ESBEN.

FROM THE DANISH OF S. S. BLICHER.


The greatest sorrow that this world can give,
Is, far away from those one loves--to live.

Sometimes, when I have wandered away--away over the wild and apparently endless moors, where I could see nothing but the brown heath below, and the blue skies above me; when I have roamed on far from men, from their busy haunts, and the signs and tokens of their active worldly labours, which, after all, are but molehills, that Time, or some restless and turbulent Tamerlane, shall again level to the ground; when I have strayed, light of heart and proudly free as a Bedouin, whom no fixed domicile, no narrow circumscribed fields chain to one spot, but who, as its owner, occupies all he beholds; who does not indeed dwell, but pitches his tent where he will; if then my keen searching glances along the horizon have discovered a house, how often--God forgive me! has not the passing thought arisen in my mind--for it was no settled desire--to wish that the human habitation was annihilated. There, must dwell trouble and sorrow; there, must exist disputes about mine and thine! Ah! the happy desert is both thine and mine, is everyone's, is no one's. A lover of the woods would have contented himself with wishing a whole colony of trees planted there; I have wished that the heath could have remained as it was a thousand years ago, uncultivated by human hands, untrodden by human feet! Yet this wish was not always satisfactory to myself, for when fatigued, overheated, suffering from hunger and thirst, I have endeavoured to turn my thoughts with longing to an Arab's tent and rude hospitality, I have caught myself thanking Heaven that a house thatched with broom--at not a mile's distance--promised me shelter and refreshment.

It so happened that some years ago, one calm warm September day, I found myself on the same heath that, in my Arabian dreams, I called mine. Not a breath of wind crept among the purple heather; the air was sultry and heavy, the distant hills that bounded the view seemed to float like clouds around the immense plain, and assumed the appearances of houses, towns, castles, men, and animals: but all was vague in outline, and ever shifting, as the images seen in dreams. A cottage would expand into a church, and that again into a pyramid; here, suddenly uprose one spire; then, as suddenly sank another; a man turned into a horse, and that again into an elephant; here glided a little boat, and there, a ship with every sail spread. Long did my delighted eyes gaze on these fantastic figures--a panorama that only the mariner or the wanderer of the desert has ever the pleasure of beholding--when, becoming a prey to hunger and to thirst, I began to look for a real house among the many false ones in my sight. I longed most earnestly to exchange all my beautiful fairy palaces for one single peasant's cottage. My wishes were granted: I descried at length a real tenement, without spires or towers, whose outline became sharper and more defined the nearer I approached, and which, flanked by stacks of peat, looked larger than it really was.

The inhabitants were unknown to me. Their clothing was poor; their furniture of the plainest description; but I knew that dwellers on the heath often hid their precious metal in some secret depository, and that a tattered garb sometimes concealed a well-lined pocket-book. When, on going in, I observed a recess filled with stockings, I shrewdly guessed that I had introduced myself into the abode of a wealthy hosier (in a parenthesis be it said, that I never knew a poor one).

An elderly, grey-haired, but still vigorous man, advanced to meet me, and with a cordial 'welcome' offered me his hand. 'May I be permitted to ask,' he added, 'where my guest comes from?' One must not take umbrage at so blunt and unmannerly a question. The rustic of the heath is almost as hospitable as the Scotch lairds, though rather more inquisitive; but, after all, one cannot blame him that he seeks to know whom he entertains. When I had enlightened him as to who I was and whence I came, he called his wife, who without loss of time set before me the best the house contained, kindly inviting me to partake of it; an invitation which I was not slow in accepting.

I was in the midst of my repast, and also in the midst of a political conversation with mine host, when a young and uncommonly beautiful girl came in, whom I should indubitably have pronounced to have been a young lady in disguise, who had made her escape from cruel parents or hateful guardians, had not her red hands and country dialect convinced me that there was no travestissement in the case. She curtsied with a pleasant smile, looked under the table, went hastily out, and soon returned to the room with a dish of bread and milk, which she placed on the ground, saying, 'Your dog will probably also want something to eat.'

I thanked her for her kind consideration; but my gratitude was nothing compared to that of the great dog, whose greed had soon caused the dish to be emptied, and who then thanked the fair donor after his own fashion, by jumping roughly upon her; and when she, in some alarm, threw her arms up in the air, Chasseur mistook her meaning, sprung up higher, and brought the shrieking girl to the ground. I called the dog off, of course, and endeavoured to convince the damsel of his good intentions. I should not have drawn the reader's attention to so trivial a matter, but to introduce a remark, namely, that everything is becoming to beauty; for every motion and even look of this rural fair one had a natural grace and charm which the well-tutored coquette might in vain try to assume.

When she had left the room, I asked the good people if she was their daughter. They answered in the affirmative, adding that she was their only child.

'You will not have her long with you,' I remarked.

'God help us! what do you mean?' asked the father; but a sort of self-satisfied smile showed me that he full well understood my meaning.

'I think,' I replied, 'that she is likely to have a great many wooers.'

'Oh!' muttered he, 'wooers are in plenty; but unless they are worth something, what is the use of talking of them? To come a wooing with a watch and silver-mounted pipe is nothing to the purpose--great cry and little wool--and faith!' he exclaimed, setting both his elbows on the table, and stooping to look out at the low windows, 'here comes one of them, a fellow who has just raised his head above the heather--one of those pedlars who travel about with a pair or two of stockings in their wallet as samples, forsooth. The cur-dog, he wants to play the sweetheart to my daughter, with his two miserable oxen, and his cow and a half! Yes, there he is, skulking along, the pauper!'

The object of these execrations, and the person on whom were bent looks as lowering as if he had been a thief, was now approaching the house, but was still far enough off for me to ask my host who he was, and to be told that he was the son of his nearest neighbour, who, however, lived at the distance of more than a mile; that his father possessed only a small farm, upon the security of which he owed the hosier 200 dollars; that the son, who had for some years hawked about woollen goods, had lately presumed to propose for the beautiful Cecilia, but had received a flat refusal.

Whilst I was listening to this little history, Cecilia herself came in; and her anxious and sorrowful looks, which wandered, by turns, between her father and the traveller without, enabled me to guess that she did not coincide in the old man's view of affairs. As soon as the young man entered by one door, she disappeared by another, not however, without casting on him a hurried, but kind and speaking glance. My host turned toward the new comer, grasped the table with both his hands, as if he found some support needful, and acknowledged the young man's 'God's peace be here,' and 'Good day,' with a dry 'Welcome.' The uninvited guest stood for a few moments while he cast his eyes slowly round the room, took a tobacco-pouch from one pocket and a tobacco-pipe from another, knocked it on the stove by his side and filled it again. All this was done leisurely, and in a kind of measured manner, while my host remained motionless, in the attitude he had assumed.

The stranger was a very handsome youth, a worthy son of our northern clime, where, though men are slow of growth, their frames become lofty and strong. He had light hair, blue eyes, fair complexion, ruddy cheeks, and a chin on whose downy smoothness the razor had not yet played, although its owner had numbered his twentieth year. His dress was not that of a common peasant, it was the costume generally adopted by tradesmen, but was much superior in its texture and its smartness to that of the rich hosier himself. He wore a frock coat, white trousers, a striped red vest, and a cotton cravat; he looked, at least, no unworthy suitor to the lovely Cecilia. His pleasant, open countenance pleased me: it was expressive of that enduring patience and power of unswerving perseverance, which form such prominent features in the Cimbric national character.

A long time elapsed before either of them would break silence; at length my host was the first to open his mouth, which he did by asking slowly, and in a cold and indifferent tone and manner, 'Whither bound to-day, Esben?'

The other answered, without at all hurrying himself, while he lighted his pipe leisurely, and took a long whiff, 'No farther to-day, but to-morrow I am off to Holstein.'

Thereupon there occurred another long pause, during which Esben looked at all the chairs one after another, took one, and finally sat down. At that moment the mother and daughter entered, and the young man nodded to them with such an unaltered and tranquil air, that I should have thought he was quite indifferent to the beautiful Cecilia, had I not known that love, in a breast such as his, might not be the less strong that it lay concealed; that it is not the blaze, which flashes and sparkles, but the steady fire that burns and warms the longest.

Cecilia, with a sigh, placed herself at the farthest end of the table, and began immediately to knit; her mother condescended to say, 'Welcome, Esben!' as she settled herself at her spinning-wheel.

'Are you going on account of business?' drawled out the hosier at length.

'If any offers,' replied the visitor. 'One can but try what may be done in the south. My errand here is, to beg that you will not be in too great a hurry to get Cecil married, but will wait till I come back, and we can see what my luck has been.'

Cecilia coloured, but continued to look steadfastly at her work. The mother stopped her spinning-wheel with one hand, laid the other on her lap, and looked hard at the speaker; but the father said, as he turned with a wink to me, '"While the grass grows"--you know the rest of the proverb. How can you ask that Cecil shall wait for you? You may stay very long away, perhaps, even--you may never come back.'

'It is your own fault, Michel KrŠnsen!' replied Esben, with some impetuosity. 'But listen to what I say; If you compel Cecil to marry anyone else, you will do grievous wrong both to her and to me.'

So saying, he arose, held out his hand to both the old people, and bade them a short and stiff farewell. To their daughter, he said, but in a more tender and somewhat faltering voice, 'Farewell, Cecil! and thanks for all your kindness. Think of me sometimes, unless you are obliged to--God be with you, and with you all! Farewell!'

He turned towards the door, thrust his tobacco-pouch and pipe into his pocket, seized his hat, and went forth without casting one look behind. The old man smiled triumphantly, his wife sighed aloud an 'Ah, dear!' as she set her spinning-wheel in motion again, but large tears rapidly coursed each other over Cecilia's now pale cheeks.

I had the greatest possible inclination to invite a discussion of the principle which actuated these parents in regard to their child's marriage. I could have reminded them, that wealth does not suffice to ensure happiness in married life; that the heart must also have its share; that prudence counsels to think more of integrity, industry, and a good disposition, than of mere riches. I could have remonstrated with the father (for the mother seemed at least neutral) on his harshness to his only daughter. But I knew the nature of the lower orders too well to waste useless words on such subjects; I knew that money takes precedence of everything else in that class: but--is it otherwise with other classes? I knew, moreover, the dogged firmness of the peasantry, approaching almost to obstinacy, especially when any controversy with one in a superior rank of life was in question, and that the less they felt themselves able to argue, the more stiff-necked they became in adhering to their own notions. There came yet another reflection to prevent me, unbidden, from thrusting my finger into the pie. It was this:--Are not riches, after all, the most real and solid of all the good things of this earth? Is not money a sufficient substitute for every other sublunary advantage and blessing; the unexceptional passport for securing meat and drink, clothes and household comforts, respect and friendship, nay, a pretty large share of love itself? Is it not fortune which furnishes the greatest number of enjoyments, and bestows the greatest independence--which supplies almost every want? Is not poverty the rock upon which not only friendship, but love itself, often splits? 'When poverty comes in at the door, love flies out at the window,' is a proverb quoted by all classes. Alas! it is much to be wished that only Love and Hymen should meet together, but they too often insist on having Plutus to accompany them.

After such a review of the world, as it is--but, perhaps a more rational review than many would wish or expect from a writer of novels--they will easily believe that I did not meddle in Esben's and Cecilia's romance, especially as I thought it not unlikely that, on the part of the former, this might have been merely an eligible speculation, founded less on the daughter's beauty and affection than on the father's commercial credit and well-filled purse. And though I could not admit that true love is only a poetic fiction, yet I could not deny that it is more frequently found in books than in reality.

When the beautiful Cecilia had left the room, apparently to give vent to her feelings in a passion of tears, I ventured to remark that it was a pity the young man was not better off, adding that he seemed to be a fine fellow, and fond of the girl.

'What if he came back,' I asked, 'with some hundred dollars' worth of bank-notes?'

'If they were his own,' said old Michel, with a significant wink, 'well--that would be another affair.'

I soon after took my departure, and went forth again into the deserted heath, free as it was from human beings and their cares. At a good distance on one side I perceived Esben, and the smoke issuing from his pipe. 'Thus,' thought I, 'he is consoling himself in his sorrow and his love; but the unhappy Cecilia!' I cast a lingering look back on the rich hosier's domicile, and said to myself, 'Had that house not stood there--there would have been so many less tears in this sad world!'

Six years had passed away before I happened again to be on that part of the heath; it was a calm September day, like the one on which I had formerly been there. Chance led me to the hosier's habitation; and as I recognized old Michel KrŠnsen's lonely dwelling, I recalled to memory the pretty Cecilia and her lover. With the remembrance came a curiosity, or rather a longing to know what had been the conclusion of this pastoral poem--this heath-drama.

As usual with me in similar cases, I felt much inclined to anticipate the probable history. I made my own conclusions, and settled in my own mind how everything had turned out, guided by destiny to a happy dÚnouement. Alas! how often were not my conclusions widely different from the real course of events! And such was the case here; I pictured to myself Esben and Cecilia as man and wife--she, with an infant in her arms--the grandfather with one or two little prattlers on his knee--and the young hosier himself a thriving and happy partner in the still flourishing concern: but, it was far otherwise.

Before I had crossed the threshold I heard a female's sweet voice singing what, at first, I took for a lullaby, or cradle-song, though the tone was so melancholy that my raised expectations at once fell considerably. I stood a moment and listened; the words of the song were mourning over hopeless love. They were simple, yet full of truth and sorrow, but my memory only retains the two lines which formed the refrain:

The greatest sorrow that this world can give,
Is, far away from those one loves--to live.

With dark forebodings I pushed open the door. A stout, strong-looking, middle-aged woman, of the labouring class, who was carding wool, was the first on whom my eye fell; but it was not she who sang. The songstress had her back turned to me, she sat rocking herself rapidly backwards and forwards, and kept moving her hands as if she were spinning. The first-named arose and bade me welcome, but I hastened forwards to see the face of her companion. It was Cecilia--pale, but still beautiful. She looked up at me--ah! then I read insanity in the vacant, though shining eyes, in the inexpressive smile, in the whole mindless countenance! I also observed that she had no spinning-wheel before her, but that that which she was so busily turning must have been made of the same material as Macbeth's dagger.

She suddenly stopped both her song and her airy wheel, and asked me hurriedly and eagerly, 'Are you from Holstein? Did you see Esben? Is he coming soon?'

I perceived her state, and thinking it best to humour her, I answered without hesitation,

'Yes; he will not be very long of coming now. I bring his kind remembrances to you.'

'Then I must away to meet him!' she exclaimed, in a joyful tone of voice, and springing up from her straw chair, she rushed towards the door.

'Wait a moment, Cecil!' cried the other woman, throwing aside her work, 'and let me go with you.' She winked to me, and put her finger to her head, to inform me in dumb show that her companion was wrong there.

'Mother,' she exclaimed aloud, knocking hastily at the kitchen-door; 'there is some one here--come, will you, for we are going out!' She then ran after the wanderer, who was already beyond the little court-yard.

The old woman came in. I did not recognize her, but guessed, rightly enough, that she was the unfortunate girl's mother. Years and sorrow had made sad havoc on her appearance. She did not seem to remember me either, but after a civil 'Welcome--pray, sit down,' she asked the usual question, 'May I be permitted to know where you are from, good sir?'

I told her; and also reminded her that I had been her guest some years ago.

'Good Lord!' she exclaimed, clasping her hands, 'is it you? Pray, take a seat at the table while I got some refreshment for you.'

Though I was very eager to hear all the particulars of what had caused poor Cecilia's sad situation, yet a presentiment that some great calamity had happened, and a feeling of respect for the old woman's grief, restrained me from at once asking what I wished, yet dreaded, to hear.

'Is your husband not at home?' was my first inquiry.

'My husband!' she exclaimed. 'Our Lord has taken him long since--alas! It is now three years, come Michaelmas next, that I have been a widow. But, pray eat something--it is homely fare--but don't spare it.'

'Many thanks,' said I. 'But tell me about yourselves. So your poor husband is gone--that must have been a sad loss--a sad grief to you.'

'Ah, yes!' she replied, with tears in her eyes; 'but that was not the only one. Did you see my daughter?'

'Yes,' I answered; 'she seemed to me a little strange.'

'She is quite deranged,' she exclaimed, bursting into tears. 'She has to be watched constantly, and I am obliged to keep a woman to look after her. To be sure she spins a little--but she has scarcely time to do anything, for she has to be after poor Cecil at every hour of the day, when her thoughts fall upon Esben.'

'Where is Esben?' I asked.

'In God's kingdom,' she answered, solemnly. 'So you did not ask her about him? Oh, Lord, have mercy on us! He came to a dreadful end, nobody ever heard of such a frightful thing. But pray make yourself at home--you can eat and drink while you are listening. Ay, ay, sad things have happened since you were here. And times are also very hard--business is extremely dull, and we have to employ strangers now to carry it on.'

When I saw that her regret for past comforts mingled with her sorrow for present evils, and that neither were too great to prevent her relating her misfortunes, I took courage and asked her about them. She gave me a history, which, with the permission of my readers, I will repeat in the narrator's own simple and homely style. After having drawn a chair to the table, and taken up her knitting, she began:

'Kjeld Esbensen and ourselves have been neighbours since my first arrival here. Kjeld's Esben and our Cecil became good friends before anyone knew anything about it. My husband was not pleased, nor I neither, for Esben had nothing, and his father but little. We always thought that the girl would have had more pride, or more prudence than to dream of throwing herself away on such a raw lad. It is true he travelled about with a little pack, and made a few shillings; but how far would these go? He came as a suitor to Cecilia, but her father said No, which was not surprising, and thereupon Esben set off to Holstein. We observed that Cecil lost her spirits, but we did not think much of that--'She is sure to forget him,' said my good man, 'when the right one comes.'

'It was not long before Mads Egelund--I don't know if you ever saw him--he lives a few miles from this--he came and offered himself with an unencumbered property, and three thousand dollars a-year. That was something worth having. Michel immediately said Yes; but Cecil, God help her! said No. So her father was very angry, and led her a sad life. I always thought he was too hard upon her, but the worthy man would take no advice; he knew what was best, and he, and the father of Mads, went to the clergyman to publish the banns. All went well for two Sundays, but on the third one, when he said, "If any of you know cause or just impediment why these two persons should not be joined together in holy matrimony, ye are to declare it," Cecil rose abruptly and cried out, "I do; the banns for Esben and myself have been published three times in Paradise."

'I tried to hush her, but it was too late; every soul in church had heard her, and had turned to stare at our seat. We were put to dreadful shame and mortification! I did not then imagine she was out of her mind; but when the clergyman had left the pulpit, she began again, and raved about Esben and Paradise, her wedding and her wedding-dress, till we were obliged to take her out of church. My good Michel scolded her well, and declared that it was all a trick; but, God help us! there was no trick in it. It was all sad reality--she was insane then, and she is insane now.'

Here the speaker let the stocking she was knitting drop on her lap; took the woollen clew from her left shoulder, turned it round and round, and looked at it in all directions, but it was evident that her thoughts were not with it. After seeming to forget everything around her for a few minutes, she took up her knitting-needles, and, along with her work, resumed her sad tale.

'All her talk was about her being dead, and having got to Paradise, where she was to be married to Esben, as soon as he also was dead; and she remained in this state day and night. My good Michel, of blessed memory, then perceived how it was with her. "It is God's doing," said he, "and none can read His will." But he took it to heart for all that; and as to me, many were the hours that I lay awake in my bed and wept, while everybody else was sleeping. Sometimes I could not help saying, that it would have been better if the young people had married. "That may still come about," said my husband. But that never was to be.

'For the first two months or so she was very ungovernable, and we tried severity with her; afterwards she became quiet, spoke little, but sighed and wept a great deal. She could not be induced to occupy herself in any way, for she always said, "In Heaven every day is a holiday."

'Full half-a-year passed in this way, and it was more than double that time since Esben had gone to the south, yet none of us had heard anything of him, either for good or for evil. However, one day, when we were sitting here--my good man, Cecil, and myself--who should walk in but Esben! He had just arrived, had not yet even been to his own home, and had no idea what had happened, until he cast his eyes upon the girl, and then he could not fail to see that all was not right there.

'"You have tarried long," said she; "everything has been ready for the bridal a year and a day. But, tell me, are you living or dead?"

'"Good Heavens, Cecil!" cried he, "you can surely see that I am living."

'"That is a pity," said she, "for then you cannot enter the gates of Paradise. Strive to die as soon as possible, for Mads Egelund is watching to see if he can't come first."

'"This is a sad condition," said he. "Oh, Michel! Michel! you have done terrible wrong to us. I am now worth my five thousand dollars, too; and my mother's brother in Holstein has lately died unmarried--I am to be his heir."

'"What's that you say?" exclaimed my husband. "It is a pity we did not know all this some time ago. But have patience; the girl will recover now."

'Esben shook his head, but went up to my daughter, and taking her hand, said,

'"Cecil, speak sensibly now--we are both living; and if you will only be reasonable, your parents will give their consent to our marriage."

'But she snatched her hand from him, and putting both her arms behind her back, she shrieked,

'"Away from me! What have I to do with you? You are a mortal man, and I am one of God's angels."

'Thereupon he turned away, and began to weep bitterly.

'"God forgive you, Michel KrŠnsen!" at last he said; "God forgive you for the evil you have done to us two miserable beings!"

'"Nay, take comfort," said my good man, "all may yet go well. Sleep here to-night, and let us see how she behaves in the morning."

'It was towards evening, and a dreadful storm of thunder and lightning came on, the most fearful I ever witnessed in my life--one might have thought the last day was at hand. So Esben consented to stay with us, and by-and-by, when the storm had abated, we all went to bed; but through the wall I could hear Esben sighing, and almost sobbing. I fancied, too, that I heard him praying to our Heavenly Father: at length, I fell asleep.

'It might have been an hour or two past midnight when I awoke. All was still around. The storm was over, and the clear moonlight shone in calmly at the windows. I lay reflecting on the calamity that had befallen us--little did I think of that which I am now going to relate. It struck me, after a time, that Cecil was very quiet. Her little room was close to ours; I listened, but could not, as usual, hear her breathe; Esben, too, seemed to be extremely still. I felt a sort of foreboding that all was not right; therefore, leaving my bed, I crept softly to Cecilia's. I looked in--I felt for her--but there she was not. I then became very uneasy, hurried to the kitchen, struck a light, and went to the room which Esben occupied. Oh, horror of horrors! what did I behold there! She was sitting on Esben's bed, and had laid her head upon his breast, but when I came closer I saw that he was as white as a corpse, and that the lower part of his face, and the sheets, were red with blood. I screamed, and sank to the ground, but Cecil beckoned to me with one hand, while she patted his cheek with the other.

'"Hush, hush!" she exclaimed, half aloud, "my dearest love is now sleeping the sweet sleep. As soon as you have buried his body, angels will carry his soul to Paradise, and there we shall hold our bridal, amidst joy and glory."

'Alas! alas! merciful Father, pardon her! She had cut his throat--the bloody knife lay upon the floor beside the bed!'

Here the unfortunate widow hid her face with both her hands, and wept bitterly, while horror and distress filled my heart.

After a pause, she continued:--'As you may believe, there were sad lamentations and great wretchedness both at our house and at Esben's; but what is done cannot be undone. When the dead body was carried to the parents, they thought at first that it had been brought from Holstein--and, oh, what a crying and a screeching there was! It was enough to bring the house down about their ears. No wonder, too, for Esben was a fine young man, well to do--and just when he had come into a fine property and so much money, that he must die in the flower of his youth, and by the hand of her he loved. My worthy Michel could never get over that; he never held up his head again. In the course of a short time he became seriously ill, and then our Lord took him from me.

'The self-same day that he was buried, Cecilia fell into a deep sleep, and slept for many, many hours on a stretch. When she awoke, her reason had returned. I was sitting by her bed, and praying that the Almighty would release her, when suddenly, as she lay there, she heaved a deep, deep sigh, and casting her eyes on me, said, "Are you there? Where have I been? It seems to me that I have had a most extraordinary dream. I fancied I was in heaven, and Esben was there with me. Speak, mother; tell me, for God's sake, where is Esben? Have you heard nothing from him since he went to Holstein?" I hardly knew what I could answer, but I said, "No, we have no news from him." She sighed. "Where is my father?" she then asked. "All is well with your father," I replied; "God has taken him to himself." She began to weep. "Ah, mother, let me see him!" she entreated. "That is impossible, my child," I said, "for he is in his grave." "God preserve me!" she exclaimed. "How long, then, have I slept?" By this exclamation I perceived that she had no idea of the state that she had been in. "Why did you not wake me, mother?" she asked; "had you nothing for me to do? Oh! how sweetly I have been sleeping, and what delightful dreams I have had. Esben came every evening and visited me; but it was rather odd that he had on a shining white dress, and a red necklace round his neck.'"

At this part of her story the old woman fell into deep thought, and it was not until after she had heaved many heavy sighs, that she continued her narration.

'My unfortunate child had recovered her reason, but God only knows if it was better for her. She was generally cheerful, but never got into high spirits; she spoke little, except when she was spoken to: worked very diligently, and was neither positively ill nor positively well in health. The news of her restoration to her senses spread rapidly in the neighbourhood, and, about three months after, came Mads Egelund a second time as her suitor. But she would have nothing to say to him whatsoever. When he was at length convinced that she could not endure him, he became much enraged, and did sad mischief. I, and all our neighbours, and everyone who came here, agreed that we should never drop the slightest hint to Cecilia that she herself, during her insanity, had murdered the unfortunate Esben, and she imagined that he was either married, or had died in the south.

'One day that Mads was here, and was urging her vehemently to say "Yes" to him, and that she declared she would rather die than marry him, he said plainly out, that he was, after all, too good for one who had cut the throat of her first lover; and thereupon he maliciously poured forth all that had happened. I was in the kitchen, and only caught part of what he was saying. I instantly left what I was about, rushed in, and cried to him, "Mads, Mads! for God's sake, what is that you are saying?" But it was too late; there she sat, as white as a plastered wall, and her eyes stood fixed in her head.

'"What am I saying?" retorted Mads; "I am saying nothing but the truth. It is better for her to know that, than to treat her like a fool, and let her be waiting for a dead man the whole of her life."

'He left us; but her reason had fled again, never more to return in this mortal life. You see yourself in what state she is; at all hours, when she is not sleeping, she is singing that song, which she herself composed when Esben went to Holstein, and she fancies that she is spinning linen for her house when married. But she is quiet enough, Heaven be praised! and does not attempt to harm the meanest creature that lives; however, we dare not lose sight of her for a moment. May God take pity upon us, and soon call us both away!'

As she uttered these last words, the unfortunate girl entered with her keeper.

'No,' said she, 'to-day he is not to be seen--but we shall surely have him to-morrow. I must make haste, or I shall not have finished this linen.' She placed herself hurriedly upon her low straw chair, and with her hands and feet in rapid, yet mimic action, she recommenced her mournful ditty.

These words, so often repeated,

The greatest sorrow that this world can give,
Is, far away from those one loves--to live,

always drew forth a heavy sigh; and as she sang them, her pale, but still lovely face, would sink on her breast, her hands and feet would become languidly still, but directly she would rouse herself up to her labour, commence another verse, and set the invisible wheel going again.

In deep thought, I wandered forth from the widow's house. My soul was as dark as the colour of the heath I trod on; my whole mind was occupied with Cecilia and her dreadful fate. In every airy phantom, far and near, that flitted before my eyes, I fancied I beheld the unfortunate maniac as she sat and seemed to spin, and rocked herself, and threw up and down her hands with untiring motion. In the wild bird's plaintive whistle--in the lonely heath lark's mournful song, I heard only that one sorrowful truth--the words, alas! deeply felt by thousands of saddened hearts--

The greatest sorrow that this world can give,
Is, far away from those one loves--to live