I advise you: do not
read what follows alone or by candlelight; but if you are several in
company, it would do no harm if you would draw as close together as
possible--we are going to have a ghost story!

When the tired junker had satisfied his hunger, he began to think of
sleep. He ordered the servant to light him to his bedchamber, but as the
man was about to open the door, the key broke and the nib remained stuck
in the lock. What could now be done? To curse the door, the lock, the
key, the locksmith, the servant, and--for good measure--Black Mads was
tried, but did not help the situation. To remove the lock would require
hammer and screwdriver and would besides make a noise that would rouse
the household. Of what use then that he had been so quiet and--in order
not to disturb the sleep of the ladies---had been satisfied with a piece
of cold roast meat which the servant had managed to procure for him in
some secret way!

In such cases the first impulse is often the best, and the servant was
ready with his advice. "The tower room," he said in a low voice and with
an uncertain look at his young master. At the mention of this well-known
but ill-famed room, Junker Kaj shuddered slightly, but he tried to
conceal his fear both from the servant and from himself by a forced
smile, and by the question, thrown out in an indifferent tone, as to
whether the bed was made up? The answer was Yes, for the mistress always
kept a bed made up in the room for emergency, though in the memory of
man it had never been used. She herself kept the keys of the other guest
rooms, but thought such a precaution unnecessary in this case, since
there was nothing in the room but a bed, a couple of chairs, and a
table, and besides the ghostly safeguard was sufficient protection
against thieves. Evidently no excuses or objections could be brought
forward. So Junker Kaj allowed himself to be shown to the room. The
servant undressed him, left the candle on the table, and went away,
shutting the door after him.

It was a dark autumn night. The waning moon was approaching the last
quarter; its curved half-circle stood low in the heavens, and shone in
through the tall, narrow, arched window which was the only one in the
room. The wind was blowing; small clouds were scudding quickly, one
might almost say in measured time, across the moon; their shadows
slipped like pictures in a _camera clara_ over the white wall and
disappeared in the stove. The leaded window clattered under the gusts;
the wind whistled and howled in the panes; the chimney rumbled; the door
of the stove rattled. Junker Kaj was no coward; indeed his heart was
pretty much in the right place. But the quality we call courage is quite
relative, and just as varied in its manifestations as the circumstances
that call it forth. Many a warrior who faces shot and bayonets without
trembling will feel his heart pounding if he tries to enter a church
alone and in the dark. He who bravely seizes a banner from the enemy
ranks could perhaps not be persuaded to fetch at midnight the missal
from the altar or a skull from the charnel house. The soldier who stands
firm on land may perhaps tremble on the unaccustomed, terrible ocean.
And the sailor who laughs at storm and waves may become very serious
among guns and sabres. He who commands a regiment may not have courage
to command a wife, and another who keeps his wife under the lash may
shrink timidly before the eye of an angry man. There are those who fear
nothing but their own conscience; others know how to subdue this rebel,
though in all other respects they are timid as hares.

Nor was the courage of our young gentleman whole and perfect. He was not
afraid to meet his adversary or to ride his horse--even if it were a
Bucephalus--in short, he feared no living, or rather, no physical
creature, but for spirits he had a great deal of respect. The hour, the
circumstances, and particularly the ill-repute of the room sent his
blood coursing more quickly, and all the ghost stories he had heard
forced themselves uninvited on his heated imagination--Phantasus and
Morpheus struggled for possession of him, and the first was in the
ascendant. He did not dare to close his eyes, but stared constantly at
the opposite wall, where the formless shadows seemed to take on shape
and meaning.

Under such circumstances it is a comfort to have one's back free and to
face all one's enemies. He therefore sat up, drew the curtain away from
the head of .the bed, and looked around. The bed stood in a corner; at
its feet, though a little farther on, was the window. Right in front of
the bed was the one wide wall, the stove, and behind it the door. His
eyes passed on to the rear wall. There hung an ancient portrait of a
doughty knight clad in mail, with a face as large as a pumpkin framed in
thick, waving black hair. This picture held his searching gaze. It
appeared and then vanished again, as the clouds left the moon clear or
hid it. In the light the face seemed to broaden in a smile; in the
shadow, it shrank in sinister gloom. Perhaps a former owner of the
manor, which had passed to strangers after the extinction of his own
family, had been relegated to this obscure corner, and perhaps his
nightly visits were in revenge for the indifferent and contemptuous
treatment accorded him by late comers.  Like the shadows on the wall,
courage and fear chased each other through the soul of the junker. At
last by main force he made his courage prevail, lay down, and gave
himself completely into the hands of Morpheus.

When greatly exhausted one does not always sleep well. He had slept
perhaps only half an hour when he was wakened by a noise as of a rusty
doorlock. Startled, he opened his eyes; they fell on the door opposite,
where a white figure appeared and vanished almost in the same
moment--the door closed with a slight creaking noise. A numbing chill
passed over his head, such as we express by saying that one's hair
stands on end. Nevertheless he mastered his fear; his imagination had
not yet got the better of his cool common sense. "It may have been the
servant," he thought, "who--though undressed--wanted to see if the
candle had been put out." His mind somewhat set at rest by this idea, he
withdrew his gaze, but then it fell on the window where he saw the dark
upper half of a human figure. The outline of the head and shoulders was
quite clear and the edges were touched by the light of the moon. It
seemed to be turning its back to the room. Fear got the upper hand and
almost stopped his breathing. The figure sighed, lifted one hand, and
wrote something on the window pane. Then the courage of the junker
vanished. Like Belshazzar, his "countenance was changed, and his
thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and
his knees smote one against another."

What was to be done? Flight could not be thought of; for if he went out
of the door he might run into an ambush; the window defended itself, and
other exits he had not seen. True, there was one other refuge which many
people might resort to in such circumstances--to crawl under the
coverlet; but it is well known that some ghosts are cruelly playful
enough to pull the coverlet down on the ground, and I cannot therefore
absolutely recommend this expedient. Our young gentleman either did not
know about it, or he was ashamed to .use it. In fact his natural courage
once more rose to such a height that he challenged the figure with a
"Who's there?" At this call, it made a sudden turn, but did not answer;
after a few seconds it sank slowly beneath the window, and then nothing
more was seen or heard.

No lost wayfarer can long more ardently for the light of day than did
the poor junker. He dared not shut his eyes for fear that when he opened
them again he would see something that he did not wish to see. He went
on staring anxiously at the door, the stove, and the window; he listened
with more and more tense expectation, but he heard nothing except the
soughing of the wind, the rattling of the windowpanes, and his own
breathing. At last day broke, and as soon as it was light enough to
distinguish all the objects in the room, he got up and searched it with
the greatest care. In vain: he found no traces of the nocturnal
visitors. The doors of the stove were closed, the door to the room
likewise; the windows were fastened with all their hasps, and any other
exits he had not seen. So he had conviction brought home to him, and
hurried to leave this disturbed lodging, sincerely determined that he
would never more set his foot there.

As soon as the family had gathered at the breakfast table and Junker Kaj
had given a report of the luckless expedition, the mistress of the house
asked him the natural question as to how he had slept after all this
toil and moil.

"Very well," was the answer.

Mistress Mette smiled. "Didn't you sleep in the tower room? I thought my
maid said something about it."

Junker Kaj said Yes, but not wishing his fiancee to know how frightened
he had been, he felt the need of denying his nocturnal acquaintances.
The young lady seemed equally bent on forcing a confession from him. She
declared she "could see by his eyes that he had not slept, and he looked
very pale."

In order to make an end of this painful examination, he declared the
maligned room to be quite purified, and added that she could very well
sleep there herself if she dared.

"Then," she said laughing, "I believe I will try it some time."

With that the subject was exhausted and the conversation turned to other
matters.

After the return of the old gentleman, several days passed before the
subject of the tower room was brought up again. First everybody was
fully occupied with devising, presenting, and discussing all the
different ways in which Black Mads could have been caught, and in
surmising where he was most likely to be hiding. Then a long time was
spent in narrating circumstantially and in detail the story of the two
days' grouse-hunting at Rydhauge. When this subject too was
exhausted--that is, when the full history of every bird shot or missed
had been told, satisfactory explanations made of every miss, expert
comparisons of dogs and guns threshed out, etc., etc.--then Mistress
Mette led the conversation to the ill-reputed room, telling her father
that her fiancé had slept there and calling attention to his unusually
serious expression. In this second examination he had two inquisitors,
and the young lady especially pressed him so hard with her roguish
teasing that at last he thought it best to take back his former denial
and confess that he would not care to sleep there again.

"Is that befitting a cavalier," said the young lady, "to be afraid of a
shadow? I am only a woman, and yet I'll try to stand such an adventure."

"I'll wager my sorrel," answered Junker Kaj, "that you don't dare to!"

"I'll put up my Bella against it!" she cried.

They thought she was joking, but when she insisted on carrying out the
wager, both her father and her fiance tried to dissuade her from such a
dangerous undertaking. She was not to be moved. Now Junker Kaj felt that
he had to make a clean breast of it all. The old gentleman shook his
head. Mistress Mette laughed and said he had dreamt it, and in order to
convince him, she felt more than ever bound to fulfill her promise. The
old gentleman, whose fatherly pride was flattered by his daughter's
courage, now gave his consent. All that Junker Kaj gained was the
promise that a bell-rope should be placed near her bed, and that her
maid should sleep on a cot in the same room. On the other hand, the
young lady exacted the promise that all the people in the house should
stay in their beds, in order that no one should say the ghost had been
scared away, and that no one should have a candle lit after eleven
o'clock. Her father and her fiancé were to take up their quarters in the
so-called gold guest-chamber, which had access to the tower room by a
long passage. The bell with which the young lady could ring the alarm if
need be was to be in their room. The mother--no less heroic than her
daughter--willingly gave her consent to the adventure.




THE ELOPEMENT


IF I should have roused in anyone expectations of a new ghost story, I
am truly sorry, and all the more so as perhaps the first may now be
susceptible of a natural explanation and may end with a "Pshaw! was that
all!" But on the other hand, I am happy in that, instead of a real ghost
story, I can serve up an elopement as regular as any that ever was found
in a novel: an elopement, not in the daytime, but in the night; not
through the door, but through the window; not in a carriage, but on a
horse.

The eventful night that was to decide the future of the sorrel and the
isabella brought little sleep either to the family or the servants. All
lay there in tense expectation of things to come. The mewing of cats,
the hooting of owls, the howling of dogs drove away the sandman whenever
he came stealing in. The stablemen heard the horses breathing, snorting,
and kicking; the farm overseer was sure that sacks were being dragged
along the floor in the attic; the dairymaid thought it sounded exactly
as if the rocking churn were going; the housekeeper plainly heard
someone rummaging in the pantry. Nor was there any more sleep in the
gold guest-chamber; the squire and the junker lay silently glancing
every little while at the silver bell that hung between them, but it
gave no sound. When the clock in the tower struck one, Junker Kaj began
to think he had lost his wager, but consoled himself with the thought
that losing anything to your wife is only giving from one hand to the
other. In short, the night passed--at least as far as the tower room was
concerned--as quietly as if there were no ghosts in the world.

With the first glimmer of daylight the two gentlemen, who had only
partly undressed, got up and hastened to say good-morning to the brave
young ghost-tamer. They rapped on the door; no _"Entrez"--_perhaps both
were sound asleep. Papa opened the door; they went in. _Peste!_ the
young lady's bed was empty and the coverlet thrown aside.

"Bravo!" cried Junker Kaj, "she has fled, and the Isabella is mine."

The old gentleman said not a word, but turned to the maid's bed. She was
not to be seen either, but when he lifted the coverlet, she was lying
there flushed and perspiring as if in a violent fever. Upon being
eagerly questioned by the squire, she first answered nothing, but stared
at them with a wild look in her face. Then at last she found her tongue
and told her story in disjointed sentences: shortly after midnight she
had seen a terrible ghost coming right through the wall. She had been so
frightened that she had crept under the coverlet and hadn't dared to
remove it; what more had happened she didn't know. But it was evident
enough; the window was open, and down below stood a ladder--Mistress
Mette had been abducted, but by whom?

What an uproar in the whole house! What a wailing and screaming and
lamenting! Curses without an object, questions without an answer! "After
them!" was the next impulse of the rather and the bridegroom; but
whither? The mistress, who Was the most cool-headed of them all, advised
a general muster, and the squire personally called the roll of every
living creature. He finally declared that he didn't miss anyone, and the
entire drawn-up garrison was of the same opinion, until Mistress Kirsten
asked, "Where is the clerk?"

"The clerk! The clerk!" went from mouth to mouth. They looked around,
they looked at each other--no! The clerk was really not there. The
bailiff and two other men ran to the office, and the squire called to
the grooms, "Saddle the horses and bring them to the door, like thunder
and lightning!"

The bailiff came back, breathless and frightened, saying that the
missing man was really gone; his bed hadn't been slept in, his spurs and
riding whip were not to be found. In the same moment one of the
stablemen came running and said that Jezebel was gone. All stood as if
turned to stone, looking at each other and saying nothing, until
Mistress Kirsten broke the silence.

"Our lady daughter," she said, "could not elope with a clerk. He has
sneaked in here as a spy. I suspect the robber comes from the west--see
if you can't trace them on the road to Vium, and now be off! It may be
possible to catch up with them, for the Isabella can't run very far with
two."

Her guess proved to be true. Tracks of a horse in full trot were seen on
the road mentioned, and as a further proof a ribbon bow and a little
farther on a glove, both the property of Mistress Mette, were found not
far from the house.

Armed with guns, pistols, and swords, the squire, the junker, the
bailiff, the gamekeeper, and four other well accoutred men rode out
briskly; and the mistress called after them, "Bring them back dead or
alive!" We will accompany the Aunsbjerg squire on his second expedition
for a part of the way. The track was plain as far as to Vium, but there
the pursuers would have lost it, if a peasant of whom they made inquiry
had not told them that a couple of hours before daybreak he had heard
the trotting of a horse going out of the town toward the west. They
followed this hint and found the track again pointing in the same
direction past Hvam Tavern. There they learned that a couple of hours
ago the dogs had made a great noise. Evidently the speed of the
fugitives was slowing, and this could be seen also from the tracks. The
pursuers came to Sjörup. Here a man who was standing outside the house
for a certain purpose had heard a horse passing and thought he could
make out two people on it.  But now the trail was lost. Several roads
ran out from here, all with deep and narrow wheel ruts--which was the
right one? The fugitives had not followed any of them--probably from
fear that the horse should stumble in the ruts--but had ridden into the
heather. Of the three main roads one ran to the northwest, one to the
southwest, and one right between. While these were taken under
advisement one after another, the talk turned also on the great event of
the night and on the suspicious clerk. One of the men said he thought he
had seen him before, when he served in the cavalry, but he couldn't
remember where. Another had seen a stranger speaking with him secretly a
couple of days ago in the woods, and it seemed that the stranger had
addressed him as "Cornet." At that a light flashed upon the old
gentleman.

"Ha!" he said. "Then we follow the middle road! It goes to Vestervig.
I'll swear the clerk is none other than the major's third son who was a
cornet with the Cuirassiers. I remember Mistress Kirsten once warned me
against him, saying he was hot on the trail of Mistress Mette. And what
of you?" he cried to the bailiff.

"My lord," replied he, "you yourself saw the letter from the bailiff at
Vestervig. It's he that has fooled us all, or else the letter was a
forgery. Besides the fellow was so quiet and decent and hard-working, so
polite and humble, that I would never have dreamed of taking him for a
nobleman."

"His estate lies in the moon," said the old gentleman, and put his horse
to a trot. "A dollar to him who first catches sight of the runaway!"

The troop had still to ride six miles before it could reach the ford
across Karup river. Meanwhile, by your leave, my reader, I will run on
to the ford and follow the fugitives, who are just now touching the
farther shore.

The poor isabella, weary from her double burden and the forced pace for
many miles, walked slowly and with tottering steps up the heathery hill.
The cornet--for it was really he--often turned back with a worried look,
and each time he snatched a kiss from his sweet Mette who, dressed in
her riding habit, sat behind him, clasping him with her arm.

"Do you see anyone yet?" she asked anxiously, for she didn't dare to
look for herself.

"Not yet," he answered, "but I am afraid--the sun is quite high already;
they must be on their way after us--if only the mare can hold out."

"But your brother's cart?" she asked after a pause.

"It should have met me by the river at daybreak," he answered. "I can't
understand what has happened to it. We still have eight miles before we
get out of the heath, and if meanwhile they have found the right
trail--"

As he was speaking, they reached the top of the bank, and the great
western heath spread out before them like an ocean; but no cart, no
living creature was to be seen. The cornet reined in the horse to let it
breathe and half turned round in order to get a better view of the
eastern part of the great heath which they had passed over. That, too,
was bare and desolate: nothing to be seen but a few peat stacks; nothing
to be heard but the cackling of the black cocks, the rushing of the
river, the breathing of the Isabella, and their own sighs. For a few
moments they stood there; then the young lady broke the silence with the
question.

"Isn't there something stirring way over there?" She spoke in a low
voice as if she feared that it might be heard on the other side of the
desert.

"We have no time to lose," he said. "I am afraid it's your father coming
out there." With that, he turned to the west again and spurred his
horse.

"Oh, my father," she sighed and clasped her abductor more closely.

"In Hungary," he said, "--it's now just five years ago--we had taken up
our quarters for the night in a village. In the morning we were
surprised by the Turks. When I got on my horse, there were already
several houses on fire; we had to retreat, and I was one of the last.
About half a mile out of the village, a little Hungarian, a boy of ten
or twelve years, came running after me, pursued by a troop of
Janizaries. He was half naked. I saw he couldn't hold out long. So I
turned back and took him up on my horse.  Just then the first Janizary
reached me. Before he fell, he gave me this memento of him across my
face. But I saved my little Hungarian. He is at my brother's, and was to
have met us today. My dearest, then I felt better than now."

He looked around again. "They seem to be gaining on us--if I drive the
mare harder, she'll drop."

They rode on a way--he with a depressed, she with an anxiously beating
heart.

"I shall have to walk," he said, dismounting, "that will help her. Don't
look back, dearest lady."

"Oh, God!" she cried. "Is it they?"

"There are seven or eight of them," he said. "So far as I can see,
they're mounted."

"How far away are they?" she asked again.

"A little over two miles, perhaps three," he replied. In spite of his
admonition, she looked back.

"I don't see anybody," she cried.

"Neither do I now," he said, "but they're most likely down in a
valley--there's one coming up, and another--Come, come, poor Bella!" he
cried and tried to pull the horse after him. "Usually you arch your neck
and lift your feet high enough, now you're dragging them along the
ground and stretching your head like a fish that has to be pulled out of
the water by main force."

After a little while the young lady asked, "Do you think they can see
us?"

"They're riding right after us," replied the cornet, "they're gaining on
us more and more--"

"Heavens!" she cried, "if they reach us! Oh, I'm afraid my father will
kill you; but I will protect you with my weak body, dearest Holger. I
can't live if they kill you!"

During this nervous, constantly interrupted talk they had covered about
two miles from the river into the western heath. The pursuers were now
close to the eastern river bank; they could be plainly seen and counted.
The fear of the fugitives had now almost become desperation--there was
no gleam of hope. The cornet breathed almost as hard as the horse; the
young lady wept.

Suddenly there rose from the tall heather a large man clad all in brown
and carrying a gun in one hand and a low-crowned hat in the other. The
fugitives stopped,

"Who's there? Where do you come from?" cried the cornet in his military
fashion.

"From where the houses stand outdoors and the geese go barefooted,"
answered the man. "Where are you from, and where are you going? But wait
a bit, haven't the two of us met lately? Aren't you the person who
begged for me when Niels Gamekeeper was going to do for me?"

"Black Mads!" cried the cornet.

"That's what they call me," replied the poacher; "but how does it happen
that I meet you here so early in the morning and with such a young lady?
Maybe you've been poaching, too? If I can help you with anything, say
so."

"In need the nearest friend is the best," replied the cornet. "I am the
major's son at Vestervig, and have fetched me a sweetheart at Aunsbjerg.
Her father is after us with a whole troop of mounted men. If you can
save us, or hide us, I'll thank you as long as I live and reward you as
well as I'm able. But it must be soon," he added quickly, as he turned
around, "for there they are right on the other side of the river."

Mads held up his hat to shade his eyes from the sun. "I'll say so! There
he is with all his men. Nobody worse than your own kin, said the fox
when the red dogs were after him. If you'll promise never to tell about
the place I'm taking you to, I'll see what I can do."

The young lady promised, and the cornet swore it.

"Now listen, children," he went on, "they're just riding up the last
hill on the other side of the river. Before they can get up on this
side, it'll take a little while, and they can't see what we're doing. So
now we'll put up a fence that they can't jump over."

As he said so, he laid down his gun, took out his tinder box, and struck
fire. Then he pulled up a few handfuls of dry moss, covered the tinder
box with it, blew on it till a flame rose, and then threw the moss in
among the heather. Instantly there was a crackling and roaring fire
which spread rapidly. During this work, which the fugitives did not at
first understand the purpose of, Black Mads gave vent to his thoughts in
short, disjointed sentences.

"The wind's on our side--the heather's dry--now Niels Gamekeeper can
light his pipe--it's the second time my tinder box has helped him--the
squire will scold and curse about his grouse because I'm roasting them
without gravy--but needs must--God helps him who helps himself--there
now, she's burning!"

Then he got up and said to the cornet, "Now do as you see I do. Pull up
a tuft of heather, light it, run ten paces to the north, set the heath
on fire, then pull up a tuft again, set fire all along to the north as
far as that knoll you see over there, about two gunshots away. I'll do
the same to the south, and then we'll run back here just as fast. The
young lady'll have to stay with the horse. It'll only take a minute. Now
we begin: Light before and dark behind!"

With this formula the poacher began operations. The cornet followed his
instructions, and in a few minutes a stretch of the heath two miles wide
was in flames. Both the firemen rejoined the trembling lady.

"Now you've earned your breakfast," cried Mads, "if you'll come with me
and put up with what we have. But, heyday! what'll we do with the mare?"
He gave the Isabella a slap with his flat hand. "Can you find the way
home alone?"

Oh," said the young lady, "she follows me wherever I go."

"No, by the Lord, that she mustn't! She'd lead them to where we were.
The door of my house is too narrow, and we don't dare to leave her
outside.--You're too good to waste--but we've got to think of
ourselves."

The cornet, who realized his purpose, took his lady by the hand and drew
her aside as if to guard her against the flames, which were in fact
coming nearer--though slowly--against the wind. The poacher took his
gun, cocked it, put it behind the ear of the horse, and fired. The young
lady turned with a scream and saw the poor Isabella sink down in the
heather without a sound. A few tears of pity ran down the girl's pale
cheeks.

"The nag's dead as a herring," said Mads to comfort her. "She didn't as
much as hear the report." And with that he took off the bridle, put the
saddle and bundle on one shoulder, slung his gun over the other, and set
out. He urged the fugitives to follow him as quickly as they could, and
cheered them with the assurance that his palace was not far away.

"And don't look back," he said, lengthening his stride; "remember Lot's
wife."

The young girl, though dressed in her riding habit, could not long keep
up the pace in the tall heather. She often stumbled and got caught in
the branches. So the cornet, without asking permission, picked her up in
his arms, and in spite of her protest, carried her.

Although the specific weight of a pretty girl must be equal to that of a
homely one, nevertheless I have been told that the former is much easier
to carry, especially for a young cavalier who is in love. I hope,
therefore, that no one will doubt my veracity when I say that the cornet
carried his lady without resting for about half a mile. Black Mads
offered once or twice to exchange burdens with him, but the cornet shook
his head, and we can readily see that such an exchange would not have
suited anyone. As the young lady had one arm around his neck and with
the other hand constantly lifted his hat, fanned him, wiped the
perspiration from his face, while she kissed his flushed forehead, that
naturally made her lighter and him stronger.

"Here we are!" cried the leader at last, throwing down the saddle and
bundle at the foot of a small heather-clad hill.

"Where?" said the cornet, as he too set down his burden. He looked
around without being able to discover anything that looked like a human
habitation. A suspicion quickly arose in his mind, but vanished almost
in the same moment: if the man had meant to rob and murder them, he
could easily have carried out his purpose and with no risk of resistance
while his intended victim in a literal sense had both hands occupied.

"Here," said the poacher, as he lifted a very large and broad piece of
heather turf and put it to one side. "A few days ago I was living above
ground. They wouldn't let me stay there, but it's a poor mouse that
hasn't got more than one hole." As he said this, he moved aside four or
five stones that were large but not too large for a strong man to
handle, revealing an opening roomy enough to crawl through.

"Why, this looks as if you had dug out foxes," said the cornet.

"That's what it's s'posed to look like," replied Mads. "But before we go
in we'd better look around--not for the Aunsbjerg people, they can't
have got past the fire yet--but there might be others around."

They scanned the heath in all four quarters: toward the south, the west,
and the north there was not a living creature, and the entire eastern
horizon was hidden by clouds of smoke, so thick that the rays of the
morning sun couldn't penetrate them.

"Please go in, but you'll have to stoop," said Mads, as he crawled in on
all fours. "Just you follow me! The door is low, but the house is big
enough for us all. I'll get your things right away."

With some difficulty they followed their guide and soon found themselves
in the underground dwelling. It was a good-sized room with walls of
large stones and a ceiling of logs lying close together. A lamp was
suspended from it and with its dim light barely revealed the furniture,
consisting of on one side two beds, one large and one small, on the
other side a bench, a table, a couple of chairs, a chest, and a pair of
hanging cupboards. In the small bed lay three naked children who, at the
arrival of the strangers, hid under the coverlet like wild ducklings. On
the edge of the large bed sat Lisbeth Madame Mads knitting a stocking,
which in her amazement she dropped with both hands in her lap. At one
end of the table stood a small, red-haired man dressed in skins from his
chin to his knees, whom Mads introduced as his good friend Renard
Foxtail.

"We were digging out his half-brother here," he added smiling, "and then
we found this hiding-place. Renard thinks it may have been a robbers'
den once upon a time, but it may have been a burial mound, for we found
some black pots with ashes and bones in them."

At the mention of a robbers' den the young lady shuddered slightly. Her
lover noticed it and said in French,

"Don't be alarmed, my dearest! We are safe here. But I am sorry that the
first house I bring you to should strike you with fear and repugnance."

"I'll show you my whole palace," continued the poacher, as he opened a
door in the background. "Here's my kitchen, but we don't dare to make a
fire here except at night. It's my pantry, too," he added, pointing to a
salt-trough and some legs of deer that were hung to smoke over the
fireplace. "I have bread and meat and a drop of mead, too, that I bought
in Viborg for the last deerskin." With these words he set a jar and a
wooden dish with food on the table. "Eat and drink of what we have! And
when you want to start out, we'll get a safe guide for you."

The cornet pressed the hand of the honest troglodyte, saying, "At this
moment I can offer you nothing but my heartiest thanks--"

"I don't want anything," Black Mads cut him short, "only promise me that
you'll never let on about me or my den."

This easy promise was given with assurances by everything sacred; and
the lovers sat down to a breakfast which hunger and joy over their
escape combined to make all the more palatable.

Acting on the advice of their host, they decided to wait till evening
before resuming their interrupted journey. Meanwhile Renard offered to
go out reconnoitering, both to see where the pursuers had gone and to
find out what had become of the cart from Vestervig. The first time he
got no farther than the entrance to the den, where he observed that the
pursuers had now ridden around the fire and started out in two divisions
toward the west. A few hours later he ventured a little way out into the
heath, and came back with the report that they had now ridden toward the
northwest and that the heath would most likely be safe from them, as
they could hardly imagine that the fugitives were still there; it seemed
they must have been given information that had thrown them off the
scent. A little after noon he and the host went out again, the former to
order a cart from one of the villages in the west. The latter came back
after half an hour and reported that out there he had come upon a young
fellow who looked rather queer. From the way he talked, he might be a
German. He inquired about the way to Hvam Tavern and asked if there
hadn't passed some travellers that day. The cornet asked more
particularly about the man's appearance and dress, and from the
description he was sure it must be his Hungarian. Then they both went
out and were lucky enough to catch up with him about a mile from the
den.

We shall not dwell on the Hungarian's account of why the wagon had not
shown up; the reason was simply that he and the driver had mistaken for
Karup river a more westerly stream, where the cart was now waiting.
Furthermore, we shall only mention briefly that a little before noon he
had been stopped and questioned by the pursuing riders and had not only
managed to answer in such a way as to allay suspicion, but had sent them
off in a direction where he supposed the fugitives would not be--though
all the time in the most painful uncertainty about their fate.

Finally, I think it unnecessary to go into details about the development
of the catastrophe, but will hurry toward the conclusion after the
manner of novel writers. The cornet and his sweetheart arrived safely
the next morning at Vestervig, where they were made man and wife, and to
begin with received from the owner, the oldest brother, a small manor at
Thy where they could live. Junker Kaj got first a long nose and
secondly--about a year later--a still richer heiress in Fyn. The
Aunsbjerg squire and his lady cast off their daughter entirely and--in
spite of all humble and repentant letters from her and her
husband--refused to forgive them.




THE HORSE PASTURE


TOWARD the west end of Aunsbjerg woods there is an open place, quite a
good-sized green surrounded by venerable beech trees. Every year, on the
afternoon of Whitsunday, most of the people who live in the surrounding
parishes gather there. Many houses are standing empty that day, or they
are guarded only by the blind and the bedridden; for the lame and the
cripples--provided they have their eyesight--must at least once a year
enjoy the forest newly in leaf and bring home a light green beech
bough--like Noah's dove--to the dark dwelling which is often a Noah's
ark in miniature.

What fun! What crowds! The horse pasture--for that is the name by which
this gathering-place is known--is like an enormous beehive: constant
stir, everlasting thronging back and forth, in and out, all busy only
with sucking up the honey of joy, drinking in the exhilarating summer
air. How they hurry, how they flutter from flower to flower, greet each
other, touch hands, part again, intimately, lightly, hurriedly! How many
a young swain has not here found the queen of his heart! How faithfully
the lovesick boy follows his queen bee! Far from the great hive one
hears an incessant humming and buzzing--the bees are swarming. As we get
nearer, the noise grows louder and the monotonous mass of sound
dissolves itself into cries, singing, laughter, snapping of beech
leaves, music of fiddles and flutes. The crowd surges in and out of the
green edges of the forest, the peasants in their Sunday best, the
gentlefolk in smart summer clothes, the gentlemen in black, the ladies
in white. Is there dancing? Yes, a ball in the forest, dancing on the
elastic greensward.  Don't you see over there by the beech the village
fiddler high above the surrounding crowd? Don't you see between the
flower-trimmed hats how quickly his bow flies up and down? And there is
a real quadrille, a genuine schottische.

"Am I in the Deer Garden? or in Charlottenlund?" you ask. "Look at the
vehicles, the handsome carriages! Coachmen in livery, horses with
silver-mounted harness, tents with restaurants, serving cold cuts and
pastry! Coffeepots over the fire! Families gathering in the grass around
their lunch baskets!"

You are in the horse pasture. This is the vespers on Whitsunday in
Lysgaard district, the day of homage to beautiful and ever-young Nature,
the levee of the forest, the triumph of summer. Thus it is celebrated
till the sun goes down, and the forest is once more left to the birds
and animals that have been for a time frightened away. Formerly only the
peasants in the two or three nearest parishes assembled here. But the
innocent, joyous feast itself is surely an old custom, perhaps as old as
the forest itself.

Ten years after the event concluded in our last chapter, the summer
festival was held as usual in the horse pasture. A man from whose
grandson I heard the story in my young days has described it as follows:

"It was the first year I served at Kjaersholm as bailiff of the estate.
My sweetheart lived at Vium; she was distantly related to the pastor's
family. Whitsunday she had asked me to meet her in the horse pasture,
and we both came so early that we were the first couple there. We walked
around for an hour or two until the noise and the sound of a violin told
us the people were gathering. We went over there and sat down to look at
the dancers. Presently I saw a party approaching on the path from
Aunsbjerg, consisting of two fine gentlemen, a lady, and two little
boys. As I was a stranger in the neighborhood, I asked my sweetheart who
they were.

"Hush," she said. "It's the family. The large, stout man is the old
squire, who became a widower five years ago. The young man with the scar
on his cheek is his son-in-law, the woman his daughter, and the two
little boys their children. Ten years ago the young gentleman carried
her off in the night. As long as the old mistress lived, any
reconciliation was out of the question, but after she was dead the old
squire relented, and asked them to come and live with him. When he dies
they will inherit the house and the estate."

They remained standing there a while, amusing themselves by looking at
the peasants and giving them some money for drinks. On a windfallen
trunk two elderly men were sitting with a mug of ale between them and
smoking their pipes. The gentlefolks went over to them, and at that they
rose and took their pipes out of their mouths.

"Don't get up," I heard the young gentleman saying. "Now you're better
friends than when you struck fire for Niels's pipe at Karup river."

"Yes, my lord," said the older of the men addressed with a smile.
"There's no animal so small it doesn't fight for its life. It looked
bad, but turned out well."

The gentlefolks laughed.

"Take care," said the old squire as they went away, "that you don't get
caught in the antlers of the stag you're riding there."

Again they laughed heartily, and I could hear the guffaws of the
Aunsbjerg squire, which sounded hollow as the call of the bittern deep
in the woods. I asked my sweetheart what all this meant and who the two
old men were.

"The one," she said, "in the green coat with the gray hat is the
gamekeeper. The other, in the brown suit, is Mads, the under-ranger, who
lives near by and whom the young gentleman brought with him when he
came. That talk about the stag I'll explain to you."

As she was doing so, and at the same time telling me the whole story of
the young people's secret engagement, my eyes fell on a couple who were
dancing all by themselves while all the others stood gaping at them.

"Who are they?" I said, "they look rather out of the ordinary, the young
fellow especially, with his yellow leather breeches and the blue jacket
with such a lot of buttons and with the queer cap on his head."

"He's no young fellow," she said, "but a married man, and it's his wife
he's dancing with."

"It's a curious dance," I cried; "he stamps so hard in the ground and
struts around her like a bristling turkey cock. That's no country
dance."

"They say it's Hungarian," she answered, "for he's from Turkey and came
here with the young master back from the war. He's clerk and gardener
and jack of all trades at the manor. His wife has been maid to the
mistress for many years, and they do say it was she who helped her the
time she ran away from her parents."

And so the story is at an end. Several generations lie between it and
us. Bells have rung and hymns been sung over many of their descendants
since the persons I have written about went to rest. Both the old squire
and the young master have long since been forgotten, and no one knows
anything about Black Mads. The manor has often changed hands, the land
has been sold and divided. Only the robbers' den lives on in a dark and
confused tradition. In the great heath, miles west of Karup river, there
are some heather-grown hills which are still called, and always will be
called by that sinister name. But no one remembers that it was once a
refuge for tender and faithful love, a heaven under the earth.





TARDY AWAKENING

[_Sildig Opvaagnen,_ 1828]


I CANNOT remember any death that has caused a greater sensation than
that of my friend of many years' standing, Dr. L------ in the town of R.
People stopped each other in the street, they ran from house to house,
asking, "Have you heard it? Do you know about it? What could have been
the reason? Could he have done it in a fit of madness?" and so on. He
was a very genial man, universally liked and respected, an excellent
physician with a large practice; happily married, so far as we knew; the
father of six fine children, the two eldest sons already launched in the
world, the daughter married to a worthy civil servant, the next one just
grown up, and the two youngest ten and twelve years old. Furthermore, he
had a fortune, kept open house, and enjoyed social diversions. He was
forty-eight years old and had never been ill.

Suddenly there came a rumor that he was not well. His patients waited
for him a whole day in vain. People sent to inquire about him; they came
to call, but he did not receive them; visitors were told either that the
doctor was sleeping or that he was not well enough to see anyone. The
other physician in town, though not called in, was at least admitted.
When people asked him about Doctor L------, he shrugged his shoulders
and said that he did not understand what was the matter with him. He
refused all medicines. I was his pastor and the only person whom he
allowed to pay him long daily visits. He didn't want to see the
children; when any of them came in, he turned his face to the wall. He
lay like that for eight days, and on the ninth he shot himself.

The other doctor said that he had committed suicide in a fit of
delirium, and he received an honorable burial. I had meant to speak a
few words at his grave, but my voice broke with grief, and I could
hardly read the burial service for weeping.

Before his death he had told me the hidden reason for his terrible deed.
But that which was a secret then could not long be concealed, since five
people knew it; one of them, stung by jealousy and just indignation, was
unable to be silent about a crime which had better have been interred
with the victim and brought only before the bar of eternal justice. The
story, which at that time was only a sinister rumor stealthily
circulating by word of mouth, can now well be set down on paper,
provided the names of the persons concerned are omitted. Of these none
are living except three of Doctor L------'s children--who are residing
abroad--and his wife, who is the chief figure in this tragedy.--But I
will begin my story a little further back.

It was just five and twenty years before the catastrophe I have
described that I came to R. I was a candidate for orders and had been
offered a position as a private tutor, for the school in the town was in
ill repute. Shortly after my arrival L------and I made each other's
acquaintance, and not in the pleasant-est way. He had recently settled
in the town as a practising physician. We met at a ball. I was only a
year older than he, gay and thoughtless, a skillful and impassioned
dancer. I soon discovered who was the best dancer among the ladies, and
she was also decidedly the prettiest. I must confess, however, that it
was in the former capacity she impressed me most. I asked her to dance
one of the dances fashionable at the time, and she accepted with a bow.
It was my turn to lead, and I had just clapped my hands as a sign that
we were to begin, when Dr. L-------, whom I had never seen before,
stepped up to my partner, bowed and reminded her that she had promised
him that dance.

Miss W------ blushed and excused herself by saying that she thought it
was the next dance for which she had engaged herself. "But if my partner
will allow me," she added, "we can still change."

"By no means," replied L------ rather sharply. "I resign, and consent to
being Number Two, more especially as I am no doubt a poor dancer
compared with this gentleman."

"Who is the best dancer has nothing to do with the matter," I said, "but
if you are not satisfied with my partner's proposition, I beg you to let
us begin--the entire quadrille is waiting."

He was standing right between us. "Both begin and end," he replied with
a sneer, and stepped aside.

When I came to the end of the quadrille, I saw him standing at the end
of the line with one of the clumsiest figures to be found at the ball,
and I noticed that in the chain he would not give my partner his hand.
She smiled almost imperceptibly at me, and I thought I felt a slight
pressure on my fingers. The fellow was jealous, that was plain. I could
not help thinking that he must have other rights than those given by the
laws of the ball. After the dance I therefore went over to him and
apologized for my short answer. This approach met a courteous response,
and we were soon touching our punch glasses and drinking to our better
acquaintance.

I danced once more with Miss W------. When I left her, and perhaps
kissed her hand rather warmly, I received and answered the second
pressure of her hand. I am sure that neither my heart nor my senses felt
the slightest excitement; it was only my vanity that was pleasantly
tickled. It was not the first time that I had received such a sign from
a maiden's fair hand in the heat of the dance and the whirl of pleasure;
I well know that such an impulsive expression of a tender and happy
heart's emotion is as fleeting as the salutation that two travellers
exchange in passing and the next moment forget. But when a few months
later I learned that Miss W------ at that time had been secretly engaged
to L------, I mentally made a note of this pressure of the hand. A girl
who is free and unpledged may venture such an advance--though she
ventures more than she perhaps knows or suspects--but when an engaged
girl permits herself to do such a thing she thereby reveals herself as a
flirt, and if she is a married woman, any man who is not entirely
inexperienced will put her down for what she is or will become--a
harlot. It was, however, the first and last time I noticed anything
suspicious in Miss W------, and after I had observed her modest and
virtuous manner and behaviour both as maid and wife, I began to think
that I had been mistaken about the pressure of her hand and about her,
that perhaps she had not even been conscious of the act.

I have had a strange and often saddening experience confirmed by too
many instances: that the first impression a person's face--or rather
countenance--makes upon me is to be relied on, that it gives a sure
glimpse into the soul, an infallible view of that person's true
character. I have often been angry with myself for what I thought was a
mere fancy: I have even punished myself for my gratuitous harsh
judgments, and secretly made amends for my secret offense when later I
saw a behaviour and a conduct quite the opposite of what my first
impression had led me to expect, when I saw not only a different
character but quite a different countenance. And yet--alas! though it
pained me I must confess that, sooner or later, rational arguments have
been put to shame by a mere fleeting fancy. It was not so much the
pressure of Miss W------'s hand as the first look at her face that
whispered to me, "This beautiful girl is not for one man." There was
nothing in her eyes of the sweetly languishing or the ardently inviting,
of the tenderly conceding or the deeply exploring; her smile was neither
sweetish nor roguish, still less bold; there was nothing voluptuous in
the movements of her erect, perfectly beautiful figure, nothing that
suggested sensual pleasure; and yet there was in the bland, passionless
face something furtive, something stealthy; it seemed to hide some deep,
terrible mystery, or perhaps rather it boded a crime not yet conceived
in thought which the future would reveal. Twenty-five years later I was
reminded in an awful way of this long unremembered foreboding.

If vampires were anything but the abortive fancies of an unbridled
imagination, then I must have seen one of these creatures--outwardly
living, inwardly lifeless, bodies without soul, lumps of flesh without
heart. I knew her as a girl of eighteen, and as a wife and mother; I saw
her in the ranks of the dancers and of the worshippers; with playing
cards in her hand and with a nursing baby at her breast; at the wedding
of her daughter and by the dead body of her husband; but she was always
the same: gentle, quiet, attentive, and controlling herself perfectly. I
have recently seen her--she is now not far from fifty--but she is
almost unchanged, enjoys blooming health and an even, calm cheerfulness.
The two darkest days of the year (after the tragic event, while I was
still living in R.) were those on which I had to give her the sacrament.
In my communion sermons I have occasionally tried to shake her
conscience and awaken it, but there was nothing to awaken. If these
pages should meet her eye, I am sure she will be able to read them
without dropping a stitch in her knitting or making a mistake in her
embroidery.

But I am running too far ahead of my story; let me go back again.

The acquaintance between L------ and me, which had begun so
inauspiciously, was continued and soon grew into a friendship that
nothing but death could dissolve. Three months after that ball he
confided to me that he was and even then had been engaged to Miss
W------. It struck me; I remembered the pressure of her hand, and asked
him--though without betraying my suspicions--whether he had taken
counsel not only of his heart but also of his intelligence? if he knew
her? and if he felt assured that she would and could make him happy? His
answer was the warm outpouring of a heart in love. He assured me that
she loved as tenderly and sincerely as he, but that she was able to
control herself perfectly and let no one even suspect her preference;
this was all the more necessary inasmuch as her stern and hard-hearted
father would assuredly have broken her engagement to a young man without
any fixed means of livelihood. As soon as he got a position, he would
propose and had no doubt that her parents would consent.

Six months later the district physician in the town died; L------ became
his successor, and soon after Elise W------'s happy husband. I have
never seen a more rapturous human being--he was almost wild with pure
joy. He would neither sit nor stand for long in one place; a sweet
restlessness drove him hither and thither, and finally--as soon as it
was at all possible--back in the charmed circle of the fairy. During
these honey-inoon days--which lengthened into weeks and months--his
patients got short visits and short prescriptions, but all the more
comforting and joyous hopes, for in this period no illnesses were
mortal; he was master of them and of death, too. And it was true, I
remember it very well: his cures were all successful. I almost think he
cured his patients with his happy face and merry talk.  His wife seemed
to be happy, too, but her joy bore the stamp of moderation. The wife was
exactly like the engaged girl, and the bridal bed had made no visible
change in her.

Once when he described his rapture to me in unrestrained dithyrambs, I
could not help expressing a wish that she might "share it in an equal
degree."

"Wilhelm," he whispered, _"die holde Sittsamkeit bey Tage"_--here 
he paused, put one hand on his heart and the fingertips of the
other on his lips, as he looked heavenward with an enraptured
expression.

"Well, well," I said smiling, and never asked for any further comment.
Nevertheless I could not help doubting whether there could be any
emotion underneath that calm, mirror-smooth surface. If there was any
warmth in that beautiful body, I felt it must be--if that were not a
contradiction in terms--what I would call a cold fire, or at least a
smouldering glow which never could burst out in flame--and perhaps could
as little be extinguished.

Eight months after the wedding Elise presented her husband with the
first son. He was drunk with joy. At the christening party there was
great merrymaking. It was at that period of our social life when Phoebus
and Bacchus were inseparable guests at every assembly, when there was
constant interplay between them, and both acted irresistibly on all
their worshippers. The cup had to be ushered in with song and the song
ended with toasts. Mine was the last; at the end of the party I was
handed the letter of presentation of the curacy at R. Two years later
the rector retired, and I entered into the living. Now I could marry my
Henriette, to whom I had been engaged since my early university days. We
carried on a constant and very friendly intercourse with the L------s.

His wife had borne her second son and mine the first, when a third
family joined our circle. Lieutenant H------ was transferred to the
regiment garrisoned in R. He was one of the most genial and cultured
officers I have ever known, and married to a wife who was handsome,
witty, and sprightliness personified.

The doctor and the lieutenant (or rather the captain, for he soon got
his promotion) lived side by side and I across the street from the
doctor's. In view of this, we called our little closed circle, among
ourselves, the triangle; L------ was the right angle, H------ one acute
angle, and I the other. As a rule we would meet in one of the angles
every Wednesday night, but outside of this routine, L------ and H------
often gave larger parties, which were then called assemblies, for both
had means; the doctor had inherited money from his father-in-law, the
captain from his own parents.

We lived in a state which seemed to me too happy to last. The only thing
the captain lacked was children, but he made up for it by more excessive
gaiety.

We three men without a doubt had the three handsomest and best wives in
R.; their characters and ways were very different, but this divergence
was--I think--one reason for the perfect harmony among us. My wife was
quiet, gentle, and shy, she seemed to be subordinate to the other two,
although in reality she possessed the deepest feeling and the clearest
intelligence. Mrs. H------ was always in high spirits, full of merry
jests and sallies, and she was the most talkative. Mrs. L-----was quiet,
but there was something commanding about her, something that suggested a
superiority of mind which, however, she did not attempt to assert, and
she was treated by the other two as an elder sister, though actually she
was both the youngest and the least cultured of the three.

If similarity of character were the foundation of matrimonial bliss, we
six people should have been quite differently matched; there should have
been a complete change-about. My even temper and natural gravity, which
was strengthened by the dignity of my office, should have been united
with Mrs. L------. Her frank, merry, brisk, and bold husband would have
found his congenial match in Mrs. H----. And my gentle, meek, and mild
wife should have been chosen for the captain's companion on the way of
life.

The captain had nothing warlike about him except the uniform. In
civilian dress he looked like a modest, bashful candidate for
matriculation. Not that he wasn't a capable officer, and recognized as
such by the whole regiment, high and low. At the muster his company
always acquitted itself best, although his men were better acquainted
with his purse than with his stick, which only dangled from his wrist as
a matter of show. His courage, integrity, and nobility of mind were
known and appreciated by all. In the case of quarrels he was often
chosen as arbiter, and in that capacity he prevented many a duel. In
short, he had a very winning personality and was far more dangerous for
feminine hearts than he himself seemed to be aware of.

How we all longed for Wednesday! We would meet at teatime, devote a
couple of hours to music, in which all except Mrs. L------ took an
active and rather creditable part. After supper we three men had a quiet
omber, and the ladies had their private talks, enlivened by Mrs.
H------'s sallies and merry laughter. She often caused a player to be
looed and prevented a codille, when we broke up our game to join our
merry wives.

About a year passed without any rupture in our pleasant relations and
cheerful intercourse. But suddenly there was a noticeable change in the
captain; he was often absent-minded and made mistakes both in the music
and in the omber; sometimes he was gloomy and silent--sometimes
excessively gay and talkative, although his talk was often disconnected.
My wife called my attention to this strange metamorphosis and hinted
that she thought there was something not right between him and Mrs.
L------. I hushed her and tried to set her mind at rest on the
subject--but I knew more than she. Against my will I had witnessed a
scene which will never be eradicated from my memory, and which for a
while gave me stuff to rack my brains with.

We had for a long time talked of getting up a masquerade; and I think it
was Mrs. L------ who first suggested the idea. At last arrangements had
been completed, masks and costumes provided, and the evening fixed upon.
It was to be held in the club. Inasmuch as I could not myself take part
in such an entertainment, I had agreed with three other omber devotees
in town that we would have a game of cards. But in the evening I had an
attack of headache which I am sometimes subject to. I got someone else
to take my hand and went away to try to sleep it off. I asked the host
to show me a quiet room where I hoped half an hour's rest would dispel
my rheumatic attack. I was shown into such a retreat, so far from the
ballroom that the distant sound of music and noises only tended to lull
me to sleep. I sat down in an easy chair in a corner by the window and
soon dozed off.

I had not slept long before I was awakened by the creaking of the door.
I could hear that two people entered the room, but I saw nothing, for it
was quite dark. It must be a man and a woman, but masked, as I could
hear from the indistinctness of their voices.

"Now then, what do you want, dearie?" said he.

"Dearest, you are so wonderful tonight," lisped a feminine voice.

"But, wifie," he said again, "what are you thinking of? Do we need to
steal away together as if we were straying on forbidden paths?"

No answer--the sound of a "hush" allowed me to guess that they had
unmasked. I was on pins and needles; what should I do? My headache,
which the sudden awakening had intensified, rendered me unable to take
any resolution. The door creaked again, but whether they went away or
stayed I was unable to make out. All was quiet and I heard nothing but a
brawl out in the yard. So I sat for a little while and listened, vainly
trying to go to sleep again. But the fracas out in the yard grew more
noisy. Someone came out with a lantern or a candle which cast its rays
through the window and on the sofa opposite.  Myself unseen, I saw
Captain H------ in Mrs. L-----'s arms. A terrible mistake had been made,
but whether it was intentional on either side I could not then decide.

The captain jumped up with a cry of horror; Mrs. L------sank back and
hid her face--as in despair or shame--in her hands. It was dark again.

"God forgive us both," he said. "Everlasting silence and--if it were
possible--everlasting oblivion!"

It seemed to me that she was sobbing. He heaved a deep sigh of distress,
and went out; a few minutes later she followed, and I was alone.

I sat there a long time, quite confused and stunned by what I had
unwittingly learned. When I entered the ballroom again, the guests had
just unmasked. The doctor and the captain wore exactly similar costumes,
as Don Juan. Mrs. H------ wore the dress of a Turkish woman; I was sure
that Mrs. L------ had worn the same costume when I saw her on the sofa;
now she was a shepherdess--which seemed to me both strange and
suspicious. The doctor was in high spirits; he teased Mrs. H------and
declared that she had met him alone in the passage and embraced him,
thinking he was the captain. The latter was standing near them and tried
to laugh, but the attempt was unsuccessful and ended in a forced cough.
Mrs. L------'s face did not show the slightest change; she smiled as
calmly as she always did to the playful remarks of her friends. I began
to doubt my own eyes; if she had been guilty, how could she have
Maintained this--I came very near saying--hellish calm? The Turkish
woman in there might have been someone else who looked like her. In
short, I had almost recovered my faith in her innocence, when my
wife--who is a nice observer--some time afterwards said to me
confidentially that she was "afraid the suspicion she had expressed on a
former occasion was not unfounded." That a great change had come over
the captain since that masquerade was strikingly evident.  He was often
absent-minded and lost in thought. His old even temper was gone and had
given place to a curious gaiety that would break out by fits and starts,
sometimes without any occasion. The reason for this change--remorse for
his unwitting crime--I well knew, but I didn't tell my wife. I tried to
defend Mrs. L------, but did not enter into any explanations of the
captain's behaviour.

"Dear wife," I said, "be on your guard against suspecting anyone!--And
it's so unlike you. Do you know anything? Have you seen anything?"

"Only a single look," she replied, "but it was a look that made him
blush and me turn pale; so we must both have understood it. It was quick
as a distant gleam of lightning on a cloud at night, but clear enough to
give light. The two of them were alone in the room, and my face was
turned away, but I saw it in a mirror."

I shook my head, as if I didn't believe her and enjoined silence. "Let
us not discuss the matter even with each other," I said. "You can so
easily be mistaken; a look may mean more than one thing--why believe the
worst?"

She too shook her head; and after that the subject was not mentioned
between us for fully twenty years.

Meanwhile my wife and I continued our secret and separate observations,
but nothing--not the least thing in the world--was discovered. The
captain gradually regained--not his former frank cheerfulness--but at
least a certain poise in his manner, which, however, had a more serious,
perhaps a duller, tinge. After all, he was getting older day by day, and
the sweet hope of fatherhood retreated more and more into the distance.
Time, which carries us along on our course, wears off the sharp edges of
our youthful emotions; imperceptibly we gain either firmness or
flexibility, strength or bluntness, until at last all our passions leave
us, to begin their play in younger and softer hearts.

The triangle remained undisturbed, the assemblies likewise. We had our
musical evenings; we played our omber. Our children grew up, added their
voices to our singing, and sometimes took our places at the card-table,
if world news absorbed our interest.

The doctor's two eldest sons had taken their degrees in medicine and
surgery, my son his in divinity. His eldest daughter was married and
mine engaged, when the volcano which so long had been smouldering in the
dark suddenly burst its crust of secrecy and by its unexpected eruption
destroyed the earthly happiness of two families.

I had just returned from a journey which had taken several days, when my
wife met me with the sad news that the major was very ill. I divested
myself of my travelling clothes and hastened to his house. He was
asleep. His wife, looking worried, stood with folded hands at the head
of the bed; a pained smile was her greeting to me. I approached softly
and in a whisper asked about our dear patient. She only shook her head,
while she continued to look at him through the tears that welled up in
her eyes. His sleep was restless; lips and fingers moved incessantly,
and the eyeballs seemed to be rolling under the lids.

I sat down in order to wait for his awakening. Meanwhile his wife's aunt
was telling me the story of his illness. He had caught a cold at the
drilling of the regiment, had been overheated, and then had drunk cold
water. As soon as he had come home he had felt ill, had gone to bed, had
rapidly got worse, and every afternoon had a fit of fever. Our friend
the doctor called several times a day, comforted him-as he always did,
but he had nevertheless looked rather serious. Mrs. H--- made a sign
asking her aunt to do something or other, and she left the room.

Shortly afterwards, the major awakened. His eyes were wild; one could
see that he was not in his right mind. He looked at his wife and threw
himself back in the bed.

"Elise!" he began (his wife's name was Charlotte), "Elise! What do you
want of me? It's enough now--it's too much. If the doctor or my wife
found you here in bed with me, what would they say? Go, go! and leave me
alone!" He stretched out both hands as if to push someone away.

The wife's eyes met mine--she changed color. The sick man went on in his
delirium, "It was an unlucky idea about that Turkish costume. I
certainly didn't know but that you were my wife." Mrs. H------ listened
with anxious attention. I could see that she didn't know what he was
talking about, but understood him only too well; the scene at the
masquerade was still vivid in my memory.

I went over to the poor woman and caught her hand. "Try to be calm, dear
madame," I said. "Your husband's illness seems to be at its height--he
is raving--"

Her only answer was a deep sigh.

"Hush! hush!" he whispered, "they might hear us down below--you know,
Elise, that the storeroom is right above the mangling-room, and if
anyone should discover the secret door in the summerhouse--"

Mrs. H------ clutched the bedpost; she had turned pale--a terrible
change came over her face.

"Dear madame," said I, pretending that I noticed only one reason for her
excitement, "would it not be best to send for the doctor? His presence
would perhaps reassure us--this crisis may not be so dangerous as it
appears." She answered with a nod and quickly left the room.

The eyes of the sick man closed--he slept, but it was a restless sleep.
I looked out into the yard. Mrs. H------ was walking rapidly in the
direction of the mangling-room. It was true that the storehouse for
soldiers' uniforms was right over it, and the summerhouse in the
doctor's garden, which was two stories high and built of planks,
adjoined it. A terrible suspicion seized me and was not far from
becoming a conviction. I had often had tea and played omber in that
summerhouse and remembered that from it one could hear if there was
anyone in the storehouse. No doubt there was a foundation of miserable
truth in the ravings of the sick man.

While Mrs. H------ was outside--no doubt in order to search the premises
in the light of the hints she had received--the doctor came of his own
accord. With a troubled expression he went over to the bed, examined the
patient, felt his pulse, looked anxiously at me, and shook his head.

The major awakened--he stared fixedly and with a look of terror at the
doctor. "What?" he exclaimed. "What does this mean? You made me believe
that your husband had gone to see a patient in the country and would be
gone for the night, and here he is, large as life. Why did you want to
fool me? Why did you give the sign? Didn't you pin the red ribbon on the
curtain in the summerhouse? Go, go! and sleep with your own husband!
You're altogether too rash--the pitcher may go to the well once too
often."

I stood there in an agony. I drew the doctor over to the window; I
wanted to prevent him from hearing or remarking anything more.

"What do you think?" I asked.

"He is very delirious," he replied; "his illness is taking a bad turn."

"His ideas are perfectly crazy," I said.

"Oh, no," cried the major who had heard what I said, "I know perfectly
well what I am saying; and I tell you once for all, Mrs. L------, that
now everything must be at an end between us! It's a sin against both
your husband and my wife, and neither of them has deserved such
treatment from us."

Now the doctor began to be attentive. He cast a hasty glance out at the
summerhouse, the upper window of which was visible from the sickroom. I
followed the direction of his glance and--inside the window the major's
wife was standing with clenched hands lifted, but the next moment she
disappeared.

Good heavens! then she must have found the secret door which the sick
man was raving about. He was dozing off again.

The doctor turned pale. I caught his hand and whispered, "For God's
sake, dear friend, surely you're not attaching importance to what a man
says in his raving? In a paroxysm of fever like that a patient may
imagine the most unreasonable things in the world." He looked at me
thoughtfully, but said nothing. In his glance there was something which
could be interpreted, "You don't mean what you are saying." In the same
moment the major's wife came in. Her face was flushed--her expression
almost as wild as that of the sick man. The doctor met her with quiet
self-control, comforted her, and asked some questions about the patient.
She answered them rather carelessly and indifferently; her glance
flickered from one to the other. But presently a flood of tears relieved
the pressure at her heart. She rushed over to the bed, threw herself
down on her knees, and pressed the hand of the sick man to her breast.

"Oh, God," she prayed in a low, hurried voice, "spare his life only this
once so he can receive my forgiveness if he is guilty or my repentance
if I am wronging him." (I heard only a word here and there, but could
fill in the rest. The doctor heard nothing; he did not have a sensitive
ear.) "Unhappy you!" she went on, pressing her forehead against his
hand, "you are the one who has been seduced, but she--" here she sprang
up and turned to the doctor.

I caught her hand and pressed it hard. "At this moment," I said, "it is
for the physician and no one else to speak. Subdue your fear and your
pain--if you value your husband's life," I added in a low voice that
only she could hear.

She controlled herself, and suppressed the dangerous words that were
already trembling on her lips. She was one of the fortunate natures who
combine with strong feelings a quick judgment and a clear intelligence
which her feelings could never quite obscure. Her heart was tender, but
not weak. Alas, it was after all not strong enough to stand up under the
much more dangerous test to which it was soon subjected.

I was sent for, I had to attend to duties of my office. She went with me
into the passage, and I tried with all my might to set her at rest in
regard to the dark hints in her husband's speech.

"Inasmuch as I have been present and heard it--" so I ended my
warning--"you will not think it presumptuous meddling in your marital
affairs if I speak of it. I can judge more quietly of matters that
confuse and bewilder a loving eye. What may seem probable isn't always
true; and there may be many conceivable explanations besides the worst.
For heaven's sake, use your clear intelligence! Spare yourself and your
sick husband! And whatever you do, don't let the doctor get the least
inkling of it all, or we may have a double tragedy which might after all
be due to a mistake." Sighing, she pressed my hand, and went back to the
sickroom.

I had a great deal to occupy me; in my absence the work had piled up.
This was in the morning, and it was toward evening before I was free. I
was about to go to the major's again, but decided that I would first
speak with the doctor in his own house in order to hear what he really
thought about our friend's illness.

His wife was in the country with the second grown-up daughter. The two
youngest were invited out to friends in town. The maid said the doctor
was in his office. I went up there.

He was standing with his face toward the door and his back leaning
against his escritoire. In his left hand he crushed some papers, while
the right was clenched against his breast; in his face was that cold,
mute despair which shuts out both hope and fear. My heart turned to ice;
I saw at once that all was discovered, that suspicion had ripened into
certainty. He gave me a hasty glance as if he did not know me.

How can consolation enter a heart which the winter storm of calamity has
encased in an icy sheath? I lifted up my hands to the Lord whose mercy
begins where hope ends.

I know of no task more difficult or hopeless than to console those who
need consolation most, that is, those who cannot console themselves. To
say to anyone whose entire earthly happiness has suddenly been
destroyed, "Be a man! Resist! _tu contra audentius ito!"_ is just like
telling someone who has fallen and broken his leg, "Come here to me,
I'll help you rise," or to one who, without knowing how to swim, is
plunged in a rushing stream, "Use your strength! You can save yourself
if you only try." Some people attempt to comfort with that hope which
the unhappy one has lost; others speak of the healing of time, the very
thought of which torments him beyond endurance; and others again act
like Job's comforters--who had much better have stopped with their
silent pity and sympathetic tears--as they throw out hints of God's
punishment, of open and hidden sins committed; instead of pouring balsam
in the wound, they drip venom into it. Truly, the sufferer may well say
in the bitterness of his lacerated heart: "I have heard many such
things: miserable comforters are ye all. Shall vain words have an end?
or what emboldeneth thee that thou an-swerest? I also could speak as ye
do: if your soul were in my soul's stead, I could heap up words against
you, and shake mine head at you."

When anguish constricts the breast, when it cannot even find a vent
through the lips, what can melt the frozen heart unless it be the silent
tears of a compassionate friend? Mine flowed freely and wet his hand,
which I drew from his own breast to mine. In the unhappy man those
floodgates were opened by which both sorrow and joy are poured out; he
leaned his forehead against my breast and wept like a child.

But not for long. He lifted his head and threw it back, while the tears
returned to their secret springs. "There, there!" he cried, as he
vehemently pressed the papers into my hand. "There are prescriptions,
legibly written--easy to understand--specific medicines against
romantic notions, love, faith in woman's virtue, in friendship--" he
threw himself on a chair, gnashed his teeth, and emitted some sounds
that had a resemblance to laughter.

While I read the papers--letters, the contents of which I will tell
presently--he stared fixedly at me with, I might almost say, envious
eyes, and with a repulsive, bittersweet smile such as one may see long
after life has departed on the faces of people who have frozen to death.

The letter which was lying on top and which, like the other two, was
addressed to the major, but had neither date nor signature beyond "Your
E.," (Elise) was undoubtedly the latest, and read as follows:

"Yes, my beloved, I cannot, I will not hide from you that under my too
weak heart I carry a secret pledge of our hidden love. My conscience
reproaches me with the sin against my husband, but love knows only one
sin--unfaithfulness toward the beloved; it has only one duty--to do
everything for the dear object of affection, to give it both body and
soul and if necessary sacrifice both. Frantz, you were childless, it
vexed my heart. If I have forfeited bliss beyond the grave, I did it to
give you happiness here. Now, my beloved, I have nothing more to give
you."

The other was evidently written shortly after that unlucky masquerade.

"What is done is done," she wrote; "but it is fate, mysterious fate
itself that brought us together. Fate itself has united us--who shall
now part us? I feel it, I know it; since that night I am yours forever;
I have a new heart, a new soul. I am quite changed; my thoughts, my
wishes, my longings have but one goal--you, you beloved, adored man! Oh,
don't hate me! don't despise me! It is not sensuality that draws me to
you; no, my love for you is pure; but I must speak to you, must pour out
my agonized heart, and beg forgiveness for a sin that fate alone must
answer for. I don't know what I am writing--at eleven tonight I shall
expect you--my husband is in the country--have pity on

Your unhappy E.

"Secrecy," said the third, which was most likely in point of time the
middle one, "is the life principle of love; without it the myrtle lacks
both root and top. If anyone knew that I loved you, if I were your
wedded wife, then perhaps the impossible might happen. But what a temple
for our secret joys! a storeroom full of uniforms and hempen
cloth!--This evening my husband goes to P. By eleven o'clock everybody
will be in bed except the one who awaits you with burning heart. The sun
doesn't rise till seven. Ah, it will be a long time before I say:
'Frantz, Frantz! _Steh auf! der Morgen graut_.'"

When I had finished reading, and the last letter fell out of my hand,
L------ rose, caught me by the shoulders, and asked with a piercing
look, "Well, my good parson?"

"How did these letters fall into your hands?" I said. "Are you sure they
are genuine?"

"As genuine," he cried, "as _cortex peruviana selecta,_ but not quite so
good for one's health, and I have them directly from the paramour
himself."

(The unfortunate Mrs. H------ told me afterwards how it had happened.
When the doctor had returned in the afternoon to see his patient, the
sick man had begun to rave again, and had spoken still more plainly than
before. At last he had ordered her--still mistaking her for the doctor's
wife--to bring him a certain drawer in the escritoire. The drawer had a
double bottom, and by pressing a peg the upper one flew open, revealing
the letters. Then he had handed them to her with the words, "There,
Elise, are your letters. Tear them up, or burn them!" She tore up some
other papers, went behind his bed, and read the letters. No longer able
to control herself, she had handed them to the doctor, and with that the
blow had fallen on the cruelly deceived man.)

"My poor unhappy friend!" I sighed. "What decision are you taking? What
do you mean to do?"

He let go my shoulders, and walked quickly with clenched hands round and
round the room. "What will I do?" he repeated many times.

"In the first place," I spoke again, "I suppose these unfortunate
letters ought to be destroyed--"

"Destroyed!" he cried. "These letters?" He quickly took possession of
them again. "What? These sweet, blessed pledges of love!" He pressed
them to his breast with the vehemence of a lover. "No, pastor, I will
not part with them; they shall follow me into the grave and from the
grave up where all such pledges shall finally be redeemed."

"Oh, my friend, my friend!" I said. "Are they not long since registered
there? Why do you want to be her accuser? Neither vengeance nor judgment
belongs to you, but to God, whose justice is exalted far above our
fleeting passions."

He paused, looked heavenward a long while, and then gave them back to
me. "There," he said quietly, "keep them! destroy them! but promise me
one thing first: that when I am dead and gone you will show them to
her."

I promised, but added, "Why, dear doctor, do you speak of death? You
have had a hard, a terrible blow--you are losing a wife whom you
love--an unworthy, contemptible creature; but you still have your
children."

He looked hard at me and burst out into a wild fit of laughter. "Whose
children? My children?--No, the major's children--"

"The two eldest," I interrupted, "were born before he came to town, and
no one, after even a hasty glance at them, can mistake their father."

"And the others?" he asked, smiling bitterly, "which of them, how many
of them are mine? Haven't you read the letter, and don't you think they
look the very image of him?--Oh!" and he beat his forehead with his
clenched fist, as he began again his impetuous walk around the room.

I was silent--I could not at once think of anything to say; for when I
turned the matter over in my mind, I felt that his suspicion was not
entirely unfounded, especially in the case of the married daughter. Her
likeness to the major was unmistakable. "Fancies," I said at last rather
slowly and half dubiously, "may also affect--"

"Ha!" he broke in, "here we don't need to draw on our fancies; the
harlot has herself confessed it."

Just then the two youngest daughters came in and ran over to him to
embrace him. But he stepped back as far as the room would allow, put out
his hands as if to push them back, and stared at them with horror and
loathing in every mien. The poor little girls were frightened, trembled,
burst into tears, and fell on each other's necks--they thought they had
done something wrong. I put my arms around them and my tears fell on
their fair, curly heads. Then his hardness too melted in pity; the old
tenderness returned and--for a little while--drove out the demon of
doubt. He sat down, took them on his knees, and caressed first one, then
the other. The little ones now wept with joy.

In this more favorable mood I thought I might venture to leave him in
order to attend to my unfinished official duties. I left him to the
gentler feelings of his own kind heart and to the mercy of Him whose
grace is all-powerful.

When I visited him the next morning he was lying in bed, undressed but
wide awake. The next to the youngest daughter, a girl of twelve, was
sitting at the bedside and trying to make him drink a cup of tea. He
refused it and looked at us both with a dark, cold, distant expression.
I made a pleading gesture, pointing to the child, and he then took the
tea, lifted it to his mouth, but as if it had been bitter medicine, he
set the cup down on the coverlet again. In order to get the little girl
out of the room, I asked her to bring him breakfast, and then I turned
to the unhappy man, trying once more to open his closed heart.

He put away the cup and folded his hands. Either he did not hear me, or
he did not understand me. "My life," he said at last, slowly and in a
low voice, "will return to Him who gave it--the poison is acting: I have
emptied the cup to the last drop, and for me there is no antidote but
death. I have awakened from a long, sweet dream. I have been granted a
lucid moment--as is often the case with people who are out of their
minds--and I know it for a warning of dissolution to come. Oh, my God,
my God! take me away from here before that snake comes back!" He closed
his eyes as if he feared the sight of her. "I loved so tenderly, so
faithfully," he went on after a pause, "with my whole heart, soul, and
mind; for twenty years I imagined myself living in an earthly paradise,
while I was walking on a volcano secretly burning under my feet--the
thin crust that separated heaven and hell is broken, and I have fallen
into the flaming abyss--merciful God! let my body be consumed and
receive my poor soul!"

I prayed with him, prayed for strength and patience; I comforted him
with God's almighty goodness; I tried to make him think of his two
hopeful young sons and of a more bearable future separated from the
unworthy one. He shook his head quietly. "I can't live," he said, "in
the world where she breathes; we can no longer have one sun in common.
Separation from bed and board and house and native country--that means
nothing; light and darkness, life and death, time and eternity must be
between us; otherwise we are not parted."

The oldest daughter (alas, I can't say _his_ daughter) came in with her
two-year-old child on her arm. The infant stretched out its arms to the
supposed grandfather and tried to stammer that name which up to now had
been so sweet to him. With an expression of lacerating inner pain he
turned his face away. The distressed mother set the child down, and
tears streamed from her eyes. I had to lead them both out of the room
and use all my art and inventiveness in an attempt to soothe the poor
young woman. I was only partly successful--she felt a foreboding of
calamity.

As far as my time allowed, I remained with my unhappy friend as his
attendant, nurse, and comforter for the next seven days. I had a hard
task: to take care of him, keep visitors away from him, and calm the
children.

The other doctor came a few times without having been called in, but as
there was nothing for him to do, his visits ceased.

I wrote to the sons in Copenhagen; I hoped their presence might have a
good effect on the poor sufferer--they came in time only to follow his
inanimate body to the resting-place he had ardently longed for and
forcibly wrested from fate.

With every day my friend grew more quiet, gloomy, and taciturn: it
seemed to me that he was brooding over some terrible plan or other.

On the eighth day after the tragic discovery the major passed away: he
had been lying in a stupor and died without recovering consciousness. I
brought the news to L------; he received it indifferently, and only
said, "We shall soon meet."

Mrs. L------ was expected home the next day. I asked her husband what
measures were to be taken in view of her arrival, if it would not be
best to have her sent away? He answered that he was quite prepared for
her return and that everything would turn out all right. This made me
suspicious, and I said so. With a quiet smile he gave me his hand,
saying, "And if I have a sure premonition of my death, would you then
begrudge me the satisfaction of the only wish that is left to my crushed
heart? The chains that bound me to life are loosening link by
link--there is only one left; as soon as I see her, that will break."

There was a double meaning in these words; I ought not simply to take
the worst. Yet I continued to admonish him, bringing to bear the
arguments of reason and religion. Alas! reason can do nothing with a
despairing heart, and religion can comfort only those who have
previously been guided by it. And Dr. L------ had been too thoughtless
or too happy to possess any deep religious feeling. He had had faith,
but it was a flimsy faith, which had never been tested and strengthened
by grief or serious reverses. He was a son of joy, and parted from that
constant companion on the course of life, he became an easy prey to
sorrow--to the most terrible of all the passions against which a weak
human soul has to struggle here.

I stayed with him till far into the night. When I was about to go, he
stretched out his arms to me, and pressed a kiss of farewell on my lips.
A few tears still glistened in his dull eyes, and with an almost
breaking voice he spoke only the words, "Thanks, and good-bye, for a
while!"

I went home and lay down half dressed, fully resolved to go back to him
early the next morning, partly to keep a watch over him, partly to
prevent--if possible--a meeting between him and his faithless wife, or
at least to be a much needed third party at the scene.

But exhausted as I was, I overslept, and none of my household wanted to
disturb my rest. I was awakened with the terrible news that Dr. L------
had shot himself. I hastened over to the house; he was still lying in
the bloody bed with his breast pierced. None of the family were there,
but the other doctor, the mayor, and the maid. The maid had been present
when the deed was done. She stated that, with the doctor's consent, she
had relieved me in watching with him; that his wife, who had been
informed by the oldest daughter of her husband's illness, had hastily
returned to town, and at daybreak had unexpectedly entered the room. As
soon as he saw her, he had sat up in bed, spoken a few words in a
language which the maid did not undarstand, had then taken a pistol from
under the coverlet, and fired it against his breast.

I will not dwell on the misery that followed. In the beginning of this
story I have briefly told how a sensual and unscrupulous woman's crime
brought ruin to two families, and to many others a sorrow that gave deep
pain for a long time and will never wholly be forgotten.





ALAS, HOW CHANGED!

[_Ak, hvor forandret,_ 1828]


AS I am a good-for-nothing fellow, tolerated only because I don't do any
harm (that is directly, though sensible people declare that indirectly
my poetic twaddle may work mischief in more ways than one), and as my
flighty nature has prevented me from ever acquiring a permanent office
(once I did hope to be made chief of firemen, another time I aspired to
be parish clerk, and a third time I meant to become sexton and
undertaker; but each time I was disappointed), as I therefore have
nothing particular to do, I have a good deal of time on my hands which I
use to look around in the world as much as I can.



THE VISIT

No sooner had I returned last spring from my visit to Copenhagen, during
which I renewed acquaintance with a friend of my youth, the happy
Counsellor of Justice S------, than I decided that I would look up
another old friend who lived in a quiet corner far away in Jutland. I
had witnessed domestic bliss in the metropolis; now I hastened to seek
it in rural seclusion. I had not seen my now reverend friend, Pastor
Ruricolus, for more than twenty years, but he and Counsellor S------ and
I had once been a fine three-leaf clover. All three were jolly fellows,
full of high spirits, enjoying the pleasures of youth in every decent
and legitimate way; but Ruricolus was the most elegant of us, both in
dress and deportment. I cannot say that he was exactly a dandy, far less
a coxcomb, but he was always dressed in the latest fashion and looked,
as my poor, dear mother used to say of him, like a peeled egg. He had an
ineffable knack of tying his cravat and the knee-bands of his black silk
breeches, and yet there was perfect symmetry in all his garments. When
on a Sunday in summer we would walk in Frederiksberg Park, he attracted
most glances from the ladies, although S------ too was a handsome chap,
and I was almost six inches taller than either of them.

But let me be honest and confess: it was not only longing for a friend
of my youth that drew me; in the place where he was now living I had
nineteen years ago experienced my twentieth love affair. It was there I
first saw Maren the Second, [Footnote: Not to be confused with Maren the
First, daughter of the town musician, see _Nordlyset,_ February, 1827,
page 233.] the lovely, angelic Maren Lammestrup, the pearl among all
Vendsyssel girls. It was there I for the twentieth time gave away my
tender heart and for the twentieth time had it returned to me without
dent or flaw. Allow me, my fair feminine reader, to relate my innocent
adventure.

Ruricolus and I made a summer excursion from the City within the
Ramparts, in order to cast a few rays of light over the peninsula of
Vendsyssel. (Our voyage to Aalborg deserves a special description, and
with the aid of the Muses it shall be written when, by studying our
great models in this field, I shall have made myself perfect in the
style of travelogues.) We two Copenhageners--I a native, he
naturalized--made a sensation by the Wild Bog; our broad-brimmed hats,
short vests, and long trousers attracted well-deserved admiration. It
was only the proprietor of Tyreholm, Mr. Mads Lammestrup--a rude,
uncultured, boorish fellow--who took the liberty of scoffing at our
costumes. It was the first time anyone in Vendsyssel had seen long
yellow nankeen trousers and gaiters to match with points reaching all
the way down on the toes. The brute said we looked like flat-footed
cock-pigeons. His daughter, Maren, the sweet dove, found a more
flattering simile in our tender and amorous cooing; indeed I
attributed--and I believe with good reason--to these same yellow gaiters
a good part of the hit we two blades made with her and the other
Vendsyssel girls.

My heart is made of tinder--no! that metaphor is mislead-ing, for though
it catches fire easily, it is not consumed; tinder burns but once, my
heart any number of times.--My heart is of gunpowder--but, no! that
isn't right either, for though it catches fire in a moment, it burns
steadily and quietly, without smoke or explosions.--Now then, my heart
must be of asbestos--hm! that won't do, for asbestos doesn't burn at
all. Well, then, without any metaphor or figure of speech, I will say
that from the first moment I saw her I was over head and ears in love
with Maren Lammestrup, the fair maid and sweet flower of the rose.

There was to be a haymaking feast at Tyreholm the same day that we
arrived at the parsonage in Kringelborg where my Ruricolus's father
lived. His reverence received us very affectionately.

"Welcome, Hans Mikkel!" he called to his son. "Who's the swain you're
bringing with you?"

Hans Mikkel explained. The good pastor shook my hand, and said, "Welcome
indeed, Mr. Copenhagener! What'll you have? A drink! Hey, Barbara! Bread
and brandy!--You come just at the right time, children, for there's to
be a party at, Tyreholm tonight. Well, Mr. Copenhagener, what can we j
use you for? Can you play Polish bezique?"

"Yes."

"That's fine! Can you shoot a hare?"

"I'm afraid not."

"Why, that's bad luck! Do you smoke?"

"Not that either, pastor."

"Fie, shame on you! That's too bad! You'll have to learn. Can you drink
a tart?"

"I can eat a tart."

"Ho-ho! You don't even understand this _terminus tech-nicus._ Can you
stand a tea-punch?"

"Hm, I think so--if he doesn't punch too hard. I'll take a look at him."
(I didn't in the least know what he meant.)

The good man laughed till the perspiration stood in beads on his round,
reddish-brown face.

"Well, well! Just wait," he said still laughing, "when you get to
Tyreholm, Miss Maren will introduce you to the Jutland tea-punch; she
knows how to brew it."

Just then a large hunting dog came in. The pastor turned quickly from me
to the dog, put both hands on his sides, and cried, "By all the
periwigs! Where do you come from? Are you alone, Argus? Or is your
master with you? Have you been down in the goose-bog--hey?"

While he was still examining Argus, the owner of the dog, a landed
proprietor of the neighborhood, appeared and offered to take the pastor
along to the party. Both gentlemen were soon deep in a discussion of
hunting, and I particularly remember that they both dwelt a long time on
the dogma that the mallard duck in slyness was almost equal to the fox,
an assertion which they illustrated with a good many striking examples.
Meanwhile the carriage came to the door, and the five of us--including
Argus--set off for Tyreholm.




A RURAL BEAUTY


IT would be a pity to say that life was formal at the old manor house;
of the old nobility's pomp and stateliness there was nothing left but
the bare walls, and the present owner had not even the graces and
dignity of a valet. Not that he lacked haughtiness or vanity--by no
means! But it was not the noble pride that is based on parchments,
genealogical trees, ribbons and decorations. Mr. Lammestrup was proud of
his money and of nothing else. He had a measuring rod of silver by which
he classified everybody without respect of persons; a beggarly tradesman
ranked exactly as a beggared nobleman. A good man, according to his
linguistic usage and that of the neighborhood, was synonymous with a
rich man; a poor man was the same as a villain. I have still a vivid
picture in my mind of his big, stout person standing at the door to
receive us, his hands under his coat tails. His fat, shiny face grinned
at us with a self-satisfied and cunning expression, but he didn't stir
from the spot till we were all out of the carriage. Then he extended his
broad fist slowly, gave first Chamber-Counsellor Svirum (Argus'
companion on the hunt) his whole hand and then Mr. Ruricolus two
fingers; we two young men got a nod between us.

"Have you seen my bullocks?" were the first words I heard from his lips.
"Then, deuce take it, you must see them--they're no wooden-shoes--come,
they're standing right outside the yard here." As he spoke, he put his
hands in his pockets again and waddled ahead. The counsellor and the
pastor followed him full of reverent anticipation, but young Ruricolus
and I stood there without quite knowing what to do.

Mr. Lammestrup half turned when he was midway across the courtyard, and
called out to us, "You young fellows, I suppose, don't care for such
things. You can go in to the women meanwhile."

We did so.

It was unlucky that one of them should absorb my attention so completely
that I had no eyes for anyone else, but this one was really a _non plus
ultra_ of rural beauty. I saw at first glance that she was perfect of
her type. Such a wealth of charm, blooming, buxom, and yet formed on
lines of perfect beauty, I felt I had never seen before. My reader must
not imagine a round, chubby, strutting dairymaid! No Miss Flamborough or
Betsy Bounce, who without stinting could each be divided into two young
ladies! No, Miss Lammestrup was truly a model of graceful proportions
both as to her face and figure. And as for her soul, believe me, dear
reader, I am not speaking ironically when I say that this Jutland Maren
possessed unusual culture, which I easily discovered after a few brief
conversations. She had read and been moved by her La Fontaine, and I had
only to mention "Lotte" and "Marianne" to bring tears into her heavenly
clear eyes. Besides these perfections, she danced like an elf, sang like
an angel, and played with taste and skill on her piano--probably the
only instrument of its kind to be found in the whole of Vendsyssel. In
what hothouse this fair field flower had been thus improved I cannot
say, but one thing is sure--that Mr. and Mrs. Lammestrup had no part in
it.

I have already said--and no one can now wonder at it--that I immediately
gave this excellent girl my heart. But I will add: I am not in the habit
of giving away my apple before I have a pear in sight, and on this
occasion I felt that I could expect a fair exchange, for not only did
her beautiful eyes brighten with pleasure when they first beheld my
person, but gradually I detected several signs of a budding passion,
among which I will mention only the most conspicuous. In the first
place, I noticed that when I struck my favorite attitude (knees bent,
the left one quite far in front of the right, right hand on my hip, left
fist in my side with elbow bent forward, shoulders also thrown forward
and slightly raised, head bent, eyes wide open, upper lip drawn up
toward the nose, giving a look of pride--what the French call
_dédaigneux--_something like a soldier in a bayonet charge) when I stood
in this position, she secretly whispered to one of the other girls,
glanced at me, and smiled.

Secondly, when we came out in the hayfield where we were to earn our
share of the supper by forming a haycock, and took the occasion to throw
hay at each other, I was almost entirely spared, while my friend Hans
Mikkel was made the victim. My sweet Maren threw the first handful of
hay at his head, and all the other girls followed suit. He resisted, and
I came to his aid like a brother. In vain! The madcap females stormed in
at him alone. He stumbled, and in a moment he was buried under a
mountain of hay, and with that we had lost the battle.  I was really
sorry for the vanquished one when I saw him standing there brushing his
nice clothes and picking bits of straw and moss off them, while the
seven Amazons stood around him and laughed; but none laughed louder than
my roguish Maren.

Third and most evident sign of the dear girl's love I noticed during the
dance. I can say that I had acquired great facility in the figures that
were then the mode. They called for great wagging of the posterior with
long leaps and vigorous throwing out of the legs while the head was bent
to one side over the shoulder and in this position used to butt one's
way through a closely packed crowd. In this I had no equal; I could leap
as much as four or six feet, and my fellow dancers took good care not to
come too near me. But of course this exercise was rather violent and
threw me into a perspiration. The blessed girl noticed how exhausted I
was at the end of our first dance, and when I asked her for the
next--which was a waltz--she excused herself in the kindest, most
courteous manner--and why? Simply from delicate consideration for me.
She had no such compassion on Hans Mikkel, for she allowed him to lead
her away at once.  With secret joy I saw how the little minx kept it up
with the very last couple, only to tire him out and in one day defeat
him twice--in the ballroom as on the hay-field. But I am sure it is
unnecessary to cite more proofs; it must be clear to everyone what was
the state of Maren Lammestrup's innocent little heart. I rightly
considered it as my property, but I purposely postponed the mutual
declaration; it's so nice to have something to look forward to.




THE HAYMAKING FEAST


As I have already said, I make great leaps in the dance, and that no one
can object to, but leaps in telling a story may not please the
thoughtful reader. Therefore--with due apologies for the hop, skip, and
jump my heart did with my pen--I will now return to the sober and
orderly description of the feast at Tyreholm.

The first object of our attention shall be the tea-punch. (As the
composition of this popular drink is no longer a secret, I shall not
dwell on the description of it.) So then: there sat the queen of the
feast, Maren Lammestrup, by the steaming urn, brewing and handing out
cups to the host, the counsellor, the pastor, and five or six other
gentlemen, till they were themselves steaming urns emitting volumes of
smoke from their pipes. I could not refuse to sit among them, but when I
had consumed my "tart," I hurried out in the open air, for I began to
feel sick. The punch, the smoke from the vilest Virginia tobacco, and
added to that, the conversation--which was quite bestial, for it dealt
with nothing but bullocks, horses, dogs, mallards, and other wild
animals--had such an overwhelming effect on me that I had to seek
solitude and lean my forehead against the old, venerable walls of
Tyreholm.

Inasmuch as I knew that it is honorable to imbibe freely but
contemptible not to be able to stand it, I tried to put on a brisk air
when I returned to the steam-factory, but I was not very successful. My
host, who must have found my sudden disappearance suspicious, looked
fixedly at me with his large, milk-blue eyes, took his pipe out of his
mouth--which it seemed to leave reluctantly--and said with a broad
smile, "Seems to me our good friend is looking pale; I'm afraid Maren
has made the brew too strong."

This sally was met with general laughter, first on the part of the
originator, then on the part of the whole tea-punch assembly. I kept my
countenance and joined in the laughing chorus, but after the finale I
declared that my indisposition was due rather to the journey than to the
strength of the punch. The arrival of other guests cut short this scene
which was so amusing to all but me.

After the newcomers had received their share of the Vendsyssel nectar,
the company adjourned to the hayfield. And it was here the battle took
place which I have already described in anticipation. I shall therefore
go right on to the dance.

The music was very ordinary--one fiddle. Our solo performer, I remember,
was more notable for vigorous bowing than grace of execution, and he
made up for the lack of other instruments by a kind of double note, the
like of which I have never heard from any other master. Besides, he had
various mannerisms that by their newness drew half my attention from
Maren Terpsichore. He beat time with both his head and his foot and
accompanied his instrument with a kind of nasal tone like the low
snuffling of a mourning trumpet. Nevertheless we danced merrily to this
music till the small hours, when someone suggested that we should play
parlor games for a change, and these as usual gave occasion for a great
deal of bussing. We played forfeits, and paid all the penalties; we
"went to confession," "attended Polish church," "stood on the broad
stone," "ground mustard," were "hanged" and "fell into the well," until
the carriages came to the door and, with a heart as soft as melted wax,
I took my leave of Tyreholm and the charming fairy Maren Lammestrup.

If anyone would like to know how her respected father, the counsellor,
the pastor, and the other old gentlemen passed the night, I can only say
that from the two card tables in the corners of the ballroom I
constantly heard such expressions--puzzling to the uninitiated--as
"Clubs, diamonds, spades, hearts, pass, looed, trump, knave of clubs,
take your trick in," and so on; and every now and then a blow with a
fist on the table, or an oath, or a roar of laughter, or sometimes a
moment of deep silence would announce an important event. Two or three
times Pastor Ruricolus cried loudly, "Shame on all periwigs!" from which
I concluded that his reverence must have been sadly and undeservedly
looed.

When the party broke up, the counsellor invited all the gentlemen
present to a duck hunt in Svirumgaard lake.

I cannot be content to close this chapter without sharing with the
reader a reflection which on such occasions is often forced upon me.
True, it is neither cheerful nor pretty, but it is natural and answers
to the mood of the soul after a wakeful though not necessarily a
dissipated night.

What a change--I have thought--in the space of a few hours! We never
notice the flight of time or its effect on us--which ordinarily seems
slow, gradual, measured, almost imperceptible--as on the morning after a
ball. Where now is that lively gaiety, that childlike joy, that sweet
anticipation with which the dancers met, where that formal grace with
which they greeted each other when they took their places for the first
dance? How neat and smart both ladies and gentlemen were! Not a ribbon,
not a flower, not a pin out of place; not a mote of dust either on the
white dresses or the black coats; not a crease, not a wrinkle but those
that should be there. Every shirt frill, every bit of lace, had just the
right fall; not a cravat but it was snow-white and fitted neatly under
the chin; not a pompadour but rose properly; not a ringlet but glistened
and waved in its right place--a snare for every unwary masculine heart.

With shining eyes and gently flushing cheeks, the lovely row of girls
stood there, impatiently waiting for the first signal. Attentive, almost
solemn, the gentlemen followed the movements of the leader. Gloves are
drawn on--the leader steps back--looks at the orchestra--bows to his
partner--claps his hands--and now the music starts and the dance
commences.

But look at the same party at the end of the ball! It is day; the sun
shines in through misty windowpanes; the candles burn dully and
sleepily, like many eyes that a short time ago were sparkling with joy.
Where is the neatness, the smartness, the grace of the night before? The
clothes of the gentlemen are dusty, their hair is tousled, the shirt
frill wrinkled, the cravat no longer fits under the chin, the bow is
askew. And the ladies! the once so festively attired, so elegant ladies!
The whiteness of the dress is gone and so is the flush of the cheeks..
The glorious ringlets have lost their elasticity and hang disheveled
down over the bosom which last night looked like marble and alabaster
but today looks like a wall that has not too recently been whitewashed.
Here a flounce, there a frill of lace has been torn; here a bow has been
lost and there a pin. And what about the sweet faces? Alas, the
brightness is gone from the eyes, the smile from the lips, the delicate
flush from the cheeks; pale, dull, sluggish (if I may use such an
expression), they seem to have enjoyed the fleeting pleasures of youth
to the point of satiety, and in a single night to have become
experienced, staid, almost sullen matrons.

But my sweet Maren, had she escaped that heart-chilling transformation?
Well--yes. As a human being, she was of course subject to the law of
change, but not to a heart-chilling degree. Indeed, her just perceptible
weariness and the slight disorder of her dress simply gave her a more
languishing appearance. I need only say that it was on this occasion, in
fact the very same forenoon, that in a fit of stormy ecstasy I composed
one of my most successful poems, "To Maren, the Morning after the
Wedding."




THE DUCK HUNT


IT took me a long time to make up my mind as to what kind of style I
should use for this important and interesting chapter. The subject was
worthy of heroic treatment, but--to be quite frank--I find the heroic
style difficult to handle; the purely historical seemed to me too dry.
Moreover, I looked in vain for any forerunners on this boggy path. True,
one of our poets once ate roast duck--it is uncertain whether they were
tame or wild ducks; I imagine the latter--for lunch, and went about with
waterproof boots, but all that doesn't make a duck hunt. In short, all
my sources consisted of oral traditions and my own brief experience. I
shall therefore have to draw on these as best I can.

The noonday sun was shining on Svirumgaard lake when we hunters, booted
and armed, gathered for a luncheon which was almost a dinner _(déjeuner
dinatoire)_ in order to strengthen and harden us against the influence
of the water. The meal was enlivened by homemade Danish whisky and
spiced with interesting stories of former exploits, in the telling of
which the sportsmen vied with each other in bold fiction. Being without
experience, I could not take part. Nor did I reap full benefit from the
instructive conversation, for many of the words and phrases were quite
puzzling and mysterious to me. I afterwards secretly--in order not to
betray my ignorance--asked my friend the young Ruricolus to explain them
to me.

Now we set off. Our host, Counsellor Svirum, was the leader, and posted
us all in our places. Passages had been cut through the reeds and rushes
from the land out to the open water to enable the hunter to see and
shoot the ducks as they were chased by the dogs. At the end of such a
passage, and as it happened the last one, I was placed. Before the chief
left me, he gave me various kind and fatherly admonitions.

"My young friend," he whispered, "I am told that you know how to handle
a gun, but that you're not much used to hunting. Duck-hunting, my dear,
is a dangerous sport. Take care that you don't shoot anywhere except
through the open passage; and be careful about us in the boat when we
get in your way; and for heaven's sake, don't shoot any of the dogs!"

I answered in my natural voice, making the most solemn promises.

"Hush, hush!" he said softly, but a little pettishly, as he struck out
with his hand. "Don't speak loud when at your post." With that he
hurried off to enter the canoe that was waiting at the other end of the
lake. There was silence for a good quarter of an hour.

The weather was fine; the sun shone warm, the air was clear and calm,
the lake as smooth as a mirror. Now and then a fish rose, stirring the
shiny surface for a moment, whereby the reflection of the Svirumgaard
houses and the trees in the garden was disturbed and I was awakened from
my sweet fancies. So, I thought, our most beautiful hopes are disturbed,
so our splendid castles in the air disappear, so the first tranquil,
pure love is changed into the restlessness of passion. But it is of no
use to be sentimental when duck-hunting; I tried to drive away such
thoughts, which had no place here, and turn all my attention to the
business of the day and the duties I had taken upon myself--not that I
thought them very arduous, for I had not yet seen or heard a single duck
and came very near regarding the whole hunt as nothing but a maneuver, a
mockery. I was strangely mistaken.

I was very much incommoded by mosquitoes and flies, impudent guests
which I hardly dared to chase away with my hands, both because I
remembered the admonitions given me, and because my neighbor, the elder
Mr. Ruricolus, every time I moved an arm, shook his head disapprovingly
and hissed out between his teeth a sibilant "Hush!" I stood almost at
the mercy of my enemies and hardly dared to defend myself except by
breathing and moving the muscles of my face, when--when a plunge in the
water and a scream, the most hideous I have heard in all my life,
sounded from the other end of the lake and was echoed by the hills and
by the houses and trees at Svirumgaard.

I thought it must be an accident and cried in terror, "Mr. Ruricolus!
The counsellor must have fallen in the lake." His reverence answered
with a laugh which, as it was a crime against the laws of the hunt, he
tried, at first in vain, to suppress, but which finally died away in a
snicker. With a shake of the head and a gesture of his hand, he ordered
me to be silent and at the same time relieved my fear. As the air was so
still, the other men must have heard my childish exclamation and been
amused by it, even though they controlled themselves. This was my first
blunder, but it was not to be my last.

Now then--the scream, or rather the roar I heard really came from the
throat of Counsellor Svirum, but it was only a hunting signal, a kind of
trumpet call which indicated that the hunt was now to begin. The splash
in the water came from the dogs which, eight in number, all plunged in
the lake at once. Soon after they began baying. (At the supper table I
was unlucky enough to mention that they barked, but Mr. Ruricolus
replied seriously and instructively, "Hunting dogs, my good friend,
don't bark, they bay." I promised I would never again be guilty of such
a mistake.) The dogs, then, bayed, first one, then several. The ducks
began to quack; some flew up over the reeds and fell down again; others
rose higher and made wide circles around the lake.

The hunt advanced, the dogs came nearer and nearer, their commander in
the boat likewise. Soon the first shot sounded. The report was thrown
back from the houses and then rolled like thunder down over the lake
till it died away in the distant heather-clad hills. It was my neighbor
who had fired. Then the next man fired and then the others, and a lively
shooting went on for over an hour. Meanwhile the boat and the dogs had
passed me, and I wondered very much why I didn't get a chance to fire a
shot, as most of the ducks must have crossed my beat.  This riddle was
soon to be solved.

Nevertheless, though only an idle onlooker, I enjoyed the new and
unusual spectacle. Dogs and men, equally eager and spirited, were
incessantly in motion; the dogs ran around in the reeds and rushes,
splashed, panted, bayed; the men fired and loaded, took aim and dropped
the guns. But no one that day surpassed our brave host; he was in
restless activity, he dashed from one place to another, wherever his
presence was most needed, fired, called to the dogs--he alone was
allowed to speak--and from his repeated eager, "Fetch it! Ha-ha! Good
dog!" I rightly concluded that there must have been a great deal of game
killed.

At last he regarded the first hunting-ground as pretty well cleaned out,
and all we hunters gathered around our bold admiral, each with his
booty--I alone came empty-handed. When he had mustered us all and
distributed due praise, especially to Argus who had covered himself with
glory, he turned to me, and said, "But you haven't fired your gun at
all!"

"I haven't had anything to fire at," I said. He shook his head. "I
assure you," I repeated, "I haven't seen anything but some fishes
swimming past me in the surface of the water; not a single duck."

There was an outburst of laughter like that on Olympus when the lame
Hephaistos took on himself the form of a servant and waited on table;
and when they couldn't laugh any more, they all told me that what I in
my ignorance had taken for fishes was nothing but mallard ducks.--We
each got a glass of whisky, and so ended the first act. The scene was
now changed to another inlet of the bay.

There the passages cut out to the open water were so long that one could
not shoot through the whole length of them. Our leader, who foresaw
everything, had made a wise--but for me, alas, unlucky--arrangement.
Midway between the land and the open water two poles had been driven in
and a wide board laid across them; from this outpost the hunter could
cover the entire passage. The counsellor himself took us out in the boat
and posted us all on our respective platforms.

When I had mounted mine and my leader left me, he said with a
mischievous smile, "Look out now, when the fishes come swimming past
you, that you don't fall in."

The gibe in the first part of his speech I swallowed, but the warning in
the second part I brushed away with a confident, "Don't worry, Mr.
Counsellor; I'm not dizzy."

Vain self-conceit! How soon to be punished! When the dogs gave the alarm
I saw some of those creatures which I still thought belonged to the fish
family, but which the others classed as birds. My opinion was unchanged
until one of these amphibia swam so near me--in fact under me--that I
had to acknowledge the truth and admit that it really was a mallard duck
swimming with only half its head above water and the rest submerged in
order to fool the dogs. Now I was about to shoot, but before I was
ready, in fact with the first movement of my gun, the duck dived under
and got away. It was not long, however, before another slipped out from
the reeds; I cocked my gun, took aim, pulled the trigger, and--fell
backward into the lake. It was not so deep but that I soon had head and
shoulders above the water.

In the same moment I heard a well-known voice calling, "In the name of
all periwigs! Who was it that fell in?" Another voice answered, "The
long-legged Copenhagener," and a third, "Shove the boat along and fish
him up!" It was so done, and wringing wet, crestfallen, and ashamed, I
was taken to land, and then I trotted back to the house.

The counsellor expressed regret at my accident, but I thought with a
suppressed chuckle, and told me to see his wife who no doubt could find
some dry clothes for me. My friend Hans Mikkel accompanied me, and the
others continued their interrupted sport, which now had lost all
attraction for me.



STILL ANOTHER COOLING OFF


WITH the help of my friend I had soon changed my clothes, but, alas,
what a travesty! From the wardrobe of the counsellor I was equipped with
a full set of garments: a coat or jacket of rough, heavy green cloth,
which was both too wide and too short, and hung around my slender body
in great folds but didn't reach down to my wrists; a yellow plush
waistcoast, and knee-breeches of the same material which crept up over
the knees with every step I took; blue woollen stockings and a pair of
boots that slobbered around my legs. I didn't know myself, and alas, my
sweet Maren would hardly know me either; _nec mirum;_ for this attire
was a hideous contrast to a fashionable black coat, embroidered silk
waistcoat, yellow nankeen pantaloons and gaiters to match! No, I am sure
I am not mistaken when I ascribe to this confounded outfit the
misfortune that fell upon me--the total change in the sentiment of the
lovely Miss Lammestrup toward me, which until recently had been so
favorable.

If I had even known that she, the adored of my soul, was in the house,
truly, I would have stayed in my lonely room till my clothes were dry;
but Fate, inexorable Fate, which now for half a century has made me the
sport of her caprices, had determined otherwise. With a jest on my lips
about my own comical appearance, I stepped into the living room, where I
expected to see only the hostess, but--the room was full of ladies, and
my jest was not needed, for the laughter came of itself. However, this I
could have borne, and could even have joined heartily in it myself, if
she before whom I would rather have appeared in nobler attire had not
been present. She stepped forward, dropped a deep curtsy, addressed me
as Mr. Counsellor, and asked how I felt after the hot night and the cold
bath. My reader must not think it was her intention to make fun of
me--by no means. It was rather a mask she assumed in order to hide her
real feelings; for even through her merriest laughter I heard--and
perhaps I alone--the unmistakable voice of the heart.

When a quarter of an hour had passed, during which I had been a target
for the arrows of the roguish young maidens' wit, I suddenly had an idea
which must surely have been inspired by my evil genius. I proposed that
the feminine part of the company should enjoy the lovely weather and
look at the hunt, which was still going on, as we could hear by the
frequent reports of the guns. My unlucky proposal was accepted, and we
went--I went--toward my undoing. Near the lake and the hunting-ground
was a hill from which I decided there would be a good view. In order to
reach it we had to cross a little brook, over which there was a
footbridge, but without a railing. I passed over easily. (My friend Hans
Mikkel had already returned to his duties at the lake.) But when the
ladies were to cross, they were all seized by fright, and no one wanted
to be the first. One pretty little foot after another was stretched out
on the plank and just as quickly withdrawn; they screamed, they laughed,
but didn't get any farther.

Then a demon whispered to me, "Carry them across! Then you'll have a
chance to hold your beloved in your arms." My innocent heart leaped with
joy. I made the offer--it was accepted. Still, when I went back for
them, and longingly stretched out my arms, no one wanted to be the first
to entrust herself to them; each one was ready to let another have the
honor.

At last the brave Miss Lammestrup came up to me and said, with a
gracious smile, "I'll try it; but don't drop me in the water, and
remember you've had one bath today."

Full of vain conceit, I assured her that she had nothing to fear, lifted
her up, and set her on my arm. I remembered the words of Earl Haakon,
"How do you like your seat?" etc., but I said nothing, for I felt too
much. Her arm lay like a feather, like a hot flatiron, like an electric
machine on my neck--I was in a state of bliss, ready to carry her not
only over the water but through it for a lifetime--so I thought, poor
fool that I was! Yes, the beginning was made, but that was all. Ha!
tenfold cursed be the tailor who made Counsellor Svirum's breeches! for
it was they that crept up on my knees and made my walk unsteady. Reader,
do not laugh, your laughter is cruel, sinful--but you, my tender
feminine reader, weep! Peer Fiddler fell in the brook with his lovely
burden!!!  Pause!

Would that the brook had been Lethe! Then neither you, my sympathetic
feminine reader, nor I would have wept over my black misfortune. Yes,
black, for the brook was more mud than water; it was dirty as Styx
itself. Ha! once again, why wasn't it Lethe?

Don't ask me, compassionate reader, how we got out of it, what I said,
what she said, how loud she screamed, how loud the others screamed, how
we came home, and so on--I know nothing of it all. I heard nothing, saw
nothing. I was in a, trance and didn't quite awaken until I heard an
exclamation, "Counsellor Svirum, your yellow plush breeches are
certainly in a state!"

At these words I mechanically stuck my head out of the bed where I was
lying.

"Deuce take the breeches!" cried Mr. Lammestrup, "but Maren, what do you
think she looked like?"

"Is she alive?" I asked anxiously. "Is she out of danger? And will she
forgive me, wretch that I am?"

"Afterwards," he said, "it's easy to laugh. She and the other girls are
sitting down there gossiping and having fun over certain people who
stumble over their own legs."

The last words he said with a malicious grin. But I turned my face to
the wall like a dying manjånd sighed with the poet:

  "All ties between us now are severed,
  Branded in all eternity I stand,
  And never can this blot be cleansed--
  One thing alone I would advise
  All who set store by mind or life,
  Let no mortal on that deuced bridge
  Presume to set his foot!
  Let it be instantly destroyed,
  It's poisoned--"

"In the name of all periwigs," whispered his reverence, "he's raving;
he's making verses--You stay with him, Hans Mikkel, while the rest of us
go down and get a drop of tea-punch."

At that the sportsmen stole out, leaving me to my bottomless misery.

* * *

On the third day after this my friend and I were rocking on the waves of
the Cattegat.




TWENTY YEARS LATER


AT the end of my story I must refer to the beginning, in which I said
that after my trip to Copenhagen I made an excursion to Vendsyssel. I
shall now describe the results of it.

On my yellow Norwegian pony I rode from Sundbye toward the scene of the
youthful adventures I have related. My legs are no shorter than they
were, and as the horse walked in the deep wheel ruts, I could easily
brush the dew from the grass with the toes of my boots, and occasionally
support the wobbly gait of my horse. Half riding, half walking, I
reached old Tyreholm, the lovely Maren Lammestrup's birthplace, about
noon. I rode over the hayfield where once that famous battle was fought.
The haycocks were there yet, as then, but the lovely Amazons were gone.
_"Die hübschen Mädchen die bleiben fern_--_Traum der Jugend, o goldener
Stern!"_ I asked a man who was working there whether Mr. Lammestrup
still lived in the house.

"No," he said, "he's dead many years ago. Peer Madsen is living here
now."

I wanted to have asked about my old Maren, but although one-and-twenty
maidens' pictures--if I remember right--had somewhat overlaid her image
since that golden time, nevertheless I didn't want to hear that perhaps
she too was dead and gone. I rode on, and in passing cast a thoughtful
glance at the house to which her presence once lent glamour.

I approached Svirumgaard. The lake with its wreath of rushes spread out
before me. My eyes looked for the brook, that pestiferous brook which
swallowed up one of my fairest hopes. See! my curse had worked! The
footbridge was no longer there; no doubt it had been consumed by
fire--an altogether too light punishment! The meadow had been changed
into a cultivated field, and the brook had become a dry ditch.

"Does Counsellor Svirum live here?" I asked a man whom I met.

"He's dead many years ago," was the answer.

Then rejoice, ye ducks!--I thought--and swim with lifted heads around on
your peaceful lake! No Argus will nose out your hidden nests, and my
heavy body will not disturb your clear element!--I rode on rapidly.

By the government office list I knew that the friend of my youth, Hans
Mikkel, had succeeded his father; from himself I hadn't heard a word
since he left the city. _"Aus den Augen, aus dem Herzen_!"--Whether the
old Ruricolus had moved to another parish or had retired, or whether he
too perhaps was dead, I knew nothing about.

When for a fifth of a century one hasn't seen a former friend, when so
many years--rich in happenings, fruitful of experiences, sad as well as
joyous--have passed since that gay companionship of youth, then the
heart beats with a strange, happy uneasiness as the hour of reunion
draws near. But we very seldom find what we expect, because we have not
prepared ourselves for the powerful effect of time. We want our friend
to be what he was, and forget that nothing remains as it was. I still
thought of my dear Ruricolus, the handsome, fashionable, well-groomed
student, the favorite of the ladies, the amiable, pleasant companion,
always ready to help a friend, enjoying life but temperate and free from
vices, an able divinity student, but a connoisseur also of polite
literature--it was our sharing this taste that had made us inseparable.
Therefore I was longing to leap from my horse and throw myself in his
arms with the exclamation, _"Es waren schöne Zeiten, Carlos"_ etc. But
it fell out quite differently.

The first person that met my eye as I rode into the parsonage yard was a
fat, red-faced man in a threadbare grey coat, wooden shoes on his feet,
and an old low-crowned hat on his head. This person--I should have taken
him for the parson's coachman or head servant if an enormous meerschaum
pipe-head in his hand had not suggested a tenant farmer--this person was
standing on top of the dunghill, surrounded by chickens, ducks, geese,
and turkeys, which he seemed to be counting with forefinger stretched
out.

"Is the pastor at home?" I asked, lifting my hat slightly.

"Eighty-seven, eighty-eight, eighty-nine, ninety. I'm the pastor," was
the answer.

I opened both my eyes wide and--recognized the friend of my youth.

"But, pastor!" I exclaimed, "do you really not know me?"

He descended from the dunghill and came toward me, but slowly and
carefully in order not to step on any of the blessed little ducklings.

"Hm!" he grunted with a staid smile, "yes, it seems to me--"

"So you have quite forgotten your old Pietro?" I cried.

"Ah, is it you?" he replied and held out his hand to me. "Well, I must
say! Come nearer, my dear old friend!--Morten, take the stranger's
horse.--Is it used to standing in the stable, or would you rather have
it in the pasture? You'll stay overnight, of course?"

"I mean to stay in the house," I said, "and my horse prefers to be
outdoors."

"It's a nice little kitten," he said, walking around the horse as I
dismounted, "but a little weak in the forelegs.--Oh, Morten, the dun cow
is rutting, don't forget to take her to the bull.--Well, you certainly
are welcome.--Put a tether on this little nag and put him out in the
pig-pasture. And don't forget to put a ring in the snout of the big sow,
she's rooting the potato patch.--Please go in now"--I did so--"and rest
yourself. What'll you have? Some tea-punch?  And how have you been since
we saw each other? You've aged. Maren, let us have some tea!" The last
words he called out through the kitchen door.

This reception drove any kind of poetic outburst back into my somewhat
chilled bosom, and the embrace failed to come off. Meanwhile one child
after another stuck its head in from the kitchen door to see the strange
man, and I also saw some faces at the windows which disappeared as soon
as I looked in that direction.

"Are they all your children?" I asked. "How many have you?"

"One for each finger," he replied with a dark and sullen look. "I don't
know what I am going to do with them. I hardly know how to keep them in
clothes. To send any of them to the University is impossible. What's to
become of them?"

Now his wife came with the tea. I greeted her.

"Do you know him?" Ruricolus asked her. "He's the man who dipped you in
the brook at Svirumgaard."

Yes, indeed! It was she, but alas, how changed she too was, in face,
figure, and manner!

"Ah, yes," she said with a forced smile, as she arranged the tea-table.
"I am glad to see you again--it's a long time since we have had the
honor. Will you have cream or rum?"

But why weary the reader with descriptions of a scene that had an effect
on my warm blood like cream of tartar! So time can blot out, smother,
destroy beauty, wit, gaiety; and what time might perhaps leave, will
surely succumb to financial worries, the faithful ally of time.

In a bad humor I left my poor rusticated friend early the next morning,
chewing the cud of the unedifying and well-worn theme: _Tempora mutantur
et nos mutamur in illis--_Time is changeful and changes us, too.





THE PARSON AT VEJLBYE

[_Praesten i Vejlbye,_ 1829]


1. JUDGE ERIK SÖRENSEN'S JOURNAL


IN the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ! Now at last, by the will of God,
and through the generosity of my dear patron, I am elevated, all
unworthily, to the office of county sheriff and judge over this people.
May He who judgeth all men vouchsafe me wisdom and grace and uprightness
so to fulfill my duties that I may find favor in His sight.

"Every man's judgment cometh from the Lord." Proverbs 29:26.

* * *

It is not good for man to be alone. Inasmuch as I can now keep a wife,
ought I not to look about me for a helpmeet? The daughter of the pastor
at Vejlbye is well spoken of by all who know her. Since the death of her
mother she has managed the household affairs of the parsonage with
thrift and good sense, and as there are no other children with the
exception of one brother, now a student at the University, it is likely
that she will come into a tidy fortune when the old man passes away.

* * *

Morten Bruus from Ingvorstrup was here this morning and wanted to give
me a fatted calf; but I remembered the warning of Moses, "Thou shalt
take no gift," and refused it. This Bruus is much given to lawsuits, I
am told, and is moreover contentious, and a great braggart; I will have
nothing to do with him outside of my office as judge.

* * *

I have now taken counsel with my Heavenly Father and with my own heart,
and it is clear to me that Mistress Mette Qvist is the one person with
whom I wish to pass my life until death.  Yet will I observe her quietly
for some time. Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain. Nevertheless, she
is without a doubt the fairest woman I have seen in all my days.

* * *

This Morten Bruus is to me a most odious person, though I am scarce able
to say why. He somehow reminds me of a bad dream, but so hazy and
indistinct is the memory that I cannot even say whether I have ever
really dreamed about him. It may well be that it is a kind of
foreboding. He came here again this morning to offer me a pair of
blooded horses--splendid animals, dappled gray, with black manes and
tails and black fetlocks. I know that he bought them separately at a
cost of seventy dollars for the two. Perfectly matched as they are, the
pair are well worth a hundred, yet he offered them to me for seventy. It
was this very cheapness that gave me pause. Is it not a bribery? I am
sure that he must have some lawsuit in mind. I do not want his dappled
grays.

* * *

Today I visited the pastor at Vejlbye. He is a God-fearing and upright
man, but hot-tempered and domineering, intolerant of any opposition to
his will. And he is close-fisted besides. When I arrived at the
parsonage, there was a peasant there who wanted his tithe reduced. The
fellow was a sly one, for his tithe was not too high, and Pastor Sören
seemed well aware of it, for he talked to the man so that a dog would
not have taken a piece of bread from his hand; and the more he scolded,
the angrier he himself became. Well, Heaven knows, every man has his
faults. Qvist means no harm by his outbursts, for immediately afterwards
he directed his daughter to give the man a piece of bread and butter and
a good glass of beer.--She is assuredly a comely and well-behaved
maiden. When she saw me, she greeted me in a manner so kindly and yet so
modest that I was strangely moved, and scarce able to say a word to her.

My farm steward worked at the parsonage upward of three years before he
came to me. I shall question him skilfully and find out how she treats
the domestics and anything else he may know of her. One may often get
the most trustworthy information about people from their servants.

* * *

Zounds! My man Rasmus tells me that this Morten Bruus not so long ago
went courting at Vejlbye parsonage, but was refused. The parson was
willing enough at first--for Bruus is a well-to-do man--but the daughter
would have none of him. I understand that in the beginning her father
took her sternly to task, but when he saw that she was unalterably
opposed to the match, he let her have her own way. It was not pride on
her part; for Rasmus says that she is as humble as she is good, and does
not hesitate to admit that her own father is peasant-born as well as
Bruus.

* * *

Now I understand what the Ingvorstrup horses were to do here in Rosmus;
they were to draw me from the straight path of justice. It is a matter
of Ole Andersen's peat-bog and adjoining meadow. That prize was no doubt
worth the value of the horses. Nay, nay, my good Morten, you do not know
Erik Sörensen. "Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of the poor."

* * *

Pastor Sören of Vejlbye was here for a short visit this morning. He has
hired a new coachman, one Niels Bruus, brother to the Ingvorstrup
farmer. This Niels, the parson complains, is a lazy fellow and impudent
and quarrelsome besides. Pastor Sören wanted him punished and put in
prison, but he lacks the necessary witnesses. I advised him to dismiss
the fellow at once, or else to try to get along with him somehow until
his time is out. At first he answered my suggestions very shortly, but
when he had heard me to the end and weighed my argument a little, he
admitted the strength of my reasoning, and thanked me warmly for my
advice. He is a hot-headed, quick-tempered man, but not difficult to
reason with when he has had time to cool a little and compose himself.
We parted very good friends indeed. Not a word was spoken about Mistress
Mette.

* * *

This day I passed most agreeably at the Vejlbye parsonage. Pastor Sören
was from home when I arrived, but Mistress Mette greeted me warmly. She
was spinning when I came in, and it seemed to me that she blushed
deeply.

It is curious how long it took me to find some subject of conversation.
When I sit on the bench in my judicial robes, I seldom lack for words,
and when I cross-examine a prisoner, I can think of questions enough to
ask; but before this gentle, innocent child I stood as confused as a
chicken-thief caught red-handed. At last it occurred to me to speak of
Ole Andersen and his lawsuit, his peat-bog and meadow; and I do not know
how it came about, but the talk turned from meadows to roses and violets
and daisies, until finally she conducted me out into her garden to see
her flowers. Thus pleasantly we passed the time until her father
returned home, and then she retired into the kitchen and did not appear
again until she came to bid us to supper.

Just as she stepped into the doorway, her father was saying to me, "I
should think it is high time for you also to enter into the state of
matrimony." We had just been talking about a magnificent wedding which
had been celebrated at Höjholm manor. Hearing this last remark, Mistress
Mette blushed as red as a rose. Her father smiled slyly, and said, "One
can see that you have been bending over the fire, my daughter."

I have taken the good pastor's advice to heart, and, God willing, it
shall not be long now before I shall go courting at the parsonage, for I
consider her father's words a subtle hint that he would not be averse to
having me for a son-in-law. And the daughter?--why did she blush, I
wonder? Dare I take that as a favorable sign?

* * *

And so the poor man is to keep his peat-bog and his meadow after all;
but assuredly the decision made the rich man my mortal enemy. Before the
judgment of the Court was read, Morten Bruus stood and stared scornfully
at Ole Andersen. At the words, "It is the verdict of the Court," he
looked around the courtroom and grinned slyly, as if certain of a
favorable decision. And that he was, indeed, for I was told that he had
remarked, "It's foolish for that beggar to think he can win against me."
Yet that is just what happened.

When Bruus heard the verdict, he shut his eyes and pursed his lips
together, and his face went white as chalk. But he managed to control
his rage, and said to his opponent, as he went out of the courtroom, "I
wish you joy, Ole Andersen. Losing that peat-bog won't beggar me, and
the Ingvorstrup oxen will doubtless get what hay they need elsewhere."
But outside I heard him laughing loudly and, as he rode away, cracking
his whip till it echoed and re-echoed in the woods.

The office of a judge is indeed a heavy burden. He makes a new enemy
with every verdict he pronounces. But if we can only keep on good terms
with our own conscience! "Endure all things for conscience's sake."

* * *

Yesterday was the happiest day in my whole life; my betrothal to Mette
Qvist was celebrated at Vejlbye parsonage. My future father-in-law spoke
from the text, "I have given my maid into thy bosom," Genesis 16:5. He
spoke very movingly of how he was giving me his most precious treasure
in this world, and of how he hoped I would be kind to her. (And that I
will, so help me God!)

I had scarce believed that the grave, even stern man could be so tender.
When he concluded, his eyes were filled with tears and his lips trembled
with the effort to keep from weeping. My betrothed wept like a child,
especially when he referred to her sainted mother; and when he said,
"Thy father and thy mother shall forsake thee, but the Lord shall take
thee up," I too felt my eyes filling. I thought of my own dear parents,
whom God long since took to Himself in the everlasting habitations, and
yet He has cared so graciously for me, poor fatherless child that I was.

When we had plighted our troth, my sweet bride gave me her first kiss.
May God bless her! She loves me fondly.

At the table the merriment was unrestrained. Many of her mother's
kinsfolk were present, but none of her father's, for they are but few
and live far up by the Skaw. There was food and wine in abundance, and
after the tables were cleared there was dancing until well-nigh dawn.
The neighboring parsons from Aalsöe, Lyngbye, and Hyllested were all
present; the last became so tipsy that he had to be put to bed. My
father-in-law also drank mightily, but did not seem the worse for it; he
is as strong as a giant, and could doubtless drink all the parsons in
the county under the table. I noticed, too, that he thought it would be
good sport to see me a little fuddled, but I took good care that he
should not. I am no lover of strong drink.

Our nuptials will be celebrated in six weeks. May God give His blessing
thereto!

* * *

It is a pity that my father-in-law should have got this Niels Bruus in
his service. He is a rough fellow, a worthy brother to him of
Ingvorstrup. He ought to be given his wages and shown the door; that
would be far better than to soil one's fingers in a fray with such a
brute. But the good parson is hot-tempered and stubborn, and two hard
stones don't grind well together. He is determined that Niels shall
serve his time out, even though it means daily vexation for himself.

The other day he gave Niels a box on the ear, whereupon the rascal
threatened that "he would see to it that the parson was paid back." But
to all this there were no witnesses. I had the fellow up before me, and
both admonished and threatened him, but I could do nothing with him.
There is evil in the man.

My betrothed, too, has entreated her father to rid himself of the
fellow, but he will no more listen to her than to me. I scarce know how
things will go when she moves from her father's roof to mine, for she
shields the old man from a great deal of trouble and knows how to smooth
over everything.

She will be to me a tender wife, "as a fruitful vine by the side of thy
house."

* * *

It was an unlucky business--and yet lucky, too, for Niels has run away.
My father-in-law is angry as a German, but I rejoice silently that he
has thus got rid of this dangerous person. No doubt Bruus will try to
avenge his brother at the first likely opportunity, but thank Heaven we
have law and justice in this land, and the law will protect us.

It seems that Pastor Sören had set Niels to digging in the garden. When
he came out a little later to see what progress had been made, he saw
the fellow stand resting on his spade and cracking nuts which he had
picked off the bushes. He had done no work at all. The parson upbraided
him. Niels answered impudently that he was not hired for a gardener,
whereupon he got a couple of blows on the mouth. At this he flung away
his spade, and berated his master foully. Then the old man's fiery
temper burst out, he seized the spade, and clouted him with it. He
should not have done so, for a spade is a dangerous weapon, especially
when lifted in anger and in the hands of a strong man. The rascal let
himself fall as if he were dead, but when the parson became frightened
and attempted to lift him, he jumped up, ran across the garden, leaped
the hedge, and disappeared into the woods just back of the parsonage. So
my father-in-law himself described the unhappy affair.

My betrothed is much distressed about it. She fears that Niels will
avenge himself in some way or other--that he will work some harm on the
cattle, or even set fire to the house. God helping, I think there is
small danger.

Only three weeks more now, and then I can lead my bride into my home.
She has already been here and taken stock of everything, both within and
without. She seemed well pleased and complimented us on the orderliness
and neatness everywhere. The only thing she seems to regret is that she
will have to leave her father; and he will surely miss her. Yet I will
do whatever I can to compensate him for his loss. I will exchange for
his daughter my own good Aunt Gertrude, a capable woman about the house,
and active for her age.

My betrothed is indeed an angel! Everyone speaks well of her--I am sure
I shall be a most happy man. God be praised!

* * *

What can have happened to that fellow! I wonder if he has fled the
country. In any event it is a sorry tale, and people around in the
parish are beginning to gossip about it. I am sure that these calumnies
must have their source back in Ingvorstrup. It would be a pity for my
father-in-law to hear of them. Had he only followed my advice! For the
wrath of man work-eth not the righteousness of God. Yet I am but a
layman, and should not presume to rebuke one of God's servants,
especially one so much older than I. We can only hope that all this talk
will die away of itself. Tomorrow morning I will go to Vejlbye, and I
shall soon learn whether he has heard aught of the gossip.

The goldsmith has just been here with the pair of bracelets that I
ordered; they are very handsome, and will, I am sure, give pleasure to
my dear Mette. If only they fit her. I took the measurement of her wrist
hastily and in secret with a blade of grass. The bed will be a credit to
my aunt. The fringes are particularly fine.

* * *

I found my father-in-law quite depressed, indeed I have never seen him
in such low spirits before. Busy tongues had already brought him some of
the stupid rumors which, more is the pity, are common talk in the
neighborhood. Morten Bruus is reported to have said, "The parson will
have to bring back my brother Niels, even if he has to dig him up out of
the ground." It may be that the fellow is in hiding at Ingvorstrup. At
any rate, he is gone, and no one has seen hide or hair of him since he
ran away. My poor betrothed is allowing it to prey too much on her mind;
she is disturbed by portents and bad dreams.

* * *

Lord have mercy upon us all! I am so overwhelmed with sorrow and terror
that I can scarce guide my pen; a hundred times already it has slipped
from my hand. My heart is full of fear and my mind so distracted that I
scarce know how to begin. The whole thing has burst upon me like a
thunderbolt. Time has ceased to have any meaning for me, morning and
evening are as one, and the whole terrible day is like one jagged stroke
of lightning which has burned down in a moment my proud temple of hope
and ambition.

A venerable man of God, my betrothed's father, in jail and in
chains!--and that as a murderer and malefactor! Of course there is
always the hope that he may be innocent, but, alas! that hope is but as
a straw to the drowning, for the circumstantial evidence against him
seems very heavy indeed. And to think that I, miserable wretch, should
be his judge! And his daughter my promised bride! Lord my Saviour, have
mercy on us! I am helpless!

* * *

It was early yesterday morning, about half an hour before sunrise, that
Morten Bruus came here to the house, bringing with him one Jens Larsen,
a crofter from Vejlbye, together with the widow and daughter of his
former shepherd. Bruus declared to me at once his suspicion that the
parson at Vejlbye had killed his brother. I answered him that I, too,
had heard gossip to that effect, but that I regarded it all as a silly
and vicious slander, unworthy the attention of honest men, inasmuch as
the pastor had told me that Niels had risen and run away.

"Had Niels actually run away," Bruus retorted, "I am sure that he would
have come to me at once, and told me all about it. But that the facts
are quite different, these good people"--he indicated his three
companions--"can bear witness, and I therefore ask you, as judge, to
examine them."

"Bethink yourself well, Bruus," I warned him, "and you, good folk,
bethink yourselves well before you bring accusations against an
honorable man in good repute and your pastor at that. If, as I strongly
suspect, you are unable to prove your charges, then it will go hard with
you."

"Parson or no parson," Bruus cried wrathfully, "it is written, 'Thou
shalt not kill,' and it is also written that the government beareth not
the sword in vain. We have law and justice in this land, and a murderer
cannot escape his just punishment--even if he had the governor for a
son-in-law."

I ignored the sneer, and replied with dignity, "Very well, be it as you
will. What do you, Kirsten Madsdaughter, know of this crime of which
Morten Bruus accuses your pastor? Tell me the truth, as you would tell
it before the great judgment seat, and as you may be required to tell it
to the Court later on."

Thus admonished, she told the following story:

Shortly after noon of the day when Niels Bruus was said to have run
away, she and her daughter, Else, had passed along the path outside the
parsonage garden. Just as they came about midway by the stone fence
which encloses the east side of the garden, they heard a voice calling
Else. It was Niels Bruus. He was standing just inside the hazel hedge
that borders the stone fence, and had bent the bushes aside to ask Else
if she wanted some nuts. Else took a handful of them, and asked him what
he was doing there. He answered that the parson had told him to spade
the garden, but that he would rather pick nuts; the garden could take
care of itself for a while. At the same moment they heard a door slam,
and Niels said, "Listen, now we're going to get a sermon." They soon
heard the two brawling. They saw nothing, for the wall was high and the
hedge thick. One word led to another, and at last they heard the pastor
cry out, "I'll give you a beating, you dog! You shall lie dead at my
feet!" Whereupon they heard a couple of smart blows, as when one
receives a slap on the mouth. At this they heard Niels Bruus revile the
pastor, calling him a hangman and a scoundrel. To all this the pastor
answered not a word, but they heard two dull blows, and saw the blade
and part of the handle of a spade fly up in the air a couple of times;
but whose hand it was that wielded the spade they were unable to see,
for the hedge was thick and high. After that all was quiet within the
garden, but the shepherd's widow and her daughter had become so
thoroughly frightened that they hastened away to their cows out in the
pasture.

The girl Else confirmed her mother's story in every circumstance. I
asked them if they had not seen Niels Bruus come out of the garden, but
they both denied this, though they assured me that they had looked back
a number of times.

All of this agreed completely with what the pastor had already told me.
That the witnesses had not seen Niels coming out was to be explained by
the fact that the woods were just as near the south side of the garden,
and, according to the pastor, it was in this direction that he had fled.
So, after weighing the testimony of the women, I declared to Morten
Bruus that their tale threw no new light on the case, inasmuch as the
pastor had already told me the whole story himself.

At this Bruus smiled bitterly, and asked me to examine his third
witness, which I proceeded to do.

Jens Larsen, after I had admonished him as I had the first two
witnesses, told the following story:

Late one evening--not the evening of the disappearance of Niels Bruus
but, as far as he could remember, the following night--he was returning
home from the neighboring hamlet of Tolstrup, and walking along the path
which ran by the east side of the parsonage garden, when he heard from
within the sound of some one digging. There was a bright moon that
night, and, though somewhat frightened, he decided to see who it was
that was digging, and what he could be doing at so unusual an hour. So
he took off his wooden shoes, scrambled up the stone wall, and made a
little peephole through the thick hedge with his hands.  There in the
garden, flooded with moonlight, stood the figure of the pastor in his
long green robe and his white cotton nightcap. He was smoothing the
surface of the ground with the back of a spade. Suddenly the pastor
turned, as if conscious of being watched, and Jens Larsen, being
frightened, slid hastily down the wall and ran home.

Although I thought it strange that the pastor should be out in his
garden at that time of night, I was still unable to find any valid
grounds for suspicion of the imputed murder. This conclusion I
communicated to Morten Bruus with a solemn warning not only to retract
his baseless charges but to put an end to the rumors by a public
declaration of his retraction. To this admonition Bruus merely replied,
"Not until I know what the parson was burying in his garden at that hour
of night."

"By that time," I warned him, "it may be too late; you are gambling your
honor and welfare on a very dangerous chance."

"I owe that much to my brother," he rejoined. "I hope that our rightful
rulers will not refuse me the aid and support of the law."

Such a demand I could not ignore, and so I was forced to investigate
Bruus's charges. I hastily made what preparations were necessary, and,
accompanied by Bruus and the three witnesses, drove over to Vejlbye.
Heavy of heart I was, and sore depressed, not from fear that I should
find the fugitive Niels in the garden of the parsonage, but at the
thought of subjecting the pastor and my betrothed to such vexation and
indignity. All during the trip my thoughts dwelt on how I might make the
defamer of innocence feel the full weight of the law. Ah, Thou merciful
Heaven, what a shock was in store for me!

I had planned, as soon as I arrived, to take the pastor aside and
forewarn him, thus giving him time to compose himself. But Morten
anticipated me, for, as I drove up to the parsonage, he rode past me on
his horse, dashed up to the door, and, as the pastor opened it, cried
out, "Folks say that you killed my brother and buried him in your
garden. Here's the judge come with me to search for him."

This rude announcement so disconcerted the pastor that he was unable to
say a word before I jumped out of my carriage, and, hurrying to him,
seized his hand, and said, "You have heard the charge, and without
beating about the bush. By virtue of my office, I am bound to comply
with this man's request. But your own honor now requires that the truth
be brought to light, and the mouths of the slanderers stopped."

"It is indeed hard," the pastor replied, "that a man in my office should
be required to refute so abominable an accusation. But enter if you
will, my garden and my house are open to you."

We passed through the house and into the garden at the back. There my
betrothed met us, but when she saw Bruus behind me she trembled with
fear, and her eyes looked at me appeal-ingly.

"Be not alarmed, dear heart," I whispered to her hurriedly. "Go into the
house, and fear nothing, your enemy is rushing headlong to his ruin."

Morten Bruus led the way to the hedge over toward the east. I and the
witnesses followed him, then came the pastor with his servants whom he
had himself ordered to bring spades. The accuser stood still for a
moment, looking around until we came up to him; then he pointed to a
place on the ground, and said, "That looks as if it was dug up not so
long ago. Let us begin here."

"Dig, then," the pastor ordered angrily.

His men set to work with their spades, but after a few moments Bruus,
who was watching their progress with obvious impatience, tore the spade
from the hands of one of the me« and joined in the work with great
energy. When they had spaded about a foot beneath the surface, they came
to ground so hard that it was clear it had not been disturbed
recently--' probably not for years.

All of us--with one exception--were vastly pleased, the pastor most of
all. He began already to triumph over his accuser, and taunted him with
the sneer, "Well, you slanderer, did you find anything?"

Bruus did not vouchsafe him an answer, but stood thoughtfully for a
moment, and then, turning to Jens Larsen, asked, "Jens, where was it you
saw the parson spading that night?"

Jens Larsen had been standing with folded hands looking at the work. Now
he seemed to wake from a dream and pointed to a spot three or four
fathoms from the place where we were standing. "I think it was over
there," he said.

"What is that, Jens?" the pastor exclaimed with some asperity. "When did
you ever see me spade?"

Without heeding this interruption, Morten Bruus beckoned the men over to
the designated corner. He brushed away some withered cabbage stalks,
branches, and other rubbish, and ordered the digging to begin at once.

I stood quietly by, well satisfied with the course of events so far,
discussing with my father-in-law the misdemeanor for which the accuser
had made himself liable and the punishment which could be meted out to
him, when one of the spaders screamed, "Jesus Christ!"

We glanced quickly over at them. The crown of a hat had been uncovered.

"I think we'll find what we're looking for right here," Bruus said. "I
know that hat well, it belonged to Niels."

My blood froze in my veins, and I saw the whole hope of my life crumble
to earth.

"Dig, dig!" the terrible blood-avenger bawled, redoubling his own
efforts.

I looked over at my father-in-law; he was pale as death and trembling,
but his eyes were wide open and fixed in a sort of fascination on the
dreadful spot.

Another scream! They had uncovered a hand stretching up at them through
the earth.

"Look," cried Bruus, "he is reaching up after me. Wait, brother Niels,
you'll soon have your revenge."

Presently the whole body was uncovered, and it proved to be that of the
missing Niels, beyond any doubt. The face was scarcely recognizable--the
flesh had already begun to decay, and the nose was broken and smashed
flat; but the clothes, especially the shirt with Niels's name sewed on
it, were immediately identified by his fellow servants. And in the left
ear they even found the leaden ring which Niels had worn constantly for
several years.

"Now, parson," Morten cried, "come and lay your hand on the dead if you
dare."

The pastor sighed deeply, and raised his eyes in a mute appeal to
Heaven. "Almighty God," he said, "Thou art my witness that I am innocent
of this crime. Strike him, that I did indeed, and bitterly do I repent
it now. Strike him I did, but who buried him here, that Thou alone
knowest."

"Jens Larsen knows it, too," Bruus interrupted with a sneer, "and
perhaps we shall find others besides. Sir Judge"--he turned to
me--"doubtless you will wish to examine the servants, but I demand that
you first place this wolf in sheep's clothing under lock and key."

Alas, Thou merciful God! no longer dared I doubt; the evidence was too
plain. But I was ready to sink into the ground with horror and loathing.
I was just about to tell the pastor that he would have to submit to
arrest, when he himself spoke to me. He was ghastly pale, and shaking
like an aspen leaf. "Appearances are against me," he admitted, "but
surely this is the work of the devil himself, and I know that there is
One above who will bear witness to my innocence. Come, Sir Judge, in
chains and in prison will I await His disposition of me, poor sinner
that I am. Comfort my daughter! Remember she is your promised wife."

Scarce had he finished speaking, when we heard a moan and then a body
fall behind us. We turned quickly, and I saw that it was my betrothed
who had swooned and lay prone on the ground. Would to God I might have
lain down beside her and neither of us ever awakened again! I lifted her
up and held her in my arms, thinking she was dead; but her father tore
her from my grasp, and carried her into the house. At the same moment I
was called away to inspect a wound in the head of the slain man, which,
though not deep, had cracked the skull, and had clearly been caused by a
spade or some such blunt weapon.

After this we all went into the parsonage. My betrothed had already
regained consciousness, and when she saw me she rushed to me, flung her
arms around my neck, and implored me by all that was sacred to save her
father from the great danger which threatened him. Afterwards she begged
me, for the sake of our great love, to allow her to go with him to
prison, which request I granted her. I myself accompanied them to the
jail at Grennaae, in what a state of mind God alone knows. During the
whole of that melancholy ride none of us spoke a word, and I parted from
them with a bursting heart.

The body of Niels Bruus has been placed in a coffin which Jens Larsen
had ready for himself, and tomorrow it will be honorably buried in
Vejlbye churchyard.

Tomorrow, too, the first witnesses will be heard. May God strengthen me,
miserable creature that I am!

* * *

Fool that I was to strive so eagerly for this office of county judge!
Would that I had never obtained it! It is a dreary business to be a
judge. I would fain change places with one of the talesmen!

When this servant of God was led into Court this morning, his hands and
his feet in chains, I was reminded of Our Lord before the judgment seat
of Pontius Pilate, and methought I heard distinctly the voice of my
sweetheart--alas, she is lying ill at Grennaae--whisper to me, "Have
thou nothing to do with that just man."

Would to God that her father was such a one, but at present I cannot
perceive the slightest possibility of his innocence. Jens Larsen, the
widow, and her daughter Else were the first witnesses. They reaffirmed
on oath the entire story which they had previously told me, and that
almost word for word. Nothing was retracted, nothing added. Besides
these, three new -witnesses appeared, Sören Qvist's two menservants and
his milkmaid. The two men said that they had been sitting in the
servants' hall the afternoon of the day of the murder, and that through
the open window they had distinctly heard the voices of the pastor and
Niels raised in angry altercation and that they had heard the former cry
out, "You dog, you shall lie dead at my feet!" Their testimony,
therefore, coincided with that of the widow and her daughter. They
affirmed further, that they had twice before heard the pastor abuse and
threaten Niels, that when the pastor was angry, he did not hesitate to
use whatever weapon came to hand, and that he had once struck a servant
with a wooden maul.

The maid deposed that, on the same night when Jens Larsen had seen the
pastor in the garden, she had been unable to sleep, and as she lay there
wide awake she heard the door from the hall to the garden creak on its
hinges. She sprang from her bed and went over to the window to see what
it could be, and saw the pastor in his long robe and nightcap in the
garden. She was unable to see what he was doing out there, but about an
hour later she heard the garden door creak again.

When all the witnesses had been heard, I asked the defendant whether he
had anything to say in his own defense, or whether he was prepared to
make a confession. He folded his hands over his heart, and said
solemnly, "I am speaking the truth, so help me God, and I swear by His
holy word that I know no more of this matter than I have already
confessed. I struck the deceased with a spade, though not so hard but
that he could run away from me and out of the garden. What happened to
him afterwards, or how he came to be buried in my garden, I do not know.
As to the testimony of Jens Larsen and my maid that they saw me out in
the garden at night, I can only say that, either they are lying, or else
the whole thing is a phantom from hell. But I can clearly see that,
miserable creature that I am, I have no one to defend me here on earth,
and if my Heavenly Father chooses to remain silent, then verily I know
that I am lost, and I bow to His inscrutable will." When he had finished
speaking, the old man heaved a deep sigh, and bowed his head upon his
breast.

Many of those who were in the courtroom could not restrain their tears,
while others whispered that maybe their parson was innocent after all;
but this was merely the natural result of the emotions and sympathies
which he had aroused. My own heart, too, argued for his innocence, but
the reason of the judge cannot be swayed by the counsels or pleading of
the heart; neither pity nor hate, gain nor contempt, can weigh by so
much as a grain of sand in the even scales of justice. My own
well-considered judgment did not allow me to conclude other than that
the accused had killed Niels Bruus, though not with deliberate intent or
purpose. True, I knew he had been in the habit of making threats against
those who provoked his anger, saying that he "would remember them when
they least expected it," but he had never before been known to carry out
such threats. That the defendant now persisted in his denial was
doubtless due to the instinct of self-preservation and the desire to
vindicate his honor.

Morten Bruus (there is a churlish brute, ugly enough before and worse
now since his brother's murder) began to talk about means to force
confession from an obdurate sinner, but I shut him up quickly. God
forbid that I should put so venerable a man on the rack! What is it
after all but a trial of physical and mental strength?--he who
withstands the torture and he who succumbs to it may both be lying, and
a forced confession can never be trustworthy. Nay, rather than resort to
that, I would give up my office and the duties that have become so
irksome to me.

Alas, my sweet darling! I have lost her in this world, and yet I loved
her with all my heart.

* * *

I have just gone through another heart-rending scene. As I sat reviewing
this terrible case in my mind, trying to find some solution, the door
flew open and the pastor's daughter_-J scarce dare call her betrothed
who perhaps will never be my wife--rushed in, threw herself at my feet,
and embraced my knees. I lifted her into my arms, but it was some time
before either of us could speak for tears. I mastered my emotion first
and said to her, "I know what you are come for, dear heart---you would
ask me to save your father. Alas, God have mercy on us poor mortals, I
can do nothing. Tell me, dear child, do you yourself believe your father
to be innocent?"

She put her hand on her heart, and said, "I do not know," and with that
she began to weep again most bitterly. "Surely, he did not bury Niels in
the garden," she went on, when she had recovered somewhat, "but I
suppose the man died out in the woods from the blows that my father had
given him--alas, it must be so."

"My dear girl," I said, "both Jens Larsen and your maid saw him out in
the garden the following night."

She shook her head slowly. "Perhaps the foul fiend may have hoodwinked
them."

"Lord Jesus forbid that he should have such power over Christian folk,"
I replied.

She began to weep again, but after a while she said, "Tell me, my
affianced husband, tell me frankly, if God does not vouchsafe further
light on this matter, what verdict will you pronounce?" She looked at me
full of fear, and her lips trembled.

"Were I not sure that any other judge would be more severe than I," I
answered her, "I would resign my seat at once--yea, gladly lay down my
office forever. But, since you demand an answer, I dare not conceal from
you that the mildest sentence decreed by the laws of both God and the
King is a life for a life."

At this she fell to her knees in despair, but in a moment she was on her
feet again. She retreated a few steps, and then advanced toward me,
crying, as if distracted, "Will you murder my father? Will you murder
your betrothed?" She held her hand up to my eyes. "Do you see this
ring?" she asked me. "Do you remember what my unhappy father said when
you placed it on my finger?--'I give my maid into thy bosom'--But
you--you pierce my bosom:"

Merciful God, every word she said pierced my own bosom. "Dearest child,"
I sighed, "say not so! You tear my heart with red-hot pincers. What is
it you want me to do? Do you ask me to set free one whom the laws of God
and man condemn?"

She was silent for a moment, lost in thought, and I continued, "One
thing I will do, and if it is wrong, then I pray God not to lay this sin
to my charge. Listen, dear child. If this trial is concluded, then we
both know that your father's life is forfeited. There is no escape but
in flight. If you can evolve any plan of escape, I promise to shut my
eyes and keep silence. Nay more, I will give you every assistance. Look
you, as soon as your father was imprisoned, I wrote to your brother in
Copenhagen, and we can expect him almost any day now. When he comes, let
him help you, and meanwhile try to win the jailer for your plan; if you
need money, all that I have is yours."

When I had spoken this, her face flushed with hope, and she threw her
arms around my neck, and cried, "God reward you for this advice! If only
my brother were here now, then I know we should succeed." She stopped,
and was silent a moment. "But where could we go?" she asked, "and if we
were able to find refuge in some strange land, then I should never see
you again."

She said this so plaintively that I thought my heart would burst.
"Dearest child," I consoled her, "I will find you and come to you, no
matter how far you may travel. And if our resources are not sufficient
for our support, then these hands of mine shall work for us all. They
have wielded the axe and the plane before, and they can do it again."

At this she was exceeding happy, and kissed me many times. Then we
prayed together that God might see fit to further our plan, and when she
left me she was buoyed up with hope.

I too began to hope that we might find some way. But no sooner had she
gone, than my spirits were assailed by a thousand doubts, and all the
difficulties which seemed at the moment so easy to overcome now appeared
like mountains which my weak hands could never remove. Nayi out of this
darkness and terror only He to whom the night shineth as the day can
lead us!

* * *

Morten Bruus was here this morning and announced two new witnesses with
an air that boded little good for us. He has a heart as hard as flint
and full of poison and gall. The new witnesses are to appear in Court
tomorrow, and I am as despondent as if it were myself that they were to
testify against, May God give me strength!

* * *

All is over! He has confessed everything!

The Court was convened, and the prisoner led forth to hear the testimony
of the new witnesses. They deposed: That, on the now famous night of the
day after the crime, they were walking along the road that runs between
the woods and the garden of the parsonage, when they saw a man emerge
from the woods with a large sack on his back, walk quickly over to the
garden, and disappear behind the fence. The man's face was completely
concealed by the sack, but the moon shone full on his back, and they saw
distinctly that he was clad in a long green robe, and that he wore a
white nightcap.

No sooner had the first witness completed his testimony than the
pastor's face went ashen gray, and it was with the greatest difficulty
that he stammered in a weak voice, "I am ill." He was given a chair and
sat down heavily. Bruus turned to the spectators, and said, "That helped
the parson's memory, didn't it?" The pastor did not hear the sneer.
Instead he beckoned to me, and when I came over to him, he said, "Let me
be taken back to prison. I want to talk to you." It was done as he
requested.

We drove off to Grennaae, the pastor in the cart with the jailor and the
clerk, and I on horseback. As we opened the door to the prison, there
stood my betrothed making her father's bed. On a chair at the head of
the bed hung the telltale green robe. When she saw us entering together,
she gave a cry of joy, for she concluded that her father had been freed,
and that I was coming to release him from jail. She dropped what she had
in her hands, rushed over to her father, and flung her arms around his
neck. The old man wept so that his eyes were blinded with tears. He did
not have the heart to tell her what had just happened in the courtroom,
and instead sent her on some errands in town.

Before she left us, she ran over to me, took my hand and pressed it to
her heart, and whispered, "Have you good tidings?" To conceal my own
confusion I kissed her on the forehead, and said merely, "Dearest, you
shall know everything later on. I cannot tell yet whether what has
happened is of great importance one way or the other. Go now, and fetch
us what your father asked for."

Alas! what a change from the time when this innocent child lived,
carefree and happy, in the pleasant parsonage, to the dreary present
here in this dismal prison, with grief and terror for companions.

"Be seated, my friend," the pastor said to me as he himself sat down on
the edge of the bed, folded his hands in his lap, and stared down on the
floor as if lost in thought. At last he roused himself, sat up, and
fastened his eyes upon me. I waited in breathless silence as if it were
my own doom I was about to hear--as indeed in a sense it was.

"I am a great sinner," he began at last, "how great I do not myself
know. God alone knows, and I am firmly convinced that He wishes to
punish me here in this world so that I may receive grace and eternal
blessedness hereafter. Praise and glory be unto Him!" With this he
seemed to gain more quietness and strength, and he proceeded as follows:

"From my earliest childhood, as far back as I can remember, I have been
of a quarrelsome nature, proud and hasty, impatient of opposition, and
always ready to resort to blows. Yet have I seldom let the sun go down
on my anger, neither have I borne malice toward any man. When I was but
a half-grown boy my ungovernable temper led me to commit a deed which I
have often since bitterly repented and which, even now, I cannot recall
without pain. Our watchdog, a gentle beast who had never harmed any
living creature, ate up my lunch which I had for the moment laid on a
chair. I flew into a rage and kicked him so hard with my wooden shoes
that he died, moaning miserably in his agony.  That time it was only a
dumb animal, but it should have been a warning to me not to lay violent
hands on any creature. Again, some years later, when I was a student at
Leipzig University, I picked a quarrel with a Bursch, called him out,
and gave him a wound in the chest that came within a hair's breadth of
killing him. So you see I have these many years deserved what I am now
to suffer, but now my punishment falls with tenfold weight on my sinful
head: An old man, a pastor and messenger of peace, and--a father, O
merciful God, that is the deepest wound of all!" He sprang to his feet
and wrung his hands so that I could hear the joints creaking. I would
have said something to console him, but could find no words.

When he had regained control of himself, he sat down again, and
continued, "To you, formerly my friend and now my judge, I am about to
confess a crime which I can no longer doubt having committed, but which
I still do not fully understand."

I started in surprise and wondered what he meant, for I had prepared
myself for a full and open confession.

"I want you to pay the closest attention to what I am about to relate,"
he continued, "and try to understand me. I have already confessed all
that I know; that I struck the wretched fellow with a spade--whether
with the edge or the flat side I cannot remember--and that he fell down,
jumped up, and ran away into the woods. The rest, alas! has been told by
four witnesses: that I fetched his dead body and buried it in my garden
the following night. And though of all this I know nothing myself, I am
forced to accept it as the truth, and you hall hear my reasons.

"On three or four occasions earlier in my life I have walked in my
sleep. The last time I know of having done this was some nine or ten
years ago; it was the night before I was to hold funeral services for a
man who had met a very sudden and painful death. I remember it all
distinctly. I remember that I was at a loss for a suitable text, when
the words of one of the Greek philosophers occurred to me, 'Call no man
happy before he is dead.' But to use a heathen text for a Christian
service would never do, and I was sure that I should be able to find the
same idea in about the same words somewhere in the Bible. I hunted
diligently, but without success, and since I was already tired from
other work, I undressed and went to bed, and soon fell asleep. The next
morning when I went to my study to find a proper text and outline my
talk, I was dumbfounded to see, lying on my desk, a piece of paper with
the words: 'Call no man happy until his days are told. Sirach's Book,
11th chapter, 34th verse,' written in large clear letters. But this was
not all; beside it lay a funeral sermon, brief but well-constructed--and
all in my own handwriting. No one had been in the room. The door was
bolted on the inside, because the lock was worn and easily sprang open.
No one had come through the window, for it was frozen fast to the
casement. I had composed and written the whole thing in my sleep.

"Nor is this the only instance of its kind. It was indeed but a few
months previous to this that I had, while sound asleep, gone into the
church to fetch a handkerchief which I distinctly remember having left
on my chair behind the altar.

"And now, my friend, it must all be plain to you. When the first witness
was giving his testimony this morning in Court, I suddenly remembered
these earlier occasions of walking in my sleep, and I remembered, too,
another incident which, until that moment, had completely slipped my
mind: when I awoke on the morning after the body had been buried, I
found my green robe, which I always hang over the back of a chair beside
my bed, lying on the floor. The miserable victim of my ungovernable
temper must have fallen dead in the woods, and I must have found him
there, brought him to my garden, and buried him--all in my sleep. Yes,
God have mercy upon me, it must be so."

He ceased speaking, buried his face in his hands, and wept bitterly. As
for me, I was utterly astounded and full of misgivings. I had from the
beginning believed that the murdered man had died on the spot where he
was attacked, and that the pastor had hastily covered him over with some
dirt--though how he was able to do this in broad daylight without being
seen was a mystery to me--and later had buried the body deeper in the
ground. Now the last witnesses had just testified that they saw the
pastor carrying a sack from the woods. This struck me as most
extraordinary, and it had occurred to me at once that their testimony
might conflict with our earlier version of the case, and the man's
innocence thus be demonstrated. But now, alas, all the facts fitted
together only too well, and his guilt was established beyond the shadow
of a doubt. Only the curious aspect which his sleepwalking had given the
case continued to perplex me. That he had committed the murder was
certain, but whether the last and the less important half of the crime
was carried out in a waking or a sleeping condition remained a puzzle to
me. The pastor's whole conduct, his testimony in court, all bore the
hallmark of truth, yea, for truth's sake he sacrificed his last hope of
life. Yet perhaps he still hoped to preserve a certain remnant of honor;
or, on the other hand, perhaps he was really telling the truth. Such
spells of sleepwalking are not unknown, nor is it beyond the realm of
possibility that a man who was mortally wounded could have run so far.

The pastor paced quickly to and fro, then stopped in front of me. "You
have now heard my full confession," he said, "and I know that your lips
will be forced to pronounce sentence on me and condemn me, but tell me,
what says your heart?'

"My heart," I replied, though I could scarce speak for pity, "my heart
bleeds for you, and it would gladly cease beating at this moment could
it thus save you from a shameful and terrible death." Our last
resort--flight--I dared not even mention.

"You cannot save me," he said hurriedly. "My life is forfeited, my death
just, and I shall serve as a terrible warning to succeeding generations.
But promise that you will not abandon my poor daughter. I had hoped,
once, to give her in thy bosom." At this the tears welled up in his
eyes, but he mastered his emotion, and continued, "That hope I have
myself destroyed, for you cannot wed the daughter of a malefactor! But
promise me that you will take care of her as a second father."

Mournfully and with tears I gave him my hand.

"I presume you have not heard from my son of late?" the pastor continued
when we had both recovered our composure. "I hope that he may remain in
ignorance of this misery until it is all over, for I do not think I
could bear to see him." He buried his face in his hands, turned and
rested his forehead against the wall, and sobbed like a child. It was
some time before he was able to speak.

"Now, my friend, leave me--and let us not see each other again until we
meet in the house of stern justice. And then--give me One last token of
your friendship--let my sentence be pronounced soon, tomorrow if
possible, for verily I long for death. I hope that through the infinite
mercy of Christ it will mean but the beginning of a happier life than
this, which now has nothing to give me but anguish and terror. Farewell,
my kind and compassionate judge, let me be brought before you tomorrow.
And send at once for Pastor Jens in Aalsoe, for I want him to minister
the last sacrament to me. Farewell, God bless you and preserve you." He
averted his face, but stretched forth his hand to me. I stumbled out of
the prison, scarce knowing what I did.

I should perhaps have ridden home without speaking to the daughter, had
she not been awaiting me outside the prison wall. She must have read the
death sentence in my face, for she paled and seized my arm. She looked
at me imploringly, as if begging for her own life, but could not ask--or
dared not.

"Fly, fly--save your father!" was all that I could say, I threw myself
on my horse, and was home before I knew it. Tomorrow, then!

* * *

The sentence has been pronounced, and the guilty man heard it with
greater fortitude and composure than he who pronounced it possessed.
Every one in Court, with the exception of his obdurate enemy, showed the
most profound sympathy for the condemned, and there were those who
whispered that it was a cruel sentence. Yea, cruel it is indeed, for it
deprives one man of his life and three others of their happiness and
peace of mind forever. May the merciful God judge me more leniently than
I, poor sinner, dare judge my fellow man.

* * *

This morning she was here and found me sick in bed. There is no longer
any hope. He refuses to escape.

* * *

Everything was arranged. The jailor had been won over. A fisherman, a
cousin of her sainted mother, had promised to transport them all to
Sweden, and had his fishing smack in readiness; but the repentant sinner
was not to be persuaded. He will not flee from the sword of
righteousness, for he is firmly convinced that through his own death and
his Saviour's, he will find salvation hereafter. She left me as unhappy
as she came, but without a single unkind word. God help her, poor child,
how will she ever live through the terrible day! And here I lie, sick in
body and in soul, unable to give comfort or aid. Her brother has not yet
arrived.

Farewell, bride of my heart! Farewell, in this dreary world until we
meet again in a better one. May it not be long, for I am wearied of this
life and ready for death. Would that I might pass over the border ahead
of him whom stern duty forces me to send thither.

"Farewell, my beloved," she said to me. "I leave you without bitterness,
for I know that you did only what was your stern duty; but now farewell,
for we two can never meet again." She made the sign of peace over me,
and left me. God give me soon eternal peace!

Merciful God, where will she go? What are her plans? Her brother is not
yet here--and tomorrow--at Ravens' Hill. . . .  [Footnote: The knoll on
Aalsöe meadow just outside of Grennaae, where Pastor Sören Qvist was
beheaded, is still called Ravnhöj (Ravens' Hill).]

* * *

(At this point the Journal of Judge Erik Sörensen comes to an abrupt
end. For the elucidation and exposition of this terrible tragedy we can
refer to the written account of the parish pastor of Aalsöe, neighbor
and friend of the lamented Sören Qvist, which follows below.)




II. THE NARRATIVE OF THE AALSÖE PASTOR


IN the seventeenth year of my pastorate there occurred in this
neighborhood an event which filled all men with terror and consternation
and reflected shame and disgrace upon the cloth. The pastor at Vejlbye,
the Reverend Sören Qvist, in a moment of anger, killed his coachman and
buried him at night in his garden. He was duly tried in the regular
Court, and, after hearing the damning testimony of several witnesses,
confessed the dreadful crime, and was sentenced to be beheaded. This
sentence was carried out here in Aalsöe meadow in the presence of
thousands of spectators.


The condemned man, whose spiritual adviser I had formerly been,
requested that I be allowed to visit him in prison and bring him the
solace of religion, and I can truthfully say that I never administered
the last sacrament to a more repentant and believing Christian. He
confessed with deepest contrition that he had hardened his heart and
been as a child of wrath, for which God had humbled him deeply and
covered him with shame and bowed him with sorrow, that he might again be
raised up through Christ. He maintained his composure to the very end,
and, standing on the scaffold, spoke to the assembled throng a few words
full of power and grace, which he had composed during his imprisonment.
His homily dealt with anger and its terrible consequences, and was
replete with moving reference to himself and the great sin into which
his anger had led him. His text he took from the Lamentations of
Jeremiah, Chapter two, sixth verse, "The Lord hath despised in the
indignation of His anger the king and the priest." Upon the conclusion
of his moving discourse, he disrobed, tied the cloth before his eyes,
and knelt down with folded hands, and as I said the words--"Be of good
cheer, dear brother! Today shall thou be with the Saviour in Paradise,"
the sword fell, and his head was severed from his body.

That which made death most bitter to him was the thought of leaving his
two children. The elder, a son, was away at the time of the
execution--we thought in Copenhagen, but we later learned in
Lund--wherefore he only arrived in the evening of the day on which his
father paid the supreme penalty. The daughter--who, to the still more
heart-rending woe of herself and her lover, had been affianced to the
judge who sentenced him--I took home with me, more dead than alive,
after she had said a last farewell to her father. When I returned home
from what was the most painful duty of my whole life, I found her fairly
composed, and busied with preparing her father's shroud--for it was
permitted him to be buried in consecrated ground if the interment were
conducted in quiet and privacy. She no longer wept, but neither did she
speak. I too was silent, for what indeed was I to say to her. I who was
myself bowed down with sorrow and foreboding?

About an hour after my return home, my cart arrived with the body, and
shortly afterwards a young man on horseback dashed into the yard. It was
the son. He threw himself upon his father's body, and thereafter into
his sister's arms; brother and sister clasped each other in a long
embrace, but neither of them was able to say a word.

That afternoon a grave was dug hard by the side door of Aalsöe church,
and there, at midnight, were laid the last mortal remains of the former
Vejlbye pastor. A stone with a simple cross, which I had earlier
prepared for myself, marks the grave, and reminds every churchgoer of
the sinfulness of man and his ultimate salvation through the Cross of
Christ.  [Footnote: This marker is still standing in the Aalsöe
churchyard.]

The next morning both the two fatherless children had disappeared, and
no one has since been able to discover any trace of them. God alone
knows in what secluded corner they have hidden themselves from the
world.

The county judge continues to be ailing and is not expected to live. I
myself am sore afflicted by sorrow and anguish, and I feel that death
would be the greatest boon to all of us together. We are in the hands of
God. May He suffer us to be governed by His wisdom and His mercy.

* * *

Lord, how inscrutable are Thy ways!

In the thirty-eighth year of my pastorate, and just twenty-one years
after my brother pastor, the Reverend Sören Qvist of Vejlbye, was
sentenced to death and beheaded for the murder of one of his servants,
it happened that a beggar came to my door. He was an elderly man with
grizzled hair, and walked with the aid of a crutch. None of the maids
were present at the time, so I went out into the kitchen myself to give
him a bite to eat, and, while he was munching his bread, I asked him
whence he came. He sighed, and replied, "From nowhere."

I then asked him his name. He looked timidly around, and said, "They
used to call me Niels Bruus."

I felt a cold shiver run down my spine, and said to him "That is an ugly
name; a fellow of that name was murdered here about a score of years
ago."

He sighed even more deeply, as he muttered, "I ought to have died then;
it has gone badly with me ever since I left this country."

I could feel my hair stand on end, and I shook with terror; for now it
seemed to me that I recognized him, and further, it was as if I saw
standing before me the living image of Morten Bruus whom I had buried
three years earlier. I started back and made the sign of the Cross, for
I thought that this must be a ghost.

My visitor seated himself heavily on the edge of the fireplace, and
said, "Alackaday, parson, I hear my brother Morten is dead. I went to
the farm at Ingvorstrup, but the new owner didn't know me and drove me
away. Is my old master, the Vejlbye parson, still alive?"

Then suddenly the scales fell from my eyes, and I understood the meaning
of this whole miserable affair; but I was so profoundly shocked that I
quite lost the power of speech for several minutes.

"Heigh-ho," he was saying, as he greedily ate his bread, "it was all
Morten's fault. But did any harm befall the old parson?"

"Niels, Niels," I cried, full of horror and loathing, "you have a bloody
crime on your conscience. On your account an innocent man lost his life
at the hands of the executioner."

The beggar started back so that he almost fell into the fire; the bread
dropped from his hands, and his crutch rattled to the floor. "God
forgive you, Morten," he groaned, "God forgive you and me, but it was
none of my doing. . . . But tell me," he looked at me appealingly, "it's
not true? You're only trying to scare me. I have come here from far on
the other side of Hamburg, and not a word of this have I heard on the
way.  No one has known me, except you, parson, but when I passed through
Vejlbye I asked if the pastor was still alive, and they said Yes."

"That's the new pastor," I told him, "not he whom you and your wicked
brother did to death."

At this the poor fellow began to wring his hands and moan and whimper
with such evident sincerity that I could easily see that he had been but
a blind tool in the hands of the devil. He even aroused my pity, and I
invited him into my study, where I spoke to him a few words of comfort
until he was somewhat quieted, and was able to tell me, brokenly, the
whole story of their hellish plot.

The brother Morten--a man of Belial--had conceived a deadly hatred of
Pastor Sören Qvist at Vejlbye from the day that the pastor had refused
him his daughter in marriage. When therefore the pastor rid himself of
his coachman, Morten told his brother Niels to seek the position. "And
have a care now," he told Niels, "when the chance comes we'll play a
trick on the black man, and you shan't be the loser by it." Niels, who
was rough and stubborn by nature and was egged on by Morten, was soon
quarrelling with his master, and the first time the pastor struck him he
hurried over to tell his brother at Ingvorstrup.

"Just let him strike you once more," Morten said, "and he shall pay dear
for it. If he does, you come to me and tell me at once."

It was shortly after this conversation that Niels picked a quarrel with
the pastor out in the garden, and when the pastor had felled him with a
blow from the spade, he ran without delay to Ingvorstrup. The brothers
met outside the farmhouse, and Niels told Morten what had just happened
in the parsonage garden. "Did any one see you on your way over here?"
Morten asked him. Niels thought not. "Then," said Morten, "we'll give
the parson a fright that he won't recover from in a fortnight."

Morten then led Niels by a secluded way to the farmhouse and concealed
him there until night. As soon as every one was in bed, the brothers
stole forth to a corner in the meadow where, two days earlier, they had
buried the body of a youth about the age, size, and general appearance
of Niels. (He had worked at Ingvorstrup, and hanged himself in his room,
some said in desperation over Bruus's tyranny; others, in grief over an
unhappy love affair.) This body the brothers now dug up, despite the
protest of Niels, and carried back to the farmhouse which was nearby.
Then Niels was compelled to take off all his clothes, and the dead body
was dressed in them, piece for piece, even to Niels's earring. When this
work was completed, Morten gave the corpse a blow on the face with a
heavy spade, and one over the temple, and then threw the body into a
sack until the following evening, when they carried it into the woods
just outside the parsonage at Vejlbye.

Time and again, Niels assured me, he asked his brother what all this ado
was about, but the latter always replied, "That is none of your affair;
you leave all that to me." Now when they were come to the woods, Morten
said to him, "Run over and fetch me one of the parson's gowns--try to
find the long green robe I have seen him go around with in the morning."

"I dare not," Niels replied, "his clothes are all hanging in his
bedroom."

"Then I dare," said Morten, "and I will do without you. Now you go away
at once, and never show your face here again. Here is a purse with a
hundred dollars; that ought to last you until you get to the South--but
remember--far away--where no one will know you or recognize you. Take
another name, and never set foot on Danish soil again. Travel by night,
and hide in the forests by day. Here is a bag with food enough for you
until you get out of the kingdom. Now hurry, and don't come back if you
value your life."

Niels, who was accustomed to obeying his brother, did as he was told,
and there the brothers parted, nor did they ever see each other again.
Niels had suffered much in foreign lands. In Germany he was conscripted
for the army and served in many campaigns in which he lost his health.
Poor, weak, and miserable, he resolved to revisit his birthplace before
he died, and after encountering much hardship and suffering he had
managed to make his way back to this neighborhood.

Such, in brief, was the story which this unhappy wretch told me, and I
was forced to accept its veracity. Thus it was revealed to me that my
unfortunate brother pastor had fallen as a sacrifice to the infamous
villainy of his mortal enemy, to the delusion of the judge and the
witnesses, and to his own too ready self-deception. What, indeed, is man
that he dare set himself up to judge his fellow men! Who dares say to
his brother, "Thou art deserving of death!" Judge not, that ye be not
judged.  Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord. Only He who
gives life can take it away. And may He compensate you for the bitter
martyr death that you suffered here with the gift of everlasting life!

I did not feel disposed to surrender this broken and repentant sinner to
the law, all the less as the judge, Erik Sören-sen, was still living,
and it would have been cruel to let him know of his terrible mistake,
before he left this world for one where all things are to be revealed.
Instead, I strove to give the returned prodigal the solace of religion,
and exhorted him by all that was sacred to conceal his real name and the
real story of the Vejlbye crime from everyone. On this condition I
promised him a refuge and care at the home of my brother, who lives far
away from here.

The next day was a Sunday. When I returned home late that evening from
my parish of ease, I found that the beggar had gone, and before the
evening of the following day his story was known all over the
neighborhood. Driven by his uneasy conscience, he had hurried over to
Rosmus and there revealed himself as the real Niels Bruus before the
judge and all his household. The judge was so deeply affected that he
suffered a stroke and died before the week was out. And on Tuesday
morning they found Niels Bruus lying dead outside the door of Aalsöe
church, across the grave of the sainted Sören Qvist.





GYPSY LIFE

[_Kjeltringliv,_ 1829]


I HAVE two things to apologize for: the title and the story. The first
is low, vulgar, and perhaps disgusting to a refined and delicate taste;
the second is like unto the first.  [Footnote: _Kjeltring,_ the word
applied to the Danish gypsies, means "rogue," "villain," although
Blicher claims, in his introduction to this story, that it had lost much
of its obnoxious meaning. Blicher's friend, N. V.  Dorph (see note on
page 303), thought it should be written _Keldring_ and that it was
originally _Kedeldreng,_ from _Kedel,_ "kettle," and _Dreng,_ "boy,"
having reference to the skill of the gypsies as tinkers.--TRANSLATOR.]

True, the account of great villains is the most interesting aspect of
history and romance; but in the first place we don't call them that, and
furthermore such racy characters must be people of high degree, or at
least of honest degree, not people with whom no farmer would eat from
the same dish. Who can deny that Claudius and Messalina, Pope Sergius
and Marozia, Front de Beuf and Ulrica lived the life of villains, but,
be it noted, in palaces and not in sheepcots? That which is becoming in
royal personages and holy prelates, or in Norman barons, is not proper
in Jutland nightmen. Nero was a great monster--Jens Long-Knife a vulgar
scoundrel. It never occurs to a well-bred person to moralize over the
manners of the Turkish Sultan _in puncto sexti;_ when he keeps three
hundred mistresses, while a Christian prince often gets along with
three, that is gallantry on a grand scale. But if a travelling glazier
has three wives, it is quite rightly called lewd conduct. Our moral
sense is outraged when a gypsy throws his stick to anyone he fancies,
but if a king desires the wife or daughter of one of his subjects, we
smile and say, "He throws the handkerchief."

It is not the thing itself that is weighed on the scales of justice, but
who does it and how it is done. To steal from an enemy country is called
to levy a contribution; to kill and maim thousands of people is called a
brilliant victory; to burn a city and lay waste a province is called
conquest. But when our Jutland nightmen levy contributions, it is
stealing. When a gypsy wins a decisive victory in a duel with
thorn-staves and clasp knives, it is murder, and if he should burn down
a straw hut (which very rarely happens), it is genuine arson. To steal a
country, as everybody knows, is a grand undertaking; to steal a pig or a
sheep is a vulgar theft.  Attila and Semiramis get their places in
history; Stoffer One-Eye and Big-Margret get theirs in Viborg jail.

But I am myself in danger of talking like a villain and, instead of my
intended apologies for the villainous life of my heroes, I am straying
into a kind of defense of them. Yet that was not my purpose! I have
enough to do defending myself; I am really at my wit's end, and have no
recourse but to say: a good friend asked me to do it. But let no one
think I am lying in this matter, too, or that I am guilty of the usual
prudery. No, this time I am speaking the unadulterated truth, and I
could even name my man, if I were not afraid of compromising him. "Write
a story about the gypsies," he has said several times, "it might be
amusing enough."--"Faugh," I have always replied, "that's a vulgar
subject."--"Why so?" he has answered. "Don't the 'Egyptians' have their
places on the canvases of Scott, Goethe, Müller, and others? Our Danish
'nightmen' are the same breed. Call them 'Egyptians' if you like." But
that does not appeal to me. _Kjeltring_ is a good Danish word, which I
mean to keep.

But before I end this Introduction I must add a few words of
explanation. _Kjeltring_ [villain] is the name which the common people
in Denmark give to the vagrant "nightpeople" particularly, but one which
these people do not themselves own. The word as the peasants use it in
this sense does not involve any criminal tendencies, and they can
perfectly well say "a decent Kjeltring." The true _Kjeltringer_--not
those who are found in all classes of society--constitute an isolated
association, a state within the state; and therefore a certain French
traveller spoke more truly than he knew when he said: _"En Danemarc il y
une nation, qui s'appelle Kieltrings, elle n'est pas si bien cul-tivée
comme les autres danois."_

This nation calls itself "Travellers." A name that hits the bull's-eye!
For life is to these people more than anything else a journey. They
journey, in the most literal sense, through life, for they have no fixed
habitation, but wander from one town to another; they have no home, but
only a shelter. They are born, marry, and die--all while on the road.
But if anyone on that account should call them tramps or vagrants they
would feel very much insulted, and rightly so. They are nomads, just as
much as Kalmucks or Bedouins. They are travellers, just as much as Mungo
Park, Belzoni, or Colonel Sundt--men whom nobody thinks of
characterizing as vagrants, because their vagrancy is on a large scale;
that is the difference. And I find it an attractive feature in the small
_voyageurs,_ contrasted with the great ones, that they wander about
incognito, without pretensions or letters of introduction, and do not
torture us afterwards with "Travels" which are more wearisome to read
than to perform. Would we might learn from their silence! Would that
many might imitate them, instead of filling whole volumes with
misinformation and wrong opinions--with looks askance at the great men
or prominent writers who have not made enough of them--with still more
shameless and impertinent praise of others who have had no desire to be
dragged out and displayed to the public view in payment for a meal or a
bed--with kaleidoscopic landscape paintings and enthusiastic ravings,
both equally obscure and incomprehensible--or with menus which are
sometimes the fattest morsels in the book and, so far as they arouse the
appetite, the most inoffensive.

So much for the Introduction.




THIRST----THE _PRAEVLIQUANTS_[2]--_LAKVIRUM_[3]----GYPSY LATIN----
GYPSY WEATHER

[2] Persons who speak a fine (gypsy) language. . [3] Bad weather.


THE day was sultry. A strong southeast wind swept the heat down over
us--a veritable sirocco. Whitish red thunder-clouds were piling up above
the horizon both in the east and the west.

They looked like a distant range of snow-capped mountains, their summits
gilded by the sun, their bases divided by deep, dark valleys. One by one
the clouds lost their sharp contours, were thinned and spread out in
lighter, more tenuous strips--a sign that "the artillery of heaven" was
about to thunder; but the noise was drowned in the bluster of the wind,
as the gleams of lightning were in the golden effulgence of the sun.

I walked on between the two fire-spewing batteries. Driven by my thirst,
I walked fast, in spite of the intense heat, bent on reaching a bog
which I was certain must be found in the general direction in which I
was headed. How far away it was I could not tell, for on the flat
expanse of heath there was no elevated object that could have guided me,
and even had there been one, the quivering of the hazy air would have
obscured and confused the outlines. At last I caught sight of the tops
of some scrubby willows and a pale green strip in the heather. My dog,
who was suffering even more from thirst than I, sniffed the air and ran
on ahead. I envied him his greater speed. Alas, without reason! I soon
saw him scraping the ground, and knew that the bog was dried out. There
we both stood, baffled in our ardent longing. I threw myself down on the
ground, discouraged; but my poor companion howled and panted and eagerly
scraped aside the dry grass in order to cool his heaving chest in
whatever slight moisture the meadow retained.

Pity us not, kind reader! I have known a man--a darling child of fate, a
pet of fortune and of men--who plumed himself on never in his life
having known real hunger or thirst. Pity him! The unhappy man did not
know the taste of water, still less what it means, when reeling with
heat and burning thirst, to plunge into the cool, invigorating embrace
of the waves. This luxury awaited me only a short mile from the
dried-out bog, where I found a lake surrounded by heather and bog
myrtle.

Revived for new exertions, with an unspeakably pleasant tingling of all
my nerves, I sat a little ways up from the lake on the windy side of a
grave-mound--the only one in the vicinity as far as my eye could reach.
The dog lay at my feet and shared my ambrosial repast of bread and
cheese, when an animated object attracted his attention; he raised his
head a little, pricked up his ears, drew his eyebrows together, growled,
and emitted a few short yelps.

I turned and saw a spectacle approaching that might well astonish both
men and dogs. It was in fact an amphibious creature, or a hermaphrodite,
an enormously tall Holofernes in petticoats, a creature that was man
above and woman below. The apparition came toward me carrying a lance in
either hand--my thumb automatically pressed the trigger of my gun. But
in a moment I discovered that the lances were only sticks, and that the
creature was a double figure with two heads, four arms, four sticks, and
four legs--to put it briefly and clearly: a man carried by a woman. A
boy a little less than half grown walked close behind them. The path ran
below the mound on the opposite side, but as the approaching trio had
the sun in their eyes, they could not see me. The dog was silent, either
from fear or amazement.

A man who--figuratively speaking--patiently carries his domestic cross
through life, or who from love of his wife carries her on his hands, is
no great rarity, but a female cross-bearer in a literal sense, actually
with her husband on her back, was something I had never encountered. The
story about _die Weiber von Weinsberg_ has always seemed to me a little
suspicious; it happened far away and long ago. At any rate, it was only
a question of a short walk and no more; _einmal ist keinmal._ And these
celebrated women were moved by fear of widowhood, perhaps also by a
desire to make a sensation among the officers of the enemy. Here on the
wide, barren heath there must be other motives; the first one, I
discovered, was that the man lacked both his feet.

When the little party had arrived at a spot right in front of the mound,
they made a halt. The woman turned her back to the slope, leaned over,
and allowed her burden to slide down.

Then she straightened up, stretched her limbs, drew a few long breaths,
and sat down between the man and the boy. The latter laid a little bag
in her lap. Food was taken out and eaten in silence. When the scanty
meal was ended, they began a brief conversation, of which I only caught
a word now and then; for it was carried on in a language which--from
such expressions as _jup, brall, pukkasch--_I soon realized was the
so-called Romany. In a few minutes the topic seemed to be exhausted, and
all three lay down to sleep.

Now I rose and went around to the other side of the mound to examine the
group of sleepers. The man was of a small but--barring the fact that he
lacked feet--well-shaped figure with a fresh face of a brown complexion;
he seemed to be in the prime of life. The woman was of a much darker
color; had thick, black eyebrows which almost met, a short nose, full
cheeks, a rather wide mouth with thick lips which, when parted, revealed
snow-white teeth that anyone might envy her. Torso and limbs were large
and strongly built; she looked as if she could throw a man or carry him.

So far I had come in my observation of this strange pair, but what have
we seen of a human being when the shutters hide the windows of the soul?
No more than the binding shows of a book.

I had already turned away and was about to go on, when the boy cried
out, _"Madrum, padrum,_ a dog, a hunter!" The woman opened a pair of
black, deep-set, serious eyes, slowly rose to a sitting position, and
nodded to me in the peculiar manner these people use when they greet
anyone. In the same instant the man opened the shutters of two large,
light blue, merry and lively eyes. He took off his hat, but did not stir
from his relaxed position.

I like to speak foreign languages, not to show off my linguistic
accomplishments, but because there is something particularly pleasant
about getting on familiar terms with foreigners, for without this means
of communication, we should have to regard each other as deaf mutes. The
magic words loose the tongue, open the hidden treasure trove of the
soul, and stimulate that barter of thoughts by which both parties are
gainers.  Moreover, there is the sweetly tingling surprise; when a
traveller who is laboriously trudging along in a strange language
suddenly is addressed in his beloved mother tongue then thoughts and
speech get life and wings, words pour out in an unbroken stream--the
stranger is suddenly at home, he is among friends and kinfolk.

Not for any of these reasons--but rather without reason, as we so often
speak and act--I had a fancy not to hide my gypsy light under a bushel.
I returned their nods with a _"Goddeis Genfer_."  [Footnote: Good-day,
folks.] A quick smile played over the Asiatic features of the woman, but
the man raised his body, supporting himself with the palms of both
hands, and looked suspiciously first at me, then at the lady.

"Is she your Maze?" [Footnote: Wife.] I asked.

_"Sibe, sibe_,'" [Footnote: Yes, yes.] he said quickly and gave her a
kindly look.

"It must be hard work for you to carry your _Knaster_," [Footnote: man.]
I said to her. _"Nobes_" [Footnote: No] she replied curtly, and whipped
the heather with her stick. I then put my hand in my pocket, gave the
boy a few coppers--for which the man thanked me politely--said
good-bye, and left.

It was not till I had gone some little distance that I began to regret
not having questioned these people more closely. But that is always the
way; the nearer we are to the unusual, the remarkable, the less it
awakens our interest. A man may live ten years at Möen and not see the
chalk cliffs, but may travel to Switzerland to see Schreckhorn or
Staubbach. Another man has twice been to see the Rhine falls, but has
never once seen the Western Ocean, although he can hear its mighty
thunder every day. When I visited Rosenborg, it was in the company of
four Copenhageners--and all five of us were there for the first time.
Anyone who had the time and the means might easily get a notion to run
down to Norwood or Siebenbürgen to see a gypsy camp, but our Danish
pariahs can pass him every day without being thought worthy of a glance.

How strange, I thought afterwards, is not this little caravan! How
unselfish, how strong, faithful, even heroic is not this woman's love
for a helpless cripple, whom she has carried on her shoulders--heaven
knows how far or how long! How mighty is not the invisible power that
has united these two beings--wild children of a wild and barren nature!
And yet it is against the fundamental principle of nature, for usually
it is the vine that clings to the elm, the weak woman who seeks
protection from the man; here it is just the opposite.

Filled with these thoughts, I turned back to retrieve my neglect and
learn more about this strange couple and their--no doubt--strange fate.
I walked back about a mile to the mound, but the caravan had already
disappeared; as far as my eye could reach, there was not a living
creature to be seen.

It was toward evening; I had to think of the night. The town where I had
intended to spend it was six miles distant, and in the intervening
stretch there was not--so far as I knew--a single human habitation.

"Southeast squalls and women's quarrels are apt to end in water," the
Jutlanders say. The latter may fail, if the person in question is
allowed to remain in possession of the field and the last word; but the
truth of the former was soon brought home to me in a very forcible
manner.

The wind had gone down, but the sky was hidden by black, low-scudding
clouds. The rumbling of the thunder became louder and louder, and an
occasional flash of lightning appeared here and there in the distance. I
realized that I could not escape the storm, and I therefore prepared
myself for a wet coat, but also for the enjoyment of the most impressive
natural spectacle our country can show. "Heath--night--thunder and
lightning," such is the description of the stage on which Lear's madness
rages more furiously than the elements. Here I had the same setting and
the same scenery, the same stage machin-ery, and--I was alone.
Unchecked, undisturbed, my imagination could fly on the wings of the
storm and ride on the bolts of the thunder.

Fear not, grave reader, that I shall jar you out of the staid and
measured ambling of your soul! This time I shall not plague you with
what I thought and felt; for some of it is of such a nature that I want
to keep it to myself, and some of it is such that I could not tell you
even if I wanted to. If this story should happen to fall into the hands
of one who has allowed himself to be drenched through in order to
witness a thunderstorm at night, such a one will know what I mean.
Others must be satisfied with what I saw and heard.

Evening came; night came. The storm was around me, was over me. Thor's
chariot rumbled; the axles blew sparks, the feet of his goats clattered
up and down the hills and vales of the clouds; rain and hail poured down
in torrents. Pitch dark and blinding light alternated. One moment I
walked in a darkness that one could see and feel; the next moment the
heath lay before me in a baffling light, and for an instant the sky
showed me its curtain rent asunder. In such moments nothing was lacking
but the witches of Macbeth.

_ PENNEKAS [9]--DRALLERS_ [10]--GYPSY BALL

[Footnote 9: Shelter.] [Footnote 10: Dancing.]

SOME distance ahead of me there appeared a stationary light, which was
blotted out each time the lightning illuminated the sky, but shone again
in the darkness that followed. I knew just about where I was on the
heath, and I knew that there could not be--at least there had not been a
few weeks ago--any human dwelling here. I stood still now and then in
order to see whether the light moved. No! Then it could not be a lantern
or a will-o'-the-wisp, but perhaps one of those mysterious meteors that
are thought to mark the spot where treasure is hidden, or where a corpse
is buried. I did not fear the latter, still less the former; so I walked
on. The light became larger and clearer.

I had just made a halt when a terrific flash of lightning revealed an
object in front of me which looked like a house without a roof. I was
startled, and involuntarily I thought of those shifting ballrooms which
the underground people are said to build for their nightly orgies. And
yet--what sensible hill man or hill woman would care to dance above
ground on such a night as this? The light of the heavens was
extinguished, but this earthly light was lit again. I stared, I
listened--faint tones of a stringed instrument, sometimes lost in the
din of thunder and the howling of the wind, reached my ears. So then it
was a dance--at night, here on the wild heath, in the wild storm! Should
I stay where I was, or go back or forward? Curiosity prompted me to go
on, for I had never before been in an assembly of witches or a festivity
of hill people. (My adventure at Dagbjerg Dos was, to be honest, neither
more nor less than a dream.)

Again I walked on, determined to penetrate this horrible mystery, but if
I should find here one of the castles of the seductive Morgana, to beat
a hasty retreat. Now I was so near that the light took shape as a
square--it shone from a window in the enchanted castle. Again I made a
halt. The music sounded quite distinctly; it was a fiddle and no harp.
This circumstance reassured me as to any seductive Morgana, but on the
other hand it made me think of picnics at which the fiddlers were billy
goats. I listened; the music was mixed with shouts and laughter. I
stared; dark figures moved back and forth inside the window. I was in a
strange mood.

Meanwhile the storm had passed; the rain had stopped; a few stars
glistened here and there with "weeping" eyes through the quickly
drifting clouds of mist. The outlines of the oriental house were now
plain. I ventured to stretch out my hand to find out if it was made of
earthly stuff or of such materials as the elves and fairies use. I felt,
I saw; the hut was built of heath turf, as substantial, as real as
anything could be. So there was a human shelter here; _ergo_ there could
be one, and I had come to a false conclusion a little while ago, as one
often does when one deduces from _posse_ to _esse._ A man of firmer
principles would have said, "Here is no house, for there cannot be any."
But I, who am not so strong in _logica,_ accepted the bona fide house
for a house, and merely wondered how it came there, and for what
purpose.

I must make a digression; it is neither long nor uncalled for. Anyone
who really loves dancing is never at a loss for a ballroom. When the
French (who are a genuine dancing nation) had stormed Constantinople,
they danced in the Sophia Church, just as sweaty and bloody as they came
from the city walls. When they had stormed the Tuileries, they danced in
the royal halls, where the floors were painted with bloody roses. When
the Bastille had been levelled with the ground, they danced on the site.
This last pleases me best; and the brief inscription, "Dancing here," on
the simple monument that marks the site of the prison, seems to me
clever, poetic, and pregnant. There--right there--where people sighed
and groaned, where there was nothing but wailing and gnashing of teeth,
where the victims of despotism were thrust living into the grave, where
there should have been the same device as over Dante's hell, "Leave hope
behind!" And here, too, on the barren heath, four miles from the nearest
house, where a short time ago nothing was heard but the soughing of the
wind in the heather and the shrieking of the plover, where the wanderer
trudged on in the darkness of night, languishing for a warm stove and a
dish of warm groats--here, too, they are dancing. I felt cheered and
went close to the window to get a good view of the ballroom and the
dancers.

Where shall I find a Netherland brush with which to paint this netherly
scene? How shall I describe for the reader who is quite a stranger to
such a stage set the "pleasant" room with ceiling of clay, walls of
clay, floor of clay? How picture for him the noble simplicity of the
furnishings?--benches of rough pine boards, dun-colored oak chests
littered with black clay pots and dishes, with green brandy bottles, and
bright glasses on wooden feet. How convey to him an idea of the _camera_
_obscure_ caused by four tallow dips stuck on the walls? And above all
the living figures? I shall confine myself to these last.

In the middle of the room two couples were whirling around in the
well-known _schwäbischen Wirbeltanz,_ but the rotations were so vehement
that I could not see what the faces of the dancers looked like.  On the
bench opposite the window two other couples were resting, their flushed
faces showing that they had just left the floor. To one side the fiddler
sat on the corner of a flat chest, beating time with the heel of his
wooden shoe, and on the other side two ragged children were scraping the
burnt crusts out of the bottom of a black kettle.

Now the waltz was over, but at that moment a person appeared who had
hitherto been hidden from me. I saw only his profile, but that was
enough for me to recognize the chap. When I say that he was a thickset
fellow, had hanging shoulders with an enormous head set on them, that he
had a horse face, a wide mouth with thick lips, small eyes which seemed
to be constantly flitting--much as those of the Bushmen are said to
do--that his big, pock-marked face showed rapid transitions from surly
gravity to rough mirth, that the whole figure moved with such a firm,
hard, rapid step that one only had to see his back in order to say,
"That fellow is one who wouldn't stop at sticking his knife into anyone
who interfered with him"--when I thus describe him, there are certainly
at least three people besides myself who would remember having seen him,
though only one of them has profited by his special knowledge of the
gypsy language. It is hardly necessary to complete my description by
saying that he had the image of the Crucified One tattooed on his left
arm.

Presently our professor in the gypsy and Romany language stepped
backward out on the floor, looked around at the fiddler and nodded,
stamped hard on the floor a few times, and twined his arms together
across his chest. In this position he awaited the lady he had just
engaged, whom in my present position I could not yet see. The music
began; it was a kind of reel in a quick two-quarters beat.

Like a--like what shall I say? Like a fury? No, for that she was too
good-looking. Like a Penthesilea _furens, quae mediis in millibus
ardet?_ No, not that either; for that she was too stocky, too plump, too
simply and peacefully dressed. Like Madame Schall in a gypsy dance?
That comes a little nearer, but I think I had better use similes of my
own invention and according to my own taste. Like a peg top, a teetotum,
a whirligig, darted out on the floor and in front of and behind and
round about the lightly skipping professor--who? None other than the
cross-bearer, the woman with the man on her back.

It was a genuine gypsy dance which I had the good luck to be a spectator
of. The lady's feet moved like drumsticks and hit the clay floor with
quick taps. The arms, too, were in motion, as were the fingers, which
successfully imitated the clatter of castanets. With all this, her
movements and play of expression had nothing of the bayadere or
dewidoschi; on the contrary, her face was so cold, sulky, even defiant
that it was in complete contrast with that of the professor. His whole
face was spread out in a constant, unchanging, immovable grin; his small
eyes were wide open, the mouth half open, the upper lip almost touching
the nose, the lower hanging down halfway to the chin; teeth and gums
were revealed--unquestionably he had, during this dance, a very "open"
face.

I was not the only one who was entertained by the skill of the dancers;
the spectators who stood in a half circle around them gave their delight
both audible and visible expression, by cries of astonishment, bursts of
loud laughter, by lifting their shoulders, rubbing their arms, and
clapping (with the back of the right hand in the hollow of the left). At
the same time they turned their faces, glistening with perspiration and
pleasure, from one side to the other. I could not help thinking of the
trolls in Thor's masquerade: "In their innocent merriment, with goat
horns in their brows, they butted again and again. And really there was
nothing except this Jotunheim decoration lacking to make the illusion
perfect. Certainly the gypsy woman made a very passable Gerda.

This dance, too, came to an end, and Gerda returned to the place from
which she had darted out. I moved quickly to the other side of the
window in order to see what became of her. Ah, there stood a chest, and
on top of it sat the legless wanderer. His brisk partner in the dance of
life turned her back to the chest, rested her hands on it, and vaulted
up to him. Just then I heard a door creak, and the learned gypsy scholar
came out to me. In the light from the room, we stood face to face, and
he--knew me just as quickly as I did him, and with even greater
surprise.

I told him that I was bound for Örre, that I had missed my way in the
storm, and had gone after the light from this house. He obligingly
offered to show me the way, and I accepted his kind offer gratefully,
not so much because I needed a guide as because I wanted to learn
something about the scene I had just witnessed and especially about the
strange couple. What he told me I shall now set down.




PETER LEGLESS AND GYPSY LINKA


THE mysterious house had not been built with the aid of Aladdin's lamp
or a sorcerer's wand, but--so my companion told me--by the poor relief
of Örre parish upon order from the county, to house the well-known
traveller Johannes Axelsen whom the gypsy described to me (1) as a
learned man, for he could both read and write; (2) as a clever man,
since no one hitherto had been able to get anything on him; (3) as a
mighty champion who in strength yielded only to "Jens Munkedal, Chresten
Strong in Hveisel, and Chresten Jensen in Örre" (three athletes
who--judging by descriptions and sworn facts--must have been
comparable to Milo, Palydamas, and Eutellus--to Starkodder, Bue Digre,
and Orm Storolfsen--to August the Second, the Marshal of Saxony, and
Frank).

This subject gave me a natural opening to speak of the gypsy woman who
must also possess more than ordinary strength, since she could carry her
man from town to town.

"Gypsy Linka," he said, "is strong as sin. I found that out once I tried
to be a little sporty with her. She socked me one in the jaw--I never
want a better one. But we're just as good friends for all that."

"Then she's faithful to her cripple?" I asked.

"True as gold," he replied; "if anyone tries to get near her in that
way, she's fierce as a bandog."

"How did it happen," I went on, "that those two people got together?"

"I'll tell you the story," he said. "Peter Legless--as we call him--and
I were born in the same place--"

"Where?" I interrupted.

"That I don't know," he answered laughing. "My mother said it was
somewhere on the heath here."

"Then it was in a big house," I remarked.

"So it was," he nodded laughing, "the roof was high and the walls were
wide. I and Peter travelled together till we got big, and then we
thought we'd like to look around in the world. In White-Matini--"
[Footnote: _White-Matini,_ Austria. _Blue-Matini,_ Prussia.
_Buffalo-Matini,_ Mecklenburg-_Matini_ means "state," "realm,"
"kingdom." According to Dorph, gypsies named the countries after the
most prominent color in the soldiers' uniforms. Denmark was called
_Red-Matini._ Possibly, _Buffalo-Matini_ refers to the jerkins of
buffalo hide worn for protection against the enemies'
weapons.--TRANSLATOR]

"That was a long jump," I broke in.

"It's many thousand miles," he said with all the smug self-satisfaction
of a great traveller. "From Blue-Matini we'd been in the company of
gypsies. Then it happened neither worse nor better than that we'd made
our quarters for the night in a great big wood, and in the morning when
we got up there was war all round us, an uproar everywhere. The gypsies
knew about a cave in a mountain a good ways off, and we tried to get
there and crawl in for shelter. But the fighting came nearer and nearer,
and the cannon balls whizzed around us and chopped branches off the
trees. One of them fell right on the head of a half-grown girl, and that
was none other than Linka--Gypsy Linka we call her, Peter's _Maie--_and
she dropped on the ground. All the gypsies went on running, and no one
wanted to wait for Linka; for she didn't belong to any of them, she'd
been stolen some place way down South.  'Let's see if she's really
dead,' says Peter. 'Let her lay,' says I. But she wasn't dead, only
pretty well smashed up and one arm broken, and she begged and prayed
that we take her along. So then Peter picked her up, and we set off
after the others. When we came to the cave we were all right, and there
Linka was taken care of. But when the war had passed by and we were
going to start out again, there was nobody but Peter who wanted to carry
Linka; she couldn't walk, and the gypsies were going to leave her a
little food and let her stay in the cave. So he kept on carrying the
girl for many days and a long way, till she could begin to put her feet
on the ground. So it isn't for nothing that she carries him now; it's
paying off old scores."

"Well, then," I broke in, "the first part of the payment was that she
married him."

"Oh, yes," he smirked, "sure, they were married a couple of years
later--in a way. You know how we do it. But it's just as good as if
parson and clerk had tied the knot. If they want to serve strange gods,
or to run away from each other, it's all the same whether they came
together on the road or in a _Siongert_." [Footnote: Church.]

I did not feel called upon to answer such an impudent jibe; I felt it
was beneath my dignity to defend respectable people against such a
scamp. He continued his story.

"But Peter and Linka stuck together. Then it happened neither worse nor
better than that we were caught by a bunch of soldiers. What became of
the gypsies I don't know, but I know that Peter and I got each a white
_Rokkelpoj_ [Footnote: Coat] and a _Sneller_ [Footnote: Gun] and more
lickings than money till we learned soldiering. So then we fought the
Frenchmen, and Linka went along in our regiment with the other women and
the baggage. When we weren't fighting she was always with Peter and did
everything she could for him. It was hard enough, for first she was with
child and then she had the youngster to drag along--the same little
fellow that's with them now. But she never croaked.

"For a year or maybe three, things went fairly well, but then one day we
got into a big battle, and there poor Peter got both his feet spoiled by
a cannon ball. I didn't know what had become of him till evening when we
were in our quarters, and there came Linka with him on her back and
carried him into the sick-room. The surgeon cut both his feet off, and
when he was cured, they let him go wherever he pleased. He had his
discharge--there was nothing the matter with that, but they forgot about
the pension. So Linka took him on her back again and the youngster by
the hand, and set out in the world. She had a tough time, I'll wager,
for she had to earn the food for them all three. But she was never at a
loss--she was good as a man. She begged, and she danced, and she told
fortunes--for she knows how to tell fortunes," he added in all
seriousness, "both in coffee grounds and cards, and from people's hands.
And what she says comes true--that's sure.

"So she had struggled through, all the way from a river out there they
call _die Donau_ and up to Buffalo-Matini.  [Footnote: Mecklenburg.]
There I happened to find them again, and so we came home together."

"But," I interrupted, "you have both your feet, how did you manage to
get your discharge?"

"I took it," he replied grinning. "I thought that war had lasted too
long. One day I was standing guard in a big wood--the same one where
Linka had got her arm broken--and I got to thinking I'd like to get back
to Denmark again. So I chucked the _Rokkelpoj_ and _Sneller_ and
cartridges and the whole outfit and took to my heels, and it went fine."

During this story, which was much more long-winded, more epic and
episodic than I have thought necessary to tell it, we had reached a more
beaten track to Örre. My travelled companion went back, and I went
forward, although I should have liked to see more of the faithful gypsy
couple and to talk with them. I never saw them before or since.

I cannot deny that this tale filled me with many thoughts, feelings,
conjectures, but most of them never saw the light of day--nor will they.
One I still remember--a fancy--whether Romany or romantic I don't know:
what if this nightman's lady, who is now dancing in a turf hut on Örre
heath, should be a Hungarian countess or baroness? What if she were
destined by birth to dance at court balls in Vienna--to see barons,
counts, and princes at her feet--instead of, as now, carrying a gypsy
without feet through life? Perhaps her cradle stood in "golden halls,"
and her grave will be in a corner of a Jutland rural graveyard. But it
may be that her faithful love is written down where imperial palaces and
turf huts stand side by side.





THE HOSIER AND HIS DAUGHTER

[_Hosekraemmer en,_ 1829]


  _"The greatest sorrow, or far or near,
  Is to be parted from him you hold dear"_


SOMETIMES when I have wandered across the great moor with nothing but
brown heather round about me and blue sky over me; when I have strolled
far from human beings and the marks of their piddling here below--mere
molehills that time or some restless Tamerlane will level with the
ground; when I have flitted, light of heart, proud of my freedom like
the Bedouin whom no house, no narrowly bounded field ties to one spot,
who possesses all that he sees, who lives nowhere but roams as he
pleases everywhere; when in such a mood my roving eye has caught sight
of a house on the horizon which arrested its airy flight unpleasantly,
then I would sometimes wish--God forgive me the passing thought, for
after all it was nothing more--would that this human dwelling were not
there! For it harbors trouble and pain; there people quarrel and wrangle
about mine and thine. Alackaday, the happy desert is both mine and
thine, is everybody's and nobody's.

A forester has proposed that the entire colony development be wiped out,
and that trees be planted in the fields and on the site of the razed
villages. I have sometimes been seized by a far more inhuman idea: what
if we still had the heather-grown moor, the same that existed thousands
of years ago, undisturbed, its sod unturned by human hands! But, as I
have said, I didn't mean it seriously. For when, exhausted, weary,
languishing with heat and thirst, I have longed intensely for the Arab s
hut and his coffeepot, then I have thanked God for a heather-thatched
cottage--though miles distant--promising me shade and refreshment.

And I was in just such a state one calm, hot September day, some years
ago, when I had walked far out on that same moor which, in an Arabian
sense, I call my own. Not a breath of wind stirred the reddening
heather; the air was sultry and drowsy. The distant hills that bounded
the horizon swam like clouds around the immense plain, and took on
marvellous shapes of houses, towers, castles, human beings, and animals,
but all in dim, formless outlines, wavering and unstable like dream
pictures. One moment a hut was changed into a church and the church into
a pyramid; there a spire shot up, and there another sank down; a man
became a horse, and the horse an elephant; here rocked a boat and there
a ship with all sails spread.

For a long time my eye feasted on the contemplation of these fantastic
images--a panorama such as only the sailor and the desert-dweller have
an opportunity to enjoy. But presently, feeling tired and thirsty, I
began to search for a real house among the many false; I earnestly
desired to exchange all my magnificent fairy palaces for a single human
cottage. And my search was successful. I soon discerned a real house
without spires or towers; its outlines became clearer and sharper as I
approached, and the peat stacks flanking it made it seem much larger
than it really was.

The people living there were strangers to me. Their garments were poor,
their furnishings plain. But I knew that the heath-dweller would often
hide precious metals in an unpainted box or a dilapidated hanging
cupboard, that he would often carry a thick wallet under a patched coat.
When, therefore, my eye was attracted by an alcove stuffed full of
stockings, I rightly surmised that I had entered the home of a
well-to-do hosier. (Incidentally, I never knew a poor one.)

An elderly, gray-haired, but still hale and hearty man rose from the
table and held out his hand to me, saying, "Welcome! By your leave,
where does this good friend come from?"

Reader, do not take umbrage at such a direct and indelicate question!
The peasant on the heath is just as hospitable as the lairds of
Scotland, but slightly more inquisitive, and after all one cannot blame
him for wanting to know whom he is entertaining. When I had told him who
I was and where I came from, he called his wife, who at once set before
me the best the house could afford, urging me with kindly courtesy to
eat and drink, though indeed my hunger and thirst made all urging
superfluous.

I was in the middle of my meal and in the middle of a political
discussion with my host, when a young and very beautiful peasant girl
entered. I would without fail have taken her for a disguised young lady,
perhaps fleeing from cruel parents and a repugnant marriage, if her
reddened hands and genuine peasant dialect had not convinced me that no
masquerading had taken place. She, nodded pleasantly, glanced under the
table, and came back with a dish of bread and milk, which she set down
on the floor with the words, "Perhaps your dog may need something, too."

I thanked her for the attention, but this attention was directed
entirely to the big dog. Hungry as he was, he soon emptied the dish and
tried to thank the giver by rubbing himself against her, and when she
lifted her arm a little timidly, Chasseur took it as an invitation to
play, and forced the screaming girl backward against the alcove. I
called off the dog and explained to her that he meant no harm. Nor
should I have related such a trifling incident except to remark how
every movement became her, for this peasant girl, in everything she said
and did, had a certain natural grace which could not be attributed to
coquetry, unless one would designate an inborn, unconscious instinct by
that name.

When she had left the room, I asked the old people if she was their
daughter. They said she was, and added that she was an only child.

"You are not likely to keep her long," I said.

"Mercy, what do you mean?" asked the father, but his self-satisfied
smile showed well enough that he understood my meaning.

"I imagine," said I, "that she will have no lack of suitors.

"Hm," he growled, "there are plenty of suitors, but if they are good for
anything, that's another question. To come courting with a watch and a
silver-mounted pipe isn't enough. There's more to driving a horse than
just to say giddap!--I declare," he went on, supporting himself with
both fists on the table, and bending to look through the low window, "if
there isn't one of them now--a herdsboy who has just crawled up from the
heather--heh, one of the fellows who run around with a couple of dozen
pairs of stockings in a knapsack--stupid dog! Proposing to our daughter
with two oxen and three and a half cows--aye, fool him! The beggar!"

These outpourings were not directed to me but at the new arrival, on
whom he gazed with darkened eye, as the young man approached the house
by a path through the heather. He was still so far away that I had time
to ask my host who he was and to receive the information that he was a
son of the nearest neighbor--who, however, lived two miles away--and
that the father had a little place on which he even owed the hosier two
hundred dollars; that the son for the last few years had gone around
peddling woollen wares, and finally that he had had the temerity to
propose to the beautiful Cecil, but had got a flat refusal. While I was
listening to this story, she herself had come in, and from her troubled
look, which was turned alternately on the father and the wanderer
outside, I could guess that she did not share the old man's view of the
case.

As soon as the young peddler came in at one door, she went out of the
other, though not without a quick but tender and yearning look.

My host turned toward the newcomer, grasped the table top with both
hands as if he needed support, and answered the young man's "God's peace
and good-day" with a dry "Welcome."

The other remained standing a little while, took from his inner pocket a
pipe and from his back pocket a tobacco pouch, emptied his pipe on the
stove at his side, and refilled it. All this was done slowly and with
measured movements, while my host stood immovable in the position he had
assumed.

The stranger was a very handsome young man, a true son of our Northern
nature which induces a slow but vigorous and lasting growth,
light-haired, blue-eyed, red-cheeked, with a fine down on his chin which
the razor had not yet touched, though he looked to be fully twenty years
old. He was dressed after the fashion of peddlers, with a little more
pretension than an ordinary peasant or even than the wealthy hosier, in
coat and wide pantaloons, a red-striped vest, and a blue-flowered
neckerchief. He was no unworthy admirer of the lovely Cecilia.
Furthermore, he made a pleasant impression on me by his kindly and open
countenance, expressing honesty, patience, and tenacity--leading traits
in the North Cimbrian character.

It was quite a while before either of them said anything, but at last
the host broke the silence, asking slowly, in a cold, indifferent tone,
"Where are you bound for today, Esben?"

The young man answered, while he struck fire, and lit his pipe in a
leisurely way, with a few long puffs, "No farther today, but tomorrow I
am off for Holstein."

There was again a pause, during which Esben examined the chairs, chose
one of them, and sat down on it. Meanwhile the mother and the daughter
came in. The young peddler greeted them with an expression so calm and
unruffled that I might have imagined he cared nothing about the lovely
Cecilia, had I not known that in such a heart love may be strong,
however quiet it seems; that it is not a flame which leaps and throws
sparks, but a glow which gives a steady and lasting warmth. Cecilia,
with a sigh, took a seat at the lower end of the table and began to knit
rapidly. The mother, with a low-voiced "Welcome, Esben!" sat down to her
spinning wheel.

"I suppose that is in the way of business?" the host now asked.

"That is as may be," answered his guest. "I am going to look for some
way of making money in the South. What I came here for today is to ask
that you will not be in too great a hurry to marry Cecil off before I
come back and we see what luck I have."

Cecil blushed, but did not look up from her work.

The mother stopped the spinning wheel with one hand, dropped the other
in her lap, and gazed fixedly at the speaker. But the father said, as he
turned to me, "While the grass grows, the mare dies. How can you ask
that Cecil shall wait for you? You may be gone a long time--may happen
you won't come back at all."

"If so it will be your fault, Michel Kraensen," Esben broke in. "But I
tell you that if you force Cecil to take anyone else, you sin greatly
against both her and me."

With that he rose, shook hands with the two old people, and bade them a
curt good-bye. To his sweetheart he said in a slightly lower and softer
tone, "Good-bye, Cecil, and thanks for all your goodness. Think kindly
of me if you can. God be with you--and with all of you. Good-bye!"

He turned to the door, put away his pipe, tobacco pouch, and tinder each
in its proper pocket, took his stick, and walked away without once
turning to look back.

The old man smiled as before; his wife sighed, "Ah, yes," but tear after
tear coursed down Cecilia's cheeks.

Here I had the most appropriate occasion for a lecture on the principles
that ought to guide parents in regard to the marriage of their children.
I could have reminded them that wealth is not enough for wedded bliss,
that the heart also must have something to say, that wisdom bids
everyone look more on honesty, industry, and ability than on money. I
could have reproached the father--for the mother seemed at least to be
neutral--with his harshness toward his only daughter. But I knew the
peasants too well to waste words on this subject. I knew that worldly
goods go before everything else in their class--and I wonder if things
are very different in other classes! Furthermore, I knew the firmness,
even obstinacy of the peasant on this point, and was aware that in
controversies with his superiors he would often seem to yield, and
pretend to adopt their view, while he was most inexorably bent on
following his own head.

Furthermore, there was another reflection that bade me not to put my
finger between the knife and the wall, between the door and the frame,
between the hammer and the anvil namely: is not wealth after all the
most tangible of all good things on earth?--at least of those which,
according to the classification of Epictetus, are "not within our
power." Is not money the best substitute for all sublunary benefits--the
unexceptionable representative of food and drink, raiment and shelter,
respect and friendship, yes, even to some extent of love? Is not wealth,
finally, that which gives us the most pleasures, the greatest
independence, which compensates for most shortcomings? Is not poverty
the rock upon which friendship and even love is often wrecked? "When the
stall is empty the horses bite each other," says the peasant; and what
say the others when the intoxication of love is evaporated and the
honeymoon is at an end? True, it would be well if Cupid and Hymen could
always be companions, but nevertheless they do want Pluto as the third.

After this view of the world as it is--more rational perhaps than some
would expect and others would like in the author of a novel--my readers
will at least give me credit for consistency when I refrained from
mixing in the romance of Esben and Cecilia, all the more as on the part
of the former it might be an interested speculation directed less toward
the beauty and affections of the daughter than the full alcove and heavy
hanging cupboard of the father. And although I knew that pure love is
not entirely a poetic invention, still I was aware even then that it is
found more frequently in books than outside of them.

When therefore the beautiful Cecilia had left the room--probably to give
vent more freely to a flood of tears--I merely threw out the remark that
it was a pity the young man was not warmer, since he seemed to be a
decent chap and fond of the girl. "If he could come back," I added,
"with a score of hundred-dollar bills--"

"And if they were his own," said old Michel slyly, "yes, that would be
another matter."

I went out again into my empty and careless heath. Far away and to one
side I could still see Esben and the ascending smoke from his pipe. So,
I thought, his sorrow and love go up in smoke, but what of poor Cecilia?
I cast a glance backward at the house of the wealthy hosier and said to
myself that, if it had not existed, there would have been fewer tears
shed in the world.

* * *

Six years passed before I visited that part of the heath again. It was a
warm, quiet September day just like last time. Thirst drove me to look
for a house, and as it happened that of the hosier was the nearest. It
was not till I recognized the good Michel Kraensen's solitary dwelling
that I brought to mind the beautiful Cecilia and her sweetheart; and
then curiosity to learn how this idyl of the heath had turned out
impelled me just as strongly as my thirst. In such circumstances I am
very prone to anticipate the real story; I make my conjectures, I
imagine how things could and should have been, and try whether my
charting corresponds with the course steered by fate. Alas, usually my
guesses are very much at variance with the actual happenings! It turned
out so this time. I pictured Esben and Cecilia as man and wife, she with
a baby at her breast, the grandfather with one or two bigger ones on his
knee, the young peddler himself as the active and successful manager of
the expanded hosiery business--but things proved to be very different.

As I stepped into the entry, I heard a soft feminine voice singing what
at first I took for a lullaby, and yet the tone was so sad that my high
hopes immediately suffered a downfall. I stood still and listened: the
song was a plaint of hopeless love. The expression was simple, yet true
and touching, but my memory has retained only the refrain which came at
the end of each verse:

"The greatest sorrow, or far or near, Is to be parted from him you hold
dear."

Filled with dark forebodings, I opened the door to the living room.

A middle-aged, large and stout peasant woman who sat carding wool was
the first person I saw, but it was not she who was singing. The singer
turned her back to me. She sat rocking herself quickly back and forth
and moved her hands as if she were spinning. The nearer of the two rose
and wished me welcome, but I advanced in order to see the face of the
other.

It was Cecilia, pale but still beautiful, until she looked up at me.
Alas! Madness shone in her dully gleaming eyes and in her sickly sweet
smile. Then I noticed, too, that she had no spinning wheel; but the one
she imagined herself treading must be of the same stuff as Macbeth's
dagger.

She stopped both her singing and her airy spinning, and asked me
eagerly, "Are you from Holstein? Did you see Esben? Is he coming soon?"

I realized how I had been caught and answered just as quickly, "Yes, he
will soon be coming. He sent greetings to you."

"Then I must go out and meet him," she exclaimed happily, started up
from her stool, and leaped toward the door.

"Wait a bit, Cecil," said the other woman, putting down her cards, "let
me come with you." She winked at me and shook her head--gestures that
were quite superfluous.

"Mother," she cried in a loud voice turning toward the kitchen door,
"here's a stranger. Come in, for now we're going." She ran after the mad
girl, who was already outside.

The old woman came in. I did not recognize her, but took for granted
that she must be the unhappy girl's mother, though she was worn with
grief and age. Nor did she remember me from my last visit, but after a
"Welcome! Sit down," she asked the usual question. "By your leave, where
does this good man come from?"

I told her, and reminded her that I had been there some years ago.

"Good God!" she said, and struck her hands together, "is it you? Please
sit down by the table while I cut some bread, and butter for you.
Perhaps you are thirsty, too?" Without waiting for an answer she hurried
into a pantry and soon came back with food and drink.

Although I was eager to learn more about poor Cecilia, a premonition of
something especially tragic subdued my curiosity and kept me from direct
questions about that which I both wished and dreaded to hear.

"Is your husband at home?" was the first thing I asked.

"My husband?" she said. "The good God has taken him. It will be three
years come Michaelmas that I have been a widow. Have another slice!
Please--though it's nothing but peasant food."

"Thank you," I replied, "I am more thirsty than hungry.--So your husband
has passed away? That was a great loss, a great sorrow for you--"

"Yes, indeed," she sighed, while the tears came into her eyes; "but that
was not all--Good God! You saw our daugh-ter?"

"Yes," I said, "she seemed a little strange--"

"She is quite out of her mind," she said, bursting into tears. "We have
to keep a woman only to take care of her, and she can't do much else.
She's supposed to spin and knit a little, but it doesn't amount to
anything, for she has to run after the girl sixteen times a day, when
she gets to thinking of Esben--"

"Where is Esben?" I broke in.

"In heaven," she replied. "So you haven't heard that? Yes, God ha'
mercy! He got a miserable death; such wretchedness was never known.--You
mustn't be too grand, but eat and drink what we have--please! Yes,
indeed, I have gone through something since you were here last. And
times are difficult; the hosiery trade doesn't pay when we have to hire
strangers to look after everything."

When I saw that her grief over the past, mingled with worry over the
present, was not so great but that she could bear to tell about her
troubles, I asked her to do so. She willingly complied with my request
and told me a story which--omitting irrelevant matters--I will repeat as
well as I can in the simple and artless style of the narrator.

"We and Kjeld Esbensen," she began, after she had drawn a chair to the
table, seated herself, and made ready her knitting, "have been neighbors
ever since I came to the place. Kjeld's Esben and our Cecil became good
friends before anyone knew it. My husband was not very happy about it,
nor I either, for Esben had little and his father nothing at all. Still
we thought the girl would have had more sense than to set her heart on
such a green boy. To be sure, he ran around with a few pairs of
stockings and earned a few pennies, but what would that amount to? Then
they came and proposed, and my husband said No--as anyone would--and at
that Esben went to Holstein.

"We saw that Cecil got a little down-hearted, but we didn't pay any
attention. 'She'll forget him when the right one comes,' said my
husband. And it was not long before Mads Egelund--I don't know if you
know him? He lives a few miles from here--he came courting with a farm
fully paid for and three thousand dollars out at interest. That was good
enough. Michel said Yes right away, but Cecil--God help us!--she said
No. So my husband got angry and scolded her. It seemed to me he was too
hard, but my poor dear husband always wanted his own way, and so he and
Mads's father went to the parson and had the banns read for them. It
went very well the first two Sundays, but on the third when he asked,
'Does anyone know any impediment?' Cecil rose and said, 'I do. The banns
have been read three times for Esben and me in Paradise.' I tried to
hush her, but it was too late, everybody in the church had heard it and
looked over to our pew--we were put to great shame.  Still I didn't
think that she had gone out of her mind, but before the parson got down
from the pulpit she started a riga-marole about Esben and Paradise and
bridal dress and bridal bed, and so on, all topsy-turvy. We had to get
her out of the church. Poor dear Michel scolded her and said she was
trying to play a trick on us, but God help us! it was no trick. She was
in dead earnest. Crazy she was, and crazy she remained."

Here the woman allowed the stocking she was knitting to sink down in her
lap, took the ball of yarn from her left shoulder, turned it round
several times, and looked at it from every direction. But her thoughts
were elsewhere; after a few minutes' pause she pressed the ball against
her eyes, hung it on its hook again, and began to move her knitting
needles quickly, as if she were thus taking up the thread of her broken
narrative.

"She talked about nothing but how she was dead and had come into
Paradise and how she was to marry Esben as soon as he was dead, too; and
she kept on with this, night and day. Then poor dear Michel understood
how it was. 'It's God's doing,' he said. 'His will no one can resist.'
But he felt bad about it anyway, and as for me, it's many an hour I have
lain awake and cried when all the others were asleep. Sometimes it
seemed to me it would have been better if the two young people could
have been married. 'Perhaps,' said my husband, 'but it wasn't to be.'

"The first few months she was very unruly, and we had a hard time with
her. Later she quieted down. She didn't speak much, but sighed and wept
all the time. She didn't want to do any work, for 'in heaven,' she said,
'there's a holiday every day.'

"So half a year passed, and it was about twice as long since Esben had
gone south, and no one had heard from him, either good or bad. Then it
happened one day, just as we were sitting here, poor dear Michel and
Cecil and I, that Esben came in at the door. He came right from his
journey and hadn't been home, so he didn't know how things were here,
until he looked at the girl; then of course he saw there was something
wrong.

"'You have waited long,' she said. 'The bridal bed has been made for a
year and a day. But tell me first: are you living or dead?'

"'Good God, Cecil,' he said. 'Surely you can see that I am living!'

"'That's too bad,' she said. 'Try to lie down and die as soon as you
can, for Mads Egelund is trying to get there first.'

"'This state of things isn't so good,' he said. 'Michel, Michel, you
have done us a great wrong. Now I'm a man of five thousand dollars or
more. My mother's brother in Holstein is dead; he wasn't married, and
I'm his heir.'

"'What are you saying?' said my husband. 'It was a shame we didn't know
it before, but take your time, the girl may get well yet.'

"Esben shook his head, and went over to our daughter to take her hand.
'Cecil,' he said, 'now try to talk sense. We're alive, both of us, and
if you'll only be rational, your parents will give their consent to our
being married.'

"But she put both hands behind her back, and cried, 'Get thee behind me!
What have I to do with thee? You are a human being, and I am an angel of
God.'

"Then he turned around and began to weep quite bitterly. 'God forgive
you, Michel Kraensen,' he said, 'for what you have done against us two
human beings.'

"'Wait a little,' said my husband. 'It may turn out all right. Stay here
overnight, and then we'll see what she says tomorrow.'

"It was in the evening, and there was a bad storm brewing with thunder
and lightning--the worst I've ever seen--just as if the world were
coming to an end. So then Esben made up his mind to stay with us, and as
soon as the storm quieted down a little, he lay down in the best room.
We went to bed, too, but for a long time I could hear through the wall
how he sighed and wept, and I think he was also praying to God in
heaven. At last I dozed, off. Cecil was sleeping in the alcove over
there, right opposite to Michel's and mine here.

"It might have been an hour or so past midnight when I awakened. It was
calm outside, and the moon was shining in through the window. I lay
thinking of all the trouble that had come over us, but least of all
could I have foreseen that which I am now going to tell you.

"It came over me that everything was so quiet at Cecil's. I couldn't
hear her breathing, nor did I hear anything more of Esben. Somehow I
felt that there was something wrong. I stole out of my own bed and over
to Cecil's. I peered in. I felt for her with my hand, but she was not
there. Then I became really frightened, ran out into the kitchen, lit a
candle, and went up into the other room. Alack, God help us in His
mercy! What did I see! She was sitting on Esben's bed holding his head
in her lap; but when I looked more closely his face was pale as a
corpse, and the sheets were red with blood. I screamed and fell to the
floor. But Cecil beckoned to me with one hand and patted his cheek with
the other. 'Hush, hush,' she said, 'now my dear is sleeping the sweet
sleep. As soon as you have buried his body, the angels will bear his
soul to Paradise, and there our wedding will be held with great
rejoicing.' Alackaday! Merciful God and Father! She had cut his
throat--the bloody razor was lying on the floor by the bed."

Here the unhappy widow hid her face in her hands and wept bitterly,
while horror and pity wrung my heart. At last she regained control of
herself, and went on with her story.

"There was great sorrow and lamentation both here and at Esben's. When
our people came driving with him to his parents--they had thought he
was safe and sound in Holstein--there was a screaming and crying aloud
as if the house had fallen. He was an honest fellow, and now had come
into money and wealth, and yet he had to die so miserably in his youth,
and at the hands of his sweetheart, too. Poor dear Michel could never
forget it; he was never himself again. A few months later he took to his
bed, and then Our Lord let him depart from me.

"The very day when he was buried Cecil fell into a deep sleep and slept
for three whole days and nights. When she awakened, her mind had come
back. I sat by her bed and expected that Our Lord would make an end of
her troubles, But then, as she lay there, she fetched a deep sigh,
turned her eyes on me, and said, 'What has happened? Where have I been?
I have had a strange dream; it seemed to me I was in heaven, and Esben
was with me.--Good God, mother, where's Esben? Have you heard nothing
from him since he went to Holstein?'

"I hardly knew how much I dared to say. No--I said--we hadn't heard much
about him. She sighed. 'Where's father?' she went on. I said her father
was well off, that God had taken him. Then she cried, 'Mother, let me
see him,' she begged. I said, 'No, my child, you can't see him, he is
buried already.' 'God help us!' she shrieked. 'How long have I slept?' I
realized from this that she didn't know what condition she had been in.
'If you have wakened me, mother,' she said, 'it was no kindness. I slept
so sweetly and dreamt so beautifully; Esben came to see me every night
in shining white garments and with a wreath of red beads around his
neck.'

At this point the old woman sank into her own melancholy thoughts again
and heaved a few deep, heartfelt sighs before she could go on.

"The poor child had got her mind back, but God knows if it was any
better for her! She was never happy, but always quiet and sad, didn't
speak unless she was spoken to, and tended to her work properly. She was
neither sick nor well.

"The rumor spread round about in the neighborhood, and after three
months Mads Egelund came and proposed to her again. But she didn't want
to have anything to do with him--not on any account. When he saw that
she couldn't abide him, he got angry and wanted to hurt her. I and our
people and all who came here were always very careful not to say a word
about how in her madness she herself had killed poor Esben; and she most
likely thought that he was either dead or married down South. But one
day when Mads was here and urging her to say Yes, and she answered that
she would rather die than marry him, then he said right out that he was
not so eager to marry a girl who had cut the throat of her first
sweetheart, and with that he told her everything that had happened. I
was standing out in the kitchen and heard part of what he said. I
dropped what I had in my hand, ran in, and cried, 'Mads, Mads, God
forgive you, what are you doing?' But it was too late. She sat on the
bench as pale as a whited wall, and her eyes were staring. 'What am I
doing?' he said, 'I'm only telling her the truth. It's better she should
know it than to make a fool of her by letting her go and wait all her
life for a dead man.--Good-bye! I won't trouble you any more.'

"He went away; but she had had a relapse, and I don't suppose she will
ever get her mind back in this life. You can see for yourself how she
is. Whenever she isn't sleeping she sings the song she made up when
Esben went to Holstein, and then she thinks she is spinning thread for
the bridal sheets. Otherwise she is quiet--God be thanked!--and doesn't
harm the smallest creature. Still we don't dare to let her out of our
sight. God look upon her in His mercy and give us both peace soon!"

As she spoke the last words, the unhappy girl came in with her
companion. "No," she said, "I can't see him today, but tomorrow I am
sure he will come. I must make haste if I am going to get the sheets
ready." She sat down quickly on her little stool and, with hands and
feet in rapid motion, she began her plaintive song again. A long, deeply
drawn sigh each time preceded the refrain, "The greatest sorrow, or far
or near, Is to be parted from him you hold dear." Then her beautiful
pale face would sink down toward her bosom, hands and feet rested a
moment; but soon she straightened up, began another verse, and set her
shadowy spinning wheel going again.

Filled with melancholy thoughts, I went my way. My soul had taken on the
color of the desert. My imagination hovered around Cecilia and her
dreadful fate. In every distant mirage I seemed to see the hosier's
daughter, how she sat spinning and rocking and beating the air with her
arms. In the plaintive call of the plover, in the mournful, monotonous
trilling of the lonely heath lark, I heard only those sad, true words
expressing the deepest feeling of thousands of wounded hearts,

"The greatest sorrow, or far or near, Is to be parted from him you hold
dear."





MARIE

A REMINISCENCE FROM THE WESTERN OCEAN

[_Marie, En Erindring fra Vesterhavet,_ 1836]


THE narrow strip of land which the Danish peninsula shoots out into the
North Sea is almost entirely covered with quicksand, cast up by the
Western Ocean, and carried farther inland by its ally, the storm. It is
as though that dread element would mock the earth with this sterile
gift, while undermining its foundations and robbing it of its fertile
soil. But as yet the enemy has not been strong enough to drive out the
indomitable people who live there. They take compensation for their
losses from the sea itself, and they fight the onslaught of the sand
with a kind of grass that will never allow itself to be choked, but
always comes out on top. By means of it, hills and valleys are formed,
in ever-changing variety, extending all the way down to the western
coast. Seen from a distance, with the sun behind them, they delude the
wanderer by their deceptive likeness to forest-clad slopes. But farther
inland there are still wide naked mounds of sand which in the distance
look like snow-covered mountains; year after year they conquer bits of
the tillable plains from which painstaking labor once wrested a scanty
harvest. All the way along the coast the landscape bears the same stamp.

In one of these desolate regions the narrator, then a young man, climbed
a dune covered with beach grass, in order to look out for the first time
upon the real ocean. The sun was setting. The sea was liquid fire; the
sand-hills were glowing embers. The winds were slumbering; only the
muffled sound of the ground swell on the beach told of their late battle
with the waves. A more melancholy reminder of the might of storm and
ocean in united onslaught was a wreck, stuck on the nearest sand bar,
and stretching its blackened boards up through the sand.

The sun might have set over my silent transport, and darkness alone
might have awakened me from unutterable dreams, if a party of fishermen
with their oars and nets had not arrived near the spot where I was
standing. Before I could see them, I heard their footsteps grating on
the sand as they wended their way down through the narrow valleys. When
their fishing-gear had been placed in the boat lying in a break of the
cliff, they separated, going some to one side, some to the other,
stemmed their backs against the gunwale, and pushed the boat down to the
water's edge to the tune of a chantey sung in hollow tones by a gigantic
fisherman. The refrain was quite jolly: "I hoist, you haul"--"Hurrah,
hurrah, hurrah!" came the chorus--"I drink, you pay for all"--"Hurrah,
hurrah, hurrah!" The merry words were in strange contrast with the deep
tones and the dark seriousness with which they were sung--and with which
the men all at once turned around, took off their caps, and knelt with
their brows against the gunwale. For a few moments they remained in this
position, but not a sound was heard from their lips; silently they
prayed to the Lord of the winds and the waves. Silently they rose,
pushed the boat out on the water, sprang into it, and seized the oars.

Under their steady pulling, the small craft glided over the surface of
the water. I followed it with my eyes till it was lost in the dim
distance.

One man remained behind. He was very old, but age had not yet whitened
the reddish brown locks of hair that shaded his wrinkled face, although
it had somewhat bent his broad back. He stood a long time immovable, his
hands in his side pockets, looking after the men as they sailed out.
Then he turned, walked slowly over to me, and greeted me with a hearty
"Good evening."

I seized the opportunity to learn something about these men and their
laborious means of livelihood, as well as about the shipwrecks that
frequently occur on this dangerous coast. He replied very intelligently,
and especially described the last wreck--the remains of which were
standing near by--so clearly and vividly that, in my youthful levity, I
wished I might once witness such a terrible tragedy.

I accompanied the man to his home, an attractive, well-furnished house a
little farther inland, near one of the largest dunes. Shortly before
reaching it, he stopped, and, as we were walking down the last hill,
said thoughtfully, "The weather's not to be trusted."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Only that we're in for a change," was the answer. Thereupon he invited
me to have supper and spend the night. I accepted the kind offer, and he
and his wife, who was as old as he, entertained me with a hospitality
that could not have been heartier in the tents of the Bedouins. Feeling
a pleasant sense of peace and safety, contrasting with the hardships and
dangers of the fishermen on their expedition at night over the
treacherous sea, I fell asleep on the soft featherbed of my hosts.

Before daybreak I was awakened by a mixture of noises in the living room
adjoining my bedroom: talking in voices, some strident and some low,
clatter of wooden shoes, creaking and clanking of doors opened and shut.
I sat up and listened. In more quiet intervals it seemed to me that I
heard a hollow whistling or a deep and monotonous roaring. I jumped up,
dressed quickly, and went into the other room. The whole family was
astir and busy. The man of the house was coiling a rope; the housewife
was at the hearth, raking the embers together, and putting on the
kettle; two young women--one the daughter, the other the son's
wife--fully dressed, were tying shawls over their heads as if they were
starting out on a long journey. My "Good morning" was answered curtly,
and when I asked what was the roaring I heard, the old man answered as
curtly and briefly, "The sea."

"Where are you going, my good man?" I asked further.

"Out to look for our folks," he replied. "We're getting dirty weather."

These words acted upon me like an electric shock, and I instantly
resolved that I would go with them to face their dreaded neighbor. In a
few minutes we were ready and left the house.

The sun was just rising. Its dark red disk glowed between strips of
cloud. No wind was noticeable, but the incessant roaring of the ocean
sounded louder. Silently we went to meet it, I full of tense and anxious
expectation.

I climbed the outermost cliff. To my great surprise the sea was not very
much disturbed. It was only near land that the ground swell broke
against the beach and rolled in with a rumbling noise. Even now the air
was calm, but my old weather-forecaster assured me that it would not be
long before I should feel the west wind. He was right. Soon the cruel
lord of the North Sea came in full force, swathed in murky fogs. Now the
sea far out began to stir; it showed white specks which all the time
grew larger and came nearer, it seemed with the speed of the wind. But
the wind ran past them. All at once it came with ominous sighs and sharp
whistling in the harsh clumps of beach grass. No boat was yet to be
seen. But along the dunes people appeared, one after another, chiefly
women and half-grown boys. They came, as we did, to look for the delayed
fishermen, then disappeared, and returned again, or perhaps it was
others that came in their places.

The velocity of the wind increased, the turbulence of the waves
likewise; the beach was a mass of foam. I trembled for the poor fellows
out there and had already given them up in my own distressful thoughts.
Then the old man, who was shading his eyes with his hand, cried out,
"There they are," and the same cry was repeated far along the beach. But
I could see nothing, and my anxiety grew. At last the pointing of the
others guided my eyes to a darker speck in the distance, which often
disappeared, but always came again, and each time larger and nearer. The
uproar of the sea increased; the white-caps became more numerous and
broader. The three sand bars which, with narrow spaces between them, ran
parallel to the land, were marked by continuous strips of foam,
stretching to the south and north as far as the eye could see. These
bars are a menace to seafaring men, but a triple guard to the coast, for
they break the power of the tremendous waves that often rise higher than
the cliff itself, and, without this resistance, would soon break down
the feeble ramparts and flood the low land along the western coast.

The boat was coming on fast. Already we could see the heads of the men
when it rode the crest of the waves. But when it ran as if down a hill
and disappeared in the trough of a wave, I often thought with dread,
"Will they come up again?" A cry of fear escaped me; but the old man,
who stood near me with arms crossed, said grimly, "What's the matter?
There's no danger yet."

They had reached the outermost bar. There they stopped, nay, even rowed
backwards with all their might; and in this way they successfully
cleared several enormous waves. As these broke into surf, there was for
a moment a strip of quiet water, and the men seized the chance to row
across it with the speed of a bird. The second bar was passed in the
same way. But now came the most dangerous moment. All the onlookers ran
down to the edge of the water and, as if by a command, sank on their
knees, lifting clasped hands to heaven. Then all sprang up just as
quickly and caught each other by the hand. I did not at once understand
the meaning of this chain; I was soon to see.

The boat had reached the innermost bar, not a stone's throw from land.
It dashed into the breakers, pursued by a gigantic wave that lifted its
white comb high over the boat--caught up with it; the boat turned to one
side--was overpowered--capsized. A shriek, piercing, heart-rending, went
up from the women and children. Life or death hung in the balance. The
shipwrecked men were washed ashore by the wave; some reached firm ground
and got a footing right away, but others did not come so far up. Then
the chain broke in several places; the one standing nearest reached a
hand to the man struggling in the breakers, the others in the chain
pulled with all their might to rob the sea of its victim; for the same
wave that had cast them up would have sucked them back again, and then
there would have been no way of saving them. Terrible moments! But they
passed so quickly that I hardly saw what happened till all were saved.
Just as quickly the boat--that trusty carrier over the abyss and
faithful aid in many a danger--was hauled in. Not till the boat with the
abundant catch of the night was well beached, did the men greet each
other with vigorous handclasps, and many a sailor, for all his dripping
garments, was clasped in loving arms. And now the mothers, wives, and
daughters who had stayed home hurried to the beach with mugs of warm
ale. Every one of the returned men grasped his mug with both hands and
did not let it go till the bottom turned up to heaven. (These hardy men
never carry food or drink with them on the ocean, but when they land are
always received with a heartening drink of warm ale.) Then the catch was
divided. All went home; I went with my host and his family.

A tasty meal was quickly prepared from the gifts of the sea; but even
before it was over, a man thrust his head in through the half-open door
and cried, "A ship aground!" Everybody jumped up and asked,
"Where?"--"Here," replied the man quickly, and the head was withdrawn,
as he went on to carry his important message farther. My host, his son,
and two other young men who had been along on the fishing expedition
last night rushed out. I followed.

The gale had risen to a storm. The ocean roared in its most wrathful
mood. The sand from the dunes whipped our faces, and the froth flew over
our heads like snowflakes. With wide open eyes I rushed out on the
cliff; it seemed to shake under my feet. The dark waters were churned
into froth; the fine spray almost hid the view, and the thundering of
the waves deafened my ears.

"Where?" I called to the man nearest me.

He stretched out his arm; now I saw the unfortunate ship, little more
than a gunshot from us.

"Can she save herself?" I asked.

"Not if she was the only ship on the ocean," was the answer. "She can't
keep clear of the land--She _must_ run aground."

Reeling and staggering, the ship came on. "Now!" everybody called at
once. "Now she's at the first bar." "She's struck!" cried one. "No,"
cried another, "there's a wave coming, that may help her."

It came--the ship was lifted on the gigantic wave--sank again. "She's
over," they cried. My heart leaped, but I didn't know the Jutland coast.
A few seconds later they cried, "There, she's stuck!" It was on the
middle bar. To me it looked as if she were still coming on, but it was
only the rolling and pitching of the ship aground.

It was only the distance of a musket-shot from land where it had
stopped. I hoped, therefore, that the people could be saved. They
lowered a boat, and two men jumped into it, but then came a great wave
and carried it away; it was crushed into bits and thrown up on the
beach; the men never came up again. The screams of the crew when it
vanished pierced through the howling of the storm and the roaring of the
breakers.

Now a succession of waves from out there came tumbling in, higher,
heavier than any that had gone before--nine, the shore-dwellers say,
follow one upon another, the last one biggest of all. When the first one
hit the ship, it lurched to one side--a scream, louder, wilder than the
first came from the frightened crew. The next wave turned the ship still
more and washed over the foredeck. The sailors climbed up into the
rigging and tied themselves fast. With each successive wave the ship
swung more and more around until at last it turned its broadside full
toward us. The ropes in the rigging were loosened, and thrown hither and
thither; the masts were toppling.

After this violent blast there was a moment's pause, as if the ocean
were gathering its forces for a new and more ferocious attack. The
terrified sailors stretched out their hands, sometimes to the darkened
heaven, sometimes toward land--the land that was so near and which they
nevertheless would never reach alive. Their cries cut my young heart
like knives. But there was no possibility of helping them; and it was in
vain that the people on shore called to them that they should tie ropes
to casks or barrels and throw them overboard.  Either they did not hear
or they did not understand.

A new, touching sight appeared. A man came out from the deckhouse, a
woman after him. He cast a glance at the sea and then at the land. It
must have been the captain and his wife. They were clasped in each
other's arms, but suddenly they released each other, ran into the
deckhouse, and came back carrying a large bundle between them. By means
of a rope they lowered it to the water. Both knelt on the deck and
stretched their arms beseechingly toward us. The bundle did not sink,
though it bobbed up and down in the breakers. Soon it was cast up on
land; a man caught it, carried it higher up, and loosed the rope. Not
till then did the two on board jump up, with a cry that sounded like
joy. Quickly he tied her with one end of the rope fast to a board--too
late! A new succession of waves broke over the wreck. The first tumbled
over it, roaring and frothing, and entirely engulfed it. One mast went
overboard with all who clung to the rigging; the captain and his wife
were no longer to be seen. The people on land pulled with all their
might at the rope--she was hauled up on land, but with head crushed. The
next wave took the other mast, too; the hull capsized. The last wave
rose like a mountain from the abyss. The old man, who was standing near
me, cried, "If she can stand that, she can stand anything!" Scarcely had
the words been spoken before the wave lifted its broad back still
higher, formed a comb, and dashed down over the wreck like an avalanche
with a crack that sounded above the noise of storm and breakers--it was
crushed! Its splintered boards whirled and danced in the churning foam.

The captain's body was never found. Nor was it possible to learn the
name of the skipper and ship or its home port.

While everybody was busy saving the bits of wreckage drifting in, I took
upon myself to examine the bundle that had been hauled in first. It
consisted of bedclothes tightly bound together and strapped to a cabin
door. I bent down and loosened them, hoping I hardly knew what.  To my
happy surprise I heard a faint whimper; I cut the strings--turned back
the pillows--a living child lay there before my eyes. Quickly I wrapped
it up again and ran as fast as I could to the home of my hosts with this
precious bit of salvage.

There was no one home except the aged housewife and her three-year-old
grandson.

I laid my find on the table. The child--a girl scarcely half a year
old--was wet with sea-water, but showed no signs of having swallowed any
of this bitter drink of death. It began to whimper, probably with
hunger. When the woman heard it, she left her coffeepot on the hearth
and, catching sight of the baby, struck her thighs with the palms of her
hands, and cried, "Little Lord Jesus! Where did you get that?"--"From
God," I replied, and asked for dry clothes and some of the warm milk
that was standing on the hearth. The little one drank it eagerly and
then submitted without a sound to be divested of her wet
swaddling-clothes and dressed in dry underwear. I took her in my arms
while a cradle was being prepared. Soon her head sank down on my
shoulder, and she was sound asleep even before she had been put to bed.

It touched my heart to see the sweetly sleeping baby which a little
while ago had been with its father and mother, and was now in a strange
country, torn from those who gave it life. When you open your innocent
eyes again, you will look for them, but not find them. Never to
pronounce those names--the first we learn and the most precious--poor
little delicate flower from a distant land, perhaps from the gentle
South, now cast up here to be transplanted into the cold, barren sand of
the North. Perhaps you will wither early, and no one will miss you, no
parting tear will fall on your pale cheek. You will be as a stranger in
a strange land, unloved in life, forgotten in death.

"What are you crying for?" asked the woman. "Is it for those whom the
sea has taken? Don't we all owe the Lord a death? My first husband died
at sea, and my father died at sea, and my brother died at sea, all on
the same day. Then I cried, but now--"

"I am not grieving for the dead," I broke in, "but for the living. Don't
you think this little one is to be pitied?"

"Yes--oh, yes," she said, while she went on with her work. "Our Lord
still lives." There was something in these words that dried my eyes and
made my heart expand. I left the house to go and look at the salvage.

Midway to the beach I met some of the people carrying great loads of
wreckage. When they told me there was nothing more to do down there, I
went back with the family to the house where I was staying. None of them
knew anything about my salvage, and they opened their eyes wide when
they saw the child in the cradle. The grandson of my host--the little
three-year-old--stood by the side of it and peeped into it with
delighted curiosity.--I explained what had occurred.

"That's all very well," said the master of the house, "but what are we
going to do with it?"

"The parish will have to take care of it," said the son.

"We had better bring it to the minister," said the son-in-law. "Then he
can do with it whatever he thinks best."

While they were consulting about the fate of the orphaned child, the
young woman stood at the foot of the cradle, gazing fixedly at the
sleeping baby, with both hands on her hips.

"Mother," said the little boy, "is that my sister?"

In the same moment the child opened its eyes, looked round, then let
them rest on the boy. He held out his hand to her---she grasped it--he
shrieked with joy.

"Good God," said the young wife, and tears glistened in her eyes--"isn't
she like our little Marie?"

"Where?" I asked looking around, "where is she?"

"In heaven," she sighed. "It's now three months since she died." Then
she glanced at her husband, saying, "Couldn't we keep this one instead?"

"Hm," he said slowly. "That's not for us to say."

Now she looked at her parents-in-law as if appealing to them. "What do
father and mother say? It looks at us in such a friendly way, the little
lamb."

"Hm," said the old man. "Where there's food for ten there's food for
eleven, too--take it then."

The baby smiled as if it understood, and reached out its little hands to
its new mother. She quickly turned back the coverlet, took the child in
her arms, and kissed it with motherly tenderness. The little boy jumped
around, clapped his hands, and cried, "Thank God, we've got Marie back."

"Yes, what's her name? What shall we call her?" said the old man.

"Marie, Marie!" exclaimed the young wife jubilantly. "So little Jörgen
says." All agreed to this. But the mother of the house folded her hands
in her lap and, with a feeling of which I had not believed her capable,
said, "In Jesus' name! She's a loan of God's from the sea."

* * *

Thirty years had passed since my first visit to the wild coast of West
Jutland, when last summer I found myself there once more. Much water had
run into the sea, as the saying is, and many an eye had been closed out
on the sea, I thought, as again I gazed at it stretching before me. The
events--the storms--of a generation had weakened the memory of the story
I have just told and of all its dreadful effects; just as the storm
itself effaces the footprints of the wanderer in the sand on the dunes.
But the sight of the ocean, and the coasts that for thousands of years
have defied its might, awakened my slumbering memories. From the beach
along which I was strolling I turned in among the dunes, climbed one of
the highest sandhills, and looked around for the house where I had
stayed. I could not discover it anywhere and supposed, therefore, that I
had not gone in the right direction but--as can easily happen--had lost
my way in this monotonous but ever-changing region; for sometimes the
wind levels a mountain and again sweeps together a new one, and even the
huge dunes move, change contour or direction, just as snowdrifts do
under the alternating winds of winter.

The sun was high in its course; the air was mild, and a light easterly
breeze blew from the land and softly moved the pale green leaves of the
beach grass; the heath larks sang. I sat down facing the sea. It was
calm and reflected the light blue of the cloudless sky--how different
from the wild uproar in which I last saw it. But is it the same ocean? I
asked myself. Why not? I know a far sadder transformation: the face of a
child is also the clear mirror of joy and innocence, yet the time comes
when it is darkened by the clouds of sorrow and the fogs of sadness,
when it is stirred and furrowed by the violent gusts of passion.

I was about to leave my solitary resting-place when an unexpected sight
detained me. A white-haired, bent old man came slowly tottering forward.
In his right hand he held a stick which he used incessantly to feel his
way; his left hand was clasped in that of a little boy of five or six
years. In the sand valley right north of me they stopped.

"Are we there now, Terkil?" said the man.

"Yes, greatgrandpa," answered the little one.

With the help of the child, the old man sat down, his face turned to me
and the sun; he grasped his staff in both hands and set it as a support
for his bearded chin. The little boy began to collect stones and arrange
them in ordered squares.

After a few moments of silence, the old man asked, "Are you there? What
are you doing?"

"Building houses, greatgrandpa," said the boy.

Build, my child--thought I--we old folks, too, build on sand.

"Where's your mother?" the blind man asked presently.

"Now she's coming," said the boy. I turned my eyes in the direction from
which the man and boy had appeared. A well-dressed peasant woman with an
attractive though pale face hurried toward them with a light, quick
step. On her shoulders she carried a spade. As soon as she caught sight
of me, she stopped, stuck the spade down in the sand, and put the backs
of her hands against her hips. A strange smile played around her mouth;
she looked at me with half closed eyes, nodded familiarly, as if we were
old friends, and then began to sing in a merry tone and with a shrill
voice:

  "The young men are so false to the bottom of their hearts,
  They plight their troth with hand and mouth,
  But--devil take--it comes not from their hearts.
  Heyomdick, heyomdack, come fallerah!"

  [Footnote: Jutland peasant song.]

At the refrain she made a little jump, and struck out with her arms. The
blind man sighed, and said crossly, "Good God! That ugly song you keep
singing all the time. But Jörgen wasn't false to you--you know that very
well."

At these words the ghastly merriment of the young woman suddenly changed
to the deepest sadness; her hands fell down against her body as if they
had lost their strength; the beautiful, pale face was bent to one side,
and a deep sigh lifted her bosom and shoulders.

"Yes, that's true, greatgrandpa," she whimpered. "Now I'll see if he's
here." At that she grasped the spade and began to dig in the sand. But
soon she ceased, rested her hands on the handle, shook her head, and
said, "He isn't here--no, no! Mahanster [Footnote: Maren Hansdaughter.]
has been talking to him and taking him away from me--we know them!" She
straightened up and sang in the same tone as before, and with the same
arch look:

  "The young men we love them, ay from our hearts' core.
  But what is the use that we love them?
  They go away and don't come back any more.
  Heyomdick, heyomdack, come fallerah!"

The little fellow, who hardly knew yet what insanity meant, joined in
the refrain, merrily kicking over his pebble buildings.

But the old man hid his face in his hands and beneath them his tears
dripped on the sand. I sat as if transfixed. I had not the heart to ask
questions. Nevertheless, I presently got an explanation which later I
almost regretted that I had sought.

The mad woman slung the spade over her shoulder and went her way,
singing:

  "So many a one wears palest cheek for her very dear friend
  But shame upon them, but shame upon them
  Who from another lures her very dear friend.
  Heyomdick, heyomdack, come fallerah!"

When she was gone, the old man folded his hands over his trembling
knees, and lifted his face to that heaven which he could no longer see,
but from which even the blind draws light for his soul and hope for his
sorrowful heart. When he had ended his silent prayer, he said, "Come,
Terkil, come and kiss your greatgrandpa."

The boy laid both hands on his and kissed him. The old man rose with the
help of the child, and both walked slowly away in the direction from
which they had come.

Deeply moved, I turned toward the sea. An elderly woman was walking
along the beach with her wicker basket on her back. Old and poor people
gather in their baskets amber, bits of wood, and anything else that the
greedy sea casts up again.

I called to her. She came and greeted me with a "God's peace and
good-day." I told her what I had seen. She put down the basket, seated
herself by the side of it, and told the following story:

"The blind man is old Terkil--he doesn't know how old he is, but he must
be over five score. God have mercy on us all! He was once a warm man and
had money out at interest. He lived over there--his house was right
there in the edge of that big sand-hill. But first the quicksand took
his land, and then he had to move farther in and begin all over again. I
tell you, young man--wherever you come from--you people in the East
little know what we have to fight against here--between the water and
the sand. Look, out there where ships are sailing now, there my cradle
stood."

Now I knew that I had not been mistaken in the location of the house
where I once enjoyed hospitality, and I knew also that my one-time kind
host was still living, blind and poor in his old age.

"But the mad girl--or whatever she is," I asked further, "is she his
daughter or--?"

"She doesn't really belong to him at all," was the answer. "Many years
ago a ship was wrecked here; all the people were drowned except a little
baby who sailed ashore in her cradle. And that very baby is Crazy-Marie
whom you saw here a little while ago. Terkils took her as their own, and
she thrived and grew up into a good-looking girl. Terkils had two
children--you must know--a daughter who was married and who died many
years ago without leaving any children, and a son who is also dead. But
that time he was alive and married and had one boy, but not any more
children. That boy and Marie, when they got bigger, fell in love with
each other. The parents didn't like it so overly well, for she didn't
have anything except the swaddling-clothes she came sailing in with. But
however it was, the young people were sweethearts, and--the old
story--she had a child by him--it was that little chap you saw here.
Then his parents didn't want her in the house any more with her brat,
which was not to be wondered at. Old Terkil wanted to keep them, but he
had nothing to say any more, he'd given up the place to his son; and the
old woman was dead before then. Well, as I was going to tell you, then
Terkil and Jörgen--that was the name of the young fellow--they got my
husband to take both mother and child. But that I was sorry for many a
time, for there was no peace by night or by day. It's miserable never to
be happy--as the saying goes--and poor Marie, she sighed and moaned and
cried early and late; and the baby whined, too, for I can tell you,
Marie's eyes gave more water than her breasts gave milk. Many a time she
would lie by the hour on her knees in front of the cradle and rock and
sing and cry all at once. Then when the child at last was quieted, she
would throw herself in her clothes across the bed and pray so hard to
Our Lord that He should take them both. To be sure, Jörgen came as often
as he could to see how she was, and gave her money, and tried to cheer
her. But it was no use. 'Jörgen,' she said to him many and many a time,
'you mustn't come any more. Why should I make trouble between you and
your parents?' But Jörgen kept on coming--he wouldn't leave her on any
account.--Sometimes she would say to me, 'Kirsten,' she said, 'I would
to God I'd drowned with my parents! I am a stranger and an alien here in
this sinful world. Oh--if it wasn't for the child there--' She said no
more, but I knew well enough what she meant.--About that time Stig over
there lay down and died, and he had money, and his widow was young and
fine. She asked Jörgen to marry her. He said No. If things had been bad
before, they got worse now. The parents worked upon him, but he wouldn't
for little or for much. Marie got to hear of it, and she said to him,
not once but many times, 'Jörgen, marry Mahanster. It's best for all of
us.' But, no--he wouldn't. At last she said to him, 'If you don't marry
her, I'll go back where I came from'--she meant the sea.

Then he began to cry, and ran away like a crazy man. When he had gone,
she was sorry for what she had said, and cried and wrung her hands till
I thought her knuckles would crack. Jörgen didn't come back. He stayed
away for two days and for three. Now people said that he was going to
marry Mahanster. Marie said nothing, but looked as if she might do most
anything. My husband and I kept an eye on her, for we were afraid. But
then one night he came running over to our house and threw the door wide
open and caught Marie around the neck and took the child up from the
cradle and kissed and fondled it.--The meaning of it all was that now at
last he'd got leave, and they were going to be married. You should have
seen Marie--poor thing; she couldn't say one word. Alackaday, it was the
last happiness they had in this world, and it was short.

It was midnight before he left; he went away, and we didn't think of
anything. In the morning they came from Terkil's to ask for him. He was
gone. We searched and we searched; at last Marie found his hat--right on
the spot below us where you just saw her and the others. To make the
story short: under it he lay and had been choked by the quicksand. For
there had been a high wind that day, and the water had washed in. He
must have got out in the sand where it was wet, and then there's no
help; they sink and they sink till they're all covered.--Marie went out
of her mind right away, and never got it back and I don't suppose she
ever will.--So now, that's all there is to the story, and now you know
what she's digging for, and why old Terkil on a fine day sits here and
suns himself and sighs and weeps with his blind eyes. Alackaday! God
comfort all who are sorrowful!"

With these words she rose, slung the basket over her back, and gave me
"God's peace and farewell." She descended to the water's edge again, and
as she went she said to herself, "Oh, no, there's no peace for us in
this world till we're lying with spade and shovel crossed over us."





THE GAMEKEEPER AT AUNSBJERG

[_Skytten paa Aunsbjerg,_ 1839]


As a lad I had to stay, or rather I was imprisoned, on this estate
oftener and longer than I wished. The owner, Counsellor Steen de
Steensen, was my mother's uncle. He and his wife--née Schinkel--had no
children; I was named for him, and he was a good-natured man. She, too,
was really fond of me, but she was a "thoroughbred," as they say, and we
know that people of this breed are not free from crotchets, which even
the "permanent guillotine" has not been able to eradicate. She wanted to
dominate, that was all.

"Where is your will, little Steen?" she would often say to me--but only
when strangers were present. I was a doll, an automaton; and she had
taught me to answer, "In grandmother's pocket."

The poor boy's usual consolation was, in her absence, to tease her
favorite dog, Manille, which, between you and me, had a very fretful and
irritable disposition. By the way, I had the satisfaction that it once
got tangled up in the tether of an eagle, which was also imprisoned, but
on a grassy spot in the garden, and there this king of birds murdered
the favorite and ate him for breakfast. To be sure, the reigning queen
commanded that a summary court martial be held, and the sentence,
shooting, was instantly executed by the gamekeeper, Vilhelm.

This gamekeeper was _my_ favorite; and I was never happier than when I
was allowed to visit him in his room, look at his guns, play with his
dogs, and listen to his hunting stories. His name was really Guillaume,
which means the same in French as Wilhelm in German, and he was a
Frenchman. Now I know that I have a reputation for lying, and possibly
someone may accuse me of a forgery, but I can authenticate what I say,
and I like to be authentic. General Numsen, who at one time, within the
memory of men now living, commanded a regiment of horse then stationed
in Randers, had, before he entered the Russian service, been an officer
in the French Army. There the trooper Guillaume had Been assigned to him
as a servant, and inasmuch as they were both tired of the _Kehraus_ at
Rosbach, which the Pompadour general--did not lead, for old Fritz did
that--but in which he retreated down the Rhine, and inasmuch as both
Numsen and his servant got their throats full of the powder that blew
from the French perukes, they said good-bye to the petticoat government,
and went to Denmark together.

Vilhelm was a stocky, square-built man with thick black hair and
eyebrows and small brown eyes in a broad, rather pale, but nevertheless
handsome face. Contrary to the usual French temperament, he was so
serious that I cannot remember ever having known him to laugh. Even a
smile was a rarity with him, and there was something in his smile that
did not please me. Furthermore, he was taciturn and said no more than
was absolutely necessary, except when he was minded to tell me stories,
and then I thought his face took on a look quite different from its
everyday expression.

The squire--as grandfather was usually called at home--made more of him
than even of the manager of the estate, and often said that he was
"honest as the day." Her ladyship did not like him much, and it seemed
to me that she purposely avoided speaking to him; at least I was often
charged with bringing him her commands, even if he was no farther away
than from one door to another. He had almost as little to do with the
other servants on the estate--with one exception. This was a young and,
according to connoisseurs, very pretty housemaid by the name of Mette.
One might have supposed it was because she resembled him in temperament
and manner, but she was just his opposite. She was always cheerful and
merry, and yet so proper in all her demeanor that the butler who could
not do without--and very rarely did do without--a little lovemaking,
sometimes with one, sometimes with another, called her a prude--but not
so that either she or Vilhelm heard it.

The manager, the gardener, and the overseer all gave her similar fine
names, but of course not in the presence of the master or mistress.

It often puzzled me and I could not understand what was the reason of
it, but when Vilhelm and Mette were together, he looked more cheerful
and she more serious than usual, and still less could I understand why,
after a while, both looked serious, whether they were together or apart.
And the longer this went on, the worse it became, and sometimes I
noticed poor Mette crying when only I, small boy that I was, saw her.
And when I asked why she cried, she said that her teeth ached. But of
this more later. I shall now ask leave to narrate something that
occurred about the time the housemaid's teeth began to ache.

The squire had sent the gamekeeper south--I don't remember where or why.
On the way home, toward evening, he came riding to Them Inn about four
miles west of Himmelbjerget. Wanting his horse to bait for a couple of
hours, he entered the common room and found a seat between the bed and
the big stove (fired from the kitchen) in order to snatch a nap in that
warm corner.

Meanwhile several peasants drifted in; they sat down at the table, and
each got a mug of ale and a pipe, but none of them noticed the
gamekeeper.

A few weeks earlier an accident had occurred in the neighborhood; a team
of horses pulling a wood cart had run away and had overturned it, with
the result that a girl who was driving, and was alone in the cart, had
got her head crushed against a tree. This event was the subject of the
talk in the inn. Two of the men had been along on the trip to the woods,
but had been so far behind that they had not seen just what happened. A
young peasant had been driving the cart right behind the girl, but he
too said he did not know what had frightened the horses, and those
farther back had not been able to see the two carts at the head. That
the young man had not seen anything they could only explain by saying
that he must have been asleep.

As they were talking this over, the very same young man came in, and sat
down at the table. Immediately the others began to ask him to explain
once more just what had taken place. After wetting his whistle with a
glass of brandy and a draught of ale, he complied with their request.
But evidently his story did not satisfy his listeners, for first one and
then another interrupted him, to say that what he told now didn't jibe,
in this or that particular, with the explanation he had given right
away. At last he became angry, stiffened his back against the wall, and
cried out to the one who had made this remark,

"What's the matter with you? You don't suppose that I'm to blame for
Karen's death? That"--he banged the table with clenched fist--"that
you'll have to prove, devil take me!"

The man so addressed was quite taken aback, and said no more; but one of
the oldest men present tried to calm the angry fellow by assuring him
that of course no one had said or thought any such thing. At that moment
Vilhelm rushed out from his hiding-place, hit the table in front of the
fellow a doomsday blow, and thundered, "You murdered her--I'll prove
it." The horrified company jumped up from their seats, but the accused
slipped down from the bench till only his face, pale as death, was
visible above the table, and stammered with teeth chattering, "So I
did--and I want to confess."

The gamekeeper had, of course, not been asleep, but had followed the
conversation closely, and had made up his mind that the young man was
the murderer. When he appeared so suddenly, like a ghost or an avenging
angel, and shook the sin-burdened conscience, then the hardihood of the
criminal was melted, his forced courage was crushed, his effrontery
destroyed.

The man was bound and taken to the district judge, where he declared
that the girl had been with child by him, that he was tired of her, and
that her everlasting reproaches and threats to betray him--so as to
prevent his intended marriage with another girl--had made him determine
on her death. At a certain place in the woods, where a turn in the road
hid his cart and hers from those that followed, he jumped down, hit her
a deadly blow in the neck with the back of his woodman's axe, then
lashed the horses with his whip; and the animals, feeling that no one
was driving them, ran away at full speed.

The criminal suffered the punishment he had deserved, but Vilhelm was
generally regarded as one who "knew more than his Our Father"--in other
words, as something of a wizard.

It is not merely in order to characterize the leading person in this
true story that I have described the murder and the scene of its
discovery. Rather I have done so because I am inclined to believe that
the latter had something to do with another death of which I shall
presently tell. But now we must go back with the gamekeeper to
Aunsbjerg.

A few days after he had returned home, the counsellor was sitting in the
living room hearing me read my lesson, when his wife came storming in.
She left the door wide open, but when she had reached the middle of the
room, she stopped, threw out both her arms, and stood there as if nailed
to the floor, with staring eyes and trembling lips.

"God help us, mamma," he said without getting up. "What's the matter?"

"Mette, Mette!" she cried.

"What about her, mamma?" he asked quietly.

"Mette is with child," she stammered in horror.

"Why, then, so help me"--that was his only form of swearing--"she must
have had to do with a man."

"She must leave! Out of the house," she cried, "and that right away! And
he, too!"

"Who is the _he,_ mamma?" he asked.

"The gamekeeper," she replied, "the gamekeeper, dear heart, that wicked
creature!"

"Dear mamma," he answered, "I do believe, so help me, you're--I came
near saying--Vilhelm is just as innocent as I am."

"That's what you say, dear heart," she went on, "because the wicked
wretch has always stood so high in your favor. But he has owned it
himself. I have long had a suspicion of the baggage, that all was not
right with her. So I took her to task in the pantry, and when I pressed
her, she confessed, but she would not on any account tell who was her
paramour. But now listen, dear heart. As I was pressing her with all my
might, the pantry door was opened, and who do you suppose appeared?
Vilhelm, dear heart, and then he said--I didn't ask him, neither did the
girl--then he said, 'If Mette is getting ready for a birthday party,
I'll take the part of the father of the child!'--What do you say to
that, dear heart?"

The counsellor rose with an impetuosity I had never seen in him, saying,
"I believe, we must be in the dog days--mamma, call them both in."

She hurried out; he threw the book on the sofa, and walked up and down
the room with his hands on his back. The sinners came, she with face red
from weeping, he with his usual quiet and serious aspect. Her ladyship
stood behind them with both fists planted in her sides. The counsellor
met them with _his_ hands still on his back.

He hardly looked at the girl, but fixed his eyes on Vilhelm's unmoved
face. "Man," he said after a pause, "I would not have believed such a
thing of you--an old fellow--fifty if a day, I think--and that young
child--"

"Mr. Counsellor," said the gamekeeper with undisturbed composure, "may I
speak a few words to you in private, sir?"

The squire was silent for a few seconds, then he said, "Come," and went
into an adjoining room. Vilhelm followed him; the door was closed.

No one could distinguish what they said to each other in there, for they
spoke in low voices, and nothing was heard except an occasional, "So
help me," from the squire.

While this secret negotiation went on--and I think it lasted half an
hour--there was absolute silence in the living room.  Mamma threw
herself down on the sofa and looked, sometimes at Mette, sometimes at
the door of the other room. Mette stood as if carved in wood, the tears
rolling down her face, which grew paler and paler. I sat on my own
little stool, looking in my book and wondering about what was going to
come out of all this, which was just as mysterious to me as
hieroglyphics now are to the learned.

When the squire came out from the secret negotiations, followed by his
servant, he lifted his handkerchief to his nose--and I thought to his
eyes, too. But Vilhelm's face had brightened.

"Mamma dear," said the squire, speaking slowly and hesitatingly, "these
two are to be married very soon--for I suppose you are willing to have
him, Mette?" She curtsied, and bent her face still deeper. "And then we
will not speak any more of the past, mamma! Vilhelm, there is a house
right next to the blacksmith's up in Vium that's not leased--you can
have that, and it won't hinder you from continuing your service with
me."

The gamekeeper bowed, and said to his betrothed, "Thank the counsellor
and her ladyship, Mette." The girl hurried over to the squire and
curtsied sobbing, first to him and then to the mistress, after which she
tottered out of the room. The gamekeeper followed her slowly, but when
he had reached the door, the squire called after him in a lively voice,
"Oh, Vilhelm, take a look in the alder-bog and see if the snipes should
have come last night. It's the twenty-first today." Vilhelm nodded with
a quiet smile, and went out.

Aunsbjerg lies in Lysgaard district and belongs to the parish of
Sörslev. The church has a historical association. It was there--so the
story goes--that the Jutland nobles gathered for the deliberations which
ended in their renouncing allegiance to Christian II, and Magnus Munk
was by lot assigned to the dangerous task of apprising His Majesty of
the resolution. But the churchyard has to me another and more vital
interest, though this too has to do with the dead. There is--I hope it
is there yet--a fairly large mound set about with hewn stones and
furnished on the south side with an iron-work gate or wicket.

Beneath it rest the earthly remains of my youngest brother and sister
who died in infancy, of the squire and his lady, and several others of
our kin. But the first two were yet unborn and the last two were very
much alive when we attended the wedding of Guillaume Marteau and Mette
Kjeldsdaughter in Sörslev church.

The newly married couple moved to Vium that same day. I remember,
however, that Vilhelm, after escorting his wife to her new home, came
back late at night, and I remember that this did not please my gracious
grandmother, which puzzled me just as much as her anger when, a short
time afterwards, he called his son by my name.

Soon everything went on as before, except that sometimes, when the
weather was fine, I was allowed to go along on the hunt--that is, the
kind of hunt in which the game is driven in by hounds or beaters to a
hunter standing still in one place. I was now posted behind my
grandfather, and always with the admonition not to stir. This order I
obeyed in a much better spirit than I did when my "dear grandmother" set
me down on my stool at home.

Just as Vilhelm, after his marriage, seemed to have risen still higher
in the good graces of his master, so I rose in Vilhelm's favor because
of my early-awakened love of the chase. But I must go on with my story,
all the more as I am anxious to get that which is now coming over with.

It was a day in the autumn when the gamekeeper was ordered to ride out
on the heath and shoot black cocks. He did not come back that evening;
they thought he had stopped at Vium. But he didn't come the next day
either. In the evening a messenger was sent up to his home--his wife had
not seen him since the morning of the foregoing day, when on his way out
he had passed by there and called at the house. Now grandfather began to
worry and with good reason feared that an accident might have befallen
him.

Two reliable men were sent out to search for him and inquire about him
in the colonies. Toward noon on the following day they came back with
the report that two days earlier he had stopped at Haverdale Inn, and
the innkeeper said that he had gotten something to eat for his horse and
dog and for himself, too, and that he had started in good time for
Aunsbjerg. At that the squire himself mounted his horse and set out with
the manager of the estate and a couple of under-gamekeepers. He was
gloomy and anxious, and I already began to weep for Vilhelm.

To me it was a long day. Toward evening they returned, followed by two
carts; on the first lay Vilhelm's lifeless body, on the second his dead
horse, while his dog trailed along behind with drooping head and empty
stomach. On the heath, where now the royal forest stands, there was at
that time nothing but heather. The work of preparing the ground had
begun, however, in the very year that the events just narrated took
place. Even now the strip of heath first reclaimed for the cultivation
of a forest, situated a couple of thousand feet from the ranger's house,
is known as "the old plantation." In this strip, square pits had been
dug, according to the rules of woodcraft, and the turf piled on the
side. It was here that poor Vilhelm was found at last after long
searching of the wide heath, which here is quite hilly. His pointer led
the searchers to the spot.

After first trying to trace him in the colony and among the scattered
heath-dwellers of Vium parish, and then in heathery valleys and turf
pits, they suddenly heard the pitiful whine of a dog far in the
distance. They rode in the direction of the sound, which was repeated at
intervals; and when they came nearer, the counsellor exclaimed, "So help
me, it's Vagtel!" Coming closer still, they caught sight of the white
dog which now lifted its head and howled, now buried itself deep in the
heather. They hastened to the spot--and there, among the pits in the
newly laid-out plantation, they found hunter and horse, the man in front
of the horse's head; and the dog by its side. It looked as though,
through carelessness, the horse had stumbled, and the rider had been
pitched over its head and had broken his neck. Both were beginning to
putrify already. But the counsellor had his own opinion. He called on
the officers of justice to make investigations, but nothing came of
them. True, there was a hole in the chest of the horse, but that might
have been made by a sharp stone; and moreover, the stench got worse and
worse, and nobody could or would undertake a post-mortem examination of
either.

The burial of the gamekeeper's body could no longer be postponed. I
followed it to the grave where my dear father threw the first three
spadefuls of earth on the coffin and pronounced the formula that
consigns to corruption and transfiguration. But the grave was not filled
up or the mound shaped till several days later, when the counsellor at
last saw that all his efforts to find out anything were futile.

The horse was buried the same day in the home-field where it had been
laid, and the dog--dear reader, whoever you are, do not take offense at
the womanish weakness of an old and poor poet! And do not laugh at him,
even if you think he is entering on his second childhood!--the dog
Vagtel, my dearest playmate at serious Aunsbjerg, he who so many a time
had shared my sandwiches with me, and more than once had found and
brought back a lost handkerchief or glove, yes, I admit it freely, I
wept over Vagtel, too. Was it because of Vilhelm? Possibly--I hardly
know it myself. As long as the gamekeeper's body was unburied, the dog
stuck close to it. He would have followed it to the grave, but was too
feeble. When we closed the gate in order to keep him in, he dragged
himself into the home-field and lay down by the grave of the horse. We
set his favorite food before him--he turned his head away--he starved
and grieved himself to death. He was buried near the horse. Grandfather,
too, cried over him.

But there was one who wept even more than I--Vagtel was not alone in
grieving himself to death over Vilhelm. Both while the grave was open
and long after it had been covered with green turf, the widow would
visit it every evening to mourn--weep she could not, for she had no more
tears left. The grave was a little to the north of the church tower--I
could go right to the spot now as unerringly as half a hundred years
ago--there she sat leaning back against the wall, her hands folded in
her lap, and stared in silent despair at the mound hiding the friend who
had been torn from her in such a horrible manner. My father visited her
every day, but his consolation found no hearing. "My only friend on
earth!" was all she could say.

The child suffered from the mother's sorrow. It pined away, and three
weeks after the father's death it was laid by his side. The loss of it
seemed hardly to make any impression on the widow. She did not care
about the little body, but gave it only an indifferent glance. Neighbor
women had to dress it and prepare it for burial.

Hardly a month had passed before the mother was laid by her husband's
other side.

* * *

Nine years had gone by, and I was in the upper class preparing for
entrance examinations to the University, when in the dog days I visited
my great-uncle at Liselund, a small place under Aunsbjerg which he had
saved as a home for his old age, when he sold the rest of the estate.

I had to give a report of my progress in scholarship and answer many
other questions which the inquisitive old gentleman amused himself by
putting to me. Our talk drifted back to old times, and each reminiscence
from my childhood brought others in its train. It was not strange,
therefore, that I recalled the events with which the reader is now
familiar. I mentioned them, and expressed a desire for any possible
information on matters that seemed to me obscure and even sinister.

The old man looked at me, blinking with his red-rimmed eyes. "Hm!" he
said, "I hardly know whether it is good for you to know such things--and
yet--perhaps. In God's name! I will reveal to you what I know; and then
you will have to use your own common sense and draw a lesson from this
miserable affair."

He sat silent yet a while with his chin resting on his breast, took his
snuffbox, tapped the side of it with his finger three times--which is
the proper way if one wants to take snuff gracefully--but he didn't take
any; he held the box on his knee, lifted his face, looked fixedly at his
favorite gun, which was hanging on the wall opposite him, and said:

"That fowling piece--well, now I don't use it much--my eyes are not so
good any more--that piece has belonged to Guillaume de Martonniére--_de
Martonnière!_ Take note of that, my boy! I got it in exchange for
another, which was really better, but didn't suit me so well, and into
the bargain I gave him this powder horn that you see there, inlaid with
silver--I bought it back at the auction after him. It is just nineteen
years since he came from my brother-in-law at Hald to me. I have never
had a better gamekeeper or a better man in my service." Here he wiped a
tear from his eye, saying, "My eyes are running badly these days--it is
a sign of bad weather coming. Fetch me the eye lotion, my boy; it's
standing on the stove in there." I did so; he bathed his eyes, and went
on, "You remember when he overwhelmed that murderer in Them Inn and by
his fierce demeanor forced him to confess his crime?" I nodded. "But you
probably don't know that that wretch was Mette's sweetheart--you
remember, the girl Guillaume married--and that he was the father of her
child?"

"No!" I exclaimed, horrified.

"Hm!" he went on. "Weren't you in the house on the day when Mette's
condition was discovered by my poor, dear wife, and when he was closeted
with me in the small room inside the parlor?"

"Yes."

"It was then he told me about himself and gave me a good clear account,
which I shall now repeat to you. While the trial was in progress,
Vilhelm had to go there several times in order to be confronted with the
murderer. Shortly before sentence was to be pronounced, the judge
admonished the criminal to confess anything else that he might have on
his conscience.

Then for the first time he burst into tears, and was so overwhelmed with
emotion that he could not speak. The judge told his secretary to dip his
pen, but the sinner said, 'What I have to confess is something that only
God in His mercy can punish me for, and it is of no use to write
anything about it. And besides, I want to ask that I might be alone with
the judge and this man';--it was Vilhelm--'otherwise I can't say a
word.'--The judge granted his request. And then he revealed that his
real sweetheart, whom he had meant to marry if the devil hadn't ensnared
him, was Mette Kjeldsdaughter, who at that time was our housemaid. For
he had worked here, under my tenant Hansen, and had become good friends
with her. Then it happened on Whitsunday that they had a merrymaking in
the horse pasture here, as they have every year, and then she allowed
herself to be seduced by him. Alas, my dear boy, sin--mark it well!--sin
is the ruin of human beings. No doubt they would have been married, for
he was genuinely fond of her, and the parents of both were well-to-do.
But then it happened at a wedding which he attended in his home district
that he also wronged another girl, her whom he afterwards murdered in
order to marry Mette. 'And now I beg and implore you,' he finally said
to Vilhelm, 'you are the one who is sending me to gallow's hill, but
that I can't complain of--I thank you for it--but I beg you for Jesus'
sake that you will do whatever is in your power to comfort Mette and
help her in her great trouble and misery, and don't let anybody know
that she has been got with child by such a criminal as I--unless it
should be the Aunsbjerg squire, if you think it might benefit her.'

"Of course I was greatly shocked to hear it," the old man went on, "and
asked him just what he meant to do. He passed his hand over his
forehead, and said, 'I have robbed the girl of her lover--although that
I can never regret--but she is innocent of his crime, and I owe it to
her to make up for it as well as I can. Besides'--and here his face took
on a look more gloomy than I have ever seen on it before or
since--'besides'--at this a shudder passed through him, and he walked
quickly over to the window as if he needed a breath of air, then turned
toward me, and said, 'Are you satisfied with my decision, Mr.
Counsellor?'--I not only answered this question in the affirmative, but
assured him that it increased my esteem for him. And so this brief and
joyless marriage came to pass.

"Never as long as I live shall I forget the morning he was killed.
Before he rode out he asked that he might speak with me. And he said
very quietly and philosophically--as if he were talking about wind and
weather--'Counsellor Steensen,' he said--he did not ordinarily add my
name--'if today or another day something should happen to me, and I
should not have a chance to speak with you again, I want to ask you, for
the sake of the kindness you have always shown me, to comply with a
request I have directed to you, and which you will find as the first
thing in my pocket book. It lies in the middle drawer to the right in my
escritoire, and here is the key.' This speech made me feel very
uncomfortable--for surely, my boy, you don't doubt that there are such
things as forebodings, and this one, as you know, was only too true!
Well, I took the key, and explained to him the ground where I wanted him
to shoot the black cocks that day. He rode away--"

Here the old man again had to resort to the eye lotion, and this time it
seemed to require a longer time before it helped. At last he continued
his story. "I had a suspicion from the first that he had met a violent
death, and I also suspected who had perpetrated it, none other, in fact,
than the brother of the first murderer. Not so much because Vilhelm had
brought his brother to justice as because not long before he had caught
the fellow poaching, and had taken his gun away from him. By the way, I
forgot to tell you that the rascal had got himself a house out there in
a spot very handy for that kind of traffic, and he came from a region,
out there by Silkeborg, Them, and Mattrup, where people were in the
habit of poaching--and still are, I dare say. What I supposed was this:
Vilhelm, as he rode from Haverdale, skirting the old plantation, may
have caught sight of the poacher, for it is a good place to lie in wait
for the red deer when they come down to the water at Aaresvad, and he
started after him, and when the scoundrel saw that he could not escape,
he fired and hit the horse. But even if one had found the bullet in the
half-rotten carcass, _whose_ bullet was it?"

* * *

I wept again after all these years for my dear Vilhelm, and when the old
man saw it, he had to resort to the eye lotion again.

"But," he went on, "it was not till he had been laid out that I
remembered the key he had given me, and opened his escritoire.
Here--take my key, go into the bedroom there and open my writing-desk.
In the bottom drawer in the center there is a folded paper tied up with
a black silk string. Bring it here."

I fetched it.

"Take my spectacles--but, no--you can read it yourself, but aloud!"

I read, "If it should be the will of Providence that I should come to a
sudden and untimely end, without having an opportunity, that is, to
dispose of the things I have, I would ask Counsellor St. de Steensen to
take charge of them as follows. My few books I will ask him to keep in
memory of me. My clothes, my guns, and anything else that will bring
money are to be sold and the proceeds given to my wife or, if she should
be dead, to the little one, and if he too should be gone, to her next of
kin. Finally, in a secret compartment there is a bundle of letters which
the counsellor will please take into custody, and what is further to be
done with them is stated in the package itself. To find the secret
compartment it is only necessary to press with a sharp instrument such
as an awl"--The rest was unreadable because of ink that had been spilled
on it.

"The cat did that," said the old man. "It jumped up on the table as I
was reading and overturned the inkwell. But you see down below that he
has signed his name Guillaume de Martonniére. So he was a nobleman. But
the compartment I have never been able to find, however much I tried."

"But you still have the escritoire?" I asked.

"Yes, indeed I have it, for I bought it at the auction I arranged after
his death. I have never been able to make up my mind to chop it to
pieces, all the more as there was no sign of any secret compartment, for
all the drawers seem to be equally large and to extend way to the back.
If he has possessed the documents he mentioned, they must have been in
some other place."

* * *

So he ended, and so I must end. When he died, and his effects were sold,
I was far away, and I don't know what became of the escritoire or
whether it still exists. But if it does, and if anyone who reads these
pages should know of it, he could do me, and possibly others, a service
by letting me know. For I am convinced that the letters mentioned must
be found in this piece of furniture, and that most likely they will give
information about Guillaume de Martonniére's life and experiences before
he came here and would reveal how this French nobleman came to end his
days as a humble gamekeeper for a Jutland squire.

* * *

Dear and highly-honored readers! Do not be wroth with me because this
little story, which is scarcely more than an incident, is so
fragmentary, obscure, and sad. Is not all our knowledge down here
fragmentary? Is not all our wisdom obscure? And the greater part of our
experience--yes, let it stand here--sad? Many a time in the days of my
boyhood I have stood in Vium churchyard where Mette had sat and looked
at the graves of her husband and child. I have sat there when the sun
went down in the northwest back of Lyshöj, and have listened to the sad
song of the bittern over there in Bastrup parish. I sorrowed, too, but
there was no bitterness in my sorrow still less of doubt or fear. There
was something, there was much, that resembled joy, that _was_ joy. The
animal does not sorrow, except perhaps in relation to human beings.
Sorrow is the birthright of men.





AN ONLY CHILD

[_Eneste Barn,_ 1842]


WHEN in the year 1815 I was in Copenhagen, I happened one day to be
visiting the friend whom I have mentioned in my story "Eva." The
doorbell rang, the door was opened, and in came, with a deep and elegant
curtsy, a woman who, judging from her appearance, was a little more than
middle-aged. Her entire costume was shabby genteel. There were holes in
her hat and also in her dress, though they were small and had been
carelessly drawn together. On the third finger of her left hand she wore
a cheap ring which looked more like brass than gold. In her right hand
she carried a parasol which had long since passed its days of beauty, as
had its owner, whose long, thin, pale face matched her costume.

When you come across an acquaintance you instinctively seek to have eye
meet eye. But of hers even the lower half evaded you; the immovable lids
closed the windows of the soul--I mean the eyeballs, those round
peepholes. She had been fairly tall, but had now shrunk a little; she
was round-shouldered. When she spoke, she straightened up for a moment,
but soon sank down again. She was begging; one could hear that she used
a formula which she repeated by rote. A certain haughtiness that life
had not yet beaten down was revealed in her speech and posture.

"I have not the honor to know you personally, sir," she said, "and you
probably don't know me, but you can believe me when I say that I have
seen better days than these"--a slight shrug of the shoulder accented
this remark. "I have been told that you are a man of generous mind, and
I venture to ask you for a contribution--in any amount you
please--toward my rent."

He took two or three steps in the direction of his desk, but turned
abruptly toward her with the question, "Your name, madam?"

She shuddered, bent her head, and lowered her lids till they hid the
eyes completely, as she answered slowly and in a ghastly tone, "My name?
I lost that long ago, and now I have almost forgotten it--as the rest of
the world has forgotten me. I have received another, but it belongs to a
large family--it is Care-and-Want." Here she wiped her dry eyes.

Without further questioning, Smith gave her a few bills. She curtsied,
straightened up again, and left.

During this scene I had been looking at the genteel beggar woman with a
strange feeling. It seemed to me that I knew--or had known--this face,
this voice. But I could not fix the vague, dim memory either in time or
place. Though I was awake, she seemed to me a dream picture, as when the
imagination projects forms that we think we know, but when we try to
grasp them, they change or vanish.

"Hm!--strange," said Smith. "She didn't want her name to be known. You
looked so fixedly at her--do you know anything?"

"Hm!" I replied. "I have seen her before, but I can't think when or
where. Did she go out?"

"I can see her out in the street," he said. "She's walking down toward
the Church of Our Lady. If you want to find out anything about her,
you'd better skurry."

I did so, caught up with her, and followed her, but at some little
distance.

As she turned the corner of the bishop's residence, she took a paper
from her pocket and, still walking, looked alternately at the paper and
the numbers on the houses. When she had passed Crystal Street, she
stopped for a few minutes, and then turned in at a doorway. I continued
in the wake of the old sailer--up to the second floor. While she rang
the bell, I went up another flight and peeped down between the
balusters.

The door down there was opened. A servant maid came out and said pertly,
"Oh, it's you. You call on us rather often, but my master and mistress
have ordered me to tell you it's no use that you come before Saturday
week--the first of the month, you understand--good-bye!" With that she
slammed the door and bolted it.

The woman who was thus shut out tapped the floor with her parasol,
stiffened her back, opened her eyes fully, stood there a few moments as
if she were turning over important matters in her mind, and then
walked--or rather tripped--rapidly down the stairs. I followed. She went
back by way of North Street, turned into Crystal Street, and then into
Peter Hvitfeld's Lane, where she entered a humble-looking house. I
surmised that she lodged there, and found it to be so.

In the basement there lived a cheesemonger, whom I took to be the owner,
or at least the person who by virtue of his business must be posted on
the people in the house. He was not at home, but there was a woman who
in answer to my question told me she was his wife. I made a purchase and
asked her if such and such a person lodged there and who she was.

"Yes, she rooms here," was the answer, "but I can't remember what her
name is. My husband knows, for he comes from the same place over in
Jutland. I know only that he was born on the estate her father owned. He
was a chamberlain or something like that, and a rich man, and she was an
only child; but they say she behaved badly, married against her father's
wish, and then ran away from her husband--serving strange gods, as the
saying is. And now things are pretty bad with her; she always has a bill
here, and the rent is never paid on time, but my husband is kind of easy
on her, because they come from the same place.--There he is. Now he can
tell you all about it."

"About what?" he asked.

"The gentleman," said the wife as she was about to go, "wants to know
the name of the woman on the third floor to the left."

He looked hard at me, and said, "May I ask who you are?"

I told him my name and where I was born. At that he became very
friendly, struck the counter with the palm of his hand, and gave me the
information I wanted. This, together with the story of the beggar
woman's youth, on which I was much better posted than the cheesemonger,
I retailed to Smith about as follows.

* * *

As far back as my memory serves me, I remember Miss S------, and though
I was a madcap when I could have my fling, it seemed to me that she was
even more mad than I. She would take me on her lap, rock me, and kiss
me, and then she said that when I got older I would understand such
things. I didn't know what she meant, nor did I bother my head about it;
but whenever I could I would escape to the room of her mother, who
suffered a great deal from rheumatism and--as I have since thought--also
from heartsickness; she always caressed me and always had sweets that
she would put into my little mouth. I never saw her outside of her
chamber until she was carried out in the well-known little black
_forte-chaise._ Her husband, the chamberlain, did not stand nearly so
high in my regard. When he turned his small green eyes on me, I felt a
vague antipathy, although he never said a harsh word to me, but only
played some little harmless tricks with me--and those not always of the
most delicate kind, but I understood them as little as those of his
daughter.

This old-fashioned nobleman was a veritable aristocrat: any peasant girl
on the estate to whom he threw the handkerchief had to yield to him, and
any peasant with whom he got angry would have it taken out on his back.
Sometimes he would strike too hard, for he was strong, and once he got a
lawsuit on his hands, because he had beaten a man so that he died of it.
The case went all the way to the High Court. The chamberlain was
acquitted, of course, and that was the end of that story. But I am going
to tell another story, which also ended in death and destruction, but
which was nevertheless very amusing.

At H. there was a herdsboy who could run and jump as if he had learned
it in Nachtigall's Institute. It happened one summer that the
functioning bull all of a sudden went mad, broke his tether, and chased
the other cattle and the horses, till they all ran amok in the squire's
rye. He called together the men on the estate and promised a crown to
anyone who could bring him the runagate dead or alive. The herdsboy
said, "I'll try, but then the rest of you'll have to shut the gate when
I get him in."

All the men armed with pitchforks, axes, and scythes and posted
themselves to wait for the bull, while my good Thomas had already run
him down in the rye field. He stuck out his tongue and boo'ed at the
brute, which immediately went for him. Thomas's two feet were quicker
than the bull's four, and several times he had to stop in order to lead
it on. He succeeded; Thomas dashed triumphantly into the yard--the bull
after him--and out on the dunghill, where it found a dirty death.

Thomas not only got his crown, but also a blue coat with silver braid
and an even more dazzling cap. In other words, he became a running
footman, and in this capacity conferred great credit on the chamberlain.
The squire liked to drive fast, but Thomas could run still faster, and
no matter how hard the coachman would drive, the running footman was
always far ahead and sometimes would make circles around the carriage,
cracking his whip as if he wanted to challenge both coachman and horses.
In spite of his brilliant gifts, however, Thomas Runner would not have
figured in this story if he had not done any other running than that in
front of the chamberlain's carriage.

The time had come when our young lady was to be married. Papa had picked
out a handsome young baron for her, who was a lieutenant to boot, and
there was nothing to hinder the marriage except this: that the daughter
had picked out someone else. It had happened so secretly that the squire
knew nothing about it, and therefore could not understand why she
objected to such a suitable match, for she hid the reason carefully.

Her secret choice was unfortunately nothing but a minister's son, but
his uniform was blue and his beard was black, whereas the baron had only
a few yellow wisps on his chin.

Our racer, Thomas, became the carrier pigeon of the lovers, and the
office was the back of Niels Bugge's portrait in the vestibule.

But the correspondence was discovered--not the mail-carrier, however,
for he ran between H. and W. when everybody else was sleeping. One day a
learned historian and antiquarian arrived from Copenhagen, because he
had heard of the above-mentioned picture. The chamberlain himself showed
it to him. The stranger looked for the painter's signature, and failing
to find it on the right side, turned the picture around, and what should
he find there but a little three-cornered billet-doux which didn't look
in the least antiquarian. The chamberlain silently took possession of
it. When the stranger had departed, the squire opened the letter, and
thereby got full light on the state of his daughter's affection.

The coachman was instantly ordered to harness the horses to the
carriage, and the young lady was told to get ready for a journey, and
soon the four light bays were conveying the squire and his daughter to
A. It was a polite prison in which the young lady was placed; the master
and the mistress--her father's sister--were the keepers. But there was a
slip: before the prisoner was out of the carriage, the running footman
had been informed of the new post office which she had established on
the way--the mouth of one of the wild men that stood as guards at the
head of the front steps.

The baron arrived the very same day. Everything was very loving; she
kissed him and caressed him, and no one could believe but that she was
over head and ears in love. And so she was, but not with the poor baron.

The prisoner was confined to a chamber on the second floor, and the
servants took turns keeping watch in the passage that led to the only
exit and entrance door of the manor.

One morning when the master and mistress and my small person were seated
at breakfast, one of the servants entered with a handkerchief which he
had found beneath the young lady's window.

"Take it up to her," said the master.

But the mistress, who had a finer scent, took the handkerchief from him
and examined all the corners, while she allowed the servant to go.
"Halloo!" she said, "That's not Lotte's handkerchief--see, there's a B.
I'll wager that this Mr. B------has been with her last night. You go
out, dear heart, and look carefully in the garden and on the wall to see
if there should be other signs of a secret assignation."

"Indeed I will, so help me," he said, and went out.

His search led to the following results: the dew had been brushed off,
the grass trampled under foot; in a walk leading to the north wicket
there were footprints in the sand pointing both ways; outside the wicket
a horse had been tied and had trampled and scraped the ground with its
hoofs.

"So help me!" he ended his account, "I'd rather watch a hundred goats
than one young girl if she gets notions in her head. If you agree with
me, mamma, we'll send her back this blessed day. Then your brother will
have to look after her as best he can."

"Yes, dear heart, let us do that," she said. "But," she added, "would it
not be safest that we accompany her? For if we send her away alone, who
knows what she might do? And as for the coachman and the servants, we
can't trust them."

"You're right, mamma!" he replied. "The worst is, how are we going to
get her away from here decently?--for I'm certainly not going to use
force. It's the first time I've undertaken to act as guard, and so help
me, it'll surely be the last."

"Let Steen go up to her," said the mistress, "and ask if she would like
to take a ride to H." I went, and yes, she would like to go, and she
came down dressed for the trip before the old people were ready. Nothing
was said about the suspected window-climbing, and we drove off, the four
of us.

About midway between A. and H. there is a little town, the name of which
I don't care to give. In the town lived a clergyman whose garden
stretched down to the road that we had to travel. As we approached, we
saw the pastor's gardener--who seemed a very courteous man, a
Copenhagener. He was picking flowers and tying them together in
bouquets. He seemed not to notice us till we had come just opposite him.
Then he greeted us, jumped over the ditch, and came close to the
carriage, while he asked the coachman to stop.

"May I have the honor," he exclaimed, "to offer your ladyships some of
my ten weeks' stock? I believe you will hardly find as perfect ones
anywhere else in Jutland." They thanked him and accepted the gift of
flowers. "When you come to the town," he added, "where you will perhaps
spend the night, it would be well if the bouquets were loosened and the
flowers separately put into wet sand; in that way they keep much longer.
Perhaps her young ladyship would undertake to do that--it is well worth
the trouble."

He said this with a rather serious face and with a look at the young
lady which I did not then understand, but of a kind that I am now old
enough to have seen quite a few. I am usually able to detect in a pair
of eyes if there is an important secret within them.

Our young lady was much pleased with her nosegay; she smelled it every
few minutes, fingered the flowers and praised them, as we drove along.
Once when she pulled a little more at them, I saw something white in the
middle of the posy, but she covered it up again at once,

"Why!" said I in my childish innocence, "I think there's a white
carnation in the middle of it."

"Carnation--nonsense!" she said smiling, and hid the bouquet on her
bosom. But it seemed to me that her stays were not strong enough to hold
the flowers, for they rose and fell--and that I couldn't understand.

Nor did I bother my head long with the matter. There were other things
to occupy my attention: the picturesque and varied landscape, which I
will not describe here, but which anyone can allow his imagination to
paint in green, yellow, light blue, and brown colors, and to mould in
high hills and deep dales.

The chamberlain was surprised and displeased when he saw us; he murmured
something that I didn't understand. "You can go into your room for a
while--and take the child with you," he said to his daughter.

We went. In there, she whispered quickly and, I might say,
confidentially, "Take that glass and fill it half full of the white
sand, you know, and bring me."

I took the glass and ran. As I turned at the door to shut it, I saw that
when she cut the string that held the flowers together, a little piece
of folded paper fell out; but she caught it in mid-air with one hand,
while with the other she threw the flowers pell-mell on the window sill.

I fetched the sand she asked for and came in again. As I opened the
door, I saw that she pressed a piece of paper--the same, no doubt--to
her lips and when she saw me, dropped it in her bosom.

"Did you see anything, you little scamp?" she asked, as she fluttered
over to me and bent her face down to mine.

"I saw you kissing a strip of paper, nothing else," I replied.

"Not at all," she said, "I was only smelling it, because it smelt so
nicely of the flowers--and besides you're not to tell any human being
what you happen to see in here; for--see, here are two macaroons, and
you shall have more if the little mouth doesn't tattle."

(I promised--and have kept my promise till now, that is a little over
half a century. My listeners must not therefore mind if I speak freely
of an incident which is many thousand years old and yet will be new as
long as the world stands. The bag has been opened and the contents will
out.)

"Listen," she went on. "I am not well, and I am going to bed now. In a
little while you can come back and read to me from _Siegvart_ as you
used to; the part where Kronhelm carries off Therese--it's so sweet. And
now go down to father and talk with him about the bays."

I went down and talked about the bays, both that day and the next. And
the baron joined in--for he was a cavalry officer. Sometimes he and the
chamberlain went to see the sick young lady, but when they came she was
always sleeping. (It was funny, when I came alone she was always awake.)

When I was about to go, she would say, "Try to get hold of Thomas
Runner, and ask him if he hasn't got anything for me." I did so, but he
didn't have anything before the evening of the second day after the
young lady got sick. Then he gave me such a queer letter; it was not
folded in the usual way, but in the shape of a bowknot. It must have
been a remarkable letter, for as soon as she had read it, she was well
again, jumped out of bed, and dressed herself. I asked if I shouldn't
read from _Siegvart,_ but she said, "Never mind him! I have another
Siegvart--he'll be coming soon. Wait--stay here with me! Here's the
whole box of macaroons."

I tackled the macaroons. She packed dresses and clothes and ornaments
into a valise, while she looked out of the window every minute. When I
had finished the macaroons, I looked out of the window, too, in order to
see what it was. And there came a carriage with four bays--but they were
not the chamberlain's, nor was the coachman his.

The young lady slammed the valise shut, took the key, and grasped my
hand. "Come with me," she cried, "and help to receive the visitors." She
ordered her maid, who was standing in the passage, to carry down the
valise and put it in the entry.

Just as we arrived there, the carriage drove up to the front door, and
the chamberlain came out to us. He started when he saw his daughter, and
in travelling dress. "What does this mean, Lotte? Are you so well now?"

"Yes, papa, now I have quite recovered," she cried with an arch smile.

In the same moment the visitors--a man with a yellow key on his right
coat tail just like our chamberlain, and two others without
keys--stepped in through the door.

The strange chamberlain greeted ours with an ironic smile, and began,
"In accordance with His Majesty's royal order, and by virtue of the
authority vested in me--"

"I don't care a straw for the authority vested in you!" Chamberlain
S------ interrupted him angrily. "But where is His Majesty's order? And
what is the import of it?"

"The order is here," replied the other, as he took out a big document
through the first page of which shone the red seal of His Majesty.

Our chamberlain reached after it, and bellowed out, "Let's see!"

"Your worshipful honor," said the other with a malicious smile, "is
hardly in such a state of mind that I venture to entrust His Majesty's
letter directly into your hands. But if you will allow the young lady
your daughter--whom the order especially concerns--to step this way, I
will read it aloud in her presence and yours, and will furthermore allow
these witnesses to examine it."

"Call the young lady!" he thundered at a servant standing at some
distance, and she herself came from the opposite direction, dressed for
the journey and carrying a small bundle in one hand. Her father looked
her over from head to foot once or twice, and said gruffly, "Whither
away, mademoiselle?"

The stranger took upon himself to answer for her, and said with affected
solemnity, "Inasmuch as the two parties concerned are now both present,
I will read His Majesty's communication which has been entrusted to me
and which is as follows: 'Upon the humble supplication of Lieutenant
B------of our Royal Navy, alleging that he, being engaged to Miss Ch.
S------, has learned that the father of said young lady Ch. S------
keeps her in dire captivity in order to force her against her will to
marry another, you are to investigate and find out the true foundation
of this complaint, and furthermore you are to confront the father with
the daughter and from her obtain a statement regarding the alleged
captivity, and particularly to learn which of the two rivals she
chooses. If it should be the supplicant, Lieutenant B------, and if it
should be her firm resolve to be united in marriage with him, then in
case the father does not willingly allow her to go, you are to remove
her with the aid of the civil and military power, which we graciously
put at your disposal.'"

While this document was being read, our chamberlain clenched first one
hand, then the other, and then held both stiff arms slantwise along his
hips, exactly in the posture assumed by an old-fashioned prizefighter.
When the stranger, having finished reading, was about to hand the
document to him, he gave it a fillip with his right forefinger, and
began to stamp with one foot and then with the other--his fat little
body looking not unlike a statue trembling in an earthquake.

"Well!" said the other with unchanged sunny expression, "and you, Miss,
what do you want to do? You are free to choose."

"You're not going to run away from your father?" shouted the father to
the daughter.

"She won't have to run," the strange chamberlain said, "for she can ride
with me--if she wants to. Are you going to stay here, or may I offer you
my arm?" She accepted it and bowed to her father.

"Then go, you trollop, go to the end of the world with your ruffian
sailor! But don't dare ever to set your foot within the limits of your
paternal estate. It's lost to you. You're disinherited."

With that, father and daughter parted. They had seen each other for the
last time.

The chamberlain did not go to bed till morning. Sometimes he would
write, sometimes he would walk up and down in his bedroom, now with
firm, quick steps, now slowly like one who is brooding or who has just
risen from an illness. Though he had not eaten anything since the day
before, he at last threw himself down on the bed without undressing,
rang for his servant, and asked to be wakened in two hours. At the
appointed time the servant went in, but was unable to waken him; for he
was dead. A sudden stroke had ended his wicked life and choked his plans
for vengeance in their birth. The hated son-in-law became his heir.

The latter never established residence at H., but would visit it every
summer to look after the management of the farm and the estate and to go
through the accounts. His wife never accompanied him; she preferred to
remain in the capital, where of course she could amuse herself better.
Perhaps the disinclination of Mrs. B------ to revisit her birthplace and
native country moved her husband after a few years to sell the entire
property. This transaction and the many details that had to be settled
on the estate kept him there longer than usual.

When he returned, he found his house, his children, and his servants,
but his wife he didn't find. It was lightly come and lightly go.

Whether time had hung heavy on her hands while her husband was away, or
whether she had gotten tired of him--which I think most likely--however
that might be, she had acquired another lieutenant to pass the time. But
a few days before she expected the right lieutenant to come home, the
two had absconded with all the precious metal they could find in the
house--people thought they had gone to Sweden. At least, a friend of
mine told me the following tale:

"In the summer of 1805 I was in Christianstad on business for our house.
There I met one day the lieutenant who had absconded with Mrs. B------ a
few weeks earlier. I had known him well in Copenhagen, and had lent him
money now and then--which I never got back. 'Is that you, R------?' he
exclaimed. 'What are you doing here? Come home with me and see how I
live!' I went with him and saw that he lived in a small way, but fairly
well. He went over to a door and called out through the crack, 'Madam,
may I ask you to bring breakfast for two?'--I expected to see Mrs.
B------, but this was quite another person, and when she brought the
breakfast, I heard her speaking Swedish. When she had gone out and
closed the door after her, L------ made a wanton grimace, and said,
'She's neither among the youngest nor the handsomest, but she's a
dependable friend--you understand?'--'I understand you well enough,' I
replied, 'but I thought you had an older friend.'--'Ah,' he said, 'have
had--yes. You knew Mrs. B------,--there was no getting along with her.
She'd run away from her father and from her husband, and so she ran away
from me, too, the devil.'--'Whom did she run with this time?' I asked,
'and where is she now?'--'She ran back to Denmark with a counterjumper,
who had filched some cash from his employer, but what happened to her
after that--I don't know anything about. Have a drink!'"

* * *

About ten years later I had occasion to visit H. Alas, what a change!

The old aristocratic manor with its solid foundation was gone, and a
half-timbered house with thatched roof was now the modest dwelling of
the middle class owner. Within the house one was constantly reminded of
the mutations of everything human. "Now" is never the same as "before."
"New" is joined to--or rather apart from--"old." Here it was like
grandparents in the company of grandchildren: a ponderous oak press in
the fashion of bygone days confronting a little mahogany bureau; an
ottoman with gilding--mostly worn off--on its wooden frame and leather
seat opposite a sofa with veneered woodwork and home-woven cushions; and
some large paintings of unknown, long since forgotten gentlemen and
ladies interlarded with and abutted by copperplates representing the
battle of April Second or Napoleon's victories.

I went out into the garden--there was none! All the old fruit trees had
disappeared, flowers and herbs had given way to rye, barley, oats, cows,
and sheep. I ran down to the lake, where in my boyhood I had angled from
a balcony overhanging the water--there was no balcony, there was no
boat--there was nothing but water and the woods on the other side. I
thought I could still hear faint echoes of the salutes that used to
introduce the festivities I had so often attended in my boyhood years.
All was still.  I paid my childhood memories the tribute of a long,
dreary sigh, and thought: There will come a time when you too are still.





THREE HOLIDAY EVES

A STORY OF JUTLAND ROBBERS

[_De tre Helligaftener, En jydsk Röverhistorie,_ 1841]


EASTER EVE


IF YOU, dear reader, have ever been on Snabs Hill where the assizes were
held in olden times, and if you have looked toward the south, you may
have seen a scattered little hamlet called Uannet. None but peasants
live there now or have lived there in the past.

A couple of hundred years ago there lived a man called Ib. What his
wife's name was I have never been able to find out, but so much I know
that he had an only daughter whose name was Maren, and for everyday use
they called her Ma-Ibs. She was a comely and dapper young woman, and
wherever she went the young men looked after her, but she had eyes only
for Sejer. He, too, was an only child, and his father, too, lived in
Uannet.

As I was about to tell you, it happened on Saturday before Easter that a
stranger called at Ib's house. He was dressed as a peasant, was
well-grown and strapping, and had an air of assurance; his age might be
about thirty. There was no one at Ib's who knew him, but he said he was
a Wood-Louning, [Footnote: A man from the wooded region of Lou near
Silkeborg.] that he had lately leased his father's farm, and that he was
on his way north to see about selling his charcoal. The silver buttons
on his coat and vest showed well enough that he was no beggarly lout.
Well, they gave him both food and drink, and while he was eating he
talked of one thing and another.

So then he said to Ib, and smirked a little as he said it, "My mother's
getting old, and it's about time I get someone in. Can't you put me on
the track of a handy woman? It doesn't matter so much about money, we
can always agree on that, but she must have a pair of brisk, capable
hands, and she oughtn't to be too old either."

Ib didn't let on that he understood; he scratched himself behind the
ear, and said, "Hm, such a one doesn't grow up from the heather-tufts
every day." He glanced at his daughter, and simpered slyly. But the
daughter was none too well pleased with such talk, and made an excuse to
leave the room.

When the stranger was about to go, they asked him what his name was.
"Oh," he said, "my father was called Ole Breadless, and I suppose I'll
have the same name." With that he left, but when he had gone a little
ways, he met Ma-Ibs, who had been over to Sejer's, and he said to her,
"It's no use handing out a lot of talk. I am here to see you and for
nothing else. At Whitsun I'll be back, so you can think it over in the
meantime. And now, good-bye."

Ma-Ibs was not very happy about that suitor. When she came in, she took
a seat at the lower end of the table, crossed her hands on her lap, and
sighed from the bottom of her heart.

"What's the matter?" asked her father.

"I don't like that Wood-Louning--or whatever he is," she replied. "Can't
Sejer and I ever get married?"

"On what?" said the old man. And that was the end of that. Father and
daughter both took their knitting.

A little later Sejer came in. "God's peace," he said.

"Thanks," said they.

"Now I am going up to the house," said he, "to talk to the squire, for
it's no use beating about the bush any longer."

"It won't do any good," said Ib. "The squire is set against you, and
he'll perhaps send you for a soldier."

"That may be," said Sejer, "but anyway we'll put it to the test." With
that he went away.

Now when he came to Aunsbjerg and went in at the gate, he met the squire
himself. The squire's name was Jörgen Marsviin.

"Have you come to see about leasing a farm again?" he said. "It's no
use--I've told you that so many times."

"Oh, please, master," said Sejer, "I beg you--" The squire looked
angrily at him, drew his eyebrows together, and frowned. One might have
thought he was ready to fly at the man and beat him. But then he seemed
to think better of it, and his face took on a milder expression, as he
said, "Listen! You have heard about the robbers that have been
plundering and killing people so long. They're said to have their den
somewhere here on the heath. If you can hunt them down for me and bind
them, you shall get your lease and not have to pay a penny for it. And
you shall marry Ma-Ibs, and on top of that I'll let you take a cart and
two horses out of Aunsbjerg. Now you know my mind."

"Then God have mercy upon me," said Sejer, and slunk away, looking very
downcast. He didn't eat anything that night, and Ma-Ibs was none too
happy either. It was a miserable Holiday Eve for them both.



WHITSUN EVE


So then the time passed as best it might from Easter to Whitsuntide, and
with the two young people things were very much as they had been; they
were not utterly downcast, for they put their faith in the future and in
Him who is the Lord of the future.

Whitsun Eve Sejer went over to Ib's--as he often did, I dare say--to ask
if his sweetheart might go with him to Aunsbjerg wood the following
afternoon when they came from Sörslev church. For it was an old custom
in those parts--and is yet, I dare say--that on the first day of
Whitsuntide the young people would gather in the woods for a dance. The
Saturday in question Sejer found his sweetheart already decked out in
her best.

"Good-day, Maren," he said, "what's going to happen that you're so fine
today?"

"It came over me," she said, "that perhaps I should go up and see the
mistress and get her to say a good word for us to the master."

"Hm," he said, "that might turn out well. I'll go with you and wait
outside while you're in the house."

While she went up to the manor, he sat on a stone by the driveway. As he
was sitting there, a cart came from the woods with a huge oak log that
was going to the sawmill. But the horses were small and worn out, and
right outside the gate they stopped. The man--it was a peasant who was
doing his socage-service--whipped the poor nags, but they couldn't budge
the cart. Then the forester came, and he grumbled, and then the bailiff,
and then the honorable and well-born Jörgen Marsviin himself. And they
all scolded the peasant for coming to do his socage with such miserable
jades--I dare say they were the best he had.

Sejer sat and looked at this, and now and again he smiled to himself at
the fuss they were making.

The master noticed it, and said, "What are you grinning at?"

"It looks to me," he said, "that the load isn't so heavy but that I
could pull it alone."

"Hey, unharness the horses!" cried the squire to the driver. And when
that was done, he turned to Sejer, "Now you take hold! and if you can
pull the cart, I'll give you what's on it, but if you can't, you shall
take a ride on the wooden horse."

The young man began to excuse himself, saying that he was only joking.
But the master said that he would teach him not to joke in his presence,
and it was one or the other.

"Well, if I must, I must," said Sejer. With that he went over to the
cart, took off the pole, grabbed the traces, bent forward, and
tugged--and the cart moved; but his wooden shoes were splintered, so
hard did he set his feet on the ground.

"You're no weakling," said the squire, and for the matter of that he was
none himself; for they still tell of him that he could catch hold of an
iron ring in the crossbeam over the gate and lift his horse up from the
ground with his legs. "Now take the log, but you'll have to get it home
yourself. And as for the lease, we'll see about it."

Happy was Sejer! He thanked the squire, rolled the log off the cart, sat
down on it, and looked in through the gate after his Maren. He waited
and waited, and when at last she came, she looked woebegone.

"God help us miserable people!" she said, and she could hardly speak for
weeping. "We can never get married."

"That's bad tidings you're bringing," said Sejer. "The squire just now
half promised me--what's got into him?"

"And the mistress the same," she said. "But now I'll tell you what bad
luck I had. Just as I came up the steps and into a narrow hall, I met a
bigwig, and he looked closely at me--I couldn't get past him, for he
stood in front of me--and then he said, 'You're'--and how he
swore!--'the prettiest maid or wife, whatever you are, I've seen in the
country. Listen, will you love me?'--'No,' I said, 'I mayn't.'--'If you
will,' he said, 'then you may. I am Baron'--now I don't remember what he
called himself. 'You just come here this evening, my servant will be on
the lookout for you and take you in to me.'--'No,' I said, 'it would be
a sin, and besides I have a sweetheart, and I can't be unfaithful to
him.' Then he took out a handful of money and jingled before me, but I
slipped past him and in to the mistress. She was very gracious to me,
and the squire came in, and it seemed that he was going to grant what I
asked. But then that baron had been listening at the door, and he came
in and said, 'If it's a decent fellow she wants to marry, he ought not
to take her, for she's a shameless creature; I saw how she stood and
flirted with one of the servants out there in the hall.' So after that
wretch had lied about me, the squire and the mistress scolded me and
told me to be gone and never show myself there again."

"Good God, Maren," said Sejer, "is that all you get for your honesty and
your faithfulness to me? Poor girl! But God still lives. We'll not be
downcast; I feel sure somehow that we'll get married yet--even if there
were as many lords and ladies as there are leaves on the trees in
Aunsbjerg wood."

Ma-Ibs sighed as if her heart would break, but answered nothing. She
hardly spoke till they came to Uannet and were about to part and go
their separate ways. Then she said, "Goodnight, Sejer, and thanks for
today."

"Thanks yourself, Maren," he said. "You're having a bad time for my
sake. I don't know how I'm ever to make it up to you--but Our Lord
will."

"Do you want to go to the dance tomorrow?" the girl asked.

"Do you?" he turned her question back.

"No," she said, "I don't care for it."

"Neither do I," he said.

"Then good-night," she said and held out her hand.

"Good-night yourself," he said, and so they parted.

But there was more trouble waiting for poor Maren before she could get
to rest. When she came home, there sat the Wood-Louning, Ole Breadless.
"Well, here you are, my little girl," he said. "Have you thought it
over?"

"Thought over what?" she said.

"Have you forgotten that?" he said. "It's no longer ago than last
Easter--it was about moving to my place. And see here! So you shan't
think I'm courting you with small beer and dry bread, I'll give you this
for a betrothal gift," and with that he pulled out a heavy silver
necklace with a heart of silver hanging from it. "If you'd known the one
who wore it when she was alive, you wouldn't have called her a barefoot
wench." With these words he made such a strange sign to the father that
the daughter was gripped by a secret terror. The old man looked startled
and hardly knew whether he could believe his own eyes. Neither of them
said a word.

"Well, do you want it?" repeated Ole.

"No," stammered the girl, and was about to run out to seek comfort from
her sweetheart. But the terrible suitor caught her arm with one hand,
and putting away the necklace with the other, he said, "When I come a
third time, I won't take No for an answer." And without further
farewells he picked up his cap and stick and went his way.

"Here's the boy with the cows," said Ib, and sat down on a three-legged
stool. Ma-Ibs went out to do the milking, but she didn't sing as she
usually did at this work. Sejer was watering his father's horses, but he
didn't whistle as he was in the habit of doing. It was a miserable
Holiday Eve for them both.




CHRISTMAS EVE


IT was twilight when an old beggar came tottering and dragging himself
to Uannet to ask for a little something in God's name. So then he also
came to Ib's. They told him to sit down by the kitchen door and promised
they would give him something to eat and a little in his bag.

When he had eaten, he began to groan about how late it was and how cold;
he didn't see how he was going to walk farther that day, and he asked
the people to let him stay overnight. They consented and told him to lie
down in the oven which was still a bit lukewarm from the baking, and
there the old fellow crawled in.

It was getting late. They had eaten their sweet porridge and whatever
else they had; the animals had received their extra feed; the outside
door had been barred, and they had sung a Christmas hymn, as usual, and
were getting ready to go to bed. But now you shall hear what the old
beggar did. He crawled out of the oven, pulled the bar from the door,
and unhooked it, and no sooner had he done so than five tall, sturdy
young men entered the room, and the beggar with them, and now he could
step on the floor as firmly as any of them. For, you must know, it was
the robbers whom the Aunsbjerg squire wanted Sejer to hunt down and
bind; and the beggar was the father of the other five.

Things looked bad for the poor folk at Ib's. The man and his wife and
daughter thought their last hour had come, and were so shaken with fear
that they hardly had wits left to beg for their lives.

The biggest and oldest of the young robbers--and he was none other than
the Wood-Louning--was the spokesman, and said, "Now first dish up
whatever you have, and we can talk about the rest later."

Ma-Ibs lifted the latch of the door, but the robber said, "You just stay
here and let the old woman wait on us. You might take it into your head
to run away, and we want to have a little sport with you after we've had
something to eat and drink."

The girl sat down on a chair and almost fainted with fear. Ib sat on the
bed and prayed to God who has power to save whom He will. The old woman
set out on the table everything they had of food and drink, and it was
all she could do to keep up.

But now you shall hear the rest of the story. Ib had a herds-boy, a
half-grown little chap. He was sleeping in a turn-up bed behind the
stove, and heard everything. Without making a noise, he pulled on his
breeches and stockings, and sneaked out behind the old woman as she went
into the kitchen to light the candle, which one of the robbers had
accidentally put out. And he ran over to the neighbor's and in to Sejer
and told him what was happening at home.

Sejer lost no time making his plan. "Take that mouse-eared horse of
ours," he said, "and ride like a streak to Aunsbjerg. Tell them what's
happening and tell them to come as fast as they can; then maybe they can
catch all the robbers before they leave."

The boy out, and up on the horse, and away!

Sejer seized a heavy oaken flail and ran over to Ib's. There sat all six
scoundrels on one bench with their backs to the windows. "What kind of a
fellow are you?" they cried to him. "Maybe you want your stomach ripped
up!" At that they were just about to jump up and catch him. But he was
too quick for them, grabbed the table top, tipped the oak table over
them, and squeezed them against the wall with the edge of it. "Now I'll
see if I can squeeze your stomachs," he said; and while he held them
fast with one hand, he swung the flail and promised he'd break any arm
that stirred. The oldest of them tried to push the table back, but
instantly got such a whack across his arm that it hung limp. After that
they all sat quiet as mice and only begged Sejer please not to squeeze
quite so hard.

Now Ib's courage came back; he grabbed an axe and took his place at
Sejer's one side, and on the other his sweetheart stood with a poker.
Such was the state of things, and it was not very cheerful for either
side. The robbers were tortured by fear of how this terrific squeeze was
going to end, and they were at a loss to understand what the visitor
meant to do or how long it would last--which made the agony all the
greater. Ib and his daughter were equally uncertain, for of course Sejer
couldn't blurt out the story of what he was waiting for. And you may
trust me, it was a long wait; for if the people from the manor should
delay too long or shouldn't come at all--the boy might have been thrown
from his horse--what then?

At last they came, the Aunsbjerg squire with seven or eight men, and he
was not the hindmost when the door flew open. But there they stood. The
room was quiet, and although there was a moon outside, they couldn't see
anything plainly in the house, for the candles had been tipped over with
the table.

Then Sejer cried, "Where have you got the pine-sticks? Light a couple of
them on the hearth."

"There are some in the wood box," said the old woman.

They were lit and illuminated the room.

"There you can see, master," said Sejer. "Now I've found them and bound
them, too--in a way. If you want them better tethered, there's a coil of
rope over in that corner, I see."

They took the rope, and cut it into as many pieces as there were
robbers. And then they dragged them out from under the table one by one,
tied their hands behind their backs, tied their feet together also, and
threw them on the floor in a row. Then the squire began to ask them
questions: where they came from, where they had their den, if there were
more of them, and so on. But he couldn't get so much as half a word out
of them, though he threatened them with gruesome tortures.

Then the old robber said--not to the squire, but to his sons, "Let him
do what he will, for now he has the power. But as he does to us, so it
shall be done to him and his. The three in the hill at home won't forget
either him or the good folks in Uannet. And now you keep your mouths
shut till the rope opens them."

But this threat was of no avail, for when the Christmas days were over,
Jörgen Marsviin put them on the rack, first the old man, and then the
young fellows. They all held out except the youngest. He confessed all
their crimes and told where their cave was. That very same day it was
searched and the robber wife and her two remaining sons were taken. They
were hanged together with the other six. In the cave were great piles of
silver and gold, and among the things was a ring that was recognized as
belonging to the baron whose lying charges had done so much harm to
Ma-Ibs. Now she got her reward. The squire himself held the wedding for
her and Sejer; he did all he had promised them, and in addition gave
them a number of the things that had been found in the robbers' den.

Strong-Sejer (by which nickname he was known afterwards) lived with his
wife for many, many years. Their children and children's children after
them kept the nickname. But now it has probably died out, just like the
name and the whole noble family of the strong squire.

But the Holiday Eve I have told about ended happily at Aunsbjerg, and
most happily of all at Uannet.




BRASS-JENS

[_Messingjens,_ from _E Bindstouw,_ 1842]


RASMUS OWSTRUP, in his turn, told the following story:

As I was just saying, it was the time of the war, when the British had
made such a to-do in Copenhagen; so then I wasn't let stay home either.
The recruiting officer came and ordered me to the Session, and there
they put me in a regiment of horse. I learned to ride and to kill
people. But we didn't get any beatings, for I tell you how it is; they
only beat us in peace time, but when there's a war on they're afraid we
might turn on them. In peace time they've got the upper hand, but in war
we've got it--that's the difference. I brought lots of good food in my
bag when I came to the school, and I got more from home later, and that
didn't do me any harm with the sergeant who drilled me. I got to stand
well with him and with the captain, too.

So one day I'd given the sergeant a sausage and a couple of cheeses--for
he was a married man, you must know--and then he said "Listen, do you
know Brass-Jens?"--" 'Twould be strange if I didn't know him," said I.
"He's the best horse in the regiment."--"Now," said he, "Watrup who
rides him is sick, and it looks as if he's going to die."--"That may
well be," said I.--"If you want Brass-Jens," said he, "I'll try to get
him for you, but then you must remember my wife."--"I'll remember her,"
said I, "with a leg o'mutton and a bit o' bacon, if I can get
Brass-Jens. And besides I'll give her a score of eggs and a couple o'
pounds of butter as soon as my mother comes to see me."--"Agreed," said
he. And sure enough, I got Brass-Jens, though it was quite a fracas, for
everybody wanted him--but after all he couldn't carry more than one at a
time.

The first rime I went to take him, he certainly looked at me as if he
wanted to ask me: what kind of a fellow are you? But I talked sense to
him, and told him that Watrup was in the hospital and not likely to get
out of it, and the sergeant had said I should ride him, and it was no
use to set himself against it. That he understood--for all those who
knew him said he alone had as much sense as two cuirassiers. And it was
true; all he lacked was that he couldn't talk, and that wasn't his
fault.

I'll never forget when I told him that Watrup was so poorly; then the
horse sighed just like anyone else. I tell you, we two had a lot of talk
together, and to everything I said he would neigh or he'd whinny or he'd
snort, and I always understood what he meant.

As I was going to tell you, we went down south, and we marched one day
and another day, and then we got just a little tired of riding, and got
a little sore in the part that's uppermost when you're picking chips. So
the men got down and walked, now and then, with the bridle rein thrown
over their arm. I walked, too, but I let Jens take care of himself. He
followed me very faithfully, and if anyone came too near him, he would
neigh--he had the spirit of a stallion--and would both bite and kick.

Well, then, we came to a village down near Aabenraa, and I got my
quarters with a farmer. He was well-to-do, but he was a stingy dog, and
we hardly got enough to eat. But then there was one of the daughters--he
had six of them--and I liked her and she liked me, too, for the matter
of that, and she gave me a good extra portion that same evening; and the
next day--for we stayed over there--she was still kinder to me and
wanted to do everything she could for me. The second morning when we
were going to start, she came out in the stable where I was busy
currying.

"Rasmus," said she, "now you're going to leave, and then it's hardly
likely we'll see each other again."

"It might happen," said I.

"No," said she, "you may lose your life, or you may get a sweetheart out
there."

"Do you know," said I, "whether I live or die, I don't want any
sweetheart unless you'll be it, Helle!"

"God help us," she said. "My mother'll never let me, and not my father
either. They have picked out someone else for me."

"Helle," said I, "if you really mean it that you'll come to me, then
wait for me a little while and see if I get back. I'll soon have my
discharge and my father's farm, too, and then we'll get married, if
you're willing to run away from here and follow me to my home."

Then she put her arms around my neck and kissed me, and cried a little,
and slipped out again.

Brass-Jens looked after her, and I put saddle and bridle on him and rode
away with the others.--It was a bad time we had; sometimes we got
something to eat and sometimes we didn't, but I always divided my
bread--when I had any--with Jens; and just as soon as we came to
quarters I took care of him first of all with straw and with oats, and
with anything else I could find for him, sometimes rye and sometimes
barley and sometimes wheat, just as it happened.--We went far away. I
don't know where we were, but we didn't see anything of the war. After a
long time we got orders to go home.

Helle had hardly been out of my thoughts on the whole march. When we
came near enough to see her village, I rode over to our captain and told
him how things had happened when I was there last, and what we had in
mind to do, and I asked him for leave to take the girl along.
"Brass-Jens," said I, "can carry us both easy, and I know he'll do it
with right good will."

The captain smiled and said, "You're a devil of a fellow, but how do you
think you'll get away with stealing a girl like that? They'll follow
right on your heels and take her away from you. You'll pay dear for
it--and I can't save you."

"That'll be no trouble," said I. "I'll give her my stable clothes to put
on, and then nobody'll know her. I'll tell our boys and anybody else who
asks that it's a sick dragoon from Fyn who had been left behind in the
village there."

"Very well, you rogue," said he, "I'll talk to the colonel and get him
to consent. But I won't give away your trick; I'll make him think it's
Brass-Jens himself who out of pure compassion insisted on taking the
sick dragoon on his back."

Everything went off as it should. We rode into the village, and there
big and little were standing outside the gates and doors to wish us
welcome. I looked for Helle--yes, sure enough, she was there, and when
she caught sight of me and I greeted her with my sword, her whole face
shone as if she'd been out hiring maids, as the saying is.

I didn't let on anything; I said good-day to old and young, but I made
no difference. When we'd had our supper (and it was nothing but
buckwheat mush and poor at that, and nothing but thin half-sour milk to
dip it in) then I went out to feed my horse--I'd stolen a piece of bread
out of the drawer under the table.

Jens whinnied when he saw me and smelt the bread. "Now I'm giving you
this over and above your ration," said I. "D'you s'pose then you can
stand to carry someone else besides me?"

"Hohohohohohoho!" said he.

"Now you're talking," said I. "And you won't be sorry--" Just then Helle
came. She was both happy and sad; now she smiled and now she cried, and
sometimes both at once. Now that the running-away was getting real, she
felt a little bit bad about it. "They're my parents, after all, and I
was born on the farm here, and now I shall never in my life see them
again. I'm going among strangers, and I have only one friend. Rasmus,
Rasmus! Will you be good to me?"

"You can see," said I, "how I am to Jens, though he's only a dumb brute.
I share my last mouthful of bread with him--how then could I ever be
unkind to you?"

"But how am I to get away from here?" said she. "I've thought of that,"
said L "Don't be afraid."

Then I gave her my stable clothes, cap and blouse and the whole outfit,
a pair of stockings and a pair of shoes, and asked her to go into the
menservants' room and take off her clothes and put on mine. Those she
took off she was to throw in the lake near the farm so they'd think
she'd made away with herself. Then I pasted a big moustache on her upper
lip. I'd made it out of the ends of Jens's mane. At that she laughed.

"Go now," said I, "along this road here, till you come to the village
that's about four miles from here. Then you can go into the inn and wait
till we come. It won't be long. But you must act as if you were done
up."

Well, she did everything just as I'd taught her. A couple of hours
later, as day was dawning, the squadron started off. When we came to the
inn and halted there, sure enough she came staggering out, and asked if
one of us would take her along.

"What's the matter with you?" said I.

"I'm done up," she said. "I can't walk any farther."

I looked at the captain and asked permission.

"Certainly," said he, "but then where the deuce will you put--someone
else, you know?"

"That'll be all right," said I. "I bet on Brass-Jens."

"Very well," said he, "you and Jens will have to settle it."

"We've settled it already," said I, and so no more was said.

The boys in the platoon looked at the little dragoon with the big
whiskers, and laughed a little at him; but they didn't talk to him,
because they thought he was sick.

Well, it's no use spending a lot of words on these doings. We came home
safely, and we had our banns read in church and had our wedding as soon
as we could, and--but here I'm almost forgetting to tell what happened
to Brass-Jens after-' wards. When we came to Horsens, he got his
discharge, too, and was sold with some other army horses. I bought him,
though the price was too high.

But I said to him, "Brass-Jens," said I, "I want to keep you and feed
you and curry you in your old age, for that you've earned."

"Hohoho!" said he; he was pleased. And I didn't fool him either. I kept
him for near seven years, and he had an easier time than I did, for he
had nothing to do except that I rode him to town sometimes, and in
seed-time and harvest he might do a bit of work now and then.

But we can't live forever--Jens's time came. It was once I'd been away
for four days, and when I got back there wasn't a living soul to be seen
on the place, either up or down, except my old mother who was stirring
the porridge over the fire.

"God's peace!" said I. "What's the matter? Where are all the others?"

"They're out in the pasture with Brass-Jens," she said. "Seems like he's
going to drop."

I went out there. They all stood around him, Helle and both our
children, and the manservant and the maid; and Jens was lying there on
his side.

"I'm afraid you're in a bad way," said I. He lifted his head and looked
at me, kind of pleading like, and sighed, then laid his head down again,
stretched out his legs, and died.

"Helle," said I, "he must have a decent burial. I wouldn't for anything
in the world have his skin taken off him; and he must be buried in the
garden, for I don't want either pigs or dogs to be rooting around him."
And so he came to lie under the old apple tree that my father grafted.
Every time I look at the tree, I think of Brass-Jens.  [Footnote: There
are even now (1842) several people living who knew Brass-Jens in his
prime, and his fame still lives, so far as I know, among the Slesvig
Cuirassiers.--AUTHOR'S NOTE.]

* * *

That was a fine story, said Mads Uhr, even if it was only about a horse.





NOTES

THE JOURNAL OF A PARISH CLERK

THIS story is based on the same events that inspired J. P. Jacobsen
fifty years later to write his novel _Marie Grubbe._ The "Thiele" of
Blicher's story is the same as Tjele, the childhood home of Marie
Grubbe. Jacobsen calls his heroine by her real name and follows history
in having her marry Ulrik Frederik Gyldenlöve, natural son of Frederik
III of Denmark.

(Page 50) "To arrange for my dinners," and (page 51) "while I sing at
people's doors in Viborg." Poor students were given their dinners
certain days in the week in the homes of prosperous families. They
further eked out a subsistence by singing at the doors of the
townspeople, for which they were given food and sometimes money.


THE ROBBERS' DEN

(Page 85) The references to the comedies on the stage in Copenhagen and
later to the "Danish Pasquino" are no doubt aimed at Johan Ludvig
Heiberg. Gammel Strand is an old street in Copenhagen where fishwives
used to offer their wares.

(Page 87) The writers whose identity is thinly veiled by initials were
all German authors of the sentimental, tear-starting type, whose books
by the score were translated into Danish and much enjoyed.

The exception is W . . . . . S . . . . , which of course stands for
Walter Scott, whom Blicher admired, though he protests against the
inference that he is imitating him.

(Page 118) The festivals on the Aunsbjerg grounds at Whitsuntide became
an institution. It is said that the last was held in 1848 as a benefit
for the soldiers in the war with Germany.


ALAS, HOW CHANGED!

(Page 150) La Fontaine ... see note under "The Robbers' Den," page 87.


THE PARSON AT VEJLBYE

Sören Vasegaard in his notes to the 1922 two-volume edition of Blicher's
stories gives the historical foundation of "The Parson at Vejlbye." The
events have been very freely treated, and almost the only basis of fact
in the story is that the pastor, Sören Quist, was unjustly accused of
murder by his enemies, and was executed (1625), that many years after
his death his innocence was proved, and the witnesses confessed that
they had sworn falsely.


GYPSY LIFE

(Page 202) Jens Long-Knife was a famous Jutland robber who lived toward
the end of the sixteenth century.

(Page 203) Stoffer One-Eye and Big-Margret were well known gypsies in
Blicher's time.

(Page 213) "Only one of them has profited" . . . Blicher refers to N. V.
Dorph, a teacher in Viborg, who wrote a small book on the Danish gypsies
(1837) containing a glossary of their language. Dorph got most of his
information from the gypsy whom Blicher calls "the professor."

Dorph carried on his studies largely in Viborg jail, where the gypsies
were often imprisoned for vagrancy or other of-fenses against the law.
At one time Blicher went with him. Dorph in his book tells of how he saw
there the originals of the couple described by Blicher, and it was true
that the wife carried the husband who was a cripple, but the romantic
story of the war is pure fiction.

(Page 214) Madame Schall, a noted ballet dancer at the Royal Theater in
Copenhagen.

"Thor's masquerade" refers to Thor's trip to Jotunheim to redeem his
hammer.

(Page 215) Johannes Axelsen was found by the Danish author MeÏr
Goldschmidt, in 1867, in Horsens jail, sentenced for making counterfeit
money. He was then ninety-one years old.


THE GAMEKEEPER AT AUNSBJERG

Although Blicher calls this "a true story," Sören Vasegaard thinks it
had little foundation in fact. There was a gamekeeper at Aunsbjerg, who
was killed while out riding, but he seems to have had nothing to do with
the murder at Them, and it is doubtful if he was even French. As usual,
that which gives beauty and significance to the story is Blicher's own
addition.

(Page 255) "The Pompadour general" was Marshal Charles de Rohan, a
favorite of Madame Pompadour. He was defeated at Rossbach by Frederick
II of Prussia.

AN ONLY CHILD

Like many of Blicher's stories, "An Only Child" had its point of
departure in an incident which he remembered from his childhood, but
unlike most of them, it follows the facts rather closely. Probably
because some of the persons concerned were still living, he suppressed
names and used only initials.

H. stands for the historic castle Hald (several times rebuilt) which in
the fourteenth century belonged to the patriot Niels Bugge. An old
painting which hung there in Blicher's time, and which he calls "a
portrait of Niels Bugge," is of unknown origin.

The owner of Hald who appears in this story was Judge and Chamberlain
Frederich Schinkel, whose sister was married to Blicher's great-uncle,
Steen de Steensen of Aunsbjerg manor, who figures in "The Gamekeeper at
Aunsbjerg." The unsavory record of Schinkel's quarrels and lawsuits is
set down in detail by Jeppe Aakjaer in his three-volume work, _Blichers
Livstragedie,_ where he devotes a large part of one volume to the
historic background of the stories. It is true that Schinkel tried to
force his daughter Charlotte to marry a baron, that he kept her in a
kind of captivity guarded by her aunt at Aunsbjerg, and that her lover,
naval Lieutenant Martinus Braem, appealed to the King. The King sent the
governor of Viborg diocese, Chamberlain Niels Sehested, to
Hald--although the letter he reads in the story is fictitious--and the
lovers were married from his home in 1792. Blicher was then ten years
old. The couple were divorced in 1809 on the grounds that Charlotte had
an affair with a married man, and Braëm petitioned that she might be
denied the right to use his name--hence the remark of the old lady in
the beginning of the story, "My name? I lost that long ago." She died in
1861 at the age of eighty-nine.

Many people knew Charlotte's history, and Blicher was criticized for
using it, thus thinly veiled, while she was still living.


THREE HOLIDAY EVES

(Page 287) Jörgen Marsviin was a real person, who died in 1671. The last
scion of this old Danish noble family died in 1768.

(Page 288) Aunsbjerg wood ... see note under "The Robbers' Den."


BRASS-JENS

This story is taken from _E Bindstouw,_ a small volume in which Blicher
collected his most important stories and poems in the Jutland dialect.
The setting is a knitting-bee, held in the schoolmaster's house.

The stories and poems, thirteen in all, are put into the mouths of the
different knitters.



THE END




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