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
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
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
'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
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
'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
'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
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
I perceived her state, and thinking it best to humour her, I answered
'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
'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
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
I told her; and also reminded her that I had been her guest some years
'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
'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
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
'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
'"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
'"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
'Esben shook his head, but went up to my daughter, and taking her hand,
'"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
'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
'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
'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
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
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