History of Literature









Hans Christian Andersen


"The Fairy Tales"

 PART I, PART II



Illustrations by Edmund Dulac


PART III, PART IV




 



ANDERSEN'S FAIRY TALES

Translated by H. P. Paull
 

Soup from a Sausage Skewer
 
“Soup from a Sausage Skewer”
What the First Little Mouse Saw and Heard on Her Travels
What the Second Mouse Had to Tell
What the Fourth Mouse, Who Spoke Before the Third, Had to Tell
How It Was Prepared

“Soup from a Sausage Skewer”
WE had such an excellent dinner yesterday,” said an old mouse of the female sex to another who had not been present at the feast. “I sat number twenty-one below the mouse-king, which was not a bad place. Shall I tell you what we had? Everything was first rate. Mouldy bread, tallow candle, and sausage. And then, when we had finished that course, the same came on all over again; it was as good as two feasts. We were very sociable, and there was as much joking and fun as if we had been all of one family circle. Nothing was left but the sausage skewers, and this formed a subject of conversation, till at last it turned to the proverb, ‘Soup from sausage skins;’ or, as the people in the neighboring country call it, ‘Soup from a sausage skewer.’ Every one had heard the proverb, but no one had ever tasted the soup, much less prepared it. A capital toast was drunk to the inventor of the soup, and some one said he ought to be made a relieving officer to the poor. Was not that witty? Then the old mouse-king rose and promised that the young lady-mouse who should learn how best to prepare this much-admired and savory soup should be his queen, and a year and a day should be allowed for the purpose.”

“That was not at all a bad proposal,” said the other mouse; “but how is the soup made?”

“Ah, that is more than I can tell you. All the young lady mice were asking the same question. They wished very much to be queen, but they did not want to take the trouble of going out into the world to learn how to make soup, which was absolutely necessary to be done first. But it is not every one who would care to leave her family, or her happy corner by the fire-side at home, even to be made queen. It is not always easy to find bacon and cheese-rind in foreign lands every day, and it is not pleasant to have to endure hunger, and be perhaps, after all, eaten up alive by the cat.”

Most probably some such thoughts as these discouraged the majority from going out into the world to collect the required information. Only four mice gave notice that they were ready to set out on the journey. They were young and lively, but poor. Each of them wished to visit one of the four divisions of the world, so that it might be seen which was the most favored by fortune. Every one took a sausage skewer as a traveller’s staff, and to remind them of the object of their journey. They left home early in May, and none of them returned till the first of May in the following year, and then only three of them. Nothing was seen or heard of the fourth, although the day of decision was close at hand. “Ah, yes, there is always some trouble mixed up with the greatest pleasure,” said the mouse-king; but he gave orders that all the mice within a circle of many miles should be invited at once. They were to assemble in the kitchen, and the three travelled mice were to stand in a row before them, while a sausage skewer, covered with crape, was to be stuck up instead of the missing mouse. No one dared to express an opinion until the king spoke, and desired one of them to go on with her story. And now we shall hear what she said.

What the First Little Mouse Saw and Heard on Her Travels
HEN I first went out into the world,” said the little mouse, “I fancied, as so many of my age do, that I already knew everything, but it was not so. It takes years to acquire great knowledge. I went at once to sea in a ship bound for the north. I had been told that the ship’s cook must know how to prepare every dish at sea, and it is easy enough to do that with plenty of sides of bacon, and large tubs of salt meat and mouldy flour. There I found plenty of delicate food, but no opportunity for learning how to make soup from a sausage skewer. We sailed on for many days and nights; the ship rocked fearfully, and we did not escape without a wetting. As soon as we arrived at the port to which the ship was bound, I left it, and went on shore at a place far towards the north. It is a wonderful thing to leave your own little corner at home, to hide yourself in a ship where there are sure to be some nice snug corners for shelter, then suddenly to find yourself thousands of miles away in a foreign land. I saw large pathless forests of pine and birch trees, which smelt so strong that I sneezed and thought of sausage. There were great lakes also which looked as black as ink at a distance, but were quite clear when I came close to them. Large swans were floating upon them, and I thought at first they were only foam, they lay so still; but when I saw them walk and fly, I knew what they were directly. They belong to the goose species, one can see that by their walk. No one can attempt to disguise family descent. I kept with my own kind, and associated with the forest and field mice, who, however, knew very little, especially about what I wanted to know, and which had actually made me travel abroad. The idea that soup could be made from a sausage skewer was to them such an out-of-the-way, unlikely thought, that it was repeated from one to another through the whole forest. They declared that the problem would never be solved, that the thing was an impossibility. How little I thought that in this place, on the very first night, I should be initiated into the manner of its preparation.

“It was the height of summer, which the mice told me was the reason that the forest smelt so strong, and that the herbs were so fragrant, and the lakes with the white swimming swans so dark, and yet so clear. On the margin of the wood, near to three or four houses, a pole, as large as the mainmast of a ship, had been erected, and from the summit hung wreaths of flowers and fluttering ribbons; it was the Maypole. Lads and lasses danced round the pole, and tried to outdo the violins of the musicians with their singing. They were as merry as ever at sunset and in the moonlight, but I took no part in the merry-making. What has a little mouse to do with a Maypole dance? I sat in the soft moss, and held my sausage skewer tight. The moon threw its beams particularly on one spot where stood a tree covered with exceedingly fine moss. I may almost venture to say that it was as fine and soft as the fur of the mouse-king, but it was green, which is a color very agreeable to the eye. All at once I saw the most charming little people marching towards me. They did not reach higher than my knee; they looked like human beings, but were better proportioned, and they called themselves elves. Their clothes were very delicate and fine, for they were made of the leaves of flowers, trimmed with the wings of flies and gnats, which had not a bad effect. By their manner, it appeared as if they were seeking for something. I knew not what, till at last one of them espied me and came towards me, and the foremost pointed to my sausage skewer, and said, ‘There, that is just what we want; see, it is pointed at the top; is it not capital?’ and the longer he looked at my pilgrim’s staff, the more delighted he became. ‘I will lend it to you,’ said I, ‘but not to keep.’

“‘Oh no, we won’t keep it!’ they all cried; and then they seized the skewer, which I gave up to them, and danced with it to the spot where the delicate moss grew, and set it up in the middle of the green. They wanted a maypole, and the one they now had seemed cut out on purpose for them. Then they decorated it so beautifully that it was quite dazzling to look at. Little spiders spun golden threads around it, and then it was hung with fluttering veils and flags so delicately white that they glittered like snow in the moonshine. After that they took colors from the butterfly’s wing, and sprinkled them over the white drapery which gleamed as if covered with flowers and diamonds, so that I could not recognize my sausage skewer at all. Such a maypole had never been seen in all the world as this. Then came a great company of real elves. Nothing could be finer than their clothes, and they invited me to be present at the feast; but I was to keep at a certain distance, because I was too large for them. Then commenced such music that it sounded like a thousand glass bells, and was so full and strong that I thought it must be the song of the swans. I fancied also that I heard the voices of the cuckoo and the black-bird, and it seemed at last as if the whole forest sent forth glorious melodies—the voices of children, the tinkling of bells, and the songs of the birds; and all this wonderful melody came from the elfin maypole. My sausage peg was a complete peal of bells. I could scarcely believe that so much could have been produced from it, till I remembered into what hands it had fallen. I was so much affected that I wept tears such as a little mouse can weep, but they were tears of joy. The night was far too short for me; there are no long nights there in summer, as we often have in this part of the world. When the morning dawned, and the gentle breeze rippled the glassy mirror of the forest lake, all the delicate veils and flags fluttered away into thin air; the waving garlands of the spider’s web, the hanging bridges and galleries, or whatever else they may be called, vanished away as if they had never been. Six elves brought me back my sausage skewer, and at the same time asked me to make any request, which they would grant if in their power; so I begged them, if they could, to tell me how to make soup from a sausage skewer.

“‘How do we make it?’ said the chief of the elves with a smile. ‘Why you have just seen it; you scarcely knew your sausage skewer again, I am sure.’

“They think themselves very wise, thought I to myself. Then I told them all about it, and why I had travelled so far, and also what promise had been made at home to the one who should discover the method of preparing this soup. ‘What use will it be,’ I asked, ‘to the mouse-king or to our whole mighty kingdom that I have seen all these beautiful things? I cannot shake the sausage peg and say, Look, here is the skewer, and now the soup will come. That would only produce a dish to be served when people were keeping a fast.’

“Then the elf dipped his finger into the cup of a violet, and said to me, ‘Look here, I will anoint your pilgrim’s staff, so that when you return to your own home and enter the king’s castle, you have only to touch the king with your staff, and violets will spring forth and cover the whole of it, even in the coldest winter time; so I think I have given you really something to carry home, and a little more than something.’”

But before the little mouse explained what this something more was, she stretched her staff out to the king, and as it touched him the most beautiful bunch of violets sprang forth and filled the place with perfume. The smell was so powerful that the mouse-king ordered the mice who stood nearest the chimney to thrust their tails into the fire, that there might be a smell of burning, for the perfume of the violets was overpowering, and not the sort of scent that every one liked.

“But what was the something more of which you spoke just now?” asked the mouse-king.

“Why,” answered the little mouse, “I think it is what they call ‘effect;’” and thereupon she turned the staff round, and behold not a single flower was to be seen upon it! She now only held the naked skewer, and lifted it up as a conductor lifts his baton at a concert. “Violets, the elf told me,” continued the mouse, “are for the sight, the smell, and the touch; so we have only now to produce the effect of hearing and tasting;” and then, as the little mouse beat time with her staff, there came sounds of music, not such music as was heard in the forest, at the elfin feast, but such as is often heard in the kitchen—the sounds of boiling and roasting. It came quite suddenly, like wind rushing through the chimneys, and seemed as if every pot and kettle were boiling over. The fire-shovel clattered down on the brass fender; and then, quite as suddenly, all was still,—nothing could be heard but the light, vapory song of the tea-kettle, which was quite wonderful to hear, for no one could rightly distinguish whether the kettle was just beginning to boil or going to stop. And the little pot steamed, and the great pot simmered, but without any regard for each; indeed there seemed no sense in the pots at all. And as the little mouse waved her baton still more wildly, the pots foamed and threw up bubbles, and boiled over; while again the wind roared and whistled through the chimney, and at last there was such a terrible hubbub, that the little mouse let her stick fall.

“That is a strange sort of soup,” said the mouse-king; “shall we not now hear about the preparation?”

“That is all,” answered the little mouse, with a bow.

“That all!” said the mouse-king; “then we shall be glad to hear what information the next may have to give us.”

What the Second Mouse Had to Tell
WAS born in the library, at a castle,” said the second mouse. “Very few members of our family ever had the good fortune to get into the dining-room, much less the store-room. On my journey, and here to-day, are the only times I have ever seen a kitchen. We were often obliged to suffer hunger in the library, but then we gained a great deal of knowledge. The rumor reached us of the royal prize offered to those who should be able to make soup from a sausage skewer. Then my old grandmother sought out a manuscript which, however, she could not read, but had heard it read, and in it was written, ‘Those who are poets can make soup of sausage skewers.’ She then asked me if I was a poet. I felt myself quite innocent of any such pretensions. Then she said I must go out and make myself a poet. I asked again what I should be required to do, for it seemed to me quite as difficult as to find out how to make soup of a sausage skewer. My grandmother had heard a great deal of reading in her day, and she told me three principal qualifications were necessary—understanding, imagination, and feeling. ‘If you can manage to acquire these three, you will be a poet, and the sausage-skewer soup will be quite easy to you.’

“So I went forth into the world, and turned my steps towards the west, that I might become a poet. Understanding is the most important matter in everything. I knew that, for the two other qualifications are not thought much of; so I went first to seek for understanding. Where was I to find it? ‘Go to the ant and learn wisdom,’ said the great Jewish king. I knew that from living in a library. So I went straight on till I came to the first great ant-hill, and then I set myself to watch, that I might become wise. The ants are a very respectable people, they are wisdom itself. All they do is like the working of a sum in arithmetic, which comes right. ‘To work and to lay eggs,’ say they, ‘and to provide for posterity, is to live out your time properly;’ and that they truly do. They are divided into the clean and the dirty ants, their rank is pointed out by a number, and the ant-queen is number ONE; and her opinion is the only correct one on everything; she seems to have the whole wisdom of the world in her, which was just the important matter I wished to acquire. She said a great deal which was no doubt very clever; yet to me it sounded like nonsense. She said the ant-hill was the loftiest thing in the world, and yet close to the mound stood a tall tree, which no one could deny was loftier, much loftier, but no mention was made of the tree. One evening an ant lost herself on this tree; she had crept up the stem, not nearly to the top, but higher than any ant had ever ventured; and when at last she returned home she said that she had found something in her travels much higher than the ant-hill. The rest of the ants considered this an insult to the whole community; so she was condemned to wear a muzzle and to live in perpetual solitude. A short time afterwards another ant got on the tree, and made the same journey and the same discovery, but she spoke of it cautiously and indefinitely, and as she was one of the superior ants and very much respected, they believed her, and when she died they erected an eggshell as a monument to her memory, for they cultivated a great respect for science. I saw,” said the little mouse, “that the ants were always running to and fro with her burdens on their backs. Once I saw one of them drop her load; she gave herself a great deal of trouble in trying to raise it again, but she could not succeed. Then two others came up and tried with all their strength to help her, till they nearly dropped their own burdens in doing so; then they were obliged to stop for a moment in their help, for every one must think of himself first. And the ant-queen remarked that their conduct that day showed that they possessed kind hearts and good understanding. ‘These two qualities,’ she continued, ‘place us ants in the highest degree above all other reasonable beings. Understanding must therefore be seen among us in the most prominent manner, and my wisdom is greater than all.’ And so saying she raised herself on her two hind legs, that no one else might be mistaken for her. I could not therefore make an error, so I ate her up. We are to go to the ants to learn wisdom, and I had got the queen.

“I now turned and went nearer to the lofty tree already mentioned, which was an oak. It had a tall trunk with a wide-spreading top, and was very old. I knew that a living being dwelt here, a dryad as she is called, who is born with the tree and dies with it. I had heard this in the library, and here was just such a tree, and in it an oak-maiden. She uttered a terrible scream when she caught sight of me so near to her; like many women, she was very much afraid of mice. And she had more real cause for fear than they have, for I might have gnawed through the tree on which her life depended. I spoke to her in a kind and friendly manner, and begged her to take courage. At last she took me up in her delicate hand, and then I told her what had brought me out into the world, and she promised me that perhaps on that very evening she should be able to obtain for me one of the two treasures for which I was seeking. She told me that Phantaesus was her very dear friend, that he was as beautiful as the god of love, that he remained often for many hours with her under the leafy boughs of the tree which then rustled and waved more than ever over them both. He called her his dryad, she said, and the tree his tree; for the grand old oak, with its gnarled trunk, was just to his taste. The root, spreading deep into the earth, the top rising high in the fresh air, knew the value of the drifted snow, the keen wind, and the warm sunshine, as it ought to be known. ‘Yes,’ continued the dryad, ‘the birds sing up above in the branches, and talk to each other about the beautiful fields they have visited in foreign lands; and on one of the withered boughs a stork has built his nest,—it is beautifully arranged, and besides it is pleasant to hear a little about the land of the pyramids. All this pleases Phantaesus, but it is not enough for him; I am obliged to relate to him of my life in the woods; and to go back to my childhood, when I was little, and the tree so small and delicate that a stinging-nettle could overshadow it, and I have to tell everything that has happened since then till now that the tree is so large and strong. Sit you down now under the green bindwood and pay attention, when Phantaesus comes I will find an opportunity to lay hold of his wing and to pull out one of the little feathers. That feather you shall have; a better was never given to any poet, it will be quite enough for you.’

“And when Phantaesus came the feather was plucked, and,” said the little mouse, “I seized and put it in water, and kept it there till it was quite soft. It was very heavy and indigestible, but I managed to nibble it up at last. It is not so easy to nibble one’s self into a poet, there are so many things to get through. Now, however, I had two of them, understanding and imagination; and through these I knew that the third was to be found in the library. A great man has said and written that there are novels whose sole and only use appeared to be that they might relieve mankind of overflowing tears—a kind of sponge, in fact, for sucking up feelings and emotions. I remembered a few of these books, they had always appeared tempting to the appetite; they had been much read, and were so greasy, that they must have absorbed no end of emotions in themselves. I retraced my steps to the library, and literally devoured a whole novel, that is, properly speaking, the interior or soft part of it; the crust, or binding, I left. When I had digested not only this, but a second, I felt a stirring within me; then I ate a small piece of a third romance, and felt myself a poet. I said it to myself, and told others the same. I had head-ache and back-ache, and I cannot tell what aches besides. I thought over all the stories that may be said to be connected with sausage pegs, and all that has ever been written about skewers, and sticks, and staves, and splinters came to my thoughts; the ant-queen must have had a wonderfully clear understanding. I remembered the man who placed a white stick in his mouth by which he could make himself and the stick invisible. I thought of sticks as hobby-horses, staves of music or rhyme, of breaking a stick over a man’s back, and heaven knows how many more phrases of the same sort relating to sticks, staves, and skewers. All my thoughts rein on skewers, sticks of wood, and staves; and as I am, at last, a poet, and I have worked terribly hard to make myself one, I can of course make poetry on anything. I shall therefore be able to wait upon you every day in the week with a poetical history of a skewer. And that is my soup.”

“In that case,” said the mouse-king, “we will hear what the third mouse has to say.”

“Squeak, squeak,” cried a little mouse at the kitchen door; it was the fourth, and not the third, of the four who were contending for the prize, one whom the rest supposed to be dead. She shot in like an arrow, and overturned the sausage peg that had been covered with crape. She had been running day and night. She had watched an opportunity to get into a goods train, and had travelled by the railway; and yet she had arrived almost too late. She pressed forward, looking very much ruffled. She had lost her sausage skewer, but not her voice; for she began to speak at once as if they only waited for her, and would hear her only, and as if nothing else in the world was of the least consequence. She spoke out so clearly and plainly, and she had come in so suddenly, that no one had time to stop her or to say a word while she was speaking. And now let us hear what she said.

What the Fourth Mouse, Who Spoke Before the Third, Had to Tell
STARTED off at once to the largest town,” said she, “but the name of it has escaped me. I have a very bad memory for names. I was carried from the railway, with some forfeited goods, to the jail, and on arriving I made my escape, and ran into the house of the turnkey. The turnkey was speaking of his prisoners, especially of one who had uttered thoughtless words. These words had given rise to other words, and at length they were written down and registered: ‘The whole affair is like making soup of sausage skewers,’ said he, ‘but the soup may cost him his neck.’

“Now this raised in me an interest for the prisoner,” continued the little mouse, “and I watched my opportunity, and slipped into his apartment, for there is a mouse-hole to be found behind every closed door. The prisoner looked pale; he had a great beard and large, sparkling eyes. There was a lamp burning, but the walls were so black that they only looked the blacker for it. The prisoner scratched pictures and verses with white chalk on the black walls, but I did not read the verses. I think he found his confinement wearisome, so that I was a welcome guest. He enticed me with bread-crumbs, with whistling, and with gentle words, and seemed so friendly towards me, that by degrees I gained confidence in him, and we became friends; he divided his bread and water with me, gave me cheese and sausage, and I really began to love him. Altogether, I must own that it was a very pleasant intimacy. He let me run about on his hand, and on his arm, and into his sleeve; and I even crept into his beard, and he called me his little friend. I forgot what I had come out into the world for; forgot my sausage skewer which I had laid in a crack in the floor—it is lying there still. I wished to stay with him always where I was, for I knew that if I went away the poor prisoner would have no one to be his friend, which is a sad thing. I stayed, but he did not. He spoke to me so mournfully for the last time, gave me double as much bread and cheese as usual, and kissed his hand to me. Then he went away, and never came back. I know nothing more of his history.

“The jailer took possession of me now. He said something about soup from a sausage skewer, but I could not trust him. He took me in his hand certainly, but it was to place me in a cage like a tread-mill. Oh how dreadful it was! I had to run round and round without getting any farther in advance, and only to make everybody laugh. The jailer’s grand-daughter was a charming little thing. She had curly hair like the brightest gold, merry eyes, and such a smiling mouth.

“‘You poor little mouse,’ said she, one day as she peeped into my cage, ‘I will set you free.’ She then drew forth the iron fastening, and I sprang out on the window-sill, and from thence to the roof. Free! free! that was all I could think of; not of the object of my journey. It grew dark, and as night was coming on I found a lodging in an old tower, where dwelt a watchman and an owl. I had no confidence in either of them, least of all in the owl, which is like a cat, and has a great failing, for she eats mice. One may however be mistaken sometimes; and so was I, for this was a respectable and well-educated old owl, who knew more than the watchman, and even as much as I did myself. The young owls made a great fuss about everything, but the only rough words she would say to them were, ‘You had better go and make some soup from sausage skewers.’ She was very indulgent and loving to her children. Her conduct gave me such confidence in her, that from the crack where I sat I called out ‘squeak.’ This confidence of mine pleased her so much that she assured me she would take me under her own protection, and that not a creature should do me harm. The fact was, she wickedly meant to keep me in reserve for her own eating in winter, when food would be scarce. Yet she was a very clever lady-owl; she explained to me that the watchman could only hoot with the horn that hung loose at his side; and then she said he is so terribly proud of it, that he imagines himself an owl in the tower;—wants to do great things, but only succeeds in small; all soup on a sausage skewer. Then I begged the owl to give me the recipe for this soup. ‘Soup from a sausage skewer,’ said she, ‘is only a proverb amongst mankind, and may be understood in many ways. Each believes his own way the best, and after all, the proverb signifies nothing.’ ‘Nothing!’ I exclaimed. I was quite struck. Truth is not always agreeable, but truth is above everything else, as the old owl said. I thought over all this, and saw quite plainly that if truth was really so far above everything else, it must be much more valuable than soup from a sausage skewer. So I hastened to get away, that I might be home in time, and bring what was highest and best, and above everything—namely, the truth. The mice are an enlightened people, and the mouse-king is above them all. He is therefore capable of making me queen for the sake of truth.”

“Your truth is a falsehood,” said the mouse who had not yet spoken; “I can prepare the soup, and I mean to do so.”

How It Was Prepared
DID not travel,” said the third mouse; “I stayed in this country: that was the right way. One gains nothing by travelling—everything can be acquired here quite as easily; so I stayed at home. I have not obtained what I know from supernatural beings. I have neither swallowed it, nor learnt it from conversing with owls. I have got it all from my reflections and thoughts. Will you now set the kettle on the fire—so? Now pour the water in—quite full—up to the brim; place it on the fire; make up a good blaze; keep it burning, that the water may boil; it must boil over and over. There, now I throw in the skewer. Will the mouse-king be pleased now to dip his tail into the boiling water, and stir it round with the tail. The longer the king stirs it, the stronger the soup will become. Nothing more is necessary, only to stir it.”

“Can no one else do this?” asked the king.

“No,” said the mouse; “only in the tail of the mouse-king is this power contained.”

And the water boiled and bubbled, as the mouse-king stood close beside the kettle. It seemed rather a dangerous performance; but he turned round, and put out his tail, as mice do in a dairy, when they wish to skim the cream from a pan of milk with their tails and afterwards lick it off. But the mouse-king’s tail had only just touched the hot steam, when he sprang away from the chimney in a great hurry, exclaiming, “Oh, certainly, by all means, you must be my queen; and we will let the soup question rest till our golden wedding, fifty years hence; so that the poor in my kingdom, who are then to have plenty of food, will have something to look forward to for a long time, with great joy.”

And very soon the wedding took place. But many of the mice, as they were returning home, said that the soup could not be properly called “soup from a sausage skewer,” but “soup from a mouse’s tail.” They acknowledged also that some of the stories were very well told; but that the whole could have been managed differently. “I should have told it so—and so—and so.” These were the critics who are always so clever afterwards.

When this story was circulated all over the world, the opinions upon it were divided; but the story remained the same. And, after all, the best way in everything you undertake, great as well as small, is to expect no thanks for anything you may do, even when it refers to “soup from a sausage skewer.”

 

The Old Bachelor’s Nightcap
 
THERE is a street in Copenhagen with a very strange name. It is called “Hysken” street. Where the name came from, and what it means is very uncertain. It is said to be German, but that is unjust to the Germans, for it would then be called “Hauschen,” not “Hysken.” “Hauschen,” means a little house; and for many years it consisted only of a few small houses, which were scarcely larger than the wooden booths we see in the market-places at fair time. They were perhaps a little higher, and had windows; but the panes consisted of horn or bladder-skins, for glass was then too dear to have glazed windows in every house. This was a long time ago, so long indeed that our grandfathers, and even great-grandfathers, would speak of those days as “olden times;” indeed, many centuries have passed since then.

The rich merchants in Bremen and Lubeck, who carried on trade in Copenhagen, did not reside in the town themselves, but sent their clerks, who dwelt in the wooden booths in the Hauschen street, and sold beer and spices. The German beer was very good, and there were many sorts—from Bremen, Prussia, and Brunswick—and quantities of all sorts of spices, saffron, aniseed, ginger, and especially pepper; indeed, pepper was almost the chief article sold here; so it happened at last that the German clerks in Denmark got their nickname of “pepper gentry.” It had been made a condition with these clerks that they should not marry; so that those who lived to be old had to take care of themselves, to attend to their own comforts, and even to light their own fires, when they had any to light. Many of them were very aged; lonely old boys, with strange thoughts and eccentric habits. From this, all unmarried men, who have attained a certain age, are called, in Denmark, “pepper gentry;” and this must be remembered by all those who wish to understand the story. These “pepper gentlemen,” or, as they are called in England, “old bachelors,” are often made a butt of ridicule; they are told to put on their nightcaps, draw them over their eyes, and go to sleep. The boys in Denmark make a song of it, thus:—

“Poor old bachelor, cut your wood,
Such a nightcap was never seen;
Who would think it was ever clean?
Go to sleep, it will do you good.”
So they sing about the “pepper gentleman;” so do they make sport of the poor old bachelor and his nightcap, and all because they really know nothing of either. It is a cap that no one need wish for, or laugh at. And why not? Well, we shall hear in the story.

In olden times, Hauschen Street was not paved, and passengers would stumble out of one hole into another, as they generally do in unfrequented highways; and the street was so narrow, and the booths leaning against each other were so close together, that in the summer time a sail would be stretched across the street from one booth to another opposite. At these times the odor of the pepper, saffron, and ginger became more powerful than ever. Behind the counter, as a rule, there were no young men. The clerks were almost all old boys; but they did not dress as we are accustomed to see old men represented, wearing wigs, nightcaps, and knee-breeches, and with coat and waistcoat buttoned up to the chin. We have seen the portraits of our great-grandfathers dressed in this way; but the “pepper gentlemen” had no money to spare to have their portraits taken, though one of them would have made a very interesting picture for us now, if taken as he appeared standing behind his counter, or going to church, or on holidays. On these occasions, they wore high-crowned, broad-brimmed hats, and sometimes a younger clerk would stick a feather in his. The woollen shirt was concealed by a broad, linen collar; the close jacket was buttoned up to the chin, and the cloak hung loosely over it; the trousers were tucked into the broad, tipped shoes, for the clerks wore no stockings. They generally stuck a table-knife and spoon in their girdles, as well as a larger knife, as a protection to themselves; and such a weapon was often very necessary.

After this fashion was Anthony dressed on holidays and festivals, excepting that, instead of a high-crowned hat, he wore a kind of bonnet, and under it a knitted cap, a regular nightcap, to which he was so accustomed that it was always on his head; he had two, nightcaps I mean, not heads. Anthony was one of the oldest of the clerks, and just the subject for a painter. He was as thin as a lath, wrinkled round the mouth and eyes, had long, bony fingers, bushy, gray eyebrows, and over his left eye hung a thick tuft of hair, which did not look handsome, but made his appearance very remarkable. People knew that he came from Bremen; it was not exactly his home, although his master resided there. His ancestors were from Thuringia, and had lived in the town of Eisenach, close by Wartburg. Old Anthony seldom spoke of this place, but he thought of it all the more.

The old clerks of Hauschen Street very seldom met together; each one remained in his own booth, which was closed early enough in the evening, and then it looked dark and dismal out in the street. Only a faint glimmer of light struggled through the horn panes in the little window on the roof, while within sat the old clerk, generally on his bed, singing his evening hymn in a low voice; or he would be moving about in his booth till late in the night, busily employed in many things. It certainly was not a very lively existence. To be a stranger in a strange land is a bitter lot; no one notices you unless you happen to stand in their way. Often, when it was dark night outside, with rain or snow falling, the place looked quite deserted and gloomy. There were no lamps in the street, excepting a very small one, which hung at one end of the street, before a picture of the Virgin, which had been painted on the wall. The dashing of the water against the bulwarks of a neighboring castle could plainly be heard. Such evenings are long and dreary, unless people can find something to do; and so Anthony found it. There were not always things to be packed or unpacked, nor paper bags to be made, nor the scales to be polished. So Anthony invented employment; he mended his clothes and patched his boots, and when he at last went to bed,—his nightcap, which he had worn from habit, still remained on his head; he had only to pull it down a little farther over his forehead. Very soon, however, it would be pushed up again to see if the light was properly put out; he would touch it, press the wick together, and at last pull his nightcap over his eyes and lie down again on the other side. But often there would arise in his mind a doubt as to whether every coal had been quite put out in the little fire-pan in the shop below. If even a tiny spark had remained it might set fire to something, and cause great damage. Then he would rise from his bed, creep down the ladder—for it could scarcely be called a flight of stairs—and when he reached the fire-pan not a spark could be seen; so he had just to go back again to bed. But often, when he had got half way back, he would fancy the iron shutters of the door were not properly fastened, and his thin legs would carry him down again. And when at last he crept into bed, he would be so cold that his teeth chattered in his head. He would draw the coverlet closer round him, pull his nightcap over his eyes, and try to turn his thoughts from trade, and from the labors of the day, to olden times. But this was scarcely an agreeable entertainment; for thoughts of olden memories raise the curtains from the past, and sometimes pierce the heart with painful recollections till the agony brings tears to the waking eyes. And so it was with Anthony; often the scalding tears, like pearly drops, would fall from his eyes to the coverlet and roll on the floor with a sound as if one of his heartstrings had broken. Sometimes, with a lurid flame, memory would light up a picture of life which had never faded from his heart. If he dried his eyes with his nightcap, then the tear and the picture would be crushed; but the source of the tears remained and welled up again in his heart. The pictures did not follow one another in order, as the circumstances they represented had occurred; very often the most painful would come together, and when those came which were most full of joy, they had always the deepest shadow thrown upon them.

The beech woods of Denmark are acknowledged by every one to be very beautiful, but more beautiful still in the eyes of old Anthony were the beech woods in the neighborhood of Wartburg. More grand and venerable to him seemed the old oaks around the proud baronial castle, where the creeping plants hung over the stony summits of the rocks; sweeter was the perfume there of the apple-blossom than in all the land of Denmark. How vividly were represented to him, in a glittering tear that rolled down his cheek, two children at play—a boy and a girl. The boy had rosy cheeks, golden ringlets, and clear, blue eyes; he was the son of Anthony, a rich merchant; it was himself. The little girl had brown eyes and black hair, and was clever and courageous; she was the mayor’s daughter, Molly. The children were playing with an apple; they shook the apple, and heard the pips rattling in it. Then they cut it in two, and each of them took half. They also divided the pips and ate all but one, which the little girl proposed should be placed in the ground.

“You will see what will come out,” she said; “something you don’t expect. A whole apple-tree will come out, but not directly.” Then they got a flower-pot, filled it with earth, and were soon both very busy and eager about it. The boy made a hole in the earth with his finger, and the little girl placed the pip in the hole, and then they both covered it over with earth.

“Now you must not take it out to-morrow to see if it has taken root,” said Molly; “no one ever should do that. I did so with my flowers, but only twice; I wanted to see if they were growing. I didn’t know any better then, and the flowers all died.”

Little Anthony kept the flower-pot, and every morning during the whole winter he looked at it, but there was nothing to be seen but black earth. At last, however, the spring came, and the sun shone warm again, and then two little green leaves sprouted forth in the pot.

“They are Molly and me,” said the boy. “How wonderful they are, and so beautiful!”

Very soon a third leaf made its appearance.

“Who does that stand for?” thought he, and then came another and another. Day after day, and week after week, till the plant became quite a tree. And all this about the two children was mirrored to old Anthony in a single tear, which could soon be wiped away and disappear, but might come again from its source in the heart of the old man.

In the neighborhood of Eisenach stretches a ridge of stony mountains, one of which has a rounded outline, and shows itself above the rest without tree, bush, or grass on its barren summits. It is called the “Venus Mountain,” and the story goes that the “Lady Venus,” one of the heathen goddesses, keeps house there. She is also called “Lady Halle,” as every child round Eisenach well knows. She it was who enticed the noble knight, Tannhauser, the minstrel, from the circle of singers at Wartburg into her mountain.

Little Molly and Anthony often stood by this mountain, and one day Molly said, “Do you dare to knock and say, ‘Lady Halle, Lady Halle, open the door: Tannhauser is here!’” But Anthony did not dare. Molly, however, did, though she only said the words, “Lady Halle, Lady Halle,” loudly and distinctly; the rest she muttered so much under her breath that Anthony felt certain she had really said nothing; and yet she looked quite bold and saucy, just as she did sometimes when she was in the garden with a number of other little girls; they would all stand round him together, and want to kiss him, because he did not like to be kissed, and pushed them away. Then Molly was the only one who dared to resist him. “I may kiss him,” she would say proudly, as she threw her arms round his neck; she was vain of her power over Anthony, for he would submit quietly and think nothing of it. Molly was very charming, but rather bold; and how she did tease!

They said Lady Halle was beautiful, but her beauty was that of a tempting fiend. Saint Elizabeth, the tutelar saint of the land, the pious princess of Thuringia, whose good deeds have been immortalized in so many places through stories and legends, had greater beauty and more real grace. Her picture hung in the chapel, surrounded by silver lamps; but it did not in the least resemble Molly.

The apple-tree, which the two children had planted, grew year after year, till it became so large that it had to be transplanted into the garden, where the dew fell and the sun shone warmly. And there it increased in strength so much as to be able to withstand the cold of winter; and after passing through the severe weather, it seemed to put forth its blossoms in spring for very joy that the cold season had gone. In autumn it produced two apples, one for Molly and one for Anthony; it could not well do less. The tree after this grew very rapidly, and Molly grew with the tree. She was as fresh as an apple-blossom, but Anthony was not to behold this flower for long. All things change; Molly’s father left his old home, and Molly went with him far away. In our time, it would be only a journey of a few hours, but then it took more than a day and a night to travel so far eastward from Eisenbach to a town still called Weimar, on the borders of Thuringia. And Molly and Anthony both wept, but these tears all flowed together into one tear which had the rosy shimmer of joy. Molly had told him that she loved him—loved him more than all the splendors of Weimar.

One, two, three years went by, and during the whole time he received only two letters. One came by the carrier, and the other a traveller brought. The way was very long and difficult, with many turnings and windings through towns and villages. How often had Anthony and Molly heard the story of Tristan and Isolda, and Anthony had thought the story applied to him, although Tristan means born in sorrow, which Anthony certainly was not; nor was it likely he would ever say of Molly as Tristan said of Isolda, “She has forgotten me.” But in truth, Isolda had not forgotten him, her faithful friend; and when both were laid in their graves, one, on each side of the church, the linden-trees that grew by each grave spread over the roof, and, bending towards each other, mingled their blossoms together. Anthony thought it a very beautiful but mournful story; yet he never feared anything so sad would happen to him and Molly, as he passed the spot, whistling the air of a song, composed by the minstrel Walter, called the “Willow bird,” beginning—

“Under the linden-trees,
Out on the heath.”
One stanza pleased him exceedingly—

“Through the forest, and in the vale,
Sweetly warbles the nightingale.
This song was often in his mouth, and he sung or whistled it on a moonlight night, when he rode on horseback along the deep, hollow way, on his road to Weimar, to visit Molly. He wished to arrive unexpectedly, and so indeed he did. He was received with a hearty welcome, and introduced to plenty of grand and pleasant company, where overflowing winecups were passed about. A pretty room and a good bed were provided for him, and yet his reception was not what he had expected and dreamed it would be. He could not comprehend his own feelings nor the feelings of others; but it is easily understood how a person can be admitted into a house or a family without becoming one of them. We converse in company with those we meet, as we converse with our fellow-travellers in a stage-coach, on a journey; we know nothing of them, and perhaps all the while we are incommoding one another, and each is wishing himself or his neighbor away. Something of this kind Anthony felt when Molly talked to him of old times.

“I am a straightforward girl,” she said, “and I will tell you myself how it is. There have been great changes since we were children together; everything is different, both inwardly and outwardly. We cannot control our wills, nor the feelings of our hearts, by the force of custom. Anthony, I would not, for the world, make an enemy of you when I am far away. Believe me, I entertain for you the kindest wishes in my heart; but to feel for you what I now know can be felt for another man, can never be. You must try and reconcile yourself to this. Farewell, Anthony.”

Anthony also said, “Farewell.” Not a tear came into his eye; he felt he was no longer Molly’s friend. Hot iron and cold iron alike take the skin from our lips, and we feel the same sensation if we kiss either; and Anthony’s kiss was now the kiss of hatred, as it had once been the kiss of love. Within four-and-twenty hours Anthony was back again to Eisenach, though the horse that he rode was entirely ruined.

“What matters it?” said he; “I am ruined also. I will destroy everything that can remind me of her, or of Lady Halle, or Lady Venus, the heathen woman. I will break down the apple-tree, and tear it up by the roots; never more shall it blossom or bear fruit.”

The apple-tree was not broken down; for Anthony himself was struck with a fever, which caused him to break down, and confined him to his bed. But something occurred to raise him up again. What was it? A medicine was offered to him, which he was obliged to take: a bitter remedy, at which the sick body and the oppressed spirit alike shuddered. Anthony’s father lost all his property, and, from being known as one of the richest merchants, he became very poor. Dark days, heavy trials, with poverty at the door, came rolling into the house upon them like the waves of the sea. Sorrow and suffering deprived Anthony’s father of his strength, so that he had something else to think of besides nursing his love-sorrows and his anger against Molly. He had to take his father’s place, to give orders, to act with energy, to help, and, at last, to go out into the world and earn his bread. Anthony went to Bremen, and there he learnt what poverty and hard living really were. These things often harden the character, but sometimes soften the heart, even too much.

How different the world, and the people in it, appeared to Anthony now, to what he had thought in his childhood! What to him were the minstrel’s songs? An echo of the past, sounds long vanished. At times he would think in this way; yet again and again the songs would sound in his soul, and his heart become gentle and pious.

“God’s will is the best,” he would then say. “It was well that I was not allowed to keep my power over Molly’s heart, and that she did not remain true to me. How I should have felt it now, when fortune has deserted me! She left me before she knew of the change in my circumstances, or had a thought of what was before me. That is a merciful providence for me. All has happened for the best. She could not help it, and yet I have been so bitter, and in such enmity against her.”

Years passed by: Anthony’s father died, and strangers lived in the old house. He had seen it once again since then. His rich master sent him journeys on business, and on one occasion his way led him to his native town of Eisenach. The old Wartburg castle stood unchanged on the rock where the monk and the nun were hewn out of the stone. The great oaks formed an outline to the scene which he so well remembered in his childhood. The Venus mountain stood out gray and bare, overshadowing the valley beneath. He would have been glad to call out “Lady Halle, Lady Halle, unlock the mountain. I would fain remain here always in my native soil.” That was a sinful thought, and he offered a prayer to drive it away. Then a little bird in the thicket sang out clearly, and old Anthony thought of the minstrel’s song. How much came back to his remembrance as he looked through the tears once more on his native town! The old house was still standing as in olden times, but the garden had been greatly altered; a pathway led through a portion of the ground, and outside the garden, and beyond the path, stood the old apple-tree, which he had not broken down, although he talked of doing so in his trouble. The sun still threw its rays upon the tree, and the refreshing dew fell upon it as of old; and it was so overloaded with fruit that the branches bent towards the earth with the weight. “That flourishes still,” said he, as he gazed. One of the branches of the tree had, however, been broken: mischievous hands must have done this in passing, for the tree now stood in a public thoroughfare. “The blossoms are often plucked,” said Anthony; “the fruit is stolen and the branches broken without a thankful thought of their profusion and beauty. It might be said of a tree, as it has been said of some men—it was not predicted at his cradle that he should come to this. How brightly began the history of this tree, and what is it now? Forsaken and forgotten, in a garden by a hedge in a field, and close to a public road. There it stands, unsheltered, plundered, and broken. It certainly has not yet withered; but in the course of years the number of blossoms from time to time will grow less, and at last it was cease altogether to bear fruit; and then its history will be over.”

Such were Anthony’s thoughts as he stood under the tree, and during many a long night as he lay in his lonely chamber in the wooden house in Hauschen Street, Copenhagen, in the foreign land to which the rich merchant of Bremen, his employer, had sent him on condition that he should never marry. “Marry! ha, ha!” and he laughed bitterly to himself at the thought.

Winter one year set in early, and it was freezing hard. Without, a snowstorm made every one remain at home who could do so. Thus it happened that Anthony’s neighbors, who lived opposite to him, did not notice that his house remained unopened for two days, and that he had not showed himself during that time, for who would go out in such weather unless he were obliged to do so. They were gray, gloomy days, and in the house whose windows were not glass, twilight and dark nights reigned in turns. During these two days old Anthony had not left his bed, he had not the strength to do so. The bitter weather had for some time affected his limbs. There lay the old bachelor, forsaken by all, and unable to help himself. He could scarcely reach the water jug that he had placed by his bed, and the last drop was gone. It was not fever, nor sickness, but old age, that had laid him low. In the little corner, where his bed lay, he was over-shadowed as it were by perpetual night. A little spider, which he could however not see, busily and cheerfully spun its web above him, so that there should be a kind of little banner waving over the old man, when his eyes closed. The time passed slowly and painfully. He had no tears to shed, and he felt no pain; no thought of Molly came into his mind. He felt as if the world was now nothing to him, as if he were lying beyond it, with no one to think of him. Now and then he felt slight sensations of hunger and thirst; but no one came to him, no one tended him. He thought of all those who had once suffered from starvation, of Saint Elizabeth, who once wandered on the earth, the saint of his home and his childhood, the noble Duchess of Thuringia, that highly esteemed lady who visited the poorest villages, bringing hope and relief to the sick inmates. The recollection of her pious deeds was as light to the soul of poor Anthony. He thought of her as she went about speaking words of comfort, binding up the wounds of the afflicted and feeding the hungry, although often blamed for it by her stern husband. He remembered a story told of her, that on one occasion, when she was carrying a basket full of wine and provisions, her husband, who had watched her footsteps, stepped forward and asked her angrily what she carried in her basket, whereupon, with fear and trembling, she answered, “Roses, which I have plucked from the garden.” Then he tore away the cloth which covered the basket, and what could equal the surprise of the pious woman, to find that by a miracle, everything in her basket—the wine, the bread— had all been changed into roses.

In this way the memory of the kind lady dwelt in the calm mind of Anthony. She was as a living reality in his little dwelling in the Danish land. He uncovered his face that he might look into her gentle eyes, while everything around him changed from its look of poverty and want, to a bright rose tint. The fragrance of roses spread through the room, mingled with the sweet smell of apples. He saw the branches of an apple-tree spreading above him. It was the tree which he and Molly had planted together. The fragrant leaves of the tree fell upon him and cooled his burning brow; upon his parched lips they seemed like refreshing bread and wine; and as they rested on his breast, a peaceful calm stole over him, and he felt inclined to sleep. “I shall sleep now,” he whispered to himself. “Sleep will do me good. In the morning I shall be upon my feet again, strong and well. Glorious! wonderful! That apple-tree, planted in love, now appears before me in heavenly beauty.” And he slept.

The following day, the third day during which his house had been closed, the snow-storm ceased. Then his opposite neighbor stepped over to the house in which old Anthony lived, for he had not yet showed himself. There he lay stretched on his bed, dead, with his old nightcap tightly clasped in his two hands. The nightcap, however, was not placed on his head in his coffin; he had a clean white one on then. Where now were the tears he had shed? What had become of those wonderful pearls? They were in the nightcap still. Such tears as these cannot be washed out, even when the nightcap is forgotten. The old thoughts and dreams of a bachelor’s nightcap still remain. Never wish for such a nightcap. It would make your forehead hot, cause your pulse to beat with agitation, and conjure up dreams which would appear realities.

The first who wore old Anthony’s cap felt the truth of this, though it was half a century afterwards. That man was the mayor himself, who had already made a comfortable home for his wife and eleven children, by his industry. The moment he put the cap on he dreamed of unfortunate love, of bankruptcy, and of dark days. “Hallo! how the nightcap burns!” he exclaimed, as he tore it from his bead. Then a pearl rolled out, and then another, and another, and they glittered and sounded as they fell. “What can this be? Is it paralysis, or something dazzling my eyes?” They were the tears which old Anthony had shed half a century before.

To every one who afterwards put this cap on his head, came visions and dreams which agitated him not a little. His own history was changed into that of Anthony till it became quite a story, and many stories might be made by others, so we will leave them to relate their own. We have told the first; and our last word is, don’t wish for a “bachelor’s nightcap.”

 

Something
 
I MEAN to be somebody, and do something useful in the world,” said the eldest of five brothers. “I don’t care how humble my position is, so that I can only do some good, which will be something. I intend to be a brickmaker; bricks are always wanted, and I shall be really doing something.”

“Your ‘something’ is not enough for me,” said the second brother; “what you talk of doing is nothing at all, it is journeyman’s work, or might even be done by a machine. No! I should prefer to be a builder at once, there is something real in that. A man gains a position, he becomes a citizen, has his own sign, his own house of call for his workmen: so I shall be a builder. If all goes well, in time I shall become a master, and have my own journeymen, and my wife will be treated as a master’s wife. This is what I call something.”

“I call it all nothing,” said the third; “not in reality any position. There are many in a town far above a master builder in position. You may be an upright man, but even as a master you will only be ranked among common men. I know better what to do than that. I will be an architect, which will place me among those who possess riches and intellect, and who speculate in art. I shall certainly have to rise by my own endeavors from a bricklayer’s laborer, or as a carpenter’s apprentice—a lad wearing a paper cap, although I now wear a silk hat. I shall have to fetch beer and spirits for the journeymen, and they will call me ‘thou,’ which will be an insult. I shall endure it, however, for I shall look upon it all as a mere representation, a masquerade, a mummery, which to-morrow, that is, when I myself as a journeyman, shall have served my time, will vanish, and I shall go my way, and all that has passed will be nothing to me. Then I shall enter the academy, and get instructed in drawing, and be called an architect. I may even attain to rank, and have something placed before or after my name, and I shall build as others have done before me. By this there will be always ‘something’ to make me remembered, and is not that worth living for?”

“Not in my opinion,” said the fourth; “I will never follow the lead of others, and only imitate what they have done. I will be a genius, and become greater than all of you together. I will create a new style of building, and introduce a plan for erecting houses suitable to the climate, with material easily obtained in the country, and thus suit national feeling and the developments of the age, besides building a storey for my own genius.”

“But supposing the climate and the material are not good for much,” said the fifth brother, “that would be very unfortunate for you, and have an influence over your experiments. Nationality may assert itself until it becomes affectation, and the developments of a century may run wild, as youth often does. I see clearly that none of you will ever really be anything worth notice, however you may now fancy it. But do as you like, I shall not imitate you. I mean to keep clear of all these things, and criticize what you do. In every action something imperfect may be discovered, something not right, which I shall make it my business to find out and expose; that will be something, I fancy.” And he kept his word, and became a critic.

People said of this fifth brother, “There is something very precise about him; he has a good head-piece, but he does nothing.” And on that very account they thought he must be something.

Now, you see, this is a little history which will never end; as long as the world exists, there will always be men like these five brothers. And what became of them? Were they each nothing or something? You shall hear; it is quite a history.

The eldest brother, he who fabricated bricks, soon discovered that each brick, when finished, brought him in a small coin, if only a copper one; and many copper pieces, if placed one upon another, can be changed into a shining shilling; and at whatever door a person knocks, who has a number of these in his hands, whether it be the baker’s, the butcher’s, or the tailor’s, the door flies open, and he can get all he wants. So you see the value of bricks. Some of the bricks, however, crumbled to pieces, or were broken, but the elder brother found a use for even these.

On the high bank of earth, which formed a dyke on the sea-coast, a poor woman named Margaret wished to build herself a house, so all the imperfect bricks were given to her, and a few whole ones with them; for the eldest brother was a kind-hearted man, although he never achieved anything higher than making bricks. The poor woman built herself a little house—it was small and narrow, and the window was quite crooked, the door too low, and the straw roof might have been better thatched. But still it was a shelter, and from within you could look far over the sea, which dashed wildly against the sea-wall on which the little house was built. The salt waves sprinkled their white foam over it, but it stood firm, and remained long after he who had given the bricks to build it was dead and buried.

The second brother of course knew better how to build than poor Margaret, for he served an apprenticeship to learn it. When his time was up, he packed up his knapsack, and went on his travels, singing the journeyman’s song,—

“While young, I can wander without a care,
And build new houses everywhere;
Fair and bright are my dreams of home,
Always thought of wherever I roam.

Hurrah for a workman’s life of glee!
There’s a loved one at home who thinks of me;
Home and friends I can ne’er forget,
And I mean to be a master yet.”
And that is what he did. On his return home, he became a master builder,—built one house after another in the town, till they formed quite a street, which, when finished, became really an ornament to the town. These houses built a house for him in return, which was to be his own. But how can houses build a house? If the houses were asked, they could not answer; but the people would understand, and say, “Certainly the street built his house for him.” It was not very large, and the floor was of lime; but when he danced with his bride on the lime-covered floor, it was to him white and shining, and from every stone in the wall flowers seemed to spring forth and decorate the room as with the richest tapestry. It was really a pretty house, and in it were a happy pair. The flag of the corporation fluttered before it, and the journeymen and apprentices shouted “Hurrah.” He had gained his position, he had made himself something, and at last he died, which was “something” too.
Now we come to the architect, the third brother, who had been first a carpenter’s apprentice, had worn a cap, and served as an errand boy, but afterwards went to the academy, and risen to be an architect, a high and noble gentleman. Ah yes, the houses of the new street, which the brother who was a master builder erected, may have built his house for him, but the street received its name from the architect, and the handsomest house in the street became his property. That was something, and he was “something,” for he had a list of titles before and after his name. His children were called “wellborn,” and when he died, his widow was treated as a lady of position, and that was “something.” His name remained always written at the corner of the street, and lived in every one’s mouth as its name. Yes, this also was “something.”

And what about the genius of the family—the fourth brother—who wanted to invent something new and original? He tried to build a lofty storey himself, but it fell to pieces, and he fell with it and broke his neck. However, he had a splendid funeral, with the city flags and music in the procession; flowers were strewn on the pavement, and three orations were spoken over his grave, each one longer than the other. He would have liked this very much during his life, as well as the poems about him in the papers, for he liked nothing so well as to be talked of. A monument was also erected over his grave. It was only another storey over him, but that was “something,” Now he was dead, like the three other brothers.

The youngest—the critic—outlived them all, which was quite right for him. It gave him the opportunity of having the last word, which to him was of great importance. People always said he had a good head-piece. At last his hour came, and he died, and arrived at the gates of heaven. Souls always enter these gates in pairs; so he found himself standing and waiting for admission with another; and who should it be but old dame Margaret, from the house on the dyke! “It is evidently for the sake of contrast that I and this wretched soul should arrive here exactly at the same time,” said the critic. “Pray who are you, my good woman?” said he; “do you want to get in here too?”

And the old woman curtsied as well as she could; she thought it must be St. Peter himself who spoke to her. “I am a poor old woman,” she said, “without my family. I am old Margaret, that lived in the house on the dyke.”

“Well, and what have you done—what great deed have you performed down below?”

“I have done nothing at all in the world that could give me a claim to have these doors open for me,” she said. “It would be only through mercy that I can be allowed to slip in through the gate.”

“In what manner did you leave the world?” he asked, just for the sake of saying something; for it made him feel very weary to stand there and wait.

“How I left the world?” she replied; “why, I can scarcely tell you. During the last years of my life I was sick and miserable, and I was unable to bear creeping out of bed suddenly into the frost and cold. Last winter was a hard winter, but I have got over it all now. There were a few mild days, as your honor, no doubt, knows. The ice lay thickly on the lake, as far one could see. The people came from the town, and walked upon it, and they say there were dancing and skating upon it, I believe, and a great feasting. The sound of beautiful music came into my poor little room where I lay. Towards evening, when the moon rose beautifully, though not yet in her full splendor, I glanced from my bed over the wide sea; and there, just where the sea and sky met, rose a curious white cloud. I lay looking at the cloud till I observed a little black spot in the middle of it, which gradually grew larger and larger, and then I knew what it meant—I am old and experienced; and although this token is not often seen, I knew it, and a shuddering seized me. Twice in my life had I seen this same thing, and I knew that there would be an awful storm, with a spring tide, which would overwhelm the poor people who were now out on the ice, drinking, dancing, and making merry. Young and old, the whole city, were there; who was to warn them, if no one noticed the sign, or knew what it meant as I did? I was so alarmed, that I felt more strength and life than I had done for some time. I got out of bed, and reached the window; I could not crawl any farther from weakness and exhaustion; but I managed to open the window. I saw the people outside running and jumping about on the ice; I saw the beautiful flags waving in the wind; I heard the boys shouting, ‘Hurrah!’ and the lads and lasses singing, and everything full of merriment and joy. But there was the white cloud with the black spot hanging over them. I cried out as loudly as I could, but no one heard me; I was too far off from the people. Soon would the storm burst, the ice break, and all who were on it be irretrievably lost. They could not hear me, and to go to them was quite out of my power. Oh, if I could only get them safe on land! Then came the thought, as if from heaven, that I would rather set fire to my bed, and let the house be burnt down, than that so many people should perish miserably. I got a light, and in a few moments the red flames leaped up as a beacon to them. I escaped fortunately as far as the threshold of the door; but there I fell down and remained: I could go no farther. The flames rushed out towards me, flickered on the window, and rose high above the roof. The people on the ice became aware of the fire, and ran as fast as possible to help a poor sick woman, who, as they thought, was being burnt to death. There was not one who did not run. I heard them coming, and I also at the same time was conscious of a rush of air and a sound like the roar of heavy artillery. The spring flood was lifting the ice covering, which brake into a thousand pieces. But the people had reached the sea-wall, where the sparks were flying round. I had saved them all; but I suppose I could not survive the cold and fright; so I came up here to the gates of paradise. I am told they are open to poor creatures such as I am, and I have now no house left on earth; but I do not think that will give me a claim to be admitted here.”

Then the gates were opened, and an angel led the old woman in. She had dropped one little straw out of her straw bed, when she set it on fire to save the lives of so many. It had been changed into the purest gold—into gold that constantly grew and expanded into flowers and fruit of immortal beauty.

“See,” said the angel, pointing to the wonderful straw, “this is what the poor woman has brought. What dost thou bring? I know thou hast accomplished nothing, not even made a single brick. Even if thou couldst return, and at least produce so much, very likely, when made, the brick would be useless, unless done with a good will, which is always something. But thou canst not return to earth, and I can do nothing for thee.”

Then the poor soul, the old mother who had lived in the house on the dyke, pleaded for him. She said, “His brother made all the stone and bricks, and sent them to me to build my poor little dwelling, which was a great deal to do for a poor woman like me. Could not all these bricks and pieces be as a wall of stone to prevail for him? It is an act of mercy; he is wanting it now; and here is the very fountain of mercy.”

“Then,” said the angel, “thy brother, he who has been looked upon as the meanest of you all, he whose honest deeds to thee appeared so humble,—it is he who has sent you this heavenly gift. Thou shalt not be turned away. Thou shalt have permission to stand without the gate and reflect, and repent of thy life on earth; but thou shalt not be admitted here until thou hast performed one good deed of repentance, which will indeed for thee be something.”

“I could have expressed that better,” thought the critic; but he did not say it aloud, which for him was SOMETHING, after all.

 

The Last Dream of the Old Oak
 
IN the forest, high up on the steep shore, and not far from the open seacoast, stood a very old oak-tree. It was just three hundred and sixty-five years old, but that long time was to the tree as the same number of days might be to us; we wake by day and sleep by night, and then we have our dreams. It is different with the tree; it is obliged to keep awake through three seasons of the year, and does not get any sleep till winter comes. Winter is its time for rest; its night after the long day of spring, summer, and autumn. On many a warm summer, the Ephemera, the flies that exist for only a day, had fluttered about the old oak, enjoyed life and felt happy and if, for a moment, one of the tiny creatures rested on one of his large fresh leaves, the tree would always say, “Poor little creature! your whole life consists only of a single day. How very short. It must be quite melancholy.”

“Melancholy! what do you mean?” the little creature would always reply. “Everything around me is so wonderfully bright and warm, and beautiful, that it makes me joyous.”

“But only for one day, and then it is all over.”

“Over!” repeated the fly; “what is the meaning of all over? Are you all over too?”

“No; I shall very likely live for thousands of your days, and my day is whole seasons long; indeed it is so long that you could never reckon it out.”

“No? then I don’t understand you. You may have thousands of my days, but I have thousands of moments in which I can be merry and happy. Does all the beauty of the world cease when you die?”

“No,” replied the tree; “it will certainly last much longer,— infinitely longer than I can even think of.” “Well, then,” said the little fly, “we have the same time to live; only we reckon differently.” And the little creature danced and floated in the air, rejoicing in her delicate wings of gauze and velvet, rejoicing in the balmy breezes, laden with the fragrance of clover-fields and wild roses, elder-blossoms and honeysuckle, from the garden hedges, wild thyme, primroses, and mint, and the scent of all these was so strong that the perfume almost intoxicated the little fly. The long and beautiful day had been so full of joy and sweet delights, that when the sun sank low it felt tired of all its happiness and enjoyment. Its wings could sustain it no longer, and gently and slowly it glided down upon the soft waving blades of grass, nodded its little head as well as it could nod, and slept peacefully and sweetly. The fly was dead.

“Poor little Ephemera!” said the oak; “what a terribly short life!” And so, on every summer day the dance was repeated, the same questions asked, and the same answers given. The same thing was continued through many generations of Ephemera; all of them felt equally merry and equally happy.

The oak remained awake through the morning of spring, the noon of summer, and the evening of autumn; its time of rest, its night drew nigh—winter was coming. Already the storms were singing, “Good-night, good-night.” Here fell a leaf and there fell a leaf. “We will rock you and lull you. Go to sleep, go to sleep. We will sing you to sleep, and shake you to sleep, and it will do your old twigs good; they will even crackle with pleasure. Sleep sweetly, sleep sweetly, it is your three-hundred-and-sixty-fifth night. Correctly speaking, you are but a youngster in the world. Sleep sweetly, the clouds will drop snow upon you, which will be quite a cover-lid, warm and sheltering to your feet. Sweet sleep to you, and pleasant dreams.” And there stood the oak, stripped of all its leaves, left to rest during the whole of a long winter, and to dream many dreams of events that had happened in its life, as in the dreams of men. The great tree had once been small; indeed, in its cradle it had been an acorn. According to human computation, it was now in the fourth century of its existence. It was the largest and best tree in the forest. Its summit towered above all the other trees, and could be seen far out at sea, so that it served as a landmark to the sailors. It had no idea how many eyes looked eagerly for it. In its topmost branches the wood-pigeon built her nest, and the cuckoo carried out his usual vocal performances, and his well-known notes echoed amid the boughs; and in autumn, when the leaves looked like beaten copper plates, the birds of passage would come and rest upon the branches before taking their flight across the sea. But now it was winter, the tree stood leafless, so that every one could see how crooked and bent were the branches that sprang forth from the trunk. Crows and rooks came by turns and sat on them, and talked of the hard times which were beginning, and how difficult it was in winter to obtain food.

It was just about holy Christmas time that the tree dreamed a dream. The tree had, doubtless, a kind of feeling that the festive time had arrived, and in his dream fancied he heard the bells ringing from all the churches round, and yet it seemed to him to be a beautiful summer’s day, mild and warm. His mighty summits was crowned with spreading fresh green foliage; the sunbeams played among the leaves and branches, and the air was full of fragrance from herb and blossom; painted butterflies chased each other; the summer flies danced around him, as if the world had been created merely for them to dance and be merry in. All that had happened to the tree during every year of his life seemed to pass before him, as in a festive procession. He saw the knights of olden times and noble ladies ride by through the wood on their gallant steeds, with plumes waving in their hats, and falcons on their wrists. The hunting horn sounded, and the dogs barked. He saw hostile warriors, in colored dresses and glittering armor, with spear and halberd, pitching their tents, and anon striking them. The watchfires again blazed, and men sang and slept under the hospitable shelter of the tree. He saw lovers meet in quiet happiness near him in the moonshine, and carve the initials of their names in the grayish-green bark on his trunk. Once, but long years had intervened since then, guitars and Eolian harps had been hung on his boughs by merry travellers; now they seemed to hang there again, and he could hear their marvellous tones. The wood-pigeons cooed as if to explain the feelings of the tree, and the cuckoo called out to tell him how many summer days he had yet to live. Then it seemed as if new life was thrilling through every fibre of root and stem and leaf, rising even to the highest branches. The tree felt itself stretching and spreading out, while through the root beneath the earth ran the warm vigor of life. As he grew higher and still higher, with increased strength, his topmost boughs became broader and fuller; and in proportion to his growth, so was his self-satisfaction increased, and with it arose a joyous longing to grow higher and higher, to reach even to the warm, bright sun itself. Already had his topmost branches pierced the clouds, which floated beneath them like troops of birds of passage, or large white swans; every leaf seemed gifted with sight, as if it possessed eyes to see. The stars became visible in broad daylight, large and sparkling, like clear and gentle eyes. They recalled to the memory the well-known look in the eyes of a child, or in the eyes of lovers who had once met beneath the branches of the old oak. These were wonderful and happy moments for the old tree, full of peace and joy; and yet, amidst all this happiness, the tree felt a yearning, longing desire that all the other trees, bushes, herbs, and flowers beneath him, might be able also to rise higher, as he had done, and to see all this splendor, and experience the same happiness. The grand, majestic oak could not be quite happy in the midst of his enjoyment, while all the rest, both great and small, were not with him. And this feeling of yearning trembled through every branch, through every leaf, as warmly and fervently as if they had been the fibres of a human heart. The summit of the tree waved to and fro, and bent downwards as if in his silent longing he sought for something. Then there came to him the fragrance of thyme, followed by the more powerful scent of honeysuckle and violets; and he fancied he heard the note of the cuckoo. At length his longing was satisfied. Up through the clouds came the green summits of the forest trees, and beneath him, the oak saw them rising, and growing higher and higher. Bush and herb shot upward, and some even tore themselves up by the roots to rise more quickly. The birch-tree was the quickest of all. Like a lightning flash the slender stem shot upwards in a zigzag line, the branches spreading around it like green gauze and banners. Every native of the wood, even to the brown and feathery rushes, grew with the rest, while the birds ascended with the melody of song. On a blade of grass, that fluttered in the air like a long, green ribbon, sat a grasshopper, cleaning his wings with his legs. May beetles hummed, the bees murmured, the birds sang, each in his own way; the air was filled with the sounds of song and gladness.

“But where is the little blue flower that grows by the water?” asked the oak, “and the purple bell-flower, and the daisy?” You see the oak wanted to have them all with him.

“Here we are, we are here,” sounded in voice and song.

“But the beautiful thyme of last summer, where is that? and the lilies-of-the-valley, which last year covered the earth with their bloom? and the wild apple-tree with its lovely blossoms, and all the glory of the wood, which has flourished year after year? even what may have but now sprouted forth could be with us here.”

“We are here, we are here,” sounded voices higher in the air, as if they had flown there beforehand.

“Why this is beautiful, too beautiful to be believed,” said the oak in a joyful tone. “I have them all here, both great and small; not one has been forgotten. Can such happiness be imagined?” It seemed almost impossible.

“In heaven with the Eternal God, it can be imagined, and it is possible,” sounded the reply through the air.

And the old tree, as it still grew upwards and onwards, felt that his roots were loosening themselves from the earth.

“It is right so, it is best,” said the tree, “no fetters hold me now. I can fly up to the very highest point in light and glory. And all I love are with me, both small and great. All—all are here.”

Such was the dream of the old oak: and while he dreamed, a mighty storm came rushing over land and sea, at the holy Christmas time. The sea rolled in great billows towards the shore. There was a cracking and crushing heard in the tree. The root was torn from the ground just at the moment when in his dream he fancied it was being loosened from the earth. He fell—his three hundred and sixty-five years were passed as the single day of the Ephemera. On the morning of Christmas-day, when the sun rose, the storm had ceased. From all the churches sounded the festive bells, and from every hearth, even of the smallest hut, rose the smoke into the blue sky, like the smoke from the festive thank-offerings on the Druids’ altars. The sea gradually became calm, and on board a great ship that had withstood the tempest during the night, all the flags were displayed, as a token of joy and festivity. “The tree is down! The old oak,—our landmark on the coast!” exclaimed the sailors. “It must have fallen in the storm of last night. Who can replace it? Alas! no one.” This was a funeral oration over the old tree; short, but well-meant. There it lay stretched on the snow-covered shore, and over it sounded the notes of a song from the ship—a song of Christmas joy, and of the redemption of the soul of man, and of eternal life through Christ’s atoning blood.

“Sing aloud on the happy morn,
All is fulfilled, for Christ is born;
With songs of joy let us loudly sing,
‘Hallelujahs to Christ our King.’”
Thus sounded the old Christmas carol, and every one on board the ship felt his thoughts elevated, through the song and the prayer, even as the old tree had felt lifted up in its last, its beautiful dream on that Christmas morn.

 

The Marsh King’s Daughter
 
THE storks relate to their little ones a great many stories, and they are all about moors and reed banks, and suited to their age and capacity. The youngest of them are quite satisfied with “kribble, krabble,” or such nonsense, and think it very grand; but the elder ones want something with a deeper meaning, or at least something about their own family.

We are only acquainted with one of the two longest and oldest stories which the storks relate—it is about Moses, who was exposed by his mother on the banks of the Nile, and was found by the king’s daughter, who gave him a good education, and he afterwards became a great man; but where he was buried is still unknown.

Every one knows this story, but not the second; very likely because it is quite an inland story. It has been repeated from mouth to mouth, from one stork-mamma to another, for thousands of years; and each has told it better than the last; and now we mean to tell it better than all.

The first stork pair who related it lived at the time it happened, and had their summer residence on the rafters of the Viking’s1 house, which stood near the wild moorlands of Wendsyssell; that is, to speak more correctly, the great moorheath, high up in the north of Jutland, by the Skjagen peak. This wilderness is still an immense wild heath of marshy ground, about which we can read in the “Official Directory.” It is said that in olden times the place was a lake, the ground of which had heaved up from beneath, and now the moorland extends for miles in every direction, and is surrounded by damp meadows, trembling, undulating swamps, and marshy ground covered with turf, on which grow bilberry bushes and stunted trees. Mists are almost always hovering over this region, which, seventy years ago, was overrun with wolves. It may well be called the Wild Moor; and one can easily imagine, with such a wild expanse of marsh and lake, how lonely and dreary it must have been a thousand years ago. Many things may be noticed now that existed then. The reeds grow to the same height, and bear the same kind of long, purple-brown leaves, with their feathery tips. There still stands the birch, with its white bark and its delicate, loosely hanging leaves; and with regard to the living beings who frequented this spot, the fly still wears a gauzy dress of the same cut, and the favorite colors of the stork are white, with black and red for stockings. The people, certainly, in those days, wore very different dresses to those they now wear, but if any of them, be he huntsman or squire, master or servant, ventured on the wavering, undulating, marshy ground of the moor, they met with the same fate a thousand years ago as they would now. The wanderer sank, and went down to the Marsh King, as he is named, who rules in the great moorland empire beneath. They also called him “Gunkel King,” but we like the name of “Marsh King” better, and we will give him that name as the storks do. Very little is known of the Marsh King’s rule, but that, perhaps, is a good thing.

In the neighborhood of the moorlands, and not far from the great arm of the North Sea and the Cattegat which is called the Lumfjorden, lay the castle of the Viking, with its water-tight stone cellars, its tower, and its three projecting storeys. On the ridge of the roof the stork had built his nest, and there the stork-mamma sat on her eggs and felt sure her hatching would come to something.

One evening, stork-papa stayed out rather late, and when he came home he seemed quite busy, bustling, and important. “I have something very dreadful to tell you,” said he to the stork-mamma.

“Keep it to yourself then,” she replied. “Remember that I am hatching eggs; it may agitate me, and will affect them.”

“You must know it at once,” said he. “The daughter of our host in Egypt has arrived here. She has ventured to take this journey, and now she is lost.”

“She who sprung from the race of the fairies, is it?” cried the mother stork. “Oh, tell me all about it; you know I cannot bear to be kept waiting at a time when I am hatching eggs.”

“Well, you see, mother,” he replied, “she believed what the doctors said, and what I have heard you state also, that the moor-flowers which grow about here would heal her sick father; and she has flown to the north in swan’s plumage, in company with some other swan-princesses, who come to these parts every year to renew their youth. She came, and where is she now!”

“You enter into particulars too much,” said the mamma stork, “and the eggs may take cold; I cannot bear such suspense as this.”

“Well,” said he, “I have kept watch; and this evening I went among the rushes where I thought the marshy ground would bear me, and while I was there three swans came. Something in their manner of flying seemed to say to me, ‘Look carefully now; there is one not all swan, only swan’s feathers.’ You know, mother, you have the same intuitive feeling that I have; you know whether a thing is right or not immediately.”

“Yes, of course,” said she; “but tell me about the princess; I am tired of hearing about the swan’s feathers.”

“Well, you know that in the middle of the moor there is something like a lake,” said the stork-papa. “You can see the edge of it if you raise yourself a little. Just there, by the reeds and the green banks, lay the trunk of an elder-tree; upon this the three swans stood flapping their wings, and looking about them; one of them threw off her plumage, and I immediately recognized her as one of the princesses of our home in Egypt. There she sat, without any covering but her long, black hair. I heard her tell the two others to take great care of the swan’s plumage, while she dipped down into the water to pluck the flowers which she fancied she saw there. The others nodded, and picked up the feather dress, and took possession of it. I wonder what will become of it? thought I, and she most likely asked herself the same question. If so, she received an answer, a very practical one; for the two swans rose up and flew away with her swan’s plumage. ‘Dive down now!’ they cried; ‘thou shalt never more fly in the swan’s plumage, thou shalt never again see Egypt; here, on the moor, thou wilt remain.’ So saying, they tore the swan’s plumage into a thousand pieces, the feathers drifted about like a snow-shower, and then the two deceitful princesses flew away.”

“Why, that is terrible,” said the stork-mamma; “I feel as if I could hardly bear to hear any more, but you must tell me what happened next.”

“The princess wept and lamented aloud; her tears moistened the elder stump, which was really not an elder stump but the Marsh King himself, he who in marshy ground lives and rules. I saw myself how the stump of the tree turned round, and was a tree no more, while long, clammy branches like arms, were extended from it. Then the poor child was terribly frightened, and started up to run away. She hastened to cross the green, slimy ground; but it will not bear any weight, much less hers. She quickly sank, and the elder stump dived immediately after her; in fact, it was he who drew her down. Great black bubbles rose up out of the moor-slime, and with these every trace of the two vanished. And now the princess is buried in the wild marsh, she will never now carry flowers to Egypt to cure her father. It would have broken your heart, mother, had you seen it.”

“You ought not to have told me,” said she, “at such a time as this; the eggs might suffer. But I think the princess will soon find help; some one will rise up to help her. Ah! if it had been you or I, or one of our people, it would have been all over with us.”

“I mean to go every day,” said he, “to see if anything comes to pass;” and so he did.

A long time went by, but at last he saw a green stalk shooting up out of the deep, marshy ground. As it reached the surface of the marsh, a leaf spread out, and unfolded itself broader and broader, and close to it came forth a bud.

One morning, when the stork-papa was flying over the stem, he saw that the power of the sun’s rays had caused the bud to open, and in the cup of the flower lay a charming child—a little maiden, looking as if she had just come out of a bath. The little one was so like the Egyptian princess, that the stork, at the first moment, thought it must be the princess herself, but after a little reflection he decided that it was much more likely to be the daughter of the princess and the Marsh King; and this explained also her being placed in the cup of a water-lily. “But she cannot be left to lie here,” thought the stork, “and in my nest there are already so many. But stay, I have thought of something: the wife of the Viking has no children, and how often she has wished for a little one. People always say the stork brings the little ones; I will do so in earnest this time. I shall fly with the child to the Viking’s wife; what rejoicing there will be!”

And then the stork lifted the little girl out of the flower-cup, flew to the castle, picked a hole with his beak in the bladder-covered, window, and laid the beautiful child in the bosom of the Viking’s wife. Then he flew back quickly to the stork-mamma and told her what he had seen and done; and the little storks listened to it all, for they were then quite old enough to do so. “So you see,” he continued, “that the princess is not dead, for she must have sent her little one up here; and now I have found a home for her.”

“Ah, I said it would be so from the first,” replied the stork-mamma; “but now think a little of your own family. Our travelling time draws near, and I sometimes feel a little irritation already under the wings. The cuckoos and the nightingale are already gone, and I heard the quails say they should go too as soon as the wind was favorable. Our youngsters will go through all the manoeuvres at the review very well, or I am much mistaken in them.”

The Viking’s wife was above measure delighted when she awoke the next morning and found the beautiful little child lying in her bosom. She kissed it and caressed it; but it cried terribly, and struck out with its arms and legs, and did not seem to be pleased at all. At last it cried itself to sleep; and as it lay there so still and quiet, it was a most beautiful sight to see. The Viking’s wife was so delighted, that body and soul were full of joy. Her heart felt so light within her, that it seemed as if her husband and his soldiers, who were absent, must come home as suddenly and unexpectedly as the little child had done. She and her whole household therefore busied themselves in preparing everything for the reception of her lord. The long, colored tapestry, on which she and her maidens had worked pictures of their idols, Odin, Thor, and Friga, was hung up. The slaves polished the old shields that served as ornaments; cushions were placed on the seats, and dry wood laid on the fireplaces in the centre of the hall, so that the flames might be fanned up at a moment’s notice. The Viking’s wife herself assisted in the work, so that at night she felt very tired, and quickly fell into a sound sleep. When she awoke, just before morning, she was terribly alarmed to find that the infant had vanished. She sprang from her couch, lighted a pine-chip, and searched all round the room, when, at last, in that part of the bed where her feet had been, lay, not the child, but a great, ugly frog. She was quite disgusted at this sight, and seized a heavy stick to kill the frog; but the creature looked at her with such strange, mournful eyes, that she was unable to strike the blow. Once more she searched round the room; then she started at hearing the frog utter a low, painful croak. She sprang from the couch and opened the window hastily; at the same moment the sun rose, and threw its beams through the window, till it rested on the couch where the great frog lay. Suddenly it appeared as if the frog’s broad mouth contracted, and became small and red. The limbs moved and stretched out and extended themselves till they took a beautiful shape; and behold there was the pretty child lying before her, and the ugly frog was gone. “How is this?” she cried, “have I had a wicked dream? Is it not my own lovely cherub that lies there.” Then she kissed it and fondled it; but the child struggled and fought, and bit as if she had been a little wild cat.

The Viking did not return on that day, nor the next; he was, however, on the way home; but the wind, so favorable to the storks, was against him; for it blew towards the south. A wind in favor of one is often against another.

After two or three days had passed, it became clear to the Viking’s wife how matters stood with the child; it was under the influence of a powerful sorcerer. By day it was charming in appearance as an angel of light, but with a temper wicked and wild; while at night, in the form of an ugly frog, it was quiet and mournful, with eyes full of sorrow. Here were two natures, changing inwardly and outwardly with the absence and return of sunlight. And so it happened that by day the child, with the actual form of its mother, possessed the fierce disposition of its father; at night, on the contrary, its outward appearance plainly showed its descent on the father’s side, while inwardly it had the heart and mind of its mother. Who would be able to loosen this wicked charm which the sorcerer had worked upon it? The wife of the Viking lived in constant pain and sorrow about it. Her heart clung to the little creature, but she could not explain to her husband the circumstances in which it was placed. He was expected to return shortly; and were she to tell him, he would very likely, as was the custom at that time, expose the poor child in the public highway, and let any one take it away who would. The good wife of the Viking could not let that happen, and she therefore resolved that the Viking should never see the child excepting by daylight.

One morning there sounded a rushing of storks’ wings over the roof. More than a hundred pair of storks had rested there during the night, to recover themselves after their excursion; and now they soared aloft, and prepared for the journey southward.

“All the husbands are here, and ready!” they cried; “wives and children also!”

“How light we are!” screamed the young storks in chorus. “Something pleasant seems creeping over us, even down to our toes, as if we were full of live frogs. Ah, how delightful it is to travel into foreign lands!”

“Hold yourselves properly in the line with us,” cried papa and mamma. “Do not use your beaks so much; it tries the lungs.” And then the storks flew away.

About the same time sounded the clang of the warriors’ trumpets across the heath. The Viking had landed with his men. They were returning home, richly laden with spoil from the Gallic coast, where the people, as did also the inhabitants of Britain, often cried in alarm, “Deliver us from the wild northmen.”

Life and noisy pleasure came with them into the castle of the Viking on the moorland. A great cask of mead was drawn into the hall, piles of wood blazed, cattle were slain and served up, that they might feast in reality, The priest who offered the sacrifice sprinkled the devoted parishioners with the warm blood; the fire crackled, and the smoke rolled along beneath the roof; the soot fell upon them from the beams; but they were used to all these things. Guests were invited, and received handsome presents. All wrongs and unfaithfulness were forgotten. They drank deeply, and threw in each other’s faces the bones that were left, which was looked upon as a sign of good feeling amongst them. A bard, who was a kind of musician as well as warrior, and who had been with the Viking in his expedition, and knew what to sing about, gave them one of his best songs, in which they heard all their warlike deeds praised, and every wonderful action brought forward with honor. Every verse ended with this refrain,—

“Gold and possessions will flee away,
Friends and foes must die one day;
Every man on earth must die,
But a famous name will never die.”
And with that they beat upon their shields, and hammered upon the table with knives and bones, in a most outrageous manner.
The Viking’s wife sat upon a raised cross seat in the open hall. She wore a silk dress, golden bracelets, and large amber beads. She was in costly attire, and the bard named her in his song, and spoke of the rich treasure of gold which she had brought to her husband. Her husband had already seen the wonderfully beautiful child in the daytime, and was delighted with her beauty; even her wild ways pleased him. He said the little maiden would grow up to be a heroine, with the strong will and determination of a man. She would never wink her eyes, even if, in joke, an expert hand should attempt to cut off her eye-brows with a sharp sword.

The full cask of mead soon became empty, and a fresh one was brought in; for these were people who liked plenty to eat and drink. The old proverb, which every one knows, says that “the cattle know when to leave their pasture, but a foolish man knows not the measure of his own appetite.” Yes, they all knew this; but men may know what is right, and yet often do wrong. They also knew “that even the welcome guest becomes wearisome when he sits too long in the house.” But there they remained; for pork and mead are good things. And so at the Viking’s house they stayed, and enjoyed themselves; and at night the bondmen slept in the ashes, and dipped their fingers in the fat, and licked them. Oh, it was a delightful time!

Once more in the same year the Viking went forth, though the storms of autumn had already commenced to roar. He went with his warriors to the coast of Britain; he said that it was but an excursion of pleasure across the water, so his wife remained at home with the little girl. After a while, it is quite certain the foster-mother began to love the poor frog, with its gentle eyes and its deep sighs, even better than the little beauty who bit and fought with all around her.

The heavy, damp mists of autumn, which destroy the leaves of the wood, had already fallen upon forest and heath. Feathers of plucked birds, as they call the snow, flew about in thick showers, and winter was coming. The sparrows took possession of the stork’s nest, and conversed about the absent owners in their own fashion; and they, the stork pair and all their young ones, where were they staying now? The storks might have been found in the land of Egypt, where the sun’s rays shone forth bright and warm, as it does here at midsummer. Tamarinds and acacias were in full bloom all over the country, the crescent of Mahomet glittered brightly from the cupolas of the mosques, and on the slender pinnacles sat many of the storks, resting after their long journey. Swarms of them took divided possession of the nests—nests which lay close to each other between the venerable columns, and crowded the arches of temples in forgotten cities. The date and the palm lifted themselves as a screen or as a sun-shade over them. The gray pyramids looked like broken shadows in the clear air and the far-off desert, where the ostrich wheels his rapid flight, and the lion, with his subtle eyes, gazes at the marble sphinx which lies half buried in sand. The waters of the Nile had retreated, and the whole bed of the river was covered with frogs, which was a most acceptable prospect for the stork families. The young storks thought their eyes deceived them, everything around appeared so beautiful.

“It is always like this here, and this is how we live in our warm country,” said the stork-mamma; and the thought made the young ones almost beside themselves with pleasure.

“Is there anything more to see?” they asked; “are we going farther into the country?”

“There is nothing further for us to see,” answered the stork-mamma. “Beyond this delightful region there are immense forests, where the branches of the trees entwine round each other, while prickly, creeping plants cover the paths, and only an elephant could force a passage for himself with his great feet. The snakes are too large, and the lizards too lively for us to catch. Then there is the desert; if you went there, your eyes would soon be full of sand with the lightest breeze, and if it should blow great guns, you would most likely find yourself in a sand-drift. Here is the best place for you, where there are frogs and locusts; here I shall remain, and so must you.” And so they stayed.

The parents sat in the nest on the slender minaret, and rested, yet still were busily employed in cleaning and smoothing their feathers, and in sharpening their beaks against their red stockings; then they would stretch out their necks, salute each other, and gravely raise their heads with the high-polished forehead, and soft, smooth feathers, while their brown eyes shone with intelligence. The female young ones strutted about amid the moist rushes, glancing at the other young storks and making acquaintances, and swallowing a frog at every third step, or tossing a little snake about with their beaks, in a way they considered very becoming, and besides it tasted very good. The young male storks soon began to quarrel; they struck at each other with their wings, and pecked with their beaks till the blood came. And in this manner many of the young ladies and gentlemen were betrothed to each other: it was, of course, what they wanted, and indeed what they lived for. Then they returned to a nest, and there the quarrelling began afresh; for in hot countries people are almost all violent and passionate. But for all that it was pleasant, especially for the old people, who watched them with great joy: all that their young ones did suited them. Every day here there was sunshine, plenty to eat, and nothing to think of but pleasure. But in the rich castle of their Egyptian host, as they called him, pleasure was not to be found. The rich and mighty lord of the castle lay on his couch, in the midst of the great hall, with its many colored walls looking like the centre of a great tulip; but he was stiff and powerless in all his limbs, and lay stretched out like a mummy. His family and servants stood round him; he was not dead, although he could scarcely be said to live. The healing moor-flower from the north, which was to have been found and brought to him by her who loved him so well, had not arrived. His young and beautiful daughter who, in swan’s plumage, had flown over land and seas to the distant north, had never returned. She is dead, so the two swan-maidens had said when they came home; and they made up quite a story about her, and this is what they told,—

“We three flew away together through the air,” said they: “a hunter caught sight of us, and shot at us with an arrow. The arrow struck our young friend and sister, and slowly singing her farewell song she sank down, a dying swan, into the forest lake. On the shores of the lake, under a spreading birch-tree, we laid her in the cold earth. We had our revenge; we bound fire under the wings of a swallow, who had a nest on the thatched roof of the huntsman. The house took fire, and burst into flames; the hunter was burnt with the house, and the light was reflected over the sea as far as the spreading birch, beneath which we laid her sleeping dust. She will never return to the land of Egypt.” And then they both wept. And stork-papa, who heard the story, snapped with his beak so that it might be heard a long way off.

“Deceit and lies!” cried he; “I should like to run my beak deep into their chests.”

“And perhaps break it off,” said the mamma stork, “then what a sight you would be. Think first of yourself, and then of your family; all others are nothing to us.”

“Yes, I know,” said the stork-papa; “but to-morrow I can easily place myself on the edge of the open cupola, when the learned and wise men assemble to consult on the state of the sick man; perhaps they may come a little nearer to the truth.” And the learned and wise men assembled together, and talked a great deal on every point; but the stork could make no sense out of anything they said; neither were there any good results from their consultations, either for the sick man, or for his daughter in the marshy heath. When we listen to what people say in this world, we shall hear a great deal; but it is an advantage to know what has been said and done before, when we listen to a conversation. The stork did, and we know at least as much as he, the stork.

“Love is a life-giver. The highest love produces the highest life. Only through love can the sick man be cured.” This had been said by many, and even the learned men acknowledged that it was a wise saying.

“What a beautiful thought!” exclaimed the papa stork immediately.

“I don’t quite understand it,” said the mamma stork, when her husband repeated it; “however, it is not my fault, but the fault of the thought; whatever it may be, I have something else to think of.”

Now the learned men had spoken also of love between this one and that one; of the difference of the love which we have for our neighbor, to the love that exists between parents and children; of the love of the plant for the light, and how the germ springs forth when the sunbeam kisses the ground. All these things were so elaborately and learnedly explained, that it was impossible for stork-papa to follow it, much less to talk about it. His thoughts on the subject quite weighed him down; he stood the whole of the following day on one leg, with half-shut eyes, thinking deeply. So much learning was quite a heavy weight for him to carry. One thing, however, the papa stork could understand. Every one, high and low, had from their inmost hearts expressed their opinion that it was a great misfortune for so many thousands of people—the whole country indeed—to have this man so sick, with no hopes of his recovery. And what joy and blessing it would spread around if he could by any means be cured! But where bloomed the flower that could bring him health? They had searched for it everywhere; in learned writings, in the shining stars, in the weather and wind. Inquiries had been made in every by-way that could be thought of, until at last the wise and learned men has asserted, as we have been already told, that “love, the life-giver, could alone give new life to a father;” and in saying this, they had overdone it, and said more than they understood themselves. They repeated it, and wrote it down as a recipe, “Love is a life-giver.” But how could such a recipe be prepared—that was a difficulty they could not overcome. At last it was decided that help could only come from the princess herself, whose whole soul was wrapped up in her father, especially as a plan had been adopted by her to enable her to obtain a remedy.

More than a year had passed since the princess had set out at night, when the light of the young moon was soon lost beneath the horizon. She had gone to the marble sphinx in the desert, shaking the sand from her sandals, and then passed through the long passage, which leads to the centre of one of the great pyramids, where the mighty kings of antiquity, surrounded with pomp and splendor, lie veiled in the form of mummies. She had been told by the wise men, that if she laid her head on the breast of one of them, from the head she would learn where to find life and recovery for her father. She had performed all this, and in a dream had learnt that she must bring home to her father the lotus flower, which grows in the deep sea, near the moors and heath in the Danish land. The very place and situation had been pointed out to her, and she was told that the flower would restore her father to health and strength. And, therefore, she had gone forth from the land of Egypt, flying over to the open marsh and the wild moor in the plumage of a swan.

The papa and mamma storks knew all this, and we also know it now. We know, too, that the Marsh King has drawn her down to himself, and that to the loved ones at home she is forever dead. One of the wisest of them said, as the stork-mamma also said, “That in some way she would, after all, manage to succeed;” and so at last they comforted themselves with this hope, and would wait patiently; in fact, they could do nothing better.

“I should like to get away the swan’s feathers from those two treacherous princesses,” said the papa stork; “then, at least, they would not be able to fly over again to the wild moor, and do more wickedness. I can hide the two suits of feathers over yonder, till we find some use for them.”

“But where will you put them?” asked the mamma stork.

“In our nest on the moor. I and the young ones will carry them by turns during our flight across; and as we return, should they prove too heavy for us, we shall be sure to find plenty of places on the way in which we can conceal them till our next journey. Certainly one suit of swan’s feathers would be enough for the princess, but two are always better. In those northern countries no one can have too many travelling wrappers.”

“No one will thank you for it,” said stork-mamma; “but you are master; and, excepting at breeding time, I have nothing to say.”

In the Viking’s castle on the wild moor, to which the storks directed their flight in the following spring, the little maiden still remained. They had named her Helga, which was rather too soft a name for a child with a temper like hers, although her form was still beautiful. Every month this temper showed itself in sharper outlines; and in the course of years, while the storks still made the same journeys in autumn to the hill, and in spring to the moors, the child grew to be almost a woman, and before any one seemed aware of it, she was a wonderfully beautiful maiden of sixteen. The casket was splendid, but the contents were worthless. She was, indeed, wild and savage even in those hard, uncultivated times. It was a pleasure to her to splash about with her white hands in the warm blood of the horse which had been slain for sacrifice. In one of her wild moods she bit off the head of the black cock, which the priest was about to slay for the sacrifice. To her foster-father she said one day, “If thine enemy were to pull down thine house about thy ears, and thou shouldest be sleeping in unconscious security, I would not wake thee; even if I had the power I would never do it, for my ears still tingle with the blow that thou gavest me years ago. I have never forgotten it.” But the Viking treated her words as a joke; he was, like every one else, bewitched with her beauty, and knew nothing of the change in the form and temper of Helga at night. Without a saddle, she would sit on a horse as if she were a part of it, while it rushed along at full speed; nor would she spring from its back, even when it quarrelled with other horses and bit them. She would often leap from the high shore into the sea with all her clothes on, and swim to meet the Viking, when his boat was steering home towards the shore. She once cut off a long lock of her beautiful hair, and twisted it into a string for her bow. “If a thing is to be done well,” said she, “I must do it myself.”

The Viking’s wife was, for the time in which she lived, a woman of strong character and will; but, compared to her daughter, she was a gentle, timid woman, and she knew that a wicked sorcerer had the terrible child in his power. It was sometimes as if Helga acted from sheer wickedness; for often when her mother stood on the threshold of the door, or stepped into the yard, she would seat herself on the brink of the well, wave her arms and legs in the air, and suddenly fall right in. Here she was able, from her frog nature, to dip and dive about in the water of the deep well, until at last she would climb forth like a cat, and come back into the hall dripping with water, so that the green leaves that were strewed on the floor were whirled round, and carried away by the streams that flowed from her.

But there was one time of the day which placed a check upon Helga. It was the evening twilight; when this hour arrived she became quiet and thoughtful, and allowed herself to be advised and led; then also a secret feeling seemed to draw her towards her mother. And as usual, when the sun set, and the transformation took place, both in body and mind, inwards and outwards, she would remain quiet and mournful, with her form shrunk together in the shape of a frog. Her body was much larger than those animals ever are, and on this account it was much more hideous in appearance; for she looked like a wretched dwarf, with a frog’s head, and webbed fingers. Her eyes had a most piteous expression; she was without a voice, excepting a hollow, croaking sound, like the smothered sobs of a dreaming child.

Then the Viking’s wife took her on her lap, and forgot the ugly form, as she looked into the mournful eyes, and often said, “I could wish that thou wouldst always remain my dumb frog child, for thou art too terrible when thou art clothed in a form of beauty.” And the Viking woman wrote Runic characters against sorcery and spells of sickness, and threw them over the wretched child; but they did no good.

“One can scarcely believe that she was ever small enough to lie in the cup of the water-lily,” said the papa stork; “and now she is grown up, and the image of her Egyptian mother, especially about the eyes. Ah, we shall never see her again; perhaps she has not discovered how to help herself, as you and the wise men said she would. Year after year have I flown across and across the moor, but there was no sign of her being still alive. Yes, and I may as well tell you that you that each year, when I arrived a few days before you to repair the nest, and put everything in its place, I have spent a whole night flying here and there over the marshy lake, as if I had been an owl or a bat, but all to no purpose. The two suit of swan’s plumage, which I and the young ones dragged over here from the land of the Nile, are of no use; trouble enough it was to us to bring them here in three journeys, and now they are lying at the bottom of the nest; and if a fire should happen to break out, and the wooden house be burnt down, they would be destroyed.”

“And our good nest would be destroyed, too,” said the mamma stork; “but you think less of that than of your plumage stuff and your moor-princess. Go and stay with her in the marsh if you like. You are a bad father to your own children, as I have told you already, when I hatched my first brood. I only hope neither we nor our children may have an arrow sent through our wings, owing to that wild girl. Helga does not know in the least what she is about. We have lived in this house longer than she has, she should think of that, and we have never forgotten our duty. We have paid every year our toll of a feather, an egg, and a young one, as it is only right we should do. You don’t suppose I can wander about the court-yard, or go everywhere as I used to do in old times. I can do it in Egypt, where I can be a companion of the people, without forgetting myself. But here I cannot go and peep into the pots and kettles as I do there. No, I can only sit up here and feel angry with that girl, the little wretch; and I am angry with you, too; you should have left her lying in the water lily, then no one would have known anything about her.”

“You are far better than your conversation,” said the papa stork; “I know you better than you know yourself.” And with that he gave a hop, and flapped his wings twice, proudly; then he stretched his neck and flew, or rather soared away, without moving his outspread wings. He went on for some distance, and then he gave a great flap with his wings and flew on his course at a rapid rate, his head and neck bending proudly before him, while the sun’s rays fell on his glossy plumage.

“He is the handsomest of them all,” said the mamma stork, as she watched him; “but I won’t tell him so.”

Early in the autumn, the Viking again returned home laden with spoil, and bringing prisoners with him. Among them was a young Christian priest, one of those who contemned the gods of the north. Often lately there had been, both in hall and chamber, a talk of the new faith which was spreading far and wide in the south, and which, through the means of the holy Ansgarius, had already reached as far as Hedeby on the Schlei. Even Helga had heard of this belief in the teachings of One who was named Christ, and who for the love of mankind, and for their redemption, had given up His life. But to her all this had, as it were, gone in one ear and out the other. It seemed that she only understood the meaning of the word “love,” when in the form of a miserable frog she crouched together in the corner of the sleeping chamber; but the Viking’s wife had listened to the wonderful story, and had felt herself strangely moved by it.

On their return, after this voyage, the men spoke of the beautiful temples built of polished stone, which had been raised for the public worship of this holy love. Some vessels, curiously formed of massive gold, had been brought home among the booty. There was a peculiar fragrance about them all, for they were incense vessels, which had been swung before the altars in the temples by the Christian priests. In the deep stony cellars of the castle, the young Christian priest was immured, and his hands and feet tied together with strips of bark. The Viking’s wife considered him as beautiful as Baldur, and his distress raised her pity; but Helga said he ought to have ropes fastened to his heels, and be tied to the tails of wild animals.

“I would let the dogs loose after him” she said; “over the moor and across the heath. Hurrah! that would be a spectacle for the gods, and better still to follow in its course.”

But the Viking would not allow him to die such a death as that, especially as he was the disowned and despiser of the high gods. In a few days, he had decided to have him offered as a sacrifice on the blood-stone in the grove. For the first time, a man was to be sacrificed here. Helga begged to be allowed to sprinkle the assembled people with the blood of the priest. She sharpened her glittering knife; and when one of the great, savage dogs, who were running about the Viking’s castle in great numbers, sprang towards her, she thrust the knife into his side, merely, as she said, to prove its sharpness.

The Viking’s wife looked at the wild, badly disposed girl, with great sorrow; and when night came on, and her daughter’s beautiful form and disposition were changed, she spoke in eloquent words to Helga of the sorrow and deep grief that was in her heart. The ugly frog, in its monstrous shape, stood before her, and raised its brown mournful eyes to her face, listening to her words, and seeming to understand them with the intelligence of a human being.

“Never once to my lord and husband has a word passed my lips of what I have to suffer through you; my heart is full of grief about you,” said the Viking’s wife. “The love of a mother is greater and more powerful than I ever imagined. But love never entered thy heart; it is cold and clammy, like the plants on the moor.”

Then the miserable form trembled; it was as if these words had touched an invisible bond between body and soul, for great tears stood in the eyes.

“A bitter time will come for thee at last,” continued the Viking’s wife; “and it will be terrible for me too. It had been better for thee if thou hadst been left on the high-road, with the cold night wind to lull thee to sleep.” And the Viking’s wife shed bitter tears, and went away in anger and sorrow, passing under the partition of furs, which hung loose over the beam and divided the hall.

The shrivelled frog still sat in the corner alone. Deep silence reigned around. At intervals, a half-stifled sigh was heard from its inmost soul; it was the soul of Helga. It seemed in pain, as if a new life were arising in her heart. Then she took a step forward and listened; then stepped again forward, and seized with her clumsy hands the heavy bar which was laid across the door. Gently, and with much trouble, she pushed back the bar, as silently lifted the latch, and then took up the glimmering lamp which stood in the ante-chamber of the hall. It seemed as if a stronger will than her own gave her strength. She removed the iron bolt from the closed cellar-door, and slipped in to the prisoner. He was slumbering. She touched him with her cold, moist hand, and as he awoke and caught sight of the hideous form, he shuddered as if he beheld a wicked apparition. She drew her knife, cut through the bonds which confined his hands and feet, and beckoned to him to follow her. He uttered some holy names and made the sign of the cross, while the form remained motionless by his side.

“Who art thou?” he asked, “whose outward appearance is that of an animal, while thou willingly performest acts of mercy?”

The frog-figure beckoned to him to follow her, and led him through a long gallery concealed by hanging drapery to the stables, and then pointed to a horse. He mounted upon it, and she sprang up also before him, and held tightly by the animal’s mane. The prisoner understood her, and they rode on at a rapid trot, by a road which he would never have found by himself, across the open heath. He forgot her ugly form, and only thought how the mercy and loving-kindness of the Almighty was acting through this hideous apparition. As he offered pious prayers and sang holy songs of praise, she trembled. Was it the effect of prayer and praise that caused this? or, was she shuddering in the cold morning air at the thought of approaching twilight? What were her feelings? She raised herself up, and wanted to stop the horse and spring off, but the Christian priest held her back with all his might, and then sang a pious song, as if this could loosen the wicked charm that had changed her into the semblance of a frog.

And the horse galloped on more wildly than before. The sky painted itself red, the first sunbeam pierced through the clouds, and in the clear flood of sunlight the frog became changed. It was Helga again, young and beautiful, but with a wicked demoniac spirit. He held now a beautiful young woman in his arms, and he was horrified at the sight. He stopped the horse, and sprang from its back. He imagined that some new sorcery was at work. But Helga also leaped from the horse and stood on the ground. The child’s short garment reached only to her knee. She snatched the sharp knife from her girdle, and rushed like lightning at the astonished priest. “Let me get at thee!” she cried; “let me get at thee, that I may plunge this knife into thy body. Thou art pale as ashes, thou beardless slave.” She pressed in upon him. They struggled with each other in heavy combat, but it was as if an invisible power had been given to the Christian in the struggle. He held her fast, and the old oak under which they stood seemed to help him, for the loosened roots on the ground became entangled in the maiden’s feet, and held them fast. Close by rose a bubbling spring, and he sprinkled Helga’s face and neck with the water, commanded the unclean spirit to come forth, and pronounced upon her a Christian blessing. But the water of faith has no power unless the well-spring of faith flows within. And yet even here its power was shown; something more than the mere strength of a man opposed itself, through his means, against the evil which struggled within her. His holy action seemed to overpower her. She dropped her arms, glanced at him with pale cheeks and looks of amazement. He appeared to her a mighty magician skilled in secret arts; his language was the darkest magic to her, and the movements of his hands in the air were as the secret signs of a magician’s wand. She would not have blinked had he waved over her head a sharp knife or a glittering axe; but she shrunk from him as he signed her with the sign of the cross on her forehead and breast, and sat before him like a tame bird, with her head bowed down. Then he spoke to her, in gentle words, of the deed of love she had performed for him during the night, when she had come to him in the form of an ugly frog, to loosen his bonds, and to lead him forth to life and light; and he told her that she was bound in closer fetters than he had been, and that she could recover also life and light by his means. He would take her to Hedeby2 to St. Ansgarius, and there, in that Christian town, the spell of the sorcerer would be removed. But he would not let her sit before him on the horse, though of her own free will she wished to do so. “Thou must sit behind me, not before me,” said he. “Thy magic beauty has a magic power which comes from an evil origin, and I fear it; still I am sure to overcome through my faith in Christ.” Then he knelt down, and prayed with pious fervor. It was as if the quiet woodland were a holy church consecrated by his worship. The birds sang as if they were also of this new congregation; and the fragrance of the wild flowers was as the ambrosial perfume of incense; while, above all, sounded the words of Scripture, “A light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide their feet into the way of peace.” And he spoke these words with the deep longing of his whole nature.

Meanwhile, the horse that had carried them in wild career stood quietly by, plucking at the tall bramble-bushes, till the ripe young berries fell down upon Helga’s hands, as if inviting her to eat. Patiently she allowed herself to be lifted on the horse, and sat there like a somnambulist—as one who walked in his sleep. The Christian bound two branches together with bark, in the form of a cross, and held it on high as they rode through the forest. The way gradually grew thicker of brushwood, as they rode along, till at last it became a trackless wilderness. Bushes of the wild sloe here and there blocked up the path, so that they had to ride over them. The bubbling spring formed not a stream, but a marsh, round which also they were obliged to guide the horse; still there were strength and refreshment in the cool forest breeze, and no trifling power in the gentle words spoken in faith and Christian love by the young priest, whose inmost heart yearned to lead this poor lost one into the way of light and life. It is said that rain-drops can make a hollow in the hardest stone, and the waves of the sea can smooth and round the rough edges of the rocks; so did the dew of mercy fall upon Helga, softening what was hard, and smoothing what was rough in her character. These effects did not yet appear; she was not herself aware of them; neither does the seed in the lap of earth know, when the refreshing dew and the warm sunbeams fall upon it, that it contains within itself power by which it will flourish and bloom. The song of the mother sinks into the heart of the child, and the little one prattles the words after her, without understanding their meaning; but after a time the thoughts expand, and what has been heard in childhood seems to the mind clear and bright. So now the “Word,” which is all-powerful to create, was working in the heart of Helga.

They rode forth from the thick forest, crossed the heath, and again entered a pathless wood. Here, towards evening, they met with robbers.

“Where hast thou stolen that beauteous maiden?” cried the robbers, seizing the horse by the bridle, and dragging the two riders from its back.

The priest had nothing to defend himself with, but the knife he had taken from Helga, and with this he struck out right and left. One of the robbers raised his axe against him; but the young priest sprang on one side, and avoided the blow, which fell with great force on the horse’s neck, so that the blood gushed forth, and the animal sunk to the ground. Then Helga seemed suddenly to awake from her long, deep reverie; she threw herself hastily upon the dying animal. The priest placed himself before her, to defend and shelter her; but one of the robbers swung his iron axe against the Christian’s head with such force that it was dashed to pieces, the blood and brains were scattered about, and he fell dead upon the ground. Then the robbers seized beautiful Helga by her white arms and slender waist; but at that moment the sun went down, and as its last ray disappeared, she was changed into the form of a frog. A greenish white mouth spread half over her face; her arms became thin and slimy; while broad hands, with webbed fingers, spread themselves out like fans. Then the robbers, in terror, let her go, and she stood among them, a hideous monster; and as is the nature of frogs to do, she hopped up as high as her own size, and disappeared in the thicket. Then the robbers knew that this must be the work of an evil spirit or some secret sorcery, and, in a terrible fright, they ran hastily from the spot.

The full moon had already risen, and was shining in all her radiant splendor over the earth, when from the thicket, in the form of a frog, crept poor Helga. She stood still by the corpse of the Christian priest, and the carcase of the dead horse. She looked at them with eyes that seemed to weep, and from the frog’s head came forth a croaking sound, as when a child bursts into tears. She threw herself first upon one, and then upon the other; brought water in her hand, which, from being webbed, was large and hollow, and poured it over them; but they were dead, and dead they would remain. She understood that at last. Soon wild animals would come and tear their dead bodies; but no, that must not happen. Then she dug up the earth, as deep as she was able, that she might prepare a grave for them. She had nothing but a branch of a tree and her two hands, between the fingers of which the webbed skin stretched, and they were torn by the work, while the blood ran down her hands. She saw at last that her work would be useless, more than she could accomplish; so she fetched more water, and washed the face of the dead, and then covered it with fresh green leaves; she also brought large boughs and spread over him, and scattered dried leaves between the branches. Then she brought the heaviest stones that she could carry, and laid them over the dead body, filling up the crevices with moss, till she thought she had fenced in his resting-place strongly enough. The difficult task had employed her the whole night; and as the sun broke forth, there stood the beautiful Helga in all her loveliness, with her bleeding hands, and, for the first time, with tears on her maiden cheeks. It was, in this transformation, as if two natures were striving together within her; her whole frame trembled, and she looked around her as if she had just awoke from a painful dream. She leaned for support against the trunk of a slender tree, and at last climbed to the topmost branches, like a cat, and seated herself firmly upon them. She remained there the whole day, sitting alone, like a frightened squirrel, in the silent solitude of the wood, where the rest and stillness is as the calm of death.

Butterflies fluttered around her, and close by were several ant-hills, each with its hundreds of busy little creatures moving quickly to and fro. In the air, danced myriads of gnats, swarm upon swarm, troops of buzzing flies, ladybirds, dragon-flies with golden wings, and other little winged creatures. The worm crawled forth from the moist ground, and the moles crept out; but, excepting these, all around had the stillness of death: but when people say this, they do not quite understand themselves what they mean. None noticed Helga but a flock of magpies, which flew chattering round the top of the tree on which she sat. These birds hopped close to her on the branches with bold curiosity. A glance from her eyes was a signal to frighten them away, and they were not clever enough to find out who she was; indeed she hardly knew herself.

When the sun was near setting, and the evening’s twilight about to commence, the approaching transformation aroused her to fresh exertion. She let herself down gently from the tree, and, as the last sunbeam vanished, she stood again in the wrinkled form of a frog, with the torn, webbed skin on her hands, but her eyes now gleamed with more radiant beauty than they had ever possessed in her most beautiful form of loveliness; they were now pure, mild maidenly eyes that shone forth in the face of a frog. They showed the existence of deep feeling and a human heart, and the beauteous eyes overflowed with tears, weeping precious drops that lightened the heart.

On the raised mound which she had made as a grave for the dead priest, she found the cross made of the branches of a tree, the last work of him who now lay dead and cold beneath it. A sudden thought came to Helga, and she lifted up the cross and planted it upon the grave, between the stones that covered him and the dead horse. The sad recollection brought the tears to her eyes, and in this gentle spirit she traced the same sign in the sand round the grave; and as she formed, with both her hands, the sign of the cross, the web skin fell from them like a torn glove. She washed her hands in the water of the spring, and gazed with astonishment at their delicate whiteness. Again she made the holy sign in the air, between herself and the dead man; her lips trembled, her tongue moved, and the name which she in her ride through the forest had so often heard spoken, rose to her lips, and she uttered the words, “Jesus Christ.” Then the frog skin fell from her; she was once more a lovely maiden. Her head bent wearily, her tired limbs required rest, and then she slept.

Her sleep, however, was short. Towards midnight, she awoke; before her stood the dead horse, prancing and full of life, which shone forth from his eyes and from his wounded neck. Close by his side appeared the murdered Christian priest, more beautiful than Baldur, as the Viking’s wife had said; but now he came as if in a flame of fire. Such gravity, such stern justice, such a piercing glance shone from his large, gentle eyes, that it seemed to penetrate into every corner of her heart. Beautiful Helga trembled at the look, and her memory returned with a power as if it had been the day of judgment. Every good deed that had been done for her, every loving word that had been said, were vividly before her mind. She understood now that love had kept her here during the day of her trial; while the creature formed of dust and clay, soul and spirit, had wrestled and struggled with evil. She acknowledged that she had only followed the impulses of an evil disposition, that she had done nothing to cure herself; everything had been given her, and all had happened as it were by the ordination of Providence. She bowed herself humbly, confessed her great imperfections in the sight of Him who can read every fault of the heart, and then the priest spoke. “Daughter of the moorland, thou hast come from the swamp and the marshy earth, but from this thou shalt arise. The sunlight shining into thy inmost soul proves the origin from which thou hast really sprung, and has restored the body to its natural form. I am come to thee from the land of the dead, and thou also must pass through the valley to reach the holy mountains where mercy and perfection dwell. I cannot lead thee to Hedeby that thou mayst receive Christian baptism, for first thou must remove the thick veil with which the waters of the moorland are shrouded, and bring forth from its depths the living author of thy being and thy life. Till this is done, thou canst not receive consecration.”

Then he lifted her on the horse and gave her a golden censer, similar to those she had already seen at the Viking’s house. A sweet perfume arose from it, while the open wound in the forehead of the slain priest, shone with the rays of a diamond. He took the cross from the grave, and held it aloft, and now they rode through the air over the rustling trees, over the hills where warriors lay buried each by his dead war-horse; and the brazen monumental figures rose up and galloped forth, and stationed themselves on the summits of the hills. The golden crescent on their foreheads, fastened with golden knots, glittered in the moonlight, and their mantles floated in the wind. The dragon, that guards buried treasure, lifted his head and gazed after them. The goblins and the satyrs peeped out from beneath the hills, and flitted to and fro in the fields, waving blue, red, and green torches, like the glowing sparks in burning paper. Over woodland and heath, flood and fen, they flew on, till they reached the wild moor, over which they hovered in broad circles. The Christian priest held the cross aloft, and it glittered like gold, while from his lips sounded pious prayers. Beautiful Helga’s voice joined with his in the hymns he sung, as a child joins in her mother’s song. She swung the censer, and a wonderful fragrance of incense arose from it; so powerful, that the reeds and rushes of the moor burst forth into blossom. Each germ came forth from the deep ground: all that had life raised itself. Blooming water-lilies spread themselves forth like a carpet of wrought flowers, and upon them lay a slumbering woman, young and beautiful. Helga fancied that it was her own image she saw reflected in the still water. But it was her mother she beheld, the wife of the Marsh King, the princess from the land of the Nile.

The dead Christian priest desired that the sleeping woman should be lifted on the horse, but the horse sank beneath the load, as if he had been a funeral pall fluttering in the wind. But the sign of the cross made the airy phantom strong, and then the three rode away from the marsh to firm ground.

At the same moment the cock crew in the Viking’s castle, and the dream figures dissolved and floated away in the air, but mother and daughter stood opposite to each other.

“Am I looking at my own image in the deep water?” said the mother.

“Is it myself that I see represented on a white shield?” cried the daughter.

Then they came nearer to each other in a fond embrace. The mother’s heart beat quickly, and she understood the quickened pulses. “My child!” she exclaimed, “the flower of my heart—my lotus flower of the deep water!” and she embraced her child again and wept, and the tears were as a baptism of new life and love for Helga. “In swan’s plumage I came here,” said the mother, “and here I threw off my feather dress. Then I sank down through the wavering ground, deep into the marsh beneath, which closed like a wall around me; I found myself after a while in fresher water; still a power drew me down deeper and deeper. I felt the weight of sleep upon my eyelids. Then I slept, and dreams hovered round me. It seemed to me as if I were again in the pyramids of Egypt, and yet the waving elder trunk that had frightened me on the moor stood ever before me. I observed the clefts and wrinkles in the stem; they shone forth in strange colors, and took the form of hieroglyphics. It was the mummy case on which I gazed. At last it burst, and forth stepped the thousand years’ old king, the mummy form, black as pitch, black as the shining wood-snail, or the slimy mud of the swamp. Whether it was really the mummy or the Marsh King I know not. He seized me in his arms, and I felt as if I must die. When I recovered myself, I found in my bosom a little bird, flapping its wings, twittering and fluttering. The bird flew away from my bosom, upwards towards the dark, heavy canopy above me, but a long, green band kept it fastened to me. I heard and understood the tenor of its longings. Freedom! sunlight! to my father! Then I thought of my father, and the sunny land of my birth, my life, and my love. Then I loosened the band, and let the bird fly away to its home—to a father. Since that hour I have ceased to dream; my sleep has been long and heavy, till in this very hour, harmony and fragrance awoke me, and set me free.”

The green band which fastened the wings of the bird to the mother’s heart, where did it flutter now? whither had it been wafted? The stork only had seen it. The band was the green stalk, the cup of the flower the cradle in which lay the child, that now in blooming beauty had been folded to the mother’s heart.

And while the two were resting in each other’s arms, the old stork flew round and round them in narrowing circles, till at length he flew away swiftly to his nest, and fetched away the two suits of swan’s feathers, which he had preserved there for many years. Then he returned to the mother and daughter, and threw the swan’s plumage over them; the feathers immediately closed around them, and they rose up from the earth in the form of two white swans.

“And now we can converse with pleasure,” said the stork-papa; “we can understand one another, although the beaks of birds are so different in shape. It is very fortunate that you came to-night. To-morrow we should have been gone. The mother, myself and the little ones, we’re about to fly to the south. Look at me now: I am an old friend from the Nile, and a mother’s heart contains more than her beak. She always said that the princess would know how to help herself. I and the young ones carried the swan’s feathers over here, and I am glad of it now, and how lucky it is that I am here still. When the day dawns we shall start with a great company of other storks. We’ll fly first, and you can follow in our track, so that you cannot miss your way. I and the young ones will have an eye upon you.”

“And the lotus-flower which I was to take with me,” said the Egyptian princess, “is flying here by my side, clothed in swan’s feathers. The flower of my heart will travel with me; and so the riddle is solved. Now for home! now for home!”

But Helga said she could not leave the Danish land without once more seeing her foster-mother, the loving wife of the Viking. Each pleasing recollection, each kind word, every tear from the heart which her foster-mother had wept for her, rose in her mind, and at that moment she felt as if she loved this mother the best.

“Yes, we must go to the Viking’s castle,” said the stork; “mother and the young ones are waiting for me there. How they will open their eyes and flap their wings! My wife, you see, does not say much; she is short and abrupt in her manner; but she means well, for all that. I will flap my wings at once, that they may hear us coming.” Then stork-papa flapped his wings in first-rate style, and he and the swans flew away to the Viking’s castle.

In the castle, every one was in a deep sleep. It had been late in the evening before the Viking’s wife retired to rest. She was anxious about Helga, who, three days before, had vanished with the Christian priest. Helga must have helped him in his flight, for it was her horse that was missed from the stable; but by what power had all this been accomplished? The Viking’s wife thought of it with wonder, thought on the miracles which they said could be performed by those who believed in the Christian faith, and followed its teachings. These passing thoughts formed themselves into a vivid dream, and it seemed to her that she was still lying awake on her couch, while without darkness reigned. A storm arose; she heard the lake dashing and rolling from east and west, like the waves of the North Sea or the Cattegat. The monstrous snake which, it is said, surrounds the earth in the depths of the ocean, was trembling in spasmodic convulsions. The night of the fall of the gods was come, “Ragnorock,” as the heathens call the judgment-day, when everything shall pass away, even the high gods themselves. The war trumpet sounded; riding upon the rainbow, came the gods, clad in steel, to fight their last battle on the last battle-field. Before them flew the winged vampires, and the dead warriors closed up the train. The whole firmament was ablaze with the northern lights, and yet the darkness triumphed. It was a terrible hour. And, close to the terrified woman, Helga seemed to be seated on the floor, in the hideous form of a frog, yet trembling, and clinging to her foster-mother, who took her on her lap, and lovingly caressed her, hideous and frog-like as she was. The air was filled with the clashing of arms and the hissing of arrows, as if a storm of hail was descending upon the earth. It seemed to her the hour when earth and sky would burst asunder, and all things be swallowed up in Saturn’s fiery lake; but she knew that a new heaven and a new earth would arise, and that corn-fields would wave where now the lake rolled over desolate sands, and the ineffable God reign. Then she saw rising from the region of the dead, Baldur the gentle, the loving, and as the Viking’s wife gazed upon him, she recognized his countenance. It was the captive Christian priest. “White Christian!” she exclaimed aloud, and with the words, she pressed a kiss on the forehead of the hideous frog-child. Then the frog-skin fell off, and Helga stood before her in all her beauty, more lovely and gentle-looking, and with eyes beaming with love. She kissed the hands of her foster-mother, blessed her for all her fostering love and care during the days of her trial and misery, for the thoughts she had suggested and awoke in her heart, and for naming the Name which she now repeated. Then beautiful Helga rose as a mighty swan, and spread her wings with the rushing sound of troops of birds of passage flying through the air.

Then the Viking’s wife awoke, but she still heard the rushing sound without. She knew it was the time for the storks to depart, and that it must be their wings which she heard. She felt she should like to see them once more, and bid them farewell. She rose from her couch, stepped out on the threshold, and beheld, on the ridge of the roof, a party of storks ranged side by side. Troops of the birds were flying in circles over the castle and the highest trees; but just before her, as she stood on the threshold and close to the well where Helga had so often sat and alarmed her with her wildness, now stood two swans, gazing at her with intelligent eyes. Then she remembered her dream, which still appeared to her as a reality. She thought of Helga in the form of a swan. She thought of a Christian priest, and suddenly a wonderful joy arose in her heart. The swans flapped their wings and arched their necks as if to offer her a greeting, and the Viking’s wife spread out her arms towards them, as if she accepted it, and smiled through her tears. She was roused from deep thought by a rustling of wings and snapping of beaks; all the storks arose, and started on their journey towards the south.

“We will not wait for the swans,” said the mamma stork; “if they want to go with us, let them come now; we can’t sit here till the plovers start. It is a fine thing after all to travel in families, not like the finches and the partridges. There the male and the female birds fly in separate flocks, which, to speak candidly, I consider very unbecoming.”

“What are those swans flapping their wings for?”

“Well, every one flies in his own fashion,” said the papa stork. “The swans fly in an oblique line; the cranes, in the form of a triangle; and the plovers, in a curved line like a snake.”

“Don’t talk about snakes while we are flying up here,” said stork-mamma. “It puts ideas into the children’s heads that can not be realized.”

“Are those the high mountains I have heard spoken of?” asked Helga, in the swan’s plumage.

“They are storm-clouds driving along beneath us,” replied her mother.

“What are yonder white clouds that rise so high?” again inquired Helga.

“Those are mountains covered with perpetual snows, that you see yonder,” said her mother. And then they flew across the Alps towards the blue Mediterranean.

“Africa’s land! Egyptia’s strand!” sang the daughter of the Nile, in her swan’s plumage, as from the upper air she caught sight of her native land, a narrow, golden, wavy strip on the shores of the Nile; the other birds espied it also and hastened their flight.

“I can smell the Nile mud and the wet frogs,” said the stork-mamma, “and I begin to feel quite hungry. Yes, now you shall taste something nice, and you will see the marabout bird, and the ibis, and the crane. They all belong to our family, but they are not nearly so handsome as we are. They give themselves great airs, especially the ibis. The Egyptians have spoilt him. They make a mummy of him, and stuff him with spices. I would rather be stuffed with live frogs, and so would you, and so you shall. Better have something in your inside while you are alive, than to be made a parade of after you are dead. That is my opinion, and I am always right.”

“The storks are come,” was said in the great house on the banks of the Nile, where the lord lay in the hall on his downy cushions, covered with a leopard skin, scarcely alive, yet not dead, waiting and hoping for the lotus-flower from the deep moorland in the far north. Relatives and servants were standing by his couch, when the two beautiful swans who had come with the storks flew into the hall. They threw off their soft white plumage, and two lovely female forms approached the pale, sick old man, and threw back their long hair, and when Helga bent over her grandfather, redness came back to his cheeks, his eyes brightened, and life returned to his benumbed limbs. The old man rose up with health and energy renewed; daughter and grandchild welcomed him as joyfully as if with a morning greeting after a long and troubled dream.

Joy reigned through the whole house, as well as in the stork’s nest; although there the chief cause was really the good food, especially the quantities of frogs, which seemed to spring out of the ground in swarms.

Then the learned men hastened to note down, in flying characters, the story of the two princesses, and spoke of the arrival of the health-giving flower as a mighty event, which had been a blessing to the house and the land. Meanwhile, the stork-papa told the story to his family in his own way; but not till they had eaten and were satisfied; otherwise they would have had something else to do than to listen to stories.

“Well,” said the stork-mamma, when she had heard it, “you will be made something of at last; I suppose they can do nothing less.”

“What could I be made?” said stork-papa; “what have I done?— just nothing.”

“You have done more than all the rest,” she replied. “But for you and the youngsters the two young princesses would never have seen Egypt again, and the recovery of the old man would not have been effected. You will become something. They must certainly give you a doctor’s hood, and our young ones will inherit it, and their children after them, and so on. You already look like an Egyptian doctor, at least in my eyes.”

“I cannot quite remember the words I heard when I listened on the roof,” said stork-papa, while relating the story to his family; “all I know is, that what the wise men said was so complicated and so learned, that they received not only rank, but presents; even the head cook at the great house was honored with a mark of distinction, most likely for the soup.”

“And what did you receive?” said the stork-mamma. “They certainly ought not to forget the most important person in the affair, as you really are. The learned men have done nothing at all but use their tongues. Surely they will not overlook you.”

Late in the night, while the gentle sleep of peace rested on the now happy house, there was still one watcher. It was not stork-papa, who, although he stood on guard on one leg, could sleep soundly. Helga alone was awake. She leaned over the balcony, gazing at the sparkling stars that shone clearer and brighter in the pure air than they had done in the north, and yet they were the same stars. She thought of the Viking’s wife in the wild moorland, of the gentle eyes of her foster-mother, and of the tears she had shed over the poor frog-child that now lived in splendor and starry beauty by the waters of the Nile, with air balmy and sweet as spring. She thought of the love that dwelt in the breast of the heathen woman, love that had been shown to a wretched creature, hateful as a human being, and hideous when in the form of an animal. She looked at the glittering stars, and thought of the radiance that had shone forth on the forehead of the dead man, as she had fled with him over the woodland and moor. Tones were awakened in her memory; words which she had heard him speak as they rode onward, when she was carried, wondering and trembling, through the air; words from the great Fountain of love, the highest love that embraces all the human race. What had not been won and achieved by this love?

Day and night beautiful Helga was absorbed in the contemplation of the great amount of her happiness, and lost herself in the contemplation, like a child who turns hurriedly from the giver to examine the beautiful gifts. She was over-powered with her good fortune, which seemed always increasing, and therefore what might it become in the future? Had she not been brought by a wonderful miracle to all this joy and happiness? And in these thoughts she indulged, until at last she thought no more of the Giver. It was the over-abundance of youthful spirits unfolding its wings for a daring flight. Her eyes sparkled with energy, when suddenly arose a loud noise in the court below, and the daring thought vanished. She looked down, and saw two large ostriches running round quickly in narrow circles; she had never seen these creatures before,—great, coarse, clumsy-looking birds with curious wings that looked as if they had been clipped, and the birds themselves had the appearance of having been roughly used. She inquired about them, and for the first time heard the legend which the Egyptians relate respecting the ostrich.

Once, say they, the ostriches were a beautiful and glorious race of birds, with large, strong wings. One evening the other large birds of the forest said to the ostrich, “Brother, shall we fly to the river to-morrow morning to drink, God willing?” and the ostrich answered, “I will.”

With the break of day, therefore, they commenced their flight; first rising high in the air, towards the sun, which is the eye of God; still higher and higher the ostrich flew, far above the other birds, proudly approaching the light, trusting in its own strength, and thinking not of the Giver, or saying, “if God will.” When suddenly the avenging angel drew back the veil from the flaming ocean of sunlight, and in a moment the wings of the proud bird were scorched and shrivelled, and they sunk miserably to the earth. Since that time the ostrich and his race have never been able to rise in the air; they can only fly terror-stricken along the ground, or run round and round in narrow circles. It is a warning to mankind, that in all our thoughts and schemes, and in every action we undertake, we should say, “if God will.”

Then Helga bowed her head thoughtfully and seriously, and looked at the circling ostrich, as with timid fear and simple pleasure it glanced at its own great shadow on the sunlit walls. And the story of the ostrich sunk deeply into the heart and mind of Helga: a life of happiness, both in the present and in the future, seemed secure for her, and what was yet to come might be the best of all, God willing.

Early in the spring, when the storks were again about to journey northward, beautiful Helga took off her golden bracelets, scratched her name on them, and beckoned to the stork-father. He came to her, and she placed the golden circlet round his neck, and begged him to deliver it safely to the Viking’s wife, so that she might know that her foster-daughter still lived, was happy, and had not forgotten her.

“It is rather heavy to carry,” thought stork-papa, when he had it on his neck; “but gold and honor are not to be flung into the street. The stork brings good fortune—they’ll be obliged to acknowledge that at last.”

“You lay gold, and I lay eggs,” said stork-mamma; “with you it is only once in a way, I lay eggs every year But no one appreciates what we do; I call it very mortifying.”

“But then we have a consciousness of our own worth, mother,” replied stork-papa.

“What good will that do you?” retorted stork-mamma; “it will neither bring you a fair wind, nor a good meal.”

“The little nightingale, who is singing yonder in the tamarind grove, will soon be going north, too.” Helga said she had often heard her singing on the wild moor, so she determined to send a message by her. While flying in the swan’s plumage she had learnt the bird language; she had often conversed with the stork and the swallow, and she knew that the nightingale would understand. So she begged the nightingale to fly to the beechwood, on the peninsula of Jutland, where a mound of stone and twigs had been raised to form the grave, and she begged the nightingale to persuade all the other little birds to build their nests round the place, so that evermore should resound over that grave music and song. And the nightingale flew away, and time flew away also.

In the autumn, an eagle, standing upon a pyramid, saw a stately train of richly laden camels, and men attired in armor on foaming Arabian steeds, whose glossy skins shone like silver, their nostrils were pink, and their thick, flowing manes hung almost to their slender legs. A royal prince of Arabia, handsome as a prince should be, and accompanied by distinguished guests, was on his way to the stately house, on the roof of which the storks’ empty nests might be seen. They were away now in the far north, but expected to return very soon. And, indeed, they returned on a day that was rich in joy and gladness.

A marriage was being celebrated, in which the beautiful Helga, glittering in silk and jewels, was the bride, and the bridegroom the young Arab prince. Bride and bridegroom sat at the upper end of the table, between the bride’s mother and grandfather. But her gaze was not on the bridegroom, with his manly, sunburnt face, round which curled a black beard, and whose dark fiery eyes were fixed upon her; but away from him, at a twinkling star, that shone down upon her from the sky. Then was heard the sound of rushing wings beating the air. The storks were coming home; and the old stork pair, although tired with the journey and requiring rest, did not fail to fly down at once to the balustrades of the verandah, for they knew already what feast was being celebrated. They had heard of it on the borders of the land, and also that Helga had caused their figures to be represented on the walls, for they belonged to her history.

“I call that very sensible and pretty,” said stork-papa.

“Yes, but it is very little,” said mamma stork; “they could not possibly have done less.”

But, when Helga saw them, she rose and went out into the verandah to stroke the backs of the storks. The old stork pair bowed their heads, and curved their necks, and even the youngest among the young ones felt honored by this reception.

Helga continued to gaze upon the glittering star, which seemed to glow brighter and purer in its light; then between herself and the star floated a form, purer than the air, and visible through it. It floated quite near to her, and she saw that it was the dead Christian priest, who also was coming to her wedding feast—coming from the heavenly kingdom.

“The glory and brightness, yonder, outshines all that is known on earth,” said he.

Then Helga the fair prayed more gently, and more earnestly, than she had ever prayed in her life before, that she might be permitted to gaze, if only for a single moment, at the glory and brightness of the heavenly kingdom. Then she felt herself lifted up, as it were, above the earth, through a sea of sound and thought; not only around her, but within her, was there light and song, such as words cannot express.

“Now we must return;” he said; “you will be missed.”

“Only one more look,” she begged; “but one short moment more.”

“We must return to earth; the guests will have all departed. Only one more look!—the last!”

Then Helga stood again in the verandah. But the marriage lamps in the festive hall had been all extinguished, and the torches outside had vanished. The storks were gone; not a guest could be seen; no bridegroom—all in those few short moments seemed to have died. Then a great dread fell upon her. She stepped from the verandah through the empty hall into the next chamber, where slept strange warriors. She opened a side door, which once led into her own apartment, but now, as she passed through, she found herself suddenly in a garden which she had never before seen here, the sky blushed red, it was the dawn of morning. Three minutes only in heaven, and a whole night on earth had passed away! Then she saw the storks, and called to them in their own language.

Then stork-papa turned his head towards here, listened to her words, and drew near. “You speak our language,” said he, “what do you wish? Why do you appear,—you—a strange woman?”

“It is I—it is Helga! Dost thou not know me? Three minutes ago we were speaking together yonder in the verandah.”

“That is a mistake,” said the stork, “you must have dreamed all this.”

“No, no,” she exclaimed. Then she reminded him of the Viking’s castle, of the great lake, and of the journey across the ocean.

Then stork-papa winked his eyes, and said, “Why that’s an old story which happened in the time of my grandfather. There certainly was a princess of that kind here in Egypt once, who came from the Danish land, but she vanished on the evening of her wedding day, many hundred years ago, and never came back. You may read about it yourself yonder, on a monument in the garden. There you will find swans and storks sculptured, and on the top is a figure of the princess Helga, in marble.”

And so it was; Helga understood it all now, and sank on her knees. The sun burst forth in all its glory, and, as in olden times, the form of the frog vanished in his beams, and the beautiful form stood forth in all its loveliness; so now, bathed in light, rose a beautiful form, purer, clearer than air—a ray of brightness—from the Source of light Himself. The body crumbled into dust, and a faded lotus-flower lay on the spot on which Helga had stood.

“Now that is a new ending to the story,” said stork-papa; “I really never expected it would end in this way, but it seems a very good ending.”

“And what will the young ones say to it, I wonder?” said stork-mamma.

“Ah, that is a very important question,” replied the stork.

 

The Philosopher’s Stone
 
FAR away towards the east, in India, which seemed in those days the world’s end, stood the Tree of the Sun; a noble tree, such as we have never seen, and perhaps never may see.

The summit of this tree spread itself for miles like an entire forest, each of its smaller branches forming a complete tree. Palms, beech-trees, pines, plane-trees, and various other kinds, which are found in all parts of the world, were here like small branches, shooting forth from the great tree; while the larger boughs, with their knots and curves, formed valleys and hills, clothed with velvety green and covered with flowers. Everywhere it was like a blooming meadow or a lovely garden. Here were birds from all quarters of the world assembled together; birds from the primeval forests of America, from the rose gardens of Damascus, and from the deserts of Africa, in which the elephant and the lion may boast of being the only rulers. Birds from the Polar regions came flying here, and of course the stork and the swallow were not absent. But the birds were not the only living creatures. There were stags, squirrels, antelopes, and hundreds of other beautiful and light-footed animals here found a home.

The summit of the tree was a wide-spreading garden, and in the midst of it, where the green boughs formed a kind of hill, stood a castle of crystal, with a view from it towards every quarter of heaven. Each tower was erected in the form of a lily, and within the stern was a winding staircase, through which one could ascend to the top and step out upon the leaves as upon balconies. The calyx of the flower itself formed a most beautiful, glittering, circular hall, above which no other roof arose than the blue firmament and the sun and stars.

Just as much splendor, but of another kind, appeared below, in the wide halls of the castle. Here, on the walls, were reflected pictures of the world, which represented numerous and varied scenes of everything that took place daily, so that it was useless to read the newspapers, and indeed there were none to be obtained in this spot. All was to be seen in living pictures by those who wished it, but all would have been too much for even the wisest man, and this man dwelt here. His name is very difficult; you would not be able to pronounce it, so it may be omitted. He knew everything that a man on earth can know or imagine. Every invention already in existence or yet to be, was known to him, and much more; still everything on earth has a limit. The wise king Solomon was not half so wise as this man. He could govern the powers of nature and held sway over potent spirits; even Death itself was obliged to give him every morning a list of those who were to die during the day. And King Solomon himself had to die at last, and this fact it was which so often occupied the thoughts of this great man in the castle on the Tree of the Sun. He knew that he also, however high he might tower above other men in wisdom, must one day die. He knew that his children would fade away like the leaves of the forest and become dust. He saw the human race wither and fall like leaves from the tree; he saw new men come to fill their places, but the leaves that fell off never sprouted forth again; they crumbled to dust or were absorbed into other plants.

“What happens to man,” asked the wise man of himself, “when touched by the angel of death? What can death be? The body decays, and the soul. Yes; what is the soul, and whither does it go?”

“To eternal life,” says the comforting voice of religion.

“But what is this change? Where and how shall we exist?”

“Above; in heaven,” answers the pious man; “it is there we hope to go.”

“Above!” repeated the wise man, fixing his eyes upon the moon and stars above him. He saw that to this earthly sphere above and below were constantly changing places, and that the position varied according to the spot on which a man found himself. He knew, also, that even if he ascended to the top of the highest mountain which rears its lofty summit on this earth, the air, which to us seems clear and transparent, would there be dark and cloudy; the sun would have a coppery glow and send forth no rays, and our earth would lie beneath him wrapped in an orange-colored mist. How narrow are the limits which confine the bodily sight, and how little can be seen by the eye of the soul. How little do the wisest among us know of that which is so important to us all.

In the most secret chamber of the castle lay the greatest treasure on earth—the Book of Truth. The wise man had read it through page after page. Every man may read in this book, but only in fragments. To many eyes the characters seem so mixed in confusion that the words cannot be distinguished. On certain pages the writing often appears so pale or so blurred that the page becomes a blank. The wiser a man becomes, the more he will read, and those who are wisest read most.

The wise man knew how to unite the sunlight and the moonlight with the light of reason and the hidden powers of nature; and through this stronger light, many things in the pages were made clear to him. But in the portion of the book entitled “Life after Death” not a single point could he see distinctly. This pained him. Should he never be able here on earth to obtain a light by which everything written in the Book of Truth should become clear to him? Like the wise King Solomon, he understood the language of animals, and could interpret their talk into song; but that made him none the wiser. He found out the nature of plants and metals, and their power in curing diseases and arresting death, but none to destroy death itself. In all created things within his reach he sought the light that should shine upon the certainty of an eternal life, but he found it not. The Book of Truth lay open before him, but, its pages were to him as blank paper. Christianity placed before him in the Bible a promise of eternal life, but he wanted to read it in his book, in which nothing on the subject appeared to be written.

He had five children; four sons, educated as the children of such a wise father should be, and a daughter, fair, gentle, and intelligent, but she was blind; yet this deprivation appeared as nothing to her; her father and brothers were outward eyes to her, and a vivid imagination made everything clear to her mental sight. The sons had never gone farther from the castle than the branches of the trees extended, and the sister had scarcely ever left home. They were happy children in that home of their childhood, the beautiful and fragrant Tree of the Sun. Like all children, they loved to hear stories related to them, and their father told them many things which other children would not have understood; but these were as clever as most grownup people are among us. He explained to them what they saw in the pictures of life on the castle walls—the doings of man, and the progress of events in all the lands of the earth; and the sons often expressed a wish that they could be present, and take a part in these great deeds. Then their father told them that in the world there was nothing but toil and difficulty: that it was not quite what it appeared to them, as they looked upon it in their beautiful home. He spoke to them of the true, the beautiful, and the good, and told them that these three held together in the world, and by that union they became crystallized into a precious jewel, clearer than a diamond of the first water—a jewel, whose splendor had a value even in the sight of God, in whose brightness all things are dim. This jewel was called the philosopher’s stone. He told them that, by searching, man could attain to a knowledge of the existence of God, and that it was in the power of every man to discover the certainty that such a jewel as the philosopher’s stone really existed. This information would have been beyond the perception of other children; but these children understood, and others will learn to comprehend its meaning after a time. They questioned their father about the true, the beautiful, and the good, and he explained it to them in many ways. He told them that God, when He made man out of the dust of the earth, touched His work five times, leaving five intense feelings, which we call the five senses. Through these, the true, the beautiful, and the good are seen, understood, and perceived, and through these they are valued, protected, and encouraged. Five senses have been given mentally and corporeally, inwardly and outwardly, to body and soul.

The children thought deeply on all these things, and meditated upon them day and night. Then the eldest of the brothers dreamt a splendid dream. Strange to say, not only the second brother but also the third and fourth brothers all dreamt exactly the same thing; namely, that each went out into the world to find the philosopher’s stone. Each dreamt that he found it, and that, as he rode back on his swift horse, in the morning dawn, over the velvety green meadows, to his home in the castle of his father, that the stone gleamed from his forehead like a beaming light; and threw such a bright radiance upon the pages of the Book of Truth that every word was illuminated which spoke of the life beyond the grave. But the sister had no dream of going out into the wide world; it never entered her mind. Her world was her father’s house.

“I shall ride forth into the wide world,” said the eldest brother. “I must try what life is like there, as I mix with men. I will practise only the good and true; with these I will protect the beautiful. Much shall be changed for the better while I am there.”

Now these thoughts were great and daring, as our thoughts generally are at home, before we have gone out into the world, and encountered its storms and tempests, its thorns and its thistles. In him, and in all his brothers, the five senses were highly cultivated, inwardly and outwardly; but each of them had one sense which in keenness and development surpassed the other four. In the case of the eldest, this pre-eminent sense was sight, which he hoped would be of special service. He had eyes for all times and all people; eyes that could discover in the depths of the earth hidden treasures, and look into the hearts of men, as through a pane of glass; he could read more than is often seen on the cheek that blushes or grows pale, in the eye that droops or smiles. Stags and antelopes accompanied him to the western boundary of his home, and there he found the wild swans. These he followed, and found himself far away in the north, far from the land of his father, which extended eastward to the ends of the earth. How he opened his eyes with astonishment! How many things were to be seen here! and so different to the mere representation of pictures such as those in his father’s house. At first he nearly lost his eyes in astonishment at the rubbish and mockery brought forward to represent the beautiful; but he kept his eyes, and soon found full employment for them. He wished to go thoroughly and honestly to work in his endeavor to understand the true, the beautiful, and the good. But how were they represented in the world? He observed that the wreath which rightly belonged to the beautiful was often given the hideous; that the good was often passed by unnoticed, while mediocrity was applauded, when it should have been hissed. People look at the dress, not at the wearer; thought more of a name than of doing their duty; and trusted more to reputation than to real service. It was everywhere the same.

“I see I must make a regular attack on these things,” said he; and he accordingly did not spare them. But while looking for the truth, came the evil one, the father of lies, to intercept him. Gladly would the fiend have plucked out the eyes of this Seer, but that would have been a too straightforward path for him; he works more cunningly. He allowed the young man to seek for, and discover, the beautiful and the good; but while he was contemplating them, the evil spirit blew one mote after another into each of his eyes; and such a proceeding would injure the strongest sight. Then he blew upon the motes, and they became beams, so that the clearness of his sight was gone, and the Seer was like a blind man in the world, and had no longer any faith in it. He had lost his good opinion of the world, as well as of himself; and when a man gives up the world, and himself too, it is all over with him.

“All over,” said the wild swan, who flew across the sea to the east.

“All over,” twittered the swallows, who were also flying eastward towards the Tree of the Sun. It was no good news which they carried home.

“I think the Seer has been badly served,” said the second brother, “but the Hearer may be more successful.”

This one possessed the sense of hearing to a very high degree: so acute was this sense, that it was said he could hear the grass grow. He took a fond leave of all at home, and rode away, provided with good abilities and good intentions. The swallows escorted him, and he followed the swans till he found himself out in the world, and far away from home. But he soon discovered that one may have too much of a good thing. His hearing was too fine. He not only heard the grass grow, but could hear every man’s heart beat, whether in sorrow or in joy. The whole world was to him like a clockmaker’s great workshop, in which all the clocks were going “tick, tick,” and all the turret clocks striking “ding, dong.” It was unbearable. For a long time his ears endured it, but at last all the noise and tumult became too much for one man to bear.

There were rascally boys of sixty years old—for years do not alone make a man—who raised a tumult, which might have made the Hearer laugh, but for the applause which followed, echoing through every street and house, and was even heard in country roads. Falsehood thrust itself forward and played the hypocrite; the bells on the fool’s cap jingled, and declared they were church-bells, and the noise became so bad for the Hearer that he thrust his fingers into his ears. Still, he could hear false notes and bad singing, gossip and idle words, scandal and slander, groaning and moaning, without and within. “Heaven help us!” He thrust his fingers farther and farther into his ears, till at last the drums burst. And now he could hear nothing more of the true, the beautiful, and the good; for his hearing was to have been the means by which he hoped to acquire his knowledge. He became silent and suspicious, and at last trusted no one, not even himself, and no longer hoping to find and bring home the costly jewel, he gave it up, and gave himself up too, which was worse than all.

The birds in their flight towards the east, carried the tidings, and the news reached the castle in the Tree of the Sun.

“I will try now,” said the third brother; “I have a keen nose.” Now that was not a very elegant expression, but it was his way, and we must take him as he was. He had a cheerful temper, and was, besides, a real poet; he could make many things appear poetical, by the way in which he spoke of them, and ideas struck him long before they occurred to the minds of others. “I can smell,” he would say; and he attributed to the sense of smelling, which he possessed in a high degree, a great power in the region of the beautiful. “I can smell,” he would say, “and many places are fragrant or beautiful according to the taste of the frequenters. One man feels at home in the atmosphere of the tavern, among the flaring tallow candles, and when the smell of spirits mingles with the fumes of bad tobacco. Another prefers sitting amidst the overpowering scent of jasmine, or perfuming himself with scented olive oil. This man seeks the fresh sea breeze, while that one climbs the lofty mountain-top, to look down upon the busy life in miniature beneath him.”

As he spoke in this way, it seemed as if he had already been out in the world, as if he had already known and associated with man. But this experience was intuitive—it was the poetry within him, a gift from Heaven bestowed on him in his cradle. He bade farewell to his parental roof in the Tree of the Sun, and departed on foot, from the pleasant scenes that surrounded his home. Arrived at its confines, he mounted on the back of an ostrich, which runs faster than a horse, and afterwards, when he fell in with the wild swans, he swung himself on the strongest of them, for he loved change, and away he flew over the sea to distant lands, where there were great forests, deep lakes, lofty mountains, and proud cities. Wherever he came it seemed as if sunshine travelled with him across the fields, for every flower, every bush, exhaled a renewed fragrance, as if conscious that a friend and protector was near; one who understood them, and knew their value. The stunted rose-bush shot forth twigs, unfolded its leaves, and bore the most beautiful roses; every one could see it, and even the black, slimy wood-snail noticed its beauty. “I will give my seal to the flower,” said the snail, “I have trailed my slime upon it, I can do no more.”

“Thus it always fares with the beautiful in this world,” said the poet. And he made a song upon it, and sung it after his own fashion, but nobody listened. Then he gave a drummer twopence and a peacock’s feather, and composed a song for the drum, and the drummer beat it through the streets of the town, and when the people heard it they said, “That is a capital tune.” The poet wrote many songs about the true, the beautiful, and the good. His songs were listened to in the tavern, where the tallow candles flared, in the fresh clover field, in the forest, and on the high-seas; and it appeared as if this brother was to be more fortunate than the other two.

But the evil spirit was angry at this, so he set to work with soot and incense, which he can mix so artfully as to confuse an angel, and how much more easily a poor poet. The evil one knew how to manage such people. He so completely surrounded the poet with incense that the man lost his head, forgot his mission and his home, and at last lost himself and vanished in smoke.

But when the little birds heard of it, they mourned, and for three days they sang not one song. The black wood-snail became blacker still; not for grief, but for envy. “They should have offered me incense,” he said, “for it was I who gave him the idea of the most famous of his songs—the drum song of ’The Way of the World;’ and it was I who spat at the rose; I can bring a witness to that fact.”

But no tidings of all this reached the poet’s home in India. The birds had all been silent for three days, and when the time of mourning was over, so deep had been their grief, that they had forgotten for whom they wept. Such is the way of the world.

“Now I must go out into the world, and disappear like the rest,” said the fourth brother. He was as good-tempered as the third, but no poet, though he could be witty.

The two eldest had filled the castle with joyfulness, and now the last brightness was going away. Sight and hearing have always been considered two of the chief senses among men, and those which they wish to keep bright; the other senses are looked upon as of less importance.

But the younger son had a different opinion; he had cultivated his taste in every way, and taste is very powerful. It rules over what goes into the mouth, as well as over all which is presented to the mind; and, consequently, this brother took upon himself to taste everything stored up in bottles or jars; this he called the rough part of his work. Every man’s mind was to him as a vessel in which something was concocting; every land a kind of mental kitchen. “There are no delicacies here,” he said; so he wished to go out into the world to find something delicate to suit his taste. “Perhaps fortune may be more favorable to me than it was to my brothers. I shall start on my travels, but what conveyance shall I choose? Are air balloons invented yet?” he asked of his father, who knew of all inventions that had been made, or would be made.

Air balloons had not then been invented, nor steam-ships, nor railways.

“Good,” said he; “then I shall choose an air balloon; my father knows how they are to be made and guided. Nobody has invented one yet, and the people will believe that it is an aerial phantom. When I have done with the balloon I shall burn it, and for this purpose, you must give me a few pieces of another invention, which will come next; I mean a few chemical matches.”

He obtained what he wanted, and flew away. The birds accompanied him farther than they had the other brothers. They were curious to know how this flight would end. Many more of them came swooping down; they thought it must be some new bird, and he soon had a goodly company of followers. They came in clouds till the air became darkened with birds as it was with the cloud of locusts over the land of Egypt.

And now he was out in the wide world. The balloon descended over one of the greatest cities, and the aeronaut took up his station at the highest point, on the church steeple. The balloon rose again into the air, which it ought not to have done; what became of it is not known, neither is it of any consequence, for balloons had not then been invented.

There he sat on the church steeple. The birds no longer hovered over him; they had got tired of him, and he was tired of them. All the chimneys in the town were smoking.

“There are altars erected to my honor,” said the wind, who wished to say something agreeable to him as he sat there boldly looking down upon the people in the street. There was one stepping along, proud of his purse; another, of the key he carried behind him, though he had nothing to lock up; another took a pride in his moth-eaten coat; and another, in his mortified body. “Vanity, all vanity!” he exclaimed. “I must go down there by-and-by, and touch and taste; but I shall sit here a little while longer, for the wind blows pleasantly at my back. I shall remain here as long as the wind blows, and enjoy a little rest. It is comfortable to sleep late in the morning when one had a great deal to do,” said the sluggard; “so I shall stop here as long as the wind blows, for it pleases me.”

And there he stayed. But as he was sitting on the weather-cock of the steeple, which kept turning round and round with him, he was under the false impression that the same wind still blew, and that he could stay where he was without expense.

But in India, in the castle on the Tree of the Sun, all was solitary and still, since the brothers had gone away one after the other.

“Nothing goes well with them,” said the father; “they will never bring the glittering jewel home, it is not made for me; they are all dead and gone.” Then he bent down over the Book of Truth, and gazed on the page on which he should have read of the life after death, but for him there was nothing to be read or learned upon it.

His blind daughter was his consolation and joy; she clung to him with sincere affection, and for the sake of his happiness and peace she wished the costly jewel could be found and brought home.

With longing tenderness she thought of her brothers. Where were they? Where did they live? How she wished she might dream of them; but it was strange that not even in dreams could she be brought near to them. But at last one night she dreamt that she heard the voices of her brothers calling to her from the distant world, and she could not refrain herself, but went out to them, and yet it seemed in her dream that she still remained in her father’s house. She did not see her brothers, but she felt as it were a fire burning in her hand, which, however, did not hurt her, for it was the jewel she was bringing to her father. When she awoke she thought for a moment that she still held the stone, but she only grasped the knob of her distaff.

During the long evenings she had spun constantly, and round the distaff were woven threads finer than the web of a spider; human eyes could never have distinguished these threads when separated from each other. But she had wetted them with her tears, and the twist was as strong as a cable. She rose with the impression that her dream must be a reality, and her resolution was taken.

It was still night, and her father slept; she pressed a kiss upon his hand, and then took her distaff and fastened the end of the thread to her father’s house. But for this, blind as she was, she would never have found her way home again; to this thread she must hold fast, and trust not to others or even to herself. From the Tree of the Sun she broke four leaves; which she gave up to the wind and the weather, that they might be carried to her brothers as letters and a greeting, in case she did not meet them in the wide world. Poor blind child, what would become of her in those distant regions? But she had the invisible thread, to which she could hold fast; and she possessed a gift which all the others lacked. This was a determination to throw herself entirely into whatever she undertook, and it made her feel as if she had eyes even at the tips of her fingers, and could hear down into her very heart. Quietly she went forth into the noisy, bustling, wonderful world, and wherever she went the skies grew bright, and she felt the warm sunbeam, and a rainbow above in the blue heavens seemed to span the dark world. She heard the song of the birds, and smelt the scent of the orange groves and apple orchards so strongly that she seemed to taste it. Soft tones and charming songs reached her ear, as well as harsh sounds and rough words—thoughts and opinions in strange contradiction to each other. Into the deepest recesses of her heart penetrated the echoes of human thoughts and feelings. Now she heard the following words sadly sung,—

“Life is a shadow that flits away
In a night of darkness and woe.”
But then would follow brighter thoughts:
“Life has the rose’s sweet perfume
With sunshine, light, and joy.”
And if one stanza sounded painfully—
“Each mortal thinks of himself alone,
Is a truth, alas, too clearly known;”
Then, on the other hand, came the answer—
“Love, like a mighty flowing stream,
Fills every heart with its radiant gleam.”
She heard, indeed, such words as these—
“In the pretty turmoil here below,
All is a vain and paltry show.”
Then came also words of comfort—
“Great and good are the actions done
By many whose worth is never known.”
And if sometimes the mocking strain reached her—
“Why not join in the jesting cry
That contemns all gifts from the throne on high?”
In the blind girl’s heart a stronger voice repeated—
“To trust in thyself and God is best,
In His holy will forever to rest.”

But the evil spirit could not see this and remain contented. He has more cleverness than ten thousand men, and he found means to compass his end. He betook himself to the marsh, and collected a few little bubbles of stagnant water. Then he uttered over them the echoes of lying words that they might become strong. He mixed up together songs of praise with lying epitaphs, as many as he could find, boiled them in tears shed by envy; put upon them rouge, which he had scraped from faded cheeks, and from these he produced a maiden, in form and appearance like the blind girl, the angel of completeness, as men called her. The evil one’s plot was successful. The world knew not which was the true, and indeed how should the world know?

“To trust in thyself and God is best,
In his Holy will forever to rest.”

So sung the blind girl in full faith. She had entrusted the four green leaves from the Tree of the Sun to the winds, as letters of greeting to her brothers, and she had full confidence that the leaves would reach them. She fully believed that the jewel which outshines all the glories of the world would yet be found, and that upon the forehead of humanity it would glitter even in the castle of her father. “Even in my father’s house,” she repeated. “Yes, the place in which this jewel is to be found is earth, and I shall bring more than the promise of it with me. I feel it glow and swell more and more in my closed hand. Every grain of truth which the keen wind carried up and whirled towards me I caught and treasured. I allowed it to be penetrated with the fragrance of the beautiful, of which there is so much in the world, even for the blind. I took the beatings of a heart engaged in a good action, and added them to my treasure. All that I can bring is but dust; still, it is a part of the jewel we seek, and there is plenty, my hand is quite full of it.”
She soon found herself again at home; carried thither in a flight of thought, never having loosened her hold of the invisible thread fastened to her father’s house. As she stretched out her hand to her father, the powers of evil dashed with the fury of a hurricane over the Tree of the Sun; a blast of wind rushed through the open doors, and into the sanctuary, where lay the Book of Truth.

“It will be blown to dust by the wind,” said the father, as he seized the open hand she held towards him.

“No,” she replied, with quiet confidence, “it is indestructible. I feel its beam warming my very soul.”

Then her father observed that a dazzling flame gleamed from the white page on which the shining dust had passed from her hand. It was there to prove the certainty of eternal life, and on the book glowed one shining word, and only one, the word BELIEVE. And soon the four brothers were again with the father and daughter. When the green leaf from home fell on the bosom of each, a longing had seized them to return. They had arrived, accompanied by the birds of passage, the stag, the antelope, and all the creatures of the forest who wished to take part in their joy.

We have often seen, when a sunbeam burst through a crack in the door into a dusty room, how a whirling column of dust seems to circle round. But this was not poor, insignificant, common dust, which the blind girl had brought; even the rainbow’s colors are dim when compared with the beauty which shone from the page on which it had fallen. The beaming word BELIEVE, from every grain of truth, had the brightness of the beautiful and the good, more bright than the mighty pillar of flame that led Moses and the children of Israel to the land of Canaan, and from the word BELIEVE arose the bridge of hope, reaching even to the unmeasurable Love in the realms of the infinite.

 

The Story of the Wind
 
NEAR the shores of the great Belt, which is one of the straits that connect the Cattegat with the Baltic, stands an old mansion with thick red walls. I know every stone of it,” says the Wind. “I saw it when it was part of the castle of Marck Stig on the promontory. But the castle was obliged to be pulled down, and the stone was used again for the walls of a new mansion on another spot—the baronial residence of Borreby, which still stands near the coast. I knew them well, those noble lords and ladies, the successive generations that dwelt there; and now I’m going to tell you of Waldemar Daa and his daughters. How proud was his bearing, for he was of royal blood, and could boast of more noble deeds than merely hunting the stag and emptying the wine-cup. His rule was despotic: ‘It shall be,’ he was accustomed to say. His wife, in garments embroidered with gold, stepped proudly over the polished marble floors. The tapestries were gorgeous, and the furniture of costly and artistic taste. She had brought gold and plate with her into the house. The cellars were full of wine. Black, fiery horses, neighed in the stables. There was a look of wealth about the house of Borreby at that time. They had three children, daughters, fair and delicate maidens—Ida, Joanna, and Anna Dorothea; I have never forgotten their names. They were a rich, noble family, born in affluence and nurtured in luxury.

“Whir-r-r, whir-r-r!” roared the Wind, and went on, “I did not see in this house, as in other great houses, the high-born lady sitting among her women, turning the spinning-wheel. She could sweep the sounding chords of the guitar, and sing to the music, not always Danish melodies, but the songs of a strange land. It was ‘Live and let live,’ here. Stranger guests came from far and near, music sounded, goblets clashed, and I,” said the Wind, “was not able to drown the noise. Ostentation, pride, splendor, and display ruled, but not the fear of the Lord.

”It was on the evening of the first day of May,” the Wind continued, “I came from the west, and had seen the ships overpowered with the waves, when all on board persisted or were cast shipwrecked on the coast of Jutland. I had hurried across the heath and over Jutland’s wood-girt eastern coast, and over the island of Funen, and then I drove across the great belt, sighing and moaning. At length I lay down to rest on the shores of Zeeland, near to the great house of Borreby, where the splendid forest of oaks still flourished. The young men of the neighborhood were collecting branches and brushwood under the oak-trees. The largest and dryest they could find they carried into the village, and piled them up in a heap and set them on fire. Then the men and maidens danced, and sung in a circle round the blazing pile. I lay quite quiet,” said the Wind, “but I silently touched a branch which had been brought by one of the handsomest of the young men, and the wood blazed up brightly, blazed brighter than all the rest. Then he was chosen as the chief, and received the name of the Shepherd; and might choose his lamb from among the maidens. There was greater mirth and rejoicing than I had ever heard in the halls of the rich baronial house. Then the noble lady drove by towards the baron’s mansion with her three daughters, in a gilded carriage drawn by six horses. The daughters were young and beautiful—three charming blossoms—a rose, a lily, and a white hyacinth. The mother was a proud tulip, and never acknowledged the salutations of any of the men or maidens who paused in their sport to do her honor. The gracious lady seemed like a flower that was rather stiff in the stalk. Rose, lily, and hyacinth—yes, I saw them all three. Whose little lambs will they one day become? thought I; their shepherd will be a gallant knight, perhaps a prince. The carriage rolled on, and the peasants resumed their dancing. They drove about the summer through all the villages near. But one night, when I rose again, the high-born lady lay down to rise again no more; that thing came to her which comes to us all, in which there is nothing new. Waldemar Daa remained for a time silent and thoughtful. ‘The loftiest tree may be bowed without being broken,’ said a voice within him. His daughters wept; all the people in the mansion wiped their eyes, but Lady Daa had driven away, and I drove away too,” said the Wind. “Whir-r-r, whir-r-r-!

“I returned again; I often returned and passed over the island of Funen and the shores of the Belt. Then I rested by Borreby, near the glorious wood, where the heron made his nest, the haunt of the wood-pigeons, the blue-birds, and the black stork. It was yet spring, some were sitting on their eggs, others had already hatched their young broods; but how they fluttered about and cried out when the axe sounded through the forest, blow upon blow! The trees of the forest were doomed. Waldemar Daa wanted to build a noble ship, a man-of-war, a three-decker, which the king would be sure to buy; and these, the trees of the wood, the landmark of the seamen, the refuge of the birds, must be felled. The hawk started up and flew away, for its nest was destroyed; the heron and all the birds of the forest became homeless, and flew about in fear and anger. I could well understand how they felt. Crows and ravens croaked, as if in scorn, while the trees were cracking and falling around them. Far in the interior of the wood, where a noisy swarm of laborers were working, stood Waldemar Daa and his three daughters, and all were laughing at the wild cries of the birds, excepting one, the youngest, Anna Dorothea, who felt grieved to the heart; and when they made preparations to fell a tree that was almost dead, and on whose naked branches the black stork had built her nest, she saw the poor little things stretching out their necks, and she begged for mercy for them, with the tears in her eyes. So the tree with the black stork’s nest was left standing; the tree itself, however, was not worth much to speak of. Then there was a great deal of hewing and sawing, and at last the three-decker was built. The builder was a man of low origin, but possessing great pride; his eyes and forehead spoke of large intellect, and Waldemar Daa was fond of listening to him, and so was Waldemar’s daughter Ida, the eldest, now about fifteen years old; and while he was building the ship for the father, he was building for himself a castle in the air, in which he and Ida were to live when they were married. This might have happened, indeed, if there had been a real castle, with stone walls, ramparts, and a moat. But in spite of his clever head, the builder was still but a poor, inferior bird; and how can a sparrow expect to be admitted into the society of peacocks?

“I passed on in my course,” said the Wind, “and he passed away also. He was not allowed to remain, and little Ida got over it, because she was obliged to do so. Proud, black horses, worth looking at, were neighing in the stable. And they were locked up; for the admiral, who had been sent by the king to inspect the new ship, and make arrangements for its purchase, was loud in admiration of these beautiful horses. I heard it all,” said the Wind, “for I accompanied the gentlemen through the open door of the stable, and strewed stalks of straw, like bars of gold, at their feet. Waldemar Daa wanted gold, and the admiral wished for the proud black horses; therefore he praised them so much. But the hint was not taken, and consequently the ship was not bought. It remained on the shore covered with boards,—a Noah’s ark that never got to the water—Whir-r-r-r—and that was a pity.

“In the winter, when the fields were covered with snow, and the water filled with large blocks of ice which I had blown up to the coast,” continued the Wind, “great flocks of crows and ravens, dark and black as they usually are, came and alighted on the lonely, deserted ship. Then they croaked in harsh accents of the forest that now existed no more, of the many pretty birds’ nests destroyed and the little ones left without a home; and all for the sake of that great bit of lumber, that proud ship, that never sailed forth. I made the snowflakes whirl till the snow lay like a great lake round the ship, and drifted over it. I let it hear my voice, that it might know what the storm has to say. Certainly I did my part towards teaching it seamanship.

“That winter passed away, and another winter and summer both passed, as they are still passing away, even as I pass away. The snow drifts onwards, the apple-blossoms are scattered, the leaves fall,—everything passes away, and men are passing away too. But the great man’s daughters are still young, and little Ida is a rose as fair to look upon as on the day when the shipbuilder first saw her. I often tumbled her long, brown hair, while she stood in the garden by the apple-tree, musing, and not heeding how I strewed the blossoms on her hair, and dishevelled it; or sometimes, while she stood gazing at the red sun and the golden sky through the opening branches of the dark, thick foliage of the garden trees. Her sister Joanna was bright and slender as a lily; she had a tall and lofty carriage and figure, though, like her mother, rather stiff in back. She was very fond of walking through the great hall, where hung the portraits of her ancestors. The women were represented in dresses of velvet and silk, with tiny little hats, embroidered with pearls, on their braided hair. They were all handsome women. The gentlemen appeared clad in steel, or in rich cloaks lined with squirrel’s fur; they wore little ruffs, and swords at their sides. Where would Joanna’s place be on that wall some day? and how would he look,—her noble lord and husband? This is what she thought of, and often spoke of in a low voice to herself. I heard it as I swept into the long hall, and turned round to come out again. Anna Dorothea, the pale hyacinth, a child of fourteen, was quiet and thoughtful; her large, deep, blue eyes had a dreamy look, but a childlike smile still played round her mouth. I was not able to blow it away, neither did I wish to do so. We have met in the garden, in the hollow lane, in the field and meadow, where she gathered herbs and flowers which she knew would be useful to her father in preparing the drugs and mixtures he was always concocting. Waldemar Daa was arrogant and proud, but he was also a learned man, and knew a great deal. It was no secret, and many opinions were expressed on what he did. In his fireplace there was a fire, even in summer time. He would lock himself in his room, and for days the fire would be kept burning; but he did not talk much of what he was doing. The secret powers of nature are generally discovered in solitude, and did he not soon expect to find out the art of making the greatest of all good things—the art of making gold? So he fondly hoped; therefore the chimney smoked and the fire crackled so constantly. Yes, I was there too,” said the Wind. “‘Leave it alone,’ I sang down the chimney; ‘leave it alone, it will all end in smoke, air, coals, and ashes, and you will burn your fingers.’ But Waldemar Daa did not leave it alone, and all he possessed vanished like smoke blown by me. The splendid black horses, where are they? What became of the cows in the field, the old gold and silver vessels in cupboards and chests, and even the house and home itself? It was easy to melt all these away in the gold-making crucible, and yet obtain no gold. And so it was. Empty are the barns and store-rooms, the cellars and cupboards; the servants decreased in number, and the mice multiplied. First one window became broken, and then another, so that I could get in at other places besides the door. ‘Where the chimney smokes, the meal is being cooked,’ says the proverb; but here a chimney smoked that devoured all the meals for the sake of gold. I blew round the courtyard,” said the Wind, “like a watchman blowing his home, but no watchman was there. I twirled the weather-cock round on the summit of the tower, and it creaked like the snoring of a warder, but no warder was there; nothing but mice and rats. Poverty laid the table-cloth; poverty sat in the wardrobe and in the larder. The door fell off its hinges, cracks and fissures made their appearance everywhere; so that I could go in and out at pleasure, and that is how I know all about it. Amid smoke and ashes, sorrow, and sleepless nights, the hair and beard of the master of the house turned gray, and deep furrows showed themselves around his temples; his skin turned pale and yellow, while his eyes still looked eagerly for gold, the longed-for gold, and the result of his labor was debt instead of gain. I blew the smoke and ashes into his face and beard; I moaned through the broken window-panes, and the yawning clefts in the walls; I blew into the chests and drawers belonging to his daughters, wherein lay the clothes that had become faded and threadbare, from being worn over and over again. Such a song had not been sung, at the children’s cradle as I sung now. The lordly life had changed to a life of penury. I was the only one who rejoiced aloud in that castle,” said the Wind. “At last I snowed them up, and they say snow keeps people warm. It was good for them, for they had no wood, and the forest, from which they might have obtained it, had been cut down. The frost was very bitter, and I rushed through loop-holes and passages, over gables and roofs with keen and cutting swiftness. The three high-born daughters were lying in bed because of the cold, and their father crouching beneath his leather coverlet. Nothing to eat, nothing to burn, no fire on the hearth! Here was a life for high-born people! ‘Give it up, give it up!’ But my Lord Daa would not do that. ‘After winter, spring will come,’ he said, ‘after want, good times. We must not lose patience, we must learn to wait. Now my horses and lands are all mortgaged, it is indeed high time; but gold will come at last—at Easter.’

“I heard him as he thus spoke; he was looking at a spider’s web, and he continued, ‘Thou cunning little weaver, thou dost teach me perseverance. Let any one tear thy web, and thou wilt begin again and repair it. Let it be entirely destroyed, thou wilt resolutely begin to make another till it is completed. So ought we to do, if we wish to succeed at last.’

“It was the morning of Easter-day. The bells sounded from the neighboring church, and the sun seemed to rejoice in the sky. The master of the castle had watched through the night, in feverish excitement, and had been melting and cooling, distilling and mixing. I heard him sighing like a soul in despair; I heard him praying, and I noticed how he held his breath. The lamp burnt out, but he did not observe it. I blew up the fire in the coals on the hearth, and it threw a red glow on his ghastly white face, lighting it up with a glare, while his sunken eyes looked out wildly from their cavernous depths, and appeared to grow larger and more prominent, as if they would burst from their sockets. ‘Look at the alchymic glass,’ he cried; ‘something glows in the crucible, pure and heavy.’ He lifted it with a trembling hand, and exclaimed in a voice of agitation, ‘Gold! gold!’ He was quite giddy, I could have blown him down,” said the Wind; “but I only fanned the glowing coals, and accompanied him through the door to the room where his daughter sat shivering. His coat was powdered with ashes, and there were ashes in his beard and in his tangled hair. He stood erect, and held high in the air the brittle glass that contained his costly treasure. ‘Found! found! Gold! gold!’ he shouted, again holding the glass aloft, that it might flash in the sunshine; but his hand trembled, and the alchymic glass fell from it, clattering to the ground, and brake in a thousand pieces. The last bubble of his happiness had burst, with a whiz and a whir, and I rushed away from the gold-maker’s house.

“Late in the autumn, when the days were short, and the mist sprinkled cold drops on the berries and the leafless branches, I came back in fresh spirits, rushed through the air, swept the sky clear, and snapped off the dry twigs, which is certainly no great labor to do, yet it must be done. There was another kind of sweeping taking place at Waldemar Daa’s, in the castle of Borreby. His enemy, Owe Ramel, of Basnas, was there, with the mortgage of the house and everything it contained, in his pocket. I rattled the broken windows, beat against the old rotten doors, and whistled through cracks and crevices, so that Mr. Owe Ramel did not much like to remain there. Ida and Anna Dorothea wept bitterly, Joanna stood, pale and proud, biting her lips till the blood came; but what could that avail? Owe Ramel offered Waldemar Daa permission to remain in the house till the end of his life. No one thanked him for the offer, and I saw the ruined old gentleman lift his head, and throw it back more proudly than ever. Then I rushed against the house and the old lime-trees with such force, that one of the thickest branches, a decayed one, was broken off, and the branch fell at the entrance, and remained there. It might have been used as a broom, if any one had wanted to sweep the place out, and a grand sweeping-out there really was; I thought it would be so. It was hard for any one to preserve composure on such a day; but these people had strong wills, as unbending as their hard fortune. There was nothing they could call their own, excepting the clothes they wore. Yes, there was one thing more, an alchymist’s glass, a new one, which had been lately bought, and filled with what could be gathered from the ground of the treasure which had promised so much but failed in keeping its promise. Waldemar Daa hid the glass in his bosom, and, taking his stick in his hand, the once rich gentleman passed with his daughters out of the house of Borreby. I blew coldly upon his flustered cheeks, I stroked his gray beard and his long white hair, and I sang as well as I was able, ‘Whir-r-r, whir-r-r. Gone away! Gone away!’ Ida walked on one side of the old man, and Anna Dorothea on the other; Joanna turned round, as they left the entrance. Why? Fortune would not turn because she turned. She looked at the stone in the walls which had once formed part of the castle of Marck Stig, and perhaps she thought of his daughters and of the old song,—

‘The eldest and youngest, hand-in-hand,
Went forth alone to a distant land’.
These were only two; here there were three, and their father with them also. They walked along the high-road, where once they had driven in their splendid carriage; they went forth with their father as beggars. They wandered across an open field to a mud hut, which they rented for a dollar and a half a year, a new home, with bare walls and empty cupboards. Crows and magpies fluttered about them, and cried, as if in contempt, ‘Caw, caw, turned out of our nest—caw, caw,’ as they had done in the wood at Borreby, when the trees were felled. Daa and his daughters could not help hearing it, so I blew about their ears to drown the noise; what use was it that they should listen? So they went to live in the mud hut in the open field, and I wandered away, over moor and meadow, through bare bushes and leafless forests, to the open sea, to the broad shores in other lands, ‘Whir-r-r, whir-r-r! Away, away!’ year after year.”
And what became of Waldemar Daa and his daughters? Listen; the Wind will tell us:

“The last I saw of them was the pale hyacinth, Anna Dorothea. She was old and bent then; for fifty years had passed and she had outlived them all. She could relate the history. Yonder, on the heath, near the town of Wiborg, in Jutland, stood the fine new house of the canon. It was built of red brick, with projecting gables. It was inhabited, for the smoke curled up thickly from the chimneys. The canon’s gentle lady and her beautiful daughters sat in the bay-window, and looked over the hawthorn hedge of the garden towards the brown heath. What were they looking at? Their glances fell upon a stork’s nest, which was built upon an old tumbledown hut. The roof, as far as one existed at all, was covered with moss and lichen. The stork’s nest covered the greater part of it, and that alone was in a good condition; for it was kept in order by the stork himself. That is a house to be looked at, and not to be touched,” said the Wind. “For the sake of the stork’s nest it had been allowed to remain, although it is a blot on the landscape. They did not like to drive the stork away; therefore the old shed was left standing, and the poor woman who dwelt in it allowed to stay. She had the Egyptian bird to thank for that; or was it perchance her reward for having once interceded for the preservation of the nest of its black brother in the forest of Borreby? At that time she, the poor woman, was a young child, a white hyacinth in a rich garden. She remembered that time well; for it was Anna Dorothea.

“‘O-h, o-h,’ she sighed; for people can sigh like the moaning of the wind among the reeds and rushes. ‘O-h, o-h,’ she would say, ‘no bell sounded at thy burial, Waldemar Daa. The poor school-boys did not even sing a psalm when the former lord of Borreby was laid in the earth to rest. O-h, everything has an end, even misery. Sister Ida became the wife of a peasant; that was the hardest trial which befell our father, that the husband of his own daughter should be a miserable serf, whom his owner could place for punishment on the wooden horse. I suppose he is under the ground now; and Ida—alas! alas! it is not ended yet; miserable that I am! Kind Heaven, grant me that I may die.’

“That was Anna Dorothea’s prayer in the wretched hut that was left standing for the sake of the stork. I took pity on the proudest of the sisters,” said the Wind. “Her courage was like that of a man; and in man’s clothes she served as a sailor on board ship. She was of few words, and of a dark countenance; but she did not know how to climb, so I blew her overboard before any one found out that she was a woman; and, in my opinion, that was well done,” said the Wind.

On such another Easter morning as that on which Waldemar Daa imagined he had discovered the art of making gold, I heard the tones of a psalm under the stork’s nest, and within the crumbling walls. It was Anna Dorothea’s last song. There was no window in the hut, only a hole in the wall; and the sun rose like a globe of burnished gold, and looked through. With what splendor he filled that dismal dwelling! Her eyes were glazing, and her heart breaking; but so it would have been, even had the sun not shone that morning on Anna Dorothea. The stork’s nest had secured her a home till her death. I sung over her grave; I sung at her father’s grave. I know where it lies, and where her grave is too, but nobody else knows it.

“New times now; all is changed. The old high-road is lost amid cultivated fields; the new one now winds along over covered graves; and soon the railway will come, with its train of carriages, and rush over graves where lie those whose very names are forgoten. All passed away, passed away!

“This is the story of Waldemar Daa and his daughters. Tell it better, any of you, if you know how,” said the Wind; and he rushed away, and was gone.

 

The Girl Who Trod on the Loaf
 
THERE was once a girl who trod on a loaf to avoid soiling her shoes, and the misfortunes that happened to her in consequence are well known. Her name was Inge; she was a poor child, but proud and presuming, and with a bad and cruel disposition. When quite a little child she would delight in catching flies, and tearing off their wings, so as to make creeping things of them. When older, she would take cockchafers and beetles, and stick pins through them. Then she pushed a green leaf, or a little scrap of paper towards their feet, and when the poor creatures would seize it and hold it fast, and turn over and over in their struggles to get free from the pin, she would say, “The cockchafer is reading; see how he turns over the leaf.” She grew worse instead of better with years, and, unfortunately, she was pretty, which caused her to be excused, when she should have been sharply reproved.

“Your headstrong will requires severity to conquer it,” her mother often said to her. “As a little child you used to trample on my apron, but one day I fear you will trample on my heart.” And, alas! this fear was realized.

Inge was taken to the house of some rich people, who lived at a distance, and who treated her as their own child, and dressed her so fine that her pride and arrogance increased.

When she had been there about a year, her patroness said to her, “You ought to go, for once, and see your parents, Inge.”

So Inge started to go and visit her parents; but she only wanted to show herself in her native place, that the people might see how fine she was. She reached the entrance of the village, and saw the young laboring men and maidens standing together chatting, and her own mother amongst them. Inge’s mother was sitting on a stone to rest, with a fagot of sticks lying before her, which she had picked up in the wood. Then Inge turned back; she who was so finely dressed she felt ashamed of her mother, a poorly clad woman, who picked up wood in the forest. She did not turn back out of pity for her mother’s poverty, but from pride.

Another half-year went by, and her mistress said, “you ought to go home again, and visit your parents, Inge, and I will give you a large wheaten loaf to take to them, they will be glad to see you, I am sure.”

So Inge put on her best clothes, and her new shoes, drew her dress up around her, and set out, stepping very carefully, that she might be clean and neat about the feet, and there was nothing wrong in doing so. But when she came to the place where the footpath led across the moor, she found small pools of water, and a great deal of mud, so she threw the loaf into the mud, and trod upon it, that she might pass without wetting her feet. But as she stood with one foot on the loaf and the other lifted up to step forward, the loaf began to sink under her, lower and lower, till she disappeared altogether, and only a few bubbles on the surface of the muddy pool remained to show where she had sunk. And this is the story.

But where did Inge go? She sank into the ground, and went down to the Marsh Woman, who is always brewing there.

The Marsh Woman is related to the elf maidens, who are well-known, for songs are sung and pictures painted about them. But of the Marsh Woman nothing is known, excepting that when a mist arises from the meadows, in summer time, it is because she is brewing beneath them. To the Marsh Woman’s brewery Inge sunk down to a place which no one can endure for long. A heap of mud is a palace compared with the Marsh Woman’s brewery; and as Inge fell she shuddered in every limb, and soon became cold and stiff as marble. Her foot was still fastened to the loaf, which bowed her down as a golden ear of corn bends the stem.

An evil spirit soon took possession of Inge, and carried her to a still worse place, in which she saw crowds of unhappy people, waiting in a state of agony for the gates of mercy to be opened to them, and in every heart was a miserable and eternal feeling of unrest. It would take too much time to describe the various tortures these people suffered, but Inge’s punishment consisted in standing there as a statue, with her foot fastened to the loaf. She could move her eyes about, and see all the misery around her, but she could not turn her head; and when she saw the people looking at her she thought they were admiring her pretty face and fine clothes, for she was still vain and proud. But she had forgotten how soiled her clothes had become while in the Marsh Woman’s brewery, and that they were covered with mud; a snake had also fastened itself in her hair, and hung down her back, while from each fold in her dress a great toad peeped out and croaked like an asthmatic poodle. Worse than all was the terrible hunger that tormented her, and she could not stoop to break off a piece of the loaf on which she stood. No; her back was too stiff, and her whole body like a pillar of stone. And then came creeping over her face and eyes flies without wings; she winked and blinked, but they could not fly away, for their wings had been pulled off; this, added to the hunger she felt, was horrible torture.

“If this lasts much longer,” she said, “I shall not be able to bear it.” But it did last, and she had to bear it, without being able to help herself.

A tear, followed by many scalding tears, fell upon her head, and rolled over her face and neck, down to the loaf on which she stood. Who could be weeping for Inge? She had a mother in the world still, and the tears of sorrow which a mother sheds for her child will always find their way to the child’s heart, but they often increase the torment instead of being a relief. And Inge could hear all that was said about her in the world she had left, and every one seemed cruel to her. The sin she had committed in treading on the loaf was known on earth, for she had been seen by the cowherd from the hill, when she was crossing the marsh and had disappeared.

When her mother wept and exclaimed, “Ah, Inge! what grief thou hast caused thy mother” she would say, “Oh that I had never been born! My mother’s tears are useless now.”

And then the words of the kind people who had adopted her came to her ears, when they said, “Inge was a sinful girl, who did not value the gifts of God, but trampled them under her feet.”

“Ah,” thought Inge, “they should have punished me, and driven all my naughty tempers out of me.”

A song was made about “The girl who trod on a loaf to keep her shoes from being soiled,” and this song was sung everywhere. The story of her sin was also told to the little children, and they called her “wicked Inge,” and said she was so naughty that she ought to be punished. Inge heard all this, and her heart became hardened and full of bitterness.

But one day, while hunger and grief were gnawing in her hollow frame, she heard a little, innocent child, while listening to the tale of the vain, haughty Inge, burst into tears and exclaim, “But will she never come up again?”

And she heard the reply, “No, she will never come up again.”

“But if she were to say she was sorry, and ask pardon, and promise never to do so again?” asked the little one.

“Yes, then she might come; but she will not beg pardon,” was the answer.

“Oh, I wish she would!” said the child, who was quite unhappy about it. “I should be so glad. I would give up my doll and all my playthings, if she could only come here again. Poor Inge! it is so dreadful for her.”

These pitying words penetrated to Inge’s inmost heart, and seemed to do her good. It was the first time any one had said, “Poor Inge!” without saying something about her faults. A little innocent child was weeping, and praying for mercy for her. It made her feel quite strange, and she would gladly have wept herself, and it added to her torment to find she could not do so. And while she thus suffered in a place where nothing changed, years passed away on earth, and she heard her name less frequently mentioned. But one day a sigh reached her ear, and the words, “Inge! Inge! what a grief thou hast been to me! I said it would be so.” It was the last sigh of her dying mother.

After this, Inge heard her kind mistress say, “Ah, poor Inge! shall I ever see thee again? Perhaps I may, for we know not what may happen in the future.” But Inge knew right well that her mistress would never come to that dreadful place.

Time-passed—a long bitter time—then Inge heard her name pronounced once more, and saw what seemed two bright stars shining above her. They were two gentle eyes closing on earth. Many years had passed since the little girl had lamented and wept about “poor Inge.” That child was now an old woman, whom God was taking to Himself. In the last hour of existence the events of a whole life often appear before us; and this hour the old woman remembered how, when a child, she had shed tears over the story of Inge, and she prayed for her now. As the eyes of the old woman closed to earth, the eyes of the soul opened upon the hidden things of eternity, and then she, in whose last thoughts Inge had been so vividly present, saw how deeply the poor girl had sunk. She burst into tears at the sight, and in heaven, as she had done when a little child on earth, she wept and prayed for poor Inge. Her tears and her prayers echoed through the dark void that surrounded the tormented captive soul, and the unexpected mercy was obtained for it through an angel’s tears. As in thought Inge seemed to act over again every sin she had committed on earth, she trembled, and tears she had never yet been able to weep rushed to her eyes. It seemed impossible that the gates of mercy could ever be opened to her; but while she acknowledged this in deep penitence, a beam of radiant light shot suddenly into the depths upon her. More powerful than the sunbeam that dissolves the man of snow which the children have raised, more quickly than the snowflake melts and becomes a drop of water on the warm lips of a child, was the stony form of Inge changed, and as a little bird she soared, with the speed of lightning, upward to the world of mortals. A bird that felt timid and shy to all things around it, that seemed to shrink with shame from meeting any living creature, and hurriedly sought to conceal itself in a dark corner of an old ruined wall; there it sat cowering and unable to utter a sound, for it was voiceless. Yet how quickly the little bird discovered the beauty of everything around it. The sweet, fresh air; the soft radiance of the moon, as its light spread over the earth; the fragrance which exhaled from bush and tree, made it feel happy as it sat there clothed in its fresh, bright plumage. All creation seemed to speak of beneficence and love. The bird wanted to give utterance to thoughts that stirred in his breast, as the cuckoo and the nightingale in the spring, but it could not. Yet in heaven can be heard the song of praise, even from a worm; and the notes trembling in the breast of the bird were as audible to Heaven even as the psalms of David before they had fashioned themselves into words and song.

Christmas-time drew near, and a peasant who dwelt close by the old wall stuck up a pole with some ears of corn fastened to the top, that the birds of heaven might have feast, and rejoice in the happy, blessed time. And on Christmas morning the sun arose and shone upon the ears of corn, which were quickly surrounded by a number of twittering birds. Then, from a hole in the wall, gushed forth in song the swelling thoughts of the bird as he issued from his hiding place to perform his first good deed on earth,—and in heaven it was well known who that bird was.

The winter was very hard; the ponds were covered with ice, and there was very little food for either the beasts of the field or the birds of the air. Our little bird flew away into the public roads, and found here and there, in the ruts of the sledges, a grain of corn, and at the halting places some crumbs. Of these he ate only a few, but he called around him the other birds and the hungry sparrows, that they too might have food. He flew into the towns, and looked about, and wherever a kind hand had strewed bread on the window-sill for the birds, he only ate a single crumb himself, and gave all the rest to the rest of the other birds. In the course of the winter the bird had in this way collected many crumbs and given them to other birds, till they equalled the weight of the loaf on which Inge had trod to keep her shoes clean; and when the last bread-crumb had been found and given, the gray wings of the bird became white, and spread themselves out for flight.

“See, yonder is a sea-gull!” cried the children, when they saw the white bird, as it dived into the sea, and rose again into the clear sunlight, white and glittering. But no one could tell whither it went then although some declared it flew straight to the sun.

 

Ole the Tower-Keeper
 
First Visit
Second Visit
Third Visit

IN the world it’s always going up and down; and now I can’t go up any higher!” So said Ole the tower-keeper. “Most people have to try both the ups and the downs; and, rightly considered, we all get to be watchmen at last, and look down upon life from a height.”

Such was the speech of Ole, my friend, the old tower-keeper, a strange, talkative old fellow, who seemed to speak out everything that came into his head, and who for all that had many a serious thought deep in his heart. Yes, he was the child of respectable people, and there were even some who said that he was the son of a privy councillor, or that he might have been. He had studied, too, and had been assistant teacher and deputy clerk; but of what service was all that to him? In those days he lived in the clerk’s house, and was to have everything in the house—to be at free quarters, as the saying is; but he was still, so to speak, a fine young gentleman. He wanted to have his boots cleaned with patent blacking, and the clerk could only afford ordinary grease; and upon that point they split. One spoke of stinginess, the other of vanity, and the blacking became the black cause of enmity between them, and at last they parted.

This is what he demanded of the world in general, namely, patent blacking, and he got nothing but grease. Accordingly, he at last drew back from all men, and became a hermit; but the church tower is the only place in a great city where hermitage, office and bread can be found together. So he betook himself up thither, and smoked his pipe as he made his solitary rounds. He looked upward and downward, and had his own thoughts, and told in his own way of what he read in books and in himself. I often lent him books—good books; and you may know by the company he keeps. He loved neither the English governess novels nor the French ones, which he called a mixture of empty wind and raisin-stalks: he wanted biographies, and descriptions of the wonders of, the world. I visited him at least once a year, generally directly after New Year’s day, and then he always spoke of this and that which the change of the year had put into his head.

I will tell the story of three of these visits, and will reproduce his own words whenever I can remember them.

First Visit
MONG the books which I had lately lent Ole, was one which had greatly rejoiced and occupied him. It was a geological book, containing an account of the boulders.

“Yes, they’re rare old fellows, those boulders!” he said; “and to think that we should pass them without noticing them! And over the street pavement, the paving stones, those fragments of the oldest remains of antiquity, one walks without ever thinking about them. I have done the very thing myself. But now I look respectfully at every paving-stone. Many thanks for the book! It has filled me with thought, and has made me long to read more on the subject. The romance of the earth is, after all, the most wonderful of all romances. It’s a pity one can’t read the first volume of it, because it is written in a language that we don’t understand. One must read in the different strata, in the pebble-stones, for each separate period. Yes, it is a romance, a very wonderful romance, and we all have our place in it. We grope and ferret about, and yet remain where we are; but the ball keeps turning, without emptying the ocean over us; the clod on which we move about, holds, and does not let us through. And then it’s a story that has been acting for thousands upon thousands of years and is still going on. My best thanks for the book about the boulders. Those are fellows indeed! They could tell us something worth hearing, if they only knew how to talk. It’s really a pleasure now and then to become a mere nothing, especially when a man is as highly placed as I am. And then to think that we all, even with patent lacquer, are nothing more than insects of a moment on that ant-hill the earth, though we may be insects with stars and garters, places and offices! One feels quite a novice beside these venerable million-year-old boulders. On last New Year’s eve I was reading the book, and had lost myself in it so completely, that I forgot my usual New Year’s diversion, namely, the wild hunt to Amager. Ah, you don’t know what that is!

“The journey of the witches on broomsticks is well enough known—that journey is taken on St. John’s eve, to the Brocken; but we have a wild journey, also which is national and modern, and that is the journey to Amager on the night of the New Year. All indifferent poets and poetesses, musicians, newspaper writers, and artistic notabilities,—I mean those who are no good,—ride in the New Year’s night through the air to Amager. They sit backwards on their painting brushes or quill pens, for steel pens won’t bear them—they’re too stiff. As I told you, I see that every New Year’s night, and could mention the majority of the riders by name, but I should not like to draw their enmity upon myself, for they don’t like people to talk about their ride to Amager on quill pens. I’ve a kind of niece, who is a fishwife, and who, as she tells me, supplies three respectable newspapers with the terms of abuse and vituperation they use, and she has herself been at Amager as an invited guest; but she was carried out thither, for she does not own a quill pen, nor can she ride. She has told me all about it. Half of what she said is not true, but the other half gives us information enough. When she was out there, the festivities began with a song; each of the guests had written his own song, and each one sang his own song, for he thought that the best, and it was all one, all the same melody. Then those came marching up, in little bands, who are only busy with their mouths. There were ringing bells that rang alternately; and then came the little drummers that beat their tattoo in the family circle; and acquaintance was made with those who write without putting their names, which here means as much as using grease instead of patent blacking; and then there was the beadle with his boy, and the boy was worst off, for in general he gets no notice taken of him; then, too, there was the good street sweeper with his cart, who turns over the dust-bin, and calls it ‘good, very good, remarkably good.’ And in the midst of the pleasure that was afforded by the mere meeting of these folks, there shot up out of the great dirt-heap at Amager a stem, a tree, an immense flower, a great mushroom, a perfect roof, which formed a sort of warehouse for the worthy company, for in it hung everything they had given to the world during the Old Year. Out of the tree poured sparks like flames of fire; these were the ideas and thoughts, borrowed from others, which they had used, and which now got free and rushed away like so many fireworks. They played at ‘the stick burns,’ and the young poets played at ‘heart-burns,’ and the witlings played off their jests, and the jests rolled away with a thundering sound, as if empty pots were being shattered against doors. ‘It was very amusing!’ my niece said; in fact, she said many things that were very malicious but very amusing, but I won’t mention them, for a man must be good-natured, and not a carping critic. But you will easily perceive that when a man once knows the rights of the journey to Amager, as I know them, it’s quite natural that on the New Year’s night one should look out to see the wild chase go by. If in the New Year I miss certain persons who used to be there, I am sure to notice others who are new arrivals; but this year I omitted taking my look at the guests, I bowled away on the boulders, rolled back through millions of years, and saw the stones break loose high up in the north, saw them drifting about on icebergs, long before Noah’s ark was constructed, saw them sink down to the bottom of the sea, and re-appear with a sand-bank, with that one that peered forth from the flood and said, ‘This shall be Zealand!’ I saw them become the dwelling-place of birds that are unknown to us, and then become the seat of wild chiefs of whom we know nothing, until with their axes they cut their Runic signs into a few of these stones, which then came into the calendar of time. But as for me, I had gone quite beyond all lapse of time, and had become a cipher and a nothing. Then three or four beautiful falling stars came down, which cleared the air, and gave my thoughts another direction. You know what a falling star is, do you not? The learned men are not at all clear about it. I have my own ideas about shooting stars, as the common people in many parts call them, and my idea is this: How often are silent thanksgivings offered up for one who has done a good and noble action! The thanks are often speechless, but they are not lost for all that. I think these thanks are caught up, and the sunbeams bring the silent, hidden thankfulness over the head of the benefactor; and if it be a whole people that has been expressing its gratitude through a long lapse of time, the thankfulness appears as a nosegay of flowers, and at length falls in the form of a shooting star over the good man’s grave. I am always very much pleased when I see a shooting star, especially in the New Year’s night, and then find out for whom the gift of gratitude was intended. Lately a gleaming star fell in the southwest, as a tribute of thanksgiving to many—many! ‘For whom was that star intended?’ thought I. It fell, no doubt, on the hill by the Bay of Flensborg, where the Dannebrog waves over the graves of Schleppegrell, Læsløe, and their comrades. One star also fell in the midst of the land, fell upon Sorø, a flower on the grave of Holberg, the thanks of the year from a great many —thanks for his charming plays!

“It is a great and pleasant thought to know that a shooting star falls upon our graves. On mine certainly none will fall—no sunbeam brings thanks to me, for here there is nothing worthy of thanks. I shall not get the patent lacquer,” said Ole, “for my fate on earth is only grease, after all.”

Second Visit
T was New Year’s day, and I went up on the tower. Ole spoke of the toasts that were drunk on the transition from the Old Year into the New—from one grave into the other, as he said. And he told me a story about the glasses, and this story had a very deep meaning. It was this:

“When on the New Year’s night the clock strikes twelve, the people at the table rise up with full glasses in their hands, and drain these glasses, and drink success to the New Year. They begin the year with the glass in their hands; that is a good beginning for drunkards. They begin the New Year by going to bed, and that’s a good beginning for drones. Sleep is sure to play a great part in the New Year, and the glass likewise. Do you know what dwells in the glass?” asked Ole. “I will tell you. There dwell in the glass, first, health, and then pleasure, then the most complete sensual delight; and misfortune and the bitterest woe dwell in the glass also. Now, suppose we count the glasses—of course I count the different degrees in the glasses for different people.

“You see, the first glass, that’s the glass of health, and in that the herb of health is found growing. Put it up on the beam in the ceiling, and at the end of the year you may be sitting in the arbor of health.

“If you take the second glass—from this a little bird soars upward, twittering in guileless cheerfulness, so that a man may listen to his song, and perhaps join in ‘Fair is life! no downcast looks! Take courage, and march onward!’

“Out of the third glass rises a little winged urchin, who cannot certainly be called an angel child, for there is goblin blood in his veins, and he has the spirit of a goblin—not wishing to hurt or harm you, indeed, but very ready to play off tricks upon you. He’ll sit at your ear and whisper merry thoughts to you; he’ll creep into your heart and warm you, so that you grow very merry, and become a wit, so far as the wits of the others can judge.

“In the fourth glass is neither herb, bird, nor urchin. In that glass is the pause drawn by reason, and one may never go beyond that sign.

“Take the fifth glass, and you will weep at yourself, you will feel such a deep emotion; or it will affect you in a different way. Out of the glass there will spring with a bang Prince Carnival, nine times and extravagantly merry. He’ll draw you away with him; you’ll forget your dignity, if you have any, and you’ll forget more than you should or ought to forget. All is dance, song and sound: the masks will carry you away with them, and the daughters of vanity, clad in silk and satin, will come with loose hair and alluring charms; but tear yourself away if you can!

“The sixth glass! Yes, in that glass sits a demon, in the form of a little, well dressed, attractive and very fascinating man, who thoroughly understands you, agrees with you in everything, and becomes quite a second self to you. He has a lantern with him, to give you light as he accompanies you home. There is an old legend about a saint who was allowed to choose one of the seven deadly sins, and who accordingly chose drunkenness, which appeared to him the least, but which led him to commit all the other six. The man’s blood is mingled with that of the demon. It is the sixth glass, and with that the germ of all evil shoots up within us; and each one grows up with a strength like that of the grains of mustard-seed, and shoots up into a tree, and spreads over the whole world: and most people have no choice but to go into the oven, to be re-cast in a new form.

“That’s the history of the glasses,” said the tower-keeper Ole, “and it can be told with lacquer or only with grease; but I give it you with both!”

Third Visit1
N this occasion I chose the general “moving-day” for my visit to Ole, for on that day it is anything but agreeable down in the streets in the town; for they are full of sweepings, shreds, and remnants of all sorts, to say nothing of the cast-off rubbish in which one has to wade about. But this time I happened to see two children playing in this wilderness of sweepings. They were playing at “going to bed,” for the occasion seemed especially favorable for this sport. They crept under the straw, and drew an old bit of ragged curtain over themselves by way of coverlet. “It was splendid!” they said; but it was a little too strong for me, and besides, I was obliged to mount up on my visit to Ole.

“It’s moving-day to day,” he said; “streets and houses are like a dust-bin—a large dust-bin; but I’m content with a cartload. I may get something good out of that, and I really did get something good out of it once. Shortly after Christmas I was going up the street; it was rough weather, wet and dirty—the right kind of weather to catch cold in. The dustman was there with his cart, which was full, and looked like a sample of streets on moving-day. At the back of the cart stood a fir tree, quite green still, and with tinsel on its twigs; it had been used on Christmas eve, and now it was thrown out into the street, and the dustman had stood it up at the back of his cart. It was droll to look at, or you may say it was mournful—all depends on what you think of when you see it; and I thought about it, and thought this and that of many things that were in the cart: or I might have done so, and that comes to the same thing. There was an old lady’s glove, too: I wonder what that was thinking of? Shall I tell you? The glove was lying there, pointing with its little finger at the tree. ‘I’m sorry for the tree,’ it thought; ‘and I was also at the feast, where the chandeliers glittered. My life was, so to speak, a ball night—a pressure of the hand, and I burst! My memory keeps dwelling upon that, and I have really nothing else to live for!’ This is what the glove thought, or what it might have thought. ‘That’s a stupid affair with yonder fir tree,’ said the potsherds. You see, potsherds think everything is stupid. ‘When one is in the dust-cart,’ they said, ‘one ought not to give one’s self airs and wear tinsel. I know that I have been useful in the world—far more useful than such a green stick.’ This was a view that might be taken, and I don’t think it quite a peculiar one; but for all that, the fir tree looked very well: it was like a little poetry in the dust-heap; and truly there is dust enough in the streets on moving-day. The way is difficult and troublesome then, and I feel obliged to run away out of the confusion; or, if I am on the tower, I stay there and look down, and it is amusing enough.

“There are the good people below, playing at ‘changing houses.’ They toil and tug away with their goods and chattels, and the household goblin sits in an old tub and moves with them. All the little griefs of the lodging and the family, and the real cares and sorrows, move with them out of the old dwelling into the new; and what gain is there for them or for us in the whole affair? Yes, there was written long ago the good old maxim: ‘Think on the great moving-day of death!’ That is a serious thought. I hope it is not disagreeable to you that I should have touched upon it? Death is the most certain messenger, after all, in spite of his various occupations. Yes, Death is the omnibus conductor, and he is the passport writer, and he countersigns our service-book, and he is director of the savings bank of life. Do you understand me? All the deeds of our life, the great and the little alike, we put into this savings bank; and when Death calls with his omnibus, and we have to step in, and drive with him into the land of eternity, then on the frontier he gives us our service-book as a pass. As a provision for the journey, he takes this or that good deed we have done, and lets it accompany us; and this may be very pleasant or very terrific. Nobody has ever escaped the omnibus journey. There is certainly a talk about one who was not allowed to go—they call him the Wandering Jew: he has to ride behind the omnibus. If he had been allowed to get in, he would have escaped the clutches of the poets.

“Just cast your mind’s eye into that great omnibus. The society is mixed, for king and beggar, genius and idiot, sit side by side. They must go without their property and money; they have only the service-book and the gift out of the savings bank with them. But which of our deeds is selected and given to us? Perhaps quite a little one, one that we have forgotten, but which has been recorded—small as a pea, but the pea can send out a blooming shoot. The poor bumpkin who sat on a low stool in the corner, and was jeered at and flouted, will perhaps have his worn-out stool given him as a provision; and the stool may become a litter in the land of eternity, and rise up then as a throne, gleaming like gold and blooming as an arbor. He who always lounged about, and drank the spiced draught of pleasure, that he might forget the wild things he had done here, will have his barrel given to him on the journey, and will have to drink from it as they go on; and the drink is bright and clear, so that the thoughts remain pure, and all good and noble feelings are awakened, and he sees and feels what in life he could not or would not see; and then he has within him the punishment, the gnawing worm, which will not die through time incalculable. If on the glasses there stood written ‘oblivion,’ on the barrel ‘remembrance’ is inscribed.

“When I read a good book, an historical work, I always think at last of the poetry of what I am reading, and of the omnibus of death, and wonder, which of the hero’s deeds Death took out of the savings bank for him, and what provisions he got on the journey into eternity. There was once a French king—I have forgotten his name, for the names of good people are sometimes forgotten, even by me, but it will come back some day;—there was a king who, during a famine, became the benefactor of his people; and the people raised up to his memory a monument of snow, with the inscription, ‘Quicker than this melts didst thou bring help!’ I fancy that Death, looking back upon the monument, gave him a single snow-flake as provision, a snow-flake that never melts, and this flake floated over his royal head, like a white butterfly, into the land of eternity. Thus, too, there was Louis XI. I have remembered his name, for one remembers what is bad—a trait of him often comes into my thoughts, and I wish one could say the story is not true. He had his lord high constable executed, and he could execute him, right or wrong; but he had the innocent children of the constable, one seven and the other eight years old, placed under the scaffold so that the warm blood of their father spurted over them, and then he had them sent to the Bastille, and shut up in iron cages, where not even a coverlet was given them to protect them from the cold. And King Louis sent the executioner to them every week, and had a tooth pulled out of the head of each, that they might not be too comfortable; and the elder of the boys said, ‘My mother would die of grief if she knew that my younger brother had to suffer so cruelly; therefore pull out two of my teeth, and spare him.’ The tears came into the hangman’s eyes, but the king’s will was stronger than the tears; and every week two little teeth were brought to him on a silver plate; he had demanded them, and he had them. I fancy that Death took these two teeth out of the savings bank of life, and gave them to Louis XI, to carry with him on the great journey into the land of immortality; they fly before him like two flames of fire; they shine and burn, and they bite him, the innocent children’s teeth.

“Yes, that’s a serious journey, the omnibus ride on the great moving-day! And when is it to be undertaken? That’s just the serious part of it. Any day, any hour, any minute, the omnibus may draw up. Which of our deeds will Death take out of the savings bank, and give to us as provision? Let us think of the moving-day that is not marked in the calendar.”

 

Anne Lisbeth
 
ANNE LISBETH was a beautiful young woman, with a red and white complexion, glittering white teeth, and clear soft eyes; and her footstep was light in the dance, but her mind was lighter still. She had a little child, not at all pretty; so he was put out to be nursed by a laborer’s wife, and his mother went to the count’s castle. She sat in splendid rooms, richly decorated with silk and velvet; not a breath of air was allowed to blow upon her, and no one was allowed to speak to her harshly, for she was nurse to the count’s child. He was fair and delicate as a prince, and beautiful as an angel; and how she loved this child! Her own boy was provided for by being at the laborer’s where the mouth watered more frequently than the pot boiled, and where in general no one was at home to take care of the child. Then he would cry, but what nobody knows nobody cares for; so he would cry till he was tired, and then fall asleep; and while we are asleep we can feel neither hunger nor thirst. Ah, yes; sleep is a capital invention.

As years went on, Anne Lisbeth’s child grew apace like weeds, although they said his growth had been stunted. He had become quite a member of the family in which he dwelt; they received money to keep him, so that his mother got rid of him altogether. She had become quite a lady; she had a comfortable home of her own in the town; and out of doors, when she went for a walk, she wore a bonnet; but she never walked out to see the laborer: that was too far from the town, and, indeed, she had nothing to go for, the boy now belonged to these laboring people. He had food, and he could also do something towards earning his living; he took care of Mary’s red cow, for he knew how to tend cattle and make himself useful.

The great dog by the yard gate of a nobleman’s mansion sits proudly on the top of his kennel when the sun shines, and barks at every one that passes; but if it rains, he creeps into his house, and there he is warm and dry. Anne Lisbeth’s boy also sat in the sunshine on the top of the fence, cutting out a little toy. If it was spring-time, he knew of three strawberry-plants in blossom, which would certainly bear fruit. This was his most hopeful thought, though it often came to nothing. And he had to sit out in the rain in the worst weather, and get wet to the skin, and let the cold wind dry the clothes on his back afterwards. If he went near the farmyard belonging to the count, he was pushed and knocked about, for the men and the maids said he was so horrible ugly; but he was used to all this, for nobody loved him. This was how the world treated Anne Lisbeth’s boy, and how could it be otherwise. It was his fate to be beloved by no one. Hitherto he had been a land crab; the land at last cast him adrift. He went to sea in a wretched vessel, and sat at the helm, while the skipper sat over the grog-can. He was dirty and ugly, half-frozen and half-starved; he always looked as if he never had enough to eat, which was really the case.

Late in the autumn, when the weather was rough, windy, and wet, and the cold penetrated through the thickest clothing, especially at sea, a wretched boat went out to sea with only two men on board, or, more correctly, a man and a half, for it was the skipper and his boy. There had only been a kind of twilight all day, and it soon grew quite dark, and so bitterly cold, that the skipper took a dram to warm him. The bottle was old, and the glass too. It was perfect in the upper part, but the foot was broken off, and it had therefore been fixed upon a little carved block of wood, painted blue. A dram is a great comfort, and two are better still, thought the skipper, while the boy sat at the helm, which he held fast in his hard seamed hands. He was ugly, and his hair was matted, and he looked crippled and stunted; they called him the field-laborer’s boy, though in the church register he was entered as Anne Lisbeth’s son. The wind cut through the rigging, and the boat cut through the sea. The sails, filled by the wind, swelled out and carried them along in wild career. It was wet and rough above and below, and might still be worse. Hold! what is that? What has struck the boat? Was it a waterspout, or a heavy sea rolling suddenly upon them?

“Heaven help us!” cried the boy at the helm, as the boat heeled over and lay on its beam ends. It had struck on a rock, which rose from the depths of the sea, and sank at once, like an old shoe in a puddle. “It sank at once with mouse and man,” as the saying is. There might have been mice on board, but only one man and a half, the skipper and the laborer’s boy. No one saw it but the skimming sea-gulls and the fishes beneath the water; and even they did not see it properly, for they darted back with terror as the boat filled with water and sank. There it lay, scarcely a fathom below the surface, and those two were provided for, buried, and forgotten. The glass with the foot of blue wood was the only thing that did not sink, for the wood floated and the glass drifted away to be cast upon the shore and broken; where and when, is indeed of no consequence. It had served its purpose, and it had been loved, which Anne Lisbeth’s boy had not been. But in heaven no soul will be able to say, “Never loved.”

Anne Lisbeth had now lived in the town many years; she was called “Madame,” and felt dignified in consequence; she remembered the old, noble days, in which she had driven in the carriage, and had associated with countess and baroness. Her beautiful, noble child had been a dear angel, and possessed the kindest heart; he had loved her so much, and she had loved him in return; they had kissed and loved each other, and the boy had been her joy, her second life. Now he was fourteen years of age, tall, handsome, and clever. She had not seen him since she carried him in her arms; neither had she been for years to the count’s palace; it was quite a journey thither from the town.

“I must make one effort to go,” said Anne Lisbeth, “to see my darling, the count’s sweet child, and press him to my heart. Certainly he must long to see me, too, the young count; no doubt he thinks of me and loves me, as in those days when he would fling his angel-arms round my neck, and lisp ’Anne Liz.’ It was music to my ears. Yes, I must make an effort to see him again.” She drove across the country in a grazier’s cart, and then got out, and continued her journey on foot, and thus reached the count’s castle. It was as great and magnificent as it had always been, and the garden looked the same as ever; all the servants were strangers to her, not one of them knew Anne Lisbeth, nor of what consequence she had once been there; but she felt sure the countess would soon let them know it, and her darling boy, too: how she longed to see him!

Now that Anne Lisbeth was at her journey’s end, she was kept waiting a long time; and for those who wait, time passes slowly. But before the great people went in to dinner, she was called in and spoken to very graciously. She was to go in again after dinner, and then she would see her sweet boy once more. How tall, and slender, and thin he had grown; but the eyes and the sweet angel mouth were still beautiful. He looked at her, but he did not speak, he certainly did not know who she was. He turned round and was going away, but she seized his hand and pressed it to her lips.

“Well, well,” he said; and with that he walked out of the room. He who filled her every thought! he whom she loved best, and who was her whole earthly pride!

Anne Lisbeth went forth from the castle into the public road, feeling mournful and sad; he whom she had nursed day and night, and even now carried about in her dreams, had been cold and strange, and had not a word or thought respecting her. A great black raven darted down in front of her on the high road, and croaked dismally.

“Ah,” said she, “what bird of ill omen art thou?” Presently she passed the laborer’s hut; his wife stood at the door, and the two women spoke to each other.

“You look well,” said the woman; “you’re fat and plump; you are well off.”

“Oh yes,” answered Anne Lisbeth.

“The boat went down with them,” continued the woman; “Hans the skipper and the boy were both drowned; so there’s an end of them. I always thought the boy would be able to help me with a few dollars. He’ll never cost you anything more, Anne Lisbeth.”

“So they were drowned,” repeated Anne Lisbeth; but she said no more, and the subject was dropped. She felt very low-spirited, because her count-child had shown no inclination to speak to her who loved him so well, and who had travelled so far to see him. The journey had cost money too, and she had derived no great pleasure from it. Still she said not a word of all this; she could not relieve her heart by telling the laborer’s wife, lest the latter should think she did not enjoy her former position at the castle. Then the raven flew over her, screaming again as he flew.

“The black wretch!” said Anne Lisbeth, “he will end by frightening me today.” She had brought coffee and chicory with her, for she thought it would be a charity to the poor woman to give them to her to boil a cup of coffee, and then she would take a cup herself.

The woman prepared the coffee, and in the meantime Anne Lisbeth seated her in a chair and fell asleep. Then she dreamed of something which she had never dreamed before; singularly enough she dreamed of her own child, who had wept and hungered in the laborer’s hut, and had been knocked about in heat and in cold, and who was now lying in the depths of the sea, in a spot only known by God. She fancied she was still sitting in the hut, where the woman was busy preparing the coffee, for she could smell the coffee-berries roasting. But suddenly it seemed to her that there stood on the threshold a beautiful young form, as beautiful as the count’s child, and this apparition said to her, “The world is passing away; hold fast to me, for you are my mother after all; you have an angel in heaven, hold me fast;” and the child-angel stretched out his hand and seized her. Then there was a terrible crash, as of a world crumbling to pieces, and the angel-child was rising from the earth, and holding her by the sleeve so tightly that she felt herself lifted from the ground; but, on the other hand, something heavy hung to her feet and dragged her down, and it seemed as if hundreds of women were clinging to her, and crying, “If thou art to be saved, we must be saved too. Hold fast, hold fast.” And then they all hung on her, but there were too many; and as they clung the sleeve was torn, and Anne Lisbeth fell down in horror, and awoke. Indeed she was on the point of falling over in reality with the chair on which she sat; but she was so startled and alarmed that she could not remember what she had dreamed, only that it was something very dreadful.

They drank their coffee and had a chat together, and then Anne Lisbeth went away towards the little town where she was to meet the carrier, who was to drive her back to her own home. But when she came to him she found that he would not be ready to start till the evening of the next day. Then she began to think of the expense, and what the distance would be to walk. She remembered that the route by the sea-shore was two miles shorter than by the high road; and as the weather was clear, and there would be moonlight, she determined to make her way on foot, and to start at once, that she might reach home the next day.

The sun had set, and the evening bells sounded through the air from the tower of the village church, but to her it was not the bells, but the cry of the frogs in the marshes. Then they ceased, and all around became still; not a bird could be heard, they were all at rest, even the owl had not left her hiding place; deep silence reigned on the margin of the wood by the sea-shore. As Anne Lisbeth walked on she could hear her own footsteps in the sands; even the waves of the sea were at rest, and all in the deep waters had sunk into silence. There was quiet among the dead and the living in the deep sea. Anne Lisbeth walked on, thinking of nothing at all, as people say, or rather her thoughts wandered, but not away from her, for thought is never absent from us, it only slumbers. Many thoughts that have lain dormant are roused at the proper time, and begin to stir in the mind and the heart, and seem even to come upon us from above. It is written, that a good deed bears a blessing for its fruit; and it is also written, that the wages of sin is death. Much has been said and much written which we pass over or know nothing of. A light arises within us, and then forgotten things make themselves remembered; and thus it was with Anne Lisbeth. The germ of every vice and every virtue lies in our heart, in yours and in mine; they lie like little grains of seed, till a ray of sunshine, or the touch of an evil hand, or you turn the corner to the right or to the left, and the decision is made. The little seed is stirred, it swells and shoots up, and pours its sap into your blood, directing your course either for good or evil. Troublesome thoughts often exist in the mind, fermenting there, which are not realized by us while the senses are as it were slumbering; but still they are there. Anne Lisbeth walked on thus with her senses half asleep, but the thoughts were fermenting within her.

From one Shrove Tuesday to another, much may occur to weigh down the heart; it is the reckoning of a whole year; much may be forgotten, sins against heaven in word and thought, sins against our neighbor, and against our own conscience. We are scarcely aware of their existence; and Anne Lisbeth did not think of any of her errors. She had committed no crime against the law of the land; she was an honorable person, in a good position—that she knew.

She continued her walk along by the margin of the sea. What was it she saw lying there? An old hat; a man’s hat. Now when might that have been washed overboard? She drew nearer, she stopped to look at the hat; “Ha! what was lying yonder?” She shuddered; yet it was nothing save a heap of grass and tangled seaweed flung across a long stone, but it looked like a corpse. Only tangled grass, and yet she was frightened at it. As she turned to walk away, much came into her mind that she had heard in her childhood: old superstitions of spectres by the sea-shore; of the ghosts of drowned but unburied people, whose corpses had been washed up on the desolate beach. The body, she knew, could do no harm to any one, but the spirit could pursue the lonely wanderer, attach itself to him, and demand to be carried to the churchyard, that it might rest in consecrated ground. “Hold fast! hold fast!” the spectre would cry; and as Anne Lisbeth murmured these words to herself, the whole of her dream was suddenly recalled to her memory, when the mother had clung to her, and uttered these words, when, amid the crashing of worlds, her sleeve had been torn, and she had slipped from the grasp of her child, who wanted to hold her up in that terrible hour. Her child, her own child, which she had never loved, lay now buried in the sea, and might rise up, like a spectre, from the waters, and cry, “Hold fast; carry me to consecrated ground!”

As these thoughts passed through her mind, fear gave speed to her feet, so that she walked faster and faster. Fear came upon her as if a cold, clammy hand had been laid upon her heart, so that she almost fainted. As she looked across the sea, all there grew darker; a heavy mist came rolling onwards, and clung to bush and tree, distorting them into fantastic shapes. She turned and glanced at the moon, which had risen behind her. It looked like a pale, rayless surface, and a deadly weight seemed to hang upon her limbs. “Hold,” thought she; and then she turned round a second time to look at the moon. A white face appeared quite close to her, with a mist, hanging like a garment from its shoulders. “Stop! carry me to consecrated earth,” sounded in her ears, in strange, hollow tones. The sound did not come from frogs or ravens; she saw no sign of such creatures. “A grave! dig me a grave!” was repeated quite loud. Yes, it was indeed the spectre of her child. The child that lay beneath the ocean, and whose spirit could have no rest until it was carried to the churchyard, and until a grave had been dug for it in consecrated ground. She would go there at once, and there she would dig. She turned in the direction of the church, and the weight on her heart seemed to grow lighter, and even to vanish altogether; but when she turned to go home by the shortest way, it returned. “Stop! stop!” and the words came quite clear, though they were like the croak of a frog, or the wail of a bird. “A grave! dig me a grave!”

The mist was cold and damp, her hands and face were moist and clammy with horror, a heavy weight again seized her and clung to her, her mind became clear for thoughts that had never before been there.

In these northern regions, a beech-wood often buds in a single night and appears in the morning sunlight in its full glory of youthful green. So, in a single instant, can the consciousness of the sin that has been committed in thoughts, words, and actions of our past life, be unfolded to us. When once the conscience is awakened, it springs up in the heart spontaneously, and God awakens the conscience when we least expect it. Then we can find no excuse for ourselves; the deed is there and bears witness against us. The thoughts seem to become words, and to sound far out into the world. We are horrified at the thought of what we have carried within us, and at the consciousness that we have not overcome the evil which has its origin in thoughtlessness and pride. The heart conceals within itself the vices as well as the virtues, and they grow in the shallowest ground. Anne Lisbeth now experienced in thought what we have clothed in words. She was overpowered by them, and sank down and crept along for some distance on the ground. “A grave! dig me a grave!” sounded again in her ears, and she would have gladly buried herself, if in the grave she could have found forgetfulness of her actions.

It was the first hour of her awakening, full of anguish and horror. Superstition made her alternately shudder with cold or burn with the heat of fever. Many things, of which she had feared even to speak, came into her mind. Silently, as the cloud-shadows in the moonshine, a spectral apparition flitted by her; she had heard of it before. Close by her galloped four snorting steeds, with fire flashing from their eyes and nostrils. They dragged a burning coach, and within it sat the wicked lord of the manor, who had ruled there a hundred years before. The legend says that every night, at twelve o’clock, he drove into his castleyard and out again. He was not as pale as dead men are, but black as a coal. He nodded, and pointed to Anne Lisbeth, crying out, “Hold fast! hold fast! and then you may ride again in a nobleman’s carriage, and forget your child.”

She gathered herself up, and hastened to the churchyard; but black crosses and black ravens danced before her eyes, and she could not distinguish one from the other. The ravens croaked as the raven had done which she saw in the daytime, but now she understood what they said. “I am the raven-mother; I am the raven-mother,” each raven croaked, and Anne Lisbeth felt that the name also applied to her; and she fancied she should be transformed into a black bird, and have to cry as they cried, if she did not dig the grave. And she threw herself upon the earth, and with her hands dug a grave in the hard ground, so that the blood ran from her fingers. “A grave! dig me a grave!” still sounded in her ears; she was fearful that the cock might crow, and the first red streak appear in the east, before she had finished her work; and then she would be lost. And the cock crowed, and the day dawned in the east, and the grave was only half dug. An icy hand passed over her head and face, and down towards her heart. “Only half a grave,” a voice wailed, and fled away. Yes, it fled away over the sea; it was the ocean spectre; and, exhausted and overpowered, Anne Lisbeth sunk to the ground, and her senses left her.

It was a bright day when she came to herself, and two men were raising her up; but she was not lying in the churchyard, but on the sea-shore, where she had dug a deep hole in the sand, and cut her hand with a piece of broken glass, whose sharp stern was stuck in a little block of painted wood. Anne Lisbeth was in a fever. Conscience had roused the memories of superstitions, and had so acted upon her mind, that she fancied she had only half a soul, and that her child had taken the other half down into the sea. Never would she be able to cling to the mercy of Heaven till she had recovered this other half which was now held fast in the deep water.

Anne Lisbeth returned to her home, but she was no longer the woman she had been. Her thoughts were like a confused, tangled skein; only one thread, only one thought was clear to her, namely that she must carry the spectre of the sea-shore to the churchyard, and dig a grave for him there; that by so doing she might win back her soul. Many a night she was missed from her home, and was always found on the sea-shore waiting for the spectre.

In this way a whole year passed; and then one night she vanished again, and was not to be found. The whole of the next day was spent in a useless search after her.

Towards evening, when the clerk entered the church to toll the vesper bell, he saw by the altar Anne Lisbeth, who had spent the whole day there. Her powers of body were almost exhausted, but her eyes flashed brightly, and on her cheeks was a rosy flush. The last rays of the setting sun shone upon her, and gleamed over the altar upon the shining clasps of the Bible, which lay open at the words of the prophet Joel, “Rend your hearts and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord.”

“That was just a chance,” people said; but do things happen by chance? In the face of Anne Lisbeth, lighted up by the evening sun, could be seen peace and rest. She said she was happy now, for she had conquered. The spectre of the shore, her own child, had come to her the night before, and had said to her, “Thou hast dug me only half a grave: but thou hast now, for a year and a day, buried me altogether in thy heart, and it is there a mother can best hide her child!” And then he gave her back her lost soul, and brought her into the church. “Now I am in the house of God,” she said, “and in that house we are happy.”

When the sun set, Anne Lisbeth’s soul had risen to that region where there is no more pain; and Anne Lisbeth’s troubles were at an end.

 

The Child in the Grave
 
IT was a very sad day, and every heart in the house felt the deepest grief; for the youngest child, a boy of four years old, the joy and hope of his parents, was dead. Two daughters, the elder of whom was going to be confirmed, still remained: they were both good, charming girls; but the lost child always seems the dearest; and when it is youngest, and a son, it makes the trial still more heavy. The sisters mourned as young hearts can mourn, and were especially grieved at the sight of their parents’ sorrow. The father’s heart was bowed down, but the mother sunk completely under the deep grief. Day and night she had attended to the sick child, nursing and carrying it in her bosom, as a part of herself. She could not realize the fact that the child was dead, and must be laid in a coffin to rest in the ground. She thought God could not take her darling little one from her; and when it did happen notwithstanding her hopes and her belief, and there could be no more doubt on the subject, she said in her feverish agony, “God does not know it. He has hard-hearted ministering spirits on earth, who do according to their own will, and heed not a mother’s prayers.” Thus in her great grief she fell away from her faith in God, and dark thoughts arose in her mind respecting death and a future state. She tried to believe that man was but dust, and that with his life all existence ended. But these doubts were no support to her, nothing on which she could rest, and she sunk into the fathomless depths of despair. In her darkest hours she ceased to weep, and thought not of the young daughters who were still left to her. The tears of her husband fell on her forehead, but she took no notice of him; her thoughts were with her dead child; her whole existence seemed wrapped up in the remembrances of the little one and of every innocent word it had uttered.

The day of the little child’s funeral came. For nights previously the mother had not slept, but in the morning twilight of this day she sunk from weariness into a deep sleep; in the mean time the coffin was carried into a distant room, and there nailed down, that she might not hear the blows of the hammer. When she awoke, and wanted to see her child, the husband, with tears, said, “We have closed the coffin; it was necessary to do so.”

“When God is so hard to me, how can I expect men to be better?” she said with groans and tears.

The coffin was carried to the grave, and the disconsolate mother sat with her young daughters. She looked at them, but she saw them not; for her thoughts were far away from the domestic hearth. She gave herself up to her grief, and it tossed her to and fro, as the sea tosses a ship without compass or rudder. So the day of the funeral passed away, and similar days followed, of dark, wearisome pain. With tearful eyes and mournful glances, the sorrowing daughters and the afflicted husband looked upon her who would not hear their words of comfort; and, indeed, what comforting words could they speak, when they were themselves so full of grief? It seemed as if she would never again know sleep, and yet it would have been her best friend, one who would have strengthened her body and poured peace into her soul. They at last persuaded her to lie down, and then she would lie as still as if she slept.

One night, when her husband listened, as he often did, to her breathing, he quite believed that she had at length found rest and relief in sleep. He folded his arms and prayed, and soon sunk himself into healthful sleep; therefore he did not notice that his wife arose, threw on her clothes, and glided silently from the house, to go where her thoughts constantly lingered—to the grave of her child. She passed through the garden, to a path across a field that led to the churchyard. No one saw her as she walked, nor did she see any one; for her eyes were fixed upon the one object of her wanderings. It was a lovely starlight night in the beginning of September, and the air was mild and still. She entered the churchyard, and stood by the little grave, which looked like a large nosegay of fragrant flowers. She sat down, and bent her head low over the grave, as if she could see her child through the earth that covered him—her little boy, whose smile was so vividly before her, and the gentle expression of whose eyes, even on his sick-bed, she could not forget. How full of meaning that glance had been, as she leaned over him, holding in hers the pale hand which he had no longer strength to raise! As she had sat by his little cot, so now she sat by his grave; and here she could weep freely, and her tears fell upon it.

“Thou wouldst gladly go down and be with thy child,” said a voice quite close to her,—a voice that sounded so deep and clear, that it went to her heart.

She looked up, and by her side stood a man wrapped in a black cloak, with a hood closely drawn over his face; but her keen glance could distinguish the face under the hood. It was stern, yet awakened confidence, and the eyes beamed with youthful radiance.

“Down to my child,” she repeated; and tones of despair and entreaty sounded in the words.

“Darest thou to follow me?” asked the form. “I am Death.”

She bowed her head in token of assent. Then suddenly it appeared as if all the stars were shining with the radiance of the full moon on the many-colored flowers that decked the grave. The earth that covered it was drawn back like a floating drapery. She sunk down, and the spectre covered her with a black cloak; night closed around her, the night of death. She sank deeper than the spade of the sexton could penetrate, till the churchyard became a roof above her. Then the cloak was removed, and she found herself in a large hall, of wide-spreading dimensions, in which there was a subdued light, like twilight, reigning, and in a moment her child appeared before her, smiling, and more beautiful than ever; with a silent cry she pressed him to her heart. A glorious strain of music sounded—now distant, now near. Never had she listened to such tones as these; they came from beyond a large dark curtain which separated the regions of death from the land of eternity.

“My sweet, darling mother,” she heard the child say. It was the well-known, beloved voice; and kiss followed kiss, in boundless delight. Then the child pointed to the dark curtain. “There is nothing so beautiful on earth as it is here. Mother, do you not see them all? Oh, it is happiness indeed.”

But the mother saw nothing of what the child pointed out, only the dark curtain. She looked with earthly eyes, and could not see as the child saw,—he whom God has called to be with Himself. She could hear the sounds of music, but she heard not the words, the Word in which she was to trust.

“I can fly now, mother,” said the child; “I can fly with other happy children into the presence of the Almighty. I would fain fly away now; but if you weep for me as you are weeping now, you may never see me again. And yet I would go so gladly. May I not fly away? And you will come to me soon, will you not, dear mother?”

“Oh, stay, stay!” implored the mother; “only one moment more; only once more, that I may look upon thee, and kiss thee, and press thee to my heart.”

Then she kissed and fondled her child. Suddenly her name was called from above; what could it mean? her name uttered in a plaintive voice.

“Hearest thou?” said the child. “It is my father who calls thee.” And in a few moments deep sighs were heard, as of children weeping. “They are my sisters,” said the child. “Mother, surely you have not forgotten them.”

And then she remembered those she left behind, and a great terror came over her. She looked around her at the dark night. Dim forms flitted by. She seemed to recognize some of them, as they floated through the regions of death towards the dark curtain, where they vanished. Would her husband and her daughters flit past? No; their sighs and lamentations still sounded from above; and she had nearly forgotten them, for the sake of him who was dead.

“Mother, now the bells of heaven are ringing,” said the child; “mother, the sun is going to rise.”

An overpowering light streamed in upon her, the child had vanished, and she was being borne upwards. All around her became cold; she lifted her head, and saw that she was lying in the churchyard, on the grave of her child. The Lord, in a dream, had been a guide to her feet and a light to her spirit. She bowed her knees, and prayed for forgiveness. She had wished to keep back a soul from its immortal flight; she had forgotten her duties towards the living who were left her. And when she had offered this prayer, her heart felt lighter. The sun burst forth, over her head a little bird carolled his song, and the church-bells sounded for the early service. Everything around her seemed holy, and her heart was chastened. She acknowledged the goodness of God, she acknowledged the duties she had to perform, and eagerly she returned home. She bent over her husband, who still slept; her warm, devoted kiss awakened him, and words of heartfelt love fell from the lips of both. Now she was gentle and strong as a wife can be; and from her lips came the words of faith: “Whatever He doeth is right and best.”

Then her husband asked, “From whence hast thou all at once derived such strength and comforting faith?”

And as she kissed him and her children, she said, “It came from God, through my child in the grave.”

 

Beauty of Form and Beauty of Mind
 
THERE was once a sculptor, named Alfred, who having won the large gold medal and obtained a travelling scholarship, went to Italy, and then came back to his native land. He was young at that time- indeed, he is young still, although he is ten years older than he was then. On his return, he went to visit one of the little towns in the island of Zealand. The whole town knew who the stranger was; and one of the richest men in the place gave a party in his honor, and all who were of any consequence, or who possessed some property, were invited. It was quite an event, and all the town knew of it, so that it was not necessary to announce it by beat of drum. Apprentice-boys, children of the poor, and even the poor people themselves, stood before the house, watching the lighted windows; and the watchman might easily fancy he was giving a party also, there were so many people in the streets. There was quite an air of festivity about it, and the house was full of it; for Mr. Alfred, the sculptor, was there. He talked and told anecdotes, and every one listened to him with pleasure, not unmingled with awe; but none felt so much respect for him as did the elderly widow of a naval officer. She seemed, so far as Mr. Alfred was concerned, to be like a piece of fresh blotting-paper that absorbed all he said and asked for more. She was very appreciative, and incredibly ignorant—a kind of female Gaspar Hauser.

“I should like to see Rome,” she said; “it must be a lovely city, or so many foreigners would not be constantly arriving there. Now, do give me a description of Rome. How does the city look when you enter in at the gate?”

“I cannot very well describe it,” said the sculptor; “but you enter on a large open space, in the centre of which stands an obelisk, which is a thousand years old.”

“An organist!” exclaimed the lady, who had never heard the word ‘obelisk.’ Several of the guests could scarcely forbear laughing, and the sculptor would have had some difficulty in keeping his countenance, but the smile on his lips faded away; for he caught sight of a pair of dark-blue eyes close by the side of the inquisitive lady. They belonged to her daughter; and surely no one who had such a daughter could be silly. The mother was like a fountain of questions; and the daughter, who listened but never spoke, might have passed for the beautiful maid of the fountain. How charming she was! She was a study for the sculptor to contemplate, but not to converse with; for she did not speak, or, at least, very seldom.

“Has the pope a great family?” inquired the lady.

The young man answered considerately, as if the question had been a different one, “No; he does not come from a great family.”

“That is not what I asked,” persisted the widow; “I mean, has he a wife and children?”

“The pope is not allowed to marry,” replied the gentleman.

“I don’t like that,” was the lady’s remark.

She certainly might have asked more sensible questions; but if she had not been allowed to say just what she liked, would her daughter have been there, leaning so gracefully on her shoulder, and looking straight before her, with a smile that was almost mournful on her face?

Mr. Alfred again spoke of Italy, and of the glorious colors in Italian scenery; the purple hills, the deep blue of the Mediterranean, the azure of southern skies, whose brightness and glory could only be surpassed in the north by the deep-blue eyes of a maiden; and he said this with a peculiar intonation; but she who should have understood his meaning looked quite unconscious of it, which also was charming.

“Beautiful Italy!” sighed some of the guests.

“Oh, to travel there!” exclaimed others.

“Charming! Charming!” echoed from every voice.

“I may perhaps win a hundred thousand dollars in the lottery,” said the naval officer’s widow; “and if I do, we will travel—I and my daughter; and you, Mr. Alfred, must be our guide. We can all three travel together, with one or two more of our good friends.” And she nodded in such a friendly way at the company, that each imagined himself to be the favored person who was to accompany them to Italy. “Yes, we must go,” she continued; “but not to those parts where there are robbers. We will keep to Rome. In the public roads one is always safe.”

The daughter sighed very gently; and how much there may be in a sigh, or attributed to it! The young man attributed a great deal of meaning to this sigh. Those deep-blue eyes, which had been lit up this evening in honor of him, must conceal treasures, treasures of heart and mind, richer than all the glories of Rome; and so when he left the party that night, he had lost it completely to the young lady. The house of the naval officer’s widow was the one most constantly visited by Mr. Alfred, the sculptor. It was soon understood that his visits were not intended for that lady, though they were the persons who kept up the conversation. He came for the sake of the daughter. They called her Kæla. Her name was really Karen Malena, and these two names had been contracted into the one name Kæla. She was really beautiful; but some said she was rather dull, and slept late of a morning.

“She has been accustomed to that,” her mother said. “She is a beauty, and they are always easily tired. She does sleep rather late; but that makes her eyes so clear.”

What power seemed to lie in the depths of those dark eyes! The young man felt the truth of the proverb, “Still waters run deep:” and his heart had sunk into their depths. He often talked of his adventures, and the mamma was as simple and eager in her questions as on the first evening they met. It was a pleasure to hear Alfred describe anything. He showed them colored plates of Naples, and spoke of excursions to Mount Vesuvius, and the eruptions of fire from it. The naval officer’s widow had never heard of them before.

“Good heavens!” she exclaimed. “So that is a burning mountain; but is it not very dangerous to the people who live near it?”

“Whole cities have been destroyed,” he replied; “for instance, Herculaneum and Pompeii.”

“Oh, the poor people! And you saw all that with your own eyes?”

“No; I did not see any of the eruptions which are represented in those pictures; but I will show you a sketch of my own, which represents an eruption I once saw.”

He placed a pencil sketch on the table; and mamma, who had been over-powered with the appearance of the colored plates, threw a glance at the pale drawing and cried in astonishment, “What, did you see it throw up white fire?”

For a moment, Alfred’s respect for Kæla’s mamma underwent a sudden shock, and lessened considerably; but, dazzled by the light which surrounded Kæla, he soon found it quite natural that the old lady should have no eye for color. After all, it was of very little consequence; for Kæla’s mamma had the best of all possessions; namely, Kæla herself.

Alfred and Kæla were betrothed, which was a very natural result; and the betrothal was announced in the newspaper of the little town. Mama purchased thirty copies of the paper, that she might cut out the paragraph and send it to friends and acquaintances. The betrothed pair were very happy, and the mother was happy too. She said it seemed like connecting herself with Thorwalsden.

“You are a true successor of Thorwalsden,” she said to Alfred; and it seemed to him as if, in this instance, mamma had said a clever thing. Kæla was silent; but her eyes shone, her lips smiled, every movement was graceful,—in fact, she was beautiful; that cannot be repeated too often. Alfred decided to take a bust of Kæla as well as of her mother. They sat to him accordingly, and saw how he moulded and formed the soft clay with his fingers.

“I suppose it is only on our account that you perform this common-place work yourself, instead of leaving it to your servant to do all that sticking together.”

“It is really necessary that I should mould the clay myself,” he replied.

“Ah, yes, you are always so polite,” said mamma, with a smile; and Kæla silently pressed his hand, all soiled as it was with the clay.

Then he unfolded to them both the beauties of Nature, in all her works; he pointed out to them how, in the scale of creation, inanimate matter was inferior to animate nature; the plant above the mineral, the animal above the plant, and man above them all. He strove to show them how the beauty of the mind could be displayed in the outward form, and that it was the sculptor’s task to seize upon that beauty of expression, and produce it in his works. Kæla stood silent, but nodded in approbation of what he said, while mamma-in-law made the following confession:—

“It is difficult to follow you; but I go hobbling along after you with my thoughts, though what you say makes my head whirl round and round. Still I contrive to lay hold on some of it.”

Kæla’s beauty had a firm hold on Alfred; it filled his soul, and held a mastery over him. Beauty beamed from Kæla’s every feature, glittered in her eyes, lurked in the corners of her mouth, and pervaded every movement of her agile fingers. Alfred, the sculptor, saw this. He spoke only to her, thought only of her, and the two became one; and so it may be said she spoke much, for he was always talking to her; and he and she were one. Such was the betrothal, and then came the wedding, with bride’s-maids and wedding presents, all duly mentioned in the wedding speech. Mamma-in-law had set up Thorwalsden’s bust at the end of the table, attired in a dressing-gown; it was her fancy that he should be a guest. Songs were sung, and cheers given; for it was a gay wedding, and they were a handsome pair. “Pygmalion loved his Galatea,” said one of the songs.

“Ah, that is some of your mythologies,” said mamma-in-law.

Next day the youthful pair started for Copenhagen, where they were to live; mamma-in-law accompanied them, to attend to the “coarse work,” as she always called the domestic arrangements. Kæla looked like a doll in a doll’s house, for everything was bright and new, and so fine. There they sat, all three; and as for Alfred, a proverb may describe his position—he looked like a swan amongst the geese. The magic of form had enchanted him; he had looked at the casket without caring to inquire what it contained, and that omission often brings the greatest unhappiness into married life. The casket may be injured, the gilding may fall off, and then the purchaser regrets his bargain.

In a large party it is very disagreeable to find a button giving way, with no studs at hand to fall back upon; but it is worse still in a large company to be conscious that your wife and mother-in-law are talking nonsense, and that you cannot depend upon yourself to produce a little ready wit to carry off the stupidity of the whole affair.

The young married pair often sat together hand in hand; he would talk, but she could only now and then let fall a word in the same melodious voice, the same bell-like tones. It was a mental relief when Sophy, one of her friends, came to pay them a visit. Sophy was not, pretty. She was, however, quite free from any physical deformity, although Kæla used to say she was a little crooked; but no eye, save an intimate acquaintance, would have noticed it. She was a very sensible girl, yet it never occurred to her that she might be a dangerous person in such a house. Her appearance created a new atmosphere in the doll’s house, and air was really required, they all owned that. They felt the want of a change of air, and consequently the young couple and their mother travelled to Italy.

“Thank heaven we are at home again within our own four walls,” said mamma-in-law and daughter both, on their return after a year’s absence.

“There is no real pleasure in travelling,” said mamma; “to tell the truth, it’s very wearisome; I beg pardon for saying so. I was soon very tired of it, although I had my children with me; and, besides, it’s very expensive work travelling, very expensive. And all those galleries one is expected to see, and the quantity of things you are obliged to run after! It must be done, for very shame; you are sure to be asked when you come back if you have seen everything, and will most likely be told that you’ve omitted to see what was best worth seeing of all. I got tired at last of those endless Madonnas; I began to think I was turning into a Madonna myself.”

“And then the living, mamma,” said Kæla.

“Yes, indeed,” she replied, “no such a thing as a respectable meat soup—their cookery is miserable stuff.”

The journey had also tired Kæla; but she was always fatigued, that was the worst of it. So they sent for Sophy, and she was taken into the house to reside with them, and her presence there was a great advantage. Mamma-in-law acknowledged that Sophy was not only a clever housewife, but well-informed and accomplished, though that could hardly be expected in a person of her limited means. She was also a generous-hearted, faithful girl; she showed that thoroughly while Kæla lay sick, fading away. When the casket is everything, the casket should be strong, or else all is over. And all was over with the casket, for Kæla died.

“She was beautiful,” said her mother; “she was quite different from the beauties they call ‘antiques,’ for they are so damaged. A beauty ought to be perfect, and Kæla was a perfect beauty.”

Alfred wept, and mamma wept, and they both wore mourning. The black dress suited mamma very well, and she wore mourning the longest. She had also to experience another grief in seeing Alfred marry again, marry Sophy, who was nothing at all to look at. “He’s gone to the very extreme,” said mamma-in-law; “he has gone from the most beautiful to the ugliest, and he has forgotten his first wife. Men have no constancy. My husband was a very different man,—but then he died before me.”

“‘Pygmalion loved his Galatea,’ was in the song they sung at my first wedding,” said Alfred; “I once fell in love with a beautiful statue, which awoke to life in my arms; but the kindred soul, which is a gift from heaven, the angel who can feel and sympathize with and elevate us, I have not found and won till now. You came, Sophy, not in the glory of outward beauty, though you are even fairer than is necessary. The chief thing still remains. You came to teach the sculptor that his work is but dust and clay only, an outward form made of a material that decays, and that what we should seek to obtain is the ethereal essence of mind and spirit. Poor Kæla! our life was but as a meeting by the way-side; in yonder world, where we shall know each other from a union of mind, we shall be but mere acquaintances.”

“That was not a loving speech,” said Sophy, “nor spoken like a Christian. In a future state, where there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage, but where, as you say, souls are attracted to each other by sympathy; there everything beautiful develops itself, and is raised to a higher state of existence: her soul will acquire such completeness that it may harmonize with yours, even more than mine, and you will then once more utter your first rapturous exclamation of your love, ‘Beautiful, most beautiful!’”

 

A Story from the Sand-Hills
 
THIS story is from the sand-dunes or sand-hills of Jutland, but it does not begin there in the North, but far away in the South, in Spain. The wide sea is the highroad from nation to nation; journey in thought; then, to sunny Spain. It is warm and beautiful there; the fiery pomegranate flowers peep from among dark laurels; a cool refreshing breeze from the mountains blows over the orange gardens, over the Moorish halls with their golden cupolas and coloured walls. Children go through the streets in procession with candles and waving banners, and the sky, lofty and clear with its glittering stars, rises above them. Sounds of singing and castanets can be heard, and youths and maidens dance upon the flowering acacia trees, while even the beggar sits upon a block of marble, refreshing himself with a juicy melon, and dreamily enjoying life. It all seems like a beautiful dream.

Here dwelt a newly married couple who completely gave themselves up to the charm of life; indeed they possessed every good thing they could desire—health and happiness, riches and honour.

“We are as happy as human beings can be,” said the young couple from the depths of their hearts. They had indeed only one step higher to mount on the ladder of happiness—they hoped that God would give them a child, a son like them in form and spirit. The happy little one was to be welcomed with rejoicing, to be cared for with love and tenderness, and enjoy every advantage of wealth and luxury that a rich and influential family can give. So the days went by like a joyous festival.

“Life is a gracious gift from God, almost too great a gift for us to appreciate!” said the young wife. “Yet they say that fulness of joy for ever and ever can only be found in the future life. I cannot realise it!”

“The thought arises, perhaps, from the arrogance of men,” said the husband. “It seems a great pride to believe that we shall live for ever, that we shall be as gods! Were not these the words of the serpent, the father of lies?”

“Surely you do not doubt the existence of a future life?” exclaimed the young wife. It seemed as if one of the first shadows passed over her sunny thoughts.

“Faith realises it, and the priests tell us so,” replied her husband; “but amid all my happiness I feel that it is arrogant to demand a continuation of it—another life after this. Has not so much been given us in this world that we ought to be, we must be, contented with it?”

“Yes, it has been given to us,” said the young wife, “but this life is nothing more than one long scene of trial and hardship to many thousands. How many have been cast into this world only to endure poverty, shame, illness, and misfortune? If there were no future life, everything here would be too unequally divided, and God would not be the personification of justice.”

“The beggar there,” said her husband, “has joys of his own which seem to him great, and cause him as much pleasure as a king would find in the magnificence of his palace. And then do you not think that the beast of burden, which suffers blows and hunger, and works itself to death, suffers just as much from its miserable fate? The dumb creature might demand a future life also, and declare the law unjust that excludes it from the advantages of the higher creation.”

“Christ said: ‘In my father’s house are many mansions,’” she answered. “Heaven is as boundless as the love of our Creator; the dumb animal is also His creature, and I firmly believe that no life will be lost, but each will receive as much happiness as he can enjoy, which will be sufficient for him.”

“This world is sufficient for me,” said the husband, throwing his arm round his beautiful, sweet-tempered wife. He sat by her side on the open balcony, smoking a cigarette in the cool air, which was loaded with the sweet scent of carnations and orange blossoms. Sounds of music and the clatter of castanets came from the road beneath, the stars shone above then, and two eyes full of affection—those of his wife—looked upon him with the expression of undying love. “Such a moment,” he said, “makes it worth while to be born, to die, and to be annihilated!” He smiled—the young wife raised her hand in gentle reproof, and the shadow passed away from her mind, and they were happy—quite happy.

Everything seemed to work together for their good. They advanced in honour, in prosperity, and in happiness. A change came certainly, but it was only a change of place and not of circumstances.

The young man was sent by his Sovereign as ambassador to the Russian Court. This was an office of high dignity, but his birth and his acquirements entitled him to the honour. He possessed a large fortune, and his wife had brought him wealth equal to his own, for she was the daughter of a rich and respected merchant. One of this merchant’s largest and finest ships was to be sent that year to Stockholm, and it was arranged that the dear young couple, the daughter and the son-in-law, should travel in it to St. Petersburg. All the arrangements on board were princely and silk and luxury on every side.

In an old war song, called “The King of England’s Son,” it says:

“Farewell, he said, and sailed away.
And many recollect that day.
The ropes were of silk, the anchor of gold,
And everywhere riches and wealth untold.”
These words would aptly describe the vessel from Spain, for here was the same luxury, and the same parting thought naturally arose:

“God grant that we once more may meet
In sweet unclouded peace and joy.”
There was a favourable wind blowing as they left the Spanish coast, and it would be but a short journey, for they hoped to reach their destination in a few weeks; but when they came out upon the wide ocean the wind dropped, the sea became smooth and shining, and the stars shone brightly. Many festive evenings were spent on board. At last the travellers began to wish for wind, for a favourable breeze; but their wish was useless—not a breath of air stirred, or if it did arise it was contrary. Weeks passed by in this way, two whole months, and then at length a fair wind blew from the south-west. The ship sailed on the high seas between Scotland and Jutland; then the wind increased, just as it did in the old song of “The King of England’s Son.”

“ ’Mid storm and wind, and pelting hail,
Their efforts were of no avail.
The golden anchor forth they threw;
Towards Denmark the west wind blew.”
This all happened a long time ago; King Christian VII, who sat on the Danish throne, was still a young man. Much has happened since then, much has altered or been changed. Sea and moorland have been turned into green meadows, stretches of heather have become arable land, and in the shelter of the peasant’s cottages, apple-trees and rose-bushes grow, though they certainly require much care, as the sharp west wind blows upon them. In West Jutland one may go back in thought to old times, farther back than the days when Christian VII ruled. The purple heather still extends for miles, with its barrows and aerial spectacles, intersected with sandy uneven roads, just as it did then; towards the west, where broad streams run into the bays, are marshes and meadows encircled by lofty, sandy hills, which, like a chain of Alps, raise their pointed summits near the sea; they are only broken by high ridges of clay, from which the sea, year by year, bites out great mouthfuls, so that the overhanging banks fall down as if by the shock of an earthquake. Thus it is there today and thus it was long ago, when the happy pair were sailing in the beautiful ship.

It was a Sunday, towards the end of September; the sun was shining, and the chiming of the church bells in the Bay of Nissum was carried along by the breeze like a chain of sounds. The churches there are almost entirely built of hewn blocks of stone, each like a piece of rock. The North Sea might foam over them and they would not be disturbed. Nearly all of them are without steeples, and the bells are hung outside between two beams. The service was over, and the congregation passed out into the churchyard, where not a tree or bush was to be seen; no flowers were planted there, and they had not placed a single wreath upon any of the graves. It is just the same now. Rough mounds show where the dead have been buried, and rank grass, tossed by the wind, grows thickly over the whole churchyard; here and there a grave has a sort of monument, a block of half-decayed wood, rudely cut in the shape of a coffin; the blocks are brought from the forest of West Jutland, but the forest is the sea itself, and the inhabitants find beams, and planks, and fragments which the waves have cast upon the beach. One of these blocks had been placed by loving hands on a child’s grave, and one of the women who had come out of the church walked up to it; she stood there, her eyes resting on the weather-beaten memorial, and a few moments afterwards her husband joined her. They were both silent, but he took her hand, and they walked together across the purple heath, over moor and meadow towards the sandhills. For a long time they went on without speaking.

“It was a good sermon to-day,” the man said at last. “If we had not God to trust in, we should have nothing.”

“Yes,” replied the woman, “He sends joy and sorrow, and He has a right to send them. To-morrow our little son would have been five years old if we had been permitted to keep him.”

“It is no use fretting, wife,” said the man. “The boy is well provided for. He is where we hope and pray to go to.”

They said nothing more, but went out towards their houses among the sand-hills. All at once, in front of one of the houses where the sea grass did not keep the sand down with its twining roots, what seemed to be a column of smoke rose up. A gust of wind rushed between the hills, hurling the particles of sand high into the air; another gust, and the strings of fish hung up to dry flapped and beat violently against the walls of the cottage; then everything was quiet once more, and the sun shone with renewed heat.

The man and his wife went into the cottage. They had soon taken off their Sunday clothes and come out again, hurrying over the dunes which stood there like great waves of sand suddenly arrested in their course, while the sandweeds and dune grass with its bluish stalks spread a changing colour over them. A few neighbours also came out, and helped each other to draw the boats higher up on the beach. The wind now blew more keenly, it was chilly and cold, and when they went back over the sand-hills, sand and little sharp stones blew into their faces. The waves rose high, crested with white foam, and the wind cut off their crests, scattering the foam far and wide.

Evening came; there was a swelling roar in the air, a wailing or moaning like the voices of despairing spirits, that sounded above the thunder of the waves. The fisherman’s little cottage was on the very margin, and the sand rattled against the window panes; every now and then a violent gust of wind shook the house to its foundation. It was dark, but about midnight the moon would rise. Later on the air became clearer, but the storm swept over the perturbed sea with undiminished fury; the fisher folks had long since gone to bed, but in such weather there was no chance of closing an eye. Presently there was a tapping at the window; the door was opened, and a voice said:

“There’s a large ship stranded on the farthest reef.”

In a moment the fisher people sprung from their beds and hastily dressed themselves. The moon had risen, and it was light enough to make the surrounding objects visible to those who could open their eyes in the blinding clouds of sand; the violence of the wind was terrible, and it was only possible to pass among the sand-hills if one crept forward between the gusts; the salt spray flew up from the sea like down, and the ocean foamed like a roaring cataract towards the beach. Only a practised eye could discern the vessel out in the offing; she was a fine brig, and the waves now lifted her over the reef, three or four cables’ length out of the usual channel. She drove towards the shore, struck on the second reef, and remained fixed.

It was impossible to render assistance; the sea rushed in upon the vessel, making a clean breach over her. Those on shore thought they heard cries for help from those on board, and could plainly distinguish the busy but useless efforts made by the stranded sailors. Now a wave came rolling onward. It fell with enormous force on the bowsprit, tearing it from the vessel, and the stern was lifted high above the water. Two people were seen to embrace and plunge together into the sea, and the next moment one of the largest waves that rolled towards the sand-hills threw a body on the beach. It was a woman; the sailors said that she was quite dead, but the women thought they saw signs of life in her, so the stranger was carried across the sand-hills to the fisherman’s cottage. How beautiful and fair she was! She must be a great lady, they said.

They laid her upon the humble bed; there was not a yard of linen on it, only a woollen coverlet to keep the occupant warm.

Life returned to her, but she was delirious, and knew nothing of what had happened or where she was; and it was better so, for everything she loved and valued lay buried in the sea. The same thing happened to her ship as to the one spoken of in the song about “The King of England’s Son.”

“Alas! how terrible to see
The gallant bark sink rapidly.”
Fragments of the wreck and pieces of wood were washed ashore; they were all that remained of the vessel. The wind still blew violently on the coast.

For a few moments the strange lady seemed to rest; but she awoke in pain, and uttered cries of anguish and fear. She opened her wonderfully beautiful eyes, and spoke a few words, but nobody understood her.—And lo! as a reward for the sorrow and suffering she had undergone, she held in her arms a new-born babe. The child that was to have rested upon a magnificent couch, draped with silken curtains, in a luxurious home; it was to have been welcomed with joy to a life rich in all the good things of this world; and now Heaven had ordained that it should be born in this humble retreat, that it should not even receive a kiss from its mother, for when the fisherman’s wife laid the child upon the mother’s bosom, it rested on a heart that beat no more—she was dead.

The child that was to have been reared amid wealth and luxury was cast into the world, washed by the sea among the sand-hills to share the fate and hardships of the poor.

Here we are reminded again of the song about “The King of England’s Son,” for in it mention is made of the custom prevalent at the time, when knights and squires plundered those who had been saved from shipwreck. The ship had stranded some distance south of Nissum Bay, and the cruel, inhuman days, when, as we have just said, the inhabitants of Jutland treated the shipwrecked people so crudely were past, long ago. Affectionate sympathy and self-sacrifice for the unfortunate existed then, just as it does in our own time in many a bright example. The dying mother and the unfortunate child would have found kindness and help wherever they had been cast by the winds, but nowhere would it have been more sincere than in the cottage of the poor fisherman’s wife, who had stood, only the day before, beside her child’s grave, who would have been five years old that day if God had spared it to her.

No one knew who the dead stranger was, they could not even form a conjecture; the fragments of wreckage gave no clue to the matter.

No tidings reached Spain of the fate of the daughter and son-in-law. They did not arrive at their destination, and violent storms had raged during the past weeks. At last the verdict was given: “Foundered at sea—all lost.” But in the fisherman’s cottage among the sand-hills near Huusby, there lived a little scion of the rich Spanish family.

Where Heaven sends food for two, a third can manage to find a meal, and in the depth of the sea there is many a dish of fish for the hungry.

They called the boy Jørgen.

“It must certainly be a Jewish child, its skin is so dark,” the people said.

“It might be an Italian or a Spaniard,” remarked the clergyman.

But to the fisherman’s wife these nations seemed all the same, and she consoled herself with the thought that the child was baptized as a Christian.

The boy throve; the noble blood in his veins was warm, and he became strong on his homely fare. He grew apace in the humble cottage, and the Danish dialect spoken by the West Jutes became his language. The pomegranate seed from Spain became a hardy plant on the coast of West Jutland. Thus may circumstances alter the course of a man’s life! To this home he clung with deep-rooted affection; he was to experience cold and hunger, and the misfortunes and hardships that surround the poor; but he also tasted of their joys.

Childhood has bright days for every one, and the memory of them shines through the whole after-life. The boy had many sources of pleasure and enjoyment; the coast for miles and miles was full of playthings, for it was a mosaic of pebbles, some red as coral or yellow as amber, and others again white and rounded like birds’ eggs and smoothed and prepared by the sea. Even the bleached fishes’ skeletons, the water plants dried by the wind, and seaweed, white and shining long linen-like bands waving between the stones—all these seemed made to give pleasure and occupation for the boy’s thoughts, and he had an intelligent mind; many great talents lay dormant in him. How readily he remembered stories and songs that he heard, and how dexterous he was with his fingers! With stones and mussel-shells he could put together pictures and ships with which one could decorate the room; and he could make wonderful things from a stick, his foster-mother said, although he was still so young and little. He had a sweet voice, and every melody seemed to flow naturally from his lips. And in his heart were hidden chords, which might have sounded far out into the world if he had been placed anywhere else than in the fisherman’s hut by the North Sea.

One day another ship was wrecked on the coast, and among other things a chest filled with valuable flower bulbs was washed ashore. Some were put into saucepans and cooked, for they were thought to be fit to eat, and others lay and shrivelled in the sand—they did not accomplish their purpose, or unfold their magnificent colours. Would Jørgen fare better? The flower bulbs had soon played their part, but he had years of apprenticeship before him. Neither he nor his friends noticed in what a monotonous, uniform way one day followed another, for there was always plenty to do and see. The ocean itself was a great lesson-book, and it unfolded a new leaf each day of calm or storm—the crested wave or the smooth surface.

The visits to the church were festive occasions, but among the fisherman’s house one was especially looked forward to; this was, in fact, the visit of the brother of Jørgen’s foster-mother, the eel-breeder from Fjaltring, near Bovbjerg. He came twice a year in a cart, painted red with blue and white tulips upon it, and full of eels; it was covered and locked like a box, two dun oxen drew it, and Jørgen was allowed to guide them.

The eel-breeder was a witty fellow, a merry guest, and brought a measure of brandy with him. They all received a small glassful or a cupful if there were not enough glasses; even Jørgen had about a thimbleful, that he might digest the fat eel, as the eel-breeder said; he always told one story over and over again, and if his hearers laughed he would immediately repeat it to them. Jørgen while still a boy, and also when he was older, used phrases from the eel-breeder’s story on various occasions, so it will be as well for us to listen to it. It runs thus:

“The eels went into the bay, and the young ones begged leave to go a little farther out. ‘Don’t go too far,’ said their mother; ‘the ugly eel-spearer might come and snap you all up.’ But they went too far, and of eight daughters only three came back to the mother, and these wept and said, ‘We only went a little way out, and the ugly eel-spearer came immediately and stabbed five of our sisters to death.’ ‘They’ll come back again,’ said the mother eel. ‘Oh, no,’ exclaimed the daughters, ‘for he skinned them, cut them in two, and fried them.’ ‘Oh, they’ll come back again,’ the mother eel persisted. ‘No,’ replied the daughters, ‘for he ate them up.’ ‘They’ll come back again,’ repeated the mother eel. ‘But he drank brandy after them,’ said the daughters. ‘Ah, then they’ll never come back,’ said the mother, and she burst out crying, ‘it’s the brandy that buries the eels.’”

“And therefore,” said the eel-breeder in conclusion, ”it is always the proper thing to drink brandy after eating eels.”

This story was the tinsel thread, the most humorous recollection of Jørgen’s life. He also wanted to go a little way farther out and up the bay—that is to say, out into the world in a ship—but his mother said, like the eel-breeder, “There are so many bad people—eel spearers!” He wished to go a little way past the sand-hills, out into the dunes, and at last he did: four happy days, the brightest of his childhood, fell to his lot, and the whole beauty and splendour of Jutland, all the happiness and sunshine of his home, were concentrated in these. He went to a festival, but it was a burial feast.

A rich relation of the fisherman’s family had died; the farm was situated far eastward in the country and a little towards the north. Jørgen’s foster parents went there, and he also went with them from the dunes, over heath and moor, where the Skjærumaa takes its course through green meadows and contains many eels; mother eels live there with their daughters, who are caught and eaten up by wicked people. But do not men sometimes act quite as cruelly towards their own fellow-men? Was not the knight Sir Bugge murdered by wicked people? And though he was well spoken of, did he not also wish to kill the architect who built the castle for him, with its thick walls and tower, at the point where the Skjærumaa falls into the bay? Jørgen and his parents now stood there; the wall and the ramparts still remained, and red crumbling fragments lay scattered around. Here it was that Sir Bugge, after the architect had left him, said to one of his men, “Go after him and say, ‘Master, the tower shakes.’ If he turns round, kill him and take away the money I paid him, but if he does not turn round let him go in peace.” The man did as he was told; the architect did not turn round, but called back “The tower does not shake in the least, but one day a man will come from the west in a blue cloak—he will cause it to shake!” And so indeed it happened a hundred years later, for the North Sea broke in and cast down the tower; but Predbjørn Gyldenstjerne, the man who then possessed the castle, built a new castle higher up at the end of the meadow, and that one is standing to this day, and is called Nørre-Vosborg.

Jørgen and his foster parents went past this castle. They had told him its story during the long winter evenings, and now he saw the stately edifice, with its double moat, and trees and bushes; the wall, covered with ferns, rose within the moat, but the lofty lime-trees were the most beautiful of all; they grew up to the highest windows, and the air was full of their sweet fragrance. In a north-west corner of the garden stood a great bush full of blossom, like winter snow amid the summer’s green; it was a juniper bush, the first that Jørgen had ever seen in bloom. He never forgot it, nor the lime-trees; the child’s soul treasured up these memories of beauty and fragrance to gladden the old man.

From Nørre-Vosborg, where the juniper blossomed, the journey became more pleasant, for they met some other people who were also going to the funeral and were riding in waggons. Our travellers had to sit all together on a little box at the back of the waggon, but even this, they thought, was better than walking. So they continued their journey across the rugged heath. The oxen which drew the waggon stopped every now and then, where a patch of fresh grass appeared amid the heather. The sun shone with considerable heat, and it was wonderful to behold how in the far distance something like smoke seemed to be rising; yet this smoke was clearer than the air; it was transparent, and looked like rays of light rolling and dancing afar over the heath.

“That is Lokeman driving his sheep,” said some one.

And this was enough to excite Jørgen’s imagination. He felt as if they were now about to enter fairyland, though everything was still real. How quiet it was! The heath stretched far and wide around them like a beautiful carpet. The heather was in blossom, and the juniper-bushes and fresh oak saplings rose like bouquets from the earth. An inviting place for a frolic, if it had not been for the number of poisonous adders of which the travellers spoke; they also mentioned that the place had formerly been infested with wolves, and that the district was still called Wolfsborg for this reason. The old man who was driving the oxen told them that in the lifetime of his father the horses had many a hard battle with the wild beasts that were now exterminated. One morning, when he himself had gone out to bring in the horses, he found one of them standing with its forefeet on a wolf it had killed, but the savage animal had torn and lacerated the brave horse’s legs.

The journey over the heath and the deep sand was only too quickly at an end. They stopped before the house of mourning, where they found plenty of guests within and without. Waggon after waggon stood side by side, while the horses and oxen had been turned out to graze on the scanty pasture. Great sand-hills like those at home by the North Sea rose behind the house and extended far and wide. How had they come here, so many miles inland? They were as large and high as those on the coast, and the wind had carried them there; there was also a legend attached to them.

Psalms were sung, and a few of the old people shed tears; with this exception, the guests were cheerful enough, it seemed to Jørgen, and there was plenty to eat and drink. There were eels of the fattest, requiring brandy to bury them, as the eel-breeder said; and certainly they did not forget to carry out his maxim here.

Jørgen went in and out the house; and on the third day he felt as much at home as he did in the fisherman’s cottage among the sand-hills, where he had passed his early days. Here on the heath were riches unknown to him until now; for flowers, blackberries, and bilberries were to be found in profusion, so large and sweet that when they were crushed beneath the tread of passers-by the heather was stained with their red juice. Here was a barrow and yonder another. Then columns of smoke rose into the still air; it was a heath fire, they told him—how brightly it blazed in the dark evening!

The fourth day came, and the funeral festivities were at an end; they were to go back from the land-dunes to the sand-dunes.

“Ours are better,” said the old fisherman, Jørgen’s foster-father; “these have no strength.”

And they spoke of the way in which the sand-dunes had come inland, and it seemed very easy to understand. This is how they explained it:

A dead body had been found on the coast, and the peasants buried it in the churchyard. From that time the sand began to fly about and the sea broke in with violence. A wise man in the district advised them to open the grave and see if the buried man was not lying sucking his thumb, for if so he must be a sailor, and the sea would not rest until it had got him back. The grave was opened, and he really was found with his thumb in his mouth. So they laid him upon a cart, and harnessed two oxen to it; and the oxen ran off with the sailor over heath and moor to the ocean, as if they had been stung by an adder. Then the sand ceased to fly inland, but the hills that had been piled up still remained.

All this Jørgen listened to and treasured up in his memory of the happiest days of his childhood—the days of the burial feast.

How delightful it was to see fresh places and to mix with strangers! And he was to go still farther, for he was not yet fourteen years old when he went out in a ship to see the world. He encountered bad weather, heavy seas, unkindness, and hard men—such were his experiences, for he became ship-boy. Cold nights, bad living, and blows had to be endured; then he felt his noble Spanish blood boil within him, and bitter, angry, words rose to his lips, but he gulped them down; it was better, although he felt as the eel must feel when it is skinned, cut up, and put into the frying-pan.

“I shall get over it,” said a voice within him.

He saw the Spanish coast, the native land of his parents. He even saw the town where they had lived in joy and prosperity, but he knew nothing of his home or his relations, and his relations knew just as little about him.

The poor ship boy was not permitted to land, but on the last day of their stay he managed to get ashore. There were several purchases to be made, and he was sent to carry them on board.

Jørgen stood there in his shabby clothes which looked as if they had been washed in the ditch and dried in the chimney; he, who had always dwelt among the sand-hills, now saw a great city for the first time. How lofty the houses seemed, and what a number of people there were in the streets! some pushing this way, some that—a perfect maelstrom of citizens and peasants, monks and soldiers—the jingling of bells on the trappings of asses and mules, the chiming of church bells, calling, shouting, hammering and knocking—all going on at once. Every trade was located in the basement of the houses or in the side thoroughfares; and the sun shone with such heat, and the air was so close, that one seemed to be in an oven full of beetles, cockchafers, bees and flies, all humming and buzzing together. Jørgen scarcely knew where he was or which way he went. Then he saw just in front of him the great doorway of a cathedral; the lights were gleaming in the dark aisles, and the fragrance of incense was wafted towards him. Even the poorest beggar ventured up the steps into the sanctuary. Jørgen followed the sailor he was with into the church, and stood in the sacred edifice. Coloured pictures gleamed from their golden background, and on the altar stood the figure of the Virgin with the child Jesus, surrounded by lights and flowers; priests in festive robes were chanting, and choir boys in dazzling attire swung silver censers. What splendour and magnificence he saw there! It streamed in upon his soul and overpowered him: the church and the faith of his parents surrounded him, and touched a chord in his heart that caused his eyes to overflow with tears.

They went from the church to the market-place. Here a quantity of provisions were given him to carry. The way to the harbour was long; and weary and overcome with various emotions, he rested for a few moments before a splendid house, with marble pillars, statues, and broad steps. Here he rested his burden against the wall. Then a porter in livery came out, lifted up a silver-headed cane, and drove him away—him, the grandson of that house. But no one knew that, and he just as little as any one. Then he went on board again, and once more encountered rough words and blows, much work and little sleep—such was his experience of life. They say it is good to suffer in one’s young days, if age brings something to make up for it.

His period of service on board the ship came to an end, and the vessel lay once more at Ringkjøbing in Jutland. He came ashore, and went home to the sand-dunes near Huusby; but his foster-mother had died during his absence.

A hard winter followed this summer. Snow-storms swept over land and sea, and there was difficulty in getting from one place to another. How unequally things are distributed in this world! Here there was bitter cold and snow-storms, while in Spain there was burning sunshine and oppressive heat. Yet, when a clear frosty day came, and Jørgen saw the swans flying in numbers from the sea towards the land, across to Nørre-Vosborg, it seemed to him that people could breathe more freely here; the summer also in this part of the world was splendid. In imagination he saw the heath blossom and become purple with rich juicy berries, and the elder-bushes and lime-trees at Nørre Vosborg in flower. He made up his mind to go there again.

Spring came, and the fishing began. Jørgen was now an active helper in this, for he had grown during the last year, and was quick at work. He was full of life, and knew how to swim, to tread water, and to turn over and tumble in the strong tide. They often warned him to beware of the sharks, which seize the best swimmer, draw him down, and devour him; but such was not to be Jørgen’s fate.

At a neighbour’s house in the dunes there was a boy named Martin, with whom Jørgen was on very friendly terms, and they both took service in the same ship to Norway, and also went together to Holland. They never had a quarrel, but a person can be easily excited to quarrel when he is naturally hot tempered, for he often shows it in many ways; and this is just what Jørgen did one day when they fell out about the merest trifle. They were sitting behind the cabin door, eating from a delft plate, which they had placed between them. Jørgen held his pocket-knife in his hand and raised it towards Martin, and at the same time became ashy pale, and his eyes had an ugly look. Martin only said, “Ah! ah! you are one of that sort, are you? Fond of using the knife!”

The words were scarcely spoken, when Jørgen’s hand sank down. He did not answer a syllable, but went on eating, and afterwards returned to his work. When they were resting again he walked up to Martin and said:

“Hit me in the face! I deserve it. But sometimes I feel as if I had a pot in me that boils over.”

“There, let the thing rest,” replied Martin.

And after that they were almost better friends than ever; when afterwards they returned to the dunes and began telling their adventures, this was told among the rest. Martin said that Jørgen was certainly passionate, but a good fellow after all.

They were both young and healthy, well-grown and strong; but Jørgen was the cleverer of the two.

In Norway the peasants go into the mountains and take the cattle there to find pasture. On the west coast of Jutland huts have been erected among the sand-hills; they are built of pieces of wreck, and thatched with turf and heather; there are sleeping places round the walls, and here the fishermen live and sleep during the early spring. Every fisherman has a female helper, or manager as she is called, who baits his hooks, prepares warm beer for him when he comes ashore, and gets the dinner cooked and ready for him by the time he comes back to the hut tired and hungry. Besides this the managers bring up the fish from the boats, cut them open, prepare them, and have generally a great deal to do.

Jørgen, his father, and several other fishermen and their managers inhabited the same hut; Martin lived in the next one.

One of the girls, whose name was Else, had known Jørgen from childhood; they were glad to see each other, and were of the same opinion on many points, but in appearance they were entirely opposite; for he was dark, and she was pale, and fair, and had flaxen hair, and eyes as blue as the sea in sunshine.

As they were walking together one day, Jørgen held her hand very firmly in his, and she said to him:

“Jørgen, I have something I want to say to you; let me be your manager, for you are like a brother to me; but Martin, whose housekeeper I am—he is my lover—but you need not tell this to the others.”

It seemed to Jørgen as if the loose sand was giving way under his feet. He did not speak a word, but nodded his head, and that meant “yes.” It was all that was necessary; but he suddenly felt in his heart that he hated Martin, and the more he thought the more he felt convinced that Martin had stolen away from him the only being he ever loved, and that this was Else: he had never thought of Else in this way before, but now it all became plain to him.

When the sea is rather rough, and the fishermen are coming home in their great boats, it is wonderful to see how they cross the reefs. One of them stands upright in the bow of the boat, and the others watch him sitting with the oars in their hands. Outside the reef it looks as if the boat was not approaching land but going back to sea; then the man who is standing up gives them the signal that the great wave is coming which is to float them across the reef. The boat is lifted high into the air, so that the keel is seen from the shore; the next moment nothing can be seen, mast, keel, and people are all hidden—it seems as though the sea had devoured them; but in a few moments they emerge like a great sea animal climbing up the waves, and the oars move as if the creature had legs. The second and third reef are passed in the same manner; then the fishermen jump into the water and push the boat towards the shore—every wave helps them—and at length they have it drawn up, beyond the reach of the breakers.

A wrong order given in front of the reef—the slightest hesitation—and the boat would be lost,

“Then it would be all over with me and Martin too!”

This thought passed through Jørgen’s mind one day while they were out at sea, where his foster-father had been taken suddenly ill. The fever had seized him. They were only a few oars’ strokes from the reef, and Jørgen sprang from his seat and stood up in the bow.

“Father-let me come!” he said, and he glanced at Martin and across the waves; every oar bent with the exertions of the rowers as the great wave came towards them, and he saw his father’s pale face, and dared not obey the evil impulse that had shot through his brain. The boat came safely across the reef to land; but the evil thought remained in his heart, and roused up every little fibre of bitterness which he remembered between himself and Martin since they had known each other. But he could not weave the fibres together, nor did he endeavour to do so. He felt that Martin had robbed him, and this was enough to make him hate his former friend. Several of the fishermen saw this, but Martin did not—he remained as obliging and talkative as ever, in fact he talked rather too much.

Jørgen’s foster-father took to his bed, and it became his death-bed, for he died a week afterwards; and now Jørgen was heir to the little house behind the sand-hills. It was small, certainly, but still it was something, and Martin had nothing of the kind.

“You will not go to sea again, Jørgen, I suppose,” observed one of the old fishermen. “You will always stay with us now.”

But this was not Jørgen’s intention; he wanted to see something of the world. The eel-breeder of Fjaltring had an uncle at Old Skagen, who was a fisherman, but also a prosperous merchant with ships upon the sea; he was said to be a good old man, and it would not be a bad thing to enter his service. Old Skagen lies in the extreme north of Jutland, as far away from the Huusby dunes as one can travel in that country; and this is just what pleased Jørgen, for he did not want to remain till the wedding of Martin and Else, which would take place in a week or two.

The old fisherman said it was foolish to go away, for now that Jørgen had a home Else would very likely be inclined to take him instead of Martin.

Jørgen gave such a vague answer that it was not easy to make out what he meant—the old man brought Else to him, and she said:

“You have a home now; you ought to think of that.”

And Jørgen thought of many things.

The sea has heavy waves, but there are heavier waves in the human heart. Many thoughts, strong and weak, rushed through Jørgen’s brain, and he said to Else:

“If Martin had a house like mine, which of us would you rather have?”

“But Martin has no house and cannot get one.”

“Suppose he had one?”

“Well, then I would certainly take Martin, for that is what my heart tells me; but one cannot live upon love.”

Jørgen turned these things over in his mind all night. Something was working within him, he hardly knew what it was, but it was even stronger than his love for Else; and so he went to Martin’s, and what he said and did there was well considered. He let the house to Martin on most liberal terms, saying that he wished to go to sea again, because he loved it. And Else kissed him when she heard of it, for she loved Martin best.

Jørgen proposed to start early in the morning, and on the evening before his departure, when it was already getting rather late, he felt a wish to visit Martin once more. He started, and among the dunes met the old fisherman, who was angry at his leaving the place. The old man made jokes about Martin, and declared there must be some magic about that fellow, of whom the girls were so fond.

Jørgen did not pay any attention to his remarks, but said good-bye to the old man and went on towards the house where Martin dwelt. He heard loud talking inside; Martin was not alone, and this made Jørgen waver in his determination, for he did not wish to see Else again. On second thoughts, he decided that it was better not to hear any more thanks from Martin, and so he turned back.

On the following morning, before the sun rose, he fastened his knapsack on his back, took his wooden provision box in his hand, and went away among the sand-hills towards the coast path. This way was more pleasant than the heavy sand road, and besides it was shorter; and he intended to go first to Fjaltring, near Bovbjerg, where the eel-breeder lived, to whom he had promised a visit.

The sea lay before him, clear and blue, and the mussel shells and pebbles, the playthings of his childhood, crunched over his feet. While he thus walked on his nose suddenly began to bleed; it was a trifling occurrence, but trifles sometimes are of great importance. A few large drops of blood fell upon one of his sleeves. He wiped them off and stopped the bleeding, and it seemed to him as if this had cleared and lightened his brain. The sea-cale bloomed here and there in the sand as he passed. He broke off a spray and stuck it in his hat; he determined to be merry and light-hearted, for he was going out into the wide world—“a little way out, beyond the bay,” as the young eels had said. “Beware of bad people who will catch you, and skin you, and put you in the frying-pan!” he repeated in his mind, and smiled, for he thought he should find his way through the world—good courage is a strong weapon!

The sun was high in the heavens when he approached the narrow entrance to Nissum Bay. He looked back and saw a couple of horsemen galloping a long distance behind him, and there were other people with them. But this did not concern him.

The ferry-boat was on the opposite side of the bay. Jørgen called to the ferry-man, and the latter came over with his boat. Jørgen stepped in; but before he had got half-way across, the men whom he had seen riding so hastily, came up, hailed the ferry-man, and commanded him to return in the name of the law. Jørgen did not understand the reason of this, but he thought it would be best to turn back, and therefore he himself took an oar and returned. As soon as the boat touched the shore, the men sprang on board, and before he was aware of it, they had bound his hands with a rope.

“This wicked deed will cost you your life,” they said. “It is a good thing we have caught you.”

He was accused of nothing less than murder. Martin had been found dead, with his throat cut. One of the fishermen, late on the previous evening, had met Jørgen going towards Martin’s house; this was not the first time Jørgen had raised his knife against Martin, so they felt sure that he was the murderer. The prison was in a town at a great distance, and the wind was contrary for going there by sea; but it would not take half an hour to get across the bay, and another quarter of an hour would bring them to Nørre-Vosborg, the great castle with ramparts and moat. One of Jørgen’s captors was a fisherman, a brother of the keeper of the castle, and he said it might be managed that Jørgen should be placed for the present in the dungeon at Vosborg, where Long Martha the gipsy had been shut up till her execution. They paid no attention to Jørgen’s defence; the few drops of blood on his shirt-sleeve bore heavy witness against him. But he was conscious of his innocence, and as there was no chance of clearing himself at present he submitted to his fate.

The party landed just at the place where Sir Bugge’s castle had stood, and where Jørgen had walked with his foster-parents after the burial feast, during. the four happiest days of his childhood. He was led by the well-known path, over the meadow to Vosborg; once more the elders were in bloom and the lofty lime-trees gave forth sweet fragrance, and it seemed as if it were but yesterday that he had last seen the spot. In each of the two wings of the castle there was a staircase which led to a place below the entrance, from whence there is access to a low, vaulted cellar. In this dungeon Long Martha had been imprisoned, and from here she was led away to the scaffold. She had eaten the hearts of five children, and had imagined that if she could obtain two more she would be able to fly and make herself invisible. In the middle of the roof of the cellar there was a little narrow air-hole, but no window. The flowering lime trees could not breathe refreshing fragrance into that abode, where everything was dark and mouldy. There was only a rough bench in the cell; but a good conscience is a soft pillow, and therefore Jørgen could sleep well.

The thick oaken door was locked, and secured on the outside by an iron bar; but the goblin of superstition can creep through a keyhole into a baron’s castle just as easily as it can into a fisherman’s cottage, and why should he not creep in here, where Jørgen sat thinking of Long Martha and her wicked deeds? Her last thoughts on the night before her execution had filled this place, and the magic that tradition asserted to have been practised here, in Sir Svanwedel’s time, came into Jørgen’s mind, and made him shudder; but a sunbeam, a refreshing thought from without, penetrated his heart even here—it was the remembrance of the flowering elder and the sweet smelling lime-trees.

He was not left there long. They took him away to the town of Ringkjøbing, where he was imprisoned with equal severity.

Those times were not like ours. The common people were treated harshly; and it was just after the days when farms were converted into knights’ estates, when coachmen and servants were often made magistrates, and had power to sentence a poor man, for a small offence, to lose his property and to corporeal punishment. Judges of this kind were still to be found; and in Jutland, so far from the capital, and from the enlightened, well-meaning, head of the Government, the law was still very loosely administered sometimes—the smallest grievance Jørgen could expect was that his case should be delayed.

His dwelling was cold and comfortless; and how long would he be obliged to bear all this? It seemed his fate to suffer misfortune and sorrow innocently. He now had plenty of time to reflect on the difference of fortune on earth, and to wonder why this fate had been allotted to him; yet he felt sure that all would be made clear in the next life, the existence that awaits us when this life is over. His faith had grown strong in the poor fisherman’s cottage; the light which had never shone into his father’s mind, in all the richness and sunshine of Spain, was sent to him to be his comfort in poverty and distress, a sign of that mercy of God which never fails.

The spring storms began to blow. The rolling and moaning of the North Sea could be heard for miles inland when the wind was blowing, and then it sounded like the rushing of a thousand waggons over a hard road with a mine underneath. Jørgen heard these sounds in his prison, and it was a relief to him. No music could have touched his heart as did these sounds of the sea—the rolling sea, the boundless sea, on which a man can be borne across the world before the wind, carrying his own house with him wherever he goes, just as the snail carries its home even into a strange country.

He listened eagerly to its deep murmur and then the thought arose—“Free! free! How happy to be free, even barefooted and in ragged clothes!” Sometimes, when such thoughts crossed his mind, the fiery nature rose within him, and he beat the wall with his clenched fists.

Weeks, months, a whole year had gone by, when Niels the thief, called also a horse-dealer, was arrested; and now better times came, and it was seen that Jørgen had been wrongly accused.

On the afternoon before Jørgen’s departure from home, and before the murder, Niels the thief, had met Martin at a beer-house in the neighbourhood of Ringkjøbing. A few glasses were drank, not enough to cloud the brain, but enough to loosen Martin’s tongue. He began to boast and to say that he had obtained a house and intended to marry, and when Niels asked him where he was going to get the money, he slapped his pocket proudly and said:

“The money is here, where it ought to be.”

This boast cost him his life; for when he went home Niels followed him, and cut his throat, intending to rob the murdered man of the gold, which did not exist.

All this was circumstantially explained; but it is enough for us to know that Jørgen was set free. But what compensation did he get for having been imprisoned a whole year, and shut out from all communication with his fellow creatures? They told him he was fortunate in being proved innocent, and that he might go. The burgomaster gave him two dollars for travelling expenses, and many citizens offered him provisions and beer—there were still good people; they were not all hard and pitiless. But the best thing of all was that the merchant Brønne, of Skagen, into whose service Jørgen had proposed entering the year before, was just at that time on business in the town of Ringkjøbing. Brønne heard the whole story; he was kind-hearted, and understood what Jørgen must have felt and suffered. Therefore he made up his mind to make it up to the poor lad, and convince him that there were still kind folks in the world.

So Jørgen went forth from prison as if to paradise, to find freedom, affection, and trust. He was to travel this path now, for no goblet of life is all bitterness; no good man would pour out such a draught for his fellow-man, and how should He do it, Who is love personified?

“Let everything be buried and forgotten,” said Brønne, the merchant. “Let us draw a thick line through last year: we will even burn the almanack. In two days we will start for dear, friendly, peaceful Skagen. People call it an out-of-the-way corner; but it is a good warm chimney-corner, and its windows open toward every part of the world.”

What a journey that was: It was like taking fresh breath out of the cold dungeon air into the warm sunshine. The heather bloomed in pride and beauty, and the shepherd-boy sat on a barrow and blew his pipe, which he had carved for himself out of a sheep bone. Fata Morgana, the beautiful aerial phenomenon of the wilderness, appeared with hanging gardens and waving forests, and the wonderful cloud called “Lokeman driving his sheep” also was seen.

Up towards Skagen they went, through the land of the Wendels, whence the men with long beards (the Longobardi or Lombards) had emigrated in the reign of King Snio, when all the children and old people were to have been killed, till the noble Dame Gambaruk proposed that the young people should emigrate. Jørgen knew all this, he had some little knowledge; and although he did not know the land of the Lombards beyond the lofty Alps, he had an idea that it must be there, for in his boyhood he had been in the south, in Spain. He thought of the plenteousness of the southern fruit, of the red pomegranate flowers, of the humming, buzzing, and toiling in the great beehive of a city he had seen; but home is the best place after all, and Jørgen’s home was Denmark.

At last they arrived at “Vendilskaga,” as Skagen is called in old Norwegian and Icelandic writings. At that time Old Skagen, with the eastern and western town, extended for miles, with sand hills and arable land as far as the lighthouse near “Grenen.” Then, as now, the houses were strewn among the wind-raised sand-hills—a wilderness in which the wind sports with the sand, and where the voice of the sea-gull and wild swan strikes harshly on the ear.

In the south-west, a mile from “Grenen,” lies Old Skagen; merchant Brønne dwelt here, and this was also to be Jørgen’s home for the future. The dwelling-house was tarred, and all the small out-buildings had been put together from pieces of wreck. There was no fence, for indeed there was nothing to fence in except the long rows of fishes which were hung upon lines, one above the other, to dry in the wind. The entire coast was strewn with spoiled herrings, for there were so many of these fish that a net was scarcely thrown into the sea before it was filled. They were caught by carloads, and many of them were either thrown back into the sea or left to lie on the beach.

The old man’s wife and daughter and his servants also came to meet him with great rejoicing. There was a great squeezing of hands, and talking and questioning. And the daughter, what a sweet face and bright eyes she had!

The inside of the house was comfortable and roomy. Fritters, that a king would have looked upon as a dainty dish, were placed on the table, and there was wine from the Skagen vineyard—that is, the sea; for there the grapes come ashore ready pressed and prepared in barrels and in bottles.

When the mother and daughter heard who Jørgen was, and how innocently he had suffered, they looked at him in a still more friendly way; and pretty Clara’s eyes had a look of especial interest as she listened to his story. Jørgen found a happy home in Old Skagen. It did his heart good, for it had been sorely tried. He had drunk the bitter goblet of love which softens or hardens the heart, according to circumstances. Jørgen’s heart was still soft—it was young, and therefore it was a good thing that Miss Clara was going in three weeks’ time to Christiansand in Norway, in her father’s ship, to visit an aunt and to stay there the whole winter.

On the Sunday before she went away they all went to church, to the Holy Communion. The church was large and handsome, and had been built centuries before by Scotchmen and Dutchmen; it stood some little way out of the town. It was rather ruinous certainly, and the road to it was heavy, through deep sand, but the people gladly surmounted these difficulties to get to the house of God, to sing psalms and to hear the sermon. The sand had heaped itself up round the walls of the church, but the graves were kept free from it.

It was the largest church north of the Limfjorden. The Virgin Mary, with a golden crown on her head and the child Jesus in her arms, stood lifelike on the altar; the holy Apostles had been carved in the choir, and on the walls there were portraits of the old burgomasters and councillors of Skagen; the pulpit was of carved work. The sun shone brightly into the church, and its radiance fell on the polished brass chandelier and on the little ship that hung from the vaulted roof.

Jørgen felt overcome by a holy, childlike feeling, like that which possessed him, when, as a boy, he stood in the splendid Spanish cathedral. But here the feeling was different, for he felt conscious of being one of the congregation.

After the sermon followed Holy Communion. He partook of the bread and wine, and it so happened that he knelt by the side of Miss Clara; but his thoughts were so fixed upon heaven and the Holy Sacrament that he did not notice his neighbour until he rose from his knees, and then he saw tears rolling down her cheeks.

She left Skagen and went to Norway two days later. He remained behind, and made himself useful on the farm and at the fishery. He went out fishing, and in those days fish were more plentiful and larger than they are now. The shoals of the mackerel glittered in the dark nights, and indicated where they were swimming; the gurnards snarled, and the crabs gave forth pitiful yells when they were chased, for fish are not so mute as people say.

Every Sunday Jørgen went to church; and when his eyes rested on the picture of the Virgin Mary over the altar as he sat there, they often glided away to the spot where they had knelt side by side.

Autumn came, and brought rain and snow with it; the water rose up right into the town of Skagen, the sand could not suck it all in, one had to wade through it or go by boat. The storms threw vessel after vessel on the fatal reefs; there were snow-storm and sand-storms; the sand flew up to the houses, blocking the entrances, so that people had to creep up through the chimneys; that was nothing at all remarkable here. It was pleasant and cheerful indoors, where peat fuel and fragments of wood from the wrecks blazed and crackled upon the hearth. Merchant Brønne read aloud, from an old chronicle, about Prince Hamlet of Denmark, who had come over from England, landed near Bovbjerg, and fought a battle; close by Ramme was his grave, only a few miles from the place where the eel-breeder lived; hundreds of barrow rose there from the heath, forming as it were an enormous churchyard. Merchant Brønne had himself been at Hamlet’s grave; they spoke about old times, and about their neighbours, the English and the Scotch, and Jørgen sang the air of “The King of England’s Son,” and of his splendid ship and its outfit.

“In the hour of peril when most men fear,
He clasped the bride that he held so dear,
And proved himself the son of a King;
Of his courage and valour let us sing.”
This verse Jørgen sang with so much feeling that his eyes beamed, and they were black and sparkling since his infancy.

There was wealth, comfort, and happiness even among the domestic animals, for they were all well cared for, and well kept. The kitchen looked bright with its copper and tin utensils, and white plates, and from the rafters hung hams, beef, and winter stores in plenty. This can still be seen in many rich farms on the west coast of Jutland: plenty to eat and drink, clean, prettily decorated rooms, active minds, cheerful tempers, and hospitality can be found there, as in an Arab’s tent.

Jørgen had never spent such a happy time since the famous burial feast, and yet Miss Clara was absent, except in the thoughts and memory of all.

In April a ship was to start for Norway, and Jørgen was to sail in it. He was full of life and spirits, and looked so sturdy and well that Dame Brønne said it did her good to see him.

“And it does one good to look at you also, old wife,” said the merchant. “Jørgen has brought fresh life into our winter evenings, and into you too, mother. You look younger than ever this year, and seem well and cheerful. But then you were once the prettiest girl in Viborg, and that is saying a great deal, for I have always found the Viborg girls the prettiest of any.”

Jørgen said nothing, but he thought of a certain maiden of Skagen, whom he was soon to visit. The ship set sail for Christiansand in Norway, and as the wind was favourable it soon arrived there.

One morning merchant Brønne went out to the lighthouse, which stands a little way out of Old Skagen, not far from “Grenen.” The light was out, and the sun was already high in the heavens, when he mounted the tower. The sand-banks extend a whole mile from the shore, beneath the water, outside these banks; many ships could be seen that day, and with the aid of his telescope the old man thought he descried his own ship, the Karen Brønne. Yes! certainly, there she was, sailing homewards with Clara and Jørgen on board.

Clara sat on deck, and saw the sand-hills gradually appearing in the distance; the church and lighthouse looked like a heron and a swan rising from the blue waters. If the wind held good they might reach home in about an hour. So near they were to home and all its joys—so near to death and all its terrors! A plank in the ship gave way, and the water rushed in; the crew flew to the pumps, and did their best to stop the leak. A signal of distress was hoisted, but they were still fully a mile from the shore. Some fishing boats were in sight, but they were too far off to be of any use. The wind blew towards the land, the tide was in their favour, but it was all useless; the ship could not be saved.

Jørgen threw his right arm round Clara, and pressed her to him. With what a look she gazed up into his face, as with a prayer to God for help he breasted the waves, which rushed over the sinking ship! She uttered a cry, but she felt safe and certain that he would not leave her to sink. And in this hour of terror and danger Jørgen felt as the king’s son did, as told in the old song:

“In the hour of peril when most men fear,
He clasped the bride that he held so dear.”
How glad he felt that he was a good swimmer! He worked his way onward with his feet and one arm, while he held the young girl up firmly with the other. He rested on the waves, he trod the water—in fact, did everything he could think of, in order not to fatigue himself, and to reserve strength enough to reach land. He heard Clara sigh, and felt her shudder convulsively, and he pressed her more closely to him. Now and then a wave rolled over them, the current lifted them; the water, although deep, was so clear that for a moment he imagined he saw the shoals of mackerel glittering, or Leviathan himself ready to swallow them. Now the clouds cast a shadow over the water, then again came the playing sunbeams; flocks of loudly screaming birds passed over him, and the plump and lazy wild ducks which allow themselves to be drifted by the waves rose up terrified at the sight of the swimmer. He began to feel his strength decreasing, but he was only a few cable lengths’ distance from the shore, and help was coming, for a boat was approaching him. At this moment he distinctly saw a white staring figure under the water—a wave lifted him up, and he came nearer to the figure—he felt a violent shock, and everything became dark around him.

On the sand reef lay the wreck of a ship, which was covered with water at high tide; the white figure head rested against the anchor, the sharp iron edge of which rose just above the surface. Jørgen had come in contact with this; the tide had driven him against it with great force. He sank down stunned with the blow, but the next wave lifted him and the young girl up again. Some fishermen, coming with a boat, seized them and dragged them into it. The blood streamed down over Jørgen’s face; he seemed dead, but still held the young girl so tightly that they were obliged to take her from him by force. She was pale and lifeless; they laid her in the boat, and rowed as quickly as possible to the shore. They tried every means to restore Clara to life, but it was all of no avail. Jørgen had been swimming for some distance with a corpse in his arms, and had exhausted his strength for one who was dead.

Jørgen still breathed, so the fishermen carried him to the nearest house upon the sand-hills, where a smith and general dealer lived who knew something of surgery, and bound up Jørgen’s wounds in a temporary way until a surgeon could be obtained from the nearest town the next day. The injured man’s brain was affected, and in his delirium he uttered wild cries; but on the third day he lay quiet and weak upon his bed; his life seemed to hang by a thread, and the physician said it would be better for him if this thread broke. “Let us pray that God may take him,” he said, “for he will never be the same man again.”

But life did not depart from him—the thread would not break, but the thread of memory was severed; the thread of his mind had been cut through, and what was still more grievous, a body remained—a living healthy body that wandered about like a troubled spirit.

Jørgen remained in merchant Brønne’s house. “He was hurt while endeavouring to save our child,” said the old man, “and now he is our son.” People called Jørgen insane, but that was not exactly the correct term. He was like an instrument in which the strings are loose and will give no sound; only occasionally they regained their power for a few minutes, and then they sounded as they used to do. He would sing snatches of songs or old melodies, pictures of the past would rise before him, and then disappear in the mist, as it were, but as a general rule he sat staring into vacancy, without a thought. We may conjecture that he did not suffer, but his dark eyes lost their brightness, and looked like clouded glass.

“Poor mad Jørgen,” said the people. And this was the end of a life whose infancy was to have been surrounded with wealth and splendour had his parents lived! All his great mental abilities had been lost, nothing but hardship, sorrow, and disappointment had been his fate. He was like a rare plant, torn from its native soil, and tossed upon the beach to wither there. And was this one of God’s creatures, fashioned in His own likeness, to have no better fate? Was he to be only the plaything of fortune? No! the all-loving Creator would certainly repay him in the life to come for what he had suffered and lost here. “The Lord is good to all; and His mercy is over all His works.” The pious old wife of the merchant repeated these words from the Psalms of David in patience and hope, and the prayer of her heart was that Jørgen might soon be called away to enter into eternal life.

In the churchyard where the walls were surrounded with sand Clara lay buried. Jørgen did not seem to know this; it did not enter his mind, which could only retain fragments of the past. Every Sunday he went to church with the old people, and sat there silently, staring vacantly before him. One day, when the Psalms were being sung, he sighed deeply, and his eyes became bright; they were fixed upon a place near the altar where he had knelt with his friend who was dead. He murmured her name, and became deadly pale, and tears rolled down his cheeks. They led him out of church; he told those standing round him that he was well, and had never been ill; he, who had been so grievously afflicted, the outcast, thrown upon the world, could not remember his sufferings. The Lord our Creator is wise and full of loving kindness—who can doubt it?

In Spain, where balmy breezes blow over the Moorish cupolas and gently stir the orange and myrtle groves, where singing and the sound of the castanets are always heard, the richest merchant in the place, a childless old man, sat in a luxurious house, while children marched in procession through the streets with waving flags and lighted tapers. If he had been able to press his children to his heart, his daughter, or her child, that had, perhaps never seen the light of day, far less the kingdom of heaven, how much of his wealth would he not have given! “Poor child!” Yes, poor child—a child still, yet more than thirty years old, for Jørgen had arrived at this age in Old Skagen.

The shifting sands had covered the graves in the courtyard, quite up to the church walls, but still, the dead must be buried among their relatives and the dear ones who had gone before them. Merchant Brønne and his wife now rested with their children under the white sand.

It was in the spring—the season of storms. The sand from the dunes was whirled up in clouds; the sea was rough, and flocks of birds flew like clouds in the storm, screaming across the sand-hills. Shipwreck followed upon shipwreck on the reefs between Old Skagen and the Huusby dunes.

One evening Jørgen sat in his room alone: all at once his mind seemed to become clearer, and a restless feeling came over him, such as had often, in his younger days, driven him out to wander over the sand-hills or on the heath. “Home, home!” he cried. No one heard him. He went out and walked towards the dunes. Sand and stones blew into his face, and whirled round him; he went in the direction of the church. The sand was banked up the walls, half covering the windows, but it had been cleared away in front of the door, and the entrance was free and easy to open, so Jørgen went into the church.

The storm raged over the town of Skagen; there had not been such a terrible tempest within the memory of the inhabitants, nor such a rough sea. But Jørgen was in the temple of God, and while the darkness of night reigned outside, a light arose in his soul that was never to depart from it; the heavy weight that pressed on his brain burst asunder. He fancied he heard the organ, but it was only the storm and the moaning of the sea. He sat down on one of the seats, and lo! the candies were lighted one by one, and there was brightness and grandeur such as he had only seen in the Spanish cathedral. The portraits of the old citizens became alive, stepped down from the walls against which they had hung for centuries, and took seats near the church door. The gates flew open, and all the dead people from the churchyard came in, and filled the church, while beautiful music sounded. Then the melody of the psalm burst forth, like the sound of the waters, and Jørgen saw that his foster parents from the Huusby dunes were there, also old merchant Brønne with his wife and their daughter Clara, who gave him her hand. They both went up to the altar where they had knelt before, and the priest joined their hands and united them for life. Then music was heard again; it was wonderfully sweet, like a child’s voice, full of joy and expectation, swelling to the powerful tones of a full organ, sometimes soft and sweet, then like the sounds of a tempest, delightful and elevating to hear, yet strong enough to burst the stone tombs of the dead. Then the little ship that hung from the roof of the choir was let down and looked wonderfully large and beautiful with its silken sails and rigging:

“The ropes were of silk, the anchor of gold,
And everywhere riches and pomp untold,”
as the old song says.
The young couple went on board, accompanied by the whole congregation, for there was room and enjoyment for them all. Then the walls and arches of the church were covered with flowering junipers and lime trees breathing forth fragrance; the branches waved, creating a pleasant coolness; they bent and parted, and the ship sailed between them through the air and over the sea. Every candle in the church became a star, and the wind sang a hymn in which they all joined. “Through love to glory, no life is lost, the future is full of blessings and happiness. Hallelujah!” These were the last words Jørgen uttered in this world, for the thread that bound his immortal soul was severed, and nothing but the dead body lay in the dark church, while the storm raged outside, covering it with loose sand.

The next day was Sunday, and the congregation and their pastor went to the church. The road had always been heavy, but now it was almost unfit for use, and when they at last arrived at the church, a great heap of sand lay piled up in front of them. The whole church was completely buried in sand. The clergyman offered a short prayer, and said that God had closed the door of His house here, and that the congregation must go and build a new one for Him somewhere else. So they sung a hymn in the open air, and went home again.

Jørgen could not be found anywhere in the town of Skagen, nor on the dunes, though they searched for him everywhere. They came to the conclusion that one of the great waves, which had rolled far up on the beach, had carried him away; but his body lay buried in a great sepulchre—the church itself. The Lord had thrown down a covering for his grave during the storm, and the heavy mound of sand lies upon it to this day. The drifting sand had covered the vaulted roof of the church, the arched cloisters, and the stone aisles. The white thorn and the dog rose now blossom above the place where the church lies buried, but the spire, like an enormous monument over a grave, can be seen for miles round. No king has a more splendid memorial. Nothing disturbs the peaceful sleep of the dead. I was the first to hear this story, for the storm sung it to me among the sand-hills.

 

The Butterfly
 
THERE was once a butterfly who wished for a bride, and, as may be supposed, he wanted to choose a very pretty one from among the flowers. He glanced, with a very critical eye, at all the flower-beds, and found that the flowers were seated quietly and demurely on their stalks, just as maidens should sit before they are engaged; but there was a great number of them, and it appeared as if his search would become very wearisome. The butterfly did not like to take too much trouble, so he flew off on a visit to the daisies. The French call this flower “Marguerite,” and they say that the little daisy can prophesy. Lovers pluck off the leaves, and as they pluck each leaf, they ask a question about their lovers; thus: “Does he or she love me?—Ardently? Distractedly? Very much? A little? Not at all?” and so on. Every one speaks these words in his own language. The butterfly came also to Marguerite to inquire, but he did not pluck off her leaves; he pressed a kiss on each of them, for he thought there was always more to be done by kindness.

“Darling Marguerite daisy,” he said to her, “you are the wisest woman of all the flowers. Pray tell me which of the flowers I shall choose for my wife. Which will be my bride? When I know, I will fly directly to her, and propose.”

But Marguerite did not answer him; she was offended that he should call her a woman when she was only a girl; and there is a great difference. He asked her a second time, and then a third; but she remained dumb, and answered not a word. Then he would wait no longer, but flew away, to commence his wooing at once. It was in the early spring, when the crocus and the snowdrop were in full bloom.

“They are very pretty,” thought the butterfly; “charming little lasses; but they are rather formal.”

Then, as the young lads often do, he looked out for the elder girls. He next flew to the anemones; these were rather sour to his taste. The violet, a little too sentimental. The lime-blossoms, too small, and besides, there was such a large family of them. The apple-blossoms, though they looked like roses, bloomed to-day, but might fall off to-morrow, with the first wind that blew; and he thought that a marriage with one of them might last too short a time. The pea-blossom pleased him most of all; she was white and red, graceful and slender, and belonged to those domestic maidens who have a pretty appearance, and can yet be useful in the kitchen. He was just about to make her an offer, when, close by the maiden, he saw a pod, with a withered flower hanging at the end.

“Who is that?” he asked.

“That is my sister,” replied the pea-blossom.

“Oh, indeed; and you will be like her some day,” said he; and he flew away directly, for he felt quite shocked.

A honeysuckle hung forth from the hedge, in full bloom; but there were so many girls like her, with long faces and sallow complexions. No; he did not like her. But which one did he like?

Spring went by, and summer drew towards its close; autumn came; but he had not decided. The flowers now appeared in their most gorgeous robes, but all in vain; they had not the fresh, fragrant air of youth. For the heart asks for fragrance, even when it is no longer young; and there is very little of that to be found in the dahlias or the dry chrysanthemums; therefore the butterfly turned to the mint on the ground. You know, this plant has no blossom; but it is sweetness all over,—full of fragrance from head to foot, with the scent of a flower in every leaf.

“I will take her,” said the butterfly; and he made her an offer. But the mint stood silent and stiff, as she listened to him. At last she said,—

“Friendship, if you please; nothing more. I am old, and you are old, but we may live for each other just the same; as to marrying—no; don’t let us appear ridiculous at our age.”

And so it happened that the butterfly got no wife at all. He had been too long choosing, which is always a bad plan. And the butterfly became what is called an old bachelor.

It was late in the autumn, with rainy and cloudy weather. The cold wind blew over the bowed backs of the willows, so that they creaked again. It was not the weather for flying about in summer clothes; but fortunately the butterfly was not out in it. He had got a shelter by chance. It was in a room heated by a stove, and as warm as summer. He could exist here, he said, well enough.

“But it is not enough merely to exist,” said he, “I need freedom, sunshine, and a little flower for a companion.”

Then he flew against the window-pane, and was seen and admired by those in the room, who caught him, and stuck him on a pin, in a box of curiosities. They could not do more for him.

“Now I am perched on a stalk, like the flowers,” said the butterfly. “It is not very pleasant, certainly; I should imagine it is something like being married; for here I am stuck fast.” And with this thought he consoled himself a little.

“That seems very poor consolation,” said one of the plants in the room, that grew in a pot.

“Ah,” thought the butterfly, “one can’t very well trust these plants in pots; they have too much to do with mankind.”

 

The Bishop of Børglum and His Warriors
 
OUR scene is laid in Northern Jutland, in the so-called “wild moor.” We hear what is called the “Wester-wow-wow”—the peculiar roar of the North Sea as it breaks against the western coast of Jutland. It rolls and thunders with a sound that penetrates for miles into the land; and we are quite near the roaring. Before us rises a great mound of sand—a mountain we have long seen, and towards which we are wending our way, driving slowly along through the deep sand. On this mountain of sand is a lofty old building—the convent of Børglum. In one of its wings (the larger one) there is still a church. And at this convent we now arrive in the late evening hour; but the weather is clear in the bright June night around us, and the eye can range far, far over field and moor to the Bay of Aalborg, over heath and meadow, and far across the deep blue sea.

Now we are there, and roll past between barns and other farm buildings; and at the left of the gate we turn aside to the Old Castle Farm, where the lime trees stand in lines along the walls, and, sheltered from the wind and weather, grow so luxuriantly that their twigs and leaves almost conceal the windows.

We mount the winding staircase of stone, and march through the long passages under the heavy roof-beams. The wind moans very strangely here, both within and without. It is hardly known how, but the people say—yes, people say a great many things when they are frightened or want to frighten others—they say that the old dead choir-men glide silently past us into the church, where mass is sung. They can be heard in the rushing of the storm, and their singing brings up strange thoughts in the hearers—thoughts of the old times into which we are carried back.

On the coast a ship is stranded; and the bishop’s warriors are there, and spare not those whom the sea has spared. The sea washes away the blood that has flowed from the cloven skulls. The stranded goods belong to the bishop, and there is a store of goods here. The sea casts up tubs and barrels filled with costly wine for the convent cellar, and in the convent is already good store of beer and mead. There is plenty in the kitchen—dead game and poultry, hams and sausages; and fat fish swim in the ponds without.

The Bishop of Børglum is a mighty lord. He has great possessions, but still he longs for more—everything must bow before the mighty Olaf Glob. His rich cousin at Thyland is dead, and his widow is to have the rich inheritance. But how comes it that one relation is always harder towards another than even strangers would be? The widow’s husband had possessed all Thyland, with the exception of the church property. Her son was not at home. In his boyhood he had already started on a journey, for his desire was to see foreign lands and strange people. For years there had been no news of him. Perhaps he had been long laid in the grave, and would never come back to his home, to rule where his mother then ruled.

“What has a woman to do with rule?” said the bishop.

He summoned the widow before a law court; but what did he gain thereby? The widow had never been disobedient to the law, and was strong in her just rights.

Bishop Olaf of Børglum, what dost thou purpose? What writest thou on yonder smooth parchment, sealing it with thy seal, and intrusting it to the horsemen and servants, who ride away, far away, to the city of the Pope?


It is the time of falling leaves and of stranded ships, and soon icy winter will come.

Twice had icy winter returned before the bishop welcomed the horsemen and servants back to their home. They came from Rome with a papal decree—a ban, or bull, against the widow who had dared to offend the pious bishop. “Cursed be she and all that belongs to her. Let her be expelled from the congregation and the Church. Let no man stretch forth a helping hand to her, and let friends and relations avoid her as a plague and a pestilence!”

“What will not bend must break,” said the Bishop of Børglum.

And all forsake the widow; but she holds fast to her God. He is her helper and defender.

One servant only—an old maid—remained faithful to her; and with the old servant, the widow herself followed the plough; and the crop grew, although the land had been cursed by the Pope and by the bishop.

“Thou child of perdition, I will yet carry out my purpose!” cried the Bishop of Børglum. “Now will I lay the hand of the Pope upon thee, to summon thee before the tribunal that shall condemn thee!”

Then did the widow yoke the last two oxen that remained to her to a wagon, and mounted up on the wagon, with her old servant, and travelled away across the heath out of the Danish land. As a stranger she came into a foreign country, where a strange tongue was spoken and where new customs prevailed. Farther and farther she journeyed, to where green hills rise into mountains, and the vine clothes their sides. Strange merchants drive by her, and they look anxiously after their wagons laden with merchandise. They fear an attack from the armed followers of the robber-knights. The two poor women, in their humble vehicle drawn by two black oxen, travel fearlessly through the dangerous sunken road and through the darksome forest. And now they were in Franconia. And there met them a stalwart knight, with a train of twelve armed followers. He paused, gazed at the strange vehicle, and questioned the women as to the goal of their journey and the place whence they came. Then one of them mentioned Thyland in Denmark, and spoke of her sorrows, of her woes, which were soon to cease, for so Divine Providence had willed it. For the stranger knight is the widow’s son! He seized her hand, he embraced her, and the mother wept. For years she had not been able to weep, but had only bitten her lips till the blood started.


It is the time of falling leaves and of stranded ships, and soon will icy winter come.

The sea rolled wine-tubs to the shore for the bishop’s cellar. In the kitchen the deer roasted on the spit before the fire. At Børglum it was warm and cheerful in the heated rooms, while cold winter raged without, when a piece of news was brought to the bishop. “Jens Glob, of Thyland, has come back, and his mother with him.” Jens Glob laid a complaint against the bishop, and summoned him before the temporal and the spiritual court.

“That will avail him little,” said the bishop. “Best leave off thy efforts, knight Jens.”


Again it is the time of falling leaves and stranded ships. Icy winter comes again, and the “white bees” are swarming, and sting the traveller’s face till they melt.

“Keen weather to-day!” say the people, as they step in.

Jens Glob stands so deeply wrapped in thought, that he singes the skirt of his wide garment.

“Thou Børglum bishop,” he exclaims, “I shall subdue thee after all! Under the shield of the Pope, the law cannot reach thee; but Jens Glob shall reach thee!”

Then he writes a letter to his brother-in-law, Olaf Hase, in Sallingland, and prays that knight to meet him on Christmas eve, at mass, in the church at Widberg. The bishop himself is to read the mass, and consequently will journey from Børglum to Thyland; and this is known to Jens Glob.

Moorland and meadow are covered with ice and snow. The marsh will bear horse and rider, the bishop with his priests and armed men. They ride the shortest way, through the waving reeds, where the wind moans sadly.

Blow thy brazen trumpet, thou trumpeter clad in fox-skin! it sounds merrily in the clear air. So they ride on over heath and moorland—over what is the garden of Fata Morgana in the hot summer, though now icy, like all the country—towards the church of Widberg.

The wind is blowing his trumpet too—blowing it harder and harder. He blows up a storm—a terrible storm—that increases more and more. Towards the church they ride, as fast as they may through the storm. The church stands firm, but the storm careers on over field and moorland, over land and sea.

Børglum’s bishop reaches the church; but Olaf Hase will scarce do so, however hard he may ride. He journeys with his warriors on the farther side of the bay, in order that he may help Jens Glob, now that the bishop is to be summoned before the judgment seat of the Highest.

The church is the judgment hall; the altar is the council table. The lights burn clear in the heavy brass candelabra. The storm reads out the accusation and the sentence, roaming in the air over moor and heath, and over the rolling waters. No ferry-boat can sail over the bay in such weather as this.

Olaf Hase makes halt at Ottesworde. There he dismisses his warriors, presents them with their horses and harness, and gives them leave to ride home and greet his wife. He intends to risk his life alone in the roaring waters; but they are to bear witness for him that it is not his fault if Jens Glob stands without reinforcement in the church at Widberg. The faithful warriors will not leave him, but follow him out into the deep waters. Ten of them are carried away; but Olaf Hase and two of the youngest men reach the farther side. They have still four miles to ride.

It is past midnight. It is Christmas. The wind has abated. The church is lighted up; the gleaming radiance shines through the window-frames, and pours out over meadow and heath. The mass has long been finished, silence reigns in the church, and the wax is heard dropping from the candles to the stone pavement. And now Olaf Hase arrives.

In the forecourt Jens Glob greets him kindly, and says,

“I have just made an agreement with the bishop.”

“Sayest thou so?” replied Olaf Hase. “Then neither thou nor the bishop shall quit this church alive.”

And the sword leaps from the scabbard, and Olaf Hase deals a blow that makes the panel of the church door, which Jens Glob hastily closes between them, fly in fragments.

“Hold, brother! First hear what the agreement was that I made. I have slain the bishop and his warriors and priests. They will have no word more to say in the matter, nor will I speak again of all the wrong that my mother has endured.”

The long wicks of the altar lights glimmer red; but there is a redder gleam upon the pavement, where the bishop lies with cloven skull, and his dead warriors around him, in the quiet of the holy Christmas night.

And four days afterwards the bells toll for a funeral in the convent of Børglum. The murdered bishop and the slain warriors and priests are displayed under a black canopy, surrounded by candelabra decked with crape. There lies the dead man, in the black cloak wrought with silver; the crozier in the powerless hand that was once so mighty. The incense rises in clouds, and the monks chant the funeral hymn. It sounds like a wail—it sounds like a sentence of wrath and condemnation, that must be heard far over the land, carried by the wind—sung by the wind—the wail that sometimes is silent, but never dies; for ever again it rises in song, singing even into our own time this legend of the Bishop of Børglum and his hard nephew. It is heard in the dark night by the frightened husbandman, driving by in the heavy sandy road past the convent of Børglum. It is heard by the sleepless listener in the thickly-walled rooms at Børglum. And not only to the ear of superstition is the sighing and the tread of hurrying feet audible in the long echoing passages leading to the convent door that has long been locked. The door still seems to open, and the lights seem to flame in the brazen candlesticks; the fragrance of incense arises; the church gleams in its ancient splendor; and the monks sing and say the mass over the slain bishop, who lies there in the black silver-embroidered mantle, with the crozier in his powerless hand; and on his pale proud forehead gleams the red wound like fire, and there burn the worldly mind and the wicked thoughts.

Sink down into his grave—into oblivion—ye terrible shapes of the times of old!


Hark to the raging of the angry wind, sounding above the rolling sea! A storm approaches without, calling aloud for human lives. The sea has not put on a new mind with the new time. This night it is a horrible pit to devour up lives, and to-morrow, perhaps, it may be a glassy mirror—even as in the old time that we have buried. Sleep sweetly, if thou canst sleep!

Now it is morning.

The new time flings sunshine into the room. The wind still keeps up mightily. A wreck is announced—as in the old time.

During the night, down yonder by Løkken, the little fishing village with the red-tiled roofs—we can see it up here from the window—a ship has come ashore. It has struck, and is fast embedded in the sand; but the rocket apparatus has thrown a rope on board, and formed a bridge from the wreck to the mainland; and all on board are saved, and reach the land, and are wrapped in warm blankets; and to-day they are invited to the farm at the convent of Børglum. In comfortable rooms they encounter hospitality and friendly faces. They are addressed in the language of their country, and the piano sounds for them with melodies of their native land; and before these have died away, the chord has been struck, the wire of thought that reaches to the land of the sufferers announces that they are rescued. Then their anxieties are dispelled; and at even they join in the dance at the feast given in the great hall at Børglum. Waltzes and Styrian dances are given, and Danish popular songs, and melodies of foreign lands in these modern times.

Blessed be thou, new time! Speak thou of summer and of purer gales! Send thy sunbeams gleaming into our hearts and thoughts! On thy glowing canvas let them be painted—the dark legends of the rough hard times that are past!

 

The Beetle Who Went on His Travels
 
THERE was once an Emperor who had a horse shod with gold. He had a golden shoe on each foot, and why was this? He was a beautiful creature, with slender legs, bright, intelligent eyes, and a mane that hung down over his neck like a veil. He had carried his master through fire and smoke in the battle-field, with the bullets whistling round him; he had kicked and bitten, and taken part in the fight, when the enemy advanced; and, with his master on his back, he had dashed over the fallen foe, and saved the golden crown and the Emperor’s life, which was of more value than the brightest gold. This is the reason of the Emperor’s horse wearing golden shoes.

A beetle came creeping forth from the stable, where the farrier had been shoeing the horse. “Great ones, first, of course,” said he, “and then the little ones; but size is not always a proof of greatness.” He stretched out his thin leg as he spoke.

“And pray what do you want?” asked the farrier.

“Golden shoes,” replied the beetle.

“Why, you must be out of your senses,” cried the farrier. “Golden shoes for you, indeed!”

“Yes, certainly; golden shoes,” replied the beetle. “Am I not just as good as that great creature yonder, who is waited upon and brushed, and has food and drink placed before him? And don’t I belong to the royal stables?”

“But why does the horse have golden shoes?” asked the farrier; “of course you understand the reason?”

“Understand! Well, I understand that it is a personal slight to me,” cried the beetle. “It is done to annoy me, so I intend to go out into the world and seek my fortune.”

“Go along with you,” said the farrier.

“You’re a rude fellow,” cried the beetle, as he walked out of the stable; and then he flew for a short distance, till he found himself in a beautiful flower-garden, all fragrant with roses and lavender. The lady-birds, with red and black shells on their backs, and delicate wings, were flying about, and one of them said, “Is it not sweet and lovely here? Oh, how beautiful everything is.”

“I am accustomed to better things,” said the beetle. “Do you call this beautiful? Why, there is not even a dung-heap.” Then he went on, and under the shadow of a large haystack he found a caterpillar crawling along. “How beautiful this world is!” said the caterpillar. “The sun is so warm, I quite enjoy it. And soon I shall go to sleep, and die as they call it, but I shall wake up with beautiful wings to fly with, like a butterfly.”

“How conceited you are!” exclaimed the beetle. “Fly about as a butterfly, indeed! what of that. I have come out of the Emperor’s stable, and no one there, not even the Emperor’s horse, who, in fact, wears my cast-off golden shoes, has any idea of flying, excepting myself. To have wings and fly! why, I can do that already;” and so saying, he spread his wings and flew away. “I don’t want to be disgusted,” he said to himself, “and yet I can’t help it.” Soon after, he fell down upon an extensive lawn, and for a time pretended to sleep, but at last fell asleep in earnest. Suddenly a heavy shower of rain came falling from the clouds. The beetle woke up with the noise and would have been glad to creep into the earth for shelter, but he could not. He was tumbled over and over with the rain, sometimes swimming on his stomach and sometimes on his back; and as for flying, that was out of the question. He began to doubt whether he should escape with his life, so he remained, quietly lying where he was. After a while the weather cleared up a little, and the beetle was able to rub the water from his eyes, and look about him. He saw something gleaming, and he managed to make his way up to it. It was linen which had been laid to bleach on the grass. He crept into a fold of the damp linen, which certainly was not so comfortable a place to lie in as the warm stable, but there was nothing better, so he remained lying there for a whole day and night, and the rain kept on all the time. Towards morning he crept out of his hiding-place, feeling in a very bad temper with the climate. Two frogs were sitting on the linen, and their bright eyes actually glistened with pleasure.

“Wonderful weather this,” cried one of them, “and so refreshing. This linen holds the water together so beautifully, that my hind legs quiver as if I were going to swim.”

“I should like to know,” said another, “If the swallow who flies so far in her many journeys to foreign lands, ever met with a better climate than this. What delicious moisture! It is as pleasant as lying in a wet ditch. I am sure any one who does not enjoy this has no love for his fatherland.”

“Have you ever been in the Emperor’s stable?” asked the beetle. “There the moisture is warm and refreshing; that’s the climate for me, but I could not take it with me on my travels. Is there not even a dunghill here in this garden, where a person of rank, like myself, could take up his abode and feel at home?” But the frogs either did not or would not understand him.

“I never ask a question twice,” said the beetle, after he had asked this one three times, and received no answer. Then he went on a little farther and stumbled against a piece of broken crockery-ware, which certainly ought not to have been lying there. But as it was there, it formed a good shelter against wind and weather to several families of earwigs who dwelt in it. Their requirements were not many, they were very sociable, and full of affection for their children, so much so that each mother considered her own child the most beautiful and clever of them all.

“Our dear son has engaged himself,” said one mother, “dear innocent boy; his greatest ambition is that he may one day creep into a clergyman’s ear. That is a very artless and loveable wish; and being engaged will keep him steady. What happiness for a mother!”

“Our son,” said another, “had scarcely crept out of the egg, when he was off on his travels. He is all life and spirits, I expect he will wear out his horns with running. How charming this is for a mother, is it not Mr. Beetle?” for she knew the stranger by his horny coat.

“You are both quite right,” said he; so they begged him to walk in, that is to come as far as he could under the broken piece of earthenware.

“Now you shall also see my little earwigs,” said a third and a fourth mother, “they are lovely little things, and highly amusing. They are never ill-behaved, except when they are uncomfortable in their inside, which unfortunately often happens at their age.”

Thus each mother spoke of her baby, and their babies talked after their own fashion, and made use of the little nippers they have in their tails to nip the beard of the beetle.

“They are always busy about something, the little rogues,” said the mother, beaming with maternal pride; but the beetle felt it a bore, and he therefore inquired the way to the nearest dung-heap.

“That is quite out in the great world, on the other side of the ditch,” answered an earwig, “I hope none of my children will ever go so far, it would be the death of me.”

“But I shall try to get so far,” said the beetle, and he walked off without taking any formal leave, which is considered a polite thing to do.

When he arrived at the ditch, he met several friends, all them beetles; “We live here,” they said, “and we are very comfortable. May we ask you to step down into this rich mud, you must be fatigued after your journey.”

“Certainly,” said the beetle, “I shall be most happy; I have been exposed to the rain, and have had to lie upon linen, and cleanliness is a thing that greatly exhausts me; I have also pains in one of my wings from standing in the draught under a piece of broken crockery. It is really quite refreshing to be with one’s own kindred again.”

“Perhaps you came from a dung-heap,” observed the oldest of them.

“No, indeed, I came from a much grander place,” replied the beetle; “I came from the emperor’s stable, where I was born, with golden shoes on my feet. I am travelling on a secret embassy, but you must not ask me any questions, for I cannot betray my secret.”

Then the beetle stepped down into the rich mud, where sat three young-lady beetles, who tittered, because they did not know what to say.

“None of them are engaged yet,” said their mother, and the beetle maidens tittered again, this time quite in confusion.

“I have never seen greater beauties, even in the royal stables,” exclaimed the beetle, who was now resting himself.

“Don’t spoil my girls,” said the mother; “and don’t talk to them, pray, unless you have serious intentions.”

But of course the beetle’s intentions were serious, and after a while our friend was engaged. The mother gave them her blessing, and all the other beetles cried “hurrah.”

Immediately after the betrothal came the marriage, for there was no reason to delay. The following day passed very pleasantly, and the next was tolerably comfortable; but on the third it became necessary for him to think of getting food for his wife, and, perhaps, for children.

“I have allowed myself to be taken in,” said our beetle to himself, “and now there’s nothing to be done but to take them in, in return.”

No sooner said than done. Away he went, and stayed away all day and all night, and his wife remained behind a forsaken widow.

“Oh,” said the other beetles, “this fellow that we have received into our family is nothing but a complete vagabond. He has gone away and left his wife a burden upon our hands.”

“Well, she can be unmarried again, and remain here with my other daughters,” said the mother. “Fie on the villain that forsook her!”

In the mean time the beetle, who had sailed across the ditch on a cabbage leaf, had been journeying on the other side. In the morning two persons came up to the ditch. When they saw him they took him up and turned him over and over, looking very learned all the time, especially one, who was a boy. “Allah sees the black beetle in the black stone, and the black rock. Is not that written in the Koran?” he asked.

Then he translated the beetle’s name into Latin, and said a great deal upon the creature’s nature and history. The second person, who was older and a scholar, proposed to carry the beetle home, as they wanted just such good specimens as this. Our beetle considered this speech a great insult, so he flew suddenly out of the speaker’s hand. His wings were dry now, so they carried him to a great distance, till at last he reached a hothouse, where a sash of the glass roof was partly open, so he quietly slipped in and buried himself in the warm earth. “It is very comfortable here,” he said to himself, and soon after fell asleep. Then he dreamed that the emperor’s horse was dying, and had left him his golden shoes, and also promised that he should have two more. All this was very delightful, and when the beetle woke up he crept forth and looked around him. What a splendid place the hothouse was! At the back, large palm-trees were growing; and the sunlight made the leaves—look quite glossy; and beneath them what a profusion of luxuriant green, and of flowers red like flame, yellow as amber, or white as new-fallen snow! “What a wonderful quantity of plants,” cried the beetle; “how good they will taste when they are decayed! This is a capital store-room. There must certainly be some relations of mine living here; I will just see if I can find any one with whom I can associate. I’m proud, certainly; but I’m also proud of being so. Then he prowled about in the earth, and thought what a pleasant dream that was about the dying horse, and the golden shoes he had inherited. Suddenly a hand seized the beetle, and squeezed him, and turned him round and round. The gardener’s little son and his playfellow had come into the hothouse, and, seeing the beetle, wanted to have some fun with him. First, he was wrapped, in a vine-leaf, and put into a warm trousers’ pocket. He twisted and turned about with all his might, but he got a good squeeze from the boy’s hand, as a hint for him to keep quiet. Then the boy went quickly towards a lake that lay at the end of the garden. Here the beetle was put into an old broken wooden shoe, in which a little stick had been fastened upright for a mast, and to this mast the beetle was bound with a piece of worsted. Now he was a sailor, and had to sail away. The lake was not very large, but to the beetle it seemed an ocean, and he was so astonished at its size that he fell over on his back, and kicked out his legs. Then the little ship sailed away; sometimes the current of the water seized it, but whenever it went too far from the shore one of the boys turned up his trousers, and went in after it, and brought it back to land. But at last, just as it went merrily out again, the two boys were called, and so angrily, that they hastened to obey, and ran away as fast as they could from the pond, so that the little ship was left to its fate. It was carried away farther and farther from the shore, till it reached the open sea. This was a terrible prospect for the beetle, for he could not escape in consequence of being bound to the mast. Then a fly came and paid him a visit. “What beautiful weather,” said the fly; “I shall rest here and sun myself. You must have a pleasant time of it.”

“You speak without knowing the facts,” replied the beetle; “don’t you see that I am a prisoner?”

“Ah, but I’m not a prisoner,” remarked the fly, and away he flew.

“Well, now I know the world,” said the beetle to himself; “it’s an abominable world; I’m the only respectable person in it. First, they refuse me my golden shoes; then I have to lie on damp linen, and to stand in a draught; and to crown all, they fasten a wife upon me. Then, when I have made a step forward in the world, and found out a comfortable position, just as I could wish it to be, one of these human boys comes and ties me up, and leaves me to the mercy of the wild waves, while the emperor’s favorite horse goes prancing about proudly on his golden shoes. This vexes me more than anything. But it is useless to look for sympathy in this world. My career has been very interesting, but what’s the use of that if nobody knows anything about it? The world does not deserve to be made acquainted with my adventures, for it ought to have given me golden shoes when the emperor’s horse was shod, and I stretched out my feet to be shod, too. If I had received golden shoes I should have been an ornament to the stable; now I am lost to the stable and to the world. It is all over with me.”

But all was not yet over. A boat, in which were a few young girls, came rowing up. “Look, yonder is an old wooden shoe sailing along,” said one of the younger girls.

“And there’s a poor little creature bound fast in it,” said another.

The boat now came close to our beetle’s ship, and the young girls fished it out of the water. One of them drew a small pair of scissors from her pocket, and cut the worsted without hurting the beetle, and when she stepped on shore she placed him on the grass. “There,” she said, “creep away, or fly, if thou canst. It is a splendid thing to have thy liberty.” Away flew the beetle, straight through the open window of a large building; there he sank down, tired and exhausted, exactly on the mane of the emperor’s favorite horse, who was standing in his stable; and the beetle found himself at home again. For some time he clung to the mane, that he might recover himself. “Well,” he said, “here I am, seated on the emperor’s favorite horse,—sitting upon him as if I were the emperor himself. But what was it the farrier asked me? Ah, I remember now,—that’s a good thought,—he asked me why the golden shoes were given to the horse. The answer is quite clear to me, now. They were given to the horse on my account.” And this reflection put the beetle into a good temper. The sun’s rays also came streaming into the stable, and shone upon him, and made the place lively and bright. “Travelling expands the mind very much,” said the beetle. “The world is not so bad after all, if you know how to take things as they come.

 

What the Old Man Does Is Always Right
 
I WILL tell you a story that was told me when I was a little boy. Every time I thought of this story, it seemed to me more and more charming; for it is with stories as it is with many people—they become better as they grow older.

I have no doubt that you have been in the country, and seen a very old farmhouse, with a thatched roof, and mosses and small plants growing wild upon it. There is a stork’s nest on the ridge of the gable, for we cannot do without the stork. The walls of the house are sloping, and the windows are low, and only one of the latter is made to open. The baking-oven sticks out of the wall like a great knob. An elder-tree hangs over the palings; and beneath its branches, at the foot of the paling, is a pool of water, in which a few ducks are disporting themselves. There is a yard-dog too, who barks at all corners. Just such a farmhouse as this stood in a country lane; and in it dwelt an old couple, a peasant and his wife. Small as their possessions were, they had one article they could not do without, and that was a horse, which contrived to live upon the grass which it found by the side of the high road. The old peasant rode into the town upon this horse, and his neighbors often borrowed it of him, and paid for the loan of it by rendering some service to the old couple. After a time they thought it would be as well to sell the horse, or exchange it for something which might be more useful to them. But what might this something be?

“You’ll know best, old man,” said the wife. “It is fair-day to-day; so ride into town, and get rid of the horse for money, or make a good exchange; whichever you do will be right to me, so ride to the fair.”

And she fastened his neckerchief for him; for she could do that better than he could, and she could also tie it very prettily in a double bow. She also smoothed his hat round and round with the palm of her hand, and gave him a kiss. Then he rode away upon the horse that was to be sold or bartered for something else. Yes, the old man knew what he was about. The sun shone with great heat, and not a cloud was to be seen in the sky. The road was very dusty; for a number of people, all going to the fair, were driving, riding, or walking upon it. There was no shelter anywhere from the hot sunshine. Among the rest a man came trudging along, and driving a cow to the fair. The cow was as beautiful a creature as any cow could be.

“She gives good milk, I am certain,” said the peasant to himself. “That would be a very good exchange: the cow for the horse. Hallo there! you with the cow,” he said. “I tell you what; I dare say a horse is of more value than a cow; but I don’t care for that,—a cow will be more useful to me; so, if you like, we’ll exchange.”

“To be sure I will,” said the man.

Accordingly the exchange was made; and as the matter was settled, the peasant might have turned back; for he had done the business he came to do. But, having made up his mind to go to the fair, he determined to do so, if only to have a look at it; so on he went to the town with his cow. Leading the animal, he strode on sturdily, and, after a short time, overtook a man who was driving a sheep. It was a good fat sheep, with a fine fleece on its back.

“I should like to have that fellow,” said the peasant to himself. “There is plenty of grass for him by our palings, and in the winter we could keep him in the room with us. Perhaps it would be more profitable to have a sheep than a cow. Shall I exchange?”

The man with the sheep was quite ready, and the bargain was quickly made. And then our peasant continued his way on the high-road with his sheep. Soon after this, he overtook another man, who had come into the road from a field, and was carrying a large goose under his arm.

“What a heavy creature you have there!” said the peasant; “it has plenty of feathers and plenty of fat, and would look well tied to a string, or paddling in the water at our place. That would be very useful to my old woman; she could make all sorts of profits out of it. How often she has said, ‘If now we only had a goose!’ Now here is an opportunity, and, if possible, I will get it for her. Shall we exchange? I will give you my sheep for your goose, and thanks into the bargain.”

The other had not the least objection, and accordingly the exchange was made, and our peasant became possessor of the goose. By this time he had arrived very near the town. The crowd on the high road had been gradually increasing, and there was quite a rush of men and cattle. The cattle walked on the path and by the palings, and at the turnpike-gate they even walked into the toll-keeper’s potato-field, where one fowl was strutting about with a string tied to its leg, for fear it should take fright at the crowd, and run away and get lost. The tail-feathers of the fowl were very short, and it winked with both its eyes, and looked very cunning, as it said “Cluck, cluck.” What were the thoughts of the fowl as it said this I cannot tell you; but directly our good man saw it, he thought, “Why that’s the finest fowl I ever saw in my life; it’s finer than our parson’s brood hen, upon my word. I should like to have that fowl. Fowls can always pick up a few grains that lie about, and almost keep themselves. I think it would be a good exchange if I could get it for my goose. Shall we exchange?” he asked the toll-keeper.

“Exchange,” repeated the man; “well, it would not be a bad thing.”

And so they made an exchange,—the toll-keeper at the turnpike-gate kept the goose, and the peasant carried off the fowl. Now he had really done a great deal of business on his way to the fair, and he was hot and tired. He wanted something to eat, and a glass of ale to refresh himself; so he turned his steps to an inn. He was just about to enter when the ostler came out, and they met at the door. The ostler was carrying a sack. “What have you in that sack?” asked the peasant.

“Rotten apples,” answered the ostler; “a whole sackful of them. They will do to feed the pigs with.”

“Why that will be terrible waste,” he replied; “I should like to take them home to my old woman. Last year the old apple-tree by the grass-plot only bore one apple, and we kept it in the cupboard till it was quite withered and rotten. It was always property, my old woman said; and here she would see a great deal of property—a whole sackful; I should like to show them to her.”

“What will you give me for the sackful?” asked the ostler.

“What will I give? Well, I will give you my fowl in exchange.”

So he gave up the fowl, and received the apples, which he carried into the inn parlor. He leaned the sack carefully against the stove, and then went to the table. But the stove was hot, and he had not thought of that. Many guests were present—horse dealers, cattle drovers, and two Englishmen. The Englishmen were so rich that their pockets quite bulged out and seemed ready to burst; and they could bet too, as you shall hear. “Hiss-s-s, hiss-s-s.” What could that be by the stove? The apples were beginning to roast. “What is that?” asked one.

“Why, do you know”—said our peasant. And then he told them the whole story of the horse, which he had exchanged for a cow, and all the rest of it, down to the apples.

“Well, your old woman will give it you well when you get home,” said one of the Englishmen. “Won’t there be a noise?”

“What! Give me what?” said the peasant. “Why, she will kiss me, and say, ‘what the old man does is always right.’”

“Let us lay a wager on it,” said the Englishmen. “We’ll wager you a ton of coined gold, a hundred pounds to the hundred-weight.”

“No; a bushel will be enough,” replied the peasant. “I can only set a bushel of apples against it, and I’ll throw myself and my old woman into the bargain; that will pile up the measure, I fancy.”

“Done! taken!” and so the bet was made.

Then the landlord’s coach came to the door, and the two Englishmen and the peasant got in, and away they drove, and soon arrived and stopped at the peasant’s hut. “Good evening, old woman.” “Good evening, old man.” “I’ve made the exchange.”

“Ah, well, you understand what you’re about,” said the woman. Then she embraced him, and paid no attention to the strangers, nor did she notice the sack.

“I got a cow in exchange for the horse.”

“Thank Heaven,” said she. “Now we shall have plenty of milk, and butter, and cheese on the table. That was a capital exchange.”

“Yes, but I changed the cow for a sheep.”

“Ah, better still!” cried the wife. “You always think of everything; we have just enough pasture for a sheep. Ewe’s milk and cheese, woollen jackets and stockings! The cow could not give all these, and her hair only falls off. How you think of everything!”

“But I changed away the sheep for a goose.”

“Then we shall have roast goose to eat this year. You dear old man, you are always thinking of something to please me. This is delightful. We can let the goose walk about with a string tied to her leg, so she will be fatter still before we roast her.”

“But I gave away the goose for a fowl.”

“A fowl! Well, that was a good exchange,” replied the woman. “The fowl will lay eggs and hatch them, and we shall have chickens; we shall soon have a poultry-yard. Oh, this is just what I was wishing for.”

“Yes, but I exchanged the fowl for a sack of shrivelled apples.”

“What! I really must give you a kiss for that!” exclaimed the wife. “My dear, good husband, now I’ll tell you something. Do you know, almost as soon as you left me this morning, I began to think of what I could give you nice for supper this evening, and then I thought of fried eggs and bacon, with sweet herbs; I had eggs and bacon, but I wanted the herbs; so I went over to the schoolmaster’s: I knew they had plenty of herbs, but the schoolmistress is very mean, although she can smile so sweetly. I begged her to lend me a handful of herbs. ‘Lend!’ she exclaimed, ‘I have nothing to lend; nothing at all grows in our garden, not even a shrivelled apple; I could not even lend you a shrivelled apple, my dear woman.’ But now I can lend her ten, or a whole sackful, which I’m very glad of; it makes me laugh to think about it;” and then she gave him a hearty kiss.

“Well, I like all this,” said both the Englishmen; “always going down the hill, and yet always merry; it’s worth the money to see it.” So they paid a hundred-weight of gold to the peasant, who, whatever he did, was not scolded but kissed.

Yes, it always pays best when the wife sees and maintains that her husband knows best, and whatever he does is right.

That is a story which I heard when I was a child; and now you have heard it too, and know that “What the old man does is always right.”

 

The Portuguese Duck
 
A DUCK once arrived from Portugal, but there were some who said she came from Spain, which is almost the same thing. At all events, she was called the “Portuguese,” and she laid eggs, was killed, and cooked, and there was an end of her. But the ducklings which crept forth from the eggs were also called “Portuguese,” and about that there may be some question. But of all the family one only remained in the duckyard, which may be called a farmyard, as the chickens were admitted, and the cock strutted about in a very hostile manner. “He annoys me with his loud crowing,” said the Portuguese duck; “but, still, he’s a handsome bird, there’s no denying that, although he’s not a drake. He ought to moderate his voice, like those little birds who are singing in the lime-trees over there in our neighbor’s garden, but that is an art only acquired in polite society. How sweetly they sing there; it is quite a pleasure to listen to them! I call it Portuguese singing. If I had only such a little singing-bird, I’d be kind and good as a mother to him, for it’s in my nature, in my Portuguese blood.”

While she was speaking, one of the little singing-birds came tumbling head over heels from the roof into the yard. The cat was after him, but he had escaped from her with a broken wing, and so came tumbling into the yard. “That’s just like the cat, she’s a villain,” said the Portuguese duck. “I remember her ways when I had children of my own. How can such a creature be allowed to live, and wander about upon the roofs. I don’t think they allow such things in Portugal.” She pitied the little singing-bird, and so did all the other ducks who were not Portuguese.

“Poor little creature!” they said, one after another, as they came up. “We can’t sing, certainly; but we have a sounding-board, or something of the kind, within us; we can feel that, though we don’t talk about it.”

“But I can talk,” said the Portuguese duck; “and I’ll do something for the little fellow; it’s my duty;” and she stepped into the water-trough, and beat her wings upon the water so strongly that the bird was nearly drowned by a shower-bath; but the duck meant it kindly. “That is a good deed,” she said; “I hope the others will take example by it.”

“Tweet, tweet!” said the little bird, for one of his wings being broken, he found it difficult to shake himself; but he quite understood that the bath was meant kindly, and he said, “You are very kind-hearted, madam;” but he did not wish for a second bath.

“I have never thought about my heart,” replied the Portuguese duck, “but I know that I love all my fellow-creatures, except the cat, and nobody can expect me to love her, for she ate up two of my ducklings. But pray make yourself at home; it is easy to make one’s self comfortable. I am myself from a foreign country, as you may see by my feathery dress. My drake is a native of these parts; he’s not of my race; but I am not proud on that account. If any one here can understand you, I may say positively I am that person.”

“She’s quite full of ‘Portulak,’” said a little common duck, who was witty. All the common ducks considered the word “Portulak” a good joke, for it sounded like Portugal. They nudged each other, and said, “Quack! that was witty!”

Then the other ducks began to notice the little bird. “The Portuguese had certainly a great flow of language,” they said to the little bird. “For our part we don’t care to fill our beaks with such long words, but we sympathize with you quite as much. If we don’t do anything else, we can walk about with you everywhere, and we think that is the best thing we can do.”

“You have a lovely voice,” said one of the eldest ducks; “it must be great satisfaction to you to be able to give so much pleasure as you do. I am certainly no judge of your singing so I keep my beak shut, which is better than talking nonsense, as others do.”

“Don’t plague him so,” interposed the Portuguese duck; “he requires rest and nursing. My little singing-bird do you wish me to prepare another bath for you?”

“Oh, no! no! pray let me dry,” implored the little bird.

“The water-cure is the only remedy for me, when I am not well,” said the Portuguese. “Amusement, too, is very beneficial. The fowls from the neighborhood will soon be here to pay you a visit. There are two Cochin Chinese amongst them; they wear feathers on their legs, and are well educated. They have been brought from a great distance, and consequently I treat them with greater respect than I do the others.”

Then the fowls arrived, and the cock was polite enough to-day to keep from being rude. “You are a real songster,” he said, “you do as much with your little voice as it is possible to do; but there requires more noise and shrillness in any one who wishes it to be known who he is.”

The two Chinese were quite enchanted with the appearance of the singing-bird. His feathers had been much ruffled by his bath, so that he seemed to them quite like a tiny Chinese fowl. “He’s charming,” they said to each other, and began a conversation with him in whispers, using the most aristocratic Chinese dialect: “We are of the same race as yourself,” they said. “The ducks, even the Portuguese, are all aquatic birds, as you must have noticed. You do not know us yet,—very few know us, or give themselves the trouble to make our acquaintance, not even any of the fowls, though we are born to occupy a higher grade in society than most of them. But that does not disturb us, we quietly go on in our own way among the rest, whose ideas are certainly not ours; for we look at the bright side of things, and only speak what is good, although that is sometimes very difficult to find where none exists. Except ourselves and the cock there is not one in the yard who can be called talented or polite. It cannot even be said of the ducks, and we warn you, little bird, not to trust that one yonder, with the short tail feathers, for she is cunning; that curiously marked one, with the crooked stripes on her wings, is a mischief-maker, and never lets any one have the last word, though she is always in the wrong. That fat duck yonder speaks evil of every one, and that is against our principles. If we have nothing good to tell, we close our beaks. The Portuguese is the only one who has had any education, and with whom we can associate, but she is passionate, and talks too much about ‘Portugal.’”

“I wonder what those two Chinese are whispering about,” whispered one duck to another; “they are always doing it, and it annoys me. We never speak to them.”

Now the drake came up, and he thought the little singing-bird was a sparrow. “Well, I don’t understand the difference,” he said; “it appears to me all the same. He’s only a plaything, and if people will have playthings, why let them, I say.”

“Don’t take any notice of what he says,” whispered the Portuguese; “he’s very well in matters of business, and with him business is placed before everything. But now I shall lie down and have a little rest. It is a duty we owe to ourselves that we may be nice and fat when we come to be embalmed with sage and onions and apples.” So she laid herself down in the sun and winked with one eye; she had a very comfortable place, and felt so comfortable that she fell asleep. The little singing-bird busied himself for some time with his broken wing, and at last he lay down, too, quite close to his protectress. The sun shone warm and bright, and he found out that it was a very good place. But the fowls of the neighborhood were all awake, and, to tell the truth, they had paid a visit to the duckyard, simply and solely to find food for themselves. The Chinese were the first to leave, and the other fowls soon followed them.

The witty little duck said of the Portuguese, that the old lady was getting quite a “doting ducky,” All the other ducks laughed at this. “Doting ducky,” they whispered. “Oh, that’s too ‘witty!’” And then they repeated the former joke about “Portulak,” and declared it was most amusing. Then they all lay down to have a nap.

They had been lying asleep for some time, when suddenly something was thrown into the yard for them to eat. It came down with such a bang, that the whole company started up and clapped their wings. The Portuguese awoke too, and rushed over to the other side: in so doing she trod upon the little singing-bird.

“Tweet,” he cried; “you trod very hard upon me, madam.”

“Well, then, why do you lie in my way?” she retorted, “you must not be so touchy. I have nerves of my own, but I do not cry ‘tweet.’”

“Don’t be angry,” said the little bird; “the ‘tweet’ slipped out of my beak unawares.”

The Portuguese did not listen to him, but began eating as fast as she could, and made a good meal. When she had finished, she lay down again, and the little bird, who wished to be amiable, began to sing,—

“Chirp and twitter,
The dew-drops glitter,
In the hours of sunny spring,
I’ll sing my best,
Till I go to rest,
With my head behind my wing.”
“Now I want rest after my dinner,” said the Portuguese; “you must conform to the rules of the house while you are here. I want to sleep now.”

The little bird was quite taken aback, for he meant it kindly. When madam awoke afterwards, there he stood before her with a little corn he had found, and laid it at her feet; but as she had not slept well, she was naturally in a bad temper. “Give that to a chicken,” she said, “and don’t be always standing in my way.”

“Why are you angry with me?” replied the little singing-bird, “what have I done?”

“Done!” repeated the Portuguese duck, “your mode of expressing yourself is not very polite. I must call your attention to that fact.”

“It was sunshine here yesterday,” said the little bird, “but to-day it is cloudy and the air is close.”

“You know very little about the weather, I fancy,” she retorted, “the day is not over yet. Don’t stand there, looking so stupid.”

“But you are looking at me just as the wicked eyes looked when I fell into the yard yesterday.”

“Impertinent creature!” exclaimed the Portuguese duck: “would you compare me with the cat—that beast of prey? There’s not a drop of malicious blood in me. I’ve taken your part, and now I’ll teach you better manners.” So saying, she made a bite at the little singing-bird’s head, and he fell dead on the ground. “Now whatever is the meaning of this?” she said; “could he not bear even such a little peck as I gave him? Then certainly he was not made for this world. I’ve been like a mother to him, I know that, for I’ve a good heart.”

Then the cock from the neighboring yard stuck his head in, and crowed with steam-engine power.

“You’ll kill me with your crowing,” she cried, “it’s all your fault. He’s lost his life, and I’m very near losing mine.”

“There’s not much of him lying there,” observed the cock.

“Speak of him with respect,” said the Portuguese duck, “for he had manners and education, and he could sing. He was affectionate and gentle, and that is as rare a quality in animals as in those who call themselves human beings.”

Then all the ducks came crowding round the little dead bird. Ducks have strong passions, whether they feel envy or pity. There was nothing to envy here, so they all showed a great deal of pity, even the two Chinese. “We shall never have another singing-bird again amongst us; he was almost a Chinese,” they whispered, and then they wept with such a noisy, clucking sound, that all the other fowls clucked too, but the ducks went about with redder eyes afterwards. “We have hearts of our own,” they said, “nobody can deny that.”

“Hearts!” repeated the Portuguese, “indeed you have, almost as tender as the ducks in Portugal.”

“Let us think of getting something to satisfy our hunger,” said the drake, “that’s the most important business. If one of our toys is broken, why we have plenty more.”

 

The Ice Maiden
 
Little Rudy
The Journey to the New Home
The Uncle
Babette
On the Way Home
The Visit to the Mill
The Eagle’s Nest
What Fresh News the Parlor-Cat Had to Tell
The Ice Maiden
The Godmother
The Cousin
Evil Powers
At the Mill
Night Visions
The Conclusion


I. Little Rudy

WE will pay a visit to Switzerland, and wander through that country of mountains, whose steep and rocky sides are overgrown with forest trees. Let us climb to the dazzling snow-fields at their summits, and descend again to the green meadows beneath, through which rivers and brooks rush along as if they could not quickly enough reach the sea and vanish. Fiercely shines the sun over those deep valleys, as well as upon the heavy masses of snow which lie on the mountains.

During the year these accumulations thaw or fall in the rolling avalance, or are piled up in shining glaciers. Two of these glaciers lie in the broad, rocky cliffs, between the Schreckhorn and the Wetterhorn, near the little town of Grindelwald. They are wonderful to behold, and therefore in the summer time strangers come here from all parts of the world to see them. They cross snow-covered mountains, and travel through the deep valleys, or ascend for hours, higher and still higher, the valleys appearing to sink lower and lower as they proceed, and become as small as if seen from an air balloon. Over the lofty summits of these mountains the clouds often hang like a dark veil; while beneath in the valley, where many brown, wooden houses are scattered about, the bright rays of the sun may be shining upon a little brilliant patch of green, making it appear almost transparent. The waters foam and dash along in the valleys beneath; the streams from above trickle and murmur as they fall down the rocky mountain’s side, looking like glittering silver bands.

On both sides of the mountain-path stand these little wooden houses; and, as within, there are many children and many mouths to feed, each house has its own little potato garden. These children rush out in swarms, and surround travellers, whether on foot or in carriages. They are all clever at making a bargain. They offer for sale the sweetest little toy-houses, models of the mountain cottages in Switzerland. Whether it be rain or sunshine, these crowds of children are always to be seen with their wares.

About twenty years ago, there might be seen occasionally, standing at a short distance from the other children, a little boy, who was also anxious to sell his curious wares. He had an earnest, expressive countenance, and held the box containing his carved toys tightly with both hands, as if unwilling to part with it. His earnest look, and being also a very little boy, made him noticed by the strangers; so that he often sold the most, without knowing why. An hour’s walk farther up the ascent lived his grandfather, who cut and carved the pretty little toy-houses; and in the old man’s room stood a large press, full of all sorts of carved things—nut-crackers, knives and forks, boxes with beautifully carved foliage, leaping chamois. It contained everything that could delight the eyes of a child. But the boy, who was named Rudy, looked with still greater pleasure and longing at some old fire-arms which hung upon the rafters, under the ceiling of the room. His grandfather promised him that he should have them some day, but that he must first grow big and strong, and learn how to use them. Small as he was, the goats were placed in his care, and a good goat-keeper should also be a good climber, and such Rudy was; he sometimes, indeed, climbed higher than the goats, for he was fond of seeking for birds’-nests at the top of high trees; he was bold and daring, but was seldom seen to smile, excepting when he stood by the roaring cataract, or heard the descending roll of the avalanche. He never played with the other children, and was not seen with them, unless his grandfather sent him down to sell his curious workmanship. Rudy did not much like trade; he loved to climb the mountains, or to sit by his grandfather and listen to his tales of olden times, or of the people in Meyringen, the place of his birth.

“In the early ages of the world,” said the old man, “these people could not be found in Switzerland. They are a colony from the north, where their ancestors still dwell, and are called Swedes.”

This was something for Rudy to know, but he learnt more from other sources, particularly from the domestic animals who belonged to the house. One was a large dog, called Ajola, which had belonged to his father; and the other was a tom-cat. This cat stood very high in Rudy’s favor, for he had taught him to climb.

“Come out on the roof with me,” said the cat; and Rudy quite understood him, for the language of fowls, ducks, cats, and dogs, is as easily understood by a young child as his own native tongue. But it must be at the age when grandfather’s stick becomes a neighing horse, with head, legs, and tail. Some children retain these ideas later than others, and they are considered backwards and childish for their age. People say so; but is it so?

“Come out on the roof with me, little Rudy,” was the first thing he heard the cat say, and Rudy understood him. “What people say about falling down is all nonsense,” continued the cat; “you will not fall, unless you are afraid. Come, now, set one foot here and another there, and feel your way with your fore-feet. Keep your eyes wide open, and move softly, and if you come to a hole jump over it, and cling fast as I do.” And this was just what Rudy did. He was often on the sloping roof with the cat, or on the tops of high trees. But, more frequently, higher still on the ridges of the rocks where puss never came.

“Higher, higher!” cried the trees and the bushes, “see to what height we have grown, and how fast we hold, even to the narrow edges of the rocks.”

Rudy often reached the top of the mountain before the sunrise, and there inhaled his morning draught of the fresh, invigorating mountain air,—God’s own gift, which men call the sweet fragrance of plant and herb on the mountain-side, and the mint and wild thyme in the valleys. The overhanging clouds absorb all heaviness from the air, and the winds convey them away over the pine-tree summits. The spirit of fragrance, light and fresh, remained behind, and this was Rudy’s morning draught. The sunbeams—those blessing-bringing daughters of the sun—kissed his cheeks. Vertigo might be lurking on the watch, but he dared not approach him. The swallows, who had not less than seven nests in his grandfather’s house, flew up to him and his goats, singing, “We and you, you and we.” They brought him greetings from his grandfather’s house, even from two hens, the only birds of the household; but Rudy was not intimate with them.

Although so young and such a little fellow, Rudy had travelled a great deal. He was born in the canton of Valais, and brought to his grandfather over the mountains. He had walked to Staubbach—a little town that seems to flutter in the air like a silver veil—the glittering, snow-clad mountain Jungfrau. He had also been to the great glaciers; but this is connected with a sad story, for here his mother met her death, and his grandfather used to say that all Rudy’s childish merriment was lost from that time. His mother had written in a letter, that before he was a year old he had laughed more than he cried; but after his fall into the snow-covered crevasse, his disposition had completely changed. The grandfather seldom spoke of this, but the fact was generally known. Rudy’s father had been a postilion, and the large dog which now lived in his grandfather’s cottage had always followed him on his journeys over the Simplon to the lake of Geneva. Rudy’s relations, on his father’s side, lived in the canton of Valais, in the valley of the Rhone. His uncle was a chamois hunter, and a well-known guide. Rudy was only a year old when his father died, and his mother was anxious to return with her child to her own relations, who lived in the Bernese Oberland. Her father dwelt at a few hours’ distance from Grindelwald; he was a carver in wood, and gained so much by it that he had plenty to live upon. She set out homewards in the month of June, carrying her infant in her arms, and, accompanied by two chamois hunters, crossed the Gemmi on her way to Grindelwald. They had already left more than half the journey behind them. They had crossed high ridges, and traversed snow-fields; they could even see her native valley, with its familiar wooden cottages. They had only one more glacier to climb. Some newly fallen snow concealed a cleft which, though it did not extend to the foaming waters in the depths beneath, was still much deeper than the height of a man. The young woman, with the child in her arms, slipped upon it, sank in, and disappeared. Not a shriek, not a groan was heard; nothing but the whining of a little child. More than an hour elapsed before her two companions could obtain from the nearest house ropes and poles to assist in raising them; and it was with much exertion that they at last succeeded in raising from the crevasse what appeared to be two dead bodies. Every means was used to restore them to life. With the child they were successful, but not with the mother; so the old grandfather received his daughter’s little son into his house an orphan,—a little boy who laughed more than he cried; but it seemed as if laughter had left him in the cold ice-world into which he had fallen, where, as the Swiss peasants say, the souls of the lost are confined till the judgment-day.

The glaciers appear as if a rushing stream had been frozen in its course, and pressed into blocks of green crystal, which, balanced one upon another, form a wondrous palace of crystal for the Ice Maiden—the queen of the glaciers. It is she whose mighty power can crush the traveller to death, and arrest the flowing river in its course. She is also a child of the air, and with the swiftness of the chamois she can reach the snow-covered mountain tops, where the boldest mountaineer has to cut footsteps in the ice to ascend. She will sail on a frail pine-twig over the raging torrents beneath, and spring lightly from one iceberg to another, with her long, snow-white hair flowing around her, and her dark-green robe glittering like the waters of the deep Swiss lakes. “Mine is the power to seize and crush,” she cried. “Once a beautiful boy was stolen from me by man,—a boy whom I had kissed, but had not kissed to death. He is again among mankind, and tends the goats on the mountains. He is always climbing higher and higher, far away from all others, but not from me. He is mine; I will send for him.” And she gave Vertigo the commission.

It was summer, and the Ice Maiden was melting amidst the green verdure, when Vertigo swung himself up and down. Vertigo has many brothers, quite a troop of them, and the Ice Maiden chose the strongest among them. They exercise their power in different ways, and everywhere. Some sit on the banisters of steep stairs, others on the outer rails of lofty towers, or spring like squirrels along the ridges of the mountains. Others tread the air as a swimmer treads the water, and lure their victims here and there till they fall into the deep abyss. Vertigo and the Ice Maiden clutch at human beings, as the polypus seizes upon all that comes within its reach. And now Vertigo was to seize Rudy.

“Seize him, indeed,” cried Vertigo; “I cannot do it. That monster of a cat has taught him her tricks. That child of the human race has a power within him which keeps me at a distance; I cannot possibly reach the boy when he hangs from the branches of trees, over the precipice; or I would gladly tickle his feet, and send him heels over head through the air; but I cannot accomplish it.”

“We must accomplish it,” said the Ice Maiden; “either you or I must; and I will—I will!”

“No, no!” sounded through the air, like an echo on the mountain church bells chime. It was an answer in song, in the melting tones of a chorus from others of nature’s spirits—good and loving spirits, the daughters of the sunbeam. They who place themselves in a circle every evening on the mountain peaks; there they spread out their rose-colored wings, which, as the sun sinks, become more flaming red, until the lofty Alps seem to burn with fire. Men call this the Alpine glow. After the sun has set, they disappear within the white snow on the mountain-tops, and slumber there till sunrise, when they again come forth. They have great love for flowers, for butterflies, and for mankind; and from among the latter they had chosen little Rudy. “You shall not catch him; you shall not seize him!” they sang.

“Greater and stronger than he have I seized!” said the Ice Maiden.

Then the daughters of the sun sang a song of the traveller, whose cloak had been carried away by the wind. “The wind took the covering, but not the man; it could even seize upon him, but not hold him fast. The children of strength are more powerful, more ethereal, even than we are. They can rise higher than our parent, the sun. They have the magic words that rule the wind and the waves, and compel them to serve and obey; and they can, at last, cast off the heavy, oppressive weight of mortality, and soar upwards.” Thus sweetly sounded the bell-like tones of the chorus.

And each morning the sun’s rays shone through the one little window of the grandfather’s house upon the quiet child. The daughters of the sunbeam kissed him; they wished to thaw, and melt, and obliterate the ice kiss which the queenly maiden of the glaciers had given him as he lay in the lap of his dead mother, in the deep crevasse of ice from which he had been so wonderfully rescued.

II. The Journey to the New Home
UDY was just eight years old, when his uncle, who lived on the other side of the mountain, wished to have the boy, as he thought he might obtain a better education with him, and learn something more. His grandfather thought the same, so he consented to let him go. Rudy had many to say farewell to, as well as his grandfather. First, there was Ajola, the old dog.

“Your father was the postilion, and I was the postilion’s dog,” said Ajola. “We have often travelled the same journey together; I knew all the dogs and men on this side of the mountain. It is not my habit to talk much; but now that we have so little time to converse together, I will say something more than usual. I will relate to you a story, which I have reflected upon for a long time. I do not understand it, and very likely you will not, but that is of no consequence. I have, however, learnt from it that in this world things are not equally divided, neither for dogs nor for men. All are not born to lie on the lap and to drink milk: I have never been petted in this way, but I have seen a little dog seated in the place of a gentleman or lady, and travelling inside a post-chaise. The lady, who was his mistress, or of whom he was master, carried a bottle of milk, of which the little dog now and then drank; she also offered him pieces of sugar to crunch. He sniffed at them proudly, but would not eat one, so she ate them herself. I was running along the dirty road by the side of the carriage as hungry as a dog could be, chewing the cud of my own thoughts, which were rather in confusion. But many other things seemed in confusion also. Why was not I lying on a lap and travelling in a coach? I could not tell; yet I knew I could not alter my own condition, either by barking or growling.”

This was Ajola’s farewell speech, and Rudy threw his arms round the dog’s neck and kissed his cold nose. Then he took the cat in his arms, but he struggled to get free.

“You are getting too strong for me,” he said; “but I will not use my claws against you. Clamber away over the mountains; it was I who taught you to climb. Do not fancy you are going to fall, and you will be quite safe.” Then the cat jumped down and ran away; he did not wish Rudy to see that there were tears in his eyes.

The hens were hopping about the floor; one of them had no tail; a traveller, who fancied himself a sportsman, had shot off her tail, he had mistaken her for a bird of prey.

“Rudy is going away over the mountains,” said one of the hens.

“He is always in such a hurry,” said the other; “and I don’t like taking leave,” so they both hopped out.

But the goats said farewell; they bleated and wanted to go with him, they were so very sorry.

Just at this time two clever guides were going to cross the mountains to the other side of the Gemmi, and Rudy was to go with them on foot. It was a long walk for such a little boy, but he had plenty of strength and invincible courage. The swallows flew with him a little way, singing, “We and you—you and we.” The way led across the rushing Lutschine, which falls in numerous streams from the dark clefts of the Grindelwald glaciers. Trunks of fallen trees and blocks of stone form bridges over these streams. After passing a forest of alders, they began to ascend, passing by some blocks of ice that had loosened themselves from the side of the mountain and lay across their path; they had to step over these ice-blocks or walk round them. Rudy crept here and ran there, his eyes sparkling with joy, and he stepped so firmly with his iron-tipped mountain shoe, that he left a mark behind him wherever he placed his foot.

The earth was black where the mountain torrents or the melted ice had poured upon it, but the bluish green, glassy ice sparkled and glittered. They had to go round little pools, like lakes, enclosed between large masses of ice; and, while thus wandering out of their path, they came near an immense stone, which lay balanced on the edge of an icy peak. The stone lost its balance just as they reached it, and rolled over into the abyss beneath, while the noise of its fall was echoed back from every hollow cliff of the glaciers.

They were always going upwards. The glaciers seemed to spread above them like a continued chain of masses of ice, piled up in wild confusion between bare and rugged rocks. Rudy thought for a moment of what had been told him, that he and his mother had once lain buried in one of these cold, heart-chilling fissures; but he soon banished such thoughts, and looked upon the story as fabulous, like many other stories which had been told him. Once or twice, when the men thought the way was rather difficult for such a little boy, they held out their hands to assist him; but he would not accept their assistance, for he stood on the slippery ice as firmly as if he had been a chamois. They came at length to rocky ground; sometimes stepping upon moss-covered stones, sometimes passing beneath stunted fir-trees, and again through green meadows. The landscape was always changing, but ever above them towered the lofty snow-clad mountains, whose names not only Rudy but every other child knew—“The Jungfrau,” “The Monk and the Eiger.”

Rudy had never been so far away before; he had never trodden on the wide-spreading ocean of snow that lay here with its immovable billows, from which the wind blows off the snowflake now and then, as it cuts the foam from the waves of the sea. The glaciers stand here so close together it might almost be said they are hand-in-hand; and each is a crystal palace for the Ice Maiden, whose power and will it is to seize and imprison the unwary traveller.

The sun shone warmly, and the snow sparkled as if covered with glittering diamonds. Numerous insects, especially butterflies and bees, lay dead in heaps on the snow. They had ventured too high, or the wind had carried them here and left them to die of cold.

Around the Wetterhorn hung a feathery cloud, like a woolbag, and a threatening cloud too, for as it sunk lower it increased in size, and concealed within was a “föhn,”1 fearful in its violence should it break loose. This journey, with its varied incidents,—the wild paths, the night passed on the mountain, the steep rocky precipices, the hollow clefts, in which the rustling waters from time immemorial had worn away passages for themselves through blocks of stone,—all these were firmly impressed on Rudy’s memory.

In a forsaken stone building, which stood just beyond the seas of snow, they one night took shelter. Here they found some charcoal and pine branches, so that they soon made a fire. They arranged couches to lie on as well as they could, and then the men seated themselves by the fire, took out their pipes, and began to smoke. They also prepared a warm, spiced drink, of which they partook and Rudy was not forgotten—he had his share. Then they began to talk of those mysterious beings with which the land of the Alps abounds; the hosts of apparitions which come in the night, and carry off the sleepers through the air, to the wonderful floating town of Venice; of the wild herds-man, who drives the black sheep across the meadows. These flocks are never seen, yet the tinkle of their little bells has often been heard, as well as their unearthly bleating. Rudy listened eagerly, but without fear, for he knew not what fear meant; and while he listened, he fancied he could hear the roaring of the spectral herd. It seemed to come nearer and roar louder, till the men heard it also and listened in silence, till, at length, they told Rudy that he must not dare to sleep. It was a “fohn,” that violent storm-wind which rushes from the mountain to the valley beneath, and in its fury snaps asunder the trunks of large trees as if they were but slender reeds, and carries the wooden houses from one side of a river to the other as easily as we could move the pieces on a chess-board. After an hour had passed, they told Rudy that it was all over, and he might go to sleep; and, fatigued with his long walk, he readily slept at the word of command.

Very early the following morning they again set out. The sun on this day lighted up for Rudy new mountains, new glaciers, and new snow-fields. They had entered the Canton Valais, and found themselves on the ridge of the hills which can be seen from Grindelwald; but he was still far from his new home. They pointed out to him other clefts, other meadows, other woods and rocky paths, and other houses. Strange men made their appearance before him, and what men! They were misshapen, wretched-looking creatures, with yellow complexions; and on their necks were dark, ugly lumps of flesh, hanging down like bags. They were called cretins. They dragged themselves along painfully, and stared at the strangers with vacant eyes. The women looked more dreadful than the men. Poor Rudy! were these the sort of people he should see at his new home?

III. The Uncle
UDY arrived at last at his uncle’s house, and was thankful to find the people like those he had been accustomed to see. There was only one cretin amongst them, a poor idiot boy, one of those unfortunate beings who, in their neglected conditions, go from house to house, and are received and taken care of in different families, for a month or two at a time.

Poor Saperli had just arrived at his uncle’s house when Rudy came. The uncle was an experienced hunter; he also followed the trade of a cooper; his wife was a lively little person, with a face like a bird, eyes like those of an eagle, and a long, hairy throat. Everything was new to Rudy—the fashion of the dress, the manners, the employments, and even the language; but the latter his childish ear would soon learn. He saw also that there was more wealth here, when compared with his former home at his grandfather’s. The rooms were larger, the walls were adorned with the horns of the chamois, and brightly polished guns. Over the door hung a painting of the Virgin Mary, fresh alpine roses and a burning lamp stood near it. Rudy’s uncle was, as we have said, one of the most noted chamois hunters in the whole district, and also one of the best guides. Rudy soon became the pet of the house; but there was another pet, an old hound, blind and lazy, who would never more follow the hunt, well as he had once done so. But his former good qualities were not forgotten, and therefore the animal was kept in the family and treated with every indulgence. Rudy stroked the old hound, but he did not like strangers, and Rudy was as yet a stranger; he did not, however, long remain so, he soon endeared himself to every heart, and became like one of the family.

“We are not very badly off, here in the canton Valais,” said his uncle one day; “we have the chamois, they do not die so fast as the wild goats, and it is certainly much better here now than in former times. How highly the old times have been spoken of, but ours is better. The bag has been opened, and a current of air now blows through our once confined valley. Something better always makes its appearance when old, worn-out things fail.”

When his uncle became communicative, he would relate stories of his youthful days, and farther back still of the warlike times in which his father had lived. Valais was then, as he expressed it, only a closed-up bag, quite full of sick people, miserable cretins; but the French soldiers came, and they were capital doctors, they soon killed the disease and the sick people, too. The French people knew how to fight in more ways than one, and the girls knew how to conquer too; and when he said this the uncle nodded at his wife, who was a French woman by birth, and laughed. The French could also do battle on the stones. “It was they who cut a road out of the solid rock over the Simplon—such a road, that I need only say to a child of three years old, ‘Go down to Italy, you have only to keep in the high road,’ and the child will soon arrive in Italy, if he followed my directions.”

Then the uncle sang a French song, and cried, “Hurrah! long live Napoleon Buonaparte.” This was the first time Rudy had ever heard of France, or of Lyons, that great city on the Rhone where his uncle had once lived. His uncle said that Rudy, in a very few years, would become a clever hunter, he had quite a talent for it; he taught the boy to hold a gun properly, and to load and fire it. In the hunting season he took him to the hills, and made him drink the warm blood of the chamois, which is said to prevent the hunter from becoming giddy; he taught him to know the time when, from the different mountains, the avalanche is likely to fall, namely, at noontide or in the evening, from the effects of the sun’s rays; he made him observe the movements of the chamois when he gave a leap, so that he might fall firmly and lightly on his feet. He told him that when on the fissures of the rocks he could find no place for his feet, he must support himself on his elbows, and cling with his legs, and even lean firmly with his back, for this could be done when necessary. He told him also that the chamois are very cunning, they place lookers-out on the watch; but the hunter must be more cunning than they are, and find them out by the scent.

One day, when Rudy went out hunting with his uncle, he hung a coat and hat on an alpine staff, and the chamois mistook it for a man, as they generally do. The mountain path was narrow here; indeed it was scarcely a path at all, only a kind of shelf, close to the yawning abyss. The snow that lay upon it was partially thawed, and the stones crumbled beneath the feet. Every fragment of stone broken off struck the sides of the rock in its fall, till it rolled into the depths beneath, and sunk to rest. Upon this shelf Rudy’s uncle laid himself down, and crept forward. At about a hundred paces behind him stood Rudy, upon the highest point of the rock, watching a great vulture hovering in the air; with a single stroke of his wing the bird might easily cast the creeping hunter into the abyss beneath, and make him his prey. Rudy’s uncle had eyes for nothing but the chamois, who, with its young kid, had just appeared round the edge of the rock. So Rudy kept his eyes fixed on the bird, he knew well what the great creature wanted; therefore he stood in readiness to discharge his gun at the proper moment. Suddenly the chamois made a spring, and his uncle fired and struck the animal with the deadly bullet; while the young kid rushed away, as if for a long life he had been accustomed to danger and practised flight. The large bird, alarmed at the report of the gun, wheeled off in another direction, and Rudy’s uncle was saved from danger, of which he knew nothing till he was told of it by the boy.

While they were both in pleasant mood, wending their way homewards, and the uncle whistling the tune of a song he had learnt in his young days, they suddenly heard a peculiar sound which seemed to come from the top of the mountain. They looked up, and saw above them, on the over-hanging rock, the snow-covering heave and lift itself as a piece of linen stretched on the ground to dry raises itself when the wind creeps under it. Smooth as polished marble slabs, the waves of snow cracked and loosened themselves, and then suddenly, with the rumbling noise of distant thunder, fell like a foaming cataract into the abyss. An avalanche had fallen, not upon Rudy and his uncle, but very near them. Alas, a great deal too near!

“Hold fast, Rudy!” cried his uncle; “hold fast, with all your might.”

Then Rudy clung with his arms to the trunk of the nearest tree, while his uncle climbed above him, and held fast by the branches. The avalanche rolled past them at some distance; but the gust of wind that followed, like the storm-wings of the avalanche, snapped asunder the trees and bushes over which it swept, as if they had been but dry rushes, and threw them about in every direction. The tree to which Rudy clung was thus overthrown, and Rudy dashed to the ground. The higher branches were snapped off, and carried away to a great distance; and among these shattered branches lay Rudy’s uncle, with his skull fractured. When they found him, his hand was still warm; but it would have been impossible to recognize his face. Rudy stood by, pale and trembling; it was the first shock of his life, the first time he had ever felt fear. Late in the evening he returned home with the fatal news,—to that home which was now to be so full of sorrow. His uncle’s wife uttered not a word, nor shed a tear, till the corpse was brought in; then her agony burst forth. The poor cretin crept away to his bed, and nothing was seen of him during the whole of the following day. Towards evening, however, he came to Rudy, and said, “Will you write a letter for me? Saperli cannot write; Saperli can only take the letters to the post.”

“A letter for you!” said Rudy; “who do you wish to write to?”

“To the Lord Christ,” he replied.

“What do you mean?” asked Rudy.

Then the poor idiot, as the cretin was often called, looked at Rudy with a most touching expression in his eyes, clasped his hands, and said, solemnly and devoutly, “Saperli wants to send a letter to Jesus Christ, to pray Him to let Saperli die, and not the master of the house here.”

Rudy pressed his hand, and replied, “A letter would not reach Him up above; it would not give him back whom we have lost.”

It was not, however, easy for Rudy to convince Saperli of the impossibility of doing what he wished.

“Now you must work for us,” said his foster-mother; and Rudy very soon became the entire support of the house.

IV. Babette
HO was the best marksman in the canton Valais? The chamois knew well. “Save yourselves from Rudy,” they might well say. And who is the handsomest marksman? “Oh, it is Rudy,” said the maidens; but they did not say, “Save yourselves from Rudy.” Neither did anxious mothers say so; for he bowed to them as pleasantly as to the young girls. He was so brave and cheerful. His cheeks were brown, his teeth white, and his eyes dark and sparkling. He was now a handsome young man of twenty years. The most icy water could not deter him from swimming; he could twist and turn like a fish. None could climb like he, and he clung as firmly to the edges of the rocks as a limpet. He had strong muscular power, as could be seen when he leapt from rock to rock. He had learnt this first from the cat, and more lately from the chamois. Rudy was considered the best guide over the mountains; every one had great confidence in him. He might have made a great deal of money as guide. His uncle had also taught him the trade of a cooper; but he had no inclination for either; his delight was in chamois-hunting, which also brought him plenty of money. Rudy would be a very good match, as people said, if he would not look above his own station. He was also such a famous partner in dancing, that the girls often dreamt about him, and one and another thought of him even when awake.

“He kissed me in the dance,” said Annette, the schoolmaster’s daughter, to her dearest friend; but she ought not to have told this, even to her dearest friend. It is not easy to keep such secrets; they are like sand in a sieve; they slip out. It was therefore soon known that Rudy, so brave and so good as he was, had kissed some one while dancing, and yet he had never kissed her who was dearest to him.

“Ah, ah,” said an old hunter, “he has kissed Annette, has he? he has begun with A, and I suppose he will kiss through the whole alphabet.”

But a kiss in the dance was all the busy tongues could accuse him of. He certainly had kissed Annette, but she was not the flower of his heart.

Down in the valley, near Bex, among the great walnut-trees, by the side of a little rushing mountain-stream, lived a rich miller. His dwelling-house was a large building, three storeys high, with little turrets. The roof was covered with chips, bound together with tin plates, that glittered in sunshine and in the moonlight. The largest of the turrets had a weather-cock, representing an apple pierced by a glittering arrow, in memory of William Tell. The mill was a neat and well-ordered place, that allowed itself to be sketched and written about; but the miller’s daughter did not permit any to sketch or write about her. So, at least, Rudy would have said, for her image was pictured in his heart; her eyes shone in it so brightly, that quite a flame had been kindled there; and, like all other fires, it had burst forth so suddenly, that the miller’s daughter, the beautiful Babette, was quite unaware of it. Rudy had never spoken a word to her on the subject. The miller was rich, and, on that account, Babette stood very high, and was rather difficult to aspire to. But said Rudy to himself, “Nothing is too high for a man to reach: he must climb with confidence in himself, and he will not fail.” He had learnt this lesson in his youthful home.

It happened once that Rudy had some business to settle at Bex. It was a long journey at that time, for the railway had not been opened. From the glaciers of the Rhone, at the foot of the Simplon, between its ever-changing mountain summits, stretches the valley of the canton Valais. Through it runs the noble river of the Rhone, which often overflows its banks, covering fields and highways, and destroying everything in its course. Near the towns of Sion and St. Maurice, the valley takes a turn, and bends like an elbow, and behind St. Maurice becomes so narrow that there is only space enough for the bed of the river and a narrow carriage-road. An old tower stands here, as if it were guardian to the canton Valais, which ends at this point; and from it we can look across the stone bridge to the toll-house on the other side, where the canton Vaud commences. Not far from this spot stands the town of Bex, and at every step can be seen an increase of fruitfulness and verdure. It is like entering a grove of chestnut and walnut-trees. Here and there the cypress and pomegranate blossoms peep forth; and it is almost as warm as an Italian climate. Rudy arrived at Bex, and soon finished the business which had brought him there, and then walked about the town; but not even the miller’s boy could be seen, nor any one belonging to the mill, not to mention Babette. This did not please him at all. Evening came on. The air was filled with the perfume of the wild thyme and the blossoms of the lime-trees, and the green woods on the mountains seemed to be covered with a shining veil, blue as the sky. Over everything reigned a stillness, not of sleep or of death, but as if Nature were holding her breath, that her image might be photographed on the blue vault of heaven. Here and there, amidst the trees of the silent valley, stood poles which supported the wires of the electric telegraph. Against one of these poles leaned an object so motionless that it might have been mistaken for the trunk of a tree; but it was Rudy, standing there as still as at that moment was everything around him. He was not asleep, neither was he dead; but just as the various events in the world—matters of momentous importance to individuals—were flying through the telegraph wires, without the quiver of a wire or the slightest tone, so, through the mind of Rudy, thoughts of overwhelming importance were passing, without an outward sign of emotion. The happiness of his future life depended upon the decision of his present reflections. His eyes were fixed on one spot in the distance—a light that twinkled through the foliage from the parlor of the miller’s house, where Babette dwelt. Rudy stood so still, that it might have been supposed he was watching for a chamois; but he was in reality like a chamois, who will stand for a moment, looking as if it were chiselled out of the rock, and then, if only a stone rolled by, would suddenly bound forward with a spring, far away from the hunter. And so with Rudy: a sudden roll of his thoughts roused him from his stillness, and made him bound forward with determination to act.

“Never despair!” cried he. “A visit to the mill, to say good evening to the miller, and good evening to little Babette, can do no harm. No one ever fails who has confidence in himself. If I am to be Babette’s husband, I must see her some time or other.”

Then Rudy laughed joyously, and took courage to go to the mill. He knew what he wanted; he wanted to marry Babette. The clear water of the river rolled over its yellow bed, and willows and lime-trees were reflected in it, as Rudy stepped along the path to the miller’s house. But, as the children sing—

“There was no one at home in the house,
Only a kitten at play.”
The cat standing on the steps put up its back and cried “mew.” But Rudy had no inclination for this sort of conversation; he passed on, and knocked at the door. No one heard him, no one opened the door. “Mew,” said the cat again; and had Rudy been still a child, he would have understood this language, and known that the cat wished to tell him there was no one at home. So he was obliged to go to the mill and make inquiries, and there he heard that the miller had gone on a journey to Interlachen, and taken Babette with him, to the great shooting festival, which began that morning, and would continue for eight days, and that people from all the German settlements would be there.

Poor Rudy! we may well say. It was not a fortunate day for his visit to Bex. He had just to return the way he came, through St. Maurice and Sion, to his home in the valley. But he did not despair. When the sun rose the next morning, his good spirits had returned; indeed he had never really lost them. “Babette is at Interlachen,” said Rudy to himself, “many days’ journey from here. It is certainly a long way for any one who takes the high-road, but not so far if he takes a short cut across the mountain, and that just suits a chamois-hunter. I have been that way before, for it leads to the home of my childhood, where, as a little boy, I lived with my grandfather. And there are shooting matches at Interlachen. I will go, and try to stand first in the match. Babette will be there, and I shall be able to make her acquaintance.”

Carrying his light knapsack, which contained his Sunday clothes, on his back, and with his musket and his game-bag over his shoulder, Rudy started to take the shortest way across the mountain. Still it was a great distance. The shooting matches were to commence on that day, and to continue for a whole week. He had been told also that the miller and Babette would remain that time with some relatives at Interlachen. So over the Gemmi Rudy climbed bravely, and determined to descend the side of the Grindelwald. Bright and joyous were his feelings as he stepped lightly onwards, inhaling the invigorating mountain air. The valley sunk as he ascended, the circle of the horizon expanded. One snow-capped peak after another rose before him, till the whole of the glittering Alpine range became visible. Rudy knew each ice-clad peak, and he continued his course towards the Schreckhorn, with its white powdered stone finger raised high in the air. At length he had crossed the highest ridges, and before him lay the green pasture lands sloping down towards the valley, which was once his home. The buoyancy of the air made his heart light. Hill and valley were blooming in luxuriant beauty, and his thoughts were youthful dreams, in which old age or death were out of the question. Life, power, and enjoyment were in the future, and he felt free and light as a bird. And the swallows flew round him, as in the days of his childhood, singing “We and you—you and we.” All was overflowing with joy. Beneath him lay the meadows, covered with velvety green, with the murmuring river flowing through them, and dotted here and there were small wooden houses. He could see the edges of the glaciers, looking like green glass against the soiled snow, and the deep chasms beneath the loftiest glacier. The church bells were ringing, as if to welcome him to his home with their sweet tones. His heart beat quickly, and for a moment he seemed to have foregotten Babette, so full were his thoughts of old recollections. He was, in imagination, once more wandering on the road where, when a little boy, he, with other children, came to sell their curiously carved toy houses. Yonder, behind the fir-trees, still stood his grandfather’s house, his mother’s father, but strangers dwelt in it now. Children came running to him, as he had once done, and wished to sell their wares. One of them offered him an Alpine rose. Rudy took the rose as a good omen, and thought of Babette. He quickly crossed the bridge where the two rivers flow into each other. Here he found a walk over-shadowed with large walnut-trees, and their thick foliage formed a pleasant shade. Very soon he perceived in the distance, waving flags, on which glittered a white cross on a red ground—the standard of the Danes as well as of the Swiss—and before him lay Interlachen.

“It is really a splendid town, like none other that I have ever seen,” said Rudy to himself. It was indeed a Swiss town in its holiday dress. Not like the many other towns, crowded with heavy stone houses, stiff and foreign looking. No; here it seemed as if the wooden houses on the hills had run into the valley, and placed themselves in rows and ranks by the side of the clear river, which rushes like an arrow in its course. The streets were rather irregular, it is true, but still this added to their picturesque appearance. There was one street which Rudy thought the prettiest of them all; it had been built since he had visited the town when a little boy. It seemed to him as if all the neatest and most curiously carved toy houses which his grandfather once kept in the large cupboard at home, had been brought out and placed in this spot, and that they had increased in size since then, as the old chestnut trees had done. The houses were called hotels; the woodwork on the windows and balconies was curiously carved. The roofs were gayly painted, and before each house was a flower garden, which separated it from the macadamized high-road. These houses all stood on the same side of the road, so that the fresh, green meadows, in which were cows grazing, with bells on their necks, were not hidden. The sound of these bells is often heard amidst Alpine scenery. These meadows were encircled by lofty hills, which receded a little in the centre, so that the most beautifully formed of Swiss mountains—the snow-crowned Jungfrau— could be distinctly seen glittering in the distance. A number of elegantly dressed gentlemen and ladies from foreign lands, and crowds of country people from the neighboring cantons, were assembled in the town. Each marksman wore the number of hits he had made twisted in a garland round his hat. Here were music and singing of all descriptions: hand-organs, trumpets, shouting, and noise. The houses and bridges were adorned with verses and inscriptions. Flags and banners were waving. Shot after shot was fired, which was the best music to Rudy’s ears. And amidst all this excitement he quite forgot Babette, on whose account only he had come. The shooters were thronging round the target, and Rudy was soon amongst them. But when he took his turn to fire, he proved himself the best shot, for he always struck the bull’s-eye.

“Who may that young stranger be?” was the inquiry on all sides. “He speaks French as it is spoken in the Swiss cantons.”

“And makes himself understood very well when he speaks German,” said some.

“He lived here, when a child, with his grandfather, in a house on the road to Grindelwald,” remarked one of the sportsmen.

And full of life was this young stranger; his eyes sparkled, his glance was steady, and his arm sure, therefore he always hit the mark. Good fortune gives courage, and Rudy was always courageous. He soon had a circle of friends gathered round him. Every one noticed him, and did him homage. Babette had quite vanished from his thoughts, when he was struck on the shoulder by a heavy hand, and a deep voice said to him in French, “You are from the canton Valais.”

Rudy turned round, and beheld a man with a ruddy, pleasant face, and a stout figure. It was the rich miller from Bex. His broad, portly person, hid the slender, lovely Babette; but she came forward and glanced at him with her bright, dark eyes. The rich miller was very much flattered at the thought that the young man, who was acknowledged to be the best shot, and was so praised by every one, should be from his own canton. Now was Rudy really fortunate: he had travelled all this way to this place, and those he had forgotten were now come to seek him. When country people go far from home, they often meet with those they know, and improve their acquaintance. Rudy, by his shooting, had gained the first place in the shooting-match, just as the miller at home at Bex stood first, because of his money and his mill. So the two men shook hands, which they had never done before. Babette, too, held out her hand to Rudy frankly, and he pressed it in his, and looked at her so earnestly, that she blushed deeply. The miller talked of the long journey they had travelled, and of the many towns they had seen. It was his opinion that he had really made as great a journey as if he had travelled in a steamship, a railway carriage, or a post-chaise.

“I came by a much shorter way,” said Rudy; “I came over the mountains. There is no road so high that a man may not venture upon it.”

“Ah, yes; and break your neck,” said the miller; “and you look like one who will break his neck some day, you are so daring.”

“Oh, nothing ever happens to a man if he has confidence in himself,” replied Rudy.

The miller’s relations at Interlachen, with whom the miller and Babette were staying, invited Rudy to visit them, when they found he came from the same canton as the miller. It was a most pleasant visit. Good fortune seemed to follow him, as it does those who think and act for themselves, and who remember the proverb, “Nuts are given to us, but they are not cracked for us.” And Rudy was treated by the miller’s relations almost like one of the family, and glasses of wine were poured out to drink to the welfare of the best shooter. Babette clinked glasses with Rudy, and he returned thanks for the toast. In the evening they all took a delightful walk under the walnut-trees, in front of the stately hotels; there were so many people, and such crowding, that Rudy was obliged to offer his arm to Babette. Then he told her how happy it made him to meet people from the canton Vaud,—for Vaud and Valais were neighboring cantons. He spoke of this pleasure so heartily that Babette could not resist giving his arm a slight squeeze; and so they walked on together, and talked and chatted like old acquaintances. Rudy felt inclined to laugh sometimes at the absurd dress and walk of the foreign ladies; but Babette did not wish to make fun of them, for she knew there must be some good, excellent people amongst them; she, herself, had a godmother, who was a high-born English lady. Eighteen years before, when Babette was christened, this lady was staying at Bex, and she stood godmother for her, and gave her the valuable brooch she now wore in her bosom.

Her godmother had twice written to her, and this year she was expected to visit Interlachen with her two daughters; “but they are old-maids,” added Babette, who was only eighteen: “they are nearly thirty.” Her sweet little mouth was never still a moment, and all that she said sounded in Rudy’s ears as matters of the greatest importance, and at last he told her what he was longing to tell. How often he had been at Bex, how well he knew the mill, and how often he had seen Babette, when most likely she had not noticed him; and lastly, that full of many thoughts which he could not tell her, he had been to the mill on the evening when she and her father has started on their long journey, but not too far for him to find a way to overtake them. He told her all this, and a great deal more; he told her how much he could endure for her; and that it was to see her, and not the shooting-match, which had brought him to Interlachen. Babette became quite silent after hearing all this; it was almost too much, and it troubled her.

And while they thus wandered on, the sun sunk behind the lofty mountains. The Jungfrau stood out in brightness and splendor, as a back-ground to the green woods of the surrounding hills. Every one stood still to look at the beautiful sight, Rudy and Babette among them.

“Nothing can be more beautiful than this,” said Babette.

“Nothing!” replied Rudy, looking at Babette.

“To-morrow I must return home,” remarked Rudy a few minutes afterwards.

“Come and visit us at Bex,” whispered Babette; “my father will be pleased to see you.”

V. On the Way Home
H, what a number of things Rudy had to carry over the mountains, when he set out to return home! He had three silver cups, two handsome pistols, and a silver coffee-pot. This latter would be useful when he began housekeeping. But all these were not the heaviest weight he had to bear; something mightier and more important he carried with him in his heart, over the high mountains, as he journeyed homeward.

The weather was dismally dark, and inclined to rain; the clouds hung low, like a mourning veil on the tops of the mountains, and shrouded their glittering peaks. In the woods could be heard the sound of the axe and the heavy fall of the trunks of the trees, as they rolled down the slopes of the mountains. When seen from the heights, the trunks of these trees looked like slender stems; but on a nearer inspection they were found to be large and strong enough for the masts of a ship. The river murmured monotonously, the wind whistled, and the clouds sailed along hurriedly.

Suddenly there appeared, close by Rudy’s side, a young maiden; he had not noticed her till she came quite near to him. She was also going to ascend the mountain. The maiden’s eyes shone with an unearthly power, which obliged you to look into them; they were strange eyes,—clear, deep, and unfathomable.

“Hast thou a lover?” asked Rudy; all his thoughts were naturally on love just then.

“I have none,” answered the maiden, with a laugh; it was as if she had not spoken the truth.

“Do not let us go such a long way round,” said she. “We must keep to the left; it is much shorter.”

“Ah, yes,” he replied; “and fall into some crevasse. Do you pretend to be a guide, and not know the road better than that?”

“I know every step of the way,” said she; “and my thoughts are collected, while yours are down in the valley yonder. We should think of the Ice Maiden while we are up here; men say she is not kind to their race.”

“I fear her not,” said Rudy. “She could not keep me when I was a child; I will not give myself up to her now I am a man.”

Darkness came on, the rain fell, and then it began to snow, and the whiteness dazzled the eyes.

“Give me your hand,” said the maiden; “I will help you to mount.” And he felt the touch of her icy fingers.

“You help me,” cried Rudy; “I do not yet require a woman to help me to climb.” And he stepped quickly forwards away from her.

The drifting snow-shower fell like a veil between them, the wind whistled, and behind him he could hear the maiden laughing and singing, and the sound was most strange to hear.

“It certainly must be a spectre or a servant of the Ice Maiden,” thought Rudy, who had heard such things talked about when he was a little boy, and had stayed all night on the mountain with the guides.

The snow fell thicker than ever, the clouds lay beneath him; he looked back, there was no one to be seen, but he heard sounds of mocking laughter, which were not those of a human voice.

When Rudy at length reached the highest part of the mountain, where the path led down to the valley of the Rhone, the snow had ceased, and in the clear heavens he saw two bright stars twinkling. They reminded him of Babette and of himself, and of his future happiness, and his heart glowed at the thought.

VI. The Visit to the Mill
HAT beautiful things you have brought home!” said his old foster-mother; and her strange-looking eagle-eyes sparkled, while she wriggled and twisted her skinny neck more quickly and strangely than ever. “You have brought good luck with you, Rudy. I must give you a kiss, my dear boy.”

Rudy allowed himself to be kissed; but it could be seen by his countenance that he only endured the infliction as a homely duty.

“How handsome you are, Rudy!” said the old woman.

“Don’t flatter,” said Rudy, with a laugh; but still he was pleased.

“I must say once more,” said the old woman, “that you are very lucky.”

“Well, in that I believe you are right,” said he, as he thought of Babette. Never had he felt such a longing for that deep valley as he now had. “They must have returned home by this time,” said he to himself, “it is already two days over the time which they fixed upon. I must go to Bex.”

So Rudy set out to go to Bex; and when he arrived there, he found the miller and his daughter at home. They received him kindly, and brought him many greetings from their friends at Interlachen. Babette did not say much. She seemed to have become quite silent; but her eyes spoke, and that was quite enough for Rudy. The miller had generally a great deal to talk about, and seemed to expect that every one should listen to his jokes, and laugh at them; for was not he the rich miller? But now he was more inclined to hear Rudy’s adventures while hunting and travelling, and to listen to his descriptions of the difficulties the chamois-hunter has to overcome on the mountain-tops, or of the dangerous snow-drifts which the wind and weather cause to cling to the edges of the rocks, or to lie in the form of a frail bridge over the abyss beneath. The eyes of the brave Rudy sparkled as he described the life of a hunter, or spoke of the cunning of the chamois and their wonderful leaps; also of the powerful fohn and the rolling avalanche. He noticed that the more he described, the more interested the miller became, especially when he spoke of the fierce vulture and of the royal eagle. Not far from Bex, in the canton Valais, was an eagle’s nest, more curiously built under a high, over-hanging rock. In this nest was a young eagle; but who would venture to take it? A young Englishman had offered Rudy a whole handful of gold, if he would bring him the young eagle alive.

“There is a limit to everything,” was Rudy’s reply. “The eagle could not be taken; it would be folly to attempt it.”

The wine was passed round freely, and the conversation kept up pleasantly; but the evening seemed too short for Rudy, although it was midnight when he left the miller’s house, after this his first visit.

While the lights in the windows of the miller’s house still twinkled through the green foliage, out through the open skylight came the parlor-cat on to the roof, and along the water-pipe walked the kitchen-cat to meet her.

“What is the news at the mill?” asked the parlor-cat. “Here in the house there is secret love-making going on, which the father knows nothing about. Rudy and Babette have been treading on each other’s paws, under the table, all the evening. They trod on my tail twice, but I did not mew; that would have attracted notice.”

“Well, I should have mewed,” said the kitchen-cat.

“What might suit the kitchen would not suit the parlor,” said the other. “I am quite curious to know what the miller will say when he finds out this engagement.”

Yes, indeed; what would the miller say? Rudy himself was anxious to know that; but to wait till the miller heard of it from others was out of the question. Therefore, not many days after this visit, he was riding in the omnibus that runs between the two cantons, Valais and Vaud. These cantons are separated by the Rhone, over which is a bridge that unites them. Rudy, as usual, had plenty of courage, and indulged in pleasant thoughts of the favorable answer he should receive that evening. And when the omnibus returned, Rudy was again seated in it, going homewards; and at the same time the parlor-cat at the miller’s house ran out quickly, crying,—

“Here, you from the kitchen, what do you think? The miller knows all now. Everything has come to a delightful end. Rudy came here this evening, and he and Babette had much whispering and secret conversation together. They stood in the path near the miller’s room. I lay at their feet; but they had no eyes or thoughts for me.

“‘I will go to your father at once,’ said he; ‘it is the most honorable way.’

“‘Shall I go with you?’ asked Babette; ‘it will give you courage.’

“‘I have plenty of courage,’ said Rudy; ‘but if you are with me, he must be friendly, whether he says Yes or No.’

”So they turned to go in, and Rudy trod heavily on my tail; he certainly is very clumsy. I mewed; but neither he nor Babette had any ears for me. They opened the door, and entered together. I was before them, and jumped on the back of a chair. I hardly know what Rudy said; but the miller flew into a rage, and threatened to kick him out of the house. He told him he might go to the mountains, and look after the chamois, but not after our little Babette.”

”And what did they say? Did they speak?” asked the kitchen-cat.

”What did they say! why, all that people generally do say when they go a-wooing—‘I love her, and she loves me; and when there is milk in the can for one, there is milk in the can for two.’

“‘But she is so far above you,’ said the miller; ‘she has heaps of gold, as you know. You should not attempt to reach her.’

“‘There is nothing so high that a man cannot reach, if he will,’ answered Rudy; for he is a brave youth.

“‘Yet you could not reach the young eagle,’ said the miller, laughing. ‘Babette is higher than the eagle’s nest.’

“‘I will have them both,’ said Rudy.

“‘Very well; I will give her to you when you bring me the young eaglet alive,’ said the miller; and he laughed till the tears stood in his eyes. ‘But now I thank you for this visit, Rudy; and if you come to-morrow, you will find nobody at home. Good-bye, Rudy.’

“Babette also wished him farewell; but her voice sounded as mournful as the mew of a little kitten that has lost its mother.

“‘A promise is a promise between man and man,’ said Rudy. ‘Do not weep, Babette; I shall bring the young eagle.’

“‘You will break your neck, I hope,’ said the miller, ‘and we shall be relieved from your company.’

“I call that kicking him out of the house,” said the parlor-cat. “And now Rudy is gone, and Babette sits and weeps, while the miller sings German songs that he learnt on his journey; but I do not trouble myself on the matter,—it would be of no use.”

“Yet, for all that, it is a very strange affair,” said the kitchen-cat.

VII. The Eagle’s Nest
ROM the mountain-path came a joyous sound of some person whistling, and it betokened good humor and undaunted courage. It was Rudy, going to meet his friend Vesinaud. “You must come and help,” said he. “I want to carry off the young eaglet from the top of the rock. We will take young Ragli with us.”

“Had you not better first try to take down the moon? That would be quite as easy a task,” said Vesinaud. “You seem to be in good spirits.”

“Yes, indeed I am. I am thinking of my wedding. But to be serious, I will tell you all about it, and how I am situated.”

Then he explained to Vesinaud and Ragli what he wished to do, and why.

“You are a daring fellow,” said they; “but it is no use; you will break your neck.”

“No one falls, unless he is afraid,” said Rudy.

So at midnight they set out, carrying with them poles, ladders, and ropes. The road lay amidst brushwood and underwood, over rolling stones, always upwards higher and higher in the dark night. Waters roared beneath them, or fell in cascades from above. Humid clouds were driving through the air as the hunters reached the precipitous ledge of the rock. It was even darker here, for the sides of the rocks almost met, and the light penetrated only through a small opening at the top. At a little distance from the edge could be heard the sound of the roaring, foaming waters in the yawning abyss beneath them. The three seated themselves on a stone, to await in stillness the dawn of day, when the parent eagle would fly out, as it would be necessary to shoot the old bird before they could think of gaining possession of the young one. Rudy sat motionless, as if he had been part of the stone on which he sat. He held his gun ready to fire, with his eyes fixed steadily on the highest point of the cliff, where the eagle’s nest lay concealed beneath the overhanging rock.

The three hunters had a long time to wait. At last they heard a rustling, whirring sound above them, and a large hovering object darkened the air. Two guns were ready to aim at the dark body of the eagle as it rose from the nest. Then a shot was fired; for an instant the bird fluttered its wide-spreading wings, and seemed as if it would fill up the whole of the chasm, and drag down the hunters in its fall. But it was not so; the eagle sunk gradually into the abyss beneath, and the branches of trees and bushes were broken by its weight. Then the hunters roused themselves: three of the longest ladders were brought and bound together; the topmost ring of these ladders would just reach the edge of the rock which hung over the abyss, but no farther. The point beneath which the eagle’s nest lay sheltered was much higher, and the sides of the rock were as smooth as a wall. After consulting together, they determined to bind together two more ladders, and to hoist them over the cavity, and so form a communication with the three beneath them, by binding the upper ones to the lower. With great difficulty they contrived to drag the two ladders over the rock, and there they hung for some moments, swaying over the abyss; but no sooner had they fastened them together, than Rudy placed his foot on the lowest step.

It was a bitterly cold morning; clouds of mist were rising from beneath, and Rudy stood on the lower step of the ladder as a fly rests on a piece of swinging straw, which a bird may have dropped from the edge of the nest it was building on some tall factory chimney; but the fly could fly away if the straw were shaken, Rudy could only break his neck. The wind whistled around him, and beneath him the waters of the abyss, swelled by the thawing of the glaciers, those palaces of the Ice Maiden, foamed and roared in their rapid course. When Rudy began to ascend, the ladder trembled like the web of the spider, when it draws out the long, delicate threads; but as soon as he reached the fourth of the ladders, which had been bound together, he felt more confidence,—he knew that they had been fastened securely by skilful hands. The fifth ladder, that appeared to reach the nest, was supported by the sides of the rock, yet it swung to and fro, and flapped about like a slender reed, and as if it had been bound by fishing lines. It seemed a most dangerous undertaking to ascend it, but Rudy knew how to climb; he had learnt that from the cat, and he had no fear. He did not observe Vertigo, who stood in the air behind him, trying to lay hold of him with his outstretched polypous arms.

When at length he stood on the topmost step of the ladder, he found that he was still some distance below the nest, and not even able to see into it. Only by using his hands and climbing could he possibly reach it. He tried the strength of the stunted trees, and the thick underwood upon which the nest rested, and of which it was formed, and finding they would support his weight, he grasped them firmly, and swung himself up from the ladder till his head and breast were above the nest, and then what an overpowering stench came from it, for in it lay the putrid remains of lambs, chamois, and birds. Vertigo, although he could not reach him, blew the poisonous vapor in his face, to make him giddy and faint; and beneath, in the dark, yawning deep, on the rushing waters, sat the Ice Maiden, with her long, pale, green hair falling around her, and her death-like eyes fixed upon him, like the two barrels of a gun. “I have thee now,” she cried.

In a corner of the eagle’s nest sat the young eaglet, a large and powerful bird, though still unable to fly. Rudy fixed his eyes upon it, held on by one hand with all his strength, and with the other threw a noose round the young eagle. The string slipped to its legs. Rudy tightened it, and thus secured the bird alive. Then flinging the sling over his shoulder, so that the creature hung a good way down behind him, he prepared to descend with the help of a rope, and his foot soon touched safely the highest step of the ladder. Then Rudy, remembering his early lesson in climbing, “Hold fast, and do not fear,” descended carefully down the ladders, and at last stood safely on the ground with the young living eaglet, where he was received with loud shouts of joy and congratulations.

VIII. What Fresh News the Parlor-Cat Had to Tell
HERE is what you asked for,” said Rudy, as he entered the miller’s house at Bex, and placed on the floor a large basket. He removed the lid as he spoke, and a pair of yellow eyes, encircled by a black ring, stared forth with a wild, fiery glance, that seemed ready to burn and destroy all that came in its way. Its short, strong beak was open, ready to bite, and on its red throat were short feathers, like stubble.

“The young eaglet!” cried the miller.

Babette screamed, and started back, while her eyes wandered from Rudy to the bird in astonishment.

“You are not to be discouraged by difficulties, I see,” said the miller.

“And you will keep your word,” replied Rudy. “Each has his own characteristic, whether it is honor or courage.”

“But how is it you did not break your neck?” asked the miller.

“Because I held fast,” answered Rudy; “and I mean to hold fast to Babette.”

“You must get her first,” said the miller, laughing; and Babette thought this a very good sign.

“We must take the bird out of the basket,” said she. “It is getting into a rage; how its eyes glare. How did you manage to conquer it?”

Then Rudy had to describe his adventure, and the miller’s eyes opened wide as he listened.

“With your courage and your good fortune you might win three wives,” said the miller.

“Oh, thank you,” cried Rudy.

“But you have not won Babette yet,” said the miller, slapping the young Alpine hunter on the shoulder playfully.

“Have you heard the fresh news at the mill?” asked the parlor-cat of the kitchen-cat. “Rudy has brought us the young eagle, and he is to take Babette in exchange. They kissed each other in the presence of the old man, which is as good as an engagement. He was quite civil about it; drew in his claws, and took his afternoon nap, so that the two were left to sit and wag their tails as much as they pleased. They have so much to talk about that it will not be finished till Christmas.” Neither was it finished till Christmas.

The wind whirled the faded, fallen leaves; the snow drifted in the valleys, as well as upon the mountains, and the Ice Maiden sat in the stately palace which, in winter time, she generally occupied. The perpendicular rocks were covered with slippery ice, and where in summer the stream from the rocks had left a watery veil, icicles large and heavy hung from the trees, while the snow-powdered fir-trees were decorated with fantastic garlands of crystal. The Ice Maiden rode on the howling wind across the deep valleys, the country, as far as Bex, was covered with a carpet of snow, so that the Ice Maiden could follow Rudy, and see him, when he visited the mill; and while in the room at the miller’s house, where he was accustomed to spend so much of his time with Babette. The wedding was to take place in the following summer, and they heard enough of it, for so many of their friends spoke of the matter.

Then came sunshine to the mill. The beautiful Alpine roses bloomed, and joyous, laughing Babette, was like the early spring, which makes all the birds sing of summer time and bridal days.

“How those two do sit and chatter together,” said the parlor-cat; “I have had enough of their mewing.”

IX. The Ice Maiden
HE walnut and chestnut trees, which extend from the bridge of St. Maurice, by the river Rhone, to the shores of the lake of Geneva, were already covered with the delicate green garlands of early spring, just bursting into bloom, while the Rhone rushed wildly from its source among the green glaciers which form the ice palace of the Ice Maiden. She sometimes allows herself to be carried by the keen wind to the lofty snow-fields, where she stretches herself in the sunshine on the soft snowy-cushions. From thence she throws her far-seeing glance into the deep valley beneath, where human beings are busily moving about like ants on a stone in the sun. “Spirits of strength, as the children of the sun call you,” cried the Ice Maiden, “ye are but worms! Let but a snow-ball roll, and you and your houses and your towns are crushed and swept away.” And she raised her proud head, and looked around her with eyes that flashed death from their glance. From the valley came a rumbling sound; men were busily at work blasting the rocks to form tunnels, and laying down roads for the railway. “They are playing at work underground, like moles,” said she. “They are digging passages beneath the earth, and the noise is like the reports of cannons. I shall throw down my palaces, for the clamor is louder than the roar of thunder.” Then there ascended from the valley a thick vapor, which waved itself in the air like a fluttering veil. It rose, as a plume of feathers, from a steam engine, to which, on the lately-opened railway, a string of carriages was linked, carriage to carriage, looking like a winding serpent. The train shot past with the speed of an arrow. “They play at being masters down there, those spirits of strength!” exclaimed the Ice Maiden; “but the powers of nature are still the rulers.” And she laughed and sang till her voice sounded through the valley, and people said it was the rolling of an avalanche. But the children of the sun sang in louder strains in praise of the mind of man, which can span the sea as with a yoke, can level mountains, and fill up valleys. It is the power of thought which gives man the mastery over nature.

Just at this moment there came across the snow-field, where the Ice Maiden sat, a party of travellers. They had bound themselves fast to each other, so that they looked like one large body on the slippery plains of ice encircling the deep abyss.

“Worms!” exclaimed the Ice Maiden. “You, the lords of the powers of nature!” And she turned away and looked maliciously at the deep valley where the railway train was rushing by. “There they sit, these thoughts!” she exclaimed. “There they sit in their power over nature’s strength. I see them all. One sits proudly apart, like a king; others sit together in a group; yonder, half of them are asleep; and when the steam dragon stops, they will get out and go their way. The thoughts go forth into the world,” and she laughed.

“There goes another avalanche,” said those in the valley beneath.

“It will not reach us,” said two who sat together behind the steam dragon. “Two hearts and one beat,” as people say. They were Rudy and Babette, and the miller was with them. “I am like the luggage,” said he; “I am here as a necessary appendage.”

“There sit those two,” said the Ice Maiden. “Many a chamois have I crushed. Millions of Alpine roses have I snapped and broken off; not a root have I spared. I know them all, and their thoughts, those spirits of strength!” and again she laughed.

“There rolls another avalanche,” said those in the valley.

X. The Godmother
T Montreux, one of the towns which encircle the northeast part of the lake of Geneva, lived Babette’s godmother, the noble English lady, with her daughters and a young relative. They had only lately arrived, yet the miller had paid them a visit, and informed them of Babette’s engagement to Rudy. The whole story of their meeting at Interlachen, and his brave adventure with the eaglet, were related to them, and they were all very much interested, and as pleased about Rudy and Babette as the miller himself. The three were invited to come to Montreux; it was but right for Babette to become acquainted with her godmother, who wished to see her very much. A steam-boat started from the town of Villeneuve, at one end of the lake of Geneva, and arrived at Bernex, a little town beyond Montreux, in about half an hour. And in this boat, the miller, with his daughter and Rudy, set out to visit her godmother. They passed the coast which has been so celebrated in song. Here, under the walnut-trees, by the deep blue lake, sat Byron, and wrote his melodious verses about the prisoner confined in the gloomy castle of Chillon. Here, where Clarens, with its weeping-willows, is reflected in the clear water, wandered Rousseau, dreaming of Heloise. The river Rhone glides gently by beneath the lofty snow-capped hills of Savoy, and not far from its mouth lies a little island in the lake, so small that, seen from the shore, it looks like a ship. The surface of the island is rocky; and about a hundred years ago, a lady caused the ground to be covered with earth, in which three acacia-trees were planted, and the whole enclosed with stone walls. The acacia-trees now overshadow every part of the island. Babette was enchanted with the spot; it seemed to her the most beautiful object in the whole voyage, and she thought how much she should like to land there. But the steam-ship passed it by, and did not stop till it reached Bernex. The little party walked slowly from this place to Montreux, passing the sun-lit walls with which the vineyards of the little mountain town of Montreux are surrounded, and peasants’ houses, overshadowed by fig-trees, with gardens in which grow the laurel and the cypress.

Halfway up the hill stood the boarding-house in which Babette’s godmother resided. She was received most cordially; her godmother was a very friendly woman, with a round, smiling countenance. When a child, her head must have resembled one of Raphael’s cherubs; it was still an angelic face, with its white locks of silvery hair. The daughters were tall, elegant, slender maidens.

The young cousin, whom they had brought with them, was dressed in white from head to foot; he had golden hair and golden whiskers, large enough to be divided amongst three gentlemen; and he began immediately to pay the greatest attention to Babette.

Richly bound books, note-paper, and drawings, lay on the large table. The balcony window stood open, and from it could be seen the beautiful wide extended lake, the water so clear and still, that the mountains of Savoy, with their villages, woods, and snow-crowned peaks, were clearly reflected in it.

Rudy, who was usually so lively and brave, did not in the least feel himself at home; he acted as if he were walking on peas, over a slippery floor. How long and wearisome the time appeared; it was like being in a treadmill. And then they went out for a walk, which was very slow and tedious. Two steps forward and one backwards had Rudy to take to keep pace with the others. They walked down to Chillon, and went over the old castle on the rocky island. They saw the implements of torture, the deadly dungeons, the rusty fetters in the rocky walls, the stone benches for those condemned to death, the trap-doors through which the unhappy creatures were hurled upon iron spikes, and impaled alive. They called looking at all these a pleasure. It certainly was the right place to visit. Byron’s poetry had made it celebrated in the world. Rudy could only feel that it was a place of execution. He leaned against the stone framework of the window, and gazed down into the deep, blue water, and over to the little island with the three acacias, and wished himself there, away and free from the whole chattering party. But Babette was most unusually lively and good-tempered.

“I have been so amused,” she said.

The cousin had found her quite perfect.

“He is a perfect fop,” said Rudy; and this was the first time Rudy had said anything that did not please Babette.

The Englishman had made her a present of a little book, in remembrance of their visit to Chillon. It was Byron’s poem, “The Prisoner of Chillon,” translated into French, so that Babette could read it.

“The book may be very good,” said Rudy; “but that finely combed fellow who gave it to you is not worth much.”

“He looks something like a flour-sack without any flour,” said the miller, laughing at his own wit. Rudy laughed, too, for so had he appeared to him.

XI. The Cousin
HEN Rudy went a few days after to pay a visit to the mill, he found the young Englishman there. Babette was just thinking of preparing some trout to set before him. She understood well how to garnish the dish with parsley, and make it look quite tempting. Rudy thought all this quite unnecessary. What did the Englishman want there? What was he about? Why should he be entertained, and waited upon by Babette? Rudy was jealous, and that made Babette happy. It amused her to discover all the feelings of his heart; the strong points and weak ones. Love was to her as yet only a pastime, and she played with Rudy’s whole heart. At the same time it must be acknowledged that her fortune, her whole life, her inmost thoughts, her best and most noble feelings in this world were all for him. Still the more gloomy he looked, the more her eyes laughed. She could almost have kissed the fair Englishman, with the golden whiskers, if by so doing she could have put Rudy in a rage, and made him run out of the house. That would have proved how much he loved her. All this was not right in Babette, but she was only nineteen years of age, and she did not reflect on what she did, neither did she think that her conduct would appear to the young Englishman as light, and not even becoming the modest and much-loved daughter of the miller.

The mill at Bex stood in the highway, which passed under the snow-clad mountains, and not far from a rapid mountain-stream, whose waters seemed to have been lashed into a foam like soap-suds. This stream, however, did not pass near enough to the mill, and therefore the mill-wheel was turned by a smaller stream which tumbled down the rocks on the opposite side, where it was opposed by a stone mill-dam, and obtained greater strength and speed, till it fell into a large basin, and from thence through a channel to the mill-wheel. This channel sometimes overflowed, and made the path so slippery that any one passing that way might easily fall in, and be carried towards the mill wheel with frightful rapidity. Such a catastrophe nearly happened to the young Englishman. He had dressed himself in white clothes, like a miller’s man, and was climbing the path to the miller’s house, but he had never been taught to climb, and therefore slipped, and nearly went in head-foremost. He managed, however, to scramble out with wet sleeves and bespattered trousers. Still, wet and splashed with mud, he contrived to reach Babette’s window, to which he had been guided by the light that shone from it. Here he climbed the old linden-tree that stood near it, and began to imitate the voice of an owl, the only bird he could venture to mimic. Babette heard the noise, and glanced through the thin window curtain; but when she saw the man in white, and guessed who he was, her little heart beat with terror as well as anger. She quickly put out the light, felt if the fastening of the window was secure, and then left him to howl as long as he liked. How dreadful it would be, thought Babette, if Rudy were here in the house. But Rudy was not in the house. No, it was much worse, he was outside, standing just under the linden-tree. He was speaking loud, angry words. He could fight, and there might be murder! Babette opened the window in alarm, and called Rudy’s name; she told him to go away, she did not wish him to remain there.

“You do not wish me to stay,” cried he; “then this is an appointment you expected—this good friend whom you prefer to me. Shame on you, Babette!”

“You are detestable!” exclaimed Babette, bursting into tears. “Go away. I hate you.”

“I have not deserved this,” said Rudy, as he turned away, his cheeks burning, and his heart like fire.

Babette threw herself on the bed, and wept bitterly. “So much as I loved thee, Rudy, and yet thou canst think ill of me.”

Thus her anger broke forth; it relieved her, however: otherwise she would have been more deeply grieved; but now she could sleep soundly, as youth only can sleep.

XII. Evil Powers
UDY left Bex, and took his way home along the mountain path. The air was fresh, but cold; for here amidst the deep snow, the Ice Maiden reigned. He was so high up that the large trees beneath him, with their thick foliage, appeared like garden plants, and the pines and bushes even less. The Alpine roses grew near the snow, which lay in detached stripes, and looked like linen laid out to bleach. A blue gentian grew in his path, and he crushed it with the butt end of his gun. A little higher up, he espied two chamois. Rudy’s eyes glistened, and his thoughts flew at once in a different direction; but he was not near enough to take a sure aim. He ascended still higher, to a spot where a few rough blades of grass grew between the blocks of stone and the chamois passed quietly on over the snow-fields. Rudy walked hurriedly, while the clouds of mist gathered round him. Suddenly he found himself on the brink of a precipitous rock. The rain was falling in torrents. He felt a burning thirst, his head was hot, and his limbs trembled with cold. He seized his hunting-flask, but it was empty; he had not thought of filling it before ascending the mountain. He had never been ill in his life, nor ever experienced such sensations as those he now felt. He was so tired that he could scarcely resist lying down at his full length to sleep, although the ground was flooded with the rain. Yet when he tried to rouse himself a little, every object around him danced and trembled before his eyes.

Suddenly he observed in the doorway of a hut newly built under the rock, a young maiden. He did not remember having seen this hut before, yet there it stood; and he thought, at first, that the young maiden was Annette, the schoolmaster’s daughter, whom he had once kissed in the dance. The maiden was not Annette; yet it seemed as if he had seen her somewhere before, perhaps near Grindelwald, on the evening of his return home from Interlachen, after the shooting-match.

“How did you come here?” he asked.

“I am at home,” she replied; “I am watching my flocks.”

“Your flocks!” he exclaimed; “where do they find pasture? There is nothing here but snow and rocks.”

“Much you know of what grows here,” she replied, laughing. “not far beneath us there is beautiful pasture-land. My goats go there. I tend them carefully; I never miss one. What is once mine remains mine.”

“You are bold,” said Rudy.

“And so are you,” she answered.

“Have you any milk in the house?” he asked; “if so, give me some to drink; my thirst is intolerable.”

“I have something better than milk,” she replied, “which I will give you. Some travellers who were here yesterday with their guide left behind them a half a flask of wine, such as you have never tasted. They will not come back to fetch it, I know, and I shall not drink it; so you shall have it.”

Then the maiden went to fetch the wine, poured some into a wooden cup, and offered it to Rudy.

“How good it is!” said he; “I have never before tasted such warm, invigorating wine.” And his eyes sparkled with new life; a glow diffused itself over his frame; it seemed as if every sorrow, every oppression were banished from his mind, and a fresh, free nature were stirring within him. “You are surely Annette, the schoolmaster’s daughter,” cried he; “will you give me a kiss?”

“Yes, if you will give me that beautiful ring which you wear on your finger.”

“My betrothal ring?” he replied.

“Yes, just so,” said the maiden, as she poured out some more wine, and held it to his lips. Again he drank, and a living joy streamed through every vein.

“The whole world is mine, why therefore should I grieve?” thought he. “Everything is created for our enjoyment and happiness. The stream of life is a stream of happiness; let us flow on with it to joy and felicity.”

Rudy gazed on the young maiden; it was Annette, and yet it was not Annette; still less did he suppose it was the spectral phantom, whom he had met near Grindelwald. The maiden up here on the mountain was fresh as the new fallen snow, blooming as an Alpine rose, and as nimble-footed as a young kid. Still, she was one of Adam’s race, like Rudy. He flung his arms round the beautiful being, and gazed into her wonderfully clear eyes,—only for a moment; but in that moment words cannot express the effect of his gaze. Was it the spirit of life or of death that overpowered him? Was he rising higher, or sinking lower and lower into the deep, deadly abyss? He knew not; but the walls of ice shone like blue-green glass; innumerable clefts yawned around him, and the water-drops tinkled like the chiming of church bells, and shone clearly as pearls in the light of a pale-blue flame. The Ice Maiden, for she it was, kissed him, and her kiss sent a chill as of ice through his whole frame. A cry of agony escaped from him; he struggled to get free, and tottered from her. For a moment all was dark before his eyes, but when he opened them again it was light, and the Alpine maiden had vanished. The powers of evil had played their game; the sheltering hut was no more to be seen. The water trickled down the naked sides of the rocks, and snow lay thickly all around. Rudy shivered with cold; he was wet through to the skin; and his ring was gone,—the betrothal ring that Babette had given him. His gun lay near him in the snow; he took it up and tried to discharge it, but it missed fire. Heavy clouds lay on the mountain clefts, like firm masses of snow. Upon one of these Vertigo sat, lurking after his powerless prey, and from beneath came a sound as if a piece of rock had fallen from the cleft, and was crushing everything that stood in its way or opposed its course.

But, at the miller’s, Babette sat alone and wept. Rudy had not been to see her for six days. He who was in the wrong, and who ought to ask her forgiveness; for did she not love him with her whole heart?

XIII. At the Mill
HAT strange creatures human beings are,” said the parlor-cat to the kitchen-cat; “Babette and Rudy have fallen out with each other. She sits and cries, and he thinks no more about her.”

“That does not please me to hear,” said the kitchen-cat.

“Nor me either,” replied the parlor-cat; “but I do not take it to heart. Babette may fall in love with the red whiskers, if she likes, but he has not been here since he tried to get on the roof.”

The powers of evil carry on their game both around us and within us. Rudy knew this, and thought a great deal about it. What was it that had happened to him on the mountain? Was it really a ghostly apparition, or a fever dream? Rudy knew nothing of fever, or any other ailment. But, while he judged Babette, he began to examine his own conduct. He had allowed wild thoughts to chase each other in his heart, and a fierce tornado to break loose. Could he confess to Babette, indeed, every thought which in the hour of temptation might have led him to wrong doing? He had lost her ring, and that very loss had won him back to her. Could she expect him to confess? He felt as if his heart would break while he thought of it, and while so many memories lingered on his mind. He saw her again, as she once stood before him, a laughing, spirited child; many loving words, which she had spoken to him out of the fulness of her love, came like a ray of sunshine into his heart, and soon it was all sunshine as he thought of Babette. But she must also confess she was wrong; that she should do.

He went to the mill—he went to confession. It began with a kiss, and ended with Rudy being considered the offender. It was such a great fault to doubt Babette’s truth—it was most abominable of him. Such mistrust, such violence, would cause them both great unhappiness. This certainly was very true, she knew that; and therefore Babette preached him a little sermon, with which she was herself much amused, and during the preaching of which she looked quite lovely. She acknowledged, however, that on one point Rudy was right. Her godmother’s nephew was a fop: she intended to burn the book which he had given her, so that not the slightest thing should remain to remind her of him.

“Well, that quarrel is all over,” said the kitchen-cat. “Rudy is come back, and they are friends again, which they say is the greatest of all pleasures.”

“I heard the rats say one night,” said the kitchen-cat, “that the greatest pleasure in the world was to eat tallow candles and to feast on rancid bacon. Which are we to believe, the rats or the lovers?”

“Neither of them,” said the parlor-cat; “it is always the safest plan to believe nothing you hear.”

The greatest happiness was coming for Rudy and Babette. The happy day, as it is called, that is, their wedding-day, was near at hand. They were not to be married at the church at Bex, nor at the miller’s house; Babette’s godmother wished the nuptials to be solemnized at Montreux, in the pretty little church in that town. The miller was very anxious that this arrangement should be agreed to. He alone knew what the newly-married couple would receive from Babette’s godmother, and he knew also that it was a wedding present well worth a concession. The day was fixed, and they were to travel as far as Villeneuve the evening before, to be in time for the steamer which sailed in the morning for Montreux, and the godmother’s daughters were to dress and adorn the bride.

“Here in this house there ought to be a wedding-day kept,” said the parlor-cat, “or else I would not give a mew for the whole affair.”

“There is going to be great feasting,” replied the kitchen-cat. “Ducks and pigeons have been killed, and a whole roebuck hangs on the wall. It makes me lick my lips when I think of it.”

“To-morrow morning they will begin the journey.”

Yes, to-morrow! And this evening, for the last time, Rudy and Babette sat in the miller’s house as an engaged couple. Outside, the Alps glowed in the evening sunset, the evening bells chimed, and the children of the sunbeam sang, “Whatever happens is best.”

XIV. Night Visions
HE sun had gone down, and the clouds lay low on the valley of the Rhone. The wind blew from the south across the mountains; it was an African wind, a wind which scattered the clouds for a moment, and then suddenly fell. The broken clouds hung in fantastic forms upon the wood-covered hills by the rapid Rhone. They assumed the shapes of antediluvian animals, of eagles hovering in the air, of frogs leaping over a marsh, and then sunk down upon the rushing stream and appeared to sail upon it, although floating in the air. An uprooted fir-tree was being carried away by the current, and marking out its path by eddying circles on the water. Vertigo and his sisters were dancing upon it, and raising these circles on the foaming river. The moon lighted up the snow on the mountain-tops, shone on the dark woods, and on the drifting clouds those fantastic forms which at night might be taken for spirits of the powers of nature. The mountain-dweller saw them through the panes of his little window. They sailed in hosts before the Ice Maiden as she came out of her palace of ice. Then she seated herself on the trunk of the fir-tree as on a broken skiff, and the water from the glaciers carried her down the river to the open lake.

“The wedding guests are coming,” sounded from air and sea. These were the sights and sounds without; within there were visions, for Babette had a wonderful dream. She dreamt that she had been married to Rudy for many years, and that, one day when he was out chamois hunting, and she alone in their dwelling at home, the young Englishman with the golden whiskers sat with her. His eyes were quite eloquent, and his words possessed a magic power; he offered her his hand, and she was obliged to follow him. They went out of the house and stepped downwards, always downwards, and it seemed to Babette as if she had a weight on her heart which continually grew heavier. She felt she was committing a sin against Rudy, a sin against God. Suddenly she found herself forsaken, her clothes torn by the thorns, and her hair gray; she looked upwards in her agony, and there, on the edge of the rock, she espied Rudy. She stretched out her arms to him, but she did not venture to call him or to pray; and had she called him, it would have been useless, for it was not Rudy, only his hunting coat and hat hanging on an alpenstock, as the hunters sometimes arrange them to deceive the chamois. “Oh!” she exclaimed in her agony; “oh, that I had died on the happiest day of my life, my wedding-day. O my God, it would have been a mercy and a blessing had Rudy travelled far away from me, and I had never known him. None know what will happen in the future.” And then, in ungodly despair, she cast herself down into the deep rocky gulf. The spell was broken; a cry of terror escaped her, and she awoke.

The dream was over; it had vanished. But she knew she had dreamt something frightful about the young Englishman, yet months had passed since she had seen him or even thought of him. Was he still at Montreux, and should she meet him there on her wedding day? A slight shadow passed over her pretty mouth as she thought of this, and she knit her brows; but the smile soon returned to her lip, and joy sparkled in her eyes, for this was the morning of the day on which she and Rudy were to be married, and the sun was shining brightly. Rudy was already in the parlor when she entered it, and they very soon started for Villeneuve. Both of them were overflowing with happiness, and the miller was in the best of tempers, laughing and merry; he was a good, honest soul, and a kind father.

“Now we are masters of the house,” said the parlor-cat.

XV. The Conclusion
T was early in the afternoon, and just at dinner-time, when the three joyous travellers reached Villeneuve. After dinner, the miller placed himself in the arm-chair, smoked his pipe, and had a little nap. The bridal pair went arm-in-arm out through the town and along the high road, at the foot of the wood-covered rocks, and by the deep, blue lake.

The gray walls, and the heavy clumsy-looking towers of the gloomy castle of Chillon, were reflected in the clear flood. The little island, on which grew the three acacias, lay at a short distance, looking like a bouquet rising from the lake. “How delightful it must be to live there,” said Babette, who again felt the greatest wish to visit the island; and an opportunity offered to gratify her wish at once, for on the shore lay a boat, and the rope by which it was moored could be very easily loosened. They saw no one near, so they took possession of it without asking permission of any one, and Rudy could row very well. The oars divided the pliant water like the fins of a fish—that water which, with all its yielding softness, is so strong to bear and to carry, so mild and smiling when at rest, and yet so terrible in its destroying power. A white streak of foam followed in the wake of the boat, which, in a few minutes, carried them both to the little island, where they went on shore; but there was only just room enough for two to dance. Rudy swung Babette round two or three times; and then, hand-in-hand, they sat down on a little bench under the drooping acacia-tree, and looked into each other’s eyes, while everything around them glowed in the rays of the setting sun.

The fir-tree forests on the mountains were covered with a purple hue like the heather bloom; and where the woods terminated, and the rocks became prominent, they looked almost transparent in the rich crimson glow of the evening sky. The surface of the lake was like a bed of pink rose-leaves.

As the evening advanced, the shadows fell upon the snow-capped mountains of Savoy painting them in colors of deep blue, while their topmost peaks glowed like red lava; and for a moment this light was reflected on the cultivated parts of the mountains, making them appear as if newly risen from the lap of earth, and giving to the snow-crested peak of the Dent du Midi the appearance of the full moon as it rises above the horizon.

Rudy and Babette felt that they had never seen the Alpine glow in such perfection before. “How very beautiful it is, and what happiness to be here!” exclaimed Babette.

“Earth has nothing more to bestow upon me,” said Rudy; “an evening like this is worth a whole life. Often have I realized my good fortune, but never more than in this moment. I feel that if my existence were to end now, I should still have lived a happy life. What a glorious world this is; one day ends, and another begins even more beautiful than the last. How infinitely good God is, Babette!”

“I have such complete happiness in my heart,” said she.

“Earth has no more to bestow,” answered Rudy. And then came the sound of the evening bells, borne upon the breeze over the mountains of Switzerland and Savoy, while still, in the golden splendor of the west, stood the dark blue mountains of Jura.

“God grant you all that is brightest and best!” exclaimed Babette.

“He will,” said Rudy. “He will to-morrow. To-morrow you will be wholly mine, my own sweet wife.”

“The boat!” cried Babette, suddenly. The boat in which they were to return had broken loose, and was floating away from the island.

“I will fetch it back,” said Rudy; throwing off his coat and boots, he sprang into the lake, and swam with strong efforts towards it.

The dark-blue water, from the glaciers of the mountains, was icy cold and very deep. Rudy gave but one glance into the water beneath; but in that one glance he saw a gold ring rolling, glittering, and sparkling before him. His engaged ring came into his mind; but this was larger, and spread into a glittering circle, in which appeared a clear glacier. Deep chasms yawned around it, the water-drops glittered as if lighted with blue flame, and tinkled like the chiming of church bells. In one moment he saw what would require many words to describe. Young hunters, and young maidens—men and women who had sunk in the deep chasms of the glaciers—stood before him here in lifelike forms, with eyes open and smiles on their lips; and far beneath them could be heard the chiming of the church bells of buried villages, where the villagers knelt beneath the vaulted arches of churches in which ice-blocks formed the organ pipes, and the mountain stream the music.

On the clear, transparent ground sat the Ice Maiden. She raised herself towards Rudy, and kissed his feet; and instantly a cold, deathly chill, like an electric shock, passed through his limbs. Ice or fire! It was impossible to tell, the shock was so instantaneous.

“Mine! mine!” sounded around him, and within him; “I kissed thee when thou wert a little child. I once kissed thee on the mouth, and now I have kissed thee from heel to toe; thou art wholly mine.” And then he disappeared in the clear, blue water.

All was still. The church bells were silent; the last tone floated away with the last red glimmer on the evening clouds. “Thou art mine,” sounded from the depths below: but from the heights above, from the eternal world, also sounded the words, “Thou art mine!” Happy was he thus to pass from life to life, from earth to heaven. A chord was loosened, and tones of sorrow burst forth. The icy kiss of death had overcome the perishable body; it was but the prelude before life’s real drama could begin, the discord which was quickly lost in harmony. Do you think this a sad story? Poor Babette! for her it was unspeakable anguish.

The boat drifted farther and farther away. No one on the opposite shore knew that the betrothed pair had gone over to the little island. The clouds sunk as the evening drew on, and it became dark. Alone, in despair, she waited and trembled. The weather became fearful; flash after flash lighted up the mountains of Jura, Savoy, and Switzerland, while peals of thunder, that lasted for many minutes, rolled over her head. The lightning was so vivid that every single vine stem could be seen for a moment as distinctly as in the sunlight at noon-day; and then all was veiled in darkness. It flashed across the lake in winding, zigzag lines, lighting it up on all sides; while the echoes of the thunder grew louder and stronger. On land, the boats were all carefully drawn up on the beach, every living thing sought shelter, and at length the rain poured down in torrents.

“Where can Rudy and Babette be in this awful weather?” said the miller.

Poor Babette sat with her hands clasped, and her head bowed down, dumb with grief; she had ceased to weep and cry for help.

“In the deep water!” she said to herself; “far down he lies, as if beneath a glacier.”

Deep in her heart rested the memory of what Rudy had told her of the death of his mother, and of his own recovery, even after he had been taken up as dead from the cleft in the glacier.

“Ah,” she thought, “the Ice Maiden has him at last.”

Suddenly there came a flash of lightning, as dazzling as the rays of the sun on the white snow. The lake rose for a moment like a shining glacier; and before Babette stood the pallid, glittering, majestic form of the Ice Maiden, and at her feet lay Rudy’s corpse.

“Mine!” she cried, and again all was darkness around the heaving water.

“How cruel,” murmured Babette; “why should he die just as the day of happiness drew near? Merciful God, enlighten my understanding, shed light upon my heart; for I cannot comprehend the arrangements of Thy providence, even while I bow to the decree of Thy almighty wisdom and power.” And God did enlighten her heart.

A sudden flash of thought, like a ray of mercy, recalled her dream of the preceding night; all was vividly represented before her. She remembered the words and wishes she had then expressed, that what was best for her and for Rudy she might piously submit to.

“Woe is me,” she said; “was the germ of sin really in my heart? was my dream a glimpse into the course of my future life, whose thread must be violently broken to rescue me from sin? Oh, miserable creature that I am!”

Thus she sat lamenting in the dark night, while through the deep stillness the last words of Rudy seemed to ring in her ears. “This earth has nothing more to bestow.” Words, uttered in the fulness of joy, were again heard amid the depths of sorrow.

Years have passed since this sad event happened. The shores of the peaceful lake still smile in beauty. The vines are full of luscious grapes. Steamboats, with waving flags, pass swiftly by. Pleasure-boats, with their swelling sails, skim lightly over the watery mirror, like white butterflies. The railway is opened beyond Chillon, and goes far into the deep valley of the Rhone. At every station strangers alight with red-bound guide-books in their hands, in which they read of every place worth seeing. They visit Chillon, and observe on the lake the little island with the three acacias, and then read in their guide-book the story of the bridal pair who, in the year 1856, rowed over to it. They read that the two were missing till the next morning, when some people on the shore heard the despairing cries of the bride, and went to her assistance, and by her were told of the bridegroom’s fate.

But the guide-book does not speak of Babette’s quiet life afterwards with her father, not at the mill—strangers dwell there now—but in a pretty house in a row near the station. On many an evening she sits at her window, and looks out over the chestnut-trees to the snow-capped mountains on which Rudy once roamed. She looks at the Alpine glow in the evening sky, which is caused by the children of the sun retiring to rest on the mountain-tops; and again they breathe their song of the traveller whom the whirlwind could deprive of his cloak but not of his life. There is a rosy tint on the mountain snow, and there are rosy gleams in each heart in which dwells the thought, “God permits nothing to happen, which is not the best for us.” But this is not often revealed to all, as it was revealed to Babette in her wonderful dream.

 

The Psyche
 
IN the fresh morning dawn, in the rosy air gleams a great Star, the brightest Star of the morning. His rays tremble on the white wall, as if he wished to write down on it what he can tell, what he has seen there and elsewhere during thousands of years in our rolling world. Let us hear one of his stories.

“A short time ago”—the Star’s “short time ago” is called among men “centuries ago”—“my rays followed a young artist. It was in the city of the Popes, in the world-city, Rome. Much has been changed there in the course of time, but the changes have not come so quickly as the change from youth to old age. Then already the palace of the Caesars was a ruin, as it is now; fig trees and laurels grew among the fallen marble columns, and in the desolate bathing-halls, where the gilding still clings to the wall; the Coliseum was a gigantic ruin; the church bells sounded, the incense sent up its fragrant cloud, and through the streets marched processions with flaming tapers and glowing canopies. Holy Church was there, and art was held as a high and holy thing. In Rome lived the greatest painter in the world, Raphael; there also dwelt the first of sculptors, Michael Angelo. Even the Pope paid homage to these two, and honored them with a visit. Art was recognized and honored, and was rewarded also. But, for all that, everything great and splendid was not seen and known.

“In a narrow lane stood an old house. Once it had been a temple; a young sculptor now dwelt there. He was young and quite unknown. He certainly had friends, young artists, like himself, young in spirit, young in hopes and thoughts; they told him he was rich in talent, and an artist, but that he was foolish for having no faith in his own power; for he always broke what he had fashioned out of clay, and never completed anything; and a work must be completed if it is to be seen and to bring money.

“‘You are a dreamer,’ they went on to say to him, ‘and that’s your misfortune. But the reason of this is, that you have never lived, you have never tasted life, you have never enjoyed it in great wholesome draughts, as it ought to be enjoyed. In youth one must mingle one’s own personality with life, that they may become one. Look at the great master Raphael, whom the Pope honors and the world admires. He’s no despiser of wine and bread.’

“‘And he even appreciates the baker’s daughter, the pretty Fornarina,’ added Angelo, one of the merriest of the young friends.

“Yes, they said a good many things of the kind, according to their age and their reason. They wanted to draw the young artist out with them into the merry wild life, the mad life as it might also be called; and at certain times he felt an inclination for it. He had warm blood, a strong imagination, and could take part in the merry chat, and laugh aloud with the rest; but what they called ‘Raphael’s merry life’ disappeared before him like a vapor when he saw the divine radiance that beamed forth from the pictures of the great master; and when he stood in the Vatican, before the forms of beauty which the masters had hewn out of marble thousands of years since, his breast swelled, and he felt within himself something high, something holy, something elevating, great and good, and he wished that he could produce similar forms from the blocks of marble. He wished to make a picture of that which was within him, stirring upward from his heart to the realms of the Infinite; but how, and in what form? The soft clay was fashioned under his fingers into forms of beauty, but the next day he broke what he had fashioned, according to his wont.

“One day he walked past one of those rich palaces of which Rome has many to show. He stopped before the great open portal, and beheld a garden surrounded by cloistered walks. The garden bloomed with a goodly show of the fairest roses. Great white lilies with green juicy leaves shot upward from the marble basin in which the clear water was splashing; and a form glided past, the daughter of the princely house, graceful, delicate, and wonderfully fair. Such a form of female loveliness he had never before beheld—yet stay: he had seen it, painted by Raphael, painted as a Psyche, in one of the Roman palaces. Yes, there it had been painted; but here it passed by him in living reality.

“The remembrance lived in his thoughts, in his heart. He went home to his humble room, and modelled a Psyche of clay. It was the rich young Roman girl, the noble maiden; and for the first time he looked at his work with satisfaction. It had a meaning for him, for it was she. And the friends who saw his work shouted aloud for joy; they declared that this work was a manifestation of his artistic power, of which they had long been aware, and that now the world should be made aware of it too.

“The clay figure was lifelike and beautiful, but it had not the whiteness or the durability of marble. So they declared that the Psyche must henceforth live in marble. He already possessed a costly block of that stone. It had been lying for years, the property of his parents, in the courtyard. Fragments of glass, climbing weeds, and remains of artichokes had gathered about it and sullied its purity; but under the surface the block was as white as the mountain snow; and from this block the Psyche was to arise.”

Now, it happened one morning—the bright Star tells nothing about this, but we know it occurred—that a noble Roman company came into the narrow lane. The carriage stopped at the top of the lane, and the company proceeded on foot towards the house, to inspect the young sculptor’s work, for they had heard him spoken of by chance. And who were these distinguished guests? Poor young man! or fortunate young man he might be called. The noble young lady stood in the room and smiled radiantly when her father said to her, “It is your living image.” That smile could not be copied, any more than the look could be reproduced, the wonderful look which she cast upon the young artist. It was a fiery look, that seemed at once to elevate and to crush him.

“The Psyche must be executed in marble,” said the wealthy patrician. And those were words of life for the dead clay and the heavy block of marble, and words of life likewise for the deeply-moved artist. “When the work is finished I will purchase it,” continued the rich noble.

A new era seemed to have arisen in the poor studio. Life and cheerfulness gleamed there, and busy industry plied its work. The beaming Morning Star beheld how the work progressed. The clay itself seemed inspired since she had been there, and moulded itself, in heightened beauty, to a likeness of the well-known features.

“Now I know what life is,” cried the artist rejoicingly; “it is Love! It is the lofty abandonment of self for the dawning of the beautiful in the soul! What my friends call life and enjoyment is a passing shadow; it is like bubbles among seething dregs, not the pure heavenly wine that consecrates us to life.”

The marble block was reared in its place. The chisel struck great fragments from it; the measurements were taken, points and lines were made, the mechanical part was executed, till gradually the stone assumed a human female form, a shape of beauty, and became converted into the Psyche, fair and glorious—a divine being in human shape. The heavy stone appeared as a gliding, dancing, airy Psyche, with the heavenly innocent smile—the smile that had mirrored itself in the soul of the young artist.

The Star of the roseate dawn beheld and understood what was stirring within the young man, and could read the meaning of the changing color of his cheek, of the light that flashed from his eye, as he stood busily working, reproducing what had been put into his soul from above.

“Thou art a master like those masters among the ancient Greeks,” exclaimed his delighted friends; “soon shall the whole world admire thy Psyche.”

“My Psyche!” he repeated. “Yes, mine. She must be mine. I, too, am an artist, like those great men who are gone. Providence has granted me the boon, and has made me the equal of that lady of noble birth.”

And he knelt down and breathed a prayer of thankfulnesss to Heaven, and then he forgot Heaven for her sake—for the sake of her picture in stone—for her Psyche which stood there as if formed of snow, blushing in the morning dawn.

He was to see her in reality, the living, graceful Psyche, whose words sounded like music in his ears. He could now carry the news into the rich palace that the marble Psyche was finished. He betook himself thither, strode through the open courtyard where the waters ran splashing from the dolphin’s jaws into the marble basins, where the snowy lilies and the fresh roses bloomed in abundance. He stepped into the great lofty hall, whose walls and ceilings shone with gilding and bright colors and heraldic devices. Gayly-dressed serving-men, adorned with trappings like sleigh horses, walked to and fro, and some reclined at their ease upon the carved oak seats, as if they were the masters of the house. He told them what had brought him to the palace, and was conducted up the shining marble staircase, covered with soft carpets and adorned with many a statue. Then he went on through richly-furnished chambers, over mosaic floors, amid gorgeous pictures. All this pomp and luxury seemed to weary him; but soon he felt relieved, for the princely old master of the house received him most graciously,, almost heartily; and when he took his leave he was requested to step into the Signora’s apartment, for she, too, wished to see him. The servants led him through more luxurious halls and chambers into her room, where she appeared the chief and leading ornament.

She spoke to him. No hymn of supplication, no holy chant, could melt his soul like the sound of her voice. He took her hand and lifted it to his lips. No rose was softer, but a fire thrilled through him from this rose—a feeling of power came upon him, and words poured from his tongue—he knew not what he said. Does the crater of the volcano know that the glowing lava is pouring from it? He confessed what he felt for her. She stood before him astonished, offended, proud, with contempt in her face, an expression of disgust, as if she had suddenly touched a cold unclean reptile. Her cheeks reddened, her lips grew white, and her eyes flashed fire, though they were dark as the blackness of night.

“Madman!” she cried, “away! begone!”

And she turned her back upon him. Her beautiful face wore an expression like that of the stony countenance with the snaky locks.

Like a stricken, fainting man, he tottered down the staircase and out into the street. Like a man walking in his sleep, he found his way back to his dwelling. Then he woke up to madness and agony, and seized his hammer, swung it high in the air, and rushed forward to shatter the beautiful marble image. But, in his pain, he had not noticed that his friend Angelo stood beside him; and Angelo held back his arm with a strong grasp, crying,

“Are you mad? What are you about?”

They struggled together. Angelo was the stronger; and, with a deep sigh of exhaustion, the young artist threw himself into a chair.

“What has happened?” asked Angelo. “Command yourself. Speak!”

But what could he say? How could he explain? And as Angelo could make no sense of his friend’s incoherent words, he forbore to question him further, and merely said,

“Your blood grows thick from your eternal dreaming. Be a man, as all others are, and don’t go on living in ideals, for that is what drives men crazy. A jovial feast will make you sleep quietly and happily. Believe me, the time will come when you will be old, and your sinews will shrink, and then, on some fine sunshiny day, when everything is laughing and rejoicing, you will lie there a faded plant, that will grow no more. I do not live in dreams, but in reality. Come with me. Be a man!”

And he drew the artist away with him. At this moment he was able to do so, for a fire ran in the blood of the young sculptor; a change had taken place in his soul; he felt a longing to tear from the old, the accustomed—to forget, if possible, his own individuality; and therefore it was that he followed Angelo.

In an out-of-the-way suburb of Rome lay a tavern much visited by artists. It was built on the ruins of some ancient baths. The great yellow citrons hung down among the dark shining leaves, and covered a part of the old reddish-yellow walls. The tavern consisted of a vaulted chamber, almost like a cavern, in the ruins. A lamp burned there before the picture of the Madonna. A great fire gleamed on the hearth, and roasting and boiling was going on there; without, under the citron trees and laurels, stood a few covered tables.

The two artists were received by their friends with shouts of welcome. Little was eaten, but much was drunk, and the spirits of the company rose. Songs were sung and ditties were played on the guitar; presently the Salterello sounded, and the merry dance began. Two young Roman girls, who sat as models to the artists, took part in the dance and in the festivity. Two charming Bacchantes were they; certainly not Psyches—not delicate, beautiful roses, but fresh, hearty, glowing carnations.

How hot it was on that day! Even after sundown it was hot. There was fire in the blood, fire in every glance, fire everywhere. The air gleamed with gold and roses, and life seemed like gold and roses.

“At last you have joined us, for once,” said his friends. “Now let yourself be carried by the waves within and around you.”

“Never yet have I felt so well, so merry!” cried the young artist. “You are right—you are all of you right. I was a fool—a dreamer. Man belongs to reality, and not to fancy.”

With songs and with sounding guitars the young people returned that evening from the tavern, through the narrow streets; the two glowing carnations, daughters of the Campagna, went with them.

In Angelo’s room, among a litter of colored sketches (studies) and glowing pictures, the voices sounded mellower, but not less merrily. On the ground lay many a sketch that resembled the daughters of the Campagna, in their fresh, hearty comeliness, but the two originals were far handsomer than their portraits. All the burners of the six-armed lamp flared and flamed; and the human flamed up from within, and appeared in the glare as if it were divine.

“Apollo! Jupiter! I feel myself raised to our heaven—to your glory! I feel as if the blossom of life were unfolding itself in my veins at this moment!”

Yes, the blossom unfolded itself, and then burst and fell, and an evil vapor arose from it, blinding the sight, leading astray the fancy; the firework of the senses went out, and it became dark.

He was again in his own room. There he sat down on his bed and collected his thoughts.

“Fie on thee!” these were the words that sounded out of his mouth from the depths of his heart. “Wretched man, go, begone!” And a deep painful sigh burst from his bosom.

“Away! begone!” These, her words, the words of the living Psyche, echoed through his heart, escaped from his lips. He buried his head in the pillows, his thoughts grew confused, and he fell asleep.

In the morning dawn he started up, and collected his thoughts anew. What had happened? Had all the past been a dream? The visit to her, the feast at the tavern, the evening with the purple carnations of the Campagna? No, it was all real—a reality he had never before experienced.

In the purple air gleamed the bright Star, and its beams fell upon him and upon the marble Psyche. He trembled as he looked at that picture of immortality, and his glance seemed impure to him. He threw the cloth over the statue, and then touched it once more to unveil the form—but he was not able to look again at his own work.

Gloomy, quiet, absorbed in his own thoughts, he sat there through the long day; he heard nothing of what was going on around him, and no man guessed what was passing in this human soul.

And days and weeks went by, but the nights passed more slowly than the days. The flashing Star beheld him one morning as he rose, pale and trembling with fever, from his sad couch; then he stepped towards the statue, threw back the covering, took one long, sorrowful gaze at his work, and then, almost sinking beneath the burden, he dragged the statue out into the garden. In that place was an old dry well, now nothing but a hole. Into this he cast the Psyche, threw earth in above her, and covered up the spot with twigs and nettles.

“Away! begone!” Such was the short epitaph he spoke.

The Star beheld all this from the pink morning sky, and its beam trembled upon two great tears upon the pale feverish cheeks of the young man; and soon it was said that he was sick unto death, and he lay stretched upon a bed of pain.

The convent Brother Ignatius visited him as a physician and a friend, and brought him words of comfort, of religion, and spoke to him of the peace and happiness of the church, of the sinfulness of man, of rest and mercy to be found in heaven.

And the words fell like warm sunbeams upon a teeming soil. The soil smoked and sent up clouds of mist, fantastic pictures, pictures in which there was reality; and from these floating islands he looked across at human life. He found it vanity and delusion—and vanity and delusion it had been to him. They told him that art was a sorcerer, betraying us to vanity and to earthly lusts; that we are false to ourselves, unfaithful to our friends, unfaithful towards Heaven; and that the serpent was always repeating within us, “Eat, and thou shalt become as God.”

And it appeared to him as if now, for the first time, he knew himself, and had found the way that leads to truth and to peace. In the church was the light and the brightness of God—in the monk’s cell he should find the rest through which the tree of human life might grow on into eternity.

Brother Ignatius strengthened his longings, and the determination became firm within him. A child of the world became a servant of the church—the young artist renounced the world, and retired into the cloister.

The brothers came forward affectionately to welcome him, and his inauguration was as a Sunday feast. Heaven seemed to him to dwell in the sunshine of the church, and to beam upon him from the holy pictures and from the cross. And when, in the evening, at the sunset hour, he stood in his little cell, and, opening the window, looked out upon old Rome, upon the desolated temples, and the great dead Coliseum—when he saw all this in its spring garb, when the acacias bloomed, and the ivy was fresh, and roses burst forth everywhere, and the citron and orange were in the height of their beauty, and the palm trees waved their branches—then he felt a deeper emotion than had ever yet thrilled through him. The quiet open Campagna spread itself forth towards the blue snow-covered mountains, which seemed to be painted in the air; all the outlines melting into each other, breathing peace and beauty, floating, dreaming—and all appearing like a dream!

Yes, this world was a dream, and the dream lasts for hours, and may return for hours; but convent life is a life of years—long years, and many years.

From within comes much that renders men sinful and impure. He fully realized the truth of this. What flames arose up in him at times! What a source of evil, of that which we would not, welled up continually! He mortified his body, but the evil came from within.



One day, after the lapse of many years, he met Angelo, who recognized him.

“Man!” exclaimed Angelo. “Yes, it is thou! Art thou happy now? Thou hast sinned against God, and cast away His boon from thee—hast neglected thy mission in this world! Read the parable of the intrusted talent! The MASTER, who spoke that parable, spoke the truth! What hast thou gained? What hast thou found? Dost thou not fashion for thyself a religion and a dreamy life after thine own idea, as almost all do? Suppose all this is a dream, a fair delusion!”

“Get thee away from me, Satan!” said the monk; and he quitted Angelo.

“There is a devil, a personal devil! This day I have seen him!” said the monk to himself. “Once I extended a finger to him, and he took my whole hand. But now,” he sighed, “the evil is within me, and it is in yonder man; but it does not bow him down; he goes abroad with head erect, and enjoys his comfort; and I grasped at comfort in the consolations of religion. If it were nothing but a consolation? Supposing everything here were, like the world I have quitted, only a beautiful fancy, a delusion like the beauty of the evening clouds, like the misty blue of the distant hills!—when you approach them, they are very different! O eternity! Thou actest like the great calm ocean, that beckons us, and fills us with expectation—and when we embark upon thee, we sink, disappear, and cease to be. Delusion! away with it! begone!”

And tearless, but sunk in bitter reflection, he sat upon his hard couch, and then knelt down—before whom? Before the stone cross fastened to the wall? No, it was only habit that made him take this position.

The more deeply he looked into his own heart, the blacker did the darkness seem.—“Nothing within, nothing without—this life squanderied and cast away!” And this thought rolled and grew like a snowball, until it seemed to crush him.

“I can confide my griefs to none. I may speak to none of the gnawing worm within. My secret is my prisoner; if I let the captive escape, I shall be his!”

And the godlike power that dwelt within him suffered and strove.

“O Lord, my Lord!” he cried, in his despair, “be merciful and grant me faith. I threw away the gift thou hadst vouchsafed to me, I left my mission unfulfilled. I lacked strength, and strength thou didst not give me. Immortality—the Psyche in my breast—away with it!—it shall be buried like that Psyche, the best gleam of my life; never will it arise out of its grave!”

The Star glowed in the roseate air, the Star that shall surely be extinguished and pass away while the soul still lives on; its trembling beam fell upon the white wall, but it wrote nothing there upon being made perfect in God, nothing of the hope of mercy, of the reliance on the divine love that thrills through the heart of the believer.

“The Psyche within can never die. Shall it live in consciousness? Can the incomprehensible happen? Yes, yes. My being is incomprehensible. Thou art unfathomable, O Lord. Thy whole world is incomprehensible—a wonder-work of power, of glory and of love.”

His eyes gleamed, and then closed in death. The tolling of the church bell was the last sound that echoed above him, above the dead man; and they buried him, covering him with earth that had been brought from Jerusalem, and in which was mingled the dust of many of the pious dead.

When years had gone by his skeleton was dug up, as the skeletons of the monks who had died before him had been; it was clad in a brown frock, a rosary was put into the bony hand, and the form was placed among the ranks of other skeletons in the cloisters of the convent. And the sun shone without, while within the censers were waved and the Mass was celebrated.



And years rolled by.

The bones fell asunder and became mingled with others. Skulls were piled up till they formed an outer wall around the church; and there lay also his head in the burning sun, for many dead were there, and no one knew their names, and his name was forgotten also. And see, something was moving in the sunshine, in the sightless cavernous eyes! What might that be? A sparkling lizard moved about in the skull, gliding in and out through the sightless holes. The lizard now represented all the life left in that head, in which once great thoughts, bright dreams, the love of art and of the glorious, had arisen, whence hot tears had rolled down, where hope and immortality had had their being. The lizard sprang away and disappeared, and the skull itself crumbled to pieces and became dust among dust.

Centuries passed away. The bright Star gleamed unaltered, radiant and large, as it had gleamed for thousands of years, and the air glowed red with tints fresh as roses, crimson like blood.

There, where once had stood the narrow lane containing the ruins of the temple, a nunnery was now built. A grave was being dug in the convent garden for a young nun who had died, and was to be laid in the earth this morning. The spade struck against a hard substance; it was a stone, that shone dazzling white. A block of marble soon appeared, a rounded shoulder was laid bare; and now the spade was plied with a more careful hand, and presently a female head was seen, and butterflies’ wings. Out of the grave in which the young nun was to be laid they lifted, in the rosy morning, a wonderful statue of a Psyche carved in white marble.

“How beautiful, how perfect it is!” cried the spectators. “A relic of the best period of art.”

And who could the sculptor have been? No one knew; no one remembered him, except the bright star that had gleamed for thousands of years. The star had seen the course of that life on earth, and knew of the man’s trials, of his weakness—in fact, that he had been but human. The man’s life had passed away, his dust had been scattered abroad as dust is destined to be; but the result of his noblest striving, the glorious work that gave token of the divine element within him—the Psyche that never dies, that lives beyond posterity—the brightness even of this earthly Psyche remained here after him, and was seen and acknowledged and appreciated.

The bright Morning Star in the roseate air threw its glancing ray downward upon the Psyche, and upon the radiant countenances of the admiring spectators, who here beheld the image of the soul portrayed in marble.

What is earthly will pass away and be forgotten, and the Star in the vast firmament knows it. What is heavenly will shine brightly through posterity; and when the ages of posterity are past, the Psyche—the soul—will still live on!

 

“The Will-o’-the-Wisp Is in the Town,” Says the Moor-Woman
 
THERE was a man who once knew many stories, but they had slipped away from him—so he said. The Story that used to visit him of its own accord no longer came and knocked at his door. And why did it come no longer? It is true enough that for days and years the man had not thought of it, had not expected it to come and knock; and if he had expected it, it would certainly not have come; for without there was war, and within was the care and sorrow that war brings with it.

The stork and the swallows came back from their long journey, for they thought of no danger; and, behold, when they arrived, the nest was burnt, the habitations of men were burnt, the hedges were all in disorder, and everything seemed gone, and the enemy’s horses were stamping in the old graves. Those were hard, gloomy times, but they came to an end.

And now they were past and gone—so people said; yet no Story came and knocked at the door, or gave any tidings of its presence.

“I suppose it must be dead, or gone away with many other things,” said the man.

But the story never dies. And more than a whole year went by, and he longed—oh, so very much!—for the Story.

“I wonder if the Story will ever come back again and knock?”

And he remembered it so well in all the various forms in which it had come to him, sometimes young and charming, like spring itself, sometimes as a beautiful maiden, with a wreath of thyme in her hair, and a beechen branch in her hand, and with eyes that gleamed like deep woodland lakes in the bright sunshine.

Sometimes it had come to him in the guise of a peddler, and had opened its box and let silver ribbon come fluttering out, with verses and inscriptions of old remembrances.

But it was most charming of all when it came as an old grandmother, with silvery hair, and such large, sensible eyes. She knew so well how to tell about the oldest times, long before the princesses spun with the golden spindles, and the dragons lay outside the castles, guarding them. She told with such an air of truth, that black spots danced before the eyes of all who heard her, and the floor became black with human blood; terrible to see and to hear, and yet so entertaining, because such a long time had passed since it all happened.

“Will it ever knock at my door again?” said the man, and he gazed at the door, so that black spots came before his eyes and upon the floor; he did not know if it was blood, or mourning crape from the dark heavy days.

And as he sat thus, the thought came upon him whether the Story might not have hidden itself, like the princess in the old tale. And he would now go in search of it; if he found it, it would beam in new splendor, lovelier than ever.

“Who knows? Perhaps it has hidden itself in the straw that balances on the margin of the well. Carefully, carefully! Perhaps it lies hidden in a certain flower—that flower in one of the great books on the book-shelf.”

And the man went and opened one of the newest books, to gain information on this point; but there was no flower to be found. There he read about Holger Danske; and the man read that the tale had been invented and put together by a monk in France, that it was a romance, “translated into Danish and printed in that language;” that Holger Danske had never really lived, and consequently could never come again, as we have sung, and have been so glad to believe. And William Tell was treated just like Holger Danske. These were all only myths—nothing on which we could depend; and yet it is all written in a very learned book.

“Well, I shall believe what I believe!” said the man. “There grows no plantain where no foot has trod.”

And he closed the book and put it back in its place, and went to the fresh flowers at the window. Perhaps the Story might have hidden itself in the red tulips, with the golden yellow edges, or in the fresh rose, or in the beaming camellia. The sunshine lay among the flowers, but no Story.

The flowers which had been here in the dark troublous time had been much more beautiful; but they had been cut off, one after another, to be woven into wreaths and placed in coffins, and the flag had waved over them! Perhaps the Story had been buried with the flowers; but then the flowers would have known of it, and the coffin would have heard it, and every little blade of grass that shot forth would have told of it. The Story never dies.

Perhaps it has been here once, and has knocked; but who had eyes or ears for it in those times? People looked darkly, gloomily, and almost angrily at the sunshine of spring, at the twittering birds, and all the cheerful green; the tongue could not even bear the old merry, popular songs, and they were laid in the coffin with so much that our heart held dear. The Story may have knocked without obtaining a hearing; there was none to bid it welcome, and so it may have gone away.

“I will go forth and seek it. Out in the country! out in the wood! and on the open sea beach!”

Out in the country lies an old manor house, with red walls, pointed gables, and a red flag that floats on the tower. The nightingale sings among the finely-fringed beech-leaves, looking at the blooming apple trees of the garden, and thinking that they bear roses. Here the bees are mightily busy in the summer-time, and hover round their queen with their humming song. The autumn has much to tell of the wild chase, of the leaves of the trees, and of the races of men that are passing away together. The wild swans sing at Christmas-time on the open water, while in the old hall the guests by the fireside gladly listen to songs and to old legends.

Down into the old part of the garden, where the great avenue of wild chestnut trees lures the wanderer to tread its shades, went the man who was in search of the Story; for here the wind had once murmured something to him of “Waldemar Daa and his Daughters.” The Dryad in the tree, who was the Story-mother herself, had here told him the “Dream of the Old Oak Tree.” Here, in the time of the ancestral mother, had stood clipped hedges, but now only ferns and stinging nettles grew there, hiding the scattered fragments of old sculptured figures; the moss is growing in their eyes, but they can see as well as ever, which was more than the man could do who was in search of the Story, for he could not find that. Where could it be?

The crows flew past him by hundreds across the old trees, and screamed, “Krah! da!—Krah! da!”

And he went out of the garden and over the grass-plot of the yard, into the alder grove; there stood a little six-sided house, with a poultry-yard and a duck-yard. In the middle of the room sat the old woman who had the management of the whole, and who knew accurately about every egg that was laid, and about every chicken that could creep out of an egg. But she was not the Story of which the man was in search; that she could attest with a Christian certificate of baptism and of vaccination that lay in her drawer.

Without, not far from the house, is a hill covered with red-thorn and broom. Here lies an old grave-stone, which was brought here many years ago from the churchyard of the provincial town, a remembrance of one of the most honored councillors of the place; his wife and his five daughters, all with folded hands and stiff ruffs, stand round him. One could look at them so long, that it had an effect upon the thoughts, and these reacted upon the stones, as if they were telling of old times; at least it had been so with the man who was in search of the Story.

As he came nearer, he noticed a living butterfly sitting on the forehead of the sculptured councillor. The butterfly flapped its wings, and flew a little bit farther, and then returned fatigued to sit upon the grave-stone, as if to point out what grew there. Four-leaved shamrocks grew there; there were seven specimens close to each other. When fortune comes, it comes in a heap. He plucked the shamrocks and put them in his pocket.

“Fortune is as good as red gold, but a new charming story would be better still,” thought the man; but he could not find it here.

And the sun went down, round and large; the meadow was covered with vapor. The Moor-woman was at her brewing.

It was evening. He stood alone in his room, and looked out upon the sea, over the meadow, over moor and coast. The moon shone bright, a mist was over the meadow, making it look like a great lake; and, indeed, it was once so, as the legend tells—and in the moonlight the eye realizes these myths.

Then the man thought of what he had been reading in the town, that William Tell and Holger Danske never really lived, but yet live in popular story, like the lake yonder, a living evidence for such myths. Yes, Holger Danske will return again!

As he stood thus and thought, something beat quite strongly against the window. Was it a bird, a bat or an owl? Those are not let in, even when they knock. The window flew open of itself, and an old woman looked in at the man.

“What’s your pleasure?” said he. “Who are you? You’re looking in at the first floor window. Are you standing on a ladder?”

“You have a four-leaved shamrock in your pocket,” she replied. “Indeed, you have seven, and one of them is a six-leaved one.”

“Who are you?” asked the man again.

“The Moor-woman,” she replied. “The Moor-woman who brews. I was at it. The bung was in the cask, but one of the little moor-imps pulled it out in his mischief, and flung it up into the yard, where it beat against the window; and now the beer’s running out of the cask, and that won’t do good to anybody.”

“Pray tell me some more!” said the man.

“Yes, wait a little,” answered the Moor-woman. “I’ve something else to do just now.” And she was gone.

The man was going to shut the window, when the woman already stood before him again.

“Now it’s done,” she said; “but I shall have half the beer to brew over again to-morrow, if the weather is suitable. Well, what have you to ask me? I’ve come back, for I always keep my word, and you have seven four-leaved shamrocks in your pocket, and one of them is a six-leaved one. That inspires respect, for that’s an order that grows beside the sandy way; but that every one does not find. What have you to ask me? Don’t stand there like a ridiculous oaf, for I must go back again directly to my bung and my cask.”

And the man asked about the Story, and inquired if the Moor-woman had met it in her journeyings.

“By the big brewing-vat!” exclaimed the woman, “haven’t you got stories enough? I really believe that most people have enough of them. Here are other things to take notice of, other things to examine. Even the children have gone beyond that. Give the little boy a cigar, and the little girl a new crinoline; they like that much better. To listen to stories! No, indeed, there are more important things to be done here, and other things to notice!”

“What do you mean by that?” asked the man, “and what do you know of the world? You don’t see anything but frogs and Will-o’-the-Wisps!”

“Yes, beware of the Will-o’-the-Wisps,” said the Moor-woman, “for they’re out—they’re let loose—that’s what we must talk about! Come to me in the moor, where my presence is necessary, and I will tell you all about it; but you must make haste, and come while your seven four-leaved shamrocks, for which one has six leaves, are still fresh, and the moon stands high!”

And the Moor-woman was gone.

It struck twelve in the town, and before the last stroke had died away, the man was out in the yard, out in the garden, and stood in the meadow. The mist had vanished, and the Moor-woman stopped her brewing.

“You’ve been a long time coming!” said the Moor-woman. “Witches get forward faster than men, and I’m glad that I belong to the witch folk!”

“What have you to say to me now?” asked the man. “Is it anything about the Story?”

“Can you never get beyond asking about that?” retorted the woman.

“Can you tell me anything about the poetry of the future?” resumed the man.

“Don’t get on your stilts,” said the crone, “and I’ll answer you. You think of nothing but poetry, and only ask about that Story, as if she were the lady of the whole troop. She’s the oldest of us all, but she takes precedence of the youngest. I know her well. I’ve been young, too, and she’s no chicken now. I was once quite a pretty elf-maiden, and have danced in my time with the others in the moonlight, and have heard the nightingale, and have gone into the forest and met the Story-maiden, who was always to be found out there, running about. Sometimes she took up her night’s lodging in a half-blown tulip, or in a field flower; sometimes she would slip into the church, and wrap herself in the mourning crape that hung down from the candles on the altar.”

“You are capitally well-informed,” said the man.

“I ought at least to know as much as you,” answered the Moor-woman. “Stories and poetry—yes, they’re like two yards of the same piece of stuff; they can go and lie down where they like, and one can brew all their prattle, and have it all the better and cheaper. You shall have it from me for nothing. I have a whole cupboard-full of poetry in bottles. It makes essences; and that’s the best of it—bitter and sweet herbs. I have everything that people want of poetry, in bottles, so that I can put a little on my handkerchief, on holidays, to smell.”

“Why, these are wonderful things that you’re telling!” said the man. “You have poetry in bottles?”

“More than you can require,” said the woman. “I suppose you know the history of ‘the Girl who Trod on the Loaf, so that she might not soil her shoes’? That has been written, and printed too.”

“I told that story myself,” said the man.

“Yes, then you must know it; and you must know also that the girl sank into the earth directly, to the Moor-woman, just as Old Bogey’s grandmother was paying her morning visit to inspect the brewery. She saw the girl gliding down, and asked to have her as a remembrance of her visit, and got her too; while I received a present that’s of no use to me—a travelling druggist’s shop—a whole cupboard-full of poetry in bottles. Grandmother told me where the cupboard was to be placed, and there it’s standing still. Just look! You’ve your seven four-leaved shamrocks in your pocket, one of which is a six-leaved one, and so you will be able to see it.”

And really in the midst of the moor lay something like a great knotted block of alder, and that was the old grandmother’s cupboard. The Moor-woman said that this was always open to her and to every one in the land, if they only knew where the cupboard stood. It could be opened either at the front or at the back, and at every side and corner—a perfect work of art, and yet only an old alder stump in appearance. The poets of all lands, and especially those of our own country, had been arranged here; the spirit of them had been extracted, refined, criticised and renovated, and then stored up in bottles. With what may be called great aptitude, if it was not genius the grandmother had taken as it were the flavor of this and of that poet, and had added a little devilry, and then corked up the bottles for use during all future times.

“Pray let me see,” said the man.

“Yes, but there are more important things to hear,” replied the Moor-woman.

“But now we are at the cupboard!” said the man. And he looked in. “Here are bottles of all sizes. What is in this one? and what in that one yonder?”

“Here is what they call may-balm,” replied the woman. “I have not tried it myself. But I have not yet told you the ‘more important’ thing you were to hear. THE WILL-O’-THE-WISP’S IN THE TOWN! That’s of much more consequence than poetry and stories. I ought, indeed, to hold my tongue; but there must be a necessity—a fate—a something that sticks in my throat, and that wants to come out. Take care, you mortals!”

“I don’t understand a word of all this!” cried the man.

“Be kind enough to seat yourself on that cupboard,” she retorted, “but take care you don’t fall through and break the bottles—you know what’s inside of them. I must tell of the great event. It occurred no longer ago than the day before yesterday. It did not happen earlier. It has now three hundred and sixty-three days to run about. I suppose you know how many days there are in a year?”

And this is what the Moor-woman told:

“There was a great commotion yesterday out here in the marsh! There was a christening feast! A little Will-o’-the-Wisp was born here—in fact, twelve of them were born all together; and they have permission, if they choose to use it, to go abroad among men, and to move about and command among them, just as if they were born mortals. That was a great event in the marsh, and accordingly all the Will-o’-the-Wisps, male and female, went dancing like little lights across the moor. There are some of them of the dog species, but those are not worth mentioning. I sat there on the cupboard, and had all the twelve little new-born Will-o’-the-Wisps upon my lap. They shone like glow-worms; they already began to hop, and increased in size every moment, so that before a quarter of an hour had elapsed, each of them looked just as large as his father or his uncle. Now, it’s an old-established regulation and favor, that when the moon stands just as it did yesterday, and the wind blows just as it blew then, it is allowed and accorded to all Will-o’-the-Wisps—that is, to all those who are born at that minute of time—to become mortals, and individually to exert their power for the space of one year.

“The Will-o’-the-Wisp may run about in the country and through the world, if it is not afraid of falling into the sea, or of being blown out by a heavy storm. It can enter into a person and speak for him, and make all the movements it pleases. The Will-o’-the-Wisp may take whatever form he likes, of man or woman, and can act in their spirit and in their disguise in such a way that he can effect whatever he wishes to do. But he must manage, in the course of the year, to lead three hundred and sixty-five people into a bad way, and in a grand style, too. To lead them away from the right and the truth; and then he reaches the highest point. Such a Will-o’-the-Wisp can attain to the honor of being a runner before the devil’s state coach; and then he’ll wear clothes of fiery yellow, and breathe forth flames out of his throat. That’s enough to make a simple Will-o’-the-Wisp smack his lips. But there’s some danger in this, and a great deal of work for a Will-o’-the-Wisp who aspires to play so distinguished a part. If the eyes of the man are opened to what he is, and if the man can then blow him away, it’s all over with him, and he must come back into the marsh; or if, before the year is up, the Will-o’-the-Wisp is seized with a longing to see his family, and so returns to it and gives the matter up, it is over with him likewise, and he can no longer burn clear, and soon becomes extinguished, and cannot be lit up again; and when the year has elapsed, and he has not led three hundred and sixty-five people away from the truth and from all that is grand and noble, he is condemned to be imprisoned in decayed wood, and to lie glimmering there, without being able to move; and that’s the most terrible punishment that can be inflicted on a lively Will-o’-the-Wisp.

“Now, all this I know, and all this I told to the twelve little Will-o’-the-Wisps whom I had on my lap, and who seemed quite crazy with joy.

“I told them that the safest and most convenient course was to give up the honor, and do nothing at all; but the little flames would not agree to this, and already fancied themselves clad in fiery yellow clothes, breathing flames from their throats.

“‘Stay with us,’ said some of the older ones.

“‘Carry on your sport with mortals,’ said the others.

“‘The mortals are drying up our meadows; they’ve taken to draining. What will our successors do?’

“‘We want to flame; we will flame—flame!’ cried the new-born Will-o’the-Wisps.

“And thus the affair was settled.

“And now a ball was given, a minute long; it could not well be shorter. The little elf-maidens whirled round three times with the rest, that they might not appear proud, but they preferred dancing with one another.

“And now the sponsors’ gifts were presented, and presents were thrown them. These presents flew like pebbles across the sea-water. Each of the elf-maidens gave a little piece of her veil.

“‘Take that,’ they said, ‘and then you’ll know the higher dance, the most difficult turns and twists—that is to say, if you should find them necessary. You’ll know the proper deportment, and then you can show yourself in the very pick of society.’

“The night raven taught each of the young Will-o’-the-Wisps to say, ‘Goo—goo—good,’ and to say it in the right place; and that’s a great gift which brings its own reward.

“The owl and the stork—but they said it was not worth mentioning, and so we won’t mention it.

“King Waldemar’s wild chase was just then rushing over the moor, and when the great lords heard of the festivities that were going on, they sent a couple of handsome dogs, which hunt on the spoor of the wind, as a present; and these might carry two or three of the Will-o’-the-Wisps. A couple of old Alpas, spirits who occupy themselves with Alp-pressing, were also at the feast; and from these the young Will-o’-the-Wisps learned the art of slipping through every key-hole, as if the door stood open before them. These Alpas offered to carry the youngsters to the town, with which they were well acquainted. They usually rode through the atmosphere on their own back hair, which is fastened into a knot, for they love a hard seat; but now they sat sideways on the wild hunting dogs, took the young Will-o’-the-Wisps in their laps, who wanted to go into the town to mislead and entice mortals, and, whisk! away they were. Now, this is what happened last night. To-day the Will-o’-the-Wisps are in the town, and have taken the matter in hand—but where and how? Ah, can you tell me that? Still, I’ve a lightning conductor in my great toe, and that will always tell me something.”

“Why, this is a complete story,” exclaimed the man.

“Yes, but it is only the beginning,” replied the woman. “Can you tell me how the Will-o’-the-Wisps deport themselves, and how they behave? and in what shapes they have aforetime appeared and led people into crooked paths?”

“I believe,” replied the man, “that one could tell quite a romance about the Will-o’-the-Wisps, in twelve parts; or, better still, one might make quite a popular play of them.”

“You might write that,” said the woman, “but it’s best let alone.”

“Yes, that’s better and more agreeable,” the man replied, “for then we shall escape from the newspapers, and not be tied up by them, which is just as uncomfortable as for a Will-o’-the-Wisp to lie in decaying wood, to have to gleam, and not to be able to stir.”

“I don’t care about it either way,” cried the woman. “Let the rest write, those who can, and those who cannot likewise. I’ll grant you an old bung from my cask that will open the cupboard where poetry’s kept in bottles, and you may take from that whatever may be wanting. But you, my good man, seem to have blotted your hands sufficiently with ink, and to have come to that age of satiety that you need not be running about every year for stories, especially as there are much more important things to be done. You must have understood what is going on?”

“The Will-o’-the-Wisp is in town,” said the man. “I’ve heard it, and I have understood it. But what do you think I ought to do? I should be thrashed if I were to go to the people and say, ‘Look, yonder goes a Will-o’-the-Wisp in his best clothes!’”

“They also go in undress,” replied the woman. “The Will-o’-the-Wisp can assume all kinds of forms, and appear in every place. He goes into the church, but not for the sake of the service; and perhaps he may enter into one or other of the priests. He speaks in the Parliament, not for the benefit of the country, but only for himself. He’s an artist with the color-pot as well as in the theatre; but when he gets all the power into his own hands, then the pot’s empty! I chatter and chatter, but it must come out, what’s sticking in my throat, to the disadvantage of my own family. But I must now be the woman that will save a good many people. It is not done with my good will, or for the sake of a medal. I do the most insane things I possibly can, and then I tell a poet about it, and thus the whole town gets to know of it directly.”

“The town will not take that to heart,” observed the man; “that will not disturb a single person; for they will all think I’m only telling them a story if I say, ‘The Will-o’-the-Wisp is in the town, says the Moor-woman. Take care of yourselves!’”

 

The Golden Treasure
 
THE drummer’s wife went into the church. She saw the new altar with the painted pictures and the carved angels. Those upon the canvas and in the glory over the altar were just as beautiful as the carved ones; and they were painted and gilt into the bargain. Their hair gleamed golden in the sunshine, lovely to behold; but the real sunshine was more beautiful still. It shone redder, clearer through the dark trees, when the sun went down. It was lovely thus to look at the sunshine of heaven. And she looked at the red sun, and she thought about it so deeply, and thought of the little one whom the stork was to bring, and the wife of the drummer was very cheerful, and looked and looked, and wished that the child might have a gleam of sunshine given to it, so that it might at least become like one of the shining angels over the altar.

And when she really had the little child in her arms, and held it up to its father, then it was like one of the angels in the church to behold, with hair like gold—the gleam of the setting sun was upon it.

“My golden treasure, my riches, my sunshine!” said the mother; and she kissed the shining locks, and it sounded like music and song in the room of the drummer; and there was joy, and life, and movement. The drummer beat a roll—a roll of joy. And the Drum said—the Fire-drum, that was beaten when there was a fire in the town:

“Red hair! the little fellow has red hair! Believe the drum, and not what your mother says! Rub-a dub, rub-a dub!”

And the town repeated what the Fire-drum had said.

The boy was taken to church, the boy was christened. There was nothing much to be said about his name; he was called Peter. The whole town, and the Drum too, called him Peter the drummer’s boy with the red hair; but his mother kissed his red hair, and called him her golden treasure.

In the hollow way in the clayey bank, many had scratched their names as a remembrance.

“Celebrity is always something!” said the drummer; and so he scratched his own name there, and his little son’s name likewise.

And the swallows came. They had, on their long journey, seen more durable characters engraven on rocks, and on the walls of the temples in Hindostan, mighty deeds of great kings, immortal names, so old that no one now could read or speak them. Remarkable celebrity!

In the clayey bank the martens built their nest. They bored holes in the deep declivity, and the splashing rain and the thin mist came and crumbled and washed the names away, and the drummer’s name also, and that of his little son.

“Peter’s name will last a full year and a half longer!” said the father.

“Fool!” thought the Fire-drum; but it only said, “Dub, dub, dub, rub-a-dub!”

He was a boy full of life and gladness, this drummer’s son with the red hair. He had a lovely voice. He could sing, and he sang like a bird in the woodland. There was melody, and yet no melody.

“He must become a chorister boy,” said his mother. “He shall sing in the church, and stand among the beautiful gilded angels who are like him!”

“Fiery cat!” said some of the witty ones of the town.

The Drum heard that from the neighbors’ wives.

“Don’t go home, Peter,” cried the street boys. “If you sleep in the garret, there’ll be a fire in the house, and the fire-drum will have to be beaten.”

“Look out for the drumsticks,” replied Peter; and, small as he was, he ran up boldly, and gave the foremost such a punch in the body with his fist, that the fellow lost his legs and tumbled over, and the others took their legs off with themselves very rapidly.

The town musician was very genteel and fine. He was the son of the royal plate-washer. He was very fond of Peter, and would sometimes take him to his home; and he gave him a violin, and taught him to play it. It seemed as if the whole art lay in the boy’s fingers; and he wanted to be more than a drummer—he wanted to become musician to the town.

“I’ll be a soldier,” said Peter; for he was still quite a little lad, and it seemed to him the finest thing in the world to carry a gun, and to be able to march one, two—one, two, and to wear a uniform and a sword.

“Ah, you learn to long for the drum-skin, drum, dum, dum!” said the Drum.

“Yes, if he could only march his way up to be a general!” observed his father; “but before he can do that, there must be war.”

“Heaven forbid!” said his mother.

“We have nothing to lose,” remarked the father.

“Yes, we have my boy,” she retorted.

“But suppose he came back a general!” said the father.

“Without arms and legs!” cried the mother. “No, I would rather keep my golden treasure with me.”

“Drum, dum, dum!” The Fire-drum and all the other drums were beating, for war had come. The soldiers all set out, and the son of the drummer followed them. “Red-head. Golden treasure!”

The mother wept; the father in fancy saw him “famous;” the town musician was of opinion that he ought not to go to war, but should stay at home and learn music.

“Red-head,” said the soldiers, and little Peter laughed; but when one of them sometimes said to another, “Foxey,” he would bite his teeth together and look another way—into the wide world. He did not care for the nickname.

The boy was active, pleasant of speech, and good-humored; that is the best canteen, said his old comrades.

And many a night he had to sleep under the open sky, wet through with the driving rain or the falling mist; but his good humor never forsook him. The drum-sticks sounded, “Rub-a-dub, all up, all up!” Yes, he was certainly born to be a drummer.

The day of battle dawned. The sun had not yet risen, but the morning was come. The air was cold, the battle was hot; there was mist in the air, but still more gunpowder-smoke. The bullets and shells flew over the soldiers’ heads, and into their heads—into their bodies and limbs; but still they pressed forward. Here or there one or other of them would sink on his knees, with bleeding temples and a face as white as chalk. The little drummer still kept his healthy color; he had suffered no damage; he looked cheerfully at the dog of the regiment, which was jumping along as merrily as if the whole thing had been got up for his amusement, and as if the bullets were only flying about that he might have a game of play with them.

“March! Forward! March!” This, was the word of command for the drum. The word had not yet been given to fall back, though they might have done so, and perhaps there would have been much sense in it; and now at last the word “Retire” was given; but our little drummer beat “Forward! march!” for he had understood the command thus, and the soldiers obeyed the sound of the drum. That was a good roll, and proved the summons to victory for the men, who had already begun to give way.

Life and limb were lost in the battle. Bombshells tore away the flesh in red strips; bombshells lit up into a terrible glow the strawheaps to which the wounded had dragged themselves, to lie untended for many hours, perhaps for all the hours they had to live.

It’s no use thinking of it; and yet one cannot help thinking of it, even far away in the peaceful town. The drummer and his wife also thought of it, for Peter was at the war.

“Now, I’m tired of these complaints,” said the Fire-drum.

Again the day of battle dawned; the sun had not yet risen, but it was morning. The drummer and his wife were asleep. They had been talking about their son, as, indeed, they did almost every night, for he was out yonder in God’s hand. And the father dreamt that the war was over, that the soldiers had returned home, and that Peter wore a silver cross on his breast. But the mother dreamt that she had gone into the church, and had seen the painted pictures and the carved angels with the gilded hair, and her own dear boy, the golden treasure of her heart, who was standing among the angels in white robes, singing so sweetly, as surely only the angels can sing; and that he had soared up with them into the sunshine, and nodded so kindly at his mother.

“My golden treasure!” she cried out; and she awoke. “Now the good God has taken him to Himself!” She folded her hands, and hid her face in the cotton curtains of the bed, and wept. “Where does he rest now? among the many in the big grave that they have dug for the dead? Perhaps he’s in the water in the marsh! Nobody knows his grave; no holy words have been read over it!” And the Lord’s Prayer went inaudibly over her lips; she bowed her head, and was so weary that she went to sleep.



And the days went by, in life as in dreams!

It was evening. Over the battle-field a rainbow spread, which touched the forest and the deep marsh.

It has been said, and is preserved in popular belief, that where the rainbow touches the earth a treasure lies buried, a golden treasure; and here there was one. No one but his mother thought of the little drummer, and therefore she dreamt of him.



And the days went by, in life as in dreams!

Not a hair of his head had been hurt, not a golden hair.

“Drum-ma-rum! drum-ma-rum! there he is!” the Drum might have said, and his mother might have sung, if she had seen or dreamt it.

With hurrah and song, adorned with green wreaths of victory, they came home, as the war was at an end, and peace had been signed. The dog of the regiment sprang on in front with large bounds, and made the way three times as long for himself as it really was.

And days and weeks went by, and Peter came into his parents’ room. He was as brown as a wild man, and his eyes were bright, and his face beamed like sunshine. And his mother held him in her arms; she kissed his lips, his forehead, and his red hair. She had her boy back again; he had not a silver cross on his breast, as his father had dreamt, but he had sound limbs, a thing the mother had not dreamt. And what a rejoicing was there! They laughed and they wept; and Peter embraced the old Fire-drum.

“There stands the old skeleton still!” he said.

And the father beat a roll upon it.

“One would think that a great fire had broken out here,” said the Fire-drum. “Bright day! fire in the heart! golden treasure! skrat! skr-r-at! skr-r-r-r-at!”



And what then? What then!—Ask the town musician.

“Peter’s far outgrowing the drum,” he said. “Peter will be greater than I.”

And yet he was the son of a royal plate-washer; but all that he had learned in half a lifetime, Peter learned in half a year.

There was something so merry about him, something so truly kind-hearted. His eyes gleamed, and his hair gleamed too—there was no denying that!

“He ought to have his hair dyed,” said the neighbor’s wife. “That answered capitally with the policeman’s daughter, and she got a husband.”

“But her hair turned as green as duckweed, and was always having to be colored up.”

“She knows how to manage for herself,” said the neighbors, “and so can Peter. He comes to the most genteel houses, even to the burgomaster’s where he gives Miss Charlotte piano-forte lessons.”

He could play! He could play, fresh out of his heart, the most charming pieces, that had never been put upon music-paper. He played in the bright nights, and in the dark nights, too. The neighbors declared it was unbearable, and the Fire-drum was of the same opinion.

He played until his thoughts soared up, and burst forth in great plans for the future:

“To be famous!”

And burgomaster’s Charlotte sat at the piano. Her delicate fingers danced over the keys, and made them ring into Peter’s heart. It seemed too much for him to bear; and this happened not once, but many times; and at last one day he seized the delicate fingers and the white hand, and kissed it, and looked into her great brown eyes. Heaven knows what he said; but we may be allowed to guess at it. Charlotte blushed to guess at it. She reddened from brow to neck, and answered not a single word; and then strangers came into the room, and one of them was the state councillor’s son. He had a lofty white forehead, and carried it so high that it seemed to go back into his neck. And Peter sat by her a long time, and she looked at him with gentle eyes.

At home that evening he spoke of travel in the wide world, and of the golden treasure that lay hidden for him in his violin.

“To be famous!”

“Tum-me-lum, tum-me-lum, tum-me-lum!” said the Fire-drum. “Peter has gone clear out of his wits. I think there must be a fire in the house.”

Next day the mother went to market.

“Shall I tell you news, Peter?” she asked when she came home. “A capital piece of news. Burgomaster’s Charlotte has engaged herself to the state councillor’s son; the betrothal took place yesterday evening.”

“No!” cried Peter, and he sprang up from his chair. But his mother persisted in saying “Yes.” She had heard it from the baker’s wife, whose husband had it from the burgomaster’s own mouth

And Peter became as pale as death, and sat down again.

“Good Heaven! what’s the matter with you?” asked his mother.

“Nothing, nothing; only leave me to myself,” he answered but the tears were running down his cheeks.

“My sweet child, my golden treasure!” cried the mother, and she wept; but the Fire-drum sang, not out loud, but inwardly.

“Charlotte’s gone! Charlotte’s gone! and now the song is done.”

But the song was not done; there were many more verses in it, long verses, the most beautiful verses, the golden treasures of a life.

“She behaves like a mad woman,” said the neighbor’s wife. “All the world is to see the letters she gets from her golden treasure, and to read the words that are written in the papers about his violin playing. And he sends her money too, and that’s very useful to her since she has been a widow.”

“He plays before emperors and kings,” said the town musician. “I never had that fortune, but he’s my pupil, and he does not forget his old master.”

And his mother said,

“His father dreamt that Peter came home from the war with a silver cross. He did not gain one in the war, but it is still more difficult to gain one in this way. Now he has the cross of honor. If his father had only lived to see it!”

“He’s grown famous!” said the Fire-drum, and all his native town said the same thing, for the drummer’s son, Peter with the red hair— Peter whom they had known as a little boy, running about in wooden shoes, and then as a drummer, playing for the dancers—was become famous!

“He played at our house before he played in the presence of kings,” said the burgomaster’s wife. “At that time he was quite smitten with Charlotte. He was always of an aspiring turn. At that time he was saucy and an enthusiast. My husband laughed when he heard of the foolish affair, and now our Charlotte is a state councillor’s wife.”

A golden treasure had been hidden in the heart and soul of the poor child, who had beaten the roll as a drummer—a roll of victory for those who had been ready to retreat. There was a golden treasure in his bosom, the power of sound; it burst forth on his violin as if the instrument had been a complete organ, and as if all the elves of a midsummer night were dancing across the strings. In its sounds were heard the piping of the thrush and the full clear note of the human voice; therefore the sound brought rapture to every heart, and carried his name triumphant through the land. That was a great firebrand—the firebrand of inspiration.

“And then he looks so splendid!” said the young ladies and the old ladies too; and the oldest of all procured an album for famous locks of hair, wholly and solely that she might beg a lock of his rich splendid hair, that treasure, that golden treasure.

And the son came into the poor room of the drummer, elegant as a prince, happier than a king. His eyes were as clear and his face was as radiant as sunshine; and he held his mother in his arms, and she kissed his mouth, and wept as blissfully as any one can weep for joy; and he nodded at every old piece of furniture in the room, at the cupboard with the tea-cups, and at the flower-vase. He nodded at the sleeping-bench, where he had slept as a little boy; but the old Fire-drum he brought out, and dragged it into the middle of the room, and said to it and to his mother:

“My father would have beaten a famous roll this evening. Now I must do it!”

And he beat a thundering roll-call on the instrument, and the Drum felt so highly honored that the parchment burst with exultation.

“He has a splendid touch!” said the Drum. “I’ve a remembrance of him now that will last. I expect that the same thing will happen to his mother, from pure joy over her golden treasure.”

And this is the story of the Golden Treasure.

 

The Porter’s Son
 
THE General lived in the grand first floor, and the porter lived in the cellar. There was a great distance between the two families— the whole of the ground floor, and the difference in rank; but they lived in the same house, and both had a view of the street, and of the courtyard. In the courtyard was a grass-plot, on which grew a blooming acacia tree (when it was in bloom), and under this tree sat occasionally the finely-dressed nurse, with the still more finely-dressed child of the General—little Emily. Before them danced about barefoot the little son of the porter, with his great brown eyes and dark hair; and the little girl smiled at him, and stretched out her hands towards him; and when the General saw that from the window, he would nod his head and cry, “Charming!” The General’s lady (who was so young that she might very well have been her husband’s daughter from an early marriage) never came to the window that looked upon the courtyard. She had given orders, though, that the boy might play his antics to amuse her child, but must never touch it. The nurse punctually obeyed the gracious lady’s orders.

The sun shone in upon the people in the grand first floor, and upon the people in the cellar; the acacia tree was covered with blossoms, and they fell off, and next year new ones came. The tree bloomed, and the porter’s little son bloomed too, and looked like a fresh tulip.

The General’s little daughter became delicate and pale, like the leaf of the acacia blossom. She seldom came down to the tree now, for she took the air in a carriage. She drove out with her mamma, and then she would always nod at the porter’s George; yes, she used even to kiss her hand to him, till her mamma said she was too old to do that now.

One morning George was sent up to carry the General the letters and newspapers that had been delivered at the porter’s room in the morning. As he was running up stairs, just as he passed the door of the sand-box, he heard a faint piping. He thought it was some young chicken that had strayed there, and was raising cries of distress; but it was the General’s little daughter, decked out in lace and finery.

“Don’t tell papa and mamma,” she whimpered; “they would be angry.”

“What’s the matter, little missie?” asked George.

“It’s all on fire!” she answered. “It’s burning with a bright flame!” George hurried up stairs to the General’s apartments; he opened the door of the nursery. The window curtain was almost entirely burnt, and the wooden curtain-pole was one mass of flame. George sprang upon a chair he brought in haste, and pulled down the burning articles; he then alarmed the people. But for him, the house would have been burned down.

The General and his lady cross-questioned little Emily.

“I only took just one lucifer-match,” she said, “and it was burning directly, and the curtain was burning too. I spat at it, to put it out; I spat at it as much as ever I could, but I could not put it out; so I ran away and hid myself, for papa and mamma would be angry.”

“I spat!” cried the General’s lady; “what an expression! Did you ever hear your papa and mamma talk about spitting? You must have got that from down stairs!”

And George had a penny given him. But this penny did not go to the baker’s shop, but into the savings-box; and soon there were so many pennies in the savings-box that he could buy a paint-box and color the drawings he made, and he had a great number of drawings. They seemed to shoot out of his pencil and out of his fingers’ ends. His first colored pictures he presented to Emily.

“Charming!” said the General, and even the General’s lady acknowledged that it was easy to see what the boy had meant to draw. “He has genius.” Those were the words that were carried down into the cellar.

The General and his gracious lady were grand people. They had two coats of arms on their carriage, a coat of arms for each of them, and the gracious lady had had this coat of arms embroidered on both sides of every bit of linen she had, and even on her nightcap and her dressing-bag. One of the coats of arms, the one that belonged to her, was a very dear one; it had been bought for hard cash by her father, for he had not been born with it, nor had she; she had come into the world too early, seven years before the coat of arms, and most people remembered this circumstance, but the family did not remember it. A man might well have a bee in his bonnet, when he had such a coat of arms to carry as that, let alone having to carry two; and the General’s wife had a bee in hers when she drove to the court ball, as stiff and as proud as you please.

The General was old and gray, but he had a good seat on horseback, and he knew it, and he rode out every day, with a groom behind him at a proper distance. When he came to a party, he looked somehow as if he were riding into the room upon his high horse; and he had orders, too, such a number that no one would have believed it; but that was not his fault. As a young man he had taken part in the great autumn reviews which were held in those days. He had an anecdote that he told about those days, the only one he knew. A subaltern under his orders had cut off one of the princes, and taken him prisoner, and the Prince had been obliged to ride through the town with a little band of captured soldiers, himself a prisoner behind the General. This was an ever-memorable event, and was always told over and over again every year by the General, who, moreover, always repeated the remarkable words he had used when he returned his sword to the Prince; those words were, “Only my subaltern could have taken your Highness prisoner; I could never have done it!” And the Prince had replied, “You are incomparable.” In a real war the General had never taken part. When war came into the country, he had gone on a diplomatic career to foreign courts. He spoke the French language so fluently that he had almost forgotten his own; he could dance well, he could ride well, and orders grew on his coat in an astounding way. The sentries presented arms to him, one of the most beautiful girls presented arms to him, and became the General’s lady, and in time they had a pretty, charming child, that seemed as if it had dropped from heaven, it was so pretty; and the porter’s son danced before it in the courtyard, as soon as it could understand it, and gave her all his colored pictures, and little Emily looked at them, and was pleased, and tore them to pieces. She was pretty and delicate indeed.

“My little Roseleaf!” cried the General’s lady, “thou art born to wed a prince.”

The prince was already at the door, but they knew nothing of it; people don’t see far beyond the threshold.

“The day before yesterday our boy divided his bread and butter with her!” said the porter’s wife. There was neither cheese nor meat upon it, but she liked it as well as if it had been roast beef. There would have been a fine noise if the General and his wife had seen the feast, but they did not see it.

George had divided his bread and butter with little Emily, and he would have divided his heart with her, if it would have pleased her. He was a good boy, brisk and clever, and he went to the night school in the Academy now, to learn to draw properly. Little Emily was getting on with her education too, for she spoke French with her “bonne,” and had a dancing master.



“George will be confirmed at Easter,” said the porter’s wife; for George had got so far as this.

“It would be the best thing, now, to make an apprentice of him,” said his father. “It must be to some good calling—and then he would be out of the house.”

“He would have to sleep out of the house,” said George’s mother. “It is not easy to find a master who has room for him at night, and we shall have to provide him with clothes too. The little bit of eating that he wants can be managed for him, for he’s quite happy with a few boiled potatoes; and he gets taught for nothing. Let the boy go his own way. You will say that he will be our joy some day, and the Professor says so too.”

The confirmation suit was ready. The mother had worked it herself; but the tailor who did repairs had cut them out, and a capital cutter-out he was.

“If he had had a better position, and been able to keep a workshop and journeymen,” the porter’s wife said, “he might have been a court tailor.”

The clothes were ready, and the candidate for confirmation was ready. On his confirmation day, George received a great pinchbeck watch from his godfather, the old iron monger’s shopman, the richest of his godfathers. The watch was an old and tried servant. It always went too fast, but that is better than to be lagging behind. That was a costly present. And from the General’s apartment there arrived a hymn-book bound in morocco, sent by the little lady to whom George had given pictures. At the beginning of the book his name was written, and her name, as “his gracious patroness.” These words had been written at the dictation of the General’s lady, and the General had read the inscription, and pronounced it “Charming!”

“That is really a great attention from a family of such position,” said the porter’s wife; and George was sent up stairs to show himself in his confirmation clothes, with the hymn-book in his hand.

The General’s lady was sitting very much wrapped up, and had the bad headache she always had when time hung heavy upon her hands. She looked at George very pleasantly, and wished him all prosperity, and that he might never have her headache. The General was walking about in his dressing-gown. He had a cap with a long tassel on his head, and Russian boots with red tops on his feet. He walked three times up and down the room, absorbed in his own thoughts and recollections, and then stopped and said:

“So little George is a confirmed Christian now. Be a good man, and honor those in authority over you. Some day, when you are an old man, you can say that the General gave you this precept.”

That was a longer speech than the General was accustomed to make, and then he went back to his ruminations, and looked very aristocratic. But of all that George heard and saw up there, little Miss Emily remained most clear in his thoughts. How graceful she was, how gentle, and fluttering, and pretty she looked. If she were to be drawn, it ought to be on a soap-bubble. About her dress, about her yellow curled hair, there was a fragrance as of a fresh-blown rose; and to think that he had once divided his bread and butter with her, and that she had eaten it with enormous appetite, and nodded to him at every second mouthful! Did she remember anything about it? Yes, certainly, for she had given him the beautiful hymn-book in remembrance of this; and when the first new moon in the first new year after this event came round, he took a piece of bread, a penny, and his hymn-book, and went out into the open air, and opened the book to see what psalm he should turn up. It was a psalm of praise and thanksgiving. Then he opened the book again to see what would turn up for little Emily. He took great pains not to open the book in the place where the funeral hymns were, and yet he got one that referred to the grave and death. But then he thought this was not a thing in which one must believe; for all that he was startled when soon afterwards the pretty little girl had to lie in bed, and the doctor’s carriage stopped at the gate every day.

“They will not keep her with them,” said the porter’s wife. “The good God knows whom He will summon to Himself.”

But they kept her after all; and George drew pictures and sent them to her. He drew the Czar’s palace; the old Kremlin at Moscow, just as it stood, with towers and cupolas; and these cupolas looked like gigantic green and gold cucumbers, at least in George’s drawing. Little Emily was highly pleased, and consequently, when a week had elapsed, George sent her a few more pictures, all with buildings in them; for, you see, she could imagine all sorts of things inside the windows and doors.

He drew a Chinese house, with bells hanging from every one of sixteen stories. He drew two Grecian temples with slender marble pillars, and with steps all round them. He drew a Norwegian church. It was easy to see that this church had been built entirely of wood, hewn out and wonderfully put together; every story looked as if it had rockers, like a cradle. But the most beautiful of all was the castle, drawn on one of the leaves, and which he called “Emily’s Castle.” This was the kind of place in which she must live. That is what George had thought, and consequently he had put into this building whatever he thought most beautiful in all the others. It had carved wood-work, like the Norwegian church; marble pillars, like the Grecian temple; bells in every story; and was crowned with cupolas, green and gilded, like those of the Kremlin of the Czar. It was a real child’s castle, and under every window was written what the hall or the room inside was intended to be; for instance: “Here Emily sleeps;” “Here Emily dances;” “Here Emily plays at receiving visitors.” It was a real pleasure to look at the castle, and right well was the castle looked at accordingly.

“Charming!” said the General.

But the old Count—for there was an old Count there, who was still grander than the General, and had a castle of his own—said nothing at all; he heard that it had been designed and drawn by the porter’s little son. Not that he was so very little, either, for he had already been confirmed. The old Count looked at the pictures, and had his own thoughts as he did so.

One day, when it was very gloomy, gray, wet weather, the brightest of days dawned for George; for the Professor at the Academy called him into his room.

“Listen to me, my friend,” said the Professor; “I want to speak to you. The Lord has been good to you in giving you abilities, and He has also been good in placing you among kind people. The old Count at the corner yonder has been speaking to me about you. I have also seen your sketches; but we will not say any more about those, for there is a good deal to correct in them. But from this time forward you may come twice a-week to my drawing-class, and then you will soon learn how to do them better. I think there’s more of the architect than of the painter in you. You will have time to think that over; but go across to the old Count this very day, and thank God for having sent you such a friend.”

It was a great house—the house of the old Count at the corner. Round the windows elephants and dromedaries were carved, all from the old times; but the old Count loved the new time best, and what it brought, whether it came from the first floor, or from the cellar, or from the attic.

“I think,” said, the porter’s wife, “the grander people are, the fewer airs do they give themselves. How kind and straightforward the old count is! and he talks exactly like you and me. Now, the General and his lady can’t do that. And George was fairly wild with delight yesterday at the good reception he met with at the Count’s, and so am I to-day, after speaking to the great man. Wasn’t it a good thing that we didn’t bind George apprentice to a handicraftsman? for he has abilities of his own.”

“But they must be helped on by others,” said the father.

“That help he has got now,” rejoined the mother; “for the Count spoke out quite clearly and distinctly.”

“But I fancy it began with the General,” said the father, “and we must thank them too.”

“Let us do so with all my heart,” cried the mother, “though I fancy we have not much to thank them for. I will thank the good God; and I will thank Him, too, for letting little Emily get well.”

Emily was getting on bravely, and George got on bravely too. In the course of the year he won the little silver prize medal of the Academy, and afterwards he gained the great one too.



“It would have been better, after all, if he had been apprenticed to a handicraftsman,” said the porter’s wife, weeping; “for then we could have kept him with us. What is he to do in Rome? I shall never get a sight of him again, not even if he comes back; but that he won’t do, the dear boy.”

“It is fortune and fame for him,” said the father.

“Yes, thank you, my friend,” said the mother; “you are saying what you do not mean. You are just as sorrowful as I am.”

And it was all true about the sorrow and the journey. But everybody said it was a great piece of good fortune for the young fellow. And he had to take leave, and of the General too. The General’s lady did not show herself, for she had her bad headache. On this occasion the General told his only anecdote, about what he had said to the Prince, and how the Prince had said to him, “You are incomparable.” And he held out a languid hand to George.

Emily gave George her hand too, and looked almost sorry; and George was the most sorry of all.



Time goes by when one has something to do; and it goes by, too, when one has nothing to do. The time is equally long, but not equally useful. It was useful to George, and did not seem long at all, except when he happened to be thinking of his home. How might the good folks be getting on, up stairs and down stairs? Yes, there was writing about that, and many things can be put into a letter—bright sunshine and dark, heavy days. Both of these were in the letter which brought the news that his father was dead, and that his mother was alone now. She wrote that Emily had come down to see her, and had been to her like an angel of comfort; and concerning herself, she added that she had been allowed to keep her situation as porteress.

The General’s lady kept a diary, and in this diary was recorded every ball she attended and every visit she received. The diary was illustrated by the insertion of the visiting cards of the diplomatic circle and of the most noble families; and the General’s lady was proud of it. The diary kept growing through a long time, and amid many severe headaches, and through a long course of half-nights, that is to say, of court balls. Emily had now been to a court ball for the first time. Her mother had worn a bright red dress, with black lace, in the Spanish style; the daughter had been attired in white, fair and delicate; green silk ribbons fluttered like flag-leaves among her yellow locks, and on her head she wore a wreath of water-lillies. Her eyes were so blue and clear, her mouth was so delicate and red, she looked like a little water spirit, as beautiful as such a spirit can be imagined. The Princes danced with her, one after another of course; and the General’s lady had not a headache for a week afterwards.

But the first ball was not the last, and Emily could not stand it; it was a good thing, therefore, that summer brought with it rest, and exercise in the open air. The family had been invited by the old Count to visit him at him castle. That was a castle with a garden which was worth seeing. Part of this garden was laid out quite in the style of the old days, with stiff green hedges; you walked as if between green walls with peep-holes in them. Box trees and yew trees stood there trimmed into the form of stars and pyramids, and water sprang from fountains in large grottoes lined with shells. All around stood figures of the most beautiful stone—that could be seen in their clothes as well as in their faces; every flower-bed had a different shape, and represented a fish, or a coat of arms, or a monogram. That was the French part of the garden; and from this part the visitor came into what appeared like the green, fresh forest, where the trees might grow as they chose, and accordingly they were great and glorious. The grass was green, and beautiful to walk on, and it was regularly cut, and rolled, and swept, and tended. That was the English part of the garden.

“Old time and new time,” said the Count, “here they run well into one another. In two years the building itself will put on a proper appearance, there will be a complete metamorphosis in beauty and improvement. I shall show you the drawings, and I shall show you the architect, for he is to dine here to-day.”

“Charming!” said the General.

“ ’Tis like Paradise here,” said the General’s lady, “and yonder you have a knight’s castle!”

“That’s my poultry-house,” observed the Count. “The pigeons live in the tower, the turkeys in the first floor, but old Elsie rules in the ground floor. She has apartments on all sides of her. The sitting hens have their own room, and the hens with chickens have theirs; and the ducks have their own particular door leading to the water.”

“Charming!” repeated the General.

And all sailed forth to see these wonderful things. Old Elsie stood in the room on the ground floor, and by her side stood Architect George. He and Emily now met for the first time after several years, and they met in the poultry-house.

Yes, there he stood, and was handsome enough to be looked at. His face was frank and energetic; he had black shining hair, and a smile about his mouth, which said, “I have a brownie that sits in my ear, and knows every one of you, inside and out.” Old Elsie had pulled off her wooden shoes, and stood there in her stockings, to do honor to the noble guests. The hens clucked, and the cocks crowed, and the ducks waddled to and fro, and said, “Quack, quack!” But the fair, pale girl, the friend of his childhood, the daughter of the General, stood there with a rosy blush on her usually pale cheeks, and her eyes opened wide, and her mouth seemed to speak without uttering a word, and the greeting he received from her was the most beautiful greeting a young man can desire from a young lady, if they are not related, or have not danced many times together, and she and the architect had never danced together.

The Count shook hands with him, and introduced him.

“He is not altogether a stranger, our young friend George.”

The General’s lady bowed to him, and the General’s daughter was very nearly giving him her hand; but she did not give it to him.

“Our little Master George!” said the General. “Old friends! Charming!”

“You have become quite an Italian,” said the General’s lady, “and I presume you speak the language like a native?”

“My wife sings the language, but she does not speak it,” observed the General.

At dinner, George sat at the right hand of Emily, whom the General had taken down, while the Count led in the General’s lady.

Mr. George talked and told of his travels; and he could talk well, and was the life and soul of the table, though the old Count could have been it too. Emily sat silent, but she listened, and her eyes gleamed, but she said nothing.

In the verandah, among the flowers, she and George stood together; the rose-bushes concealed them. And George was speaking again, for he took the lead now.

“Many thanks for the kind consideration you showed my old mother,” he said. “I know that you went down to her on the night when my father died, and you stayed with her till his eyes were closed. My heartiest thanks!”

He took Emily’s hand and kissed it—he might do so on such an occasion. She blushed deeply, but pressed his hand, and looked at him with her dear blue eyes.

“Your mother was a dear soul!” she said. “How fond she was of her son! And she let me read all your letters, so that I almost believe I know you. How kind you were to me when I was little girl! You used to give me pictures.”

“Which you tore in two,” said George.

“No, I have still your drawing of the castle.”

“I must build the castle in reality now,” said George; and he became quite warm at his own words.

The General and the General’s lady talked to each other in their room about the porter’s son—how he knew how to behave, and to express himself with the greatest propriety.

“He might be a tutor,” said the General.

“Intellect!” said the General’s lady; but she did not say anything more.

During the beautiful summer-time Mr. George several times visited the Count at his castle; and he was missed when he did not come.

“How much the good God has given you that he has not given to us poor mortals,” said Emily to him. “Are you sure you are very grateful for it?”

It flattered George that the lovely young girl should look up to him, and he thought then that Emily had unusually good abilities. And the General felt more and more convinced that George was no cellar-child.

“His mother was a very good woman,” he observed. “It is only right I should do her that justice now she is in her grave.”



The summer passed away, and the winter came; again there was talk about Mr. George. He was highly respected, and was received in the first circles. The General had met him at a court ball.

And now there was a ball to be given in the General’s house for Emily, and could Mr. George be invited to it?

“He whom the King invites can be invited by the General also,” said the General, and drew himself up till he stood quite an inch higher than before.

Mr. George was invited, and he came; princes and counts came, and they danced, one better than the other. But Emily could only dance one dance—the first; for she made a false step—nothing of consequence; but her foot hurt her, so that she had to be careful, and leave off dancing, and look at the others. So she sat and looked on, and the architect stood by her side.

“I suppose you are giving her the whole history of St. Peter’s,” said the General, as he passed by; and smiled, like the personification of patronage.

With the same patronizing smile he received Mr. George a few days afterwards. The young man came, no doubt, to return thanks for the invitation to the ball. What else could it be? But indeed there was something else, something very astonishing and startling. He spoke words of sheer lunacy, so that the General could hardly believe his own ears. It was “the height of rhodomontade,” an offer, quite an inconceivable offer—Mr. George came to ask the hand of Emily in marriage!

“Man!” cried the General, and his brain seemed to be boiling. “I don’t understand you at all. What is it you say? What is it you want? I don’t know you. Sir! Man! What possesses you to break into my house? And am I to stand here and listen to you?” He stepped backwards into his bed-room, locked the door behind him, and left Mr. George standing alone. George stood still for a few minutes, and then turned round and left the room. Emily was standing in the corridor.

“My father has answered?” she said, and her voice trembled.

George pressed her hand.

“He has escaped me,” he replied; “but a better time will come.”

There were tears in Emily’s eyes, but in the young man’s eyes shone courage and confidence; and the sun shone through the window, and cast his beams on the pair, and gave them his blessing.

The General sat in his room, bursting hot. Yes, he was still boiling, until he boiled over in the exclamation, “Lunacy! porter! madness!”

Not an hour was over before the General’s lady knew it out of the General’s own mouth. She called Emily, and remained alone with her.

“You poor child,” she said; “to insult you so! to insult us so! There are tears in your eyes, too, but they become you well. You look beautiful in tears. You look as I looked on my wedding-day. Weep on, my sweet Emily.”

“Yes, that I must,” said Emily, “if you and my father do not say ‘yes.’”

“Child!” screamed the General’s lady; “you are ill! You are talking wildly, and I shall have a most terrible headache! Oh, what a misfortune is coming upon our house! Don’t make your mother die, Emily, or you will have no mother.”

And the eyes of the General’s lady were wet, for she could not bear to think of her own death.



In the newspapers there was an announcement. “Mr. George has been elected Professor of the Fifth Class, number Eight.”

“It’s a pity that his parents are dead and cannot read it,” said the new porter people, who now lived in the cellar under the General’s apartments. They knew that the Professor had been born and grown up within their four walls.

“Now he’ll get a salary,” said the man.

“Yes, that’s not much for a poor child,” said the woman.

“Eighteen dollars a year,” said the man. “Why, it’s a good deal of money.”

“No, I mean the honor of it,” replied the wife. “Do you think he cares for the money? Those few dollars he can earn a hundred times over, and most likely he’ll get a rich wife into the bargain. If we had children of our own, husband, our child should be an architect and a professor too.”

George was spoken well of in the cellar, and he was spoken well of in the first floor. The old Count took upon himself to do that.

The pictures he had drawn in his childhood gave occasion for it. But how did the conversation come to turn on these pictures? Why, they had been talking of Russia and of Moscow, and thus mention was made of the Kremlin, which little George had once drawn for Miss Emily. He had drawn many pictures, but the Count especially remembered one, “Emily’s Castle,” where she was to sleep, and to dance, and to play at receiving guests.

“The Professor was a true man,” said the Count, “and would be a privy councillor before he died, it was not at all unlikely; and he might build a real castle for the young lady before that time came: why not?”

“That was a strange jest,” remarked the General’s lady, when the Count had gone away. The General shook his head thoughtfully, and went out for a ride, with his groom behind him at a proper distance, and he sat more stiffly than ever on his high horse.

It was Emily’s birthday. Flowers, books, letters, and visiting cards came pouring in. The General’s lady kissed her on the mouth, and the General kissed her on the forehead; they were affectionate parents, and they and Emily had to receive grand visitors, two of the Princes. They talked of balls and theatres, of diplomatic missions, of the government of empires and nations; and then they spoke of talent, native talent; and so the discourse turned upon the young architect.

“He is building up an immortality for himself,” said one, “and he will certainly build his way into one of our first families”.

“One of our first families!” repeated the General and afterwards the General’s lady; “what is meant by one of our first families?”

“I know for whom it was intended,” said the General’s lady, “but I shall not say it. I don’t think it. Heaven disposes, but I shall be astonished.”

“I am astonished also!” said the General. “I haven’t an idea in my head!” And he fell into a reverie, waiting for ideas.

There is a power, a nameless power, in the possession of favor from above, the favor of Providence, and this favor little George had. But we are forgetting the birthday.

Emily’s room was fragrant with flowers, sent by male and female friends; on the table lay beautiful presents for greeting and remembrance, but none could come from George—none could come from him; but it was not necessary, for the whole house was full of remembrances of him. Even out of the ash-bin the blossom of memory peeped forth, for Emily had sat whimpering there on the day when the window-curtain caught fire, and George arrived in the character of fire engine. A glance out of the window, and the acacia tree reminded of the days of childhood. Flowers and leaves had fallen, but there stood the tree covered with hoar frost, looking like a single huge branch of coral, and the moon shone clear and large among the twigs, unchanged in its changings, as it was when George divided his bread and butter with little Emily.

Out of a box the girl took the drawings of the Czar’s palace and of her own castle—remembrances of George. The drawings were looked at, and many thoughts came. She remembered the day when, unobserved by her father and mother, she had gone down to the porter’s wife who lay dying. Once again she seemed to sit beside her, holding the dying woman’s hand in hers, hearing the dying woman’s last words: “Blessing George!” The mother was thinking of her son, and now Emily gave her own interpretation to those words. Yes, George was certainly with her on her birthday.

It happened that the next day was another birthday in that house, the General’s birthday. He had been born the day after his daughter, but before her of course—many years before her. Many presents arrived, and among them came a saddle of exquisite workmanship, a comfortable and costly saddle—one of the Princes had just such another. Now, from whom might this saddle come? The General was delighted. There was a little note with the saddle. Now if the words on the note had been “many thanks for yesterday’s reception,” we might easily have guessed from whom it came. But the words were “From somebody whom the General does not know.”

“Whom in the world do I not know?” exclaimed the General. “I know everybody;” and his thoughts wandered all through society, for he knew everybody there. “That saddle comes from my wife!” he said at last. “She is teasing me—charming!”

But she was not teasing him; those times were past.



Again there was a feast, but it was not in the General’s house, it was a fancy ball at the Prince’s, and masks were allowed too.

The General went as Rubens, in a Spanish costume, with a little ruff round his neck, a sword by his side, and a stately manner. The General’s lady was Madame Rubens, in black velvet made high round the neck, exceedingly warm, and with a mill-stone round her neck in the shape of a great ruff—accurately dressed after a Dutch picture in the possession of the General, in which the hands were especially admired. They were just like the hands of the General’s lady.

Emily was Psyche. In white crape and lace she was like a floating swan. She did not want wings at all. She only wore them as emblematic of Psyche.

Brightness, splendor, light and flowers, wealth and taste appeared at the ball; there was so much to see, that the beautiful hands of Madame Rubens made no sensation at all.

A black domino, with an acacia blossom in his cap, danced with Psyche.

“Who is that?” asked the General’s lady.

“His Royal Highness,” replied the General. “I am quite sure of it. I knew him directly by the pressure of his hand.”

The General’s lady doubted it.

General Rubens had no doubts about it. He went up to the black domino and wrote the royal letters in the mask’s hand. These were denied, but the mask gave him a hint.

The words that came with the saddle: “One whom you do not know, General.”

“But I do know you,” said the General. “It was you who sent me the saddle.”

The domino raised his hand, and disappeared among the other guests.

“Who is that black domino with whom you were dancing, Emily?” asked the General’s lady.

“I did not ask his name,” she replied, “because you knew it. It is the Professor. Your protégé is here, Count!” she continued, turning to that nobleman, who stood close by. “A black domino with acacia blossoms in his cap.”

“Very likely, my dear lady,” replied the Count. “But one of the Princes wears just the same costume.”

“I knew the pressure of the hand,” said the General. “The saddle came from the Prince. I am so certain of it that I could invite that domino to dinner.”

“Do so. If it be the Prince he will certainly come,” replied the Count.

“And if it is the other he will not come,” said the General, and approached the black domino, who was just speaking with the King. The General gave a very respectful invitation “that they might make each other’s acquaintance,” and he smiled in his certainty concerning the person he was inviting. He spoke loud and distinctly.

The domino raised his mask, and it was George. “Do you repeat your invitation, General?” he asked.

The General certainly seemed to grow an inch taller, assumed a more stately demeanor, and took two steps backward and one step forward, as if he were dancing a minuet, and then came as much gravity and expression into the face of the General as the General could contrive to infuse into it; but he replied,

“I never retract my words! You are invited, Professor!” and he bowed with a glance at the King, who must have heard the whole dialogue.



Now, there was a company to dinner at the General’s, but only the old Count and his protégé were invited.

“I have my foot under his table,” thought George. “That’s laying the foundation stone.”

And the foundation stone was really laid, with great ceremony, at the house of the General and of the General’s lady.

The man had come, and had spoken quite like a person in good society, and had made himself very agreeable, so that the General had often to repeat his “Charming!” The General talked of this dinner, talked of it even to a court lady; and this lady, one of the most intellectual persons about the court, asked to be invited to meet the Professor the next time he should come. So he had to be invited again; and he was invited, and came, and was charming again; he could even play chess.

“He’s not out of the cellar,” said the General; “he’s quite a distinguished person. There are many distinguished persons of that kind, and it’s no fault of his.”

The Professor, who was received in the King’s palace, might very well be received by the General; but that he could ever belong to the house was out of the question, only the whole town was talking of it.



He grew and grew. The dew of favor fell from above, so no one was surprised after all that he should become a Privy Councillor, and Emily a Privy Councillor’s lady.

“Life is either a tragedy or a comedy,” said the General. “In tragedies they die, in comedies they marry one another.”

In this case they married. And they had three clever boys—but not all at once.

The sweet children rode on their hobby-horses through all the rooms when they came to see the grandparents. And the General also rode on his stick; he rode behind them in the character of groom to the little Privy Councillors.

And the General’s lady sat on her sofa and smiled at them, even when she had her severest headache.



So far did George get, and much further; else it had not been worth while to tell the story of THE PORTER’S SON.

 

The Toad
 
THE well was deep, and therefore the rope had to be a long one; it was heavy work turning the handle when any one had to raise a bucketful of water over the edge of the well. Though the water was clear, the sun never looked down far enough into the well to mirror itself in the waters; but as far as its beams could reach, green things grew forth between the stones in the sides of the well.

Down below dwelt a family of the Toad race. They had, in fact, come head-over-heels down the well, in the person of the old Mother-Toad, who was still alive. The green Frogs, who had been established there a long time, and swam about in the water, called them “well-guests.” But the new-comers seemed determined to stay where they were, for they found it very agreeable living “in a dry place,” as they called the wet stones.

The Mother-Frog had once been a traveller. She happened to be in the water-bucket when it was drawn up, but the light became too strong for her, and she got a pain in her eyes. Fortunately she scrambled out of the bucket; but she fell into the water with a terrible flop, and had to lie sick for three days with pains in her back. She certainly had not much to tell of the things up above, but she knew this, and all the Frogs knew it, that the well was not all the world. The Mother-Toad might have told this and that, if she had chosen, but she never answered when they asked her anything, and so they left off asking.

“She’s thick, and fat and ugly,” said the young green Frogs; “and her children will be just as ugly as she is.”

“That may be,” retorted the mother-Toad, “but one of them has a jewel in his head, or else I have the jewel.”

The young frogs listened and stared; and as these words did not please them, they made grimaces and dived down under the water. But the little Toads kicked up their hind legs from mere pride, for each of them thought that he must have the jewel; and then they sat and held their heads quite still. But at length they asked what it was that made them so proud, and what kind of a thing a jewel might be.

“Oh, it is such a splendid and precious thing, that I cannot describe it,” said the Mother-Toad. “It’s something which one carries about for one’s own pleasure, and that makes other people angry. But don’t ask me any questions, for I shan’t answer you.”

“Well, I haven’t got the jewel,” said the smallest of the Toads; she was as ugly as a toad can be. “Why should I have such a precious thing? And if it makes others angry, it can’t give me any pleasure. No, I only wish I could get to the edge of the well, and look out; it must be beautiful up there.”

“You’d better stay where you are,” said the old Mother-Toad, “for you know everything here, and you can tell what you have. Take care of the bucket, for it will crush you to death; and even if you get into it safely, you may fall out. And it’s not every one who falls so cleverly as I did, and gets away with whole legs and whole bones.”

“Quack!” said the little Toad; and that’s just as if one of us were to say, “Aha!”

She had an immense desire to get to the edge of the well, and to look over; she felt such a longing for the green, up there; and the next morning, when it chanced that the bucket was being drawn up, filled with water, and stopped for a moment just in front of the stone on which the Toad sat, the little creature’s heart moved within it, and our Toad jumped into the filled bucket, which presently was drawn to the top, and emptied out.

“Ugh, you beast!” said the farm laborer who emptied the bucket, when he saw the toad. “You’re the ugliest thing I’ve seen for one while.” And he made a kick with his wooden shoe at the toad, which just escaped being crushed by managing to scramble into the nettles which grew high by the well’s brink. Here she saw stem by stem, but she looked up also; the sun shone through the leaves, which were quite transparent; and she felt as a person would feel who steps suddenly into a great forest, where the sun looks in between the branches and leaves.

“It’s much nicer here than down in the well! I should like to stay here my whole life long!” said the little Toad. So she lay there for an hour, yes, for two hours. “I wonder what is to be found up here? As I have come so far, I must try to go still farther.” And so she crawled on as fast as she could crawl, and got out upon the highway, where the sun shone upon her, and the dust powdered her all over as she marched across the way.

“I’ve got to a dry place. now, and no mistake,” said the Toad. “It’s almost too much of a good thing here; it tickles one so.”

She came to the ditch; and forget-me-nots were growing there, and meadow-sweet; and a very little way off was a hedge of whitethorn, and elder bushes grew there, too, and bindweed with white flowers. Gay colors were to be seen here, and a butterfly, too, was flitting by. The Toad thought it was a flower which had broken loose that it might look about better in the world, which was quite a natural thing to do.

“If one could only make such a journey as that!” said the Toad. “Croak! how capital that would be.”

Eight days and eight nights she stayed by the well, and experienced no want of provisions. On the ninth day she thought, “Forward! onward!” But what could she find more charming and beautiful? Perhaps a little toad or a few green frogs. During the last night there had been a sound borne on the breeze, as if there were cousins in the neighborhood.

“It’s a glorious thing to live! glorious to get out of the well, and to lie among the stinging-nettles, and to crawl along the dusty road. But onward, onward! that we may find frogs or a little toad. We can’t do without that; nature alone is not enough for one.” And so she went forward on her journey.

She came out into the open field, to a great pond, round about which grew reeds; and she walked into it.

“It will be too damp for you here,” said the Frogs; “but you are very welcome! Are you a he or a she? But it doesn’t matter; you are equally welcome.”

And she was invited to the concert in the evening—the family concert; great enthusiasm and thin voices; we know the sort of thing. No refreshments were given, only there was plenty to drink, for the whole pond was free.

“Now I shall resume my journey,” said the little Toad; for she always felt a longing for something better.

She saw the stars shining, so large and so bright, and she saw the moon gleaming; and then she saw the sun rise, and mount higher and higher.

“Perhaps after all, I am still in a well, only in a larger well. I must get higher yet; I feel a great restlessness and longing.” And when the moon became round and full, the poor creature thought, “I wonder if that is the bucket which will be let down, and into which I must step to get higher up? Or is the sun the great bucket? How great it is! how bright it is! It can take up all. I must look out, that I may not miss the opportunity. Oh, how it seems to shine in my head! I don’t think the jewel can shine brighter. But I haven’t the jewel; not that I cry about that—no, I must go higher up, into splendor and joy! I feel so confident, and yet I am afraid. It’s a difficult step to take, and yet it must be taken. Onward, therefore, straight onward!”

She took a few steps, such as a crawling animal may take, and soon found herself on a road beside which people dwelt; but there were flower gardens as well as kitchen gardens. And she sat down to rest by a kitchen garden.

“What a number of different creatures there are that I never knew! and how beautiful and great the world is! But one must look round in it, and not stay in one spot.” And then she hopped into the kitchen garden. “How green it is here! how beautiful it is here!”

“I know that,” said the Caterpillar, on the leaf, “my leaf is the largest here. It hides half the world from me, but I don’t care for the world.”

“Cluck, cluck!” And some fowls came. They tripped about in the cabbage garden. The Fowl who marched at the head of them had a long sight, and she spied the Caterpillar on the green leaf, and pecked at it, so that the Caterpillar fell on the ground, where it twisted and writhed.

The Fowl looked at it first with one eye and then with the other, for she did not know what the end of this writhing would be.

“It doesn’t do that with a good will,” thought the Fowl, and lifted up her head to peck at the Caterpillar.

The Toad was so horrified at this, that she came crawling straight up towards the Fowl.

“Aha, it has allies,” quoth the Fowl. “Just look at the crawling thing!” And then the Fowl turned away. “I don’t care for the little green morsel; it would only tickle my throat.” The other fowls took the same view of it, and they all turned away together.

“I writhed myself free,” said the Caterpillar. “What a good thing it is when one has presence of mind! But the hardest thing remains to be done, and that is to get on my leaf again. Where is it?”

And the little Toad came up and expressed her sympathy. She was glad that in her ugliness she had frightened the fowls.

“What do you mean by that?” cried the Caterpillar. “I wriggled myself free from the Fowl. You are very disagreeable to look at. Cannot I be left in peace on my own property? Now I smell cabbage; now I am near my leaf. Nothing is so beautiful as property. But I must go higher up.”

“Yes, higher up,” said the little Toad; “higher-up! She feels just as I do; but she’s not in a good humor to-day. That’s because of the fright. We all want to go higher up.” And she looked up as high as ever she could.

The stork sat in his nest on the roof of the farm-house. He clapped with his beak, and the Mother-stork clapped with hers.

“How high up they live!” thought the Toad. “If one could only get as high as that!”

In the farm-house lived two young students; the one was a poet and the other a scientific searcher into the secrets of nature. The one sang and wrote joyously of everything that God had created, and how it was mirrored in his heart. He sang it out clearly, sweetly, richly, in well-sounding verses; while the other investigated created matter itself, and even cut it open where need was. He looked upon God’s creation as a great sum in arithmetic—subtracted, multiplied, and tried to know it within and without, and to talk with understanding concerning it; and that was a very sensible thing; and he spoke joyously and cleverly of it. They were good, joyful men, those two,

“There sits a good specimen of a toad,” said the naturalist. “I must have that fellow in a bottle of spirits.”

“You have two of them already,” replied the poet. “Let the thing sit there and enjoy its life.”

“But it’s so wonderfully ugly,” persisted the first.

“Yes, if we could find the jewel in its head,” said the poet, “I too should be for cutting it open.”

“A jewel!” cried the naturalist. “You seem to know a great deal about natural history.”

“But is there not something beautiful in the popular belief that just as the toad is the ugliest of animals, it should often carry the most precious jewel in its head? Is it not just the same thing with men? What a jewel that was that Aesop had, and still more, Socrates!”

The Toad did not hear any more, nor did she understand half of what she had heard. The two friends walked on, and thus she escaped the fate of being bottled up in spirits.

“Those two also were speaking of the jewel,” said the Toad to herself. “What a good thing that I have not got it! I might have been in a very disagreeable position.”

Now there was a clapping on the roof of the farm-house. Father-Stork was making a speech to his family, and his family was glancing down at the two young men in the kitchen garden.

“Man is the most conceited creature!” said the Stork. “Listen how their jaws are wagging; and for all that they can’t clap properly. They boast of their gifts of eloquence and their language! Yes, a fine language truly! Why, it changes in every day’s journey we make. One of them doesn’t understand another. Now, we can speak our language over the whole earth—up in the North and in Egypt. And then men are not able to fly, moreover. They rush along by means of an invention they call ’railway;’ but they often break their necks over it. It makes my beak turn cold when I think of it. The world could get on without men. We could do without them very well, so long as we only keep frogs and earth-worms.”

“That was a powerful speech,” thought the little Toad. “What a great man that is yonder! and how high he sits! Higher than ever I saw any one sit yet; and how he can swim!” she cried, as the Stork soared away through the air with outspread pinions.

And the Mother-Stork began talking in the nest, and told about Egypt and the waters of the Nile, and the incomparable mud that was to be found in that strange land; and all this sounded new and very charming to the little Toad.

“I must go to Egypt!” said she. “If the Stork or one of his young ones would only take me! I would oblige him in return. Yes, I shall get to Egypt, for I feel so happy! All the longing and all the pleasure that I feel is much better than having a jewel in one’s head.”

And it was just she who had the jewel. That jewel was the continual striving and desire to go upward—ever upward. It gleamed in her head, gleamed in joy, beamed brightly in her longing.

Then, suddenly, up came the Stork. He had seen the Toad in the grass, and stooped down and seized the little creature anything but gently. The Stork’s beak pinched her, and the wind whistled; it was not exactly agreeable, but she was going upward—upward towards Egypt— and she knew it; and that was why her eyes gleamed, and a spark seemed to fly out of them.

“Quunk!—ah!”

The body was dead—the Toad was killed! But the spark that had shot forth from her eyes; what became of that?

The sunbeam took it up; the sunbeam carried the jewel from the head of the toad. Whither?

Ask not the naturalist; rather ask the poet. He will tell it thee under the guise of a fairy tale; and the Caterpillar on the cabbage, and the Stork family belong to the story. Think! the Caterpillar is changed, and turns into a beautiful butterfly; the Stork family flies over mountains and seas, to the distant Africa, and yet finds the shortest way home to the same country—to the same roof. Nay, that is almost too improbable; and yet it is true. You may ask the naturalist, he will confess it is so; and you know it yourself, for you have seen it.

But the jewel in the head of the toad?

Seek it in the sun; see it there if you can.

The brightness is too dazzling there. We have not yet such eyes as can see into the glories which God has created, but we shall receive them by-and-by; and that will be the most beautiful story of all, and we shall all have our share in it.

 

The Nis and the Dame
 
YOU have all heard of the Nis, but have you ever heard of the Dame,—the Gardener’s Dame? She had plenty of reading; knew verses by heart; aye, and could write them herself with ease; except that the rhymes, “clinchings,” as she called them, cost her a little trouble. She had gifts of writing, and gifts of speech; she could well have been priest, or, at all events, the priest’s wife.

“The earth is beauteous in her Sunday gown,” said she, and this thought she had set in regular form and “clinching;” set it up in a ditty, that was ever so fine and long.

The Under-schoolmaster, Mr. Kisserup (not that it matters about his name), was a cousin of hers, and on a visit at the Gardener’s; he heard the Dame’s poem, and it did him good, he said—a world of good. “You have soul, ma’am” said he.

“Fiddle-de-dee!” said the Gardener. “Don’t be putting such stuff in her head. Soul indeed! a wife should be a body, a plain, decent body, and watch the pot to see that the porridge is not burnt.”

“The burnt taste I can take out of the porridge with a little charcoal,” said the Dame, “and out of you with a little kiss. One might fancy you thought of nothing but greens and potatoes; and yet you love the flowers;” and so saying, she kissed him. “Flowers are all soul!” said she.

“Mind your porridge-pot,” said he, and went off into the garden. This was his porridge-pot, and this he minded.

But the Under-schoolmaster sat in the Dame’s parlor, and talked with the Dame. Her fine words, “Earth is beauteous,” he made the text of a whole sermon, after his own fashion.

“Earth is beauteous, make it subject unto you! was said, and we became the lords. Some rule it with the mind, others with the body. This man is sent into the world like an incorporate note of admiration! that man like a dash of hesitation: We pause, and ask, Why is he here? One of us becomes a bishop; another only a poor under-master; but all is for the best. Earth is beauteous, and always in her Sunday gown! That was a thought-stirring poem, ma’am full of feeling and cosmography!”

“You have soul, Mr. Kisserup,” said the Dame, “a great deal of soul, I assure you. One gains clearness of perception by talking with you.”

And so they went on in the same strain, as grand and, excellent as ever. But out in the kitchen there was somebody else talking; and that was the Nis, the little gray-jacketed Nis with his red cap—you know him. The Nis sat in the kitchen, playing the pot-watcher. He talked, but nobody heard him except the great black tom-cat,“Cream-thief,” as the Dame called him.

The Nis was snarling at her, because she did not believe in his existence, he found: true, she had never seen him; but still, with all her reading, she ought to have known he did exist, and have shown him some little attention. She never thought, on Christmas Eve, of setting so much as a spoonful of porridge for him; though all his forefathers had got this, and from dames, too, who had had no reading at all: their porridge used to be swimming with cream and butter. It made the cat’s mouth water to hear of it.

“She calls me an idea!” said the Nis: “that’s quite beyond the reach of my ideas. In fact, she denies me. I’ve caught her saying so before, and again just now, yonder, where she sits droning to that boy-whipper, that understrapper. I say with Daddy, ‘Mind your porridge-pot.’ That she doesn’t do: so now for making it boil over.”

And the Nis puffed at the fire till it burned and blazed. “Hubble—bubble—hish!” the pot boiled over.

“And now for picking holes in Daddy’s sock,” said the Nis. “I’ll unravel a long piece, from toe to heel; so there’ll be something to darn when she’s not too busy poetizing, Dame poetess, please darn Daddy’s stockings.”

The Cat sniggered and sneezed; he had caught cold somehow, though he always went in furs.

“I’ve unlatched the larder-door,” said the Nis. “There’s clotted cream there as thick as gruel. If you won’t have a lick, I will.”

“If I am to get all the blame and beating,” said the Cat, “I’ll have my share of the cream.”

“A sweet lick is worth a kick!” said the Nis. “But now I’ll be off to the Schoolmaster’s room, hang his braces on the looking-glass, put his socks in the water-jug, and make him believe that the punch has set his brain spinning. Last night: I sat on the woodstack by the kennel. I dearly love to bully the watch-dog; so I swung my legs about in front of him. His chain was so short he could not reach them, however high he sprang: he was furious, and went on bark-barking, and I went on dingle-dangling; that was rare sport! Schoolmaster awoke, and jumped up, and looked out three times; but he couldn’t see me, though he had got barnacles on; he sleeps in his barnacles.”

“Say mew, if Dame is coming,” said the Cat; “I am hard of bearing: I feel sick to-day.”

“You have the licking sickness,” said the Nis; “lick away; lick the sickness away. Only be sure to wipe your beard, that the cream mayn’t hang on it. Now I’ll go for a bit of eavesdropping.”

And the Nis stood behind the door, and the door stood ajar. There was no one in the parlor except the Dame and the Under-master. They were talking about things which—as the Schoolmaster finely observed—ought in every household to rank far above pots and pans—the Gifts of the Soul.

“Mr. Kisserup,” said the Dame, “I will now show you something in that line, which I have never yet shown to any living creature—least of all to a man—my smaller poems -some of which, however, are rather long. I have called them ‘clinchings by a Gentlewoman.’ I cling to those old designations.”

“And so one ought,” said the Schoolmaster; “one ought root the German out of our language.”

“I do my best toward it,” said the Dame. “You will never hear me speak of Butterdeig or Kleiner; no, I call them past-leaves and fatty-cakes.”

And she took out of her drawer a writing-book, in a bright green binding, with two blotches of ink on it.

“There is much in the book that is earnest,” said she: “my mind inclines toward the sorrowful. Here now is my ‘Midnight Sigh,’ my ‘Evening Red,’ and here ‘When I was wedded to Klemmensen’—my husband, you know; you may pass that over, though it has thought and feeling. ‘The Housewife’s Duties’ is the best piece—sorrowful, like all the rest; I am strongest in that style. Only one single piece is jocular: it contains some lively thoughts—one must indulge in them now and then—thoughts about—don’t laugh at me—about being a poetess! It has hitherto been all between me and my drawer; and now you make the third of us, Mr. Kisserup. Poetry is my ruling passion; it haunts and worries me—it reigns over me. This I have expressed in my title ‘The Little Nis.’ You know the old cottage tales about the Nis, who is always playing pranks in the house. I have depicted myself as the house, and my poetical feelings as the Nis, the spirit that possesses me. His power and strength I have sung in ‘The Little Nis;’ but you must pledge me with hands and mouth never to reveal my secret, either to my husband or any one else. Read it aloud, so that I may hear whether you understand the composition.”

And the Schoolmaster read, and the Dame listened, and so did the little Nis. He was eavesdropping, you know; and he came up just in time to hear the title of “The Little Nis.”

“Ho! ho!” said he; “that’s my name! what has she been writing about me? O, I’ll give her tit for tat; chip her eggs, nip her chickens, hunt the fat off her fatted calf: fie upon such a Dame!”

And he listened with pursed-up lips and pricked-up ears but as he heard of the Nis’s power and glory, and his lordship over the Dame (it was poetry, you know, she meant, but the Nis took the name literally), the little fellow began smiling more and more; his eyes glistened with pleasure; then came lines of dignity in the corners of his mouth; he drew up his heels, and stood on his toes an inch or two higher than usual; he was delighted with what was said about the little Nis.

“I have done her wrong! She is a Dame of soul and high breeding! She has put me into her ‘Clinchings,’ and they will be printed and read! No more cream for Master Cat: I shall let nobody touch it but myself. One drinks less than two, so that will be a saving: and that I shall carry out, and pay respect and honor to our Dame.”

“Ah, he’s a man all over, that Nis,” said the old Cat. “Only one soft mew from the Dame, a mew about himself, and he changes his mind in a jiffy! And that Dame of ours, isn’t she sly!”

But the Dame was not sly; it was all because the Nis was a man.

If you cannot understand this story, ask somebody to help you; but do not ask the Nis—no, nor yet the Dame.

 

The Dryad
 
WE are travelling to Paris to the Exhibition.

Now we are there. That was a journey, a flight without magic. We flew on the wings of steam over the sea and across the land.

Yes, our time is the time of fairy tales.

We are in the midst of Paris, in a great hotel. Blooming flowers ornament the staircases, and soft carpets the floors.

Our room is a very cosy one, and through the open balcony door we have a view of a great square. Spring lives down there; it has come to Paris, and arrived at the same time with us. It has come in the shape of a glorious young chestnut tree, with delicate leaves newly opened. How the tree gleams, dressed in its spring garb, before all the other trees in the place! One of these latter had been struck out of the list of living trees. It lies on the ground with roots exposed. On the place where it stood, the young chestnut tree is to be planted, and to flourish.

It still stands towering aloft on the heavy wagon which has brought it this morning a distance of several miles to Paris. For years it had stood there, in the protection of a mighty oak tree, under which the old venerable clergyman had often sat, with children listening to his stories.

The young chestnut tree had also listened to the stories; for the Dryad who lived in it was a child also. She remembered the time when the tree was so little that it only projected a short way above the grass and ferns around. These were as tall as they would ever be; but the tree grew every year, and enjoyed the air and the sunshine, and drank the dew and the rain. Several times it was also, as it must be, well shaken by the wind and the rain; for that is a part of education.

The Dryad rejoiced in her life, and rejoiced in the sunshine, and the singing of the birds; but she was most rejoiced at human voices; she understood the language of men as well as she understood that of animals.

Butterflies, cockchafers, dragon-flies, everything that could fly came to pay a visit. They could all talk. They told of the village, of the vineyard, of the forest, of the old castle with its parks and canals and ponds. Down in the water dwelt also living beings, which, in their way, could fly under the water from one place to another—beings with knowledge and delineation. They said nothing at all; they were so clever!

And the swallow, who had dived, told about the pretty little goldfish, of the thick turbot, the fat brill, and the old carp. The swallow could describe all that very well, but, “Self is the man,” she said. “One ought to see these things one’s self.” But how was the Dryad ever to see such beings? She was obliged to be satisfied with being able to look over the beautiful country and see the busy industry of men.

It was glorious; but most glorious of all when the old clergyman sat under the oak tree and talked of France, and of the great deeds of her sons and daughters, whose names will be mentioned with admiration through all time.

Then the Dryad heard of the shepherd girl, Joan of Arc, and of Charlotte Corday; she heard about Henry the Fourth, and Napoleon the First; she heard names whose echo sounds in the hearts of the people.

The village children listened attentively, and the Dryad no less attentively; she became a school-child with the rest. In the clouds that went sailing by she saw, picture by picture, everything that she heard talked about. The cloudy sky was her picture-book.

She felt so happy in beautiful France, the fruitful land of genius, with the crater of freedom. But in her heart the sting remained that the bird, that every animal that could fly, was much better off than she. Even the fly could look about more in the world, far beyond the Dryad’s horizon.

France was so great and so glorious, but she could only look across a little piece of it. The land stretched out, world-wide, with vineyards, forests and great cities. Of all these Paris was the most splendid and the mightiest. The birds could get there; but she, never!

Among the village children was a little ragged, poor girl, but a pretty one to look at. She was always laughing or singing and twining red flowers in her black hair.

“Don’t go to Paris!” the old clergyman warned her. “Poor child! if you go there, it will be your ruin.”

But she went for all that.

The Dryad often thought of her; for she had the same wish, and felt the same longing for the great city.



The Dryad’s tree was bearing its first chestnut blossoms; the birds were twittering round them in the most beautiful sunshine. Then a stately carriage came rolling along that way, and in it sat a grand lady driving the spirited, light-footed horses. On the back seat a little smart groom balanced himself. The Dryad knew the lady, and the old clergyman knew her also. He shook his head gravely when he saw her, and said:

“So you went there after all, and it was your ruin, poor Mary!”

“That one poor?” thought the Dryad. “No; she wears a dress fit for a countess” (she had become one in the city of magic changes). “Oh, if I were only there, amid all the splendor and pomp! They shine up into the very clouds at night; when I look up, I can tell in what direction the town lies.”

Towards that direction the Dryad looked every evening. She saw in the dark night the gleaming cloud on the horizon; in the clear moonlight nights she missed the sailing clouds, which showed her pictures of the city and pictures from history.

The child grasps at the picture-books, the Dryad grasped at the cloud-world, her thought-book. A sudden, cloudless sky was for her a blank leaf; and for several days she had only had such leaves before her.

It was in the warm summer-time: not a breeze moved through the glowing hot days. Every leaf, every flower, lay as if it were torpid, and the people seemed torpid, too.

Then the clouds arose and covered the region round about where the gleaming mist announced “Here lies Paris.”

The clouds piled themselves up like a chain of mountains, hurried on through the air, and spread themselves abroad over the whole landscape, as far as the Dryad’s eye could reach.

Like enormous blue-black blocks of rock, the clouds lay piled over one another. Gleams of lightning shot forth from them.

“These also are the servants of the Lord God,” the old clergyman had said. And there came a bluish dazzling flash of lightning, a lighting up as if of the sun itself, which could burst blocks of rock asunder. The lightning struck and split to the roots the old venerable oak. The crown fell asunder. It seemed as if the tree were stretching forth its arms to clasp the messengers of the light.

No bronze cannon can sound over the land at the birth of a royal child as the thunder sounded at the death of the old oak. The rain streamed down; a refreshing wind was blowing; the storm had gone by, and there was quite a holiday glow on all things. The old clergyman spoke a few words for honorable remembrance, and a painter made a drawing, as a lasting record of the tree.

“Everything passes away,” said the Dryad, “passes away like a cloud, and never comes back!”

The old clergyman, too, did not come back. The green roof of his school was gone, and his teaching-chair had vanished. The children did not come; but autumn came, and winter came, and then spring also. In all this change of seasons the Dryad looked toward the region where, at night, Paris gleamed with its bright mist far on the horizon.

Forth from the town rushed engine after engine, train after train, whistling and screaming at all hours in the day. In the evening, towards midnight, at daybreak, and all the day through, came the trains. Out of each one, and into each one, streamed people from the country of every king. A new wonder of the world had summoned them to Paris.

In what form did this wonder exhibit itself?

“A splendid blossom of art and industry,” said one, “has unfolded itself in the Champ de Mars, a gigantic sunflower, from whose petals one can learn geography and statistics, and can become as wise as a lord mayor, and raise one’s self to the level of art and poetry, and study the greatness and power of the various lands.”

“A fairy tale flower,” said another, “a many-colored lotus-plant, which spreads out its green leaves like a velvet carpet over the sand. The opening spring has brought it forth, the summer will see it in all its splendor, the autumn winds will sweep it away, so that not a leaf, not a fragment of its root shall remain.”

In front of the Military School extends in time of peace the arena of war—a field without a blade of grass, a piece of sandy steppe, as if cut out of the Desert of Africa, where Fata Morgana displays her wondrous airy castles and hanging gardens. In the Champ de Mars, however, these were to be seen more splendid, more wonderful than in the East, for human art had converted the airy deceptive scenes into reality.

“The Aladdin’s Palace of the present has been built,” it was said. “Day by day, hour by hour, it unfolds more of its wonderful splendor.”

The endless halls shine in marble and many colors. “Master Bloodless” here moves his limbs of steel and iron in the great circular hall of machinery. Works of art in metal, in stone, in Gobelins tapestry, announce the vitality of mind that is stirring in every land. Halls of paintings, splendor of flowers, everything that mind and skill can create in the workshop of the artisan, has been placed here for show. Even the memorials of ancient days, out of old graves and turf-moors, have appeared at this general meeting.

The overpowering great variegated whole must be divided into small portions, and pressed together like a plaything, if it is to be understood and described.

Like a great table on Christmas Eve, the Champ de Mars carried a wonder-castle of industry and art, and around this knickknacks from all countries had been ranged, knickknacks on a grand scale, for every nation found some remembrance of home.

Here stood the royal palace of Egypt, there the caravanserai of the desert land. The Bedouin had quitted his sunny country, and hastened by on his camel. Here stood the Russian stables, with the fiery glorious horses of the steppe. Here stood the simple straw-thatched dwelling of the Danish peasant, with the Dannebrog flag, next to Gustavus Vasa’s wooden house from Dalarne, with its wonderful carvings. American huts, English cottages, French pavilions, kiosks, theatres, churches, all strewn around, and between them the fresh green turf, the clear springing water, blooming bushes, rare trees, hothouses, in which one might fancy one’s self transported into the tropical forest; whole gardens brought from Damascus, and blooming under one roof. What colors, what fragrance!

Artificial grottoes surrounded bodies of fresh or salt water, and gave a glimpse into the empire of the fishes; the visitor seemed to wander at the bottom of the sea, among fishes and polypi.

“All this,” they said, “the Champ de Mars offers;” and around the great richly-spread table the crowd of human beings moves like a busy swarm of ants, on foot or in little carriages, for not all feet are equal to such a fatiguing journey.

Hither they swarm from morning till late in the evening. Steamer after steamer, crowded with people, glides down the Seine. The number of carriages is continually on the increase. The swarm of people on foot and on horseback grows more and more dense. Carriages and omnibuses are crowded, stuffed and embroidered with people. All these tributary streams flow in one direction—towards the Exhibition. On every entrance the flag of France is displayed; around the world’s bazaar wave the flags of all nations. There is a humming and a murmuring from the hall of the machines; from the towers the melody of the chimes is heard; with the tones of the organs in the churches mingle the hoarse nasal songs from the cafés of the East. It is a kingdom of Babel, a wonder of the world!

In very truth it was. That’s what all the reports said, and who did not hear them? The Dryad knew everything that is told here of the new wonder in the city of cities.

“Fly away, ye birds! fly away to see, and then come back and tell me,” said the Dryad.

The wish became an intense desire—became the one thought of a life. Then, in the quiet silent night, while the full moon was shining, the Dryad saw a spark fly out of the moon’s disc, and fall like a shooting star. And before the tree, whose leaves waved to and fro as if they were stirred by a tempest, stood a noble, mighty, and grand figure. In tones that were at once rich and strong, like the trumpet of the Last Judgment bidding farewell to life and summoning to the great account, it said:

“Thou shalt go to the city of magic; thou shalt take root there, and enjoy the mighty rushing breezes, the air and the sunshine there. But the time of thy life shall then be shortened; the line of years that awaited thee here amid the free nature shall shrink to but a small tale. Poor Dryad! It shall be thy destruction. Thy yearning and longing will increase, thy desire will grow more stormy, the tree itself will be as a prison to thee, thou wilt quit thy cell and give up thy nature to fly out and mingle among men. Then the years that would have belonged to thee will be contracted to half the span of the ephemeral fly, that lives but a day: one night, and thy life-taper shall be blown out—the leaves of the tree will wither and be blown away, to become green never again!”

Thus the words sounded. And the light vanished away, but not the longing of the Dryad. She trembled in the wild fever of expectation.

“I shall go there!” she cried, rejoicingly. “Life is beginning and swells like a cloud; nobody knows whither it is hastening.”

When the gray dawn arose and the moon turned pale and the clouds were tinted red, the wished-for hour struck. The words of promise were fulfilled.

People appeared with spades and poles; they dug round the roots of the tree, deeper and deeper, and beneath it. A wagon was brought out, drawn by many horses, and the tree was lifted up, with its roots and the lumps of earth that adhered to them; matting was placed around the roots, as though the tree had its feet in a warm bag. And now the tree was lifted on the wagon and secured with chains. The journey began—the journey to Paris. There the tree was to grow as an ornament to the city of French glory.

The twigs and the leaves of the chestnut tree trembled in the first moments of its being moved; and the Dryad trembled in the pleasurable feeling of expectation.

“Away! away!” it sounded in every beat of her pulse. “Away! away” sounded in words that flew trembling along. The Dryad forgot to bid farewell to the regions of home; she thought not of the waving grass and of the innocent daisies, which had looked up to her as to a great lady, a young Princess playing at being a shepherdess out in the open air.

The chestnut tree stood upon the wagon, and nodded his branches; whether this meant “farewell” or “forward,” the Dryad knew not; she dreamed only of the marvellous new things, that seemed yet so familiar, and that were to unfold themselves before her. No child’s heart rejoicing in innocence—no heart whose blood danced with passion—had set out on the journey to Paris more full of expectation than she.

Her “farewell” sounded in the words “Away! away!”

The wheels turned; the distant approached; the present vanished. The region was changed, even as the clouds change. New vineyards, forests, villages, villas appeared—came nearer—vanished!

The chestnut tree moved forward, and the Dryad went with it. Steam-engine after steam-engine rushed past, sending up into the air vapory clouds, that formed figures which told of Paris, whence they came, and whither the Dryad was going.

Everything around knew it, and must know whither she was bound. It seemed to her as if every tree she passed stretched out its leaves towards her, with the prayer—“Take me with you! take me with you!” for every tree enclosed a longing Dryad.

What changes during this flight! Houses seemed to be rising out of the earth—more and more—thicker and thicker. The chimneys rose like flower-pots ranged side by side, or in rows one above the other, on the roofs. Great inscriptions in letters a yard long, and figures in various colors, covering the walls from cornice to basement, came brightly out.

“Where does Paris begin, and when shall I be there?” asked the Dryad.

The crowd of people grew; the tumult and the bustle increased; carriage followed upon carriage; people on foot and people on horseback were mingled together; all around were shops on shops, music and song, crying and talking.

The Dryad, in her tree, was now in the midst of Paris. The great heavy wagon all at once stopped on a little square planted with trees. The high houses around had all of them balconies to the windows, from which the inhabitants looked down upon the young fresh chestnut tree, which was coming to be planted here as a substitute for the dead tree that lay stretched on the ground.

The passers-by stood still and smiled in admiration of its pure vernal freshness. The older trees, whose buds were still closed, whispered with their waving branches, “Welcome! welcome!” The fountain, throwing its jet of water high up in the air, to let it fall again in the wide stone basin, told the wind to sprinkle the new-comer with pearly drops, as if it wished to give him a refreshing draught to welcome him.

The Dryad felt how her tree was being lifted from the wagon to be placed in the spot where it was to stand. The roots were covered with earth, and fresh turf was laid on top. Blooming shrubs and flowers in pots were ranged around; and thus a little garden arose in the square.

The tree that had been killed by the fumes of gas, the steam of kitchens, and the bad air of the city, was put upon the wagon and driven away. The passers-by looked on. Children and old men sat upon the bench, and looked at the green tree. And we who are telling this story stood upon a balcony, and looked down upon the green spring sight that had been brought in from the fresh country air, and said, what the old clergyman would have said, “Poor Dryad!”

“I am happy! I am happy!” the Dryad cried, rejoicing; “and yet I cannot realize, cannot describe what I feel. Everything is as I fancied it, and yet as I did not fancy it.”

The houses stood there, so lofty, so close! The sunlight shone on only one of the walls, and that one was stuck over with bills and placards, before which the people stood still; and this made a crowd.

Carriages rushed past, carriages rolled past; light ones and heavy ones mingled together. Omnibuses, those over-crowded moving houses, came rattling by; horsemen galloped among them; even carts and wagons asserted their rights.

The Dryad asked herself if these high-grown houses, which stood so close around her, would not remove and take other shapes, like the clouds in the sky, and draw aside, so that she might cast a glance into Paris, and over it. Notre Dame must show itself, the Vendôme Column, and the wondrous building which had called and was still calling so many strangers to the city.

But the houses did not stir from their places. It was yet day when the lamps were lit. The gas-jets gleamed from the shops, and shone even into the branches of the trees, so that it was like sunlight in summer. The stars above made their appearance, the same to which the Dryad had looked up in her home. She thought she felt a clear pure stream of air which went forth from them. She felt herself lifted up and strengthened, and felt an increased power of seeing through every leaf and through every fibre of the root. Amid all the noise and the turmoil, the colors and the lights, she knew herself watched by mild eyes.

From the side streets sounded the merry notes of fiddles and wind instruments. Up! to the dance, to the dance! to jollity and pleasure! that was their invitation. Such music it was, that horses, carriages, trees, and houses would have danced, if they had known how. The charm of intoxicating delight filled the bosom of the Dryad.

“How glorious, how splendid it is!” she cried, rejoicingly. “Now I am in Paris!”

The next day that dawned, the next night that fell, offered the same spectacle, similar bustle, similar life; changing, indeed, yet always the same; and thus it went on through the sequence of days.

“Now I know every tree, every flower on the square here! I know every house, every balcony, every shop in this narrow cut-off corner, where I am denied the sight of this great mighty city. Where are the arches of triumph, the Boulevards, the wondrous building of the world? I see nothing of all this. As if shut up in a cage, I stand among the high houses, which I now know by heart, with their inscriptions, signs, and placards; all the painted confectionery, that is no longer to my taste. Where are all the things of which I heard, for which I longed, and for whose sake I wanted to come hither? what have I seized, found, won? I feel the same longing I felt before; I feel that there is a life I should wish to grasp and to experience. I must go out into the ranks of living men, and mingle among them. I must fly about like a bird. I must see and feel, and become human altogether. I must enjoy the one half-day, instead of vegetating for years in every-day sameness and weariness, in which I become ill, and at last sink and disappear like the dew on the meadows. I will gleam like the cloud, gleam in the sunshine of life, look out over the whole like the cloud, and pass away like it, no one knoweth whither.”

Thus sighed the Dryad; and she prayed:

“Take from me the years that were destined for me, and give me but half of the life of the ephemeral fly! Deliver me from my prison! Give me human life, human happiness, only a short span, only the one night, if it cannot be otherwise; and then punish me for my wish to live, my longing for life! Strike me out of thy list. Let my shell, the fresh young tree, wither, or be hewn down, and burnt to ashes, and scattered to all the winds!”

A rustling went through the leaves of the tree; there was a trembling in each of the leaves; it seemed as if fire streamed through it. A gust of wind shook its green crown, and from the midst of that crown a female figure came forth. In the same moment she was sitting beneath the brightly-illuminated leafy branches, young and beautiful to behold, like poor Mary, to whom the clergyman had said, “The great city will be thy destruction.”

The Dryad sat at the foot of the tree—at her house door, which she had locked, and whose key had thrown away. So young! so fair! The stars saw her, and blinked at her. The gas-lamps saw her, and gleamed and beckoned to her. How delicate she was, and yet how blooming!—a child, and yet a grown maiden! Her dress was fine as silk, green as the freshly-opened leaves on the crown of the tree; in her nut-brown hair clung a half-opened chestnut blossom. She looked like the Goddess of Spring.

For one short minute she sat motionless; then she sprang up, and, light as a gazelle, she hurried away. She ran and sprang like the reflection from the mirror that, carried by the sunshine, is cast, now here, now there. Could any one have followed her with his eyes, he would have seen how marvellously her dress and her form changed, according to the nature of the house or the place whose light happened to shine upon her.

She reached the Boulevards. Here a sea of light streamed forth from the gas-flames of the lamps, the shops and the cafés. Here stood in a row young and slender trees, each of which concealed its Dryad, and gave shade from the artificial sunlight. The whole vast pavement was one great festive hall, where covered tables stood laden with refreshments of all kinds, from champagne and Chartreuse down to coffee and beer. Here was an exhibition of flowers, statues, books, and colored stuffs.

From the crowd close by the lofty houses she looked forth over the terrific stream beyond the rows of trees. Yonder heaved a stream of rolling carriages, cabriolets, coaches, omnibuses, cabs, and among them riding gentlemen and marching troops. To cross to the opposite shore was an undertaking fraught with danger to life and limb. Now lanterns shed their radiance abroad; now the gas had the upper hand; suddenly a rocket rises! Whence? Whither?

Here are sounds of soft Italian melodies; yonder, Spanish songs are sung, accompanied by the rattle of the castanets; but strongest of all, and predominating over the rest, the street-organ tunes of the moment, the exciting “Can-Can” music, which Orpheus never knew, and which was never heard by the “Belle Helénè.” Even the barrow was tempted to hop upon one of its wheels.

The Dryad danced, floated, flew, changing her color every moment, like a humming-bird in the sunshine; each house, with the world belonging to it, gave her its own reflections.

As the glowing lotus-flower, torn from its stem, is carried away by the stream, so the Dryad drifted along. Whenever she paused, she was another being, so that none was able to follow her, to recognize her, or to look more closely at her.

Like cloud-pictures, all things flew by her. She looked into a thousand faces, but not one was familiar to her; she saw not a single form from home. Two bright eyes had remained in her memory. She thought of Mary, poor Mary, the ragged merry child, who wore the red flowers in her black hair. Mary was now here, in the world-city, rich and magnificent as in that day when she drove past the house of the old clergyman, and past the tree of the Dryad, the old oak.

Here she was certainly living, in the deafening tumult. Perhaps she had just stepped out of one of the gorgeous carriages in waiting. Handsome equipages, with coachmen in gold braid and footmen in silken hose, drove up. The people who alighted from them were all richly-dressed ladies. They went through the opened gate, and ascended the broad staircase that led to a building resting on marble pillars. Was this building, perhaps, the wonder of the world? There Mary would certainly be found.

“Sancta Maria!” resounded from the interior. Incense floated through the lofty painted and gilded aisles, where a solemn twilight reigned.

It was the Church of the Madeleine.

Clad in black garments of the most costly stuffs, fashioned according to the latest mode, the rich feminine world of Paris glided across the shining pavement. The crests of the proprietors were engraved on silver shields on the velvet-bound prayer-books, and embroidered in the corners of perfumed handkerchiefs bordered with Brussels lace. A few of the ladies were kneeling in silent prayer before the altars; others resorted to the confessionals.

Anxiety and fear took possession of the Dryad; she felt as if she had entered a place where she had no right to be. Here was the abode of silence, the hall of secrets. Everything was said in whispers, every word was a mystery.

The Dryad saw herself enveloped in lace and silk, like the women of wealth and of high birth around her. Had, perhaps, every one of them a longing in her breast, like the Dryad?

A deep, painful sigh was heard. Did it escape from some confessional in a distant corner, or from the bosom of the Dryad? She drew the veil closer around her; she breathed incense, and not the fresh air. Here was not the abiding-place of her longing.

Away! away—a hastening without rest. The ephemeral fly knows not repose, for her existence is flight.

She was out again among the gas candelabra, by a magnificent fountain.

“All its streaming waters are not able to wash out the innocent blood that was spilt here.”

Such were the words spoken. Strangers stood around, carrying on a lively conversation, such as no one would have dared to carry on in the gorgeous hall of secrets whence the Dryad came.

A heavy stone slab was turned and then lifted. She did not understand why. She saw an opening that led into the depths below. The strangers stepped down, leaving the starlit air and the cheerful life of the upper world behind them.

“I am afraid,” said one of the women who stood around, to her husband, “I cannot venture to go down, nor do I care for the wonders down yonder. You had better stay here with me.”

“Indeed, and travel home,” said the man, “and quit Paris without having seen the most wonderful thing of all—the real wonder of the present period, created by the power and resolution of one man!”

“I will not go down for all that,” was the reply.

“The wonder of the present time,” it had been called. The Dryad had heard and had understood it. The goal of her ardent longing had thus been reached, and here was the entrance to it. Down into the depths below Paris? She had not thought of such a thing; but now she heard it said, and saw the strangers descending, and went after them.

The staircase was of cast iron, spiral, broad and easy. Below there burned a lamp, and farther down, another. They stood in a labyrinth of endless halls and arched passages, all communicating with each other. All the streets and lanes of Paris were to be seen here again, as in a dim reflection. The names were painted up; and every, house above had its number down here also, and struck its roots under the macadamized quays of a broad canal, in which the muddy water flowed onward. Over it the fresh streaming water was carried on arches; and quite at the top hung the tangled net of gas-pipes and telegraph-wires.

In the distance lamps gleamed, like a reflection from the world-city above. Every now and then a dull rumbling was heard. This came from the heavy wagons rolling over the entrance bridges.

Whither had the Dryad come?

You have, no doubt, heard of the CATACOMBS? Now they are vanishing points in that new underground world—that wonder of the present day—the sewers of Paris. The Dryad was there, and not in the world’s Exhibition in the Champ de Mars.

She heard exclamations of wonder and admiration.

“From here go forth health and life for thousands upon thousands up yonder! Our time is the time of progress, with its manifold blessings.”

Such was the opinion and the speech of men; but not of those creatures who had been born here, and who built and dwelt here—of the rats, namely, who were squeaking to one another in the clefts of a crumbling wall, quite plainly, and in a way the Dryad understood well.

A big old Father-Rat, with his tail bitten off, was relieving his feelings in loud squeaks; and his family gave their tribute of concurrence to every word he said:

“I am disgusted with this man-mewing,” he cried—“with these outbursts of ignorance. A fine magnificence, truly! all made up of gas and petroleum! I can’t eat such stuff as that. Everything here is so fine and bright now, that one’s ashamed of one’s self, without exactly knowing why. Ah, if we only lived in the days of tallow candles! and it does not lie so very far behind us. That was a romantic time, as one may say.”

“What are you talking of there?” asked the Dryad. “I have never seen you before. What is it you are talking about?”

“Of the glorious days that are gone,” said the Rat—“of the happy time of our great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers. Then it was a great thing to get down here. That was a rat’s nest quite different from Paris. Mother Plague used to live here then; she killed people, but never rats. Robbers and smugglers could breathe freely here. Here was the meeting-place of the most interesting personages, whom one now only gets to see in the theatres where they act melodrama, up above. The time of romance is gone even in our rat’s nest; and here also fresh air and petroleum have broken in.”

A carriage stopped, a kind of open omnibus, drawn by swift horses. The company mounted and drove away along the Boulevard de Sebastopol, that is to say, the underground boulevard, over which the well-known crowded street of that name extended.

The carriage disappeared in the twilight; the Dryad disappeared, lifted to the cheerful freshness above. Here, and not below in the vaulted passages, filled with heavy air, the wonder work must be found which she was to seek in her short lifetime. It must gleam brighter than all the gas-flames, stronger than the moon that was just gliding past.

Yes, certainly, she saw it yonder in the distance, it gleamed before her, and twinkled and glittered like the evening star in the sky.

She saw a glittering portal open, that led to a little garden, where all was brightness and dance music. Colored lamps surrounded little lakes, in which were water-plants of colored metal, from whose flowers jets of water spurted up. Beautiful weeping willows, real products of spring, hung their fresh branches over these lakes like a fresh, green, transparent, and yet screening veil. In the bushes burnt an open fire, throwing a red twilight over the quiet huts of branches, into which the sounds of music penetrated—an ear tickling, intoxicating music, that sent the blood coursing through the veins.

Beautiful girls in festive attire, with pleasant smiles on their lips, and the light spirit of youth in their hearts—“Marys,” with roses in their hair, but without carriage and postilion—flitted to and fro in the wild dance.

Where were the heads, where the feet? As if stung by tarantulas, they sprang, laughed, rejoiced, as if in their ecstacies they were going to embrace all the world.

The Dryad felt herself torn with them into the whirl of the dance. Round her delicate foot clung the silken boot, chestnut brown in color, like the ribbon that floated from her hair down upon her bare shoulders. The green silk dress waved in large folds, but did not entirely hide the pretty foot and ankle.

Had she come to the enchanted Garden of Armida? What was the name of the place?

The name glittered in gas-jets over the entrance. It was “Mabille.”

The soaring upwards of rockets, the splashing of fountains, and the popping of champagne corks accompanied the wild bacchantic dance. Over the whole glided the moon through the air, clear, but with a somewhat crooked face.

A wild joviality seemed to rush through the Dryad, as though she were intoxicated with opium. Her eyes spoke, her lips spoke, but the sound of violins and of flutes drowned the sound of her voice. Her partner whispered words to her which she did not understand, nor do we understand them. He stretched out his arms to draw her to him, but he embraced only the empty air.

The Dryad had been carried away, like a rose-leaf on the wind. Before her she saw a flame in the air, a flashing light high up on a tower. The beacon light shone from the goal of her longing, shone from the red lighthouse tower of the Fata Morgana of the Champ de Mars. Thither she was carried by the wind. She circled round the tower; the workmen thought it was a butterfly that had come too early, and that now sank down dying.

The moon shone bright, gas-lamps spread light around, through the halls, over the all-world’s buildings scattered about, over the rose-hills and the rocks produced by human ingenuity, from which waterfalls, driven by the power of “Master Bloodless,” fell down. The caverns of the sea, the depths of the lakes, the kingdom of the fishes were opened here. Men walked as in the depths of the deep pond, and held converse with the sea, in the diving-bell of glass. The water pressed against the strong glass walls above and on every side. The polypi, eel-like living creatures, had fastened themselves to the bottom, and stretched out arms, fathoms long, for prey. A big turbot was making himself broad in front, quietly enough, but not without casting some suspicious glances aside. A crab clambered over him, looking like a gigantic spider, while the shrimps wandered about in restless haste, like the butterflies and moths of the sea.

In the fresh water grew water-lilies, nymphaea, and reeds; the gold-fishes stood up below in rank and file, all turning their heads one way, that the streaming water might flow into their mouths. Fat carps stared at the glass wall with stupid eyes. They knew that they were here to be exhibited, and that they had made the somewhat toilsome journey hither in tubs filled with water; and they thought with dismay of the land-sickness from which they had suffered so cruelly on the railway.

They had come to see the Exhibition, and now contemplated it from their fresh or salt-water position. They looked attentively at the crowds of people who passed by them early and late. All the nations in the world, they thought, had made an exhibition of their inhabitants, for the edification of the soles and haddocks, pike and carp, that they might give their opinions upon the different kinds.

“Those are scaly animals” said a little slimy Whiting. “They put on different scales two or three times a day, and they emit sounds which they call speaking. We don’t put on scales, and we make ourselves understood in an easier way, simply by twitching the corners of our mouths and staring with our eyes. We have a great many advantages over mankind.”

“But they have learned swimming of us,” remarked a well-educated Codling. “You must know I come from the great sea outside. In the hot time of the year the people yonder go into the water; first they take off their scales, and then they swim. They have learnt from the frogs to kick out with their hind legs, and row with their fore paws. But they cannot hold out long. They want to be like us, but they cannot come up to us. Poor people!”

And the fishes stared. They thought that the whole swarm of people whom they had seen in the bright daylight were still moving around them; they were certain they still saw the same forms that had first caught their attention.

A pretty Barbel, with spotted skin, and an enviably round back, declared that the “human fry” were still there.

“I can see a well set-up human figure quite well,” said the Barbel. “She was called ‘contumacious lady,’ or something of that kind. She had a mouth and staring eyes, like ours, and a great balloon at the back of her head, and something like a shut-up umbrella in front; there were a lot of dangling bits of seaweed hanging about her. She ought to take all the rubbish off, and go as we do; then she would look something like a respectable barbel, so far as it is possible for a person to look like one!”

“What’s become of that one whom they drew away with the hook? He sat on a wheel-chair, and had paper, and pen, and ink, and wrote down everything. They called him a ‘writer.’”

“They’re going about with him still,” said a hoary old maid of a Carp, who carried her misfortune about with her, so that she was quite hoarse. In her youth she had once swallowed a hook, and still swam patiently about with it in her gullet. “A writer? That means, as we fishes describe it, a kind of cuttle or ink-fish among men.”

Thus the fishes gossipped in their own way; but in the artificial water-grotto the laborers were busy; who were obliged to take advantage of the hours of night to get their work done by daybreak. They accompanied with blows of their hammers and with songs the parting words of the vanishing Dryad.

“So, at any rate, I have seen you, you pretty gold-fishes,” she said. “Yes, I know you;” and she waved her hand to them. “I have known about you a long time in my home; the swallow told me about you. How beautiful you are! how delicate and shining! I should like to kiss every one of you. You others, also. I know you all; but you do not know me.”

The fishes stared out into the twilight. They did not understand a word of it.

The Dryad was there no longer. She had been a long time in the open air, where the different countries—the country of black bread, the codfish coast, the kingdom of Russia leather, and the banks of eau-de-Cologne, and the gardens of rose oil—exhaled their perfumes from the world-wonder flower.

When, after a night at a ball, we drive home half asleep and half awake, the melodies still sound plainly in our ears; we hear them, and could sing them all from memory. When the eye of the murdered man closes, the picture of what it saw last clings to it for a time like a photographic picture.

So it was likewise here. The bustling life of day had not yet disappeared in the quiet night. The Dryad had seen it; she knew, thus it will be repeated tomorrow.

The Dryad stood among the fragrant roses, and thought she knew them, and had seen them in her own home. She also saw red pomegranate flowers, like those that little Mary had worn in her dark hair.

Remembrances from the home of her childhood flashed through her thoughts; her eyes eagerly drank in the prospect around, and feverish restlessness chased her through the wonder-filled halls.

A weariness that increased continually, took possession of her. She felt a longing to rest on the soft Oriental carpets within, or to lean against the weeping willow without by the clear water. But for the ephemeral fly there was no rest. In a few moments the day had completed its circle.

Her thoughts trembled, her limbs trembled, she sank down on the grass by the bubbling water.

“Thou wilt ever spring living from the earth,” she said mournfully. “Moisten my tongue—bring me a refreshing draught.”

“I am no living water,” was the answer. “I only spring upward when the machine wills it.”

“Give me something of thy freshness, thou green grass,” implored the Dryad; “give me one of thy fragrant flowers.”

“We must die if we are torn from our stalks,” replied the Flowers and the Grass.

“Give me a kiss, thou fresh stream of air—only a single life-kiss.”

“Soon the sun will kiss the clouds red,” answered the Wind; “then thou wilt be among the dead—blown away, as all the splendor here will be blown away before the year shall have ended. Then I can play again with the light loose sand on the place here, and whirl the dust over the land and through the air. All is dust!”

The Dryad felt a terror like a woman who has cut asunder her pulse-artery in the bath, but is filled again with the love of life, even while she is bleeding to death. She raised herself, tottered forward a few steps, and sank down again at the entrance to a little church. The gate stood open, lights were burning upon the altar, and the organ sounded.

What music! Such notes the Dryad had never yet heard; and yet it seemed to her as if she recognized a number of well-known voices among them. They came deep from the heart of all creation. She thought she heard the stories of the old clergyman, of great deeds, and of the celebrated names, and of the gifts that the creatures of God must bestow upon posterity, if they would live on in the world.

The tones of the organ swelled, and in their song there sounded these words:

“Thy wishing and thy longing have torn thee, with thy roots, from the place which God appointed for thee. That was thy destruction, thou poor Dryad!”

The notes became soft and gentle, and seemed to die away in a wail.

In the sky the clouds showed themselves with a ruddy gleam. The Wind sighed:

“Pass away, ye dead! now the sun is going to rise!”

The first ray fell on the Dryad. Her form was irradiated in changing colors, like the soap-bubble when it is bursting and becomes a drop of water; like a tear that falls and passes away like a vapor.

Poor Dryad! Only a dew-drop, only a tear, poured upon the earth, and vanished away!

 

Poultry Meg’s Family

POULTRY MEG was the only person who lived in the new stately dwelling that had been built for the fowls and ducks belonging to the manor house. It stood there where once the old knightly building had stood with its tower, its pointed gables, its moat, and its drawbridge. Close by it was a wilderness of trees and thicket; here the garden had been, and had stretched out to a great lake, which was now moorland. Crows and choughs flew screaming over the old trees, and there were crowds of birds; they did not seem to get fewer when any one shot among them, but seemed rather to increase. One heard the screaming into the poultry-house, where Poultry Meg sat with the ducklings running to and fro over her wooden shoes. She knew every fowl and every duck from the moment it crept out of the shell; and she was fond of her fowls and her ducks, and proud of the stately house that had been built for them. Her own little room in the house was clean and neat, for that was the wish of the gracious lady to whom the house belonged. She often came in the company of grand noble guests, to whom she showed “the hens’ and ducks’ barracks,” as she called the little house.

Here were a clothes cupboard, and an, arm-chair, and even a chest of drawers; and on these drawers a polished metal plate had been placed, whereon was engraved the word “Grubbe,” and this was the name of the noble family that had lived in the house of old. The brass plate had been found when they were digging the foundation; and the clerk has said it had no value except in being an old relic. The clerk knew all about the place, and about the old times, for he had his knowledge from books, and many a memorandum had been written and put in his table-drawer. But the oldest of the crows perhaps knew more than he, and screamed it out in her own language; but that was the crow’s language, and the clerk did not understand that, clever as he was.

After the hot summer days the mist sometimes hung over the moorland as if a whole lake were behind the old trees, among which the crows and the daws were fluttering; and thus it had looked when the good Knight Grubbe had lived here—when the old manor house stood with its thick red walls. The dog-chain used to reach in those days quite over the gateway; through the tower one went into a paved passage which led to the rooms; the windows were narrow, and the panes were small, even in the great hall where the dancing used to be; but in the time of the last Grubbe, there had been no dancing in the hall within the memory of man, although an old drum still lay there that had served as part of the music. Here stood a quaintly carved cupboard, in which rare flower-roots were kept, for my Lady Grubbe was fond of plants and cultivated trees and shrubs. Her husband preferred riding out to shoot wolves and boars; and his little daughter Marie always went with him part of the way. When she was only five years old, she would sit proudly on her horse, and look saucily round with her great black eyes. It was a great amusement to her to hit out among the hunting-dogs with her whip; but her father would rather have seen her hit among the peasant boys, who came running up to stare at their lord.

The peasant in the clay hut close by the knightly house had a son named Søren, of the same age as the gracious little lady. The boy could climb well, and had always to bring her down the bird’s nests. The birds screamed as loud as they could, and one of the greatest of them hacked him with its beak over the eye so that the blood ran down, and it was at first thought the eye had been destroyed; but it had not been injured after all. Marie Grubbe used to call him her Søren, and that was a great favor, and was an advantage to Søren’s father—poor Jon, who had one day committed a fault, and was to be punished by riding on the wooden horse. This same horse stood in the courtyard, and had four poles for legs, and a single narrow plant for a back; on this Jon had to ride astride, and some heavy bricks were fastened to his feet into the bargain, that he might not sit too comfortably. He made horrible grimaces, and Søren wept and implored little Marie to interfere. She immediately ordered that Søren’s father should be taken down, and when they did not obey her, she stamped on the floor, and pulled at her father’s sleeve till it was torn to pieces. She would have her way, and she got her way, and Søren’s father was taken down.

Lady Grubbe, who now came up, parted her little daughter’s hair from the child’s brow, and looked at her affectionately; but Marie did not understand why.

She wanted to go to the hounds, and not to her mother, who went down into the garden, to the lake where the water-lily bloomed, and the heads of bulrushes nodded amid the reeds; and she looked at all this beauty and freshness. “How pleasant!” she said. In the garden stood at that time a rare tree, which she herself had planted. It was called the blood-beech—a kind of negro growing among the other trees, so dark brown were the leaves. This tree required much sunshine, for in continual shade it would become bright green like the other trees, and thus lose its distinctive character. In the lofty chestnut trees were many birds’ nests, and also in the thickets and in the grassy meadows. It seemed as though the birds knew that they were protected here, and that no one must fire a gun at them.

Little Marie came here with Søren. He knew how to climb, as we have already said, and eggs and fluffy-feathered young birds were brought down. The birds, great and small, flew about in terror and tribulation; the peewit from the fields, and the crows and daws from the high trees, screamed and screamed; it was just such din as the family will raise to the present day.

“What are you doing, you children?” cried the gentle lady; “that is sinful!”

Søren stood abashed, and even the little gracious lady looked down a little; but then he said, quite short and pretty,

“My father lets me do it!”

“Craw-craw! away-away from here!” cried the great black birds, and they flew away; but on the following day they came back, for they were at home here.

The quiet gentle lady did not remain long at home here on earth, for the good God called her away; and, indeed, her home was rather with Him than in the knightly house; and the church bells tolled solemnly when her corpse was carried to the church, and the eyes of the poor people were wet with tears, for she had been good to them.

When she was gone, no one attended to her plantations, and the garden ran to waste. Grubbe the knight was a hard man, they said; but his daughter, young as she was, knew how to manage him. He used to laugh and let her have her way. She was now twelve years old, and strongly built. She looked the people through and through with her black eyes, rode her horse as bravely as a man, and could fire off her gun like a practiced hunter.

One day there were great visitors in the neighborhood, the grandest visitors who could come. The young King, and his half-brother and comrade, the Lord Ulrik Frederik Gyldenløve. They wanted to hunt the wild boar, and to pass a few days at the castle of Grubbe.

Gyldenløve sat at table next to Marie Grubbe, and he took her by the hand and gave her a kiss, as if she had been a relation; but she gave him a box on the ear, and told him she could not bear him, at which there was great laughter, as if that had been a very amusing thing.

And perhaps it was very amusing, for, five years afterwards, when Marie had fulfilled her seventeenth year, a messenger arrived with a letter, in which Lord Gyldenløve proposed for the hand of the noble young lady. There was a thing for you!

“He is the grandest and most gallant gentleman in the whole country,” said Grubbe the knight; “that is not a thing to despise.”

“I don’t care so very much about him,” said Marie Grubbe; but she did not despise the grandest man of all the country, who sat by the king’s side.

Silver plate, and fine linen and woollen, went off to Copenhagen in a ship, while the bride made the journey by land in ten days. But the outfit met with contrary winds, or with no winds at all, for four months passed before it arrived; and when it came, my Lady Gyldenløve was gone.

“I’d rather lie on coarse sacking than lie in his silken beds,” she declared. “I’d rather walk barefoot than drive with him in a coach!”

Late one evening in November two women came riding into the town of Aarhuus. They were the gracious Lady Gyldenløve (Marie Grubbe) and her maid. They came from the town of Weile, whither they had come in a ship from Copenhagen. They stopped at Lord Grubbe’s stone mansion in Aarhuus. Grubbe was not well pleased with this visit. Marie was accosted in hard words; but she had a bedroom given her, and got her beer soup of a morning; but the evil part of her father’s nature was aroused against her, and she was not used to that. She was not of a gentle temper, and we often answer as we are addressed. She answered openly, and spoke with bitterness and hatred of her husband, with whom she declared she would not live; she was too honorable for that.

A year went by, but it did not go by pleasantly. There were evil words between the father and the daughter, and that ought never to be. Bad words bear bad fruit. What could be the end of such a state of things?

“We two cannot live under the same roof,” said the father one day. “Go away from here to our old manor house; but you had better bite your tongue off than spread any lies among the people.”

And so the two parted. She went with her maid to the old castle where she had been born, and near which the gentle, pious lady, her mother, was lying in the church vault. An old cowherd lived in the courtyard, and was the only other inhabitant of the place. In the rooms heavy black cobwebs hung down, covered with dust; in the garden everything grew just as it would; hops and climbing plants ran like a net between the trees and bushes, and the hemlock and nettle grew larger and stronger. The blood-beech had been outgrown by other trees, and now stood in the shade; and its leaves were green like those of the common trees, and its glory had departed. Crows and choughs, in great close masses, flew past over the tall chestnut trees, and chattered and screamed as if they had something very important to tell one another—as if they were saying, “Now she’s come back again, the little girl who had their eggs and their young ones stolen from them; and as for the thief who had got them down, he had to climb up a leafless tree, for he sat on a tall ship’s mast, and was beaten with a rope’s end if he did not behave himself.”

The clerk told all this in our own times; he had collected it and looked it up in books and memoranda. It was to be found, with many other writings, locked up in his table-drawer.

“Upward and downward is the course of the world,” said he. “It is strange to hear.”

And we will hear how it went with Marie Grubbe. We need not for that forget Poultry Meg, who is sitting in her capital hen-house, in our own time. Marie Grubbe sat down in her times, but not with the same spirit that old Poultry Meg showed.

The winter passed away, and the spring and the summer passed away, and the autumn came again, with the damp, cold sea-fog. It was a lonely, desolate life in the old manor house. Marie Grubbe took her gun in her hand and went out to the heath, and shot hares and foxes, and whatever birds she could hit. More than once she met the noble Sir Palle Dyre, of Nørrebæk, who was also wandering about with his gun and his dogs. He was tall and strong, and boasted of this when they talked together. He could have measured himself against the deceased Mr. Brockenhuus, of Egeskov, of whom the people still talked. Palle Dyre had, after the example of Brockenhuus, caused an iron chain with a hunting-horn to be hung in his gateway; and when he came riding home, he used to seize the chain, and lift himself and his horse from the ground, and blow the horn.

“Come yourself, and see me do that, Dame Marie,” he said. “One can breathe fresh and free at Nørrebæk.”

When she went to his castle is not known, but on the altar candlestick in the church of Nørrebæk it was inscribed that they were the gift of Palle Dyre and Marie Grubbe, of Nørrebæk Castle.

A great stout man was Palle Dyre. He drank like a sponge. He was like a tub that could never get full; he snored like a whole sty of pigs, and he looked red and bloated.

“He is treacherous and malicious,” said Dame Pally Dyre, Grubbe’s daughter. Soon she was weary of her life with him, but that did not make it better.

One day the table was spread, and the dishes grew cold. Palle Dyre was out hunting foxes, and the gracious lady was nowhere to be found. Towards midnight Palle Dyre came home, but Dame Dyre came neither at midnight, nor next morning. She had turned her back upon Nørrebæk, and had ridden away without saying good-bye.

It was gray, wet weather; the wind grew cold, and a flight of black screaming birds flew over her head. They were not so homeless as she.

First she journeyed southward, quite down into the German land. A couple of golden rings with costly stones were turned into money; and then she turned to the east, and then she turned again and went towards the west. She had no food before her eyes, and murmured against everything, even against the good God himself, so wretched was her soul. Soon her body became wretched too, and she was scarcely able to move a foot. The peewit flew up as she stumbled over the mound of earth where it had built its nest. The bird cried, as it always cried, “You thief! you thief!” She had never stolen her neighbor’s goods; but as a little girl she had caused eggs and young birds to be taken from the trees, and she thought of that now.

From where she lay she could see the sand-dunes. By the seashore lived fishermen; but she could not get so far, she was so ill. The great white sea-mews flew over her head, and screamed as the crows and daws screamed at home in the garden of the manor house. The birds flew quite close to her, and at last it seemed to her as if they became black as crows, and then all was night before her eyes.

When she opened her eyes again, she was being lifted and carried. A great strong man had taken her up in his arms, and she was looking straight into his bearded face. He had a scar over one eye, which seemed to divide the eyebrow into two parts. Weak as she was, he carried her to the ship, where he got a rating for it from the captain.

The next day the ship sailed away. Madame Grubbe had not been put ashore, so she sailed away with it. But she will return, will she not? Yes, but where, and when?

The clerk could tell about this too, and it was not a story which he patched together himself. He had the whole strange history out of an old authentic book, which we ourselves can take out and read. The Danish historian, Ludwig Holberg, who has written so many useful books and merry comedies, from which we can get such a good idea of his times and their people, tells in his letters of Marie Grubbe, where and how he met her. It is well worth hearing; but for all that, we don’t at all forget Poultry Meg, who is sitting cheerful and comfortable in the charming fowl-house.

The ship sailed away with Marie Grubbe. That’s where we left off.

Long years went by.

The plague was raging at Copenhagen; it was in the year 1711. The Queen of Denmark went away to her German home, the King quitted the capital, and everybody who could do so hurried away. The students, even those who had board and lodging gratis, left the city. One of these students, the last who had remained in the free college, at last went away too. It was two o’clock in the morning. He was carrying his knapsack, which was better stacked with books and writings than with clothes. A damp mist hung over the town; not a person was to be seen in the streets; the street-doors around were marked with crosses, as a sign that the plague was within, or that all the inmates were dead. A great wagon rattled past him; the coachman brandished his whip, and the horses flew by at a gallop. The wagon was filled with corpses. The young student kept his hand before his face, and smelt at some strong spirits that he had with him on a sponge in a little brass scent-case. Out of a small tavern in one of the streets there were sounds of singing and of unhallowed laughter, from people who drank the night through to forget that the plague was at their doors, and that they might be put into the wagon as the others had been. The student turned his steps towards the canal at the castle bridge, where a couple of small ships were lying; one of these was weighing anchor, to get away from the plague-stricken city.

“If God spares our lives and grants us a fair wind, we are going to Gronmud, near Falster,” said the captain; and he asked the name of the student who wished to go with him.

“Ludvig Holberg,” answered the student; and the name sounded like any other. But now there sounds in it one of the proudest names of Denmark; then it was the name of a young, unknown student.

The ship glided past the castle. It was not yet bright day when it was in the open sea. A light wind filled the sails, and the young student sat down with his face turned towards the fresh wind, and went to sleep, which was not exactly the most prudent thing he could have done.

Already on the third day the ship lay by the island of Falster.

“Do you know any one here with whom I could lodge cheaply?” Holberg asked the captain.

“I should think you would do well to go to the ferry-woman in Borrehaus,” answered the captain. “If you want to be very civil to her, her name is Mother Søren Sørensen Muller. But it may happen that she may fly into a fury if you are too polite to her. The man is in custody for a crime, and that’s why she manages the ferry-boat herself—she has fists of her own.”

The student took his knapsack and betook himself to the ferry-house. The house door was not locked—it opened, and he went into a room with a brick floor, where a bench, with a great coverlet of leather, formed the chief article of furniture. A white hen, who had a brood of chickens, was fastened to the bench, and had overturned the pipkin of water, so that the wet ran across the floor. There were no people either here or in the adjoining room; only a cradle stood there, in which was a child. The ferry-boat came back with only one person in it. Whether that person was a man or a woman was not an easy matter to determine. The person in question was wrapped in a great cloak, and wore a kind of hood. Presently the boat lay to.

It was a woman who got out of it and came into the room. She looked very stately when she straightened her back; two proud eyes looked forth from beneath her black eyebrows. It was Mother Søren, the ferry-wife. The crows and daws might have called out another name for her, which we know better.

She looked morose, and did not seem to care to talk; but this much was settled, that the student should board in her house for an indefinite time, while things looked so bad in Copenhagen.

This or that honest citizen would often come to the ferry-house from the neighboring little town. There came Frank the cutler, and Sivert the exciseman. They drank a mug of beer in the ferry-house, and used to converse with the student, for he was a clever young man, who knew his “Practica,” as they called it; he could read Greek and Latin, and was well up in learned subjects.

“The less one knows, the less it presses upon one,” said Mother Søren.

“You have to work hard,” said Holberg one day, when she was dipping clothes in the strong soapy water, and was obliged herself to split the logs for the fire.

“That’s my affair,” she replied.

“Have you been obliged to toil in this way from your childhood?”

“You can read that from my hands,” she replied, and held out her hands, that were small indeed, but hard and strong, with bitten nails. “You are learned, and can read.”

At Christmas-time it began to snow heavily. The cold came on, the wind blue sharp, as if there were vitriol in it to wash the people’s faces. Mother Søren did not let that disturb her; she threw her cloak around her, and drew her hood over her head. Early in the afternoon—it was already dark in the house—she laid wood and turf on the hearth, and then she sat down to darn her stockings, for there was no one to do it for her. Towards evening she spoke more words to the student than it was customary with her to use; she spoke of her husband.

“He killed a sailor of Dragor by mischance, and for that he has to work for three years in irons. He’s only a common sailor, and therefore the law must take its course.”

“The law is there for people of high rank, too,” said Holberg.

“Do you think so?” said Mother Søren; then she looked into the fire for a while; but after a time she began to speak again. “Have you heard of Kai Lykke, who caused a church to be pulled down, and when the clergyman, Master Martin, thundered from the pulpit about it, he had him put in irons, and sat in judgment upon him, and condemned him to death? Yes, and the clergyman was obliged to bow his head to the stroke. And yet Kai Lykke went scot-free.”

“He had a right to do as he did in those times,” said Holberg; “but now we have left those times behind us.”

“You may get a fool to believe that,” cried Mother Søren; and she got up and went into the room where the child lay. She lifted up the child, and laid it down more comfortably. Then she arranged the bed-place of the student. He had the green coverlet, for he felt the cold more than she, though he was born in Norway.

On New Year’s morning it was a bright sunshiny day. The frost had been so strong, and was still so strong, that the fallen snow had become a hard mass, and one could walk upon it. The bells of the little town were tolling for church. Student Holberg wrapped himself up in his woollen cloak, and wanted to go to the town.

Over the ferry-house the crows and daws were flying with loud cries; one could hardly hear the church bells for their screaming. Mother Søren stood in front of the house, filling a brass pot with snow, which she was going to put on the fire to get drinking water. She looked up to the crowd of birds, and thought her own thoughts.

Student Holberg went to church. On his way there and on his return he passed by the house of tax-collector Sivert, by the town-gate. Here he was invited to take a mug of brown beer with treacle and sugar. The discourse fell upon Mother Søren, but the tax collector did not know much about her, and, indeed, few knew much about her. She did not belong to the island of Falster, he said; she had a little property of her own at one time. Her husband was a common sailor, a fellow of a very hot temper, and had killed a sailor of Dragor; and he beat his wife, and yet she defended him.

“I should not endure such treatment,” said the tax-collector’s wife. “I am come of more respectable people. My father was stocking-weaver to the Court.”

“And consequently you have married a governmental official,” said Holberg, and made a bow to her and to the collector.

It was on Twelfth Night, the evening of the festival of the Three Kings, Mother Søren lit up for Holberg a three-king candle, that is, a tallow candle with three wicks, which she had herself prepared.

“A light for each man,” said Holberg.

“For each man?” repeated the woman, looking sharply at him.

“For each of the wise men from the East,” said Holberg.

“You mean it that way,” said she, and then she was silent for a long time. But on this evening he learned more about her than he had yet known.

“You speak very affectionately of your husband,” observed Holberg, “and yet the people say that he ill-uses you every day.”

“That’s no one’s business but mine,” she replied. “The blows might have done me good when I was a child; now, I suppose, I get them for my sins. But I know what good he has done me,” and she rose up. “When I lay sick upon the desolate heath, and no one would have pity on me, and no one would have anything to do with me, except the crows and daws, which came to peck me to bits, he carried me in his arms, and had to bear hard words because of the burden he brought on board ship. It’s not in my nature to be sick, and so I got well. Every man has his own way, and Søren has his; but the horse must not be judged by the halter. Taking one thing with another, I have lived more agreeably with him than with the man whom they called the most noble and gallant of the King’s subjects. I have had the Stadtholder Gyldenløve, the King’s half-brother, for my husband; and afterwards I took Palle Dyre. One is as good as another, each in his own way, and I in mine. That was a long gossip, but now you know all about me.”

And with those words she left the room.



It was Marie Grubbe! so strangely had fate played with her. She did not live to see many anniversaries of the festival of the Three Kings; Holberg has recorded that she died in June, 1716; but he has not written down, for he did not know, that a number of great black birds circled over the ferry-house, when Mother Søren, as she was called, was lying there a corpse. They did not scream, as if they knew that at a burial silence should be observed. So soon as she lay in the earth, the birds disappeared; but on the same evening in Jutland, at the old manor house, an enormous number of crows and choughs were seen; they all cried as loud as they could, as if they had some announcement to make. Perhaps they talked of him who, as a little boy, had taken away their eggs and their young; of the peasant’s son, who had to wear an iron garter, and of the noble young lady, who ended by being a ferryman’s wife.

“Brave! brave!” they cried.

And the whole family cried, “Brave! brave!” when the old house was pulled down.

“They are still crying, and yet there’s nothing to cry about,” said the clerk, when he told the story. “The family is extinct, the house has been pulled down, and where it stood is now the stately poultry-house, with gilded weathercocks, and the old Poultry Meg. She rejoices greatly in her beautiful dwelling. If she had not come here,” the old clerk added, “she would have had to go into the work-house.”

The pigeons cooed over her, the turkey-cocks gobbled, and the ducks quacked.

“Nobody knew her,” they said; “she belongs to no family. It’s pure charity that she is here at all. She has neither a drake father nor a hen mother, and has no descendants.”

She came of a great family, for all that; but she did not know it, and the old clerk did not know it, though he had so much written down; but one of the old crows knew about it, and told about it. She had heard from her own mother and grandmother about Poultry Meg’s mother and grandmother. And we know the grandmother too. We saw her ride, as child, over the bridge, looking proudly around her, as if the whole world belonged to her, and all the birds’ nests in it; and we saw her on the heath, by the sand-dunes; and, last of all, in the ferry-house. The granddaughter, the last of her race, had come back to the old home, where the old castle had stood, where the black wild birds were screaming; but she sat among the tame birds, and these knew her and were fond of her. Poultry Meg had nothing left to wish for; she looked forward with pleasure to her death, and she was old enough to die.

“Grave, grave!” cried the crows.

And Poultry Meg has a good grave, which nobody knew except the old crow, if the old crow is not dead already.

And now we know the story of the old manor house, of its old proprietors, and of all Poultry Meg’s family.

 

Lucky Peer
 

I.

IN the principal street there stood a fine old-fashioned house; the wall about the court-yard had bits of glass worked into it, so that when the sun or moon shone, it was as if covered with diamonds. That was a sign of wealth, and there was wealth inside there; folks said that the merchant was a man who could just put away two barrels of gold in his best parlor; yes, could put a heap of gold-pieces, as a savings bank against the future, outside the door of the room where his little son was born.

This little fellow had arrived in the rich house. There was great joy from cellar up to the garret; and up there, there was still greater joy an hour or two afterward. The warehouseman and his wife lived up there, and here too there entered just then a little son, given by our Lord, brought by the stork, and exhibited by the mother. And here too there was a heap outside the door, quite accidentally; but it was not a gold-heap—it was a heap of sweepings.

The rich merchant was a very considerate, good man; his wife, delicate and gentle-born, dressed well, was pious, and, besides, was kind and good to the poor. Everybody congratulated these two people on now having a little son, who would grow up, and, like his father, be rich and happy. At the font the little boy was called “FELIX,” which means in Latin “lucky,” and that he was, and his parents still more.

The warehouseman, a right sound fellow, and good to the bottom of his heart, and his wife, an honest and industrious woman, were blessed by all who knew them; how lucky they were at getting their little boy, and he was called “PEER !”1

The boy on the first floor and the boy in the garret each got just as many kisses from his parents, and just as much sunshine from our Lord; but still they were placed a little differently,—one down-stairs, and one up. Peer sat the highest, away up in the garret, and he had his own mother for a nurse; little Felix had a stranger for his nurse, but she was a good and honest girl—you could see that in her character-book. The rich child had a pretty little wagon, and was drawn about by his spruce nurse; the child from the garret was carried in the arms of his own mother, both when he was in his Sunday clothes, and when he had his every-day things on; and he was just as much pleased.

They were both pretty children, they both kept growing, and soon could show with their hands how tall they were, and say single words in their mother tongue. Equally sweet, equally dainty and petted were they both. As they grew up they had a like pleasure out of the merchant’s horses and carriages. Felix got permission from his nurse to sit by the coachman and look at the horses; he fancied himself driving. Peer got permission to sit at the garret window and look down into the yard when the master and mistress went out to drive, and when they were fairly gone, he placed two chairs, one in front, the other behind, up there in the room, and so he drove himself; he was the real coachman— that was a little more than fancying himself to be the coachman.

They had noticed each other, these two, but it was not until they were two years old that they spoke to each other. Felix went elegantly dressed in silk and velvet, with bare knees, after the English style. “The poor child will freeze!” said the family in the garret. Peer had trousers that came down to his ankles, but one day his clothes were torn right across his knees, so that he had as much of a draught, and was just as much undressed as the merchant’s little delicate boy. Felix came with his mother and wanted to go out; Peer came with his, and wanted to go in.

“Give little Peer your hand,” said the merchant’s lady. “You two can talk to each other.”

And one said “Peer!” and the other said “Felix!” Yes, that was all they said that time.

The rich lady petted her boy, but there was one who petted Peer just as much, and that was his grandmother. She was weak-sighted, and yet she saw much more in little Peer than his father or mother could see; yes, more than anybody at all could discover.

“The dear child,” said she, “is going to get on in the world. He is born with a gold apple in his hand. There is the shining apple!” And she kissed the child’s little hand. His parents could see nothing, nor Peer either, but as he grew to know more, no doubt he would find that out too.

“That is such a story, such a real wonder-story, that grandmother tells!” said the parents.

Indeed grandmother could tell stories, and Peer was never tired of hearing always the same ones. She taught him a psalm and to repeat the Lord’s Prayer, and he knew it not as a gabble but as words which meant some-thing; every single petition in it she explained to him. Especially he thought about what grandmother said on the words: “Give us this day our daily bread;” he was to understand that it was necessary for one to get wheat bread, for another to get black bread; one must have a great house when he had a great deal of company; another, in small circumstances, could live quite as happily in a little room in the garret. “So each person has what he calls ‘daily bread.’”

Peer had regularly his good daily bread, and very delightful days, too, but they were not to last always. Stern years of war began; the young were to go away, the old to stay at home. Peer’s father was among those who were enrolled, and soon it was heard that he was one of the first who fell in battle against the victorious enemy.

There was terrible grief in the little room in the garret. The mother cried, the grandmother and little Peer cried; and every time one of the neighbors came up to see them, they talked about “father,” and then they cried all together. The widow, meanwhile, received permission, the first year, to lodge rent free, and afterward she was to pay only a small rent. The grandmother stayed with the mother, who supported herself by washing for several “single fine gentlemen,” as she called them. Peer had neither sorrow nor want. He had his fill of meat and drink, and grandmother told him stories so extraordinary and wonderful about the wide world, that he asked her, one day, if they two might not go on Sunday to foreign lands, and come home again as prince and princess, with gold crowns on.

“I am too old for that,” said grandmother; “and you must first learn a terrible lot of things, become great and strong; but you must always be a good and affectionate child—just as you are now.”

Peer rode around the room on hobbyhorses; he had two such; but the merchant’s son had a real live horse; it was so little that it might as well have been called a baby-horse, as Peer called it, and it never could become any bigger. Felix rode it about in the yard; he even rode outside the gate with his father and a riding-master from the king’s stable. For the first half-hour Peer did not like his horses, and would not ride them—they were not real. He asked his mother why he could not have a real horse like little Felix; and his mother said:

“Felix lives down on the first floor, close by the stables, but you live high up, under the roof. One cannot have horses up in the garret except like those you have; do you ride on them.”

And so Peer rode: first to the chest of drawers, the great mountain full of treasures; both Peer’s Sunday clothes and his mother’s were there, and there were the shining silver dollars which she laid aside for rent He rode to the stove, which he called the black bear; it slept all summer long, but when winter came it must do something: warm the room and cook the meals.

Peer had a godfather who usually came every Sunday in winter and got a good warm dinner. It was rather a coming down for him, said the mother and the grandmother. He had begun as a coachman; he took to drink and slept at his post, and that neither a soldier nor a coachman may do. Then he became a carter and drove a cart, and sometimes a drosky for gentlefolk; but now he drove a dirt-cart and went from door to door, swinging his rattle, “snurre-rurre-ud!” and out from all the houses came the girls and housewives with their buckets full, and turned these into the cart: rags and tags, ashes and rubbish were all turned in. One day Peer had come down from the garret, his mother had gone to town, and he stood at the open gate, and there outside was godfather with his cart.

“Will you take a drive?” he asked. Right willingly would Peer, but only as far as the corner. His eyes shone as he sat on the seat alone with godfather and was allowed to hold the whip. Peer drove with real live horses, drove quite to the corner. His mother came along just then; she looked rather dubious. It was not so grand to her to see her own little son riding on a dirt-cart. He must get down at once. Still she thanked godfather; but when they reached home she forbade Peer to take that excursion again.

One day he went again down to the gate. There was no godfather there to entice him off for a drive, but there were other allurements three or four small street urchins were down in the gutter, poking about to see what they could find that had been lost or had hidden itself there. They had often found a button or a copper coin; but they had quite as often scratched themselves with a broken bottle, or pricked themselves with a pin, which was just now the case. Peer must join them, and when he got down among the gutter-stones he found a silver coin.

Another day he was down on his knees again, digging with the other boys. They only got dirty fingers; he found a gold ring, and showed, with sparkling eyes, his lucky find, and then the others threw dirt at him, and called him Lucky Peer; they would not let him be with them then when they poked in the gutter.

Back of the merchant’s yard there was some low ground which was to be filled up for building lots; gravel and ashes were carted and tipped out there. Great heaps lay about. Godfather drove his cart, but Peer was not to drive with him. The street boys dug in the heaps; they dug with a stick and with their bare hands. They were always finding one thing or another which seemed worth picking up. Hither came little Peer. They saw him and cried out:—

“Clear out, Lucky Peer!” And when he came nearer, they flung lumps of dirt at him. One of these struck against his wooden shoe and fell to pieces. Something shining dropped out; Peer took it up; it was a little heart made of amber. He ran home with it. The rest did not notice that even when they threw dirt at him he was a child of luck.

The silver skilling which he had found was laid away in his little savings bank; the ring and the amber heart were shown down stairs to the merchants wife, because the mother wanted to know if they were among the “things found” that ought to be given notice of to the police.

How the eyes of the merchant’s wife shone on seeing the ring! It was no other than her own engagement ring, which she had lost three years before; so long had it lain in the gutter. Peer was well rewarded, and the money rattled in his little box. The amber heart was a cheap thing, the lady said; Peer might just as well keep that. At night the amber heart lay on the bureau, and the grandmother lay in bed.

“Eh! what is it that burns so!” said she. “It looks as if some candle were lighted there.” She got up to see, and it was the little heart of amber. Ah, the grandmother with her weak eyes often saw more than all others could see. Now she had her private thoughts about this. The next morning she took a small strong ribbon, drew it through the opening at the top of the heart, and put it round her little grandson’s neck.

“You must never take it off; except to put a new ribbon into it; and you must not show it either to other boys. If they should take it from you, you would have the stomach-ache!” That was the only dreadful sickness little Peer had thus far known. There was a strange power too in the heart. Grandmother showed him that when she rubbed it with her hand, and a little straw was laid by it, the straw seemed to be alive and sprang to the heart of amber, and would not let it go.

II.
HE merchant’s son had a tutor who heard him say his lessons alone, and walked out with him alone. Peer was also to have an education, so he went to school with a great quantity of other boys. They studied together, and that was more delightful than going alone with a tutor. Peer would not change.

He was a lucky Peer, but godfather was also a lucky Peer,2 for all he was not called Peer. He won a prize in the lottery, of two hundred rix-dollars, on a ticket which he shared with eleven others. He went at once and bought some better clothes, and he looked very well in them. Luck never comes alone, it always has company, and it did this time. Godfather gave up his dirt-cart and joined the theatre.

“For what in the world,” said grandmother. “is he going to the theatre? What does he go as?”

As a machinist. That was a real getting on, and he was now quite another man, and took a wonderful deal of enjoyment in the comedy, which he always saw from the top or from the side. The most charming thing was the ballet, but that indeed gave him the hardest work, and there was always some danger from fire. They danced both in heaven and on earth. That was something for little Peer to see, and one evening when there was to be a dress rehearsal of a new ballet, in which they were all dressed and adorned as in the evening when people pay to see all the fine show, he had permission to bring Peer with him, and put him in a place where he could see the whole.

It was a Scripture ballet—Samson. The Philistines danced about him, and he tumbled the whole house down over them and himself; but there were fire-engines and firemen on hand in case of any accident.

Peer had never seen a comedy, still less a ballet. He put on his Sunday clothes and went with godfather to the theatre. It was just like a great drying-loft, with ever so many curtains and screens, great openings in the floor, lamps and lights. There was a host of nooks and crannies up and down, and people came out from these just as in a great church with its balcony pews.3 The floor went down quite steeply, and there Peer was placed, and told to stay there till it was all finished and he was sent for. He had three sandwiches in his pocket, so that he need not starve.

Soon it grew lighter and lighter: there came up in front, just as if straight out of the earth, a number of musicians with both flutes and violins. At the side where Peer sat people came dressed as if they were in the street; but there came also knights with gold helmets, beautiful maidens in gauze and flowers, even angels all in white with wings on their hacks. They were placed up and down, on the floor and up in the “balcony pews,” to be looked at. They were the whole force of the ballet dancers; but Peer did not know that. He believed they belonged in the fairy tales his grandmother had told him about. Then there came a woman, who was the most beautiful of all, with a gold helmet and spear; she looked out over all the others and sat between an angel and an imp. Ah! how much there was to see, and yet the ballet was not even begun.

There was a moment of quiet. A man dressed in black moved a little fairy wand over all the musicians, and then they began to play, so that there was a whistling of music, and the wall itself began to rise. One looked out on to a flower-garden, where the sun shone, and all the people danced and leaped. Such a wonderful sight had Peer never imagined. There the soldiers marched, and there was fighting, and there where the guilds and the mighty Samson with his love. But she was as wicked as she was beautiful: she betrayed him. The Philistines plucked his eyes out; he had to grind in the mill and be set up for mockery in the dancing hall; but then he laid hold of the strong pillars which held the roof up, and shook them and the whole house; it fell, and there burst forth wonderful flames of red and green fire.

Peer could have sat there his whole life long and looked on, even if the sandwiches were all eaten—and they were all eaten.

Now here was something to tell about when he got home. He was not to be got off to bed. He stood on one leg and laid the other upon the table—that was what Samson’s love and all the other ladies did. He made a treadmill out of grandmother’s chair, and upset two chairs and a bolster over himself to show how the dancing-hall came down. He showed this, and he gave it with all the music that belonged to it; there was no talking in the ballet. He sang high and low, with words and without; there was no connection in it; it was just like a whole opera. The most noticeable thing, meanwhile, of all was his beautiful voice, clear as a bell, but no one spoke of that.

Peer was before to have been a grocer’s boy, to mind prunes and lump sugar; now he found there was something very much finer, and that was to get into the Samson story and dance in the ballet. There were a great many poor children that went that way, said the grandmother, and became fine and honored people; still no little girl of her family should ever get permission to go that way; a boy—well, he stood more firmly.

Peer had not seen a single one of the little girls fall before the whole house fell, and then they all fell together, he said.

Peer certainly must be a ballet-dancer.

“He gives me no rest!” said his mother. At last, his grandmother promised to take him one day to the ballet-master, who was a fine gentleman, and had his own house, like the merchant. Would Peer ever get to that? Nothing is impossible for our Lord. Peer had a gold apple in his hand when he was a child. Such had lain in his hands; perhaps it was also in his legs.

Peer went to the ballet-master, and knew him at once; it was Samson himself. His eyes had not suffered at all at the hands of the Philistines. That was only a part of the play, he was told. And Samson looked kindly and pleasantly on him, and told him to stand up straight, look right at him, and show him his ankle. Peer showed his whole foot, and leg too.

“So he got a place in the ballet,” said grandmother.

It was easily brought about at the ballet-master’s house; but first his mother and grandmother must needs make other preparations, and talk with people who knew about these things; first with the merchant’s wife, who thought it a good career for a pretty, well-formed boy without any prospect, like Peer. Then they talked with Miss Frandsen; she understood all about the ballet. At one time, in the younger days of grandmother, she had been the most favorite danseuse at the theatre; she had danced goddesses and princesses, had been cheered and applauded whenever she came out; but then she grew older,—we all do—and then she no longer had principal parts; she had to dance behind the younger ones; and finally she went behind all the dancers quite into the dressing-room, where The dressed the others to be goddesses and princesses.

“So it goes!” said Miss Frandsen. “The theatre road is a delightful one to travel, but it is full of thorns. Chicane grows there,—chicane!”

That was a word Peer did not understand; but he came to understand it quite well.

“He is determined to go into the ballet,” said his mother.

“He is a pious Christian child, that he is,” said grandmother.

“And well brought up,” said Miss Frandsen. “ Well bred and moral! that was I in my heyday.”

And so Peer went to dancing-school, and got some summer clothes and thin-soled dancing-shoes to make it easier. All the old dancers kissed him, and said that he was a boy good enough to eat.

He was told to stand up, stick his legs out, and hold on by a post so as not to fall, while he learned to kick first with his right leg, then with his left. It was not so hard for him as for most of the others. The ballet-master clapped him on the back and said he would soon be in the ballet; he should be a king’s child, who was carried on shields and wore a gold crown. That was practised at the dancing school, and rehearsed at the theatre itself.

The mother and grandmother must go to see little Peer in all his glory, and they looked, and they both cried, for all it was so splendid. Peer in all his glory and show had not seen them at all; but the merchant’s family he had seen; they sat in the loge nearest the stage. Little Felix was with them in his test clothes. He wore buttoned gloves, just like grown-up gentlemen, and sat with an opera-glass at his eyes the whole evening, although he could see perfectly well—again just like grown-up gentlemen. He looked at Peer. Peer looked at him; and Peer was a king’s child with a gold crown on. This evening brought the two children in closer relation to one another.

Some days after, as they met each other in the yard, Felix went up to Peer and told him he had seen him when he was a prince. He knew very well that he was not a prince any longer, but then he had worn a prince’s clothes and had a gold crown on.

“I shall wear them again on Sunday,” said Peer.

Felix did not see him then, but he thought about it the whole evening. He would have liked very well to be in Peer’s shoes; he had not Miss Frandsen’s warning that the theatre way was a thorny one, and that chicane grew on it; neither did Peer know this yet, but he would very soon learn it.

His young companions the dancing children were not all as good as they ought to be for all that they sometimes were angels with wings to them. There was a little girl, Malle Knallemp, who always, when she was dressed as page, and Peer was a page, stepped maliciously on the side of his foot, so as to see his stockings; there was a bad boy who always was sticking pins in his back, and one day he ate Peer’s sandwiches by mistake; but that was impossible, for Peer had some meat-pie with his sandwich, and the other boy had only bread and butter. He could not have made a mistake.

It would be in vain to recite all the vexations that Peer endured in the two years, and the worst was not yet,—that was to come. There was a ballet to be brought out called The Vampire. In it the smallest dancing children were dressed as bats; wore gray tights that fitted snugly to their bodies; black gauze wings were stretched from their shoulders, and so they were to run on tiptoe, as if they were just flying, and then they were to whirl round on the floor. Peer could do this especially well; but his trousers and jacket, all of one piece, were old and worn; the threads did not hold together; so that, just as he whirled round before the eyes of all the people, there was a rip right down his back, straight from his neck down to where the legs are fastened in, and all his short, little white shirt was to be seen.

All the people laughed. Peer saw it, and knew that he was ripped all down the back; he whirled and whirled, but it grew worse and worse. Folks laughed louder and louder; the other vampires laughed with them, and whirled into him, and all the more dreadfully when the people clapped and shouted bravo!

“That is for the ripped vampire!” said the dancing children; and so they always called him “Ripperip.”

Peer cried; Miss Frandsen comforted him. “’Tis only chicane,” said she; and now Peer knew what chicane was.

Besides the dancing-school, they had another one attached to the theatre, where the children were taught to cipher and write, to learn history and geography; ay, they had a teacher in religion, for it is not enough to know how to dance there is something more in the world than wearing out dancing-shoes. Here, too, Peer was quick,—the very luckiest of all,—and got plenty of good marks; but his companions still called him “Ripperip.” It was only a joke; but at last he would not stand it any longer, and he struck out and boxed one of the boys, so that he was black and blue under the left eye, and had to have it whitened in the evening when he was to go in the ballet. Peer was talked to sharply by the dancing-master, and more harshly by the sweeping-woman, for it was her son he had punished.

III.
GOOD many thoughts went through little Peer’s head, and one Sunday, when he had his best clothes on, he started out without saying a word about it to his mother or grandmother, not even to Miss Frandsen, who always gave him good advice, straight to the chapel-master; he thought this man was the most important one there was outside the ballet. He stepped boldly in and said:—

“I am at the dancing-school, but there is so much chicane, and I would much rather be a player or a singer, if you please.”

“Have you a voice?” asked the chapel-master, and looked quite pleasantly at him. “Seems to me I know you. Where have I seen you before? Was it not you who was ripped down the back?“ and now he laughed. But Peer grew red; he was surely no longer Lucky Peer, as his grandmother had called him. He looked down at his feet and wished himself away.

“Sing me a song!” said the chapel-master. “Nay, cheer up, my lad” and he tapped him under the chin, and Peer looked up into his kind eyes and sang a song which he had heard at the theatre in the opera “Robert le Diable”—“Grace à moi.”

“That is a difficult song, hot you make it go,” said the chapel-master. “You have an excellent voice—when it is not ripped in the back!” and he laughed and called his wife. She also must hear Peer sing, and she nodded her head and said something in a foreign tongue. Just at that moment the singing-master of the theatre came in; it was he to whom Peer should have gone if he wanted to get among the singers; now he came of himself, (quite accidentally, as it were; he heard him also sing “Grace à moi,” but he did not laugh, and he did not look so kindly on him as the chapel-master and his wife; still it was decided that Peer should have singing-lessons.

“Now he has got on the right track,” said Miss Frandsen. “One gets along a great deal farther with a voice than with legs. If I had had a voice, I should have been a great songstress, and perhaps a baroness now.”

“Or a bookbinder’s lady,” said mother. “Had you become rich, you would have had the bookbinder any way.”

We do not understand that hint; but Miss Frandsen did.

Peer must sing for her, and sing for the merchant’s family, when they heard of his new career. He was called in one evening when they had company down-stairs, and he sang several songs—for one. “Grace à moi.” All the company clapped their hands, and Felix with them; he had heard him sing before; in the stable Peer had sung the entire ballet of Samson, and that was the most delightful of all.

“One cannot sing a ballet,” said the lady.

“Yes, Peer could,” said Felix, and so he was bidden do it. He sang and he talked, he drummed and hummed: it was child’s play, but there came snatches of well-known melodies, which did not give an ill idea of what the ballet meant. All the company found it very entertaining; they laughed and praised it, one louder than another. The merchant’s lady gave Peer a great piece of cake and a silver dollar.

How lucky the boy felt, till his eyes rested on a gentleman who stood somewhat back, and looked sternly at him. There was something harsh and severe in the man’s black eyes; he did not laugh; he did not speak a single friendly word, and this gentleman was the theatre’s singing-master.




PEER AND THE CHAPEL-MASTER.
Next morning, Peer was to go to him, and he stood there quite as severe-looking as before.

“What possessed you yesterday!” said he. “Could you not understand that they were making a fool of you? Never do that again, and don’t you go running about and singing at doors, outside or in. Now you can go. I’ll not have any singing with you today.”

Peer was dreadfully cast down; he had fallen out of the master’s good grace. Nevertheless the master was really better satisfied with him than ever before. In all the absurdity which he had scraped together, there was some meaning, something not at all common. The lad had an ear for music, and a voice clear as a bell and of great compass; if it continued like that, then the little man’s fortune was made.

Now began the singing-lessons; Peer was industrious arid quick. How much there was to learn! how much to know! The mother toiled and slaved that her son might go well dressed and neat, and not look too mean among the people to whose houses he now went. He was always singing and trolling; they had no need at all of a canary-bird, the mother said. Every Sunday must he sing a psalm with his grandmother, It was charming to hear his fresh voice lift itself up with hers. “It is much more beautiful than to hear him sing wildly;” that was what she called his singing, when, like a little bird, he trolled with his voice, and gave forth tones which seemed to come of themselves, and make such music as they pleased. What tunes there were in his little throat, what sounding music in his little breast! Indeed he could imitate a whole orchestra. There were both flute and bassoon in his voice, violin and bugle. He sang as the birds sing; but mans voice is most charming, even a little mans, when he can sing like Peer.

But in the winter, just as he was to go to the priest to be prepared for confirmation, he caught cold; the little bird in his breast said pip the voice was ripped like the vampire’s back-piece.

“It is no great misfortune,” thought mother and grandmother; “now he doesn’t go singing tra la, and thus he can think more seriously about his Christianity.”

His voice was changing, the singing-master said. Peer must now not sing at all. How long would it be? A year, perhaps two; perhaps the voice would never come again. That was a great grief.

“Think now only of the confirmation,” said mother and grandmother. “Apply yourself to music,” said the singing-master, “but hold your mouth!”

He thought of his “Christianity,” and he studied music. There was singing and playing going on inside him; he wrote entire melodies down in notes, songs without words. Finally he wrote the words, too.

“Really, thou art a poet, little Peer,” said the merchant’s wife, to whom he carried his text and music. The merchant received a piece of music dedicated to him—a piece without words. Felix also got one, and so did Miss Frandsen, and that went into her album, in which were verses and music by two who were once young lieutenants, but now were old majors on half-pay. The book was given by “a friend,” who had himself bound it.

And Peer “stood” at Easter, as they say. Felix presented him with a silver watch. It was the first watch Peer had owned; it seemed to him that he was a man already when he did not need to ask others what o’clock it was. Felix came up to the garret, congratulated him, and handed him the watch; he himself was not to “stand” until the autumn. They took each other by the hand, these two children of the house, both just the same age, born the same day and in the same house; and Felix ate of the cake which had been baked in the garret on occasion of the confirmation.

“It is a glad day with solemn thoughts,” said grandmother.

“Yes, very solemn!” said mother. “Had father only lived to see Peer stand!”

The next Sunday they all three sat at Our Lord’s table. As they came from church there came a message from the singing-master, asking Peer to come to him, and Peer went. Some good news awaited him, and yet pretty serious, too. He was to give up singing for a year altogether; his voice was to lie fallow like a field, as a peasant might say; but during that time he was to go to school, not in the capital, where every evening he would be running to the theatre, from which he could not keep away; he was to go thirty miles away from home, to board with a schoolmaster, who kept a lad or two en pension. There he was to learn language and science, which would one day be of service to him. The charge for a year’s course was three hundred rix-dollars, and that was paid by a “benevolent man who did not wish his name given.”

“It is the merchant,” said mother and grandmother.

The day of departure came. A good many tears were shed and kisses and blessings given; and then Peer rode thirty miles1 on the railway out into the wide world. it was Whitsuntide. The sun shone, the woods were flesh and green; the train went rushing through them. Fields and villages flitted past; gentlemen’s country-seats peeped out; the cattle stood on the after-crop pastures. Soon there came a station, then another, market town after market town. At each stopping-place there was a hubbub of people, welcoming or saying good-bye; there was noisy talking outside and in the carriages. Where Peer sat there was a deal of entertainment and chattering by a widow dressed in black. She talked about his grave, his coffin, and his corpse—meaning her child’s. It had been such a poor little thing, that there could have been no happiness for it had it lived. It was a great relief for her and the little lamb when it fell asleep.

“I spared no expense in the flowers!” said she; “and you must remember that it died at a very expensive time, when you have to cut the flowers in pots! Every Sunday I went to my grave and laid a wreath on it with great white silk bows; the silk bows were immediately stolen by small girls, and used for dancing bows, they were so attractive. One Sunday when I went there, I knew that my grave was on the left of the principal path, but when I got there, there was my grave on the right. ‘How is this?’ says I to the grave-digger; ‘isn’t my grave on the left?’

“‘No, it isn’t any longer!’ said he. ‘Madam’s grave lies there, to be sure, but the mound has been moved over to the right; that place belongs to another man’s grave.’

“‘But I will have my corpse in my grave,’ says I; ‘and I have a perfect right to say so. Shall I go and dress a false mound, when my corpse lies without any sign on the other side? Indeed I won’t!’

“‘Oh, madam must talk to the dean.’

“He is such a good man, that dean! He gave me permission to have my corpse on the right. It would cost five rix-dollars. I gave that with a kiss of my hand, and stood myself by my old grave. ‘Can I now be very sure that it is my own coffin and my corpse that is moved?’

“‘That madam can!’ And so I gave each of the men a piece of money for the moving. But now, since it had cost so much, I thought I ought to send something to make it beautiful, and so I ordered a monument with an inscription. But, will you believe it, when I got it there was a carving of a butterfly at the top. ‘Why, that means Frivolity,’ said I. ‘I won’t have that on my grave.’

“‘It is not Frivolity, madam, it is Immortality.’

“‘I never heard that,’ said I. Now, have any of you here in the carriage ever heard of a butterfly as a sign for anything except Frivolity? I held my peace. I have no liking for talk, and I put the monument away in my pantry. There it stood till my lodger came home. He is a student, and has ever so many books. He assured me that it stood for Immortality, and so the monument was placed on the grave.”

In the midst of this chatter Peer came to the station where he was to stop, that he, too, might become student, and have ever so many books.

IV.
ERR GABRIEL, the worthy man of learning, with whom Peer was to live as a boarding scholar, was himself at the railway station, waiting to meet him. Herr Gabriel was a lank, bony man, with great staring eyes that stuck out so very far, one was almost afraid that when he sneezed they would start out of his head entirely. He was accompanied by three of his own little boys; one of them stumbled over his own legs, and the other two trod on Peer’s toes in their eagerness to see him close to. Two lamger boys besides were with them,—the older about fourteen years, fair-skinned, freckled, and very pimply.

“Young Madsen, Student in about three years, if he studies! Primus, the dean’s son.” That was the younger, who looked like a head of wheat. “Both are boarders, studying with me,” said Herr Gabriel. “Our little playthings,” he called his own boys.

“Trine, take the new-comer’s trunk on your wheelbarrow. The table is set for you at home.”

“Stuffed turkey!” said the two young gentlemen who were boarders.

“Stuffed turkey!” said the little playthings, and the first again fell over his own legs.

“Cæsar, look after your feet!” exclaimed Herr Gabriel; and they went into the town and out of it. There stood a great half-tumbled-down timber-work house, with a jasmine covered summer-house. Here stood Madame Gabriel, with more small “playthings,” two little girls.

“The new pupil,” said Herr Gabriel.

“Most heartily welcome!” said Madame Gabriel, a youthful, thrifty dame, red and white, with kiss-me-if-you-dare curls, and a good deal of pomade on her hair.

“Good heavens, what a well-grown lad you are!” said she to Peer. “You are quite a gentleman already. I supposed that you were like Primus or young Madsen. Angel Gabriel, it was well that the inner door is nailed. You know what I think.”

“Fudge!” said Herr Gabriel; and they stepped into the room. There was a novel on the table, lying open, and a sandwich on it. One could see that it was used for a book mark—it lay across the open page.

“Now I must be the housewife!” and with all five of the children, and the two boarders, she carried Peer through the kitchen, out by the passage-way, and into a little room, the windows of which looked out on the garden; that was to be his study and sleeping apartment; it was next to Madame Gabriel’s room, where she slept with all the five children, and where the connecting-door, for decency’s sake, and to prevent gossip which spares nobody, had been that very day nailed up by Herr Gabriel, at Madame’s express request.

“Here you are, to live just as if you were at your parents’. We have a theatre, too, in the town. The apothecary is the director of a private company, and we have traveling players. But now you shall have your turkey;” and so she carried Peer into the dining-room, where the week’s wash was drying on a line.

“That doesn’t do any harm,” said she. “It is only cleanliness, and you are accustomed, of course, to that.”

So Peer sat down to the roast turkey, in the midst of the children, but not with the two boarders, who had squeezed themselves in behind, and were now giving a dramatic representation for the entertainment of themselves and the stranger. There had lately been strolling players in town, who had acted Schiller’s “Robbers;” the two oldest boys had been immensely taken with it, and at once performed the whole piece at home—all the parts, notwithstanding they only remembered these words “Dreams come from the stomach.” But they were made use of by all the characters in different tones of voice. There stood Amelia, with heavenly eyes and dreamy looki: “Dreams come from the stomach!” said she, and covered her face with both her hands. Carl Moor came forward with heroic stride and manly voice: “Dreams come from the stomach,” and at that the whole flock of children, boys and girls, tumbled in; they were all robbers, and murdered one another, crying out, “Dreams come from the stomach.”

That was Schiller’s “Robbers.” Peer had this representation and stuffed turkey for his first introduction into Herr Gabriel’s house. Then he betook himself to his little chamber, whose window, into which the sun shone warmly, gave upon the garden. He sat there and looked out. Herr Gabriel was walking there, absorbed in reading a book. He came nearer, and looked in; his eyes seemed fixed upon Peer, who bowed respectfully. Herr Gabriel opened his mouth as wide as he could, thrust his tongue out, and let it wag from one side to the other right in the face of the astonished Peer, who could not understand what in the world he meant by this performance. Then off went Herr Gabriel, but turned back again before the window, and thrust his tongue out of his mouth.

What did he do that for? He was not thinking of Peer, or that the panes of glass were transparent ; he only saw that one on the outside was reflected in them, and he wanted to see his tongue, as he had a stomach-ache; but Peer did not know all this.

Later in the evening Herr Gabriel went into his room, and Peer sat in his. It was quite late. He heard scolding—a woman’s voice scolding in Madame Gabriel’s sleeping chamber.

“I shall go up to Gabriel, and tell him what rascals you are!”

“We should also go to Gabriel and tell him what Madame is.”

“I shall go into fits!” she cried out.

“Who’ll see a woman in a fit! four skillings!”

Then Madame’s voice sank deeper, but distinctly said: “What must the young gentleman in there think of our house at hearing all this plain talk.” At that the scolding grew less, but then again rose louder and louder.

“Finis,” cried Madame. “Go and make the punch; better peace than strife.”

And then it was still. They went out of the door; the girls and Madame knocked on the door to Peer:—

“Young man! now you have some notion what it is to be a housewife. Thank Heaven, you don’t keep girls. I want peace, and so I give them punch. I would gladly give you a glass,—one sleeps so well after it,—but no one dares go through the entry after ten o’clock; my Gabriel will not allow it. But you shall have your punch, nevertheless. There is a great hole stopped up in the door; I will push the stopper out, put the nose of the pitcher in, and do you hold your tumbler under, and so I’ll give you the punch. It is a secret, even from my Gabriel. You must not worry him with household affairs.”

And so peer got his punch, and there was peace in Madame Gabriel’s room, peace and quiet in the whole house. Peer lay down, thought of his mother and grandmother, said his evening prayer, and fell asleep. What one dreams the first night one sleeps in a strange house has special significance, grandmother had said. Peer dreamt that he took the amber heart, which he still constantly wore, laid it in a flower-pot, and it grew into a great tree, up through the loft and the roof; it bore thousands of hearts of silver and gold; the flower-pot broke in two, and it was no longer an amber heart—it had become mould, earth to earth—gone, gone forever! Then Peer awoke; he still had the amber heart, and it was warm, warm on his own warm heart.

V.
ARLY in the morning the first study hours began at Herr Gabriel’s. They studied French. At breakfast the only ones present were the boarders, the children, and Madame. She drank here her second cup of coffee her first she always took in bed. “It is so wholesome, when one is liable to spasms.” She asked Peer what he had studied thus far.

“French,” he replied.

“It is a high cost language!” said she; “it is the diplomatic speech, and the one that is used by people of good blood. I did not study it in my childhood, but when one lives with a learned man one gets of his wisdom, quite as one gets his mother-milk. Thus I have all the necessary words. I am quite confident I should know how to compromise myself in whatever company I happened to be.”2

Madame had won a foreign word, a title, by her marriage with a learned man. She was baptized Mette after a rich aunt, whose heir she was to he. She got the name, but not the inheritance. Herr Gabriel rebaptized Mette into Meta, the Latin for measure. When she was named, all her clothes, woolen and linen, were marked with the letters M. G., Meta Gabriel ; but young Madsen had a boy’s wit, and read in the letters M. G. the character “very good” (Danish Meget godt3), and therefore he added in ink a great interrogation point, and put it on the tablecloth, the towels, and sheets.

“Don’t you like Madame?” asked Peer, when young Madsen made him privately acquainted with this piece of wit. “She is so kind, and Herr Gabriel is so learned.”

“She is a bundle of lies!” said young Madsen; “and Herr Gabriel is a scoundrel. If I were only a corporal, and he a recruit, ugh! how I would give him the flat of my sword!” And there was a blood-thirsty look about young Madsen; his lips grew smaller than their wont, and his whole face seemed one great freckle.

These were dreadful words to hear spoken, and they gave Peer a shock; yet young Madsen had the clearest right to them in his mind. It was a cruel thing on the part of parents and tutor that a fellow should waste his best, most delightful youth in learning grammar, names, and dates which nobody cares anything for, instead of enjoying his liberty and spending his time going about with a gun over his shoulder, like a good shot. “No, one has no business to be shut up and sit on a bench till he falls asleep over a book; Herr Gabriel wants that, and so one gets called lazy and has the character ‘passable,’4 yes, one’s parents get letters about it; so I say Herr Gabriel is a scoundrel.”

“He grips your hand too,” added little Primus, who seemed to agree with young Madsen. It was not at all pleasant for Peer to hear them. But Peer got no “hand grips;” he was too grown up, as Madsen had said. He was not called lazy either, for that he was not; he was to have his hours alone. He was soon well ahead of Madsen and Primus.

“He has ability!” said Herr Gabriel.

“And one can see that he has been to dancing-school!” said Madame.

“We must have him in our dramatic society,” said the apothecary, who lived more for the town’s private theatre than for his apothecary shop. Malicious people applied the old stale witticism, that he had certainly been bitten by a mad player, for he was clean gone mad for the theatre.

“The young scholar is born for a lover,” said the apothecary. “In a couple of years he could be Romeo; and I believe that if he were well painted, and had a little moustache, he could go on the stage very well this winter.”

The Apothecary’s daughter—“great dramatic talent,” said the father; “true beauty,” said the mother—was to be Juliet; Madame Gabriel must be the nurse, and the Apothecary, who was both director and stage-manager, would take the rôle of the apothecary—a slight one, but one of great importance. The whole depended on Herr Gabriel’s permission for Peer to act Romeo. It was plain that it was best to work through Madame Gabriel, and the Apothecary understood that he must first win her over.

“You are born to be nurse,” said he, and thought that he was flattering her exceedingly. “That is assuredly the most complete rôle in the piece,” he continued. “it is the humorous rôle; without it the piece could not be tolerated for its melancholy. No one but you, Madame Gabriel, has the quickness and life that should bubble tip here.”

All very true, she agreed, but her husband would surely never permit his young pupil to contribute those crumbs of time which would have to be given in learning the part of Romeo. She promised, however, to “pump” him, as she called it. The Apothecary began at once to study his part, and especially to think about his make-up. He wished to be a squint-eyed, poor, miserable fellow, and yet a clever man—rather a difficult problem; but Madame Gabriel had a much harder one in “pumping” her husband to the required point. He could not, he said, answer for it to Peer’s guardians, who paid for his schooling and board, if he permitted the young man to play in tragedy. We cannot conceal the fact, however, that Peer had the most intense longing to act. “But it will not do,” said he.

“It’s coming,” said Madame; “only let me keep on pumping.” She would have given punch, but Herr Gabriel did not drink it with any pleasure. Married people are sometimes different. We say this without any offence to Madame.

“One glass and no more,” she said to herself. “It elevates the soul and makes one happy, and thus it behooves us to be—it is our Lord’s will with us.”

Peer was to be Romeo. That was pumped through by Madame. The rehearsals were held at the Apothecary’s. They had chocolate and “ geniuses,” that is to say, small biscuits. They were sold at the bake-shop, twelve for a skilling,5 and they were so exceedingly small, and so many, that it was thought a witticism to call them geniuses.

“It is an easy thing to make fun of one,” said Herr Gabriel, and so he himself gave nicknames to one thing and another. The Apothecary’s house he called “Noah’s Ark with its clean and unclean beasts,” and that was only because of the affection which was shown by the family toward the two and four-footed pets in the house. The young lady had her own cat, Graciosa—a pretty, soft-skinned creature, that lay in the window, in her lap, on her work, or ran over the table spread for dinner. The mistress had a poultry-yard, a duck-yard, a parrot, and canary-birds; and Polly could outcry them all together. Two dogs, Flick and Flock, walked about the chamber; they were not perfumery bottles by any means, and they lay on the sofa and on the matrimonial bed.

The rehearsal began, and was only interrupted a moment by the dogs slobbering over Madame Gabriel’s new gown; but that was out of pure friendship and it did not spot it. The cat also caused a slight disturbance: it would insist on giving its paw to Juliet, sit on her head and beat its tail. Juliet’s tender speeches were divided between the cat and Romeo. Every word that Peer had to say was exactly what he wished to say to the Apothecary’s daughter. How lovely and charming she was, a child of Nature, who, as Madame Gabriel expressed it, went right by the side of her part. Peer grew quite warm about it.

There surely was instinct or something even higher with the cat. It perched on Peer’s shoulders and symbolized the sympathy between Romeo and Juliet; with each successive rehearsal Peer’s ardor grew more manifest and stronger, the cat more confidential, the parrot and the canary-birds more noisy; Flick and Flock ran in and out. The evening of the representation came, and Peer was Romeo himself—he kissed Juliet right on her mouth.

“Quite like nature!” said Madame Gabriel.

“Disgraceful!” said the Councillor, Herr Svendsen, the richest citizen and fattest man in the town. The perspiration ran down him, the house was so warm and he himself was so heated. Peer found no favor in his eyes. “Such a puppy!” said he ; “a puppy so long too that one could crack him in halves and make two puppies of him.”

Great applause—and one enemy! He got off well. Indeed Peer was a Lucky Peer. Tired and overcome by the exertions of the evening and the flattery shown him, he went home to his little chamber. it was past midnight; Madame Gabriel knocked on the wall.

“Romeo! here’s punch!”

And the spout was put through the door. and Peer Romeo held his glass under.

“Good-night, Madame Gabriel.”

But Peer could not sleep. All that he had said. and especially what Juliet had said, buzzed in his head, and when at length he fell asleep, he dreamt of a wedding—a wedding with Miss Frandsen! What singular things one can dream!

VI.
OW get that comedy out of your head!” said Herr Gabriel the next morning, “and let us squeeze in some science.”

Peer had come near to thinking like young Madsen: “that one was giving up his fresh youth when he was shut up and set down with a book in his hand;” but when he sat at his book there shone from it so many noble and good thoughts that Peer found himself quite absorbed in it. He heard of the world’s great men and their achievements so many had been the children of poor people; Themistocles the hero, son of a potter; Shakespeare, a poor weaver’s boy, who when a young man held horses at the door of the theatre, where afterward he was the mightiest man in poetic art of all countries and all time. He heard of the singing contest at Wartburg, where the poets vied to see who would produce the most beautiful poem—a contest like the old trial of the Grecian poets at the great public feasts. Herr Gabriel talked of these with especial delight. Sophocles had in his old age written one of his best tragedies and won the prize of victory over all the others. In this honor and fortune his heart broke with joy. Ah! how blessed to die in the midst of his joy of victory! What Could be more fortunate! Thoughts and dreamings filled the soul of our little friend, but he had no one to whom he could tell them. They would not be intelligible to young Madsen or to Primus, nor to Madame Gabriel either: she was either all good humor, or the sorrowing mother, sitting dissolved in tears. Her two small girls looked with astonishment at her, nor could Peer either discover why she was so overwhelmed with sorrow and grief.

“The poor children” said she then, “a mother is ever thinking of their future. The boys can take care of themselves. Cæsar falls, but he gets up again; the two older ones splash in the water-bowl; they want to be in the navy and make good matches. But my two little girls! what will their future be? They will reach the age when the heart feels, and then know I w’ell that the one they each get attached to will not be at all after Gabriel’s mind; he will give them one they cannot endure, and then will they be so unhappy. That is what I think of as a mother, and that is my sorrow and my grief. You poor children! you to become so unhappy!” She wept.

The little girls looked at her; Peer looked at her with a sympathetic look. He could not think of anything to answer, and so he took himself back to his little room, sat down at the old piano, and forth came tones and fantasies which streamed through his heart.

In the early morning he went with a clear brain to his studies and performed the part assigned to him. He was a conscientious, right-minded fellew; in his diary he recorded what each day he had read and studied, how late he had sat up playing at the piano—always mutely, so as not to waken Madame Gabriel. It never read in his diary, except on Sunday, the day of rest: “Thought of Juliet,” “Was at the Apothecary’s,” “Wrote a letter to mother and grandmother.” Peer was still Romeo and a good son.

“Very industrious!” said Herr Gabriel. “Follow that example, young Madsen. You will be reject.”

“Scoundrel!” said young Madsen to himself; Primus, the dean’s son, suffered from lethargy. “It is a disease,” said the dean’s wife, and he was not to be treated with severity. The deanery was only two miles distant; wealth and fine society were there.

“He will die a bishop!” said Madame Gabriel. “ He has good conjugations at the court, and the deaness is a lady of noble birth. She knows all about Haaltry—that means coats-of-arms.”

It was Whitsuntide. A year had gone by since Peer came to Herr Gabriel’s house. He had acquired an education, but his voice had not returned; would it ever come?

The Gabriel household was invited to the Dean’s to a great dinner and a ball in the evening. A good many guests came from the town and from the manor-houses about. The apothecary’s family were invited; Romeo would see Juliet, perhaps dance the first dance with her.

It was a substantial place, the deanery,—whitewashed and without any manure-heaps in the yard; with a dove-cote painted green, about which twined an ivy vine. The Deaness was a corpulent woman—glaukopis athene. Herr Gabriel called her the blue-eyed, not the ox-eyed, as Juno was called, thought Peer. There was a certain remarkable mildness about her, an endeavor to have an invalid took ; she certainly had Primus’s sickness. She was dressed in a corn-colored silk, wore great curls, caught up on the right by a large medallion portrait of her great-grandmother, a general’s wife, and on the left by an equally large bunch of grapes of white porcelain.

The Dean had a ruddy, well-conditioned countenance, with shining white teeth, well suited to biting into a roast fillet. His conversation was always garnished with anecdotes. He could discourse with everybody, but no one had ever succeeded in carrying on a conversation with him.

The councillor, too, was here, and among the strangers from the manors was Felix, the merchant’s son; he had been confirmed, and was now a young gentleman very elegant in clothes and manners; he was a millionaire, they said. Madame Gabriel had not courage to speak to him.

Peer was overjoyed at seeing Felix, who came forward most cordially to meet him, and said that he brought greetings from his parents, who read all the letters which Peer wrote home to his mother and grandmother.

The dancing began. The Apothecary’s daughter was to dance the first dance with the councillor; that was the promise she had made at home to her mother and the councillor himself. The second dance was promised to Peer; but Felix came and took her out, only vouchsafing a good-natured nod.

“You promised that I should have one dance; the young lady will only give permission when you promise.”

Peer kept a civil face and said nothing, and Felix danced with the Apothecary’s daughter, the most beautiful girl at the ball. He danced the next dance also with her.

“Will you grant me the supper dance?” asked Peer, with a pale face.

“Yes, the supper dance,” she answered, with her most charming smile.

“You surely will not take my partner from me?” said Felix, who stood close by. “It is not friendly. We two old friends from the town! You say that you are so very glad to see me. Then you must allow me the pleasure of taking the lady to supper!” and he put his arm round Peer and laid his forehead jestingly against his. “Granted! isn’t it? granted!”

“No!” said Peer, his eyes sparkling with anger.

Felix gayly raised his arms and set his elbows akimbo, looking like a frog ready to spring:—

“You have perfect right, young gentleman! I would say the same if the supper dance were promised me, sir!” He drew back with a graceful bow to the young lady. But not long after, when Peer stood in a corner and arranged his neck-tie, Felix came, put his arm round his neck, and with the most coaxing look, said:—

“Be splendid! my mother and your mother and old grandmother—they will all say that it is just like you. I am off to-morrow, and I shall be horribly bored if I do not take the young lady to supper. My own friend! my only friend!”

At that Peer, as his only friend, could not hold out; he himself carried Felix to the young beauty.

It was bright morning when the guests the next day drove away from the Dean’s. The Gabriel household was in one carriage, and the whole family went to sleep except Peer and Madame.

She talked about the young merchant, the rich man’s son, who was really Peer’s friend she had heard him say: “Your health, my friend.” “Mother and grandmother.” There was something so “negligent” and gallant in him, she said; “one saw at once that he was the son of rich people, or else a count’s child. That the rest of us can’t claim. One must be able to bow!”

Peer said nothing. He was depressed all day. In the evening, at bed-time, when lying in bed sleep was chased away, and he said to himself: “How they bow and smirk!” That had he done, the rich young fellow; “because one is born poor, he is placed under the favor and condescension of these richly-horn people. Are you then better than we? And why were you created better than we?”

There was something vicious rearing up in him ; something wrong; something which his grandmother would be grieved at. “Poor grandmother! Thou also hast been appointed to poverty. God has known how to do that!” and he felt anger in his heart, and yet at the same time an apprehension that he was sinning in thought and word against the good God. He grieved to think he had lost his child’s mind, and yet he possessed it just by this grief, whole and rich in nature. Happy Peer!

A week after there came a letter from grandmother. She wrote, as she could, great letters and small letters mixed up, all her heart’s love in things small and great that concerned Peer:—



“MY OWN SWEET, BLESSED BOY:—I think of thee, I long for thee, and that too does thy mother. She gets along very well with her washing. And the merchant’s Felix was in to see us yesterday, with a greeting from thee. You had been at the Dean’s ball, and thou wert so honorable; that wilt thou always be, and rejoice the heart of thy old grandmother and thy hard-working mother. She has something to tell you about Miss Frandsen.”



And then followed a postscript from Peer’s mother.



“Miss Frandsen is married, the old thing. The bookbinder Court is become court bookbinder, in accordance with his petition, with a great sign, ‘Court Bookbinder Court!’ And she has become Madame Court. it is an old love that does not rust, my sweet boy.

“THY MOTHER.”


“Second Postscript. Grandmother has knit you six pair of woollen socks, which you will get by the first opportunity. I have laid with them a pork-pie, your favorite dish. I know that you never get it at Herr Gabriel’s, since the lady is so afraid of what—I don’t know exactly how to spell ‘trichines.’ You must not believe that, but only eat.

“THY OWN MOTHER.”


Peer read the letter and read himself happy. Felix was so good; what wrong had he done him! They had separated at the Dean’s without saying good-bye to each other.

“Felix is better than I,” said Peer.

VII.
N a quite life one day glides into the next, and month quickly follows month. Peer was already in the second year of his stay at Herr Gabriel’s, who with great earnestness and determination—Madame called it obstinacy— insisted that he should not again go on the stage.

Peer himself received from the singing-master, who monthly paid the stipend for his instruction and support, a serious admonition not to think of comedy-playing so long as he was placed there; and he obeyed, but his thoughts traveled often to the theatre at the capital. They had but a fancied life there, on the stage where he was to have stood as a great singer; now his voice was gone, nor did it come back, and often was he sorely oppressed thereat. Who could comfort him? neither Herr Gabriel nor Madame; but our Lord surely could. Consolation comes to us in many ways. Peer found it in sleep—he was indeed a lucky Peer.

One night he dreamed that it was Whitsunday, and he was out in the charming green forest, where the sun shone in through the boughs, and where all the ground beneath the trees was covered with anemones and cow-slips. Then the cuckoo began—“Cuckoo!” How many years shall I live? asked Peer, for that people always ask the cuckoo the first time in the year that they hear its note, and the cuckoo answered: “Cuckoo!” but uttered no more and was silent.

“Shall I only live a single year?” asked Peer; “truly that is too little, Be so good as to cuckoo if it is so!” Then began the bird—“Cuckoo! cuckoo!” Aye! it went on without end, and as it went Peer cuckooed with it, and that as lively as if he too were a cuckoo; but his note was stronger and clearer; all the little birds warbled, and Peer sang after them, but far more beautifully; he had all the clear voice of his childhood, and carolled in song. He was so glad at heart, anti then he awoke, but with the assurance that the sounding-board still was in him, that his voice still lived, and some bright Whitsun morning would burst forth in all its freshness; and so he slept, happy in this assurance.

But days and weeks and months passed; he perceived not that his voice came again.

Every bit of intelligence which he could get of the theatre at the capital was a true feast for his soul; it was meat and drink to him. Crumbs are really bread, and he received crumbs thankfully—the poorest little story. There was a flax-dealer’s family living near the Gabriels. The mother, an estimable mistress of her household, brisk and laughing, but without any acquaintance or knowledge of the theatre, had been at the capital for the first time, and was enraptured with everything there, even with the people; they had laughed at everything she had said, she assured them—and that was very likely.

“Were you at the theatre also?” asked Peer.

“That I was,” replied the flax-dealer’s wife. “How I steamed! You ought to have seen me sit and steam in that hot place!”

“But what did they do? What piece did they play?”

“That will I tell you,” said she. “I shall give you the whole comedy. I was there twice. The first evening it was a talking piece. Out came she, the princess: ‘Ahbe, dahbe! abe, dabe!’ how she could talk. Next came the people: ‘Abbe, dahbe! abe, dabe!’ and then down came Madame. Now they began again. The prince, he: ‘Ahbe, dahbe! abe, dabe!’ then down came Madame. She fell down five times that evening. The second time I was there, it was all singing ‘Ahbe, dahbe! abe, dabe!‘ and then down came Madame. There was a country-woman sitting by my side; she bad never been in the theatre, and supposed that it was all over; but I, who now knew all about it, said that when I was there last, Madame was down five times. The singing evening she only did it three times. There I there you have both the comedies, as true to life as I saw them.”

If it was tragedy she saw, Madame always came down. Then it flashed over Peer’s mind what she meant. At the great theatre there was painted upon the curtain which fell between the acts a great female figure, a Muse with the comic and the tragic mask. This was Madame who “came” down. That had been the real comedy; what they said and sang had been to the flax-dealer’s wife only “Ahbe, dahbe! abe, dabe!” but it bad been a great pleasure, and so had it been also to Peer, and not less to Madame Gabriel, who heard this recital of the pieces. She sat with an expression of astonishment and a consciousness of mental superiority, for had she not, as Nurse, been Shakspeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” as the Apothecary said?

“Then down comes Madame,” explained by Peer, became afterward a witty by-word in the house every time a child, a cup, or one or another piece of furniture fell upon the floor in the house.

“That is the way proverbs and familiar sayings arise!” said Herr Gabriel, who appropriated everything to scientific use.

New Year’s eve, at the stroke of twelve, the Gabriels and their boarders stood, each with a glass of punch, the only one Herr Gabriel drank the whole year, because punch makes one’s stomach ache. They drank a health to the new year, and counted the strokes of the clock, “one, two,” till the twelfth stroke. “Down comes Madame!” said they.

The new year rolled up and on. At Whitsuntide Peer had been two years in the house.

VIII.
WO years were gone, but the voice had not come back. How would the future be for our little friend?

He could always be a tutor in a school—that was in Herr Gabriel’s mind—there was a livelihood in that, though nothing to be married on; nor was Peer’s mind quite made up as to how large a share of his heart the apothecary’s daughter had.

“Be a tutor!” said Madame Gabriel; “a schoolmaster! then be the veriest humdrum on earth, just like my Gabriel. No, you are born for the theatre. Be the greatest actor in the world that is something else than being a tutor.”

An actor! ay, that was the goal.

He gave vent to his feelings in a letter to the singing-master; he told of his longing and his hope. Most earnestly did he long for the great city where his mother and grandmother lived, whom he had not seen for two years. The distance was only thirty miles;1 in six hours, by the quick train, that could be passed. Why had they not seen one another? That is easily explained. Peer had, on leaving, been made to give his promise to stay where he should he placed, and not to think of a visit. His mother was busy enough with her washing and ironing. Yet, for all that, she thought a good many times of making the great journey, though it would cost a deal of money, but she never did. Grandmother had a horror of railways; she thought to go by them was to fly in the face of Providence. Nothing could induce her to travel by steam; she was, too, an old woman, and she would take no journey until she took her last one up to our Lord.

That she said in May, but in June the old thing did travel, and quite alone, too, the thirty long miles, to the strange town, to strange people, and all to go to Peer. It was a great occasion, the most sorrowful one that could occur to mother and grandmother.

The cuckoo had said “cuckoo!” without end when Peer the second time asked it, “How many years shall I live?” His health and spirits were good: the future shone brightly. He had received a delightful letter from his fatherly friend, the singing-master. Peer was to go home, and they would see what could be done for him—what course he should pursue if his voice was really gone.

“Appear as Romeo!” said Madame Gabriel; “you are old enough now for the lover’s part, and have got some color in your cheeks; you don’t need to paint.”

“Be Romeo!” said the Apothecary and the Apothecary’s daughter.

Many thoughts went sounding through his head and heart. But

“Nobody knows what to-morrow shall be.”
He sat down below in the garden that stretched out to the meadow. It was evening and moonlight. His cheeks burned, his blood was on fire, the air brought a grateful coolness. There over the moor a mist hung that rose and sank and made him think of the dance of the Elfin maidens. There came into his mind the old saving of the Knight Olaf, who rode out to ask the guests to nis wedding, but was stopped by the Elfin maidens, who drew him into their dance and sport, and thereby came his death. It was a piece of folk lore, an old poem. The moonlight and the mist over the moor painted pictures for it this evening.

Peer sat and soon was in a half dreaming state, looking out upon it all. The bushes seemed to have shapes of human sort and half of beastly form. They stood motionless, while the mist rose like a great waving veil. Something like this had Peer seen in a ballet at the theatre, when Elfin maidens were represented, whirling and waving with veils of gauze; but here it was far more charming and more wonderful. So great a scene as this no theatre could show; none had so clear an air, so shining a moonlight.

Just in front, in the mist, appeared most distinctly a female shape, and it became three, and the three many; they danced hand in hand, floating girls. The air bore them along to the hedge where Peer stood. They nodded to him; they spake; it was like the cling! clang! of silver bells. They danced into the garden and about him; they enclosed him in their circle. Without thought he danced with them, but not their dance. He whirled about, as in the memorable vampire dance, but he thought not of that, he thought not at all of aught more, but was enveloped in the wondrous beauty he saw around him.

The moor was a sea, so deep and dark-blue, with water-lilies that were bright with all conceivable colors; dancing over the waves they bore him upon their veil to the opposite shore, where the giant mound has thrown aside its grassy sward and rose into a castle of clouds, but the clouds were of marble; flowering vines of gold and costly stones twined about the mighty blocks of marble; each flower was a radiant bud that sang with human voice. It was like a choir of thousands and thousands of happy children. Was it heaven, or was it the Elfin hill?

The castle walls stirred—they moved toward each other—they closed about him. He was within them and the world of men was without. Then felt he a pain, a strange yearning, as never before. No outlet could he find, but from the floor away up to the roof there smiled upon him sweet young girls; they were so loving as he looked upon them, and yet the thought came—are ye but paintings? He would speak with them, but his tongue found no words; his speech was gone; not a sound came from his lips. Then he threw himself upon the earth, with a misery he never before had known.

One of the Elfin maidens came to him; surely she meant well to him in her manner; she had taken the shape he would most like to see; it was the likeness of the Apothecary’s daughter; he was almost ready to believe that it was she; but soon he saw that she was hollow in the back—a charming front view, but open behind and nothing at all inside.

“One hour here is a hundred years outside,” said she; “thou hast already been here a whole hour. All whom you know and love without these walls are dead. Stay with us! Yes, stay thou must, or the walls will hold thee in a vice till the blood spirts from thy fore head.”

And the walls trembled, and the air became like that of a glowing furnace. He found his voice.

“Lord, Lord, hast Thou forsaken me?” he cried from the depths of his soul.

Then Grandmother stood beside him. She took him in her arms, she kissed his brow, she kissed his mouth.

“My own sweet little one!” said she, “our Lord doth not let thee go; He lets none of us go, not the greatest sinner. To God be praise and honor for evermore!”

And she took out her psalmbook, the same one from which she and Peer many a Sunday had sung. How her voice rang! how full her tones! all the Elfin maidens laid their heads down to the rest they longed for. Peer sang with Grandmother, as before he had sung each Sunday; how strong and mighty all at once was his voice! the walls of the castle trembled; they became clouds and mist; Grandmother went with him out of the hill into the high grass, where the glow-worms made light and the moon shone. But his feet were so weary he could not move them; he sank down on the sward; it was the softest bed; there he rested and awoke to the sound of a psalm.

Grandmother sat beside him—sat by his bed in the little chamber in Herr Gabriel’s house. The fever was over; life and reason had returned. But he had been at the door of death. Down in the garden, that evening they had found him in a swoon; a violent fever followed. The doctor thought that he would not get up from it again, but must die, and so they had written thus to his mother. She and Grandmother felt that they must go to him; both could not leave, and so the old grandmother went, and went by the railway.

“It was for Peer only that I did it,” said she. “I did it in God’s name, or I must believe that I flew with the Evil One on a broomstick on Midsummer Eve.”

IX.
HE journey home was made with glad and light heart. Devoutly did grandmother thank our Lord that Peer was yet to outlive her. She had delightful neighbors in the railway carriage—the apothecary and his daughter. They talked about Peer: they loved him as if they belonged to his family. He was to become a great actor, said the apothecary; his voice had now returned, too, and there was a fortune in such a throat as his.

What a pleasure it was to the grandmother to hear such words! She lived on them; she believed them thoroughly; and so they came to the station at the capital, where the mother met her.

“God be praised for the railway!” said grandmother, “and be praised, too, that I quite forgot I was on it! I owe that to these excellent people;” and she pressed the hands of the apothecary and his daughter. “The railway is a blessed discovery when one is through with it. One is in God’s hands.”

Then she talked of her sweet boy, who was out of all danger and housed with people who were very well off and kept two girls and a man. Peer was like a son in the house, and on the same footing with two children of distinguished families: one of them was a Dean’s son. The grandmother had lodged at the post-inn; it was dreadfully dear! but then she had been invited to Madam Gabriel’s; there she had stayed five days; they were angelic people, especially the mistress; she had urged her to drink punch, excellently made, but rather strong.

In about a month would Peer, by God’s help, be strong enough to come home to the capital.

“He has been flattered and has become very fine,” said the mother. “He will not feel at home here in the garret. I am very glad that the singing-master has invited him to stay with him. And yet,” so mourned she, “it is horribly sad that one should be so poor that one’s own bairn should not find it good enough for him in his own home.”

“Don’t say those words to Peer,” said grandmother; “you don’t see into him as I do.”

“But he must have meat and drink, any way, no matter how fine he has grown; and he shall not want those so long as my hands can joggle in the wash-tub. Madam Court has told me that he can dine twice a week with her, now that she is well off. She knows what prosperity is, and what rough times are, too. Has she not herself told me that one evening, in the box at the theatre where the old danseuses have a place, she felt sick? The whole day long she had only had water and a caraway seed cake, and she was sick from hunger, and very faint. ‘Water! water!’ cried the other. ‘No! some tarts!’ she begged; ‘tarts!’ She needed something nourishing, and had not the least need of water. Now she has her own pantries and a well-spread table.”

Thirty miles away Peer still sat, but happy in the thought that he would soon be in the city, at the theatre, with all his old, dear friends, whom now he rightly knew how to value. Within him there was music: without there was music too. All was sunshine—the glad time of youth, the time of hope and anticipation. Every day he grew stronger, got good spirits and color. But Madam Gabriel was much depressed as his time for departure drew near.

“You are going into great society, and into the midst of many temptations, for you are handsome—that you have become in our house. You have naïveté, just as I have, and that will get you into temptation. One must not be fastidious, and he must not be mangy; fastidious like the Queen Dagmar, who on Sunday tied her silk sleeves and then had her mind made up about such little things. More than that, I would never have taken on so as I Lucretia did. What did she stick herself for? She was pure and honest; everybody in the town knew that. What could she do about the misfortune which I won’t talk about, but that you at your time of life understand perfectly well? So she gives a shriek and takes the dagger There was no use in that. I would not have done it nor you either; for we are both people of nature, and that people will be to the end of time, and that will you continue to be in your art career. How happy I shall be to read about you in the papers! Some time you will come to our little town and appear perhaps as Romeo, but I shall not be the nurse then. If shall sit in the parquet and enjoy myself.”

Madam had a great washing and ironing done the week he went away, that Peer might go home with a whole, clean wardrobe, as when he came. She drew a new, strong ribbon through his amber heart; that was the only thing she wanted for a “remembrance souvenir,” but she did not get it.

From Herr Gabriel he received a French lexicon, enriched with marginal notes by Herr Gabriel’s own hand. Madam Gabriel gave him roses and ribbon-grass. The roses would wither, but the grass would keep all winter if it did not get into the water but was kept in a dry place, and she wrote a quotation from Goethe as a kind of album-leaf: “Umgang mit Frauen ist das Element guter Sitten.” She gave it in translation : “Intercourse with women is the foundation of good manners. Goethe.”

“He was a great man!” said she, “if he had only not written ‘Faust,’ for I don’t understand it. Gabriel says so too.”

Young Madsen presented Peer with a not badly-done drawing which he had made of Herr Gabriel hanging from the gallows, with a ferule in his hand, and the inscription: “A great actor’s first conductor on the road of science.” Primus, the Dean’s son, gave him a pair of slippers, which the Deaness herself had made, but so large that Primus could not fill them for a year or two yet. Upon the soles was written in ink:—“Remember a sorrowing friend. Primus.”

All of Herr Gabriel’s household accompanied Peer to the train.

“They shall not say that you went off sans adieu!” said Madam, and she kissed him in the railway station.

“I am not concerned,” said she; “when one does not do a thing secretly, one can do anything!”

The signal-whistle let off steam; young Madsen and Primus shouted hurra! the “small playthings” joined in with them; Madam dried her eyes and wiped them with her pocket handkerchief; Herr Gabriel said only the word, Vale!

The villages and stations flew by. Were the people in them as happy as Peer? He thought of that, praised his good fortune, and thought of the invisible golden apple which grandmother had seen lying in his hand when he was a child. He thought of his lucky find in the gutter, and, above all, of his new-found voice, and of the knowledge he had now acquired. He had become altogether another person. He sang within for gladness; it was a great restraint for him to keep from singing aloud in the cars.

Now the towers of the city appeared, and the buildings began to show themselves. The train reached the station. There stood mother and grandmother, and one other along with them, Madam Court, well bound, Court bookbinder Court’s lady, born Frandsen. Neither in want nor in prosperity did she forget her friends. She must needs kiss him as his mother and grandmother had done.

“Court could not come with me,” said she; “he is hard at work binding a lot of books for the King’s private library. You had your good luck, and I have mine. I have my Court and my own chimney corner, with a rocking-chair. Twice a week you are to dine with us. You shall see my life at home; it is a complete ballet!”

Mother and grandmother hardly got a chance to talk to Peer, but they looked on him with eves that shone with delight. Then he had to take a cab to drive to his new home at the singing-master’s. They laughed and they cried.

“He is still so charming!” said grandmother.

“He has his own good face just as when he went away!” said mother; “and he will keep that when he is in the theatre.”

The cab stopped at the singing-master’s door, but the master was out. His old servant opened the door and showed Peer up to his chamber, where all about on the walls were portraits of composers, and on the stove a white plaster bust stood gleaming. The old man, a little dull, but trustworthiness itself, showed him the drawers in the bureau, and hooks for him to hang his clothes from, and said he was very willing to clean his boots when the singing-master came in and gave Peer a hearty shake of the hand in welcome.

“Here is every convenience!” said he; “make yourself quite at home you can use my piano in the room. To-morrow we will hear how your voice gets on. This is our warden of the castle, our director of household affairs,” and he nodded to the old servant. “All is in order; Carl Maria Von Weber, on the stove there, has been whitened in honor of your coming. He was dreadfully grimy. But it is not Weber at all that is put up there, it is Mozart. How comes he there?”

“It is the old Weber,” said the servant; “I took him myself to the plaster-man, and he has sent him home this morning.”

“But this is a bust of Mozart, and not a bust of Weber.”

“Pardon, sir,” said the servant; “it is the old Weber, who has become clean. The master does not recognize him again now that he has been whitened.”

He could learn how it was of the plaster-man, and then he got the answer that Weber had been broken in pieces, and so he had sent him Mozart instead, it was all the same thing on the stove.

The first day Peer was not to sing nor play, but when our young friend came into the parlor, where the piano stood, and the opera of Joseph lay open upon it, he sang “My Fourteenth Spring,” and sang with a voice that was clear as a bell. There was something so charming about it, so innocent, and yet so strong and full. The singing-master’s eyes were wet with tears.

“So shall it be, and better still!” exclaimed he. “Now we will shut the piano for the day; you will want to rest.”

“But I must go this evening to my mother and grandmother, for I have promised it;” and he hurried away. The setting sun shone over the home of his childhood; the bits of glass in the wall sparkled; it was like a diamond castle. Mother and grandmother sat up there in the garret, a good many steps up, but he flew up three stairs at a time, and was at their door and received with kisses and embraces.

It was clean and tidy there in the little chamber. There stood the stove, the old bear, and the chest of drawers with the hidden treasure which he knew when he rode his hobbyhorse; on the walls hung the three familiar pictures the King’s portrait, a picture of Our Lord, and father’s silhouette, cut out in black paper. It was a good side view, said mother, but it would have been more like him if the paper had been white and red, for that he was an excellent man! and Peer was the very picture of him.

There was much to talk about, much to tell. They were to have a head-cheese, and Madam Court had promised to look in upon them in the evening.

“But how is it that those two old people, Court and Miss Frandsen, ever should have got married?” asked Peer.

“It has been in their thoughts these many years,” said mother. “You know he was married. Well, he did it, they say, to pique Miss Frandsen, who looked down on him when she was in her high and mighty state. He got a comfortable property with his wife, but she was dreadfully old; lively, and on crutches! She could not die; he waited for it. It would not have surprised me, if, like the man in the story, he had every Sunday put the old thing out in the open air, so that our Lord might see her and remember to send for her.”

“Miss Frandsen sat still and waited,” said grandmother. “I never believed she would get it. But last year Madam Court died, and so Frandsen came to be mistress in the house.”

At that moment in came Madam Court.

“We were talking about you,” said grandmother; “we were talking about your patience and reward.”

“Yes,” said Madam Court. “It did not come in my youth, but one is always young so long as one hasn’t a broken body, says my Court. He is a witty fellow. We are old, good works, he says, both in one volume, and that with gilt top. I am so happy with my Court and my chimney-corner. A porcelain stove! there the fire is made in the evening, and it keeps warm all the next day. It is such a luxury. It is as in the ballet of Circe’s Island. Do you remember me as Circe?”

“Yes, you were charming!” said grandmother. “But how people do change!” That was not at all said impolitely, and was not so taken. Then came the head-cheese and the tea.

The next morning Peer paid his visit at the merchant’s. The lady met him, pressed his hand, and bade him take a seat by her. In conversation with her he expressed his great gratitude; he knew that the merchant was his secret benefactor. The lady did not know it. “But it is like my husband,” said she. “It is not worth talking about.”

The merchant was nearly angry when Peer touched on this. “You are on the wrong track altogether,” said he, and abruptly closed the conversation. Felix was a student and was to go into diplomatic life.

“My husband calls it all folly,” said the lady. “I have no opinion. Providence disposes of such things.”

Felix did not show himself, for he was taking a lesson at his fencing-master’s. At home Peer told how he had thanked the merchant, but that he would not receive his thanks.

“Who told you that he was what you call him, your benefactor?” asked the singing-master.

“Mother and grandmother,” answered Peer.

“Oh, then it must be so.”

“You know about it?” said Peer.

“I know; but you will get nothing out of me. Now come, let us sing an hour here at home, this morning.”

X.
NCE a week there was quartette music. Ears, soul, and thought were filled with the grand musical poems of Beethoven and Mozart. For a long time Peer had heard no good and well-given music. It was as if a kiss of fire darted down his spine and shot through all his nerves. His eyes filled with tears. Every music-evening here at home was a feast to him that made a deeper impression upon him than any opera at the theatre, where there is always something that destroys pleasure or brings faults too strongly forward. The first thing one knows the words do not come out right; they are so smoothed down in the singing that they are as intelligible to a Chinaman as to a Greenlander; then the effect is weakened by faults in the dramatic expression, and by a full voice sinking down in single places to the power of a music-box, or is drawled out in false tones. Lack of truthfulness also in decoration and costume is to be observed. All this was absent from the quartette. The music poems rose in all their grandeur, costly hangings decorated the walls in the concert-room, and he was in the world of music, listening to the masters in their fascination.

In the great public music-hall was given one evening, by a well-trained orchestra, Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony; especially the andante movement, “the scene by the brook,” stirred and excited our young friend with strange power. It carried him into the living, fresh woods; the lark and the nightingale warbled; there the cuckoo sang. What beauty of Nature, what a well-spring of refreshment was there! From this hour he knew within himself that it was the picturesque music, in which Nature was reflected, and the emotions of men’s hearts were set forth, that struck deepest into his soul: Beethoven and Haydn became his favorite composers.

With the singing-master he talked frequently of this, and at every conversation they two came nearer each other. flow rich in knowledge this man was, as inexhaustible as Mimer’s2 well. Peer listened to him, and just as when he was a little boy he heard eagerly grandmother’s wonder stories and tales, now he heard those of the world of music, and knew what the forest and the sea told, what sounds in the old giant mound, what every bird sings with its bill, and what the voiceless flowers breathe forth in fragrance.

The hour for singing every morning was a real hour of delight for master and pupil every little song was sung with a freshness, an expression, and a simplicity: most charmingly did they give Schubert’s “Travel Song.” The melody was true, and the words also; they blended together, they exalted and illumined one another, as is fitting. Peer was undeniably a dramatic singer. Each month showed progress in ability; every week, yes, each day by day.

Our young friend grew in a wholesome, happy way, knowing no want or sorrow. His trust in mankind was never deceived; he had a child’s soul and a man’s endurance, and everywhere he was received with gentle eyes and a kind welcome. Day by day the relations between him and the singing-master grew more intimate and more confidential; the two were like elder and younger brothers, and the younger had all the fervor and warmth of a young heart; that the elder understood, and gave in turn in his own wise.

The singing-master’s character was marked by a southern ardor, and one saw at once that this man could hate vehemently or love passionately, and fortunately this last governed in him. He was, moreover, so placed by a fortune left him by his father, that he did not need to take any office which did not content him. He did secretly a great deal of good in a sensible way, but would not suffer people to thank him, or, indeed, to talk about it.

“Have I done anything,” said he, “it is because I could and ought to do it. it was my duty.”

His old serving-man, “our warden,” as he called him in jest, talked only with half a voice when he gave expression to his opinion about the master of the house. “I know what he gives away ‘between a year and a day,’ and I don’t know the half! The King ought to give him a star to wear on his breast. But he would not wear it; he would get mad as lightning, if I know him, should one notice him for his honesty. He is happy beyond the rest of us, in the faith which he has. He is just like a man out of the Bible.” And at that the old fellow gave an additional emphasis, as if Peer could have some doubt.

He felt and understood well that the singing-master was a true Christian in good earnest, an example for every one. Yet the man never went to church, and when Peer one day mentioned that next Sunday he was going with his mother and grandmother to our Lord’s table, and asked if the singing-master never did the same, the answer came, No. It seemed as if he would say something more, as if, indeed, he had some confidence to impart to Peer, but it was not said.

One evening he read aloud from the papers of the beneficence of two or three persons, who were mentioned, and that led him to speak of good deeds and their reward.

“When one does not think of it, it is sure to come. The reward for good deeds is like dates that are spoken of in the Talmud, they ripen late and then are sweet.”

“Talmud,” asked Peer, “what sort of a book is that?”

“A book,” was the answer, “from which more than one seed of thought has been implanted in Christianity.”

“Who wrote the book?”

“Wise men in the earliest time; wise in various nations and religions. Here is wisdom enclosed in such words as one finds in Solomon’s Proverbs. What kernels of truth I One reads here that men round about the whole earth, in all the centuries, have always been the same. ‘Thy friend has a friend, and thy friend’s friend has a friend; be discreet in what you say,’ is found here. It is a piece of wisdom for all times. ‘No one can jump over his own shadow!’ is here too, and, ‘Wear shoes when you walk over thorns!’ You ought to read this book. You will find in it the proof of culture more clearly than you will discover cultivation of the soil in layers of earth. For me, as a Jew, it is besides an inheritance from my fathers.”

“Jew,” said Peer, “are you a Jew?”

“Did you not know that? How strange that we two should not have spoken of it before to-day.”

Mother and grandmother knew nothing about it either; they had never thought anything about it, but always had known that the singing-master was an honorable, unexceptionable man. It was in the providence of God that Peer had come in his way; next to our Lord he owed him all his fortune. And now the mother let out a secret, which she had carried faithfully a few days only, and which, under the pledge of secrecy, had been told her by the merchants lady. The singing-master was never to know that it was out; it was he who had paid for Peer’s support and education at Herr Gabriel’s. From the evening when, at the merchant’s house, he heard Peer sing the ballet “Samson,” he alone had been his real friend and benefactor but in secret.

XI.
ADAM COURT expected Peer to visit her at her house, and he went there.

“Now you shall know my Court,” said she, “and you shall make the acquaintance of my chimney-corner. I never dreamed of this when I danced in ‘Circe’ and ‘The Rose Elf in Provence.’ Indeed, there are not many now who think of that ballet and of little Frandsen. ‘Sic transit gloria in the moon,’ as they say in Latin. My Court is a witty fellow, and uses that phrase wheB I talk about my time of honor. He likes to poke fun at me, but he does it with a good heart.”

The “chimney-corner” was an inviting low-studded room, with a carpet on the floor, and an endless lot of portraits for a book-binder to have. There was a picture of Gutenberg, and one of Franklin, of Shakspeare, Cervantes, Molière, and the two blind poets, Homer and Ossian. Lowest down, hung, glazed and in a broad frame, one cut out in paper of a danseuse, with great spangles on a dress of gauze, the right leg lifted toward heaven, and written beneath a verse:—

“Who wins our hearts by her dancing?
Who of her wreath-trophies can sing,1
Mademoiselle Emilie Frandsen!”
It was written by Court, who wrote excellent verse, especially comic verse. He had himself clipped the picture out and pasted and sewed it before he got his first wife. It had lain many years in a drawer, now it flourished here in the poetic picture gallery; “my chimney-corner,” as Madam Court called her little room. Here were Peer and Court introduced to each other.
“Is he not a charming man?” said she to Peer. “To me he is just the most charming.”

“Ay, on a Sunday, when I am well bound in State clothes,” said Herr Court.

“You are charming without any binding,” said she, and then she tipped her head down as it came over her that she had spoken a little too childishly for one of her age.

“Old love does not rust,” said Herr Court. “An old house a-fire burns down to the ground.”

“It is as with the Phœnix,” said Madam Court; “one rises up young again. Here is my Paradise. I do not care at all to seek any other place, except an hour at your mother and grandmother’s.”

“And at your sister’s,” said Herr Court.

“No, angel Court; it is no longer any Paradise there. I must tell you, Peer, they live in narrow circumstances, but there is a great mingle-mangle about them for all that. No one knows what he dare say there in that house. One dare not mention the word ‘darkey,’ for the eldest daughter is beloved by one who has negro blood in him. One dare not say ‘hunchback,’ for that one of the children is. One dare not talk about ‘defalcation,’—my brother-in-law has been in that unfortunate way. One dare not even say that he has been driving in the wood: wood is an ugly sound, for it is just the same as Woods, who fought with the youngest son. I don’t like to go out and sit and hold my tongue. I don’t dare talk, so I just come back to my own house and sit in my chimney-corner. Were it not too emphatic, as they say, I would gladly ask our Lord to let us live as long as my chimney-corner holds out, for there one grows better. Here is my Paradise, and this my Court has given me.”

“She has a gold mill in her mouth,” said he.

“And thou hast gold grain in thy heart,” said she.

“Grind, grind all the bag will hold,
Milly’s the grain, Milly’s pure gold,”
said he, as he chucked her under the chin.
“That verse was written right on the spot! It ought to be printed!”

“Yes, and handsomely bound!” said he.

So these two old folks rallied each other.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

YEAR passed before Peer began to study a rôle at the theatre. He chose “Joseph,” but he changed it for “George Brown,” in the opera of “The White Lady.” The words and music he quickly made his own, and from Walter Scott’s romance, which had furnished the material for the opera, he obtained a clear, full picture of the young, spirited officer who visits his native hills and comes to his ancestral castle without knowing it; an old song wakens recollections of his childhood; fortune attends him, and he wins a castle and his wife.

What he read became as if something which he himself had lived—a chapter of his own life’s story. The music, rich in melodies, was entirely in keeping. There was meanwhile a long, very long time before the first rehearsals began. The singing-master did not mean that there should be any hurry about his appearance, and at length he too understood this. He was not merely a singer, he was an actor; and his whole being was thrown into his character. The chorus and the orchestra at the very first applauded him loudly, and the evening of the representation was looked forward to with the greatest expectation.

“One can be a great actor in a night-gown at home,” said a good-natured companion; “can be very great by daylight, but only so-so before the lights in a full house. That you will see for yourself.”

Peer had no anxiety, but a strong desire for the eventful evening. The singing-master, on the contrary, was quite feverish. Peer’s mother had not the courage to go to the theatre; she would be ill with anxiety for her dear boy. Grandmother was sick, and must stay at home, the doctor had said; but the trusty friend Madam Court promised to bring the news the very same evening how it all went off. She should and would be at the theatre, even if she were to be in the last extremity.

How long the evening was! How the three or four hours stretched into eternity! Grandmother sang a psalm, and prayed with mother to the good God for their little Peer, that he might this evening also be Lucky Peer. The hands of the clock moved slowly.

“Now Peer is beginning,” they said; “now he is in the middle; now he has passed it.”

The mother and grandmother looked at one another, but they said never a word. In the streets there was the rumbling of carriages; people were driving home from the theatre. The two women looked down from the window; the people who were passing talked in loud voices; they were from the theatre, they knew, bringing good news or sorrow up into the garret of the merchant’s house.

At last some one came up the stairs. Madam Court burst in, followed by her husband. She flung herself on the necks of the mother and grandmother, but said never a word. She cried and sobbed.

“Lord God!” said mother and grandmother. “How has it gone with Peer?”

“Let me weep!” said Madam Court, so overcome was she. “I cannot bear it. Ah! you dear good people, you cannot bear it either!” and her tears streamed down.

“Have they hissed him off?” cried the mother.

“No, no! not that!” said Madam Court. “They have—oh, that I should live to see it!”

Then both mother and grandmother fell to weeping.

“Be calm, Emilie,” said Herr Court. “Peer has been victorious! He has triumphed! The house came near tumbling down, they clapped him so. I can feel it still in my hands. It was one storm of applause from pit to gallery. The entire royal family clapped too. Really, it was what one may call a white day in the annals of the theatre. It was more than talent—it was genius!”

“Ay, genius,” said Madam Court, “that is my word. God bless you, Court, that you spoke that word out. You dear good people, never would I have believed that one could so sing and act in comedy, and yet I have lived through a theatre’s whole history.” She cried again; the mother and grandmother laughed, whilst tears still chased down their cheeks.

“Now sleep well on that,” said Herr Court; “and now come, Emilie. Good-night! good-night!”

They left the garret-chamber and two happy people there; but these were not long alone. The door opened, and Peer, who had not promised to come before the next forenoon, stood in the room. He knew well with what thoughts the old people had followed him; how ignorant, too, they still must be of his success, and so, as he was driving past with the singing-master, he stopped outside; there were still lights up in the chamber, and so he must needs go up to them.

“Splendid! glorious! superb! all went off well!” he exclaimed jubilantly, and kissed his mother and grandmother. The singing-master nodded with a bright face and pressed their hands.

“And now he must go home to rest,” said he, and the visit was over.

“Our Father in Heaven, how gracious and good Thou art,” said these two poor women. They talked long into the night about Peer. Round about in the great town people talked of him,—the young, handsome, wonderful singer. So far had Peer’s fame gone.

XII.
HE morning papers mentioned the début with a great flourish of trumpets as something more than common, and the dramatic reviewer reserved till another number his privilege of expressing his opinion. The merchant invited Peer and the singing-master to a grand dinner. It was an attention intended as a testimony of the interest which he and his wife felt in the young man, who was born in the house, and in the same year and on the very same day as their own son.

The merchant proposed the health of the singing-master, the man who had found and polished this “precious stone,” a name by which one of the prominent papers had called Peer. Felix sat by his side and was the soul of gayety and affection. After dinner he brought out his own cigars; they were better than the merchant’s; “he can afford to get them,” said that gentleman; “he has a rich father.” Peer did not smoke,—a great fault, but one that could easily be mended.

“We must be friends,” said Felix. “You have become the lion of the town! all the young ladies, and the old ones too, for that matter, you have taken by storm. You are a lucky fellow all over. I envy you; especially that you can go in and out over there at the theatre, among all the little girls.”

That did not now seem to Peer anything so very worthy of envy.

He had a letter from Madam Gabriel. She was in transports over the extravagant accounts in the papers of his début, and all that he was to become as an artist. She had drunk his health with her maids in a bowl of punch. Herr Gabriel also had a share in his honor, and was quite sure that he, beyond most others, spoke foreign words correctly. The apothecary ran about town and reminded everybody that it was at their little theatre they had first seen and been amazed at his talent, which was now for the first time recognized at the capital. “The apothecary’s daughter would be quite out of conceit with herself,” added Madam, “now that he could be courting Baronesses and Countesses.” The apothecary’s daughter had been in too much of a hurry and given in too soon; she had been betrothed, a month since, to the fat counsellor. The bans had been published, and they were to be married on the twentieth of the month.

It was just the twentieth of the month when Peer received this letter. He seemed to himself to have been pierced through the heart. At that moment it was clear to him that, during all the vacillation of his soul, she had been his steadfast thought. He thought more of her than of all others in the world. Tears came into his eyes; he crumpled the letter in his hand. It was the first great grief of heart he had known since he heard, with mother and grandmother, that his father had fallen in the war. It seemed to him that all happiness had fled, and his future was dull and sorrowful. The sunlight no longer beamee from his youthful face; the sunshine was put out in his heart.

“He does not seem well,” said mother and grandmother. “It is the wear and tear of that theatre life.”

He was not the same as formerly, they both perceived, and the singing-master also saw it.

“What is the matter?” said he. “May I not know what troubles thee?”

At that his cheeks turned red, his tears flowed afresh, and he burst out with his sorrow, his loss.

“I loved her so earnestly!” said he. “Now, for the first time, when it is too late, I see it clearly.”

“Poor, troubled friend! I understand thee so well. Weep freely before me, and hold fast by the thought, as soon as thou canst, that what happens in the world happens best for us. I too have known and felt what you now are feeling. I too once, like you, loved a girl; she was discreet, she was pretty and fascinating; she was to be my wife. I could offer her good circumstances, but one condition before the marriage her parents required, and she required: I must become a Christian—!”

“And that you would not?”

“I could not. One cannot, with an honest conscience, jump from one religion to another without sinning either against the one he takes leave of or the one he steps into.”

“Have you no faith?” said Peer.

“I have the God of my fathers. He is a light for my feet and my understanding.”

They sat for an hour silent, both of them, Then their hands glanced over the keys, and the singing-master played an old folk song. Neither of them sang the words; each made his own thoughts underlie the music. Madam Gabriel’s letter was not again read. She little dreamed what sorrow it had carried.

A few days after there came a letter from Herr Gabriel; he also wished to offer his congratulations and “a commission.” It was this especially which had given occasion to the letter. He asked Peer to buy a little porcelain thing, namely, Amor and Hymen, Love and Marriage. “It is all sold out here in the town,” he wrote, “but easily to be got in the capital. The money goes with this. Send the thing along as quickly as possible: it is a wedding present for the counsellor, at whose marriage I was with my wife.” Finally Peer came to—“Young Madsen never will become a student: he has left the house, and has daubed the walls over with stale witticisms against the family. A hard subject that young Madsen. ‘Sunt pueri pueri, pueri puerilia tractant !’ i.e., ‘Boys are boys, and boys do boyish things.’ I translate it since you are not a Latinist,” and with that Herr Gabriel’s letter closed.

XIII.
OMETIMES, when Peer sat at the piano, there sounded tones in it which stirred thoughts in his breast and head. The tones rose into melodies that now and then carried words along with them; they could not be separated from song. Thus arose several little poems that were rhythmic and full of feeling. They were sung in a subdued voice. It was as if they were shy and timid in feeling, and moved in loneliness.

Like the wind our days are blown,
No tarrying place is here;
From cheeks the roses have flown:
Perished the smile and the tear.

Wherefore, then, smitten with grief?
Sorrow, too, taketh its flight,
Everything fades like the leaf,
Men and women, and daytime and night.

Vanishing, vanishing all!
Thy youth, thy hope, and thy friend.
Like the wind, they heed not thy call,
They vanish, nor turn hack again.
“Where did you get that song and melody?” asked the singing-master, who accidentally found the words and music written down.

“It came of itself, that and all this. They do not fly farther into the world.”

“A downcast spirit sets out flowers too,” said the singing-master, “but it dare not give counsel. Now we must set sail and steer for your next début. What do you say to Hamlet, the melancholy young Prince of Denmark?”

“I know Shakspeare’s tragedy,” said Peer, “but not yet Thomas’s opera.”

“The opera should be called Ophelia,” said the singing-master. “Shakspeare has, in the tragedy, made the Queen tell us of Ophelia’s death, and this is made to be the chief point in the musical rendering. One sees before his eyes, and feels in the tones, what before we could only learn from the narrative of the Queen.”

“There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;
There with fantastic garlands did she come
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men’s fingers call them;
There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up:
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element; but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.”
The opera brings all this before our eyes. We see Ophelia: she comes out playing, dancing, singing the old ballad about the mermaid that entices men down beneath the river, and while she sings and plucks the flowers the same tones are heard from the depths of the stream; they sound in the voices that allure from the deep water; she listens, she laughs, she draws near the brink, she holds fast by the overhanging willow and stoops to pluck the white water-lily; gently she glides on to it, and singing, reclines on its broad leaves; she swings with it, and is carried by the stream out into the deep, where, like the broken flower, she sinks in the moonlight with the mermaid’s melody welling forth about her.

In the entire scene it is as if Hamlet, his mother, his uncle, and the dead, avenging king alone were necessary to make the frame for the picture. We do not get Shakspeare’s Hamlet, just as in the opera Faust we do not get Goethe’s creation. The speculative is no material for music; it is the passionate element in both these tragedies which permits them to be rendered in a musical production.

The opera of Hamlet was brought on the stage. The actress who had Ophelia’s part was admirable; the death scene was most effectively rendered; but Hamlet himself received on this evening a commensurate greatness, a fulness of character which grew with each scene in which he appeared. People were astonished at the compass of the singer’s voice, at the freshness shown in the high as well as in the deep tones, and that he could with a like brilliancy of power sing Hamlet and George Brown.

The singing parts in most Italian operas are a patchwork in which the gifted singers, men and women, work in their soul and genius, and then, out of the variegated colors given them, construct shapes as the progress of the poem requires; how much more glorious, then, must they reveal themselves when the music is carried out through thoughts and characters; and this Gounod and Thomas have understood.

This evening at the theatre Hamlet’s form was flesh and blood, and he raised himself into the position of the chief personage in the. opera. Most memorable was the night scene on the ramparts where Hamlet, for the first time, sees his father’s ghost; the scene in the castle, before the stage which has been erected, where he flings out the words that are drops of poison; the terrible meeting with his mother, where the father’s ghost stands in avengeful attitude before the son; and finally, what might in the singing, what music at Ophelia’s death! She became as a lotus flower upon the deep, dark sea, whose waves rolled with a mighty force into the soul of the spectators. Hamlet this evening became the chief personage. The triumph was complete.

“How came he by it!” said the merchant’s rich wife, as she thought on Peer’s parents and his grandmother up in the garret. The father had been a warehouse-man, clever and honorable; he had fallen as a soldier on the field of honor; the mother, a washer-woman,—but that does not give the son culture, and he grew up in a charity school,—and how much, in a period of two years, could a provincial schoolmaster instil into him of higher science.

“It is genius!” said the merchant. “Genius!—that is born of God’s grace.”

“Most certainly!” said his wife, and folded her hands reverently when she talked to Peer. “Do you feel humble in your heart at what you have received?” she asked. “Heaven has been unspeakably gracious to you. Everything has been given. You do not know how overpowering your Hamlet is. You have yourself created the representation. I have heard that many great poets do not themselves know the glory of what they have given; the philosophers must reveal it for them. Where did you get your conception of Hamlet?”

“I have thought over the character, have read a portion of what has been written about Shakspeare’s work, and since, on the stage, I have entered into the person and his surroundings. I give my part and our Lord gives the rest.”

“Our Lord,” said she, with a half-reproving look. “Do not use that name. He gave you power, but you do not believe that he has anything to do with the theatre and opera!”

“Most assuredly I do!” said Peer, courageously. “There also does he have a pulpit for men, and most people hear better there than in church.”

She shook her head. “God is with us in all good and beautiful things, but let us be careful how we take his name in vain. It is a gift of grace for one to be a great artist, but it is still better to be a good Christian.” Felix, she felt, would never have named the theatre and the church together before her, and she was glad of that.

“Now you have laid yourself out against mamma!” said Felix, laughing.

“That was very far from my thoughts!”

“Don’t trouble yourself about that. You will get into her good graces again next Sunday when you go to church. Stand outside her pew, and look up to the right, for there, in the balcony-pew, is a little face which is worth looking at—the widow-baroness’s charming daughter. Here is a well-meant piece of advice, and I give it to you:—You cannot live where you are now. Move into larger lodgings, with the stairs in good order; or, if you won’t leave the singing-master, then let him live in better style. He has means enough, and you have a pretty good income. You must give a party too, an evening supper. I could give it myself, and will give it, but you can invite a few of the little dancing girls. You’re a lucky fellow! but I believe, heaven help me, that you don’t yet understand how to be a young man.”

Peer did understand it exactly in his own way. With his full, ardent young heart, he was in love with art; she was his bride, she returned his love, and lifted his soul into gladness and sunshine. The depression which had crushed him soon evaporated, gentle eyes looked upon him, and every one met him in a friendly and cordial manner. The amber-heart, which he still wore constantly on his breast, where grandmother once had hung it, was certainly a talisman, as he thought, for he was not quite free from superstition,—a child-like faith one may call it. Every nature that has genius in it has something of this, and looks to and believes in its star. Grandmother had shown him the power that lay in the heart, of drawing things to itself. His dream had shown him how, out from the amber-heart, there grew a tree which burst through garret and roof, and bore a thousand-fold of hearts and silver and gold; that surely betokened that in the heart, in his own warm heart, lay the might of his art, whereby he had won and still should win thousands upon thousands of hearts.

Between him and Felix there was undoubtedly a kind of sympathy, different as they were from each other. Peer assumed that the difference between them lay in this: that Felix, as the rich man’s son, had grown up in temptations, and could afford to taste them and take his pleasure thus. He had, on the contrary, been more fortunately placed as a poor man’s son.

Both of these two children of the house were meanwhile growing up into eminence. Felix would soon be a Kammerjunker,2 and that is the first step to being a Kammerherr,2 as long as one has a gold key behind. Peer, always lucky, had already in his hand, though it was invisible, the gold key of genius, which opens all the treasures of the earth, and all hearts too.

XIV.
T was still winter-time. The sleigh-bells jingled, and the clouds carried snow-flakes in them, but when sunbeams burst through them there was a heralding of spring. There was a fragrance and a music in the young heart that flowed out in picturesque music and found expression in words.

A SPRING SONG.

In swath of snow the earth is lying,
Over the sea merry skaters are flying,
The frost-rimmed trees are specked with crow’~
But to-morrow, to-morrow the winter-time goes /
The sun bursts through the heavy skies,
Spring comes riding in summer guise,3
And the willow pulls off its woollen glove.
Strike up, musicians, in leafy grove;
Little birds, little birds, sing in the sky,
Winter’s gone by ! winter’s gone by

0, warm is the kiss of the sun on our cheek,
As violets and stonewort in the woodland we seek:
‘Tis as if the old forest were holding its breath,
For now in a night each leaf wakes from death.
The cuckoo sings! (you know its tell-tale song),
So many years your days will be long.4
The world is young! be thou, too, young;
Let happy heart and merry tongue
With spring-time lift the song on high,
Youth’s never gone by ! never gone by!

Youth’s never gone by! never gone by!
The earth lives a charmed life for aye,
With its sun and its storm, its joy and its pain.
So in our hearts a world has lain,
That will not be gone, like a shooting star,
For man is made like God afar,
And God and Nature keep ever young.
So teach us, Spring, the song tbou’st sung,
And pipe in, little birds in the sky,—
“Youth’s never gone by! never gone by !”
“That is a complete musical painting,” said the singing-master, “and well adapted for chorus and orchestra. It is the best yet of your pieces which have sprung out of words. You certainly must learn thorough bass, although it is not your vocation to be a composer.”

Some young music friends meanwhile quickly brought out the song at a great concert, where it excited remark but led to nothing. Our young friend’s career was open before him. His greatness and importance lay not in the sympathetic tones of his voice, but in his remarkable dramatic power. This he had shown as George Brown and as Hamlet. He vcry much preferred the regular opera to the singing of pieces. It was contrary to his sound and natural sense, this stepping over from song to talking, and back to singing again.

“It is,” said he, “as if one came from marble steps on to wooden ones, sometimes even on to mere hen-roosts, and then again to marble. The whole poem should live and breathe in its passage through tones.”

The music of the future, which the new movement in opera is called, and of which Wagner is specially standard-bearer, received a response and strong admiration from our young friend. He found here characters so clearly marked, passages so full of thought, the entire handling characterized by forward movement, without any stand-still or recurrence of melodies. “It is surely a most unnatural thing, the introduction of arias.”

“Yes, introduction,” said the singing-master. “But how they, in the works of most of the great masters, stand prominently forth, a large part of the whole! So must and should it be. If the lyric has a home in any place, it is in the opera;” and he mentioned in Don Juan, Don Octavio’s aria, “Tears, cease your flowing.” “How like is it to a charming lake in the woods, by whose bank one rests and is filled to the brim with the music that streams through the leafy woods! I pay my respects to the profundity that lies in the new musical movement, but I do not dance with you before that golden calf. Nor is it your heart’s real meaning which you express, or else you are not yourself quite clear about it.”

“I will appear in one of Wagner’s operas,” said our young friend. “If I cannot show my meaning by the words, yet I will by my singing and acting.”

The choice fell on Lohengrin, the young mysterious knight who, in the boat drawn by swans, glides over the Scheldt to do battle for Elsa of Brabant. Who so well as he ever acted and sang the first song of the meeting, the conversation of two hearts in the bridal chamber, and the song of farewell when the holy Grail’s white dove hovers about the young knight, who came, won—and vanished? This evening was, if possible, another step forward in the artistic greatness and celebrity of our young friend, and to the singing-master it was a step forward in the recognition of the music of the future—

“Under certain conditions,” he said.

XV.
T the great yearly exhibition of paintings, Peer and Felix one day met before the portrait of a young and pretty lady, daughter of the widow-baroness, as the mother was generally called, whose salon was the rendezvous for the world of distinction and for every one of eminence in art and science. The young bars oness was in her sixteenth year, an innocent, charming child. The picture was a good likeness and given with artistic skill.

“Step into the saloon here close by,” said Felix. “There stands the young beauty with her mother.”

They stood engaged in looking at a characteristic picture. It represented a field where two young married people came riding on the same horse, holding fast to one another. The chief figure meanwhile was a young monk who was looking at the two happy travelers. There was a sorrowful dreamy look in the young man’s countenance; one could read in it his thought, the story of his life; an aim missed, great happiness lost! human happiness in human love he had not won.

The elder baroness saw Felix, who respect- fully greeted her and the beautiful daughter. Peer showed the same customary politeness. The widow-baroness knew him immediately from having seen him on the stage, and after speaking to Felix she said some friendly, obliging words to Peer as she pressed his hand.

“I and my daughter belong to your admirers.”

What perfect beauty seemed to possess the young girl at this moment! She looked with her gentle, clear eyes almost gratefully upon him.

“I see in my house,” continued the widow-baroness, “very many of the most distinguished artists. We common people stand in need of a spiritual airing. You will be heartily welcome. Our young diplomat,” she pointed to Felix, “will show you the way the first time, and afterward I hope that you will find the way yourself.”

She smiled on him. The young girl reached out her hand naturally and cordially, as if they had long known each other.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Later in the autumn, one cold, sleety evening, the two young men went as they had been invited. It was weather for driving and not walking in for the rich man’s son, and for the first singer on the stage. Nevertheless they walked, well wrapped up, with galoshes on their feet and rough caps on their heads.

It was like a complete fairy scene to come out from the raw air into the apartment displaying such luxury and good taste. In the vestibule, before the carpeted stairs, there was a great display of flowers among bushes and fan-palms. A little fountain plashed in the basin, which was surrounded by tall callas.

The great salon was beautifully lighted, and a great part of the company had already gathered. Soon there was almost a crowd. People trod on silk trains and laces; there was a hum round about of conversation’s sonorous mosaic, which, on the whole, was the least worth while of all the splendor there.

Had Peer been a vain fellow, which he was not, he could have imagined that it was a feast made for him, so cordial was the reception which he met from the mistress of the house and the beaming daughter. Young ladies and old, yes, and gentlemen with them, said most agreeable things to him.

There was music. A young author read a well-written poem. There was singing, and true delicacy was shown in that no one urged our young and honored singer to make the whole affair most complete. The lady of the house was the observing hostess, full of spirits and full of hospitality in that elegant salon.

It was his introduction into the great world, and our young friend was soon here also one of the select ones in the choice family circle. The singing-master shook his head and smiled.

“How young thou art, dear friend,” said he, “that thou canst enjoy going among these people. They can be good enough in and for themselves; but they look down on us plain citizens. For some of them it is only a piece of vanity, an amusement, and for others a sort of mark of exclusive culture when they receive into their circle artists and the lions of the day. These belong in the salon much as the flowers in a vase, they wither and then they are thrown away.”

“How harsh and unjust,” said Peer. “You do not know these people, and will not know them.”

“No,” answered the singing-master. “I am not at home with them, nor are you either, and this they all remember and know. They caress you and look at you just as they pat and look at a race-horse that is to win a wager. You belong to another race than they. They will let you go when you are no longer in the fashion. Do you not understand that? You are not proud enough. You are vain, and you show that by seeking these people.”

“How very differently you would talk and judge,” said Peer, “if you knew the widow-baroness and a few of my friends there.”

“I shall not get to knowing them,” said the singing-master.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“When is the engagement to come out?” asked Felix one day. “Is it the mother or the daughter?” and he laughed. “Don’t take the daughter, for then you’ll have all the young nobility against you, and I too shall be your enemy, and the fiercest one.”

“What do you mean?” asked Peer.

“You are the most favored one. You can go out and in at all hours. You’ll get the cash along with the mother, and belong to a good family.”

“Stop your joking,” said Peer. “There is nothing amusing to me in what you say.”

“No indeed, there is no fun at all in it,” said Felix. “It is a most serious matter, for you’ll not let her grace sit and weep and be a double widow.”

“Leave the baroness out of your talk,” said Peer. “Make yourself merry over me if you want to, but over me alone, and I will answer you.”

“No one will believe that it is a love match on your side,” continued Felix. “She is a little outside of the line of beauty—one does not live on spirit alone!”

“I gave you credit for more refinement and good sense,” said Peer, “than would let you talk thus of a lady you ought to esteem, and whose house you visit, and I won’t talk of this longer.”

“What are you going to do about it?” asked Felix. “Will you fight?”

“I know that you have learned that, and I have not, but I can learn,” and he left Felix.

A day or two afterward the two children of the house met again, the son from the first floor and the son from the garret. Felix talked to Peer as if no quarrel had risen between them. He answered courteously, but curtly too.

“What is the matter now!” said Felix. “We two were a little irritable lately, but one may have his joke without being flayed for it; so let us forget and forgive.”

“Can you forgive yourself the manner in which you spoke of a lady to whom we both owe great respect?”

“I spoke very frankly!” said Felix. “In fine society one may talk with a razor-edge, but that is not thought an ill thing. It is the salt for the tasteless every-day fish dinner, as tne poet calls it. We are all just a little wicked. You can also let a drop fall, my friend; a little drop of innocence which makes one smart.”

So they were soon seen arm in arm. Felix well knew that more than one pretty young lady who would otherwise have passed him by without seeing him, now noticed him since he was walking with the “Ideal of the Stage.” Lamp-light always casts a glamour over the theatre’s hero and lover. It still shines about him when he shows himself on the street, in day-light, but is generally rather extinguished then. Most of the artists of the stage are like swans; one should see them in their element, not on the paving stones or the public promenade. There are exceptions, however, and to these belonged our young friend. His appearance apart from the stage never disturbed the conception one had of him as George Brown, or Hamlet, or Lohengrin. It was the form associated thus with poetry or music that many a young heart made to be the same with the man himself and exalted into the ideal. He knew that it was thus, and found a kind of pleasure in it. He was happy in his art, and in the means he possessed of exercising it, yet there would come a shadow over the joyous young face, and from the piano sounded the melody with the words:—

Vanishing—vanishing all!
Thy youth, thy hope, and thy friend.
Like the wind, they heed not thy call,
They vanish, nor turn back again.
“How mournful!” said the widow-baroness. “You have happiness in full measure. I know no one who is so happy as you.”

“Call no one happy before he is in his grave, the wise Solon said,” replied he, and smiled through his seriousness; “it were a wrong, a sin, if I were not thankful and glad of heart. I am thus. I am thankful for what is intrusted to me, but I myself set a different value on this from what others do. It is a beautiful piece of fireworks which shoots off and then is all out. The actor’s work thus vanishes out of knowledge. The everlasting shining stars may be forgotten for the meteors of a moment, but when these are extinguished, there is no living trace of them except by the old signs. A new generation does not know and cannot picture to itself those who delighted their fathers from the stage youth, perhaps, applauds splendor and brass as delightedly and as loudly as the old folks once did splendor and true gold. Far more fortunately placed than the scenic artist are the poet, the sculptor, the painter and the composer. They may in the struggle of life experience hard fortune and miss the merited appreciation, while those who exhibit their works, as the actor and the musician, live in luxury and proud state. Let the many stand and gaze at the bright-colored cloud and forget the sun, yet the cloud vanishes, the sun shines and beams for new generations.”

He sat at the piano and improvised with a richness of thought and a power such as he never before had shown.

“Wondeffully beautiful!” broke in the widow-baroness. “’Twas as if I heard the story of a whole life-time. You gave your heart’s canticle in the music.”

“I thought of the Thousand and one Nights,” said the young girl, “of the lamp of fortune, of Aladdin,” and she looked with pure, dewy eyes upon him.

“Aladdin!” he repeated.

This evening was the turning-point in his life. A new section surely began.

What was befalling him this flitting year? His fresh color forsook his cheeks; his eyes shone far more clearly than before. He passed sleepless nights, but not in wild orgies, in revels and rioting, as so many great artists. He became less talkative, but more cheerful.

“What is it that fills you so?” said his friend the singing master. “You do not confide all to me!”

“I think how fortunate I am!” he replied —“I think of the poor boy! I think of—Aladdin.”

XVI.
EASURED by the expectations of a poorborn child, Peer now led a prosperous, agreeable life. He was so well to do that, as Felix once said, he could give a good party to his friends. He thought of it, and thought of his two earliest friends, his mother and grandmother. For them and himself he provided a festival.

It was charming spring weather; the two old people must drive with him out of town and see a little country place which the singing-master had lately bought. As he was about seating himself in the carriage, there came a woman, humbly clad, about thirty years old; she had a begging paper recommending her signed by Madam Court.

“Don’t you know me?” said she. “Little Curly-head, they used to call me. The curls are gone, there is so much that is gone, but there are still good people left. We two have appeared together in the ballet. You have become better off than I. You have become a great man. I am now separated from two husbands and no longer at the theatre.”

Her “paper” begged that she might come to own a sewing-machine.

“In what ballet have we two performed together?” asked Peer.

“In the ‘Tyrant of Padua,’” she replied. “We were two pages, in blue velvet and feathered cap. Do you not remember little Malle Knallerup? I walked just behind you in the procession.”

“And stepped on the side of my foot!” said Peer, laughing.

“Did I?” said she. “Then I took too long a step. But you have gone far ahead of me. You have understood how to use your legs in your head,” and she looked with her melancholy face coquettishly and with a simper at him, quite sure she had passed quite a witty compliment. Peer was a generous fellow. She should have the sewing-machine, he promised. Little Malle had indeed been one of those who especially drove him out of the ballet into a more fortunate career.

He stopped soon outside the merchant’s house, and stepped up-stairs to his mother and grandmother. They were in their best clothes, and had accidentally a visit from Madam Court, who was at once invited to join them, whereupon she had a sore struggle with herself, which ended in her sending a messenger to Herr Court to infrm him that she had accepted the invitation.

“Peer gets all the fine salutations,” said she.

“How stylishly we are driving!” said mother; “And in such a roomy, great carriage,” said grandmother. Near the town, close by the royal park, stood a little cozy house, surrounded by vines and roses, hazels and fruit-trees. Here the carriage stopped. This was the country-seat. They were received by an old woman, well known to mother and grandmother; she had often helped them in their washing and ironing.

The garden was visited, and they went over the house. There was one specially charming thing—a little glass house, with beautiful flowers in it. It was connected with the sitting-room. There was a sliding door in the wall.

“That is just like a coulisse,” said Madam Court. “It moves by hand; and one can sit here just as in a bird-cage, with chickweed all about. It is called a winter-garden.”

The sleeping-chamber was also very delightful after its kind. Long, close curtains at the windows, soft carpets, and two armchairs, so commodious that mother and grandmother must needs try them.

“One would get very lazy sitting in them,” said mother.

“One loses his weight,” said Madam Court. “Ah! here you two music people can swim easily enough through the seas of theatrical labor. I have known what they are. Ay, believe me, I can still dream of making battements, and Court makes battement’s at my side. Is it not charming—‘two souls and one thought.’”

“There is fresher air here, and more room, than in the two small rooms up in the garret,” said Peer with beaming eyes.

“That there is,” said mother. “Still home is so good. There did I bear thee, my sweet boy, and lived with thy father.”

“It is better here,” said grandmother. “Here there are all the conveniences of a rich man’s place. I do not grudge you and that noble man the singing-master this home of peace.”

“Then I do not grudge it to you, grandmother, and you, dear blessed mother. You two shall always live here, and not, as in town, go up so many steps, and be in such narrow and close quarters. You shall have a servant to help you, and see me as often as in town. Are you glad at this? Are you content with it?”

“What is all this the boy stands here and says!” said mother.

“The house, the garden, all are thine, mother, and thine, grandmother. It is for this I have labored to lay up money. My friend the singing-master has faithfully helped me by getting it ready.”

“What is all this you are saying, child?” burst forth the mother. “Will you give us a gentleman’s seat? My dearest boy, thou wouldst do it if thou couldst.”

“It is all true,” said he. “The house is thine and grandmother’s.” He kissed them both; they burst into tears, and Madam Court shed quite as many.

“It is the happiest moment of my life!” exclaimed Peer, as he embraced them all.

And now they had to see everything all over again, since it was their own. In place of their roxv of five or six plants in pots out on their roof, they now had this beautiful little conservatory. Instead of a little closet they had here a great roomy pantry, and the kitchen itself was a complete little warm chamber. The chimney had an oven and cooking-stove; it looked like a great shining box iron, said mother.

“Now you two have at last a chimney corner just like me!” said Madam Court. “It is royal here. You have got all that man can get on this earth, and you too, my own courted friend.”

“Not all!” said Peer.

“To be sure the little wife comes!” said Madam Court. “I have her already for you. I have her in my feeling! but I shall keep my mouth shut. Thou noble man! Is it not like a ballet, all this?” She laughed with tears in her eyes, and so did mother and grandmother.

XVII.
O write the text and music for an opera, and be himself the interpreter of his own work on the stage, this was his great aim. Our young friend had a talent in common with Wagner, in that he could himself construct the dramatic poem; but had he, like him, the fulness of musical power so that he could fashion a musical work of any significance?

Courage and doubt alternated in him. He could not dismiss this constant thought from his mind. A year and a day since had it shone forth as a picture of fancy; now it was a possibility, an end in his life. Many free fancies were welcomed at the piano as birds of passage from that country of Perhaps. The little romances, the characteristic spring song gave promise of the still undiscovered land of tone. The widow-baroness saw in them the sign of promise, as Columbus saw it in the fresh green weed which the currents of the sea bore toward him before he saw the land itself on the horizon.

Land was there! The child of fortune should reach it. A word thrown out was the seed of thought. She, the young, pretty, innocent girl spoke the word—Aladdin.

A fortune-child like Aladdin was our young friend. This was the light that broke into him. With this light he read and re-read the beautiful oriental story; soon it took dramatic form: scene after scene grew into words and music, and the more it grew the richer came the music thoughts; at the close of the work it was as if the well of tone were now for the first time pierced, and all the abundant fresh water gushed forth. He composed his work anew, and in stronger form, months afterward, arose the opera Aladdin.

No one knew of this work; no one had heard any measures at all of it, not even the most sympathetic of all his friends, the singing-master. No one at the theatre, when of an evening the young singer with his voice and his remarkable playing entranced the public, had a thought that the young man who seemed so to live and breathe in his rôle, lived far more intensely, ay, for hours afterward, lost himself in a mighty work of music that flowed forth from his own soul.

The singing-master had not heard a bar of the opera Aladdin before it was laid upon his table for examination, complete in notes and text. What judgment would be passed? Assuredly a strong and just one. The young composer passed from highest hope to the thought that the whole thing was only a self-delusion.

Two days passed by, and not a word was interchanged about this important matter. At length the singing-master stood before him with the score in his hands, that now he knew. There was a peculiar seriousness spread over his face that would not let his mind be guessed.

“I had not expected this,” said he. “I had not believed it of you. Indeed, I am not yet sure of my judgment: I dare not express it. Here and there there are faults in the instrumentation, faults that can easily be corrected. There are single things, bold and novel, that one must hear under fair conditions. As there is with Wagner a working over of Carl Maria Weber, so there is noticeable in you a breath of Haydn. That which is new in what you have given is still somewhat far off from me, and you yourself are too near for me to give an exact judgment. I would rather not judge. I would embrace you!” he burst out with a rush of gladness. “How came you to do this!” and he pressed him in his arms. “Happy man!”

There was soon a rumor through the town, in the newspapers and in society gossip, of the new opera by the young singer, whom all the town was flattering.

“He’s a poor tailor who could not put together a child’s trousers out of the scraps left over on his board,” said one and another.

“Write the text, compose it, and sing it himself!” was also said. “That is a three-storied genius. But he really was born still higher—in a garret.”

“There are two at it, he and the singing-master,” they said. “Now they’ll begin to beat the signal-trumpet of the mutual admiration society.”

The opera was given out for study. Those who took part would not give any opinion. “It shall not be said that it is judged from the theatre,” said they; and almost all put on a serious face that did not let any expectation of good show itself.

“There are a good many horns in the piece,” said a young man who played that instrument, and also composed. “Well if he doesn’t run a horn into himself!”5

“It has genius, it is sparkling, full of me. lody and character”—that also was said.

“To-morrow at this time,” said Peer, “the scaffold will be raised. The judgment is, perhaps, already passed.”

“Some say that it is a masterpiece,” said the singing-master; “others, that it is a mere patchwork.”

“And wherein lies truth?”

“Truth!” said the singing-master. “Pray show me. Look at that star yonder. Tell me exactly where its place is. Shut one eye. Do you see it? Now look at it with the other only. The star has shifted its place. When each eye in the same person sees so differently, how variously must the great multitude see!”

“Happen what may,” said our young friend, “I must know my place in the world, understand what I can and must put forth, or give up.”

The evening came,—the evening of the representation. A popular artist was to be exalted to a higher place, or plunged down in his gigantic, proud effort. A shot or a drop! The matter concerned the whole city. People stood all night in the street before the ticket-office to secure places. The house was crammed frill; the ladies came with great bouquets. Would they carry them home again, or cast them at the victor’s feet?

The widow-baroness and the young, beautiful daughter sat in a box above the orchestra. There was a stir in the audience, a murmuring, a movement that stopped at once as the leader of the orchestra took his place and the overture began.

Who does not remember Henselt’s piece—“Si l’oiseau j’étais,” that is like a twittering of birds? This was something akin; merry playing children, happy child-voices; the cuckoo gave its note with them, the thrush struck in. It was the l)lay and carol of innocent childhood, the mind of Aladdin. Then there rolled in upon it a thunderstorm; Noureddin displayed his power; a flash of lightning rent the rocks; gentle beckoning tones followed, a sound from the enchanted grotto where the lamp shone in the petrified cavern, while the wings of mighty spirits brooded over it.

Now there sounded forth, in the notes of a bugle, a psalm so gentle and soft as if it came from the mouth of a child; a single horn was heard and then another, more and more were blended in the same tones, and rose in fullness and power as if they were the trumpets of the judgment day. The lamp was in Aladdin’s hand, and there swelled forth a sea of melody and majesty as if the ruler of spirits and master of music held sway.

The curtain rolled up in a storm of applause which sounded like a fanfare under the conductor’s baton. A grown-up boy played there, so big and yet so simple,—it was Aladdin who frolicked among the other boys. Grandmother would at once have said:—

“That is Peer, as he played and jumped about between the stove and the chest of drawers at home in the garret. He is not a year older in his soul!”

With what faith and earnest prayer he sang the prayer Noureddin bade him offer before he stepped down into the crevice to obtain the lamp. Was it the pure religious melody, or the innocence with which he sung, that drew all hearts after him? The applause was unbounded.

It would have been a profane thing to have repeated the song. It was called for, but it was not given. The curtain fell,—the first act was ended.

Every critic was speechless; people were overcome with gladness—they could only speak out their gratitude.

A few chords from the orchestra, and the curtain rose. The strains of music, as in Gluck’s “Armida,” and Mozart’s “Magic Flute,” arrested the attention of each; as the scene was disclosed where Aladdin stood in the wonderful garden, a soft subdued music sounded from flowers and stones, from springs and deep caverns, different melodies blending in one great harmony. A susurrus of spirits was heard in the chorus; it was now far off, now near, swelling in might and then dying away. Borne upon this unison was the monologue of Aladdin; what one indeed calls a great aria, but so entirely in keeping with character and situation that it was a necessary dramatic part of the whole. The resonant, sympathetic voice, the intense music of the heart subdued all listeners, and seized them with a rapture that could not rise higher, when he reached forth for the lamp that was fanned by the song of the spirits.

Bouquets rained down from all sides, a carpet of living flowers was spread out before his feet.

What a moment of life for the young artist,—the highest, the greatest! A mightier one could never again be granted him, he felt. A wreath of laurel glanced upon his breast and fell down before him. He had seen from whose hand it came. He saw the young girl in the box nearest the stage, the young baroness, rising like a Genius of Beauty, singing a pæan over his triumph.

A fire rushed through him, his heart swelled as never before, he bowed, took the wreath, pressed it against his heart, and at the same moment fell backward.—Fainted? dead?—What was it?——The curtain fell.

.......................................................................


“Dead!” ran the word through the house. Dead in the moment of triumph, like Sophocles at the Olympian Games, like Thorwaldsen in the theatre during Beethoven’s symphony. An artery in his heart had burst, and as by a flash of lightning his day here was ended, ended without pain, ended in an earthly jubilee, in the fulfilment of his mission on earth. Lucky Peer! More fortunate than millions!