Sketched by Themselves.
A SERIES OF POPULAR STORIES BY THE BEST
TRANSLATED BY MRS. BUSHBY.
IN THREE VOLUMES.--VOL. II.
RICHARD BENTLEY, NEW BURLINGTON STREET.
[The right of Translation is reserved.]
LONDON: PRINTED BY W. CLOWES AND SONS, STAMFORD STREET,
AND CHARING CROSS.
CONTENTS OF VOL. II.
Too Old.--By Carit Etlar.
Aunt Francisca.--By Carl Bernhard.
The Shipwrecked Mariner's Treasure.--By
Damon and Pythias.--By Carl Bernhard.
The Fatal Chain.--From the Swedish of Uncle
Sketched by Themselves.
FROM THE DANISH OF CARIT ETLAR.
Between Fredericia and Snoghöi the sandy and stony shore forms a
tolerably broad tongue of land, which is called Lyngspoint. The coast
stretches out long and flat, without any defence against the sea except
a stone wall, and the fishermen who dwell here seem to have thought of
nothing but the safe little bays that, on either side of the
promontory, afford shelter to their small skiffs and protect them from
the wild waves, and the blocks of ice which during winter the
north-west winds drive in from the Kattegat.
Farther up on the land, the bare, desolate-looking plain of sand
disappears by degrees under high banks which are overgrown by a thick,
low copse of brushwood, with some stunted oak and beech-trees showing
themselves as sad mementoes of an extensive wood, that formerly joined
the forest of Erizö, and in the midst of which the village of Hannerup
was situated. The village and the wood have both disappeared long
Far in among the bushes people sometimes stumble upon pieces of broken
stones with their mouldering cement of lime, the last fragments of the
work and walls of ages gone by: in a few years the copse itself will
have vanished, and the blackbird and the thrush, whose blithe carols on
the summer evenings were heard even by those sailing near in the Belt,
will seek other leafy homes.
At a little distance from the sea-shore at Lyngspoint stand ten or
twelve small cottages, built in the irregular style which is always
observable in the houses of the peasantry of ancient days, and composed
of hard clay framework and thatched roofs. To each cottage there
belongs a small garden enclosed by a low earthen dyke, or a hedge of
elderberries and the blackthorn. Behind several of them are to be seen
boats turned upside down, lying in the sand with their keels exposed,
and each furnished with a little gate in the stern. These boats serve
as a shelter for sheep, or geese, after having become too frail any
longer to carry their owners out to sea. The inhabitants of Lyngspoint
are fishermen, a reserved and silent race, rough and stern like the
element on which they pass so much of their time. Among them the
struggles of life have no cessation--labour has no reward--time affords
no day of rest, except when storms forbid them to launch their boats,
or the sea is covered with ice; but such dreaded and unwelcome repose
is always associated with distress and want. The women employ
themselves in their household affairs, and not unfrequently share the
labour of the men, as they always share their privations. Even the
ocean's tempests are felt in common here, since every squall in which
the boats are exposed to danger on the water, causes gloom and anxiety
to those in the huts, who dread to lose their relatives and their means
In one of these fishermen's cottages one evening there were two
persons--an old man, tall and athletic, his grey hair thin and
sunburnt, his countenance decided and daring, and a woman, very
youthful-looking, pale, and apparently unhappy, but nevertheless of
rare beauty. He sat at a table, which was lighted by a lamp suspended
by a chain from a beam in the roof, and the glare from which fell upon
two long Spanish cavalry pistols which he was busy loading. She was
standing at the window gazing through the dark window-panes.
It was a gloomy November evening. The storm from the seaward swept
wildly along, howling dismally, while the rain beat heavily against the
windows, and the flame in the lamp fluttered and flickered in the gusts
of wind that rushed into the room through the open chimney. There had
been a long and unbroken silence between the two occupants of the
apartment; the man, while continuing his work, cast several glances
towards the young woman, but always looked quickly away when she turned
At length he asked, 'At what are you looking?'
'At the weather,' she replied. 'It will be a bad night to go to sea
'The weather is good enough,' he muttered, gruffly. 'It is all the
better for being dark; the darkness will be of use to us.'
So saying, he started up, buckled on a cutlass, and stuck the pistols
in his belt.
'Give me something to eat.'
The woman spread the table for supper, and taking a pot off the fire,
poured its contents into a dish, which she placed before the man.
There was again complete silence; he ate his supper without saying a
word, while the young woman sat leaning back in her chair near the
table, and fixed her eye on him with a sad, yet scrutinizing look.
'I am done,' he exclaimed, after a little while, 'and now, good-by.'
'Are you going already?' she asked, sorrowfully.
'To be sure I am--it is the time agreed on, and they will be waiting
for me on the shore down yonder.'
He drew on a thick sailor's jacket over his other clothes, and went
towards the door.
'Farewell, Christine!' he said, without even turning to look at her.
Christine stretched both her hands towards him, and her trembling lips
moved, but the words she would have spoken died away in a deep sigh.
The man turned round and walked back a step or two. For a few moments
he stood in silent surprise, and then exclaimed, 'What are you weeping
'Oh, Jan Steffens!' she whispered, half aloud, as she again stretched
her hands towards him, 'I am so afraid lest any evil should happen to
The man did not take her proffered hand, and his thick eyebrows were
knitted together, as he said, 'How childish you are, Christine! What is
there for you to be afraid of? I am going on a lawful errand, and
things must take their course. Take care to put the fire out, and don't
forget to feed the watch-dog in the morning. I have locked him up in
the wash-house, that he might not make a noise to-night.'
So saying he turned to go, but when he had reached the door he came
back once again, and exclaimed, with solemnity, 'May the Lord's
protecting hand be over you, Christine!' In another moment he was gone.
The young woman laid her head on the table, covered her face with her
hands, and wept bitterly. She had sat there for some time absorbed in
grief, when suddenly she raised her head, for she had heard steps on
the outside of the cottage. She got up and went to the window.
Presently she saw a figure in the doorway. It was that of a young man
in a sailor's dress, and armed in the same manner as Jan was.
'Good evening, dear Christine!' he exclaimed. 'Has Jan gone?'
'Yes,' she answered; 'you will find him down yonder with the other
The fisherman seemed to be reflecting on something, while he fixed his
eyes intently upon the young woman's face. He observed that there were
tears in her eyes, and approaching her, he seized her hand.
'Christine!' he exclaimed, in a soft and sympathizing voice, 'you have
been weeping? Has there been any quarrel between you and your husband?'
'No,' she replied, 'there never has been any.' And as she spoke she
tried to draw her hand away, but he grasped it more firmly.
'Would to Heaven you had never seen that old Jan Steffens,' he
whispered; 'you would have been much happier--oh, what misery we would
both have escaped!'
'Would to Heaven I had never seen you, Kjeld,' she answered; 'then,
perhaps, Jan and I might have been comfortable together.'
The young fisherman's eyes sparkled at this imprudent confession, which
admitted so much more than Christine had any intention of doing.
'But what harm have I done?' he asked, gently. 'We loved each other
from our childish days, when we used to go to school together. Ah!
then we looked forward to living together, to working together,
to trying our luck together--and--being so happy! Then came Jan
'And now I am Jan Steffens's wife,' cried Christine, interrupting him
impetuously. 'Never speak to me more of the past, therefore, Kjeld--it
is gone! It is forgotten,' she added, in a lower and sadder tone.
At that moment the light from the lamp fell upon a face, which, on the
outside of the house, was intently looking in through the window. Those
in the room did not observe it, and had no suspicion that prying eyes
were upon them. Kjeld asked, with warmth, 'Why should we not speak of
the past? We have always been only like brother and sister to each
'Brother and sister!' said Christine, trying to smile, 'what else could
we have been? But I am a married woman, Kjeld, and you, like every one
else, are only a stranger to me. Therefore you must not come here so
often--people remark the frequency of your visits, and talk of them.'
'But Jan himself has allowed them,' said the fisherman. 'Only
yesterday, when we were coming from church, he asked me where I had
been all last week, and why I had never once entered his house. He said
that you had been speaking of me.' Christine raised her head, and cast
a surprised and inquiring look at Kjeld. He went on: 'Jan said that you
were longing to see me again.'
'I cannot understand his conduct,' murmured Christine, musingly.
'When your husband spoke thus,' said Kjeld, tenderly, 'why will you be
harsher than he? Answer me, Christine--why may I not come here as
hitherto? I ask for nothing more.'
The young woman's lips quivered, and her whole frame trembled with
emotion, which she seemed struggling to overcome, as she replied, in a
broken voice, 'Oh, Kjeld, leave off such questions. It is a sin on your
part to speak in this manner to me. Go--go, I beseech you. Jan will
expect to meet you down yonder with the other boatmen.'
Kjeld seemed lost in thought for a few moments; he then came close to
Christine, laid his hand on her head, and tried to speak--but words
failed him, and turning suddenly away, he rushed from the cottage. At
the same moment the face vanished, which, from the outside of the
window, had been watching the scene within.
The storm appeared to be increasing. The lamp swung, and its light
fluttered in the draughts of air from the ill-secured window-frames.
When Christine found that she was alone, she crouched down close to the
door, as if she wished to catch the last expiring echo of the footsteps
of him who had just gone. She listened, but nothing was to be heard
save the roaring of the tempest, and the sound of the rain pattering
against the windows.
This is a tale of the year 1808, at the commencement of that
unfortunate period when Denmark, without a fleet, without an army, and
almost without finances, entered into war both with Sweden and England.
Down at the shore, in one of the little bays before mentioned, the
water from which was conveyed a good way inland by a broad channel that
had been dug for the purpose, there lay that evening two gunboats,
which a number of men were getting out into the open sea. They worked
hurriedly and silently, and the little noise that they unavoidably made
was drowned in the roaring of the waves, which were dashing furiously
on the beach of the narrow tongue of land. The men were all armed in
the same way as Jan Steffens, and seemed to obey his orders.
Jan was the principal pilot of the place, and well known as an
excellent seaman. The two gunboats had been built and rigged at
Fredericia, and afterwards placed under his command. They were the
masters of the whole Belt, so to speak, and the previous summer they
had taken several valuable prizes from the English.
At the moment in question the pilot was standing on a rock on the
beach, and dividing his attention between the men's work and the black
clouds above, from which the rain was pouring down in torrents. All the
preparations, so energetically carried on that evening, were made for
the purpose of taking by surprise an English corvette, which, for want
of a pilot, had anchored in a bay near Fyen shortly before the darkness
and the storm had commenced.
Just about the time that the gunboats had been hauled out to the
extremity of the point, two persons approached the shore, both coming
from the direction of the cottages. One was a half-grown lad, the other
was Kjeld. The boy looked about for the pilot, and when he perceived
him standing on the rock he hastened towards him.
Jan stooped and whispered in the boy's ear,
'Was he in yonder?'
'You are sure you saw him--you have not made any mistake?'
'I saw him as plainly as I now see you, Jan Steffens.'
'Very well, Jens; you can go home. Let the sails alone!' he cried,
shortly after, turning towards the group of men near; 'the storm is
increasing, the wind is right against us, and we must row the boats
out. How late may it be, I wonder?'
'It is not yet midnight,' replied Kjeld, who had just approached the
pilot. 'As I was coming along I heard the clock at Erizö church strike
'Mongens Dal, at Fyensland, promised to place a light in his window at
twelve o'clock,' observed another. 'His farm lies close by the bay
where the English ship has anchored; we have only, then, to look out
for that light, and there will be no mistake.'
'Ay, ay--all right,' replied Jan, gruffly. 'Mind your own business,
Vextel, and leave me to determine how we shall steer.'
A few minutes afterwards he announced that it was time for them to put
'Take your places,' cried Jan, 'and see that you make as little noise
with the oars as possible. Ebbe, take the helm of the other boat, and
follow close to the one I steer. We shall be a tolerable number this
time, I think.'
'You promised to take the porpoise-hunters from Middlefart with us.'
'To be sure I did, and we shall find room for them; they are fine brave
fellows, these porpoise-hunters. Has Kjeld come on board?'
'Yes, pilot,' answered the young man from the first gunboat.
'A word with you, Kjeld. Come a little way on shore.'
Kjeld sprang out of the boat, the pilot went up to him, and they walked
together from the beach towards the sandhills.
'You will see that Kjeld will be half-mad this evening,' said one of
the seamen in the first boat. 'Jan Steffens looks as sulky and savage
as can be; very likely he has found out the love affair at home in his
house up yonder.'
'Poor man!' said another, 'why did he take so young a wife. He is much
too old for her.'
In the meantime, after Jan and Kjeld had walked to some distance in
silence side by side, Jan asked suddenly,--
'Where were you this evening, Kjeld? It was very late before you joined
Kjeld stammered some almost unintelligible words, while he seemed to be
framing an answer.
'You are thinking what you can say,' exclaimed the old pilot, in a
voice unsteady with suppressed anger, 'for you dare not speak it out.
You were with Christine. You ought not to conceal this from me. You
were there also yesterday, and on Sunday, and last Friday; and, in
short, whenever I am absent, at sea in my boat, or elsewhere, you find
some pretext to visit her.'
'I admit it is true,' replied Kjeld, who was startled by the stern
coldness of Jan's looks and words.
'But did it never occur to you that you were wrong in visiting her so
often? Christine is a married woman, and you will bring discredit upon
her with your frequent visits.'
'I am a man of honour, Jan Steffens,' replied Kjeld, in a voice that
trembled somewhat with anxiety at what might be the result of this
conversation, 'and I have never behaved in your house in any way that
you or the whole world might not have witnessed.'
'That is, perhaps, a misfortune, sir.'
'A misfortune!' exclaimed Kjeld, in amazement; 'what can you mean?'
'If it had been otherwise,' replied Jan, quietly, 'I should have put a
pistol to your head, and shot you--that's all. It would have been
better both for you and her, maybe.'
'But you yourself gave me permission to visit at your house; you said
that Christine longed to have some news of me.'
'Well, if I said that, of course you knew on whose account I asked you
to come. You need not take the matter so much to heart, my lad; let us
speak reasonably now. I know that you are a well-principled young man,
Kjeld; I have watched you narrowly ever since Christine and I were
married. I am aware how things stand between you two; I know all,
'Ah, yes! I know that she loves you, and that she has never in her life
cared for anyone else.'
'Then you know, also, that I am the most unfortunate man on earth,'
'You!' exclaimed Jan, shrugging up his shoulders mockingly--'you! No,
my lad, there is one who beats you in misfortune.'
'I. If you had acted towards me as you ought to have done, you would
have come to me when I was courting Christine, and have told me how
things were between you and her.'
'We thought of doing that, Jan Steffens, but we did not dare to risk
'Nonsense--nonsense! one should dare everything to fulfil one's duty.
But you kept silence at that time, so did she, and matters were allowed
to take their course.'
'Oh, Jan Steffens!' replied the young fisherman, in a voice trembling
with emotion, 'what could I have said to you? I was a poor fellow,
working hard to obtain food enough for my own support. You were well
off, and had been kind to Christine's father, therefore they were glad
to let you have the girl.'
'A very good reason, truly. What! because I had been kind to the old
people, had I a claim to make their daughter unhappy? No; the blame was
your own. You both kept silence, and yourselves are answerable for the
evil that followed. Hearken, Kjeld! from this evening forward we must
understand each other. I loved Christine from the first moment I beheld
her; she was so amiable, so dutiful, and so full of affectionate
feeling for the old people, her parents, and so attentive to them, that
I thought she would make an excellent wife. I knew that she would have
many more comforts in my house than she had at home. I reflected on
everything, except upon the difference between our ages. She was
silent--she wept; but she married me. Since that time, Kjeld, I have
done all that a man could do to make myself liked. I was kind and
indulgent to her. I allowed her to rule in all things, and to do
whatever she pleased. I brought her home the most beautiful dresses and
presents when I went on voyages. But all was of no avail. I was too
'I bought a new boat for her father, I took her mother into our house,
I clothed her little sisters and sent them to school, I prayed to the
Lord every morning and evening of my life in mercy to inspire her with
kindly feelings towards me--but in vain, in vain! She went through her
duties, and was civil and good-tempered; but love me she never could.
When I was young, like you, Kjeld, I dared not attach myself to any
woman, because I was too poor; now that I have become rich, none will
attach herself to me, because I am too old. You look sad. Ah, so goes
the world, my boy! It was not long before I found out that you loved
Christine; and, alas! still worse--I too soon perceived how much she
cared for you. While you both thought the secret was buried in your own
hearts, I read it as if in an open book. Then I was seized with the
most furious jealousy. I resolved to murder you, and more than once, at
that period, there was but a hair-breadth between you and death. I
watched you closely--my eyes were often on you, and never were you out
of my thoughts.'
Jan stopped; he seemed to be nerving himself to go on with his
narration. Kjeld observed that he was shaking, as if in an ague fit.
'You were an honourable man, Kjeld, as you declared a little while
ago,' continued Jan, 'yet that which ought to have made my unhappiness
less, absolutely added to it. I have nothing to complain of--nothing to
reproach you with--all falls back upon myself--upon that disastrous,
that wretched union of hands, in which the soul took no part; and when
one has come to the full knowledge that such was the case, the painful
truth fastens itself upon the mind, and impels one to seek some remedy
to the misfortune.'
'You are right, Jan Steffens,' replied Kjeld, earnestly. 'I, too, have
been reflecting upon a remedy since I left Christine a little while
ago, when she wished to Heaven she had never known me--never even
'Did Christine really say that?' exclaimed the pilot with surprise,
but, it must be owned, not without feeling somewhat pleased and
flattered. 'Well, that was rather a cruel wish to bestow on you this
evening, when she thought that you were going on an expedition from
whence many of us will, perhaps, never return.'
'Christine is a better wife than you fancy; she discards every thought
that is not in accordance with her duty; I shall not be wanting in mine
either, and I have hit upon a plan to set all to rights.'
'So have I,' said the pilot.
'I shall go away and engage myself on board some ship trading with a
foreign country, and neither she nor you shall see me often again, if
it shall please God to spare my life in our enterprise to-night.'
'That he certainly will do, my lad, for a good reason--that you shall
not go with us.'
'Not go with you! What do you mean by that?' asked Kjeld, in the utmost
'Listen!' replied Jan, with cold, quiet decision of manner. 'I have not
much time to spare, and my resolution is taken. Because you have
behaved honourably, and because you have both felt so kindly disposed
towards an old man who, without knowing or intending it, brought upon
you the greatest disappointment that can befall anyone, I will ensure
you both a reward. Go back to Christine, and tell her, that from this
evening henceforth I will bestow on her all the liberty she can desire;
she shall no longer have cause to grieve and to weep, as she has so
often done when she supposed no one saw her, or at night, when she
thought I was asleep: you can say that since it was impossible for me
to win her affection, and be happy myself, I will not hinder her from
being so. On this account, it is not you, young man, but I, who
must go away to a distant land, never more to return.'
It would be difficult to describe the young seaman's amazement as he
listened to these words.
'I do not at all understand you, Jan Steffens,' he said. 'What do you
mean by speaking in this manner?'
'They are calling to me from the boats!' cried Jan. 'Do you not hear
their shouts? I must away. What do I mean?' he added, in a lower tone.
'It is easily understood; if I die to-night, I cannot stand in your way
'Die!' cried Kjeld. 'Are you going to kill yourself?'
'No,' replied the pilot, calmly. 'But I feel pretty sure that the
Englishmen will take the trouble of despatching me upon themselves.'
'No, no! that shall not be! You must let me go with you, Jan Steffens,
and share your danger; you promised that you would. Besides, according
to the lots that we drew in the dark, I have a right to accompany you.
And if you were to die--if you were to put yourself forward to be
killed--I should be still more miserable than I am now. Christine
would never be mine, if that happiness were purchased by your death
'Oh, as to that, you will change your tune when the time comes,'
replied the pilot, turning to go; but Kjeld stopped him, and placing
himself before him, while he seized his arms, exclaimed,
'Oh, Jan Steffens! take me with you; I entreat you, as the greatest
favour, to do so. You shall not forsake Christine; you are a far better
husband to her than I should be. Let me go with the boats!'
Jan shook himself free from the young man's grasp, and in answer to his
earnest appeal, he said,
'It shall be as I have determined, Kjeld, so there is no use for
another word on the subject. But you must not go to Christine till
to-morrow, for you may well believe that I must have ceased to live
before I cease to love her. Farewell, Kjeld--be kind to her, and make
her as happy as you can. She is very mild, and is easily intimidated.
When she is yours, and you speak of me in future years, remember that I
wished to do good to you both--that I atoned for my fault as well as I
could--and that my greatest misfortune was--that she was so young, or
rather, that I was too old.'
The pilot wrung Kjeld's hand as he said these words, and before the
young fisherman had time to conquer his emotion so as to be able to
make any reply, the old man had left him, and was crossing the sand
with rapid strides towards the shore where the boats' crews were
assembled. Kjeld followed him, crying, 'Jan Steffens, let me go with
you only this once; do not thus turn a deaf ear to me. You will rob me
of my honour, my share in your glory, if I alone am to be left behind.'
'Push off!' shouted the pilot, as he jumped into the leading gunboat,
and took his place at the helm.
The oars sank, and both the boats began to move towards the sea. Kjeld
uttered a despairing cry, and sprang after them, but he could not reach
them, and the waves cast him back on the shore.
'Things shall be as I have said,' he heard in the pilot's deep voice
from the foremost boat. 'But do not go up yonder before to-morrow, and
may the Lord be with you both!'
The men in the boats had been astonished witnesses of this scene. Those
who sat nearest to him cast looks of inquiry towards the pilot; but his
eye gave no responsive glance, his sunburnt face only expressed
inflexible resolution, and his countenance was, perhaps, a little
sterner even than usual.
From the beach Kjeld saw the boats rising and sinking amidst the
foaming waves, while his passionate entreaties and his wild shouts were
lost in the roaring of the wind and the thunder of the sea. The rain
was pouring in torrents, and the skies were obscured by heavy black
clouds. Soon after the two boats appeared only as dark specks upon the
water, and presently even these vanished amidst the thick fog which
rested over the sea at a little distance.
Fortunately the current was running northwards that night--that is to
say, in a direction which favoured the progress of the gunboats, so
that their crews were not obliged to fatigue themselves with rowing
hard. The raging sea broke repeatedly over the boats, but no one seemed
to mind this; they placed complete confidence in the pilot, whose tall
figure, apparently immovable, stood upright at the helm: and perhaps
the thoughts of all were directed to the object of their expedition,
which they were rapidly approaching. The rain had somewhat abated in
that particular place, and when a gust of wind partially dispelled the
fog for a moment, they saw on the opposite high coast of Fyen the
signal-light, which, though it was but faint and flickering, pointed
out to them where they should seek the enemy. Amidst the profound
silence that reigned in the boats, the pilot addressed the men in low
but distinct tones.
'Row more quietly still, Gutter! Make no noise with your oars; you may
be certain that they have their eyes and ears open yonder. They know
right well where they are. Have the guns clear in front there, Nikolai;
you must show us to-night that you understand your work like an old
artilleryman. The wind will fall off the nearer we come under the
shelter of the hilly land. If I see aright, we have our man there in
the lee of the boats.'
All eyes were instantly turned in the direction he had named; a dark
object became soon after perceptible amidst the thick gloom around, it
gradually grew in size and developed its outline, until the hull of a
ship was to be discerned, sharp and black, reposing on the waters like
In pursuance of the plan which Jan Steffens had arranged, the
shaped their course so as to come between the land and the corvette.
They could hear the wind whistling amidst the cordage, could see the
light in the captain's cabin, and the heads of the officers of the
watch as they paced up and down the quarter-deck. The silence which had
reigned on board was broken the moment the pilot's boat was perceived
from the ship. Immediately afterwards Jan's sonorous voice was heard
commanding his men to fire. Both the gunboats fired at the same moment,
and with terrible effect.
It would be in vain to try to describe the commotion which now took
place on board the enemy's ship. The attack had been made as suddenly
as it had been planned; it was also favoured in the highest degree by
the darkness and the tempest, which embarrassed many of the movements
of the ship at anchor, whilst the gunboats, on the contrary, were able
to move easily towards the places where their fire would operate most
effectively, and be most destructive. Under these fortunate
circumstances the fishermen continued to load and to discharge their
guns. Splinters and pieces of broken planks evinced the accuracy of
their gunners. On board the corvette they were not able to point their
cannon so low that they could sweep the boats, whose flat hulls,
besides, were only visible during the flashes of fire from the guns,
and in an instant after seemed to have been swallowed up by the lofty
Meanwhile the drums beat on board the ship; the boatswain's whistle
mingled with the officer's words of command--disorder was at an end.
Everything was done that circumstances permitted to oppose the enemy,
and their fire was returned whenever their position could be
ascertained. Soon after the rain ceased, and faint rays of pale
moonlight struggled through the dark masses of clouds that were driving
across the skies. The gunboats came close under the man-of-war, and
after another discharge of their guns, the crews boarded the ship,
climbing in by every possible opening, amidst cries of joyous triumph;
and then commenced a scene in which were mingled the sounds of oaths,
shouts, and pistol-shots, while everything was shrouded in the thick
veil of mist and dark clouds of smoke.
At Lyngspoint every shot was heard, and caused the deepest anxiety for
the absent. As usual upon similar occasions, lights appeared in all the
fishermen's huts. None of the females thought of sleep while their
husbands and their brothers were fighting upon the stormy sea. The
tempest roared around the cottages, the watch-dogs howled as if
lamenting their masters' danger, and the crowing of the cocks announced
the approach of morning. Pale countenances, expressive of fear and
anxiety, appeared one after the other at the half-open doors; presently
the women began to go over to each other's houses to communicate their
forebodings, or to seek for the comfort so much needed. In the little
porch of one of the houses nearest to the shore stood a group of three
females muffled up in woollen shawls and gazing upon the sea. Every
shot was noticed by them with a sigh or a speaking glance.
'There is warm work going on over yonder,' groaned one woman.
'Ah, yes!' replied another; 'I was just thinking that every one of
these shots may cost a man's life--the lives of our men, perhaps.'
'Nonsense! there is nothing to make such a fuss about,' exclaimed a
rough voice. 'Our people's lives are in God's hands, even though they
may stand before the barrel of a gun, or ride on a plank over the
ocean. I have put up a prayer to the Lord for my boy. "Do your duty," I
said to him when he went away, "and our Almighty Father will order the
rest as seems good to Him!"'
She who spoke thus was an extraordinary-looking woman. Her face was
entirely covered with wrinkles and marks of the small-pox, which made
her harsh features look still coarser than they really were. Some years
before the date of the night in question, her husband had been lost at
sea, and she and her little son had been left in the utmost poverty.
From that time Ellen went out with the men to fish: she worked as hard
as the best of them, managed her boat like an experienced seaman, and
never seemed to feel fatigue. Equipped in a short dress, a pair of
large fisherman's boots, and a dark, low hat, which in nautical
language is called 'a sou'-wester,' she was to be seen in the worst
weather carrying her fish about to the neighbouring farms for sale; in
the autumn months she hired the old right of ferryman at Snoghöi, and
carried fruit over from Æro to Zealand--she took travellers across to
Strib--mended her own boat when it needed repairs; in short, she worked
hard, for she worked to maintain her son.
Doubtless some local readers of this slight sketch will recognize in
Ellen an old acquaintance, who was always welcome wherever she showed
herself; an honest, upright, self-sacrificing character, whose whole
life was one scene of unflinching devotion to her duties, until she
suddenly disappeared from her home, and was never seen again.
Ellen was standing with a short clay-pipe in her mouth, her rough grey
locks confined by a handkerchief tied under her chin.
'I'll tell you what, Ellen,' said one of the other women, 'let us run
over to Stine Steffens, as none of us have any mind to go to sleep
to-night. She has a warm, comfortable room, and can give us a good cup
Her proposition was readily agreed to by the group of women who had now
assembled, and, tying handkerchiefs over their heads like hoods, they
all repaired to Jan Steffens's house, with the exception of 'Skipper
Ellen,' as she was generally called, who remained behind.
Christine was still sitting in the same corner of the room where she
had placed herself after Kjeld had left her. Her beautiful, expressive
eyes were swimming in tears.
'Good evening, little Stine!' cried one of the fisherwomen. 'How goes
it with you?'
'Oh, as with the rest of you,' she replied. 'I am full of anxiety and
terror. It was kind of you to come here. Pray sit down.'
'You had better come to one of our houses, and we shall make some good
strong coffee; that will help to kill the time.'
'We can make the coffee as well here,' said Christine.
'Oh, certainly,' said the other, joyfully, 'and I will help to blow up
The fire was rekindled, the coffee made, and the conversation was then
'Would to Heaven our people were safe at home again!' exclaimed
Christine. 'I am so terrified at the risk they are running to-night.'
'And with good reason too,' said one of the women. 'There is sure to be
sorrow among some of us to-morrow, for the firing has been going on at
least half-an-hour. But we must comfort ourselves by remembering that
storm and sunshine come from the same hand; and if some are sufferers
others will be gainers, for no doubt there will be a good deal of
prize-money from so large a ship. You, at any rate, can take things
easily, my good Stine, for if anything should happen to your old man,
your fate won't be very hard--you will soon have another and a younger
husband. Besides, Jan Steffens always gets a double portion of any
prize-money, or any treasure that is found, though all the other men
risk their lives as much as he does his.'
'Oh, come now,' cried another, 'Christine has twice as much cause of
anxiety as we have. We have only one to think of--she has two.'
'Two!' exclaimed Christine. 'What do you mean?'
'Why, have you not first your old husband, and then a young sweetheart
in the background? I mean Kjeld Olsen.'
While Christine was reflecting what answer to make to this sudden
attack, another woman said,
'There is no fear of anything happening to Kjeld Olsen to-night; he was
wiser than to put himself into jeopardy, so he remained at home, and
let them go without him. Of course he had good reasons for determining
to spare his own life--old Jan Steffens may lose his.'
Up to this moment Christine had not made any reply to their rude jests,
hut her patience was now exhausted, her pale cheeks turned crimson, and
rising up she said firmly,
'You have not been speaking the truth. Kjeld is to-night where he
always delights to be, in the midst of danger, the boldest among the
'Who is speaking of Kjeld?' asked Skipper Ellen, who had entered the
room at that moment. 'He is standing down yonder on the shore, and
trying hard to persuade Poul Mikkelsen, at any price, to take him over
in his boat to the English ship.'
'There now, you hear he is at home,' cried the woman, who had first
mentioned the fact. 'It is well you came, Ellen, for Christine would
not believe our word.'
'Will you come down to the shore?' asked Ellen; 'the rain is over, the
wind has lulled, and the moon is shining clearly.'
'Yes, let us go,' said Christine, laying aside the empty coffee-cups.
'Ah! now we shall see what is the matter with poor Kjeld.'
'Of course old Jan Steffens did not care to have his company,' said the
most ill-natured woman. 'No doubt he knew pretty well where Kjeld's
thoughts would be wandering to.'
'And I say you are quite mistaken,' replied Ellen, casting a look of
angry scorn on the woman. 'It would be a happy thing for you, Birthe,
if you had a son, or anyone belonging to you, that resembled Kjeld.'
So saying, she took Christine by the arm and went towards the shore,
followed by the rest of the women. It had ceased raining, and the wind
had abated, but the sea was still much agitated, and the noise of
firing was yet to be heard. Kjeld was standing in earnest conversation
with an old man, who was leaning on a staff, and who shook his head
occasionally as if refusing something.
'What is the matter, Kjeld?' asked Skipper Ellen. 'And why have you not
gone with the rest of them?'
'Jan Steffens said there were too many in the boats,' he answered
'Ay--and now he insists upon following them,' said the old man, 'and
offers me everything he has to help him to row over yonder. But the
weather is too bad. I won't trust my boat out in such a wild sea.'
'What nonsense!' cried Ellen, jeeringly. 'Are you afraid of risking
your life, Poul?'
'You know better, Ellen,' replied the old man. 'I have no fear for my
life, but if I lose my boat my children will starve.'
'That is a serious consideration, to be sure,' said Ellen, 'but the
young man shall go, notwithstanding, and if you won't accompany him,
I will. Come here, Kjeld--when you and I put our strength together I
think we shall manage to reach the other side.'
Kjeld uttered a cry of joy, shook Ellen's hand warmly, and exclaimed,
'May God bless and reward you, dear good Ellen; I shall never forget
'As to your boat, Poul, you must not be alarmed if we borrow it,' said
Ellen. 'If we are unlucky, and the sea takes us, my boat lies drawn up
on the land, newly painted and just put to rights; and in the village
yonder I have a small house--you can take both as payment if your boat
be lost. But Kjeld shall go as he wishes.'
'Don't attempt to go, Ellen,' cried one of the women, 'you will only
get into trouble.'
'With God's help I have no fear of that. The lad shall go, if we should
cross in one of my fishing-boats.'
She forced herself through the circle of women who had gathered around
her, and hastened to the shore, where Kjeld had already placed himself
in the frail boat. Ellen got into it, and, standing up, seized an oar.
Soon after the boat glided out to sea, and the somewhat hazardous
voyage was begun.
'She is a wonderful woman, that Ellen!' exclaimed one of those who were
looking on. 'A lucky fellow he was who got her for a wife; there's
nothing she can't turn her hand to; and she can work as well as the
best man among them.'
As long as it was possible to perceive the boat, it was observed to be
making straight for its destination; rowed by vigorous arms, and
managed by experienced persons, it seemed sometimes to be swallowed up
by the waves, and then it would be seen as if riding over them, and
defying them, while it never swerved from its appointed course.
'Come now, Kjeld,' cried Ellen, after they had got some distance from
the land, 'let us two have a little rational conversation. It was
partly to find an opportunity for this that I was so willing to go to
sea with you to-night. What really is the matter with you, my lad? Why
have you been going about latterly with your head drooping in such a
melancholy way, and loitering about in idleness, instead of following
your occupations cheerfully and diligently?'
'The matter with me!' exclaimed Kjeld, in well-feigned astonishment;
'why, nothing, Ellen--you are quite mistaken in supposing that anything
is the matter with me.'
'Oh, there is no use in your denying that something ails you; I am too
old to be easily humbugged. You must speak the honest truth to me,
Kjeld; you must be as frank with me as I am with you. You need not
fear to speak freely, for no one can overhear you out thus far on the
sea--no one, my boy--except myself and He who rules the ocean. You are
still silent, Kjeld--then I will speak out. You are sighing and
grieving because you love Christine Steffens, and because you think
that she loves you; that's the short and the long of the matter. But
have you forgotten that Christine is a married woman? and are you aware
that your conduct is bringing her name into people's mouths--that every
creature in the village is talking of you and her, and that the walls
of her own house cannot protect her against jeering and insult? I have
myself been a witness of this to-night.'
'What was said to her, Ellen?' asked Kjeld, in consternation. 'Who
could speak a syllable in disparagement of Christine?'
'Say, rather, who can prevent it, Kjeld, since you yourself afford such
ample room for tittle-tattle.'
'Ah, Ellen! if you only knew how much I love Christine! She has been my
thought by day, and my dream by night; and when I have been away on
long voyages, I denied myself everything to save all I got for her. I
always expected that she would certainly one day be mine--but when I
came home this autumn, she was married!'
'It was a pity. There is nothing left for you, therefore, now, but to
'Forget her! I shall never, never forget her.'
'Oh, I have heard such vows before; young folks have always these
ideas, but they smile at them when they become older. An honourable man
loves a girl when he marries her, or when he intends to marry her.'
'And when he cannot marry her?'
'Then he lets her alone, my good lad, and turns his attention to some
'More easily said than done, Ellen.'
'You think I do not know what I am speaking about because I am old, and
grey, and wrinkled. Is it not so, Kjeld? But remember that old people
have been young themselves once, and let me tell you that the misery
which you find it so impossible to bear, I have borne, though I am only
a woman. Long ago, when I was a little better-looking than I am now,
there was one who was always uppermost in my thoughts--one whom I
cherished in my secret soul; in short, to whom I was as much attached
as you are to Christine. He wooed me, too; he begged me to be his wife,
and swore by Him who made yon heavens above that he loved only me.'
'And what answer did you give him?'
'I told him that we could not be so imprudent as to marry, for he had
little, and I had still less; that I would marry the man who was the
landlord of the house in which we resided, to provide a comfortable
home for my mother as long as she lived. And I did marry that man. He
whom I had refused never knew how much I cared for him; he did not
think that I had been really attached to him. But I grieved when he
went away. There never was a squall at sea that I did not think with
anxiety about him; and many a night have I soaked my pillow with my
tears, when I could not go to sleep because the tempest raged so
'Do I know the person of whom you are speaking, Ellen?'
'Yes, you do, Kjeld: he is your own father.'
'Can you now comprehend why I have always taken such an interest in
you, and why I have some right to advise you to let Christine alone? I
do not say that you must forget her.'
'No, because you are convinced it is impossible for me to do so.'
'Not at all--because I know forgetfulness will come of itself. I only
desire to impress on you the necessity of leaving this place, and no
longer loitering about the sea-shore here. To-morrow I am going to sail
to Æro, or Æbler, and if you will come with me, Kjeld, we will go on to
Copenhagen. You had better engage yourself on board some ship going to
the south, and stay away a few years. When you come back again, if our
Lord has spared my life till then, you will thank me for the advice I
have given you this night. But see! here are our boats. For God's sake,
Kjeld, do your duty! I will fasten our little skiff to one of the
Christine in the meantime remained standing on the beach at a little
distance from the other women. She had been a silent but much
interested spectator of all that had occurred previous to Kjeld's and
Ellen's departure, and she stood watching the frail little boat as long
as it was visible. At length the fisherwomen rejoined her, and were
loud in the expression of their fears and forebodings. Christine said
'Of course you have no reason to be afraid, Christine,' said the same
woman who had before commenced jeering at her in Jan Steffens's house.
'Kjeld cannot arrive yonder until all the dangerous work is over, but
he can always boast of being one of the party, and perhaps he may get a
share of the prize-money. And if any accident should happen to old Jan
Steffens, you will have a new protector ready at hand.'
'What do you mean by all the insinuations you have been throwing out
to-night?' asked Christine.
'Well, this is too good!' cried the woman, laughing, and turning
towards the other females. 'She pretends to be so ignorant, the little
'But speak out--explain yourself! I do not understand a word you have
been saying, and cannot imagine what you have been all driving at
'I mean that you and Kjeld will marry as soon as Jan's eyes are closed
for ever, and that it is no fault of yours or Kjeld's that this has
been so long of taking place.'
'And will you listen to my answer?' said Christine, in a peremptory
tone, and speaking with such pointed distinctness that her words were
perfectly heard by every one near. 'If such a misfortune should befall
me that any accident shall occur to Jan Steffens to-night, I swear that
I will never marry either Kjeld Olsen, or any other man upon this
'Oh, you would think better of it--you would change your mind,' cried
the other, laughing scornfully.
'No!' said Christine. 'By my hopes of salvation and eternal happiness
in the world to come, I speak the truth. And I beseech you to believe
me, and leave me in peace.'
Shortly after the firing ceased, and many eyes were turned anxiously
towards the place where it was known the ship lay.
'It is over now,' said a solemn voice. 'They will be coming back
presently. God have mercy on us all, but especially on those who have
lost any near and dear to them!'
There was a deep and unbroken silence among the crowd. Terror and
anxiety had closed all their lips, and every eye was strained looking
out for the boats. Old Poul Mikkelsen, who had clambered up to the top
of a pile of rocks, was sitting without his hat, and singing the first
verses of a psalm in a weak and tremulous voice. Suddenly there burst
forth a bright light in the direction of the ship; it increased in
width until by degrees it became a broad sheet of dark flame, the
glowing reflection of which streamed over the waves and tinged the
hills that skirted the adjacent coast. Such was the glare of light that
the shore at Fyensland could be seen crowded with people, and several
boats were discerned apparently rowing in great haste to and from the
'The ship is on fire!' cried Poul. 'Our people have been victorious.'
The fire seemed to increase until at length it appeared to become
concentrated, when it shot up in one high pillar of flame, from which
jets of sparks were thrown up into the air around. While the group
on the shore at Lyngspoint were standing in breathless silence, the
church clock at Erizö was heard to strike three, and the grey dawn of
morning began to give place to the clear light of day. In the glare
from the fire the corvette--with its slender masts, its yards, and
cordage--became distinctly and fearfully visible, and people could be
perceived hurrying up and down the deck. Shortly after, the guns went
off, the fire having then reached them, and one cannon-ball struck the
bank at no great distance from where the wives and families of the
fishermen were assembled. No one seemed to notice it, for the thoughts
of all were earnestly bent upon the terrible drama which was being
enacted out upon the sea; each person present had a deep interest in
it, and not one of them but waited for its dénoûment with dread and
'Here come our boats!' cried Poul, pointing with his staff towards two
dark specks which were to be seen tossing on the waves at a little
distance from the corvette. Soon after a third boat was observed, towed
by one of the gun-boats. Christine had been the first to perceive it;
she folded her hands, and cast a grateful look of thanksgiving up
At length the gunboats reached the shore. In the deeply-affecting
scene that followed were mingled joyous exclamations and groans of
despair--smiles and tears--as those so dear and so anxiously looked for
were found to be safe, or, alas! to be among the wounded and the dead.
Christine's eyes sought Jan everywhere--but in vain--she did not see
him. She covered her face, and burst into tears.
In a few minutes Kjeld approached her, and laid his hand gently on her
'Where is my husband?' she asked, impatiently.
'He is dead,' replied Kjeld.
'Dead! dead!' exclaimed Christine, in a voice faint and trembling from
'Yes! He fell at the very moment that he ordered us to return to our
boats, when the Englishmen had set fire to the corvette. I did all I
could to save him, dear Christine; I posted myself at his side, and
defended him to the last. But it was all in vain; it was impossible to
rescue him from death.'
'Why did you not go with him at first?' asked Christine abruptly.
'Because he insisted that I should not. He knew all that we, too, have
felt and thought; he desired me to remain behind, and carry a message
to you, but I was not to deliver it until to-morrow.'
'It will be needless,' said Christine. 'To-morrow I shall be gone to my
aunt at Kjærup.'
She stretched out both her hands to him, and struggling with her tears,
she added, in a tone of deep emotion.
'God be with you, Kjeld! my dear, my only friend!'
'You are not going away, Christine?' exclaimed Kjeld.
'Yes,' she replied. 'I made a vow to the Almighty that I would do so
when I offered up my prayers to Him to bring you back unhurt.'
'But still why must you go away?' he asked, in a voice of alarm and
'Because we two must forget our hopes and our dreams; because we must
separate from each other, never more to meet again!'
FROM THE DANISH OF CARL BERNHARD.
On a lovely summer evening, in the month of July, an old lady
was to be
seen walking alone by the row of small houses which forms one side of
St. Anne's Place, and stretches down towards the harbour. This part of
Copenhagen contains the domiciles of the fashionable world; it is what
the Faubourg Saint-Germain used to be to the Parisians; palace succeeds
to palace, the Court is situated in this neighbourhood, and the foreign
diplomatists--a class more important in Copenhagen than perhaps in any
other place on earth--honour this portion of the city by making it
their abode. But, as it were, to remind the world that great people
cannot do without the poorer sort, certain small houses have here and
there thrust themselves into good society, and the many signboards
hanging out plainly evince that their inhabitants do not wear laurels
so easily won, or enjoy such luxurious repose as their neighbours do.
At any rate, such certainly is the case with the dwellers in the row of
houses above mentioned, which, from one end to the other, is occupied
by mechanics, seafaring men, and other common people.
The old lady walked so slowly that you could easily perceive she was
already on the shady side of life; her carriage was stiff, and her
steps measured, as if she moved with some difficulty; yet it was
evident that she had some determined object earnestly in view. Her
features were sharp, and denoted firmness; indeed, they might have been
thought harsh and forbidding, had not her mild blue eyes imparted an
expression of tenderness and goodness to her otherwise stern
countenance. I know not if my description is clear enough to convey to
my readers any idea of the face that now stands before my mind's eye,
but Aunt Francisca's countenance was always somewhat of a difficult
problem, and this must be my excuse if I have failed in the delineation
of it. Her dress was in keeping with her general appearance; it was in
the fashion of a bygone period, at least twenty years old in make and
materials, and yet one might in vain have sought for a single spot or
crease in it. There were such fastidious cleanliness, and such a degree
of scrupulous neatness visible over her whole person, that the beholder
at once felt assured an old maid was before him. Be this said without
any disrespect to other ladies, whose nicety I am far from calling in
With an extensive parasol in her hand, and a large and apparently heavy
silken bag over her arm, the old lady advanced towards a house whose
exterior denoted that it was occupied by people belonging to the lower
classes. She did not scan the number of the houses, and her feet seemed
mechanically to have found its threshold, as if she had often passed
over it. And so she had, in truth. A young woman, with a child in her
arms, opened the door to her, and exclaimed,
'Is it really you, my dear lady? Our Lord himself must send you here to
us, poor miserable creatures!'
The speaker and the infant she held in her arms were both clad in
absolute tatters. The child looked like a monster in a magic glass,
shrivelled up, yellow skinned, with sunken but staring eyes, and
wrinkled, though scarcely yet two years of age. It would have been
difficult to have determined which bore the palm for dirt and disorder,
the room or its inhabitants.
The elderly lady looked about in vain for a place where she might seat
'You do not deserve that I should come more frequently to visit you,'
the lady said; 'all hope of assisting you is at an end when you
yourself will do nothing to improve your condition. In what state is
this that I find you? You promised me that when next I came I should
see everything tidy about you.'
The woman cast down her eyes at this reproachful greeting, and remained
silent. She placed the child on the floor while she dusted with the
shreds of an old garment a wooden stool, the only seat in the room. The
lady looked compassionately at the child, and said, in a less stern
'What you will not do for your own comfort's sake, you will surely not
refuse to do for the sake of your poor children. The unfortunate little
creatures will perish amidst all this dirt; it must engender disease.
Where are the other children? Has the eldest gone to school yet?'
The poor woman looked much embarrassed, and stammered a few words which
it was impossible to comprehend. The lady continued her interrogations:
'And your husband--has he got any work? Why did he never go to the
place where I told him he could obtain employment? Because he prefers
remaining in idleness to attempting any useful occupation--he would
rather spend in rioting the few pence he can scrape together, than work
to place himself beyond want and wretchedness. What will be the end of
'Ah, my good lady, you are quite right,' replied the woman; 'my
husband, the good-for-nothing that he is, is the cause of all our
misery. He will not let spirits alone, and every penny we have goes
down his throat in strong drink. I beg pardon for mentioning this to
you, madam, who no doubt have a fine, good gentleman for a husband, but
men-folks in our rank are dreadful creatures; I often wish I had
'Very likely your husband has the same improper feeling towards you,
and upon as good grounds,' replied the old lady. 'Married people should
bear with each other, and share their burdens between them as well as
their pleasures. A disorderly wife has no right to complain of a
disorderly husband. It is a woman's duty to make home comfortable;
that can be done at little cost, but it cannot be done without order
and cleanliness. All that I have seen here proves that you are quite as
much in fault as your husband. Where is the yarn for which I gave you
money? Have you bought the flax?'
The poor woman burst into tears, and began to protest that she was not
to blame. Had she known the lady's name, or where she resided, she
would have come to her in her trouble. But she was ignorant of both;
the landlord had threatened to turn them out into the street if they
did not pay their rent; and she had nothing to give him, no means of
keeping a roof over their heads except by handing him the money
entrusted to her, which she was assured by her husband there was no sin
in disposing of in this way, as it had been a gift. The old lady
inquired more minutely into the state of their affairs, remonstrated
with the young woman, scolded her, and threatened to withdraw the
assistance she gave them if they would not make some exertion for the
future to help themselves, and finished by drawing forth from the large
silk bag sundry articles of food and clothing, which she laid on the
table before the unfortunate mother. She then took the infant up from
the floor, kissed it, and gave it some nice wheaten bread and a new
dress, and promised the mother that she would give the child an entire
suit of new clothes if, on her next visit, she found everything clean
and in order. Bestowing upon her once more some earnest injunctions,
the lady left the house without waiting to listen to the poor woman's
thanks and blessings.
When she went up the street it was with the same measured steps, and
the same prim air as before; the large silk bag hung from her left arm,
but it was empty now, while she held daintily with two fingers of her
right hand the old-fashioned parasol. Thus she walked on until she
reached a house in Bredegade, where resided a relation of hers named
Werner, the widow of a councillor of state,
who had two daughters,
of whom the elder was called Louise, the younger Flora. Louise was a
very quiet girl and of a retiring disposition; she was betrothed and
soon to be married to Rudolph Horn, a young lawyer, who had a great
deal of business, and was possessed of a good private fortune besides.
Flora was secretly engaged to Lieutenant Arnold--secretly, that is to
say, the engagement had not been declared, though everybody was aware
of it. It might be a tolerable match when he became a captain, but it
would probably be a dozen years or more before he obtained his company.
They were both young, however, and time flies rapidly, as everybody
knows, so they consoled themselves with hope.
The family were sitting in an arbour in the garden, as they often did
in summer; Arnold had brought a new novel which he had just commenced
reading aloud to them. The ladies--their number increased by the
addition of two cousins, who frequently visited them--sat round the
table with their work, exceedingly interested in the novel, which began
'so charmingly,' and promised to be 'so interesting,' when Arnold
happened to look up, and glancing along the garden-walk, exclaimed,
'May I be shot, if stalking towards us yonder is not--yes, it is
herself! I have the honour to announce Aunt Francisca's august
The girls all cast looks of annoyance at the old lady, who was slowly
approaching the arbour where they were assembled. 'How very tiresome!'
exclaimed the little party as with one voice, while Arnold threw his
book angrily on the table, and said,
'Now we must give up knowing the rest of this new story, for I have to
return the volume to its owner early to-morrow morning. What unlucky
chance can have brought that wearisome old spectre here this evening, I
Louise rose and went to meet the old lady. Aunt Francisca curtseyed,
and then kissed her on both cheeks. Mrs. Werner and Flora underwent the
same species of greeting. A heavy, forced conversation was then carried
on about the weather and the pleasure of having a garden in Copenhagen.
Arnold took no part in it, although Aunt Francisca frequently addressed
herself to him; Mrs. Werner was the only one who maintained it with
decent civility, for people advanced in years can bear disappointments
better than young persons.
'Will Rudolph soon return from Holstein?' asked the old lady of Louise;
'it is surprising that he has not written to me. You can tell him, my
dear, that I have been expecting a letter from him on both the last
'That is devilish cool! A nice piece of pretension on the part of such
an antiquated virago,' observed Arnold, in a half-whisper.
Cousin Ida could not refrain from giggling.
'You seem to be quite in a laughing humour, my child,' said Miss
'Have you been to the German plays yet?' asked Flora of the old lady,
with a furtive smile to the rest of the party.
'No, my head can't stand theatres now,' replied Aunt Francisca. 'They
do not suit my age, and, indeed, I see so badly that I could not enjoy
acting. Have you been there?'
Mrs. Werner answered her, and plunged into a disquisition on some of
the plays, and on the parts of the performers, but Aunt Francisca heard
them without any apparent interest. She afterwards entered on the
subject of the Bible Society and its great usefulness, but was listened
to in return with apathy and suppressed yawns; nobody there cared
about Bible societies. Flora proposed that they should drink tea a
little earlier than usual, and Louise went to order it. The
conversation came to a dead stand; at length Aunt Francisca said, 'I am
afraid my visit is inconvenient to you this evening; you might have
been going out--perhaps to the German play?'
'We were only going to have read aloud a book which I brought with me,'
said Arnold. 'There is no German play to-night; but they are performing
at Price's, and if the ladies are inclined to go, we shall be quite in
'So speaks youth--distances are nothing for them,' said the old lady,
with a smile, under which she attempted to hide the unpleasant feeling
she experienced at finding herself unwelcome. 'You must not mind me, my
dear cousins; I should be sorry to put you to any inconvenience, and am
But Mrs. Werner begged her to stay, assuring her that the tale could be
read some other time, and that nobody had dreamed of going to Price's;
Arnold was only joking.
'That other time must be during the night, then.' said Arnold, in no
very dulcet tone, 'for I have promised to return the book to-morrow
morning, without fail.'
Aunt Francisca did not hear his civil speech, for she was talking to
Mrs. Werner. The young people put their heads together, and whispered
to each other. Judging by their glances, it was evident that the old
maiden visitor was the subject of their remarks. One criticised her
arms, another her bonnet, a third her parasol.
'But what do you say to that huge foraging-sack hanging from her arm?
Can any one inform me for what she carries it?' said Arnold. 'It would
hold at least half a bushel of corn. Perhaps the stingy old animal goes
to the market to buy all her own provisions, for fear that her
servant-girl should make a penny or two out of them now and then.'
'Nonsense; she is too prim to venture among the market folks,' said
Ida. 'But she fancies it is fashionable. Dare you attack her about it,
Flora wished to show her courage, but could scarcely speak for
laughing, as she took up Aunt Francisca's bag, and said,
'This is a very pretty bag; the embroidery is à la Grecque, is it not?'
Miss Francisca replied gravely, 'Pretty? You cannot possibly mean
that, my child; it is as ugly as a bag can be, but it holds a good
deal, and therefore I use it sometimes. Living so much alone as I do, I
must occasionally go my own errands.'
Flora looked foolish, and stammered a few words in defence of the bag,
while she coloured deeply; but the old lady pretended not to observe
her embarrassment, and she continued: 'I think it really very pretty,
but it should not be seen near this lovely shawl, which certainly puts
it to shame.' So saying, she took up a little muslin shawl, beautifully
embroidered in gold and coloured flowers, which was lying on the table.
'I am glad you admire it, my dear,' said the old lady, 'for I have
often intended to beg your acceptance of it. I have another at home
exactly like it, which I intend for Louise; they are too gay for my
time of life.'
Flora was much pleased with the gift, and had just thanked her
cousin--for the old lady, though generally called among her young
connections 'Aunt Francisca,' was by no means so nearly related to
them--when Ida whispered, 'Why, it is real East Indian! Well, it was
lucky for you that I persuaded you to go into raptures about the
hideous bag--set to now and praise her high-heeled shoes. Who knows
what they may yield?'
'Shame on you, Ida. Do you think I am going to be rude to her again?'
Aunt Francisca found the evening air rather chilly, and hinted that it
would be as well to repair to the more comfortable drawing-room within
doors. Many were the glances of anger and annoyance which passed among
the young people when Mrs. Werner thereupon desired the servant to
carry the tea-things back to the house, and they had all to rise in
order to leave the garden. Arnold, of course, gallantly assisted the
young ladies in putting up their work and carrying their work-boxes,
while he exercised his witty propensities at the expense of Miss
Francisca. Flora meanwhile offered her arm to the old lady, who,
however, did not proceed immediately to the house, but expressed a wish
to look first at some of the flower-beds.
When they were alone, she turned suddenly towards Flora, and said,
'Tell me, my dear girl, are you engaged to Lieutenant Arnold? Perhaps
you will think that it is no business of mine whether you are or not;
but whatever is of consequence to you is interesting to me, and it is
not from mere curiosity that I ask you. Ah! I saw how he pressed your
hand.... Come, you must not deny it, for I saw it distinctly. Though I
am old, I have sharper eyes and ears than people may fancy. But you
know, my dear, girls should not allow gentlemen to squeeze their hands
unless they are actually engaged to them. It would be quite improper
Flora cast down her eyes, but made no reply.
'I know that you are a very good, sensible girl, and that is why I like
you so much; but truth must be told and listened to, although it is not
always palatable. What are the prospects now-a-days of a lieutenant in
the army? Poor indeed, my child; it would be almost an eternity before
you could marry. In the meantime there might be a hundred flirtations,
and the first love might be left in the lurch. Arnold is very flighty,
and I fear also very imprudent. I know that he is in debt, and that
leads to beggary.'
'But all young men get into debt. Aunt Francisca,' replied Flora, in a
low, subdued voice.
'Bless you, child! how can you say so? Correct and respectable persons
do not run into debt. Rudolph does not owe a shilling to anyone--I
could take my oath to that.'
'But there is no necessity for Rudolph to fall into debt. Seeing that
he has a good private fortune, he has no great merit in keeping out of
it. But what can a poor young officer do who has nothing but his pay to
'He has no business by his flattery and fair words to entice a girl
into an engagement which he cannot carry out,' said Miss Francisca;
'that is altogether indefensible. The age of miracles is past; no bird
will come flying into your window with gold on its bill, and in our
days people don't live on air. Do you really imagine that love is so
durable a feeling that it can withstand adversity, privations, and
time itself, which conquers all things? Love and inconstancy are
half-sisters, dear Flora. Ten years hence you will be called an old
maid, though, if married, you would be still considered at that age a
young woman. In twenty years from this time it would be positively
ridiculous on your part to think of marrying, yet Arnold could scarcely
venture to take a wife before then.'
Flora played with her sash, and her eyes filled with tears, whilst the
gloom that overspread her countenance showed how disagreeable the
conversation was to her. Aunt Francisca looked earnestly at her, and
putting her arm gently round her waist, asked, in a low voice,
'Are you betrothed to Arnold, my child? Answer me truly, Flora--are you
or are you not?'
The girl tried to speak, but her lips closed again. She looked at the
pretty East India handkerchief, and in her embarrassment crushed it
between her fingers. The old lady withdrew her arm, and stooped to pick
'Come, my dear,' she said, 'let us go in; it is getting quite chill,
and the evening air is not for old people like me. Your roses are
beautiful; permit me to take one or two home for my flower-vase.'
Flora hastened to gather a bouquet of flowers, and then accompanied
Miss Francisca to the house, the latter talking on indifferent
'What did she want with you?' asked one of the cousins. 'Did she give
you anything besides the little shawl?'
'Oh, I wish she had kept her shawl,' said Flora, sharply. 'When
presents have to be paid for by listening to stupid prosy lectures, I,
for one, would rather dispense with the gifts. She is a tiresome old
maid as ever lived.'
Louise was presiding at the tea-table, so Aunt Francisca sat down near
her, and did not again approach Flora, who seemed out of spirits, and
spoke neither to the old lady nor to Arnold. When the latter attempted
to whisper something to her, she drew back pointedly without listening
to him, and with a toss of her head which plainly showed Arnold that
she was out of humour. Arnold looked at Miss Francisca as if he could
have murdered her, and muttered: 'This is that old wretch's fault, I'll
be bound. A starched old maid like her would infect a whole regiment of
young girls with her prudery. I suppose I shall be expected to see that
ancient piece of goods home--and if I am compelled to undertake this
pleasing office, she shall come to grief, for I swear I will contrive
to make her fall and break one of her old legs.'
If Louise had not spoken from time to time, not a word would have been
uttered the whole evening; she was the only one who took any trouble to
keep up a little conversation. Arnold placed himself by the window, and
drummed listlessly with his fingers on the panes of glass: Flora sewed
diligently, as if her daily bread depended on her getting through a
certain quantity of work. Madame Werner knitted with equal
perseverance, and only occasionally contributed a 'yes' or a 'no' to
the conversation; the cousins cast sidelong glances towards Arnold, and
tittered. At length nine o'clock struck, and it was announced that Miss
Francisca's servant had come for her. Everybody seemed relieved--and
the old lady rose instantly, as if she felt that her company was
unwelcome, and that the sooner she took her departure the better.
Madame Werner squeezed out an invitation for her to stay a little
longer, but it was not accepted.
When Arnold found that she was really going, he strode up to her, and
asked if he might have the pleasure of escorting her home; at which
request the cousins could not restrain their laughter, and Flora had to
bite her lips to prevent herself from following their example, while
Louise did her utmost to prevent the old lady from observing the
rudeness of her relations. Her back was scarcely turned before every
tongue in the drawing-room she had just quitted became loosened, and
the sounds of mirth and laughter could be distinctly heard by her
before she had even left the house. When Louise, who had quitted the
room with Aunt Francisca, to see her well wrapped up, returned to it,
she attacked them for their rudeness in laughing, and talking so loud
as soon as she had left the room, when they had been sitting in solemn
silence the whole evening previously. Madame Werner sided with Louise,
but Arnold was not to be checked in his rejoicings at having got rid of
the stupid, tiresome old maid.
Poor Miss Francisca, meanwhile, heard the shouts of laughter as she
walked up the street, and looking up sadly at the windows she thought:
'They are rejoicing at my departure; even there I am de trop.' But on
her servant remarking how uncommonly gay they were at Madame Werner's,
she only replied, 'They are a very lively, happy family, and long may
they remain so.'
When the 'happy family' were relieved of her presence, the novel
reading was resumed--and it was late before the tale was finished, and
the party separated. After the young ladies had retired to the room
which they shared together, Flora exclaimed, as she put away the pretty
Indian shawl, 'Aunt Francisca is a very good soul, but she is
abominably tiresome--it is hardly possible to put up with her.'
'I should think that where there is much real worth, a little
peculiarity of manner might easily be borne with,' replied Louise; but
Flora laughed as she said,
'Nothing is so bad as to be wearisome dear Louise; I can't endure
anyone who bores me.'
Six weeks had elapsed since Miss Francisca's visit above recorded;
autumn was approaching, the evenings were becoming longer, and the
leaves of the trees assuming a yellow tint. It was on a grey afternoon
in September that a young man passed slowly along Halmtorv, in
Copenhagen, and stopped before a small house which looked as if it were
the abode of death, for the blinds were all down, although there were
no lights inside. The street-door was locked, and it was not till long
after he had rung that it was opened by an elderly woman, who had on a
black dress and black ribbons in her cap. They recognized each other
gravely and then the young man, who seemed familiar with the house,
ascended the stairs, and entered a room on the first floor, whilst the
servant carefully locked the outer door. The apartment which he entered
was empty, not an article of furniture relieved the bareness of the
walls, and before the windows hung long white curtains, closely drawn;
in the centre of the room there was a square space, where the uncovered
boards looked white and shining, but the rest of the floor was thickly
strewed with fine sand, and on that again lay flowers and green leaves
taken from trees, which in the four corners of the room were formed
into elaborate patterns.
The young man stopped on the threshold of the floor, and gazed sadly at
the empty desolation before him. He was speedily joined by the old
servant, who placed herself by his side, and also contemplated
sorrowfully the square space, as if she recalled in thought what had so
lately occupied it. Then, turning her eyes towards the young man, and
perceiving by the expression of his countenance what was passing in his
mind, she held out her hand to him in silence, which he took and
pressed warmly. She was a trustworthy, affectionate creature, a servant
of the olden time, such as are scarcely ever to be met with now in
families of our modern days.
Presently the young man crossed the room, stepping lightly, as if he
were afraid to crush the already fading flowers, and opened the door to
another apartment, where, as in the first, long white curtains, drawn
across the half-closed windows, gave a dim sad tone to the tasteful
furniture and gay-coloured carpet. He was followed by the old servant,
who told him that he would find the keys belonging to her late mistress
in her own little daily sitting-room, and that all her keeping places
were in perfect order. 'Alas! sir,' she added, 'how miserable it is for
me to be left behind. I had always hoped and prayed that our Lord would
graciously call me first.'
'It is the course of nature in this world, Inger,' he replied, 'that
the eldest should go first. Your mistress was almost ten years older
'Very true, sir. Had my dear mistress lived till next Candlemas, she
would have completed her sixty-seventh year, and I shall be fifty-seven
come next March. Three-and-twenty years have I lived with her, and I
can testify to her goodness in every respect; she was such a
benefactress to the poor. Oh! how many of them will miss her!'
And Inger began to weep bitterly; her tears were of genuine sorrow for
the loss of her kind mistress, for Rodolph, who was the nearest of kin
to the deceased lady, had already told the faithful servant that a
comfortable provision should be made for her, so as to secure to her
independence for the rest of her life.
Rudolph Horn was the legal heir of Miss Francisca Garlov, who had that
day been buried. She had been his mother's first cousin and dearest
friend, they had been almost brought up together, and their intimacy
had subsisted without any diminution, until death had separated them,
thirteen years before, by removing Rudolph's mother from this world.
The old maid had transferred the friendship for the mother to the son;
when he came to Copenhagen, as a student, her house had always been
open to him, and she gave him to understand that he should inherit
whatever she might leave. She had died after a very few days' illness,
and Rudolph, who was at the time in the country, though he hastened to
Copenhagen the moment he heard of her mere indisposition, had not
arrived in time to see his old friend alive.
As he sat in her now deserted parlour, his memory retraced the days of
his childhood, when he used to visit her along with his mother, and
when he used to admire the Chinese pagodas and mandarins which
ornamented her sitting-room, her old china teacups, her pretty inlaid
tea-table, her large well-stuffed easy-chair, her chiffoniers with
mirrors and gilding in the doors, and, above all, a certain japanned
cabinet, that had always to be opened to let 'the dear boy' see the
pretty things in it, and some one or other of which was generally
bestowed on him, for 'Aunt Francisca' never let him go empty-handed
from her house. Ah! how different were the desires which filled his
soul then and now; a whole lifetime almost seemed to lie between
these two periods of his existence; he was then only eight years old,
and now he was thirty!
Old Inger brought in candles, and offered to go through an inventory of
the furniture and effects with him, but Rudolph told her that was quite
unnecessary, as he had entire confidence in her; however, he took the
key of Miss Francisca's bureau, as Inger informed him that it was the
last injunction of her beloved mistress that he should be requested to
open that depository of her papers immediately after her funeral.
Rudolph looked at his watch, as if he would fain have found that it was
too late that evening to examine the papers of the deceased; but it was
only six o'clock, and he had no excuse for putting off his painful
task. It was some little time, however, after he had opened the bureau,
before he could bring himself to disturb the neat packets of letters,
and other little articles, arranged with so much order in this
depository of the good old lady's treasures. He felt that it was almost
a sin to touch these relics of the past, and merely half-opened the
various drawers, more to obey the wishes of the dead than to search
into their contents; but when he came to a hidden compartment, and
unlocked its little door, he beheld what riveted his attention, for in
it were two miniatures, a few papers, and two or three manuscript
books. One of the miniatures was the likeness of a very handsome young
man, dressed according to the fashion of a bygone period. The
complexion was florid, rather than pale; the dark blue eyes expressed
at once thoughtfulness and mirth, and round the mouth played a gay
smile, while the smooth forehead gave no evidence of care or sorrow;
the cravat was carelessly tied, imparting an idea of negligence in
attire, which contrasted rather oddly with the elaborate ruffles that
appeared below the brown coat sleeves, and coquettishly shaded a hand
of delicate whiteness.
Close to this miniature lay another, which evidently portrayed 'Aunt
Francisca' in her earlier years. She was pale, but with pretty
features, finely-arched eyebrows, and a face altogether pleasing, from
its expression of goodness and cheerfulness. Her hair, which fell in
rich curls over her slender throat, was confined by a light-blue
ribbon, and her dress had the peaked stomacher worn in those days.
Here, then, was a clue to the history of Aunt Francisca's youth; after
so many silent years, these portraits, hidden away together, told a
tale of the past--a tale, doubtless, of sorrow and disappointment. How
little do the friends and acquaintances, made in after-life, know of
the feelings, the hopes, the dreams, and the incidents of earlier
years, many of which are hushed into deep mystery until the grave has
received its prey, when some cherished token, some treasured
reminiscence may unfold the secrets of days gone by.
When Rudolph had gazed for a time on these interesting faces, he
replaced the miniatures where he had found them, and proceeded to
examine the papers. Among them were memoranda and account-books, which
showed how well regulated the affairs of the deceased had been, and how
her economy had afforded her ample means to do good to those around
her. He continued to read the documents before him until he became
quite absorbed in them; and he was sitting at the old bureau, forgetful
of the flight of time, until the clock struck nine. Its unwearied
tongue, which amidst life and death ceased not to give forth its
warning tones, aroused him from his dreamy mood, and, snatching one
more glance at Aunt Francisca's likeness, he closed the bureau, and
calling Inger, he prepared to depart. The old woman lighted him to the
door, and attempted to draw him into conversation, but he shook his
head and hurried out, with tears in his eyes.
'Ah!' said Inger, to herself, as she returned to her solitary chamber,
'how kind-hearted Herr Rudolph is--so different from most young men
now-a-days, who are ashamed to let people see that they have any
feelings at all!'
On leaving the abode so recently visited by death, Rudolph
a house in Bredgade, where, as he was ringing at the door, he heard,
even in the street, the sound of laughter in the drawing-room above.
Annoyed at this, he drew back a few steps, and, observing lights
blazing through the windows, he shrank from encountering the gaiety
within, and was about to go away, but when the door was opened, he
changed his mind, and slowly ascended the stairs.
Whilst he had been sitting in Aunt Francisca's deserted parlour, a gay
little party had been gathering around Mrs. Werner's tea-table. They
were all young, with the exception of the lady of the house. Flora was
making tea, and Lieutenant Arnold was by her side, rendering her what
assistance he could. Mrs. Werner sat near them, more to sanction the
attention Arnold was paying the pretty Flora, than to check it. Louise
was at the opposite side of the table, with some fancy-work in her
hand, taking little or no part in the gossiping that was going on, but
glancing from time to time anxiously at the timepiece in the room, as
its hands pointed to half-past eight, a quarter to nine, nine o'clock,
a quarter past nine, and Rudolph had not made his appearance.
The two cousins, who were mentioned on a former occasion--young
ladies--and two or three young men, relations also of the family, made
up the party. Mrs. Werner and her daughters were in slight mourning, in
consequence of the death of Miss Francisca, but the gaiety which was
going on gave no evidence of sorrow for her loss. The smiling
countenances, the well-lighted room, the open pianoforte, with some
fashionable waltzes on the stand, all formed a strong contrast to the
scene Rudolph had just quitted, and he almost frowned as he entered the
Louise arose and went forward to meet him, while Flora laughingly
scolded him for being so late.
'I beg a thousand pardons,' said Rudolph, 'but it was impossible for me
to come earlier.'
'Mercy on us, what a tragical face! You look as if you were bound to
follow Aunt Francisca into the very grave itself. There, console
yourself with a cup of cold tea; it is your own fault that it is not
better. Don't pet him so, Louise. Do you not see how melancholy he is?'
'Melancholy people are just those who need to be petted,' said Louise,
moving her chair so as to make room for him by her; 'others don't
'It is really quite touching to see the deeply-distressed heir of Aunt
Francisca's china pagodas, putting on the solemn look of an undertaker,
on account of her, alas! too early departure from this world,' said
Flora. 'Most faithful of swains, where will you find such another
interesting shepherdess of sixty-seven years of age?'
'What, is it possible,' cried one of the young men, 'that Rudolph is
grieving for old Miss Garlov? It seems to me that the best thing the
ancient skin-flint could do was to lay herself down and die. Heaven
knows there are plenty of old maids left in the world!'
'She was a worthy creature--a good soul,' said Mrs. Werner, with
perfect indifference, 'and, doubtless, is now happy in the other world.
There is no need to lament those who go to a better life; they are well
'She will be wafted, like an airy being, up to the highest heaven, on
account of her unimpeachable virtue,' said Arnold, laughing at his own
wit. Rudolph looked angrily at him, and was about to say something,
when Louise laid her hand on his arm to stop him. There was an awkward
silence for a few minutes, until one of the cousins exclaimed:
'I wonder if Miss Francisca ever had a lover.'
'I should think not,' replied Mrs. Werner, with a half smile. 'She did
not look like a person who would have admirers.'
'Admirers!' cried one of the young men. 'Fancy anybody making love to
such a prude. I don't suppose she ever had the most distant idea of
'One can have very good fun with old maids, sometimes,' said Arnold;
'one can quiz them about their youthful conquests, or persuade them
that Peter or Paul is casting, even now, sheeps' eyes at them; but it
would have been impossible to have brought Miss Garlov into this state
of happy delusion; there was no tampering with her.'
'What a tiresome person she was!' exclaimed cousin Ida. 'A terrible
'Heavens! yes! Such an old maid as she was is positively a horror,
enough to scare one,' said Arnold, 'though I don't call myself
faint-hearted, and am certainly not apt to flee from the fair sex. But
these wrinkled, pinched-up pieces of propriety, who are always
denouncing the immorality and folly of youth, don't deserve to be
included under the head of "fair." Well, had I known that Aunt
Francisca was to be buried to-day, I certainly should have followed her
to the grave, out of gratitude to her for taking this last journey,
never more to return.'
'My cousin did not trouble you much, I think,' said Rudolph, angrily.
'She came here but seldom, and was never fond of annoying people.'
Arnold made some ill-natured answer, continuing to quiz poor Miss
Francisca. Everyone laughed except Louise, who was anxiously watching
Rudolph's countenance, and much afraid lest he should make some severe
Flora, enjoying the scene, said: 'See how Louise is labouring to keep
Rudolph quiet, for he is quite ready to do battle with us all. Ever
since I have known him, he has been the faithful knight of all forlorn
'And all young ladies should, therefore, feel gratitude to me,' said
Rudolph, 'for not one of them--I make no exceptions--can declare, with
certainty, that she may not one day or other become an old maid.'
Flora cast a glance towards Arnold, which plainly said that she, at
least, had nothing to do with the threatened calamity.
Rudolph continued: 'I have often observed with surprise how youth,
especially early youth, hates and despises old maids. Why is it that
age, which demands respect for all others, should, in civilized
society, exclude unmarried ladies from it? I do not allude to my
deceased relative in particular, nor will I dwell on all her kindness
to me--I will only speak of her as one of a class, one among the many
who share her fate. We were all acquainted with her, and therefore I
ask you, who have just been casting ridicule on her memory, if you have
really felt the bitter contempt you have expressed for her? I think I
can answer for you, No. Not one of you is, in point of fact, so
bad-hearted as you would make yourselves appear by your thoughtless
chattering.' Rudolph looked earnestly round, but not one present
attempted to reply.
He went on: 'Is an old maid's lot so delightful, that people must try
to annoy her by scorn? I should say not. Should we not rather be
sorry to see anyone excluded from what many of us value most? A life
without interest, or close domestic ties, is not to be envied; nor is
it the fault of the woman if she is not destined to become a wife and a
mother. Many single women have but to look back in their advancing
years on a wasted life; to remember names that no more must be uttered
by them; to feel the void in their hearts to which no amount of
resignation can make them insensible; and to all this must be added an
endless struggle against those who have been more fortunate than
themselves, and enforced patience with the jeers and scoffs launched so
pitilessly against them. How few girls look forward to this position
for their after-years! And yet circumstances not calculated upon, the
factitious wants entailed on us by society, the poverty which forbids
many a union, the fickle fancies of men, or an evil destiny, which
seems sometimes to delight in thwarting the dearest hopes, and
sundering those who might have been happy together, may doom them to
it. And is all this only a subject for ridicule? For my part, I
cannot laugh at an old maid, even if she loves only her cat or her
canary-bird. God has implanted affections in her heart; mankind have
rejected these, therefore she loves animals of a lower species, who
seem grateful for her kindness. Ludwig said, a few minutes ago, that
Aunt Francisca looked as if she had never had a lover. Could that be
possible, with her mild eyes, her sweet face, her amiable disposition?
She had more goodness in her little finger than most people have in
their whole person; but none of you knew her well!'
'Nonsense, Rudolph!' exclaimed Mrs. Werner. 'How can you pretend to say
we did not know her? I am sure I have been acquainted with her for at
least a score of years; she was a second cousin of my lamented
'Nevertheless, I maintain that none of you did know her well. If not
disagreeable to you, I should like to tell you Aunt Francisca's history
as I have heard it from my mother, who was her most intimate friend,
and partly from herself. I have also found out much from her private
papers, which, by her own wish, I looked over this very evening. Now
that she is gone, the story of her life need no longer be a secret.'
'Hark ye, Rudolph,' said Mrs. Werner, stretching across, and whispering
to him. 'In regard to that secret, I would rather you did not touch
upon it; her imprudence in early life, which caused so much annoyance
to her family, had better not be related in the presence of young girls
like my daughters and their cousins. It was fortunate the child died.
Her friends would have been awkwardly placed had he lived, for they
could scarcely have received her. It was surprising that she made so
light of it herself.'
But Arnold had overheard what Mrs. Werner had whispered to Rudolph, and
'So! Is that how matters stood? The old lady deserves our thanks, even
though she is in her grave, for the sins of her youth; without them we
should have been forced to listen to some most insipid story, but we
may now hope to hear something interesting.'
'Give over interrupting him,' said Flora, 'or we shall not hear a word.
Now, Rudolph, do begin!'
'I am obedience itself, and shall be mute as a fish,' said Arnold,
bowing gallantly to his fair enslaver. The male and female cousins all
placed themselves in attitudes of attention, perhaps because they
shared in the young officer's expectation of hearing some scandal, and
Rudolph commenced his narration:--
There is little to be told of Aunt Francisca's childhood. Her father
held a situation in one of the colleges, and the first eight years of
her life were passed principally in close rooms, away from green fields
and fresh air. Her father was much occupied, therefore her education
was conducted entirely by her mother, a clever and amiable woman, but
with one peculiarity, that she had the greatest horror of sick people,
and was morbidly afraid of infection. Francisca, perceiving this
weakness, determined to avoid it, but fell into the opposite extreme,
and would scarcely believe that any complaint could be infectious, or
if the fact were proved, she had not the slightest fear of it. When the
family removed to an estate her father had purchased near a town where
he had received a good appointment, the little girl took much pleasure
in visiting the poor in the neighbourhood when they were ill, and
administering to their comforts, which, of course, caused her to be
greatly beloved among them.
It was at this period of her life that my mother and she became
intimate. The cousins were much together, for my mother used to spend
almost every summer at the Garlovs', and their mutual affection ripened
with their years. At sixteen Francisca could not have been called
beautiful, but she was pretty, with an animated countenance, a sweet
smile, a light, graceful figure, and pleasing manners. It was about
this time that a dreadful fever broke out in the part of the country
where the Garlovs lived; it raged more particularly among the
peasantry, but persons of all classes were attacked; the servants in
almost every house were ill, and, to crown the evil, the doctors in the
provincial town were seized with the fever. In this state of things,
Francisca's father wrote to Copenhagen to request that some young
physician might be sent to their assistance in the existing time of
need. Little did he imagine that this letter was to be the first cast
of the die which was to determine his daughter's fate!
Two young doctors accordingly soon arrived, one of whom was settled for
the time being in the little town, the other taking up his abode at Mr.
Garlov's country house. This latter was a handsome young man, about
three-and-twenty years of age, who had just passed a brilliant
examination, and was glad to obtain some employment. I will show you
his likeness some day, which will prove to you that he was handsome and
prepossessing in appearance, and that the impression he made on Aunt
Francisca was not to be wondered at.
He was successful in his practice, and saved so many lives that Mrs.
Garlov looked upon him absolutely as their good genius, while his
lively conversation amused her husband. He had been a favourite with
the belles of his own circle in Copenhagen, among whom he had been
considered quite an Adonis, therefore he had no lack of confidence in
his powers of pleasing, and he thought it his duty to pay marked
attention to the young lady of the family by whom he had been so
But Francisca soon interested him. He found her very different from his
fair Copenhagen friends, and then she was the only damsel with whom he
associated; and in the country, as everybody knows, people become
better acquainted in three days than in three years in town. It cannot
be denied that as time wore on Theodore Ancker made rapid advances in
the good graces of the youthful and unsophisticated Francisca, and by
the time nature had put on its richest summer garb her heart was fairly
in the keeping of the young doctor. Ah! what a summer that was for her.
Never before had the sun shone so brightly--never had the skies looked
so blue, or the trees wore so brilliant a green! And yet, had Mr.
Garlov's guest taken his departure then, as he thought of doing,
Francisca might have missed him terribly for a time, passed a
melancholy autumn, and a lonely winter; but when spring came round, and
the storks had returned to their nests on the roofs, she would have
recovered her spirits, and remembered her intimacy with him only as a
pleasant episode in her life. It was otherwise ordained.
It had been deemed that the fever had entirely disappeared, but a
peasant was attacked by it, and in visiting him, Theodore, who had
escaped as if by magic before, was seized with the dreaded symptoms,
and soon became dangerously ill. The family--indeed the whole
neighbourhood--were thrown into the greatest consternation, for
Theodore was a general favourite; but no one seemed sufficiently
collected to pay the invalid the attention he required except
Francisca, who, calm in the midst of her distress, and heedless of
infection, took upon herself to be his chief nurse, and waited on him
day and night with untiring assiduity. Her father was often her
companion in the sick-room, but Mrs. Garlov's uncontrollable fears
prevented her from assisting personally in her daughter's benevolent
labours, though she was not remiss in praying for the patient's
He did recover, and when the autumnal tints were stealing over the
woods, he was able to stroll in the garden, or saunter to the verge of
the adjacent forest. How happy Francisca was! And when Theodore turned
to her, and said, in a voice still languid from weakness,
'How delicious the air is to-day! I owe it to you, Miss Francisca, that
I breathe it again. Without your kind care I never more should have
beheld these beautiful woods.'
A thrill of delight passed through Francisca's frame at these words,
and she trembled so that Theodore exclaimed:
'I fear I am leaning too heavily on you; you are fatigued, I see. Let
us sit down here to rest awhile--here, where the sun shines so brightly
through the leaves that they seem to be all of gold. Ah! how good, how
kind you have been to me! It seems to me as if my own character had
improved since I became acquainted with you.'
The harvest was gathered in--the harvest-home was to be held--and there
was more than usual merriment, for the dreaded epidemic had passed
away, and the very last who had suffered from it, Theodore, was now
only somewhat feeble. The peasantry were enjoying their games, and the
Garlov family, with a few friends, were looking on at a little distance
beyond the gates of the château, when a succession of fearful shrieks
were heard, and a number of peasants, some armed with sticks, others
with stones, were to be seen running along, though no one could tell
what was the cause of the uproar. But presently a large dog, with a
broken chain around his neck, rushed from behind some bushes, and ran
across the field towards the Garlov party, who at the same moment
distinctly heard the warning cry, 'A mad dog! a mad dog!'
Seized with a sudden panic, every one of the little group endeavoured
to escape, and Francisca caught hold of Theodore's hand and hurried him
towards the gate; but he could not run fast enough, the large stick on
which he had been leaning impeded his movements, and, stumbling, he
fell to the ground. Francisca was in despair when she found he had
struck his head against a stone, and lay motionless; in vain her father
called to her to quicken her pace, she would not leave Theodore.
Meanwhile the dog came nearer and nearer--she could hear the rattling
of his chain, as with open mouth and protruding tongue he ran towards
them. She sprang before Theodore, and with outstretched arms stood as
if guarding him. The dog rushed on her--she felt his damp paw upon her
throat, his warm breath upon her cheek, his glaring eyes close to her
own, and she sank senseless by the side of him she had endeavoured to
'Oh, fie! Rudolph,' cried cousin Ida; 'your description is too
horrible--his wet paw upon her throat--shocking! How could she be so
foolish! I think she must have been as mad as the dog.'
'I should have fainted at the first cry of the peasants,' said
Charlotte, Ida's sister.
'Master Theodore must have been a miserable creature,' exclaimed
Arnold. 'I would have defended the ladies to the last drop of my blood.
But, to be sure, he was only a doctor, and dealt in potions and
plasters instead of valorous deeds--that is some excuse for the
'I thought the bite of a mad dog was always fatal,' said Mrs. Werner,
quietly. 'Yet Francisca must have outlived it--how was that?'
It was a false alarm (replied Rudolph). The dog was not mad. With
that instinct which led all distressed creatures to her, it had
run to Francisca for protection from the crowd of peasants who were
ill-treating it. She soon got over her fainting fit, and Theodore also
recovered consciousness, but the contusion in his head brought on
fever, and he raved incessantly about the mad dog which had destroyed
Francisca. The old doctor, who had resumed his practice, happening
fortunately to call, ordered leeches to be applied to Theodore's head,
and a certain medicine to be administered to him. Both had to be
obtained from the apothecary in the nearest little town, and the only
man-servant who had remained at home--the others having been permitted
to join the merry-making among the villagers--was sent for them. After
a long absence he returned with the leeches, but did not bring the
so-much-needed draught. It would have been a useless attempt to send
him back, for he had been drinking freely in the town, and could not be
roused from the heavy sleep into which he had fallen after tumbling
down in a state of intoxication on the floor of the servants' hall.
Should the poor patient be deprived of the prescribed draught? No;
Francisca determined to go for it herself, even though it was getting
dark, and she would have to pass through the dreary wood. Leaving her
mother and an old woman busy putting on the leeches on Theodore's brow,
she slipped out of the room and out of the house; she almost ran until
she reached the gate which opened upon the road that led to the wood;
there for a moment she stopped, and hesitated to proceed; yet the
doctor had said that the medicine was of great importance, and though
she had never been alone in the wood after dark, she conquered her
fears and went forwards. But her heart beat wildly, her knees trembled
under her, and she often started at the rustling of the leaves, and the
pale gleams of uncertain light that penetrated here and there through
the thick foliage from the rising moon; the scudding of the deer, whom
even her light tread awoke, increased her alarm; and the hoarse cry of
the owl seemed terrible to her.
'Young ladies,' said Rudolph, interrupting his narrative, 'is there one
among you who will now doubt that Aunt Francisca could feel love?'
'Oh, Heaven defend me from such love!' cried Ida. 'I would die of
fright if I were to go alone through a dark wood at night.'
She reached the town safely (continued Rudolph), procured the
medicine at the apothecary's, and bravely returned alone through the
wood, though her excited imagination conjured up all manner of
phantasies--such as dim figures gliding amidst the trees, footsteps
pursuing her, and goblin laughter greeting her ear. Still she struggled
against the terror that had almost overcome her, until, having gained
her home and the invalid's chamber, she sank down, nearly fainting, by
her mother's side, and murmured, 'The wood--the wood!'
The dampness of her dress, wet with the heavy dew--her exhaustion, and
the medicine which she could just hold up--told the history of her
exploit more quickly than her words would have done. Her mother threw
her arms round her, and Theodore, who was somewhat better, and who was
amazed at what she had done for his sake, exclaimed, 'Francisca, and
you ventured all this for me!' During the long, sleepless night which
followed, she heard again and again, as it were like the tones of an
Æolian harp, these, to her, thrilling words; 'Francisca, and you
ventured all this for me!'
In the course of a few weeks after this event, Theodore being again
quite well, found that it was necessary for him to return to
Copenhagen. But he felt reluctant to leave Francisca, and put off the
dreaded parting to the latest day possible. He knew how much he was
indebted to her; twice she had saved his life, or striven to do so,
with a devoted abnegation of self which only affection could have
prompted. His vanity whispered to him that she surely loved him, and
flattered by this idea, and also feeling grateful to her, he fancied
that he entertained the same sentiments towards her. Francisca was so
retiring in her manners, however, that Theodore had had no opportunity
of communicating to her what he thought or felt, except by his looks;
and even these seemed to alarm her, for she feared that she had
permitted him to read too deeply in her heart.
At length he could no longer defer his departure, and with a
countenance full of woe he informed the family at dinner that he would
have to leave them the following day. Francisca turned deadly pale, and
as soon as she could make her escape from table she rushed into the
garden to vent her grief in solitude. Theodore had followed her,
unperceived by her. He found her leaning against a tree, holding a
handkerchief to her eyes, while her whole frame was agitated by her
emotion. In another moment his arm was round her waist, while he
'What! weeping, Francisca? Are you ill? What can affect you thus? Is
there any secret grief pressing upon your mind? I had hoped to carry
away with me the image of the happy Francisca I have known here. Ah!
you cannot guess how dear your happiness is to me. To you I owe my life
twice over. I owe you more than ten lives could repay. Dearest
Francisca! say, will you think kindly of me when I am far away? Oh,
every golden cloud, every waving tree, every lovely flower I behold
will lead my thoughts to you--or rather, you will be my only thought.'
Francisca's tears flowed more freely even than before. She was silent;
but there is a silence more eloquent than words. However, young ladies,
you all know, or have dreamed, of what might pass during such a scene,
and I shall not, with my prosy words, attempt to describe what your
poetical imaginations can so much better conceive.
It was under that linden-tree that the happy Theodore received the
assurance of Francisca's love, and heard her, for the first time, call
him 'Dear Theodore!' They strolled on towards the wood, and Theodore
there took up a small quantity of the earth, which he said he would
keep as an amulet--a preservative against all manner of witchcraft.
'Do so,' said Francisca, with a sad smile, 'for you will assuredly need
that amulet. You are leaving me now; you will forget me soon among the
many beautiful and fascinating you will see in the gay world. But,
after all, you had better throw back the earth whence it came,
Theodore. I would not be remembered as an evil genius.'
'Can you fancy that I could possibly forget you, or cease to remember
all you have been to me? May Heaven forget me if I ever change towards
The earnestness of his manner convinced Francisca of his sincerity. We
are always prone to believe what we wish, and this is why a heart that
loves is so easily deceived.
When he was going away, Theodore whispered with his farewell a request
that he might be allowed to write to her, and that she would answer his
'No, do not write,' she said; 'our faith in each other does not require
to be kept alive by letter. We shall meet again.'
'In spring, I trust. Oh, how long it will be till then!'
Love and gratitude! What a wide difference there is between these two
feelings. Love is the offspring of our own heart--its darling, its
heir; gratitude is but an adopted child--a poor orphan, admitted but
not tenderly cherished. What Francisca felt was love. Theodore had
always gratitude starting up in the background to recall his
wandering feelings; yet he believed, when he left the Garlovs' house
for Copenhagen, that he was really in love with Francisca.
It is a pity that no natural philosopher has ever invented an
instrument by which to measure love--its depth and solidity. Had such a
test been available, Theodore would soon have found out his own state.
But still there are proofs without philosophical instruments; for he
who does not find the image of his beloved in every corner of his
heart, has never loved; he who does not clearly remember every, even
the most minute turnings, in the winding-path by which the little blind
deity may have led him, has never loved; he whose beloved is not his
all in the future, the object of his dreams, his hopes, his thoughts in
the present, he has never loved. Ye gentlemen lovers! I advise you to
examine your own hearts by these tests, and see how your affections
Rudolph paused for a moment--Louise glanced at him as if she felt sure
he had passed the proof--Arnold indulged in a sneering smile, and the
other gentlemen looked innocently apathetic.
There is an old French saying (continued Rudolph), which signifies
that absence has the same effect upon love that a high wind has upon
fire--it extinguishes the weak, but makes the strong burn more
intensely. Thus, while Francisca's ardent love gained strength in
absence, and in her sleeping and waking dreams she invested Theodore
with every possible good quality and charm, his feeble love became more
and more languid, and the image of Francisca lost by degrees all the
attractions he had fancied it possessed.
Francisca had communicated all her feelings by letter to her friend, my
mother, and the correspondence between them, on a subject so
interesting, helped to while away the tedium of the winter months.
Theodore, on the contrary, concealed his little love affair in the
country from his friends in town. At first, it seemed a topic
too sacred to enter upon, and afterwards he thought it would be
ridiculous--he would only expose himself to be laughed at by his
companions. Balls, and all sorts of amusements occupied his leisure
hours. He was one of the best dancers in Copenhagen, and could have as
many pretty partners as he liked. Time flew fast with him; he sometimes
forgot that such a being as Francisca existed, and in a fit of
vexation, as it reminded him of his duty, he hid away the amulet that
was to have been so potent a talisman. Early in spring, however, he had
an illness, which confined him to his room for a few days; during that
short period of seclusion Francisca assumed a more prominent part in
his recollection. Which of all the girls he had been flirting with
during the winter would have risked so much, done so much for him as
she had done? Not one among them. The country and Francisca were again
in the ascendant for a time, and it was at this period that he had his
likeness taken. He would give it to her. How much she would value it!
That was a pleasant idea, for even in love men seldom forget vanity.
Indeed, what love is to be compared, in general, to self-love?
Armed with the miniature of himself, and a small plain gold ring on his
little finger, Theodore set off for Mr. Garlov's. The wood was already
clothed in its mantle of green. How anxiously had not Francisca watched
the budding leaves, and longed for the arrival of spring, which would
bring back to her him she loved so much! She had gone out to meet him,
and when he caught a glimpse of her, springing from the carriage he
threw himself at her feet. She was happy, for she had never doubted his
constancy. Mr. Garlov welcomed him as an old friend, but he did not
look upon him in any other light, as Mrs. Garlov, who knew of her
daughter's attachment, had never yet found a suitable opportunity
to communicate the matter to her husband, though she was aware
that he intended Francisca to marry a wealthy proprietor in their
neighbourhood, who, although somewhat advanced in years, was a very
worthy man, and would be a good match.
The evenings were still cold, and were consequently passed within
doors, but were enlivened by conversation, music, and reading aloud,
for Theodore excelled in the latter accomplishment, and also sang well.
A happy time it was to Francisca, and even Theodore felt the pleasing
influence of these quiet evenings; but when summer came, with its long
days and warm nights, and the lovers could stroll out arm-in-arm,
Francisca was still happier, and would sometimes exclaim, 'I could not
have thought it possible for this world to afford so much felicity as I
experience at this moment!' With her the days flew like hours, and the
hours like minutes! At length Theodore spoke of returning to his home.
But he was assailed by father, mother, and daughter, with entreaties to
remain a little longer, as guests were expected, and his society would
enliven the party very much.
'If you will only stay,' said Francisca, 'you shall be rewarded by
seeing a most beautiful girl.'
'Is your cousin Kitty so beautiful?' asked Theodore.
'No, she is only amiable; but a Miss Angel is to accompany her, who is
over from Holstein on a visit to my cousin. She is called Aurora
Angel--two ominous names, are they not? But they are not misapplied.'
'Do you think I would stay for anybody's sake if not for yours, dear
Francisca?' said Theodore. 'No; the goddess of the dawn of day shall
have no such triumph. Since you wish it, I will remain longer; but I
should only be too happy if this blooming damsel would stay away.'
She came, however, along with my mother and my grandmother, and very
beautiful she was both in face and figure, with remarkably fine arms,
and the prettiest feet in the world. She looked lovely as she played
the harp, and her voice was one of that peculiar sweetness that, once
heard, could never be forgotten. Her slight foreign accent gave a
piquancy to her simplest words--in short, she was altogether a most
attractive little creature.
Mrs. Garlov and Theodore Ancker were the only persons who did not
seem quite captivated by the fascinations of the fair Aurora; every
one else was enchanted with her, Francisca most of all. Theodore
insisted that the glances of her bright eyes had, when she thought she
was not observed, something sinister in them that caused involuntary
mistrust; he accused her of being coquettish, cold, and heartless,
notwithstanding her affection of feeling. In fact, he evinced a strange
repugnance to her society, and much annoyance that the arrival of other
guests had thrown a sort of barrier between himself and Francisca, with
whom he could no longer be frequently alone, and more than once he
expressed a wish that he had gone when first he proposed doing so. He
was at all times a little given to variations of temper, but now he
appeared to be always out of humour, and when he was compelled to show
any attention to Aurora, he did it with a very bad grace, and looked as
awkward as a dancing bear.
Aurora herself never appeared to observe anything odd in his manners,
but the rest of the party could not fail to be surprised at him.
One evening, after Theodore had been all day looking quite cross
because he had not been able to have some private chat with Francisca,
though his own bad humour had made him neglect more than one
opportunity that had presented itself, the little party were assembled
in the music-room which opened on the garden. Aurora was singing and
accompanying herself on the harp. Theodore seemed annoyed at the praise
bestowed upon her, and she had scarcely finished her song when he began
vehemently to press Francisca to sing. She declined, though she really
sang very nicely, and her admirer was so vexed that he was leaving the
room, when she called him back, that he might hear Aurora sing
Clärchen's Lied from Goethe's 'Egmont,' which was then quite new. After
preluding for a moment or two, with a sweet smile Aurora commenced the
romance, and the expression of her countenance changed suddenly to
sadness as she sang,
while she seemed powerfully affected by the two last lines:
Ist die Seele, die liebt;
for her voice sank almost to a whisper, and her eyes filled with tears.
At that moment her glance met that of Theodore, and she coloured
deeply, while he in vain strove to look indifferent. Mrs. Garlov
entered on a disquisition touching the tragedy of 'Egmont' and the
character of Clärchen, while Aurora sought to conceal her annoyance by
speaking of the song.
'I do not know any song that has prettier words than these. Do you not
agree with me, Mr. Ancker?'
'I think,' replied Theodore, 'that Clärchen's mother pronounced a very
proper judgment on the words when she said, "Ah, it is the same eternal
'And I will answer you in Clärchen's own words', said Aurora,
good-humouredly: '"Nay, do not abuse it; 'tis a song of marvellous
virtue. Many a time I have lulled a grown child to sleep with it."'
This reply in her own language--the German--came so prettily from
Aurora's coral lips, that Theodore did violence to his own feelings
when he answered:
'Yes, "schlafen wiegen," that was perhaps Clärchen's art. Probably you
admire Clärchen's character. I would swear that you did.'
'Yes, I admire it; it is a faithful and pleasing sketch of the female
'Of one female character, say rather. God be praised, not of all,'
replied Theodore. 'Clärchen is capricious, coquettish, inconsiderate,
heartless. She makes a mere tool of the man who wishes to marry her--a
mere hack and errand boy--and she repays the poor fellow's services by
the coquetry which holds him in her chains. Does she not say herself,
"Often, without a thought, I return the gentle loving pressure of his
hand? I reproach myself that I am deceiving him--that I am nourishing
in his heart a vain hope."'
Aurora listened to him with a smile, complimented him on his admirable
pronunciation of German (a compliment which evidently pleased him), and
then went on to defend Clärchen, quoting sentences from the drama
itself, and wound up by assuring him that men could not understand
love--at least not such deep, all-absorbing love as a Clärchen could
Mr. Garlov remarked that the fair damsel was very severe upon their
sex, and Theodore shrugged his shoulders in silence.
Again Aurora spoke. 'Clärchen,' she said, 'was placed, as it were,
between Life's cold prose and Eternity's warm poetry. It was the battle
between these that consumed her, as it had consumed many another heart.
You have no conception of that struggle: and may you never feel it.
May you never have to say, like Clärchen, "I am in a strange
Aurora rose, put away her harp, and hurried into the garden. The other
ladies followed her, and Theodore was left alone with Mr. Garlov, who
'You have got into a scrape, my good friend. One must be very guarded
in speaking to these German ladies, they are so deucedly sensitive. I
can't conceive, though, what made you fall upon her as you did; it was
really an unwarrantable attack.'
For some days after the little scene in the music-room,
great pains to dispel the gloom his ill-humour had occasioned, and he
tried, by unusual courtesy, to do away with any disagreeable impression
he might have made upon Aurora; but she appeared to notice as little
his efforts to please as she had previously noticed his indifference,
which had bordered on rudeness. He was annoyed, and said to Francisca,
'I can't imagine what that girl wants; I have never in my life beheld a
person with so much pretension. If she expects that I shall approach
her upon my knees, according to the homage she is perhaps accustomed to
in Holstein, she will find herself much mistaken. One does not worship
a pretty face so much in this part of the world; thank Heaven, here
beauty is not so rare.'
'A face like Aurora's, however, is seldom to be seen anywhere,' said
Francisca. 'But you quite misunderstand her--she has no pretensions,
and hardly knows how beautiful she is. She is sorry that she is not on
better terms with you, and, as Kitty tells me, cannot imagine why you
dislike her so much.'
Such conversations frequently took place between Theodore and
Francisca, but they had no apparent result, for Theodore, though he
agreed with all that she said, and was polite to her young guest, did
not seem to feel any interest in her; and Aurora, on her part, remained
cold and distant to him. Six weeks had now elapsed since the arrival of
the ladies, and the time had passed slowly to Theodore, who had never
felt himself fully at ease; these weeks had also imperceptibly made a
change in his and Francisca's manners towards each other--a colder and
more distant tone had sprung up between them, they seldom met alone,
and when they did, Theodore's thoughts always seemed preoccupied, or he
was out of humour. Francisca observed this with regret, and one Sunday
morning she contrived to follow him alone into the garden, determined
to clear up anything that might have annoyed him. She had a book in her
hand, probably snatched up by chance to lead the rest of the party to
fancy that she was going to read in the garden. Theodore came up to
her, and said:
'What interesting work have I to thank for this unexpected meeting? To
see you alone is now a rare event; the claims of love, methinks, are no
longer of the importance they used to be.'
He seized the book with some impetuosity--it was Goethe's 'Egmont.'
'Clärchen!' he exclaimed. 'Is Clärchen to be always thus thrust upon
me? I wish I could as easily get rid of all Clärchens as I can of this
book.' And he was about to fling the book away.
'For Heaven's sake, Theodore, don't throw Aurora's book into the pond!
How can you be so childish as to be angry with a poor book? It was not
Clärchen that brought me here; I took it up in the breakfast-room to
have something in my hand; I did not even know what book it was. I came
out here,' she added, timidly, and colouring deeply, 'to seek you.'
'Me, Francisca? Really to seek me? So these visitors of yours have not
made you quite forget me? But I am unreasonable, detestable; forgive
me, sweet Francisca! I hardly know myself what I want. It is very
foolish, but I confess I am as jealous of Aurora as if she had been a
man. The way in which she engrosses you quite separates us; when a
woman chooses to pay court, it is much worse than attention from a
man--she scarcely ever leaves you for a moment.'
'Unreasonable that you are!' cried Francisca, smiling. 'Do you think
you are to be the only 'person who is to be allowed to love me? Come,
let us make the most of these uninterrupted minutes, and speak
confidentially together. Let us go into the forest, I feel as if I
should be more at my ease there.'
Theodore drew her arm within his, and they went into the wood. It was a
lovely morning, the thick foliage of the trees formed a cool shade from
the warm rays of the blazing sun. The birds were carolling among the
branches, the chime of the distant church bells was answered by the
tinkling of the sheep bells as the animals fed amidst the grassy glades
of the forest, and a few peasants passed now and then on their way to
church, in all their Sunday finery, and with their prayer-books in
their hands. They respectfully and kindly saluted the lovers as they
sat together under the large tree, beneath whose spreading boughs
Francisca had prayed for strength on the memorable night when she had
traversed the forest alone in order to obtain the means required for
saving Theodore's life.
'This is our chapel,' said Theodore. 'This mossy seat the altar at
which I have vowed to devote my life to you. Do you remember that it
was here you hinted at the possibility of my forgetting you? Ah! Did I
not then say that Heaven must forget me first? I feel now, even more
than I did then, the truth of my words.' But at that moment a
recollection shot across Theodore's mind which caused him a painful
sensation: had he not all but forgotten Francisca? He passed his hand
over his eyes for a moment, but Francisca took it gently away, while
'My doubts were unholy. I was but a child then, and I did not think
that I could be loved as I felt I loved you. Forgive me for these
sinful thoughts. I know now how true you are.'
Theodore embraced her, and played with the ring he had given her,
which, not daring to wear on her finger, as the engagement was yet
unknown to her father, she had hung round her neck, and generally
placed near her heart, but which on this occasion had escaped from
within her dress. Francisca had taken her own likeness before her
glass, and, although it had many faults, it resembled her. She
intended it for Theodore, but had never been able to gather courage
until this day to present it to him. She had brought it down into the
breakfast-room with her, and when she saw him stroll into the garden
she thrust it hurriedly between the leaves of a book which was lying on
a side-table, and took it with her when she went to join him. The ring
reminded her of the little portrait, and, turning to Theodore, she
'You have been very kind to give me both this ring and that dear
miniature--that likeness of yourself, to which I confide all my
thoughts when I am alone with it. I have no ring to offer you in
return, Theodore; but will you excuse its many faults, and accept this
little sketch which I have done for you? When you look at this pale
face, I beseech you not to forget that the soul which animates it is
capable of the most devoted love, and is grateful for its undeserved
Frightened at the warmth with which she had ventured to express her
feelings, the poor girl became quite embarrassed, her eyes were blinded
with tears, and her fingers nervously felt through the leaves of the
book for the drawing she had mentioned. She found it, and with averted
head, she handed it to Theodore. He kissed it as he received it, but no
sooner had he looked at it than he exclaimed in great agitation,
'Francisca, this is a bitter mockery! I did not deserve this from you.'
Francisca looked at him with astonishment. He was holding the drawing
in his hand, and gazing on it. One glance was enough to show her that
it was not her likeness; the book had contained at least one other
drawing besides her portrait. A young lady was leaning over a harp,
amidst the strings of which one hand was lingering, while the other
hand held a pocket-handkerchief towards her face, as if to dry the
tears that were swimming in the soft eyes; beside her stood an elegant
young man, in an attitude of utter indifference, cleverly depicted by
his having placed his foot on a chair near, and being engaged in
adjusting his shoe. It was only a sketch, but very spirited, and very
well done. In a corner of the paper was written the German line--
Das Herz allein schafft Holl' und Paradies.
'Aurora!' cried Francisca, in dismay.
'Clärchen,' said Theodore, fretfully. 'Am I then doomed to find that
image everywhere--is it not impossible to escape it! Nay, Francisca,
this is an unfair punishment. I have acknowledged my rudeness,
regretted it in my own heart, and endeavoured to make up for it--what
more would you have?'
'It is no punishment; it is only a mistake. I did not know that there
was any such drawing in the book; the sketch is not by me--it is by
Aurora,' stammered Francisca.
'Aurora! Did Aurora do this?' exclaimed Theodore, looking at it again,
Francisca did not answer, but she seemed as if she was going to cry.
Little heeding her looks, however, he remained with his eyes riveted on
the picture; at length he said,
'Clärchen is true to herself. Only see what coquetry there is in
this little sketch; and the verse, and the tears--it is really
charming!--But what is the matter, Francisca? You look so pale--so
overcome. Are you not well?'
Francisca tried to laugh at herself. 'It is nothing; I felt a little
giddy, but the sensation has passed off. Let us go home, for we may be
missed, and it is rather damp here.'
Theodore rose and accompanied her through the wood, while he carefully
carried the book with the two drawings within its leaves. On reaching
the house Francisca took it from him, and hurried up to her room. She
put away her own likeness with very different feelings to those with
which she had taken it from its accustomed place. It seemed so strange
that fate should have made her own hand the means of substituting
Aurora's likeness for hers! This incident, trifling as it was, awoke a
degree of uneasiness in her mind; but she endeavoured to conquer the
feeling, and, going downstairs, she replaced Aurora's book on the table
where she had found it. Seeing, however, Theodore approaching from the
garden, and not being yet quite composed enough to meet him, she
hastily left the room; but, angry at herself for her folly, she
returned after a little time, and with the intention of begging him to
say nothing about Aurora's sketch, which had been seen by him without
her knowledge. Why did she a second time so suddenly and silently leave
the apartment she had just entered? It was because she beheld Theodore
bending with the deepest attention over 'Egmont,' which was open on the
table before him. Was it the play or the drawing which so fascinated
The old doctor and some neighbouring gentlemen dined at the Garlovs'
that day, and in the course of the evening the whole party repaired to
the garden; Francisca had quite recovered her spirits, and Theodore was
in an unusually gay mood. Swinging was proposed, and Francisca and
Aurora got together into the swing, which had a capacious seat. The old
doctor insisted upon swinging the girls, but after trying it for some
time, puffing and panting, he called to Theodore and gave up his post
to him with, 'It is your turn, now; I am too old to go on long.' But
Aurora vehemently opposed his doing it--she would not on any account
give him so much trouble.
'Oh, I shall dispense with all gratitude from you,' said Theodore.
'Don't distress yourself about giving me trouble, that can all be
placed to Miss Francisca's account; she will return so many thanks,
that I am sure they will suffice for both of you.'
Francisca laughed, and so did the old doctor and Kitty. As if in fun,
Theodore set the swing into more violent motion, and it flew higher and
higher, with a disagreeable jerking movement. Aurora screamed, and then
called out that she was frightened; but Theodore continued his
exertions, while he exclaimed, 'Angels are at home in the higher
regions, therefore it is impossible for Miss Angel to be afraid of
reaching the tops of the trees.'
'I don't choose to swing any more; I command you to stop!' cried
Aurora, with a look that made it doubtful whether she was in jest or
Theodore laughed, and then replied, 'Entreaties would have more weight
than commands; you had better say I pray you, Miss Aurora. Now you
can truly exclaim, "Ich bin ubel dran."'
Aurora would not condescend to entreat, but when next the swing came to
near the ground, she prepared to spring out; in a moment, however, it
was off again, and the spring, which she was then not able to check,
was made from a considerable height. Francisca tried to catch her, and
losing her own balance, she, too, with a wild shriek, fell forward. At
the same moment both the young ladies lay stunned upon the ground.
Theodore was in an agony of terror; the old doctor clasped his hands in
consternation, and Kitty almost fainted away. The rest of the party,
hearing the shriek, rushed to the place where the swing was erected,
and only added to the confusion. Theodore raised Francisca gently in
his arms; he took no notice of Aurora, who still lay insensible after
Francisca had recovered her consciousness. The latter was carefully
carried into the house and laid on her couch by her mother and Kitty,
and Theodore stood at the outside of her chamber door until he heard
her voice speaking in its natural tones. He then suddenly remembered
Aurora, and returned to the garden to see how she was. In the meantime
she had come to herself, and had found herself surrounded by the old
doctor, Mr. Garlov, and the gentlemen who were spending the day with
them--the ladies had all disappeared. She tried to rise, but could not
stand, her ankle was either broken or dislocated. Some of the servants
were called; Aurora was placed in an arm-chair, and carried by them
towards the house, while the old doctor walked on one side of her and
Mr. Garlov on the other, the strangers bringing up the rear. Theodore
flew to meet her, and exclaimed, with the utmost anxiety, 'For God's
sake, tell me, are you much hurt? How do you feel?'
Aurora looked somewhat reproachfully at him, but she answered, 'It was
my own fault.'
'It was the fault of that abominable swing--a most dangerous pastime!'
exclaimed the old doctor, who forgot, in his wrath, that he had been
among those who encouraged it. Aurora was carefully laid on a sofa in a
small chamber leading into the music-room, where Mrs. Garlov and Kitty
came to her after they had made Francisca as comfortable as possible;
she had struck her chest against the projecting root of a tree, and the
spot looked blue, but there was no other apparent injury. The doctor
found Aurora's foot much swollen; the joint was dislocated, and he
tried to put it in its place, but not being able to manage it, he
called Theodore to perform the operation, which, though painful, Aurora
bore with great fortitude.
The strangers, of course, took their departure, and the old doctor,
after having visited Francisca, declared that he also was obliged to
go. Aurora said she hoped to see him again soon; but he told her that
he must put her under Theodore's care, as he would be unavoidably
compelled to absent himself for some days. She seemed much annoyed at
this, and anxiously requested to be removed to Copenhagen, for she
would suffer any amount of pain on the journey, she said, rather than
be attended by Theodore. She was assured, however, that it was
absolutely necessary for her to remain where she was. Theodore cursed
in his heart his past rudeness to Aurora, which had caused the poor
girl to dislike him so much.
Meantime, every arrangement was made for Aurora's comfort, and her host
and hostess were most assiduous in their attention to her. She
happened, however, to be alone when Theodore paid her his first visit
next morning. She lay on the sofa, which had been converted into a bed,
in a white dressing-gown, with her beautiful hair falling negligently
about her shoulders, and her rounded cheek resting on one hand. So
beautiful did she look, that Theodore started on entering the room, and
stood as if turned into a statue of stone; it was some moments before
he could recover himself sufficiently to ask her how she was.
Aurora gave him one of her sweetest smiles, and held out her hand to
him, while she said, 'Like the frightened one in the German tale, let
me ask, "Daniel, Daniel, why do you persecute me?"'
This mild rebuke quite overcame Theodore; he stooped and kissed her
hand, while he whispered, 'O Aurora, be merciful!'
From this moment their former seeming dislike to each other vanished
entirely. Theodore devoted much of his time to the interesting invalid;
he talked to her, read to her, and before long had quite adopted her
opinion of her favourite Clärchen in the drama of 'Egmont.' Francisca
made no fuss about herself, but she had come off the worst,
nevertheless, for the blow on her chest had brought on a spitting
of blood, which, however, she concealed from everyone except my
mother--her cousin Kitty. Aurora's foot had had ample time to get well;
but she complained constantly of it, and could not be induced to try to
walk. Thus, at the end of three weeks, she was still confined to her
sofa. During all this time Theodore had not had any opportunity of
conversing alone with Francisca, for either the one or the other was in
attendance on Aurora, or they were both with her. Francisca looked pale
and ill, and ought by rights to have changed places with Aurora, who
reclined like an invalid on the sofa, though her blooming face was the
picture of health. But as she still complained of her sufferings,
Francisca innocently charged Theodore to be very attentive to her--an
injunction he was only too willing to obey.
It never occurred to Francisca that Theodore might fall in love with
Aurora; and yet that was already the case. On her first arrival he had
been dazzled by her extraordinary beauty; but looking upon her as a
cold-blooded coquette, he had endeavoured to steel his heart against
her. It was mistrust of himself which made him pretend to dislike her;
her indifference piqued him, and was the cause of his ill-humour and
caprice, but Francisca's mistake about the sketches awoke a new feeling
in him, and he determined to win Aurora's love. She marked well all
the fluctuations in his feelings and his manners, but, sure of her
game, she went calmly on. Theodore had judged rightly when he had
denounced the sketch as an artful piece of coquetry; nevertheless, it
had its effect on him in spite of his sober reason. The particular
attention which he always showed Francisca provoked Aurora, who could
not endure anyone to interfere with the monopoly of all homage which
she claimed for herself, and she worked hard to separate them. The
scene at the swing and its consequences, though caused only by her
jealousy, had aided her designs, and now she had not a doubt of her
conquest. Both Theodore and Aurora were vain--both were coquettes--for
gentlemen can be coquettes as well as ladies; the difference between
them was, that she was a profound coquette, he a thoughtless one; she
had improved her talents in that way by deep study, he was guided only
by his natural tendencies. Surely much were those to be pitied who had
founded their hopes on such characters, for they had built their house
Theodore soon found that he could no longer gloss over his feelings for
Aurora, and shelter them under the well-sounding names of regret, duty,
Christian charity, or friendship, with which he had hitherto tried to
silence his awaking conscience. He was forced to confess to himself
that he loved Aurora as he never before had loved--what had bound him
to Francisca was only friendship and gratitude; yet he could not but
admit that she had bestowed her whole heart on him. When Aurora began
to limp about a little, first with a crutch, then with a stick, and,
lastly, with the aid of his arm, he found himself so happy with her,
that he could scarcely sober his feelings before Francisca, who, still
unsuspicious of any evil, rejoiced to see them such good friends.
But all were not so blind as Francisca: her mother and cousin saw more
clearly what was going on, and they trembled for the moment when she
should find out the unwelcome truth, if truth it really were. That
moment came sooner than they had expected. It so happened that Kitty
was confined to her room for a few days by a bad cold, and at that very
period Francisca was obliged to be a good deal with the daughters of
the clergyman of the parish, in whose family a death had taken place.
Theodore was, therefore, almost entirely alone with Aurora.
One evening, about dusk, Francisca returned from a visit to the
clergyman's family, and on the stairs she met a servant-girl, who was
carrying a glass of lemonade to Aurora. She took it from the girl to
carry it in herself; the door was half open between the anteroom and
the music-room, and, hearing Aurora playing on the harp, she stopped,
not to disturb her. It was Clärchen's song, and Theodore was singing a
second to it in a low tone. It was so long since she had heard him
sing, that she sat down near the door to listen to his voice. He
stopped before the end of the song, and Aurora finished it alone. As
she sang the last two lines, Francisca heard Theodore sigh deeply. 'He
is thinking of me!' whispered Francisca to herself, 'as I am thinking
of him.' Poor Francisca!
'Grieved unto death!' repeated Theodore. 'You are singing my requiem,
'And my own,' said Aurora. 'Would to Heavens I had never come here!
What have I done that I should be so punished?'
'Speak not thus, Aurora; I alone am guilty. Why did I not tell you of
my engagement to Francisca? Why did I not fly and leave you both?'
'Francisca is of an affectionate but tranquil character; she will
forgive a temporary inconstancy, if she has observed it; but it is not
probable that she has. It is not yet too late. I must go, and you will
soon forget me. Francisca may yet be happy--but, oh! what a blank is
before me! Yet I must away.'
'For Heaven's sake, forbear, Aurora! Leave me! No, no, I cannot tear
myself from you, come what may. My life is doomed--alas! there is no
happiness more for me in this world. But these vows--these dreadful
vows--must they be fulfilled?'
'They may crush our hearts,' said Aurora, 'but they must be fulfilled.
Let my hand go, Theodore--you are engaged to Francisca; leave me--leave
me to weep alone.'
'Dearest--adored--most precious Aurora!--how wretched I am! How could I
fancy that I loved Francisca? And yet, shall I repay all her goodness
to me by treachery?'
'Hush, Ancker, hush! You will kill me. Go, marry Francisca, and be
'Happy!' cried Theodore, vehemently; 'happy without you? How can you
mock me thus, Aurora?'
'Perhaps time may do something for us,' said Aurora, with a smile as
beautiful as the sun breaking through the dark clouds in a stormy sky.
'I dare hope nothing from time,' replied Theodore.
'Ah! do you not now feel the force of these words, "I am in a strange
position?"' murmured Aurora.
'You are revenged, Aurora,' said Theodore, not without some bitterness.
'The loss of a lifetime's happiness is surely enough to atone for a
A deathlike weakness, which she could not shake off, had compelled
Francisca to overhear this conversation. The first words had been
enough almost to kill her; as soon as she was capable of moving, she
rose and fled like a hunted deer to her own apartment: there, throwing
her arms round my mother's neck, she could only exclaim, 'Kitty, Kitty,
what have I not heard!' My mother too well guessed whence the blow had
come, and she was not surprised at what was told her. The cousins spent
the evening alone together, and when the family had retired to rest, my
mother sought the wing of the house in which Theodore's rooms were
situated. He was not there. She was rather glad to escape an interview
with a young man, at night, in his own apartment, and in returning she
observed that the door of the music-room was half-open; on going
forward to shut it, she perceived that a window was also open, and she
went to close it first. But what was her surprise on reaching it, and
looking out for a moment, to see, in the clear moonlight, Theodore
standing below Aurora's window, talking earnestly to her, while she was
leaning out, with a little shawl thrown over her head. Kitty drew back
hurriedly, but Theodore had seen her, and immediately joined her. He
forthwith began to account for his being found there; but it was
evident that he was telling a falsehood got up at the moment. My mother
interrupted him by briefly informing him what Francisca had overheard;
she laid the ring and the miniature on the table before him, simply
adding a request that he would leave the house as soon as possible.
The next day Francisca was confined to her room by illness, which was
given out to be a cold, and Theodore set off for Copenhagen without
having seen either of the cousins. Aurora soon followed him, and then
Kitty communicated to Mrs. Garlov the fact of Francisca's engagement
being broken off. Mr. Garlov had never heard of it, and often, to
Francisca's great distress, wished Theodore back again. A hard battle
she had to fight with herself, but she bore up wonderfully under her
deep disappointment. And this is the history of Aunt Francisca's youth.
Rudolph paused, and Arnold seized the opportunity of exclaiming,
'Why, we have only had a mere tissue of sentimentality as yet. What has
become of the child, Rudolph, that Mrs. Werner was whispering to you
about? You smile--come, out with the child, don't withhold the best
part of the story from us--the child--the child.'
'Oh!' said one of the other young men, shaking his finger at Arnold,
'what have you to do with the child? Leave it in peace, poor thing!
there is no use in recalling these forgotten affairs.'
'No; we must have the little affair of the child,' insisted Arnold,
as Rudolph was about to continue his narrative.
Francisca spent some years quietly in the country, not mixing at all
with the world, and only cared for by those who were immediately around
her. My mother was her sole friend and correspondent, and she used to
pass two months every summer at the Garlovs'. These were Francisca's
pleasantest days, for she could talk freely to her of her own short
and too bitterly lost period of happiness. Her sorrow and mortification
had not made her either sour or melancholy, as you will perhaps believe
when I tell you that she had two or three offers at this time which she
refused. She was about two-and-twenty years of age when her father
died, and as he had lived up to his income, there was but little left
for the widow and her daughter. They removed to Copenhagen, where they
lived on a slender income, but slightly increased by what Francisca
received from the Tontine in which she held some shares. Often did Mrs.
Garlov lament, for her daughter's sake, their altered circumstances;
but Theodore's name was never mentioned between them. Only once Mrs.
Garlov had spoken of him, and then she had wondered how it was possible
for her dear child to forgive him.
But Francisca answered, 'It is so easy to forgive, dear mother. Let us
not, however, again allude to him; it only pains you.'
Theodore, in the meantime, had married Aurora. When my mother
communicated this event to Francisca, she determined to burn every
little memento of him which she had treasured with the pardonable folly
of affection! and 'Oh!' she exclaimed, as with bitter tears she made an
auto-da-fé of these souvenirs, 'may he be as happy as my most earnest
wishes would make him, and may every remembrance of me be obliterated
from his thoughts as entirely as this last withered leaf is now
About two years after his marriage Theodore removed to Russia, where
physicians, at that period, were in great request, and made large
fortunes. Kitty had heard that his principal reason, however, for
leaving Denmark, was to withdraw Aurora from the connections she had
formed in Copenhagen, where her conduct often gave him occasion to
repent the choice he had made. They lived unhappily together; her
coquetry annoyed him extremely, and the number of admirers whom she
encouraged to be constantly around her was a source of daily torment to
him. A jealous husband generally makes a fool of himself; when he has
an arrant coquette for his wife, his doing so is inevitable, therefore
the names of Theodore and Aurora were soon in everybody's mouth, and
she found it as desirable as he did to escape from all the gossip
and scandal to which her own behaviour had given rise. Kitty, however,
did not relate these unpleasant details to Francisca, who only knew
that her good wishes must follow Theodore to St. Petersburg.
Shortly after this Mrs. Garlov died, and Francisca was left almost
alone in the world; but she sought happiness in constant occupation,
and in doing as much good as her slender means would permit. When my
mother married she wished her cousin to come and reside with her, but
Francisca preferred to be independent, and continued to live alone,
with her servant-of-all-work.
Theodore had not found the happiness in Russia he had anticipated. His
fortune had indeed increased, but his domestic peace had diminished.
Aurora cared little either for his advice or his anger, and had soon
formed intimacies which quite consoled her for his fits of crossness.
He also found amusements away from his home; thus they often did not
see each other for days, and when they did meet it was only to quarrel.
One evening, on returning home at a late hour, he found his wife was
absent; she had left the house early in the forenoon, and had not been
seen since. Next day the servant of a Russian officer called with a
message to Theodore, to say that he need not expect his wife, as she
had gone to Moscow with his master, and did not intend to come back.
This was a dreadful blow to him, notwithstanding the levity of her
former conduct, and with a sudden feeling of hatred to St. Petersburg,
to which he had no longer any ties, he converted all his effects into
cash, and embarked with it on board a ship bound to Copenhagen.
But he had a most disastrous voyage, the ship was totally lost off
Rügen, and the passengers saved only their lives. Theodore found
himself all at once a beggar, and this calamity, following so closely
on his other misfortunes, brought on a dreadful illness. He passed six
months in an hospital, and at the end of that time was discharged--a
wretched lunatic! The Danish consul took charge of him, and had him
safely conveyed to Copenhagen. But no one recognized him there; his
passport and his papers had all been lost in the ship which had also
contained his money and effects. There was, therefore, no refuge for
him but the common bedlam, where he was accordingly placed. It
happened, however, that after a short time he had lucid intervals,
during which periods he occasionally mentioned names that were known,
and this led to the discovery of who he was, and to his being removed
from the bedlam and boarded with a private family, who received a few
gentlemen labouring under mental disease.
Tidings of his unfortunate situation soon reached Francisca's ears, for
it was the theme in every family where he had been formerly known. She
had deemed him far away, but happy and prosperous, loving and beloved;
she found him near her, but unhappy, deserted, and an object of that
cold charity which counts every shilling and every farthing that it
expends. She determined to see him, and to administer as much as she
could to his comforts. He did not know her; she stood before him as a
stranger, and as if from the hands of a kind stranger he received the
various little gifts with which she sought to please him. For a whole
year she continued to visit him daily, and it was with deep sorrow she
observed that his mind was becoming more and more clouded, no thought
of the past, no dream of the future, seeming ever to enter it.
At this time the landed proprietor, who was formerly mentioned, and who
had been attached to Francisca since she was sixteen years of age,
again made her an offer of marriage. He was rich, high-principled,
kind-hearted, and well-educated. She knew also that her parents had
much wished her to marry him. But Theodore required her care, and she
determined never to forsake him. She had just finished the letter
declining the offer so handsomely made, and saying that she had
resolved never to marry, when the lady with whom Theodore boarded, and
who supposed her to be a relation of his, sent a pressing message to
her begging her to come immediately. She hurried to the house, hoping
that some favourable change had suddenly taken place, and that Theodore
would be restored to reason. But there was no such joy in store for
She found him sitting in a corner of his room playing at cat's-cradle
with some twine and his long, wasted fingers; so eagerly engaged was he
on his infantine diversion, that he scarcely raised his vacant eyes as
she entered. His gait was slouching, and his clothes hung loose about
him. Oh, how different from the Theodore of former days!
His hostess was sitting at work in the same room, and looking extremely
cross. A letter and a parcel lay on the table, beside which stood a
little boy, whose inquisitive and half-frightened glances wandered
round first to the strange man, then to the unknown ladies, and lastly,
to an elderly woman in a foreign dress, who was sitting near the stove,
and who said a few words to him in a foreign language, apparently
bidding him do something he was not inclined to do, as he shook his
little head; he seemed bewildered by the scene around him. Francisca
also stood as one bewildered, but the lady of the house proceeded at
once to explain things to her as far as she could. She told her that
the foreign woman had informed her, in bad German, that she was the
wife of the captain of a small trading vessel from Revel, who had been
requested to take charge of the little boy and deliver him to his
relations, the address given being only that of Dr. Theodore Ancker,
Copenhagen. All the child's expenses had been paid. The woman had
conscientiously tried to find out Theodore, and the lady in whose house
he lived had detained her until she could send for Francisca.
The letter contained but a very few words; it was signed 'Aurora.' The
child's name was Alexander, and he was three years of age. His mother
sent him to take his chance in the world, as she could no longer
maintain him, and she entreated Theodore to take care of him, as she
was now no longer a burden upon his means or a sharer in his wealth.
Not a syllable was mentioned of her own fate--not an address or
reference to her own place of abode given. In a postscript it was
stated that the child understood Danish.
Francisca's determination was soon taken. Although the child was
certainly not Theodore's son--although he was the image of his
mother--of that Aurora who had blasted her happiness--she resolved to
give a home to the deserted and helpless little stranger, and that very
night the little Alexander slept comfortably in a cot prepared for him,
and placed close to her own couch. The same night she opened the small
box which held all that had been bestowed upon the poor child by his
parents. In addition to his scanty wardrobe, there was a little parcel
containing some papers in the Russian language--certificates of the
child's baptism and vaccination--and below these lay a miniature. It
was Theodore's likeness, the same that had formerly belonged to
Francisca, which she had afterwards returned to him, and which had now
passed from Aurora's possession once more into hers, and rendered its
unconscious little bearer dear to her. She gazed at it long, as if
comparing the likeness of what he once had been with the ruin he now
was. Days long gone by arose vividly before her; she pressed the
miniature to her lips, and then put it away along with her own--with
the likeness of herself which Theodore had never seen. It seemed to her
as if the meeting of the two portraits after so long a separation were
the type of a future meeting between Theodore and herself in that
bright spirit-world which shall haply be disclosed when this mortal
scene has vanished for ever. She knelt by Alexander's bed, kissed the
innocent child who had brought the treasure to her, and who had himself
been thrown on her compassion, and at the same time she vowed she would
be a mother to him.
But her adoption of him gave rise to many reports. Some said he was a
poor person's child, to whom she had taken a fancy; others, that he was
her own son, whom she had till then kept concealed in the country. Her
relations, with the exception of my mother, were the most ill-natured.
They took great pains to find out who could have been the boy's father,
and finally had the folly to confer his paternity upon her old lover,
the poor deranged doctor, whom she visited so often.
'Well, there was not such folly in that belief, after all,' said
Arnold. 'For want of a better, I think we must accept this parentage
for the youngster; for the story of a boy three years old travelling
over from Russia, as if he had fallen from the moon, is not at all
'But I can swear to the truth of it,' said Rudolph. 'Do you doubt my
'I do not doubt your word in the slightest degree,' replied Arnold;
'that is to say, I do not doubt that you believe what you have been
telling us. But I think it likely that your mother kindly got up this
pretty story, and impressed it on your mind to hide your cousin's faux
'You judge of other people's principles by the rectitude of your own, I
presume,' said Rudolph, laughing. 'But to continue:'
Aunt Francisca's prayers were not unanswered, for Theodore recovered
his senses before he died. He recognized Francisca, blessed her for all
her goodness to him, and passed into eternity with her name on his
Alexander was a great source of happiness to Francisca, but severe
trials still awaited her. He was carried off by a fever exactly one
month after the death of her dearest and most faithful friend, my poor
mother, and she was left alone in the world. The rest of her life was
devoted to works of charity, for no day passed over her head without
her being engaged in some act of benevolence. Love was an absolute
necessity to her, therefore she transferred to me much of the affection
she had felt for my mother. It was her delight to make people happy,
and her last deed was to give what she knew would confer happiness.
'Good soul!' cried Arnold, laughing. 'That deed was to bestow on Mr.
Horn all her lands and tenements--her goods and chattels--her Chinese
pagodas and mandarins. I wish you joy of the inheritance.'
Flora turned angrily upon him, and exclaimed, 'For shame, Arnold!' But
Rudolph went on quietly.
'I repeat, her last deed was an act of benevolence. None of us knew
that Aunt Francisca had money to leave. She never spoke of this, for
she wished to be valued for herself, not for what she possessed.'
'Aunt Francisca rich! You really must be quizzing us,' exclaimed Mrs.
'No; I only knew it myself this evening. It seems that she was the last
surviving member of the Tontine, which I mentioned before, and she
became, by its rules, the possessor of the whole sum. I hold her will
here, in my hand, and I find that she has left not less than twenty
The whole party gathered round Rudolph and Louise, and poured forth
'My dear Louise,' said Mrs. Werner, 'what a nice addition this will be
to your income, and what a mercy it was that Aunt Francisca never
married. Had she done so, Rudolph and you would not have got a
shilling, though you were both so fond of her.'
'I loved Aunt Francisca for her own sake,' replied Louise; 'and I
almost wish that she had left nothing to Rudolph but the little matters
she valued herself.'
Rudolph took Louise's hand in silence and kissed it.
'Good Heavens!' exclaimed Arnold. 'She has left twenty thousand
dollars, do you say? No wonder you were her faithful knight, Rudolph!
It was a sort of instinct that led you to take up that position; you
scented the cash. For twenty thousand dollars I would pledge myself to
sing the blessed creature's praises all the days of my life, and for
half that sum I would swear to draw a merciful veil over the affair of
'Would you?' said Rudolph. 'Then I will take you at your word. Listen
now to the Will. "As my dear cousin Rudolph Horn is so well provided
for that he does not stand in need of what I can give, and as his
marriage is not delayed by any pecuniary difficulties, I shall leave
him only five thousand dollars from my Tontine capital; the other
fifteen thousand I hereby bequeath to my dear Flora Werner and to
Lieutenant Arnold, upon the condition that their wedding takes place
within one year from the day of my death." You see that this bequest is
a passport from Aunt Francisca to that happiness in the future for you
two which fate had denied to herself. Perhaps you were so polite as to
walk home with her some evening, Arnold, and that you entrusted to her
the secret of your engagement,' added Rudolph, with a slight sneer.
Arnold coloured and bit his lips. Flora would not believe what she had
heard until she saw the words on paper; and Cousin Ida, who looked over
her shoulder, to convince herself also, exclaimed, 'Fifteen thousand
dollars! There it stands, true enough. Who would have thought that the
old lady could leave so large a legacy? It is quite a godsend to you
and Arnold, Flora.'
Flora burst into tears, and threw herself into her sister's arms.
'Well, recommend me to old maids, however absurd they may be,' said one
of the gentlemen; 'who could have guessed that such a windfall would
have come through one of the sisterhood? I solemnly vow hereafter to
pay court to all old maids, for no one can know what they may leave
behind when they are screwed down in their coffins. And if I fail with
ten of them, the eleventh may prove a benefactress.'
'You have drawn another moral from Rudolph's tale to what I expected,'
said Mrs. Werner; 'but your ideas are perhaps those which would
generally suggest themselves in this selfish world. Take care, in
future, to show decent civility to old maids. You will not, of course,
do so from kindness of heart, but bear in mind that there is always a
hope of being remembered in the last will and testament.'
Arnold sat for a few minutes quite abashed, with his hands over his
eyes; at length he looked up and exclaimed:
'Aunt Francisca has heaped coals of fire on my head. She has humbled me
thoroughly, and taught me a painful lesson; but I had well deserved it.
You cannot conceive how much I am ashamed of myself: I feel quite
guilty before you all.'
'Aunt Francisca knew how to distinguish thoughtlessness from
malignity,' said Rudolph, as he joined Flora's and Arnold's hands. 'The
slight annoyance you might have occasioned her was soon forgiven and
forgotten. Be as happy together as she prayed you might be. I can add
no higher wish for you both. But when you meet by chance an old maid,
do not forget that you were--Aunt Francisca's heirs.'
FROM THE DANISH OF CARIT ETLAR.
One summer afternoon, two young fishermen were together before
of one of the last cottages which are situated between the sandhills
near Stadil Fiord, in the district of Ringkjöhing. The one was painting
a pair of oars, the other had stretched himself at full length along
the bench near the well, and was resting his head idly on both his
hands, while he watched his comrade's work. In this attitude his
countenance expressed a sort of quiet contentment, which seemed never
to have been disturbed by the storms of passion. He had a low forehead,
prominent eyes, a round face, smooth hair, combed straight down, and
colossal limbs. His companion was of more slender proportions, and
evidently possessed less bodily strength; but he seemed active, and
there was an expression of benevolence and honesty in his features that
could not fail to inspire confidence in him.
The sun was shining that afternoon from a cloudless sky; the larks were
singing, gulls and other sea-birds were flying about in circles in the
air; and the monotonous sound of the waves of the German Ocean, rolling
lazily on the Jutland coast, as, borne across the sandhills, was like
the audible breathing of a sleeping giant. The church bell at Vædersö
was ringing for the afternoon service. All was quiet and repose in that
sandy desert, where the eye in vain sought a tree, a bush, a single
blade of fresh green. Only the lymegrass amidst the hillocks, and here
and there a little yellow patch of rough, half-withered grass in the
hollows, varied the dismally uniform colour of the sand.
'Come, now,' said the young man who was doing nothing, after he had
remained a long time silently contemplating the other, 'put away that
paint-pot, and give up work for to-day. Wash your hands, Jörgen, and
come with me to Vædersö; we will have a game at skittles. This is a
holiday, and one can't be always labouring.'
The young man thus addressed looked up and smiled, and after having for
a minute glanced at his handiwork with apparent pleasure, he exclaimed:
'I am ready now, Ebbe. But only look! I have painted two hearts, with a
wreath round them, inside of our names, which are to signify that you
and I will hold together in friendship and good companionship all our
'Yes, that we will, Jörgen.'
'I don't see why one should be idle all Sunday, any more than on other
days,' said Jörgen. 'In spring, you know, we two bought a boat
together; it was a very ugly one, and in a sadly dilapidated state, you
may remember; but in consequence of devoting our spare time to
repairing and beautifying it, we have now got as smart a little craft
as there is on the whole coast. I am never so happy as when I am at
'And I am never so happy as when I can lie quietly and comfortably on
my back in the sunshine, and look up at the heavens, as I am doing now.
I don't see the least use in a man's working harder than he absolutely
need do. You and I, Jörgen, have been obliged to work since we were
quite little fellows. Our parents sent us away among strangers, because
they had no longer the means of maintaining us; we toiled and slaved
for the benefit of others, and for the same reward that they gave their
beasts--for mere food. From those days to this, we have never been
able, with our united efforts, to make more than the fifteen dollars we
paid for the boat. And now we must begin to labour afresh; and so we
shall be forced to go on through the whole of our lives, until we are
too old to work any more, and then we shall be thrust into the
poor-house, as our parents before us were, and get leave to hobble
about with a stick and a clay pot, to beg for food from those whom we
helped to enrich when we were young. You may laugh, Jörgen, but what I
am saying is the plain truth nevertheless. If a poor lad such as I am
could only earn enough in his youth to enable him to take it easy in
his old age, he would be labouring to some purpose; if our gains could
amount to so much as the gains of the person who owns that large ship
out yonder; or if we could make as much as the lord of the manor at
Aabjerg possesses, who has nothing to do but to drive in summer round
his fields, with his hands behind his back, and his German pipe in his
mouth, and in winter to sit at home in his warm chimney-corner, and
play at cards with all the strangers that visit him, it would be
another thing. Ah, Jörgen, Jörgen! if one could only get so far as to
be able to take the reins in one's own hands, instead of carrying the
bit in one's mouth.'
Jörgen shrugged his shoulders and smiled. Shortly afterwards, the two
young fishermen were to be seen strolling arm in arm to the village of
Towards evening the weather changed; the skies became cloudy, and
before the sun had set the whole coast wore an aspect very different
from the peaceful calm that had reigned around in the earlier part of
the afternoon. A cold north-west wind blew in sharply from the sea,
whose waves, rising higher and higher every moment, sent a thick rain
of spray and foam over the adjacent sandhills, whilst the breakers
dashed loudly on the reefs along the shore. The sand began to whirl
about among the hills, and flocks of sea-gulls and other birds flew in
towards the beach, their hoarse and mournful cries predicting bad
The peasants at Vædersö had finished their games of skittles, and were
about to return to their homes, when a fisherman brought to the little
town the tidings that a foreign ship was in distress at sea, outside of
Husby Sandhills. This intelligence, which seemed to interest all who
heard it, drew particular attention from those who were standing in
groups. A number of men and women set off immediately on the way to the
sandhills, without heeding the rain and the coming storm.
Amidst the crowd who sought as speedily as possible to witness the
calamitous spectacle might be observed a person of a very peculiar
appearance. He was a tall, heavy-limbed man, with a blood-red
complexion, the natural hue of which became deeper and deeper every
moment, in consequence of the haste with which he was making his way
through the heavy sandy road. His face was encircled by a forest of
coal-black hair and beard, and shaded by a dark calf-skin cap. The
deep-set eyes were nearly hidden beneath a pair of dark eyebrows that
almost met over a nose which looked unnaturally broad, as chance had
not bestowed much length upon it. This was the village blacksmith. He
was by birth a Pole, and had served for some time in the army, under
the reign of Frederick VI.
The road from Vædersö to the sandhills, as has been said, was entirely
through sand. On both sides might be seen fields of rye, whose slender
pale blades were beaten down by the tempest. The smith had taken as a
companion along this fatiguing path a favourite and faithful friend,
who lived at free quarters in his house, and carried on in this
comfortable abode his trade, which was that of the village tailor.
These two persons were almost always to be seen together--the lesser
man, indeed, seemed to be quite a necessary appendage to the taller
one, who looked as if nature had appointed him the tailor's protector.
The merits of the latter, however, were not to be questioned; he was an
untiring listener, and so submissive and dependent that, if the smith
had pushed him out by the door, he would have crept back through a
window; so complaisant, that if the smith had chosen to tell a
falsehood, the tailor would have sworn to its truth.
These two individuals formed, for the moment, the centre of a group of
peasants who had gathered on the sandhills. Below, upon the sea-shore,
were to be seen several fishermen hard at work, drawing up their boats
farther on the beach, and when that was done, standing in silence,
anxiously contemplating the sea, on which a large ship was struggling
with the furious wind, and heavy waves that were every moment driving
it nearer to the land, notwithstanding all the efforts those on board
seemed making to escape the threatened danger.
The groups among the sandhills were less silent. The smith had just
declared, in decisive tones, to what nation the unfortunate ship
'Yes, as I have this moment told you,' he continued, in the sort of
barbarous Danish in which he usually spoke. 'It is an English vessel,
and I thank God it is not Swedish.'
'Why?' asked the tailor.
'Because they build their ships with such bad timber--only fir and
pine--not an inch of good strong oak among it. I wish no evil to
anyone, or anything; but if it be our Lord's will that a ship is to be
run aground to-night, I am glad it should be an Englishman: those
English know how to build ships.'
'You are right, there, Master Harfiz!' said the tailor. 'What capital
iron bolts we got from the last wreck, and what excellent oak timber to
boot! When the wreck that is going to be is brought to auction, I shall
look out for a share of it.'
'And I also,' said the smith. 'I dare say, now, that craft out there
will furnish me with some good strong posts for my new smithy; it does
not look to be built of tinder or matches.'
'We can discern the goodness of the Almighty towards all mankind,'
remarked the tailor. 'No cotton grows here--no silk, no iron is to be
found; nothing, so to speak, but salt fish can be got on these bare
coasts, and He is good enough every year to let one or two vessels be
lost here that we may obtain what we require at a reasonable rate.'
'Yes, and He mercifully ordains this to happen generally in the fall of
the year,' added an old woman, 'because he knows that the winter is
approaching, and that poor folks want a little wood for firing to warm
'There is no dishonesty in taking what is cast in to us by the sea,'
said the tailor. 'They did much worse in old times down yonder at
'At Nymindegab?' echoed the smith. 'I know nothing about it. What did
they do down there?'
'Don't you remember that true tale we heard last Candlemas at Thimgaard
about the rich nobleman Espen? He lived at a castle which was called
Ahner, and he used every stormy evening, and during the dark nights of
winter, to ride over the sandhills with a lighted lantern bound
underneath his horse, in order that the seafaring people who were
driven out of their course should fancy that the light came from a ship
sailing in deep water, and thus get stranded on the reefs while they
steered for the light. This went on well for a long time, and Espen of
Ahner became a very rich man, for all the wrecks on that part of the
coast belonged to him. But at length, just when he was celebrating his
daughter's wedding, a poor half-witted creature found his way into the
castle, and disclosed their lord's evil deeds to all his vassals.'
During this conversation the ship, which had excited the attention of
so many, had tried several times to tack about, so as to get away from
the shore, but the attempt had always failed. In the terrible storm,
which seemed to be increasing every moment, it was no longer possible
to carry such a press of sail as was required to take the ship out. Its
fate could not, therefore, long be doubtful, as every swell of the sea
brought it nearer and nearer to the dangerous reefs which stretched
along the coast.
It is about half a century since the events here related took place. At
that period the German Ocean had dashed many a wreck over the outer
reef, and many a cry for help or death-groan had been wafted away by
the stormy wind, or smothered by the sea, before anyone thought of
taking effective measures to give help to the drowning mariners. On the
occasion of the shipwreck in question, however, the unfortunate crew
were often so close to the land that their despairing cries and earnest
prayers were distinctly heard on shore, and the tempest had driven them
within the outer reef, their vessel almost smashed to pieces indeed,
but so near that, but for the fury of the waves, the fishermen could
have got out to them even in their frail boats, and have saved them.
In the meantime daylight had gone, but in the summer evening even
distant objects were still visible; and when the moon struggled forth
from the heavy clouds, in the pale and tremulous light it cast over the
sea, the ill-fated ship could be seen driving, with two or three small
sails up, nearer to the coast. Presently one of the masts went
overboard, was caught in the cordage, and hung on one side of the hull.
From time to time, between the more furious gusts of wind, the gale
bore heartrending cries of distress to the land. All exercise of
authority on board seemed to have been long given up, everyone
apparently thinking only of saving himself. A boat was with difficulty
lowered, but it filled the moment it reached the water.
The crowd on the beach was now increased by two persons--the lord of
the manor from Aabjerg and his son. The first-named was a very stout
man, muffled up in a thick great-coat and a fur-cap, with wings that
came close down over his ears, and were tied under his chin. He had a
tobacco-pouch well fastened to a button-hole in his overcoat, and was
smoking a large German pipe. His son was a lieutenant in the Lancers at
Kolding, on a visit for a few days at his father's country-house. He
wore that evening a blue uniform, and carried an umbrella, which was
every minute almost turned inside out by the wind.
'Hark ye, good people!' cried the great man, stretching his chin over
the enormous handkerchief that enveloped his throat; 'we must try and
do something for them out yonder. It would be a sin to let all these
poor fellows perish, would it not--eh? What say you?'
'God have mercy on them!' muttered an old fisherman. 'It is too heavy a
sea for any boat to live in; we can do nothing for them, Herr
'Not if I promise a ten-dollar note to anyone who will take a rope out
to them? What! Is there not one of you who will try it?'
The fishermen looked at each other, and shrugged their shoulders; but
no one spoke.
'I shall add five dollars to my father's ten,' cried the lieutenant.
'Well, I think this is a very good offer,' said the Krigsraad.
'But you must not take too long to consider about it,' added his son.
'Courage, my lads! It only wants hearty good will and a pair of strong
arms, and you will soon reach them out yonder.'
'Since the noble Herr lieutenant thinks so, he had better make the
attempt himself,' said one of the fishermen. 'Your honour seems to have
a pair of strong enough arms; I will lend you my boat for this
venturesome deed, but I won't sell my life for any money.'
'The impertinent scoundrel!' muttered the young officer, turning
towards his father. 'I wish I had him on the drill-ground at Kolding.'
'For Heaven's sake be quiet, lieutenant,' whispered his father, 'and
don't draw me into a quarrel with my fishermen. That man is no coward;
I have myself seen him and another rescue sailors from a wreck in the
most frightful weather, when there seemed no more chance of his getting
safely back than there would be for me were I to try to wade out yonder
in my great-coat.'
While this short colloquy was going on, a piercing cry was heard from
the wreck--a gigantic billow had raised the ship aloft and cast it in
over the reef; when the waves rolled back the vessel lay on its side,
having been raised and dashed down again several times in the raging
surf, and left lying partially buried in the sand. After this, every
wave washed over it with a force that must have been seen to have been
believed possible, and which, in the course of a few minutes, swept the
deck clean of every object that had hitherto been securely fastened on
In the confusion which followed, another cry of distress arose, and
those of the fishermen who stood nearest to the water, thought in the
dusk that they perceived many of the sailors carried away by the sea,
which, unchecked, was rolling over the deck. As the swelling waves
dashed forward, these unfortunate victims stretched out their arms.
When they retired, nothing more was to be seen: the men were gone.
Three sailors had crept up the shrouds, and had lashed themselves to
the only remaining mast, and every now and then the wind carried to the
land their agonized appeals to the people on shore to save them.
Shortly after a boat was seen to be shoved off from the beach with four
men in it; they bowed their heads, took off their hats, and held them
for a few moments before their faces, while they seemed to be offering
up a short prayer, then they let the boat glide out into deep water.
The four men stood up, and appeared to be working hard to get over the
inner reefs. For a short time the boat went bravely on, the oars were
plied by experienced hands, and every effort was made to reach the
stranded ship, but the raging sea cast them back, and filled the boat,
and the fishermen were obliged to return without having effected their
At length, the next morning, about dawn of day, the storm seemed to be
abating. In the interim those who still remained on the wreck had made
another effort to reach the land in one of the boats which had not been
carried away from the ship, but had continued fastened to its side. But
this attempt also failed; the waves broke over the unfortunate boat,
and relentlessly swept it out to sea. When the sun came forth only one
man was to be seen, and he was lashed to the mast.
The Krigsraad returned to the beach at an early hour, and renewed his
appeals to the fishermen. Ebbe and Jörgen were both there; they had not
left the sea-shore the whole night.
'The weather is not so wild as it was,' whispered Jörgen to Ebbe, 'and
the sea is not so terribly rough. What do you say to our making the
attempt? Our boat floats lightly, and will stand the waves better than
any of the others.'
'It can't be done,' replied Ebbe; 'we should be risking too much--our
beautiful newly-painted boat, that we spent everything we had to buy!
You don't remember all that.'
'I remember that once when my father was shipwrecked up near Skagen, he
was fastened to a mast like that poor man out yonder; let us do as the
natives of Skagen did, and save him.'
'Let us wait a little longer, at least,' whispered Ebbe, eagerly.
'Perhaps the Krigsraad may offer a larger reward presently.'
Jörgen cast a reproachful look at his comrade, and said,
'God forgive you for the sin of thinking of money and reward at such a
moment as this. I won't wait; and if you do not choose to go, I will
get some one else to accompany me; for, happen what may, I am resolved
to attempt the rescue of that poor man.'
'Have a little patience,' cried Ebbe, holding Jörgen back by his arm.
'Just wait till I take off my new waistcoat and my nice cravat; it
would be a shame to spoil them with salt water.'
'What are you two consulting about?' asked the Krigsraad, going up to
them. 'Have you determined to go out yonder, my lad?'
'We shall attempt to do so,' replied the young fisherman.
'That's right, Jörgen! you are a brave fellow, and have more courage
than all your comrades put together. Well done.'
'I am younger than any of them,' replied Jörgen, blushing at the great
man's praise, 'and I have neither wife nor child to grieve for me if
any accident happens to me.'
'I also am going,' said Ebbe, in a doleful voice. 'I also will risk my
health and my life to save a suffering fellow-creature. And though your
honour was so good as to promise a reward, I must beg you not to think
that I am going for the sake of the money. Nevertheless, I shall accept
it, for I am betrothed to a little girl here in the neighbourhood, and
the money might be useful to her if I am lost.'
'Go, then, in Heaven's name!' cried the Krigsraad. 'What! Do you think
I am the man to withhold the ten dollars I promised?'
'It was fifteen, sir,' observed Ebbe.
'Well, well, fifteen then! Make yourself easy, I shall be as good as my
word; but be off now!'
'I shall trust to your word, sir--and there are witnesses,' mumbled
Ebbe then divested himself of his new green-and-red-striped vest and
gay-coloured necktie, which he put away carefully together under one of
the boats that were drawn up on the beach. He then went down to Jörgen,
who was busy launching a small, newly-painted boat into the sea.
'The weather is moderating,' cried the Krigsraad, filling his pipe
comfortably. 'I think the sun is going to shine briskly.'
'Our Lord is pleased that we are so humane as to risk our all in order
to save a human being who is a stranger to us,' whined Ebbe, as he took
his place in the boat with Jörgen.
It was a moment full of anxiety and sympathy when the frail little boat
was caught in the first heavy sea, was thrown up aloft, and then hidden
among the engulphing waves! The crowd on the beach stood silent and
breathless, and even the Krigsraad forgot his newly-lighted pipe. He
mounted on a fragment of rock, holding his hand over his eyes, and
standing with his head bowed forward, intently watching the treacherous
sea; and he was the first to break the silence with a loud oath, when
Jörgen's boat glided safely over the reef, and up to the side of the
shipwrecked vessel. A thrilling shout burst forth at that moment from
the spectators on shore--a shout full of triumph and joy; it rang over
the waters as far off as the wreck, and Jörgen was seen to turn towards
the land and wave his hat in the air, after which he made his boat fast
to the shattered ship by the end of a rope that was hanging loosely
from the fallen mast, and crept up by the side of the wreck.
The one man still clinging to it had fastened himself on the bowl of
the mast. At the extreme end of the ship stood a black, shaggy-haired
dog, who, with a weak, suppressed whine, was gazing out on the open
sea, without taking the slightest notice of the strangers. When Jörgen
reached the deck the man turned his head towards him, made a sign with
his hand, and murmured repeatedly one word--'Water!'
'I am sorry you will have to wait till we reach the land,' said Jörgen,
'but, with God's help, that shall not be long.'
'I am afraid I have got my chest very much injured,' said the man, in
the mixture of low German and Danish which he spoke. 'The same accursed
wave which carried off our captain with it during the night dashed me
down from the bowl of the mast, where I had lashed myself with the end
of a rope, to prevent my being washed overboard. Whilst I was hanging
there a heavy sea came rolling over the wreck, and it drove me with
such force against the mast, that I lost all sense and consciousness.
Since then it has been almost impossible for me to hold out against the
weather, and I was on the point of loosening the rope, and letting
myself go down to Davy's locker with the rest, when I saw your boat put
off from the shore. In the name of Heaven, why were you so long of
coming to our assistance?'
'We dared not venture out sooner,' replied Jörgen, 'on account of the
'Do you call this bit of a puff of wind a storm?' cried the man,
scornfully. 'It is more likely that you were afraid of a wet jacket, or
of catching cold. Ah well! I must not complain; you have done what you
could, and I'm thinking that you yourself will profit the most by
having saved me.'
'I don't know what you mean by profit.'
'Oh, that's not the question just now. Help me to get free of this
rope; my hands are so cramped that I can scarcely use them, and let us
Whilst Jörgen was assisting the man, who at every movement that he made
uttered a sigh or groan of pain, a voice was heard from the boat.
'Make haste to come, Jörgen, or Ebbe will lose the boat.'
'What do you say?' cried Jörgen, much surprised. 'I say that our boat
will be thumped to pieces--to splinters--lying here and knocking
against the wreck. Already the edge of the gunwale has started, and we
have sprung a leak on one side; so come down, Jörgen--it is too
unreasonable for anyone to expect that we should risk ourselves and our
all to save other people.'
'A brave comrade you have got!' muttered the stranger, as Jörgen
carried rather than helped him down out of the shrouds. 'Call out to
him, and tell him that I have with me that which would make him cry his
eyes out to lose if he does not take me safely from this wreck.'
Jörgen full well knew what effect this intelligence would have upon
Ebbe, and instantly repeated to him the stranger's words. The object
was attained, for Ebbe immediately came creeping up the side of the
wreck, to assist in bringing the shipwrecked man down to the boat. The
suffering seaman groaned repeatedly, and the exertion of moving seemed
almost too much for him; bloody froth issued from his lips, and when he
reached the boat he sank down exhausted at the bottom of it. The poor
dog, meanwhile, had never stirred from its place, although Jörgen had
done his best to coax it to come to him; the animal had turned his head
for once towards him, and then sprang to a higher part of the wreck,
with a dismal and heart-rending howl.
'There is no use in your calling that beast,' murmured the stranger.
'He has stood in one place and done nothing but howl since his master,
the captain, was washed overboard. He will not quit the ship as long as
a plank of it is left. Cast loose the rope, and push out with the oars,
you there in the flannel waistcoat, who were afraid of scratching your
smart little craft.'
After this petulant speech, the stranger laid himself back in the boat,
and closed his eyes. Jörgen loosened the rope; as he did so, a wave
carried the boat at once far away from the wreck. The dog was the only
living creature left on board of it, and he did not seem to perceive
that the boat was speeding fast away.
As they were rowing towards the land, Jörgen and Ebbe had a good
opportunity of observing the stranger. He was a man apparently about
fifty, partially bald, with a round forehead, high nose, pointed chin,
and a shrewd and cunning expression of countenance, which was strongly
marked, even though the eyes were closed. Ebbe surveyed his prostrate
figure with a degree of veneration, and much would he have given to
have known where the treasure could be deposited in safety, to which
the unknown had so recently referred, and with the possession of which
his humble attire so ill accorded.
The passage from the wreck back to the land was made speedily, and in
silence, until they had got over the innermost reef, which the receding
tide had left almost bare of water; then suddenly arose a cry of
exultation from the fishermen on shore. At that sound the stranger
opened his eyes, raised his head, and exclaimed:
'What are they shouting for in there? Oh! I suppose it is in honour of
the great feat you have accomplished. Nonsense! How far is it from this
place to Hjerting?'
'About nine miles,' replied Jörgen.
'North or south?'
'Ah, I thought sure enough that we had made a mistake in our reckoning;
but it must be forgiven, since it was the last piece of stupidity our
blessed captain has been allowed to commit. Are you quite sure that it
is not more than nine miles to Hjerting?' he asked again a little
after, as if the matter were of great consequence to him.
The two fishermen repeated the assertion.
'Are you going on to Hjerting?' asked Ebbe.
'Certainly; my sympathizing friend, it is easy to travel nine miles
with a severe wound in one's chest. Find me a hut to lie down in and a
doctor to put plaster on me, and I shall want nothing more just at
present. I have the means to pay you for everything you do for me. And
now not another question or another word, for I feel the greatest pain
whenever I open my mouth to speak.'
In the course of another hour the stranger was lying comfortably in
Jörgen and Ebbe's hut. He had reported himself to the Krigsraad as the
first mate, Fourness, from Amrom. Jörgen had gone to Vædersö to ask
assistance from the smith, who, in addition to his other
accomplishments, also carried on secretly the profession of a medical
man among the peasantry in the neighbourhood. Jörgen found the learned
gentleman sitting in his smithy, surrounded by some countrymen, to whom
he was reading aloud the political intelligence from a soiled
provincial newspaper that was lying, spread open, upon his knees. In
the furthest corner of the workshop an apprentice was busy shoeing two
When Jörgen mentioned his errand, the smith put away his newspaper with
alacrity, and instantly gave all his attention to the report of the
'Do you think you will be able to cure him, master,' added the young
fisherman, 'or shall I go on to Ringkjöbing, though it is so much
farther off, for the doctor of the district?'
'I'll tell you what, Jörgen,' replied the smith, in a raised voice, and
with a look that betokened the utmost self-confidence, 'I will
undertake to cure any creature who is not already dead, and even then
sometimes they may be called back, as the worthy priest can testify,
who knows that about Easter, last year, I brought back to life his
brown filly, after it had been dead for nearly half-an-hour. If that
can be done with a filly, I should think it can be done with a human
being. Why not? But where is he wounded? In the head?'
'No; in the breast.'
'So much the better. We must give him something. I shall take my pills
with me; if they don't set him to rights, you can order his grave to be
dug. Come over the way, Jörgen, and let us have a dram together before
we set off to cure the man.'
The smith then left his workshop accompanied by Jörgen. His secret--the
preparation of these wonderful pills--it may be mentioned here, was
found out some years later, during an investigation which took place
before the magistrates of Ringkjöbing, on the occasion of the worthy
smith being charged with culpable quackery. They were only made of rye
bread and the juice of walnut leaves!
While Jörgen had gone to summon the smith, Ebbe had remained with the
sufferer, who seemed to have become worse since he had landed, for he
moaned repeatedly, and tossed about as if in pain on his bed. Ebbe sat
by the window in silence, reflecting deeply upon the words of promise
the stranger had let fall before he had left the wreck.
'What are you sitting there and waiting for?' asked the seaman, when he
'I am sitting here to see if you want any help before the doctor
'Yes, I want something. Get me another glass of grog, and let it be
warm and strong. Do you hear?'
'It is not good for you, mate. When Jörgen went away he said you were
not to have more than one glass of grog, and you have already drunk
'You blackguard! mix me a glass directly. Don't you think I am the best
judge of what is good for me?'
Ebbe arose and went towards the fireplace, where a kettle of water was
boiling. A bottle, half full, stood upon the table.
'It is too bad, when rum is so dear with us in these parts,' muttered
the fisherman, while he mixed the grog. The stranger took no notice of
him. 'I had to give three marks for the pint I bought for you.'
The mate still remained silent.
'Please to remember, mate, that the money spent for your rum was mine,'
said Ebbe, in a surly tone.
'Oh yes, I shall remember it. Make yourself easy; you shall have your
money back. What are three marks to me? I could cover you with gold, if
it were not a useless expense.'
Ebbe's eyes sparkled, and he looked with reverence at the unknown, as
he approached the bed with the desired grog. The mate raised himself,
seized the glass, and emptied it at one draught.
'Ah!' he exclaimed, while his face was distorted with pain, 'that was
warm! It burned me more than the confounded wound, but it will do me
good for all that.'
'No doubt you have made many long voyages, sir?' said the fisherman,
after a short silence.
'Yes, I have,' replied the stranger; 'you may swear to that.'
'And is that how you have gathered so much money?'
'What money?' asked the mate.
'That which might cover me with gold, if you liked.'
'Oh, to be sure--no, indeed! That would have been impossible. The money
I own I could not have made myself if I had been as old as the German
'Mercy on us! How can you carry so much money about with you?'
'Who said that I carried it about with me? Blockhead! I have disposed
of it better than that. The earth keeps it safely for me; I can take it
when I want it; and I intend to take it up as soon as I am well. Then
we shall have a jolly life. It has been long enough of commencing. But
don't talk any more to me now; the pain is increasing.'
Shortly after Jörgen, accompanied by the smith, entered the hut. The
shipwrecked guest turned his face towards the wall as they approached,
but on Jörgen's informing him that the doctor had come, he muttered a
few unintelligible words, and then stretched forth his hand, without
altering his position. The smith evidently misunderstood the meaning of
the action, for he laid hold of the outstretched hand and shook it
heartily, while he said in a cheerful tone, 'Good morning.'
'The mischief take you!' cried the sailor, as he raised himself
quickly. 'What sort of a doctor is that you have brought me, young man?
I put out my hand that he might feel my pulse, as they always used to
do at the hospitals, and he wrings it so furiously that I feel the
shock through my whole body. Confound it!'
When the smith heard these words, which were spoken in the Low-German
dialect, his scarlet face assumed a very benignant expression.
'So you are a German!' he exclaimed, in the same dialect; 'then we are
almost countrymen. So much the better. I have nothing to do with your
pulse, my good friend, and I should like to ask any sensible man, what
use there would be in feeling the arm when the wound is in the breast.
Turn over a little bit towards the window, and let us see what the
injury is. If you are not able to move yourself, let me get hold of
you, and I will turn you in the twinkling of an eye.'
There was something in the smith's sharp and determined way of speaking
that seemed to please the stranger; he turned towards the light, and
opened his vest and his under-garment. However rough and unsusceptible
the three spectators might have been, they all started back at the
sight of the frightful wound which they beheld before them.
'Well, what do you say to this?' asked the sufferer.
'Heavens and earth!' cried the smith, grasping his own hair tightly in
his dismay. 'This really does look dangerous! I would rather have to
deal with a horse in the worst case of staggers, than to cure such an
awful hurt. The person who expects to set you to rights must indeed
'Of course you must look sharp; but only standing staring at me won't
be of any use,' said Fourness. 'What do you think of doing with it?'
'You must have a good large plaster on it; and you must take some
medicine. I have brought my pills with me.'
'The plaster with all my heart; get it ready at once; but I'll have
none of your pills. I once swallowed a whole boxful of pills, and they
did not do me the least good.'
'But you must take the pills,' replied the smith, decidedly. 'There
is no use in jabbering about your past experience, my good man; you
have got a nasty wound in your chest, as you see yourself, but you also
feel ill internally, don't you?'
'To be sure I do.'
'Now listen. I know what I am about. A breast like yours resembles a
watch that has been smashed almost to pieces. What would be the use of
putting in a new glass if the works inside were not repaired also? So
you must take the pills; and if you make any fuss about it, we shall
have to hold you fast, stick the handle of a hammer in your mouth to
keep it open, and so pop them down your throat. I know how to manage
The mate felt himself too weak to struggle with his powerful medical
attendant, and he made no further objections. The smith cast a
significant glance towards the two young fishermen as he betook himself
to the table, where he set about spreading an enormous pitch plaster.
'Come, this will do you good!' he said, when he returned to the bed to
put the plaster on the wound. 'And see, here is a packet of pills. I
shall give you some of these at once; and if you should be worse before
I come back, you must take half-a-dozen more; they will certainly
relieve you. I shall call again early in the evening.'
The wound was bandaged; and, after giving a few directions, the smith
left the hut. Towards the afternoon the invalid became much worse, in
spite of the remedies which had been applied. The wound burned under
the pitch plaster; he tore it off; and, cursing and swearing, he
refused to take any more of the prescribed pills. In this state the
smith found him in the evening.
'How do you really think that he is?' asked Ebbe, who had called the
learned man aside.
'Well, I think it is a very doubtful case,' replied the smith. 'Since
my pills have done him no good, not to speak of the plaster, I am
inclined to believe he is pretty near his last gasp.'
'Do you mean that he is actually in danger?' inquired Ebbe, with a
degree of interest which was inspired by the thoughts of the mate's
gold and the unpaid rum.
'When a person is ill there is always danger,' said the smith; 'and as
he will not use the means for his recovery which I advise, I think the
best thing either you or Jörgen could do would be to go and call the
'You are right,' said Ebbe; 'I will go for him.'
'When you see him, you need not say anything about my having been here.
These folks with diplomas are so very jealous. And I think you had
better lose no time before you set off. And--by-the-by, Ebbe, you can
keep the rest of my pills, lest you should be ill yourself some day.
They won't spoil by keeping.'
The smith took his departure, and Ebbe soon after also left the hut,
and set off for Ringkjöbing to call the doctor. Jörgen remained alone
with the patient.
'How long will it probably be before he brings the doctor?'
stranger, after a considerable silence.
'He will be here soon. There is a man who lives down at Vædersö, to
whom we have sometimes been of service, he will lend Ebbe his gig, and
if the doctor be at home they may be here before nightfall.'
'I hardly think I shall hold out so long; the wound in my chest burns
like a glowing coal, Jörgen, and my breath is failing me. Lord help me!
Must I lie down and die now--now that I am just close upon the
realization of all my wishes? For eleven long years I have been
speculating on coming to this coast. I wanted to set up my rest here. I
have plenty of means--plenty of means, and could live like a king; but
first came that accursed shipwreck, and then, after I was so fortunate
as to reach the land, to be obliged to creep into a dog-hole like this!
There is no luck with the money--it is mixed up with blood and
'What money?' asked Jörgen, in amazement.
'What, the devil! why that of which I am speaking, to be sure. But I
will do some good with it. Do you need an hospital here, among these
sandhills? If so, I shall have one built, so large that a man-of-war
might tack about in it. I will build a tower, too, with a lighthouse at
the top of it, to warn my comrades not to approach too near the coast.
And I will go to church every Sunday, and listen to the preacher, who
tells us that we are never too old to repent.'
'How will you find the means to build these places?' asked Jörgen,
simply. 'Bricks and timber are so expensive up hereabouts.'
'But do you not hear that I know where a large treasure is buried, that
it belongs to me--me alone, and that I have only to dig it up in
order to make use of it? I believe I am able to pay for anything I
Jörgen shook his head incredulously. 'He is delirious, and does not
know what he is saying,' he thought. 'I wish Ebbe would come with the
doctor.' Then, turning to the invalid, he said,
'So you have been on this coast before, mate?'
'Yes, lad, that I have. Eleven years ago I landed down yonder, near
Hjerting, pretty much in the same way as I did here this morning. I am
only afraid I shan't come off so well here as I did there.'
The sick man was interrupted by the opening of the cottage door, and
the entrance of the smith, who said,
'I have come to tell you that Ebbe might have saved himself the journey
to town, for the doctor drove a little while ago into Aabjerg. I went
up there, and he has promised to call here as soon as he leaves the
'Coming at last!' exclaimed the sufferer. 'Then I shall soon be well
again. Tell him, from me, that he will be the cause of a great calamity
if he does not come soon.'
'That I will,' replied the smith, shrugging his shoulders, and glancing
towards Jörgen. 'Do me a favour, Jörgen, my boy. Just put my pills out
of sight, and say nothing about my having been here.'
Shortly after a carriage was heard making its way through the sandy
road, and the physician entered the hut. He only needed a quick glance
at his patient to perceive how hopeless was his condition.
'Poor man!' he exclaimed, as he prepared to bleed him, 'you have been
'Oh, not so badly, after all,' replied the mate. 'Last year, about this
time, the whole of the upper part of my arm was torn to pieces by the
chain of the anchor--that was worse. You will be able to cure me. It is
very strange that I feel such difficulty in speaking; my voice seems to
be so husky, too! How long do you think it will be till I get on my
'Why it is hardly possible to name a time.'
'The doctors here are good for nothing. In England they charge higher,
but they know their business better.'
'Have you taken anything since you came ashore?'
'Nothing whatsoever. I have only wet my lips with three or four small
glasses of grog; but it is very odd, I don't feel the least inclination
for any more.'
After the doctor had done all that he possibly could to alleviate the
sufferings of the poor stranger, he was turning to go, but the sick man
grasped his hand, endeavoured to raise himself in his bed, and
exclaimed, with impetuosity,
'You won't leave me, doctor? Are you angry at what I said about
physicians? Pray think nothing of that; it is a habit I have got of
amusing myself by teazing people. You must stay with me to-night--all
night. Do you hear, sir? You need not be afraid that you will be giving
your time for nothing.'
'I have not asked, and I do not expect, any fee,' said the doctor; 'but
I have other patients who require my help as well as you. I shall see
you again early to-morrow morning. God be with you till we meet again,
He left the room, and Jörgen followed him out.
'And will you really be so kind as to return early to-morrow morning,
'Yes, my friend, I shall most certainly come; but, to say the truth, I
fear that my visit will be of no use, for to-morrow your guest will no
longer need my assistance.
'What do you mean, sir?'
'I mean that he will be dead before to-morrow, and that no human skill
can save him. If you should find an opportunity, you had better prepare
him for this. Good night.'
The physician drove away; Jörgen returned to the invalid. He found him
sitting on the side of the bed, the light of the lamp falling full upon
his face, which, during the last hour, had become of a pale bluish hue.
He was pressing his hand on his chest, as if to lessen the pain, while
with a thick and trembling voice he whispered,
'Hark ye, Jörgen! Yonder, in the breast-pocket of my pea-jacket there
is a small leather purse with nine Prussian thalers in it. Will you
earn one of them?'
'I don't understand you, mate,' said Jörgen, much surprised.
'What did the doctor say of me outside of the door there?'
Jörgen considered for a moment or two what he should answer. 'Oh!' he
came out with at length, 'he said--'
'In the devil's name, let me have no evasive answer,' cried the mate,
raising his voice. 'I will know what he said, word for word; and if I
give you a Prussian thaler to speak the truth, I think you are pretty
well paid to open your mouth. So, out with it!'
'Do you wish to know the whole truth?' asked Jörgen, seizing his hand.
'All that he said?'
'Ah! it was nothing very cheering, I perceive,' remarked the sufferer,
in a low tone, and with trembling lips. 'But speak out, my lad--speak
out! Whatever that withered old stick could say, I can bear to hear.'
'Well, then,' stammered Jörgen, in considerable agitation, 'he said--he
said--that you had not long to live.'
'Did he, indeed! Well, well, one must put up with that. A few years of
comfort and pleasure are probably worth a long life of care and want.'
'Ah! God help you, and send you better thoughts, mate: you cannot look
forward to years.'
'May I not? How long can I count upon, Jörgen? Speak, my son. Why do
you hang your head so? I have seen death too often close under my eyes
to be afraid of it. When did he hint that I might be called away?'
'He said that you would die to-night, and that no human skill could
There was a deep and prolonged silence in the room after these words
had been uttered.
'To-night!' at length exclaimed the mate, in thick and trembling
accents. 'I am to die to-night!' And as he repeated this dreadful
sentence he burst into tears, and into loud, convulsive sobs.
Jörgen was much affected; he wrung the sick man's hand, but did not
venture to speak for fear of betraying his emotion. At length he said,
in a subdued and sad voice,
'Take comfort, mate! If you will allow me, I will read a hymn to you.'
'A hymn!' exclaimed the stranger, starting. 'Ah, well--read it.
The young fisherman took a hymn-book from a shelf, and began to read in
a low and trembling voice,
'Teach me, like autumn leaves, to fade
With joy, oh yellow forest glade!
A brighter spring is nigh.
The summer of eternity
Reigns where, an ever-verdant tree,
My roots shall never die.
'Teach me--oh, wandering bird! like thee
To wing my way, undaunted, free,
To distant unknown lands;
When here, 'tis winter, storm and ice,
Yonder, an endless paradise,
Open, before me stands!'
The dying man had apparently been listening to the hymn with earnest
attention, even devotion, while his clasped hands lay on the coverlet;
suddenly he turned towards the light, and exclaimed:
'Hark ye, Jörgen! If you will swear to me not to reveal what I am now
going to tell you, I will confide a secret to you.'
'Certainly,' replied Jörgen, who, shocked at this sudden interruption
of the hymn, laid the book aside.
'Come closer to my bed--my voice is growing weaker, and pay particular
attention to what I say:
'Eleven years ago I went as a sailor in a Neustader merchantman; we
came from England, where we had sold a cargo of dye-woods, silk, and
spices from Canton, and on which the firm, in whose employment I was,
had made a considerable sum of money. Well, we were driven ashore near
Hjerting, and forced to try and save ourselves in boats. It happened
then like last night---the long boat was overcrowded; it capsized and
sank! The captain had brought up his papers and a little box from the
cabin, and was standing ready to go in the second boat, when an
enormous wave washed him overboard. There were then but two men left;
the one was myself, the other was the cook. We took the box, which
contained all the cash for which the cargo had been sold, got into the
boat, and reached the land in safety. This was at night, pitch dark,
and in a pouring rain. Our first care was to bury the box--after
'Go on, mate. I am listening to you, and I have promised secresy; you
may depend upon me.'
'Well, then,' continued the man, apparently with a strong effort
overcoming his repugnance to say more, and in a lower and more unsteady
tone of voice, 'after that something happened--which I have regretted
and repented deeply--something which I can never forget: after that I
killed the cook, that I might be the sole possessor of the contents of
'You murdered him!' whispered Jörgen. 'God forgive you!'
'I did! But it was not such a sin after all. He was a bad, malicious
fellow; he cooked shockingly, and was always making mischief between us
and the mates. The next morning I was sent to my native home, and I
left the case, well knowing that it was safe enough where it was
deposited. Time passed on, and I went to sea again. First I went to
Brazil, and then I went to the South Sea for the whale fishery,
and so on, until full eleven years had elapsed before I had a chance
of returning to the place where my treasure was. At length, luck
favoured me, and I had determined to begin a new life, and to enjoy my
money--and now, I am lying here in the agonies of death! But no, no--it
is a fabrication of the cursed doctor's! I will not die! I once lay ill
for fourteen months in the hospital at Boston, and became quite well
again. Remember, you have sworn never to disclose a syllable of what I
have told you. May God punish you if you betray me! Come closer to my
bed. How cold it is this evening! Below the wall of Oxby church, at the
corner facing the north, lies the buried case, among three hard stones.
If I should not recover, you can dig up the box, and keep what you
find. Have you understood me?'
'Yes, I have, perfectly well; but it is not worth talking more about,
mate. I shall not meddle with your money--there could be no luck with
it. Will you listen if I read another hymn to you?'
'Yes, read a psalm, Jörgen; it is long since I have heard of our Lord.'
Jörgen began to read slowly, and with much feeling; he was often
stopped by his own agitation, and at these times he heard the dying
man's breathing becoming thicker, and a rattling occasionally in his
throat. He also heard now and then a sigh and a low murmur, which he
supposed to be the invalid repeating what he had read. Suddenly, the
mate laid his hand upon his arm, and exclaimed,
'I am counting about how much money there may be in that case, my lad.
You will find much more than you can possibly make use of. When I was
last at home, my brother lived at Amrom; you must send him fifty
guineas. I know that they won't be particularly well spent, for he has
taken to the bottle, poor creature! But that cannot be helped, it is
his only gratification now.'
Jörgen nodded his head, and began to read aloud again.
'Oh, put away that book,' said the mate; 'what is the use of your
sitting there, and reading that I shall go to heaven, and that I am
tired of being in this world, when it is not true? I will live, and
live merrily with all my money.'
A long and uncomfortable silence prevailed for some time in the room,
which was only broken by the monotonous and uniform ticking of an old
clock that hung against the wall. The moonbeams were streaming in
brightly at the window, the storm had ceased, and the sky was clear and
'If it should go hard with me, see that you have a large three-masted
ship made with full rigging. It must be painted black and green, with a
red water-line, and my name, in large gold letters, must be put on the
stern. I make a present of this to Vædersö church, and it shall hang
there from the roof.'
One hour later, and the stranger was dead!
Whilst this scene was taking place in Jörgen's hut, Ebbe was on his way
back from Ringkjöbing, deeply buried in reflecting on the unusual gains
the last day or two had brought him.
'It is too bad that I am obliged to share all this money with Jörgen,'
he said to himself; 'this stupid partnership won't do. I will see about
getting rid of it, and carrying on the business on my own account. The
foreign mate shall help me to manage this; he must have money, for he
has several times alluded to it; he is too ill to leave our house for
some time to come, and before he is able to go I shall have made
something out of him. Besides, he owes me some recompense, for I helped
to bring him off from the wreck.'
Thus far he had proceeded in his cogitations, when the conveyance
stopped at the door of his cottage. The light was extinguished in the
room; Jörgen was lying, fast asleep, upon a mattress stuffed with
sea-weed, on the floor. He awoke as Ebbe opened the door.
'I have had bad luck,' said Ebbe, in a whisper, 'and have gone my
errand for nothing. The doctor had driven out of the town an hour
before my arrival.'
'I know that very well,' replied Jörgen. 'He has been here.'
'How is the sick man?' asked Ebbe, striking a light.
'He is dead!' said Jörgen.
'Dead!' cried Ebbe, in a tone that sufficiently evinced how many hopes
and expectations that one word had overthrown. 'Dead! Good Lord! Poor
man! Did he pay you the three marks I laid out for him in rum?'
'Then it was a disgraceful imposition on his part, setting forth to me
that he was able to repay us tenfold for all our trouble. Did you look
to see how much money he had with him? I am quite convinced that he
possessed nothing, and that he only wanted to make fools of us.'
'Now, be done with all this, Ebbe,' said Jörgen, almost out of
patience. 'He did not intend to deceive you; and he was in the right
when he said that he had the means of repaying us tenfold for what we
did for him.'
'Really!' exclaimed Ebbe, with a smile, and a glance strangely
expressive of covetousness. 'Then he had a good deal of money?'
'No; but he knew where to find a good deal of money. He had been
shipwrecked once before on this coast, and then he buried a box, which,
according to his representation, contains much more than we two could
ever dream of possessing. He described to me the place where it is
'To you!' exclaimed Ebbe. 'Indeed! Did he not say that you and I were
to divide the treasure between us?'
Ebbe seemed lost in thought; he remained silent for some minutes, while
his countenance underwent an unpleasant change.
'Then it is you who have become rich--you alone; and I have helped to
bring this about. Well, well, it was to be so. What quantity of money
is hidden away in the box?'
'Oh! how should I know? Judging by what he said, there may be several
thousand dollars. But do not let us talk any more about it now. The
cocks are crowing, it will soon be morning, and I am so sleepy. Come,
lie down near me, and put out the light.'
'Several thousand dollars!' continued Ebbe. 'Good Lord! And all this
money is yours! If I had not gone to fetch a doctor for him he would
surely have said that we were to divide it. Are you quite certain that
he absolutely said nothing about that, Jörgen?'
'No, he did not; but that is no reason why we should not divide it.'
'Oh, of course! You would be a fool if you did that. Dear me! Several
thousand dollars! You will be able to buy a new boat, with an English
compass in it. Oh, yes! you will be able to buy a house for yourself,
and, moreover, to put some of the money out at a good interest. It is
enough to make one mad. Will you spare me five dollars for a watch, eh,
Jörgen? Jörgen! Are you asleep? Good Heavens! he can sleep! Several
thousands!--and I have got nothing!'
Ebbe burst into a passionate fit of tears. The morning, which was then
dawning, found him awake and ruminating on his disappointment, on the
bed by the side of Jörgen.
The next day the body of the mate, Fourness, was removed to the
hospital at Vædersö, to be buried from thence in the village
churchyard. Jörgen and Ebbe pursued their accustomed occupations. The
hull of the foreign vessel was carried out to sea at night, and
apparently knocked to pieces by the waves, for many portions of the
wreck were cast ashore along the adjacent coast.
Ebbe did not leave Jörgen's side that day; all his thoughts were
devoted to the mysterious casket, and to the painful reflection that
Jörgen alone was aware of the spot where it was concealed, consequently
was master of its valuable contents. He had no inclination to work, but
was continually recurring to the one vexatious fancy, which represented
Jörgen surrounded with wealth and all the prosperity which he had so
often wished for himself.
Thus passed the week. It had been settled between the two friends that
on Saturday they would set off to Oxby church, so early that they might
reach the place that evening, before it began to get dark. Ebbe had two
or three days beforehand arranged everything for this journey, secretly
and eagerly. Jörgen could not help observing the striking change which
in a few days had come over him. He saw how his energies were quite
paralyzed beneath the dreamy state into which he had fallen. Ebbe had
become silent and irritable; he avoided his comrade's society, and
sought solitude, where it was not necessary for him to conceal his
When he was alone, his mind always dwelt upon the hidden treasure, and
picture after picture arose from the depths of his imagination of
wealth, prosperity, and triumph over those who now looked down upon
him. At other times he was tormented by a bitter, gnawing doubt if the
mate had spoken the truth, and there existed any treasure at all. Then,
again, he would make himself miserable about the portion of it that he
might obtain. He would sometimes fancy himself set aside by Jörgen;
then he would work himself up to believe that it was no freewill offer
to share with him, but a right which belonged to himself; and to this
oft-recurring thought succeeded, little by little, another, dark and
dreadful, which, nourished by envy and covetousness, assumed by degrees
a more distinct and decided form.
When Saturday arrived, Ebbe rose in the grey of the morning, and was
ready for the journey long before Jörgen; his whole bearing betrayed a
degree of feverish impatience, an eagerness and impetuosity which he
had never evinced before. Jörgen carried a saddle-bag with provisions,
Ebbe a spade, and furnished with these necessaries, they left their
hut, and passed through the village even before the peasants had left
The road from Aale parsonage down to Oxby traverses a long and wide
tract of boggy land, which, at that time, was overgrown with a sort of
close rough glass and a layer of moss, that in summer concealed many a
cavity and break in the ground, and which was the resort of frogs and
of various moor fowls, that took wing in large flocks when anyone
approached their places of shelter.
The two fishermen trudged on with unwearying patience towards their
goal, which already they could perceive far in the distance. It was
late in the day; the sun had sunk behind the line of sandhills which
hid the German Ocean, and a deep stillness reigned around. The church
stood in a naked, sandy plain, surrounded by a stone wall that was
partially sunk in the sand. One side of the edifice was, at that
moment, illuminated by a bright reflexion from the red evening sky.
Swallows were flying about under its roof. As far as the eye could
reach, there was no sign or appearance of the inhabitants of the
'At last we have reached our destination!' exclaimed Ebbe, as, tired
and gasping for breath, he threw himself down on a heap of gravel at a
little distance from the wall of the churchyard.
'Yes, at last,' replied Jogen, with a smile; 'and it will soon be seen
if we have not had our trouble for nothing.'
'Oh, don't say so, Jörgen,' cried Ebbe. 'How could such an idea enter
your head? You have surely not forgotten the place where we were to
'Oh, no!' replied Jörgen. 'The direction was not so difficult to
remember. It was towards the north, he said, and among three stones
which had fallen there from the wall. If you will remain here to rest
yourself, I will go at once and try and find the place.'
'No!' said Ebbe, rising quickly from his recumbent position. 'I will go
with you. Why should I stay behind, and not help you to look for it?'
Jörgen then led the way, proceeding along the wall of the churchyard,
while Ebbe followed him with the spade over his shoulder; but it was
some time before they found the place indicated. The grass grew so high
near the churchyard wall, that, in the increasing dusk of the evening,
it would have been impossible to have discovered the stones described
until close upon them. In the time, too, which had elapsed since the
treasure was buried, the stones might have sunk into the ground, or
become hidden by moss. At length, however, Jörgen found the spot. The
three stones lay exactly in the position the mate had described; a
young elder-tree had shot up its straight branches just before them.
'It must be here,' said Ebbe; 'you have good luck with you in
everything. Let us begin to dig at once. But, hush! be still! I'll be
sworn I heard a horse panting on the other side of the churchyard wall.
We will wait a little before we begin.'
'Let us rather go round, and see if anyone is there,' said Jörgen,
about to go.
'No, by no means; stay with me, I don't fancy being alone in such a
place as this. They say the Evil One goes riding about at night on a
white horse. Have you never heard that?'
'Yes; but what have we to do with him? We are here on a lawful errand,
and have no reason to be afraid of anything.'
So saying, Jörgen walked on by the churchyard wall until he came to the
next corner. 'There is nothing to be seen,' he said, when he returned.
'Let us commence the digging. Lend me the spade.'
'No; let us dig by turns, and I will go to work first,' replied Ebbe,
as he took off his jacket, and put the spade into the ground.
The uppermost layer of earth among the stones was hard and stiff, and
moreover, the roots of the elder-tree formed a sort of tough piece of
network among the stones, so that it was not possible to proceed
otherwise than slowly with the work. Ebbe groaned; his impatience was
increased by the strong spirit of covetousness which had taken
possession of him. Jörgen sat down quietly on a stone near him. In the
deep stillness which reigned around the spot, the bats might be heard
flapping their wings as they fluttered about the walls of the church,
and in the distance a hollow, rushing sound, which came from the German
Ocean, away behind the sandhills. Ebbe continued to dig, and had made a
tolerably deep hole, when he suddenly stopped, pushed the spade well
into the ground, and bowed his head down as if he were listening to
'Do you think you have come to anything?' asked Jörgen.
'No, it is only a stone which lies in the way; but I am tired now.'
'Then let me take my turn of digging,' said Jörgen.
'Let us rather rest a little while, and take a mouthful of our
provisions and a drop from our flask. What have you done with the
'I left it at the gravel pit yonder, where we rested first.'
'Then let us go there, Jörgen. After we have had something to eat we
shall set to work again. It will be long before it is daylight; we have
Jörgen made no opposition to this arrangement; he was accustomed to
give way to Ebbe's wishes, and he went back to where they had left
Ebbe cast a longing look back at the hole; then took the spade under
his arm and followed Jörgen.
At a little distance from the walls of the churchyard the path lay near
the edge of a pit, from which the peasants dug up gravel for the
repairs that were annually made in the high road. The pit was tolerably
deep, and sloped from the brink, along which the two fishermen directed
their steps until they came to a kind of gap, or narrow defile, from
whence the gravel was carted away.
When Ebbe reached this place, he took up the flask, drank off its
contents, and let it drop quietly into the grass. Jörgen, in the
meantime, had sat down, and began to eat. Ebbe remained standing, and
leaned upon the spade.
'Why don't you sit down?' asked Jörgen.
'Because the grass is wet.'
'Where is the flask? I don't see it.'
'You will find it on the grass.'
Jörgen stooped down to look for it, and at that moment Ebbe lifted the
spade, and, exerting all his strength, struck Jörgen with it on his
The attack was made so unexpectedly and so hurriedly, that it was not
possible for Jörgen to avoid the blow or to defend himself. He uttered
a low cry, stretched out his arms, and sank backwards to the ground.
Ebbe bent over him, and listened. The blow must have been a very severe
one, for he did not hear the faintest breathing from Jörgen.
'You have got this because you tried to cheat me, and packed me off to
the town, that you alone might benefit by the stranger's treasure.'
And, as if his bitter feelings were increased by this remembrance, he
added, triumphantly, 'You asserted that it was to you alone the
stranger had bequeathed his money. You would only have given me a small
portion of it; I shall take it all now. And you did not know that I
have already got it. I heard the ground reverberate under the spade--I
heard the sound of the gold--it is mine--all--all mine!'
As he said this, he took up his comrade's body in his arms, and flung
it over the edge into the pit.
'And now to go back to the churchyard!' he exclaimed. 'I must have the
money up, and be off before the dawn of day.'
He threw the spade across his shoulders, took up the wallet, and turned
to leave the place.
At that moment he fancied that he heard footsteps near: he looked
round, and perceived in the twilight a tall figure in a flowing mantle,
which stopped at a little distance from the place where he was
standing. In the extreme terror which seized him, it seemed to him that
this figure gradually grew taller and larger, and that it gazed at him
with a dark and threatening aspect; it seemed to approach nearer. It
was no longer a phantom of the imagination; he heard the heavy steps
ringing on the ground--he beheld a hand stretched out towards him--and
then fell, in accusing accents on his ear, the dreadful word
Ebbe uttered a loud cry, he dropped the spade, sprang to one side, and
fled in a direction quite opposite to that where he had so recently
sought for the unlucky treasure. He constantly thought that his unknown
pursuer was still following him, that he was gaining upon him, and even
that he felt his breath close behind him; but he dared not turn his
head, he only continued to run swiftly, and without stopping, until at
length he stumbled, and fell into one of the many hollows that were to
be met with in that neighbourhood. There he lay for several hours
exhausted and insensible, unwitting of the storm from the German Ocean
that was raging among the sandhills near its shores. When at last he
re-recovered to consciousness, the morning sun was shining on the
sandhills, and he heard the bells of Oxby church ringing for the early
Eight days later, the inhabitants of Vædersö were thronging round a
carriage which was passing through the little town. The front seat was
occupied by a tall man, under whose overcoat was to be seen the stiff
embroidered collar of a uniform. His self-important air, also the
condescending nod with which he acknowledged the respectful obeisances
of the peasantry, betokened a person of no small consequence. Nor was
there any mistake in this, for he was the judge of the district, who
was proceeding on official duty to the sandhills.
In the back seat of the carriage sat two men, one of whom was the smith
of the village, the other a pale, emaciated, shrunken figure, in whose
features it would have been difficult to have recognized Ebbe, so great
was the change that the last eight days had wrought in him.
The smith's plump round face evinced, on the contrary, a great degree
of self-complacency; he smiled to everyone he knew, and stretched out
by turns his hand or his head from the carriage, either for a friendly
salutation, or to explain the reason of his appearance in the carriage
on that particular occasion.
The carriage passed through the village, and did not stop until it
reached the cottage which Jörgen and Ebbe had occupied conjointly. Here
the judge got out, and after saying a few words to the smith, he
entered the house.
'Now, Ebbe,' said the smith, 'you must get out too; you are at home
here. We shall have a legal examination, as his honour has just very
Ebbe made no reply; he seemed to have fallen into a state of speechless
apathy. He descended from the carriage, and followed the smith into the
first of the two rooms into which the hut was divided.
On entering the cottage, they found the judge, and two fishermen who
had been summoned as witnesses, already seated near the table. Ebbe
cast a rapid and reconnoitring look around him; he perceived that
everything was in its usual place; it was not the room that had changed
in these eight days.
'Place yourself at the end of the table,' said the judge. 'Listen to
what will be said, and answer minutely and truthfully the questions we
shall put to you. Speak first, smith. Let us hear what you have to
Not to fatigue the reader with the smith's long-winded story, we shall
as briefly as possible relate the substance of his communication.
However important it was to Ebbe to maintain inviolable secresy
relative to the mate's hidden treasure, he had let fall some words
which had been caught up by the smith, and which, giving rise to some
conjectures and suspicions, caused the clear-sighted man to watch
narrowly the movements of the two young fishermen. On the same day that
Jörgen and Ebbe had left their home at such an early hour, the smith
had borrowed a horse from one of his neighbours, and set out in pursuit
of them, although he took all possible pains to avoid being seen by
them. Jörgen had previously given out that he was going to take a
holiday to visit his aunt at Oxby.
When the smith had followed the two wayfarers as far as Aale church,
and assured himself that they were really going to the place mentioned,
he quitted the footpath, which, leading through the open heath, would
have made him run the risk of being observed, and rode another way
until he reached the cross road near Oxby church, and the shades of
evening began to fall. The fishermen had evidently taken a considerable
time to cross the wide heath. The smith had waited long, and had ridden
around the church before he saw Ebbe and Jörgen looking for the spot
with the three stones.
It was his horse that Ebbe had heard neigh, but, as we have seen, he
had not sufficiently followed up the circumstance. In consequence of
this neglect on his part, the smith became acquainted with all that was
going on; for when it grew darker he ventured nearer, got over the
wall, and crept on his hands and knees close to the place where Ebbe
was digging. Arrived there, he could hear every word that was spoken
while the work proceeded. When they left the wall of the churchyard,
he followed them at some distance along the path that led to the
gravel-pits, and he had seen Jörgen fall. Ebbe had not recognized the
voice of the smith in that which called after him, nor had he observed
that Harfiz was carrying Jörgen in his arms to the nearest dwelling.
'Thus it all happened,' said the plaintiff, in the corrupt language in
which he spoke. 'Ebbe cannot deny a word that I have said. I know all
that passed; I saw and heard all. I took up the spade with which he had
struck Jörgen, and, to wind up, your honour has only to make inquiry
here to be convinced of the truth of what I assert. Here you behold the
man who can corroborate my statement.'
As he said these words he drew aside a curtain that had concealed an
alcove, and Jörgen, with his head bound up, pale and suffering, was
seen raising himself with difficulty on one arm, and gazing at those
assembled in the hut. This last action of the smith, so sudden and
unexpected, caused a great sensation and much surprise among those
Ebbe, who up to this moment had stood silent and immovable, with his
hands folded and his eyes cast down, raised his head quickly, and when
his glance fell on Jörgen, he stretched out his arms towards him, and,
bursting into tears, exclaimed:
'Oh, my God! Jörgen--dear Jörgen!'
'Yes, there you see a competent witness. I have cured him--I may safely
declare--and now he will confirm what I have said.'
'Well, what have you to say to what the smith has just been telling
'I say that he is quite mistaken,' replied Jörgen. 'Ebbe had no wish to
kill me; he had no evil intention against me; I absolve him of anything
of the kind.'
Everyone was taken by surprise, and exclamations of astonishment
followed these words, which were uttered in a mild, quiet, but at the
same time decisive tone. Ebbe's eyes sparkled. The smith jumped up.
'Jörgen,' he cried, 'are you out of your mind? You cannot be in your
right senses if you speak in this way. Did he not attempt to murder
you? Did I not see and hear it all myself? Did I not take you up in my
strong arms, when he cast you down into the gravel-pit?'
'You did, indeed, behave most kindly and humanely to me,' replied
Jörgen, with a grateful smile. 'Without your help, I should most
probably have been dead now; but, I repeat that it was not Ebbe who
threw me into the pit. I fell in, sir, and in my fall I hurt myself
with the spade. I have now told all I have to tell--I entirely acquit
my old comrade, and I must beg you to withdraw the accusation against
After having thus spoken, Jörgen laid himself down in his bed, closed
his eyes, and seemed to take no further notice of what was going on
around him. Neither did he seem to notice Ebbe, who stole softly
towards his bed, seized his hand, and carried it to his lips.
The smith was very angry, and repeated and maintained his version of
the affair, with gesticulations, oaths, and asseverations, in his
strange lingo. He could not understand why Jörgen exercised such
generous forbearance: the judge, on the contrary, comprehended it all;
he called Ebbe into the other room, and had a long communication with
him; after which he broke up the meeting, dismissed the witnesses, and
left the cottage himself. Jörgen and Ebbe were the only persons who
remained in it.
Some time elapsed, during which both remained perfectly silent. At
length Jörgen raised himself in his bed, and asked,
'Are they gone?'
'Every one of them?'
'Yes, we are alone.'
'Sit down by my bed, Ebbe; I have something to say to you.'
Ebbe obeyed. At that moment his whole appearance evinced the utmost
humility; he did not dare to raise his eyes before Jörgen, who
contemplated him calmly, but with a penetrating look.
'What I said a little while ago,' began Jörgen, 'was to save you, and
because I could not live under the idea that I had another man's
misfortune on my conscience. You are now free--acquitted--and no one
can do anything to you. With God's blessing, I may also become well
again, and recover my strength so as to be able to work as formerly;
but you must yourself perceive, Ebbe, that we two can never more live
and labour together. That Saturday night has rendered it necessary for
us to separate for ever. I can never banish it from my memory. You shed
tears now, indeed, and are deeply afflicted. I also have shed many
tears when I reflected that it was you, my only companion and comrade,
that had the heart to deal with me as you did. In Heaven's name, then,
let each of us go his own way. The world is surely large enough for us
both. When I am stronger, and able to work, I will pay you for the part
you own in this cottage and in the boat; for I hardly think you will
like to remain longer here. In fact, I think it would be better for you
to seek some other place to settle yourself, where people could not say
anything against you. You cannot fail to perceive that the smith does
not believe the declaration I made to the judge. He will tell the story
his way in the town yonder, and that won't be in your favour. As I have
said, when I am better you shall receive the share that belongs to you
of what we have hitherto held in partnership, and we must separate.'
'Then you have found the treasure?' asked Ebbe, hurriedly.
'No,' said Jörgen, gravely. 'But the smith has promised to let me marry
his daughter, and he will advance me the money to pay you.'
'I do not care about the money,' replied Ebbe; 'you are welcome to keep
'Oh yes--so you say now,' answered Jörgen; 'but you would repent that
offer to-morrow. No, let the arrangement I have proposed stand. And you
had better go, Ebbe, before the smith returns. You know that he is very
passionate, and you might get into a quarrel with him. Besides, I am
weak and weary, and must get some sleep. Farewell, and may the Almighty
bestow on you kinder feelings towards those among whom you may
henceforth seek to win your bread, than you have shown to me. Shake
hands with me, Ebbe, and then go.'
Jörgen sank back on his bed, and Ebbe left the cottage.
The following five years brought about a striking difference between
the fates of the two fishermen. Jörgen had married the smith's
daughter. He gave up fishing, sold his boat and established himself in
the little town of Vædersö. There he betook himself to husbandry: he
tilled the ground, ploughed, sowed, planted; in short he laboured with
all the indefatigable activity, energy, and diligence, for which the
inhabitants of the west country are so celebrated. At the end of two
years he sold his house to buy a larger one on a thriving farm; field
after field was added, and all prospered with him. Success seemed to
smile on everything he undertook from the period that he relinquished
his partnership with Ebbe.
'You have got an excellent son-in-law, smith,' said the peasants to
Harfiz, often when they came to his smithy.
'He gets on very well,' the learned smith would reply, with a cheerful
nod, indicative of content. 'But let me tell you, and you may believe
what I say, that it was my medicine which has made him what he is. He
has been quite another sort of man since I cured him, and restored him,
I may say, to life, after Ebbe had killed him. He will be a greater man
The prophecy was fulfilled as time passed on; for every year that went
over his head brought some addition to Jörgen's prosperity. He was a
happy man in his own family, and in all his transactions he was clever,
prudent, and far-seeing.
The same space of time that seemed to have had wings for Jörgen, had
crawled on slowly, unprofitably, and wearily for Ebbe. A portion of the
sum he had received for his share of the cottage and the boat was
appropriated to the purchase of the little plot of ground near Oxby
church, where the mate had said his treasure was buried. The
acquisition was not an expensive one certainly, for at that period a
large quantity of waste land could be bought for about two dollars; so
that after Ebbe had become the proprietor of the place, he had
sufficient money left to build a house for himself on a corner of the
ground he had bought.
Then commenced a course of labour which, in exertion, perseverance, and
endurance, was far beyond anything Jörgen ever attempted, and yet was
productive of no good results. The three stones were taken up and
thrown aside, in order not to obstruct the work; then the elder-tree
was removed; and after every obstacle had disappeared, Ebbe dug down,
and down, until he came to the stratum of iron-hard, solid rock, which
is to be found in that part of the country.
His labours were carried on by night, and with the utmost secresy, not
to attract attention. During the day he rested, and either spent the
hours lounging by the sea-side, or he slept. But, whether waking or
sleeping, he was haunted by the thoughts of the hidden treasure, and of
the wealth he would acquire, and the consequence he would attain, when
he discovered and enjoyed it. It was shocking to see that pale and
meagre creature, when the moon shone upon the scene of his labours,
working away eagerly, bending over the spade, and listening anxiously
when every fresh heap of earth was cast up: by turns cheating himself
with hopes of success, then groaning at his disappointment, yet still
persevering in the search for a prize which continued to evade his
In winter the ground was frozen, and as Ebbe was obliged to cease his
digging, he left his hut, and went to Hjerting, where he hired himself
out among the peasantry as a day-labourer. His history soon oozed out,
and his very shy, reserved manners prevented him from making
acquaintances, while his fellow-labourers jeered him. 'There goes the
gold-digger!' the children would cry after him when he showed himself
in the streets. These scoffers, who beheld him now in so humble a
position, by-and-by, when he had found the treasure, should witness his
triumph. 'Wait a little!' he thought; 'success will come at last, and
the day cannot be very far distant!'
When spring succeeded to winter, Ebbe left the service he had taken,
and returned to his hut, where he recommenced his labours with as much
assiduity as before, and with the same result. The small space in which
his operations were carried on soon resembled a deep pit, wherein
gravel and sand, stone and clay, were gathered together in large heaps.
But the treasure was nowhere visible.
When at length the ground had been entirely turned up, every inch
examined, and he could dig no lower down, Ebbe fell into the deepest
despair; his last hope had vanished, and with it all the strength and
energy which hope alone had sustained. He was found one day sitting on
the outside of the door of his hut, gazing on vacancy straight before
him, lost in a reverie from which nothing seemed to have the power of
At this very time a report was spread in the neighbourhood that
Jörgen and his father-in-law had found the shipwrecked mariner's
treasure--for this appeared the easiest mode of accounting for the
increasing prosperity of the heretofore young fisherman. Ebbe heard
this rumour; he believed it, and this belief added greatly to the
bitterness of his disappointment, and was as poison to his mind.
Three years afterwards, a wan, wasted, spectral-looking figure might be
seen wandering about in the vicinity of Hjerting; it was the
unfortunate Ebbe, who had become deranged. The harmless lunatic was
received into the poor-house at Hjerting, but spent most of his days in
a remote and secluded valley, away among the sand hills. There he might
be heard singing and talking to himself, whilst he occupied himself
diligently in digging deep holes in the sand. One winter evening he did
not return, as usual, to the poor-house. The next morning he was found,
frozen to death, in a grave--it might be called--which he had dug in
the sand the day before.
DAMON AND PYTHIAS.
FROM THE DANISH OF CARL BERNHARD.
In the so-called good old times, when grown-up people could
be childish--now-a-days even children themselves are above such
infirmities--in these good old times one often heard a ballad, a
favourite song, which was as common as the lively popular airs that are
now repeated nightly at the casinos; but these old songs were by no
means lively, for lively music was not then in vogue; the songs were
almost all sentimental. There was one ditty about 'Friendship, Hope,
and Love,' in which Love was depicted as 'light red,' and of which I
can now remember but two lines. It was very generally sung:
'Friendship rarely doth abound.
Tell me where it can be found!'
Yes, where can it be found? All mankind seek for it; everyone wishes to
have a friend. Most people believe, for a time, that they have found
one; but when the friendship comes to be tested, it disappears, and
they discover their mistake. Why does it disappear? Who knows why? But
that it does most frequently disappear is quite certain.
Formerly, even in the grey olden times, long before anybody thought
about friendship being violated, they must have had hard work enough to
find the genuine article, else there would not surely have been such a
fuss made about the three classical pairs of friends whose names we
have all learned by heart--Damon and Pythias, Orestes and Pylades,
Euryalus and Nisus--all of whom were never distinguished for anything,
as far as I have been able to discover, except that they lived as
friends, and ultimately died as friends.
It is surprising enough that, whilst everyone understands the words a
friend in a good sense, there should be some little hesitation about
the exact meaning of a good friend, and that the more eulogizing and
confirmatory adjectives are added to it, the less respect it should
inspire, until a real good old friend has become almost synonymous
with a stupid old blockhead, or a cunning old rogue. If one were only
to hear the following disjointed words of a conversation, 'Oh, yes, he
is a good friend enough,' nine out of ten would indubitably fancy that
the speakers were alluding to some matter in which one party had been
taken in, and would think that what had happened manifested the
credulity of that saying, in which all the ten firmly believe, 'Save me
from my friends, and I will save myself from my enemies!' Undeniably,
there is some truth in this sentence, and however little there may be,
it is sad that one must admit there is any at all.
One of my--but I may be misconstrued myself if I say one of my good
friends; I shall therefore, for the present, confine myself to calling
him a worthy acquaintance of mine--had, from his earliest childhood,
been an enthusiastic worshipper of friendship. Nothing more natural,
for friendship is so inherent a feeling in the breast of every human
being, of either sex, that it is a desire of the soul, which it strives
to realize even before it thinks of love. His predilection for
friendship was, it may be said, born with him, as people may be born
with a propensity for stealing or drunkenness; and when he was not more
than four years of age, and his grown-up relatives would have it that
his little cousin should be his 'little wife'--for big people are
always too ready to begin putting nonsense into the heads of children,
he used to get angry, and declare that she should not be his wife, but
And when he had grown older, and had commenced his classical studies,
he raved about being a Damon to some Pythias. He was an excellent lad,
cheerful, good-natured, good-looking, and by no means deficient in
talent; in short, he was in all respects a steady schoolboy, but
perhaps he carried a little too far his ideas about friendship. He had
not, however, then attached himself to any one individual among his
companions; he was on good terms with them all, while he thirsted after
one, only one true friend, as a celebrated author is known to have
wished but one reader, but that one to be capable of understanding him
I withhold his name, for he is now in so conspicuous a station that
many of my readers must know him, and it would, perhaps, annoy him to
see his name in print, for he is one of those folks who have an
old-fashioned dislike to what they call 'appearing in print;' that is
to say, being named publicly. I shall designate him by one of his first
names, which he used in his boyish years--viz. Mikkel; it is an ugly
name, but he is not to blame for that, since his opinion about it was
not asked. When he was christened, his parents had called him after a
rich old uncle, who, the good people thought, might, on that account,
at a future day, leave him a large legacy. It is a bad custom to make
innocent children suffer for their parents' bad taste in choosing
names, and to inflict on them ill-sounding family names, either because
these had been chosen by a generation who had queer notions, or from
selfishness and from speculation, as in the case in question. Mikkel
was grown up, and had undergone much jeering on account of his
frightful name, but his uncle did not leave him a stiver! It was a
shameful trick--a positive fraud, the parents naturally thought. No one
can blame Mikkel because he would no longer put up with the
disagreeable appellation, especially as it had come to his ears that a
young girl had given her suitor a basket solely on account of his name.
She said, 'he had such a shockingly ugly name, that she never could
bring herself to say, my sweet Morten. Dear no! the sound made her
shudder, and one really must be able to say sweet to one's lover.'
Morten and Mikkel are much on a par. He renounced, therefore, the
name of the ungrateful uncle, and selected for the future one of the
high-sounding names which had also been bestowed on him at his baptism,
like that shoemaker's son who was christened Jens Napoleon Petersen.
Nevertheless, I should prefer to call him Damon, that savouring more of
the anonymous, and this I will do with the permission of my kind
readers. When he and I went to school together, we got on very well,
and were on good terms; but no sworn and patented friendship took place
between us. It happened one day, as we were walking together outside of
one of the gates of the town, on a Friday, and he was lost in his
Damon-Pythias dreams, which went in at one of my ears and out at the
other, we met a school companion, who was crying as he came out of a
house. The good-hearted Damon stopped him, and asked what was the cause
of his distress, and we were informed that our comrade had been
visiting a good friend. Damon could not see that there was any cause
for howling about this; he would have been glad enough to have been in
his place. Yes, but our unlucky school companion had received a sound
drubbing from his good friend, and from some of the latter's good
friends, because he would not be always their horse, and drag them in
the little carriage; he wished to take his turn to go inside of it, at
least for once, but they abused him like a pickpocket, and beat him;
this was always the way he was served, and it was a great shame, for he
had liked his friend so much; but now he would have nothing more to do
with him. And when he had told him that he was going to break with him,
the fellow had thumped him well, and turned him out of doors, and it
was almost dinner-time, and now he had no friend--and he would get no
The soft-hearted Damon offered him forthwith his friendship and a
dinner; the boy went home with him to his parents' house, where he
dined, and immediately afterwards staunch brotherhood was sworn, and
the empty place in Damon's heart was filled up! Fate had granted his
wish, and he had providentially found a friend!
Mikkel was a happy boy; he had now truly become Damon, and the other
was Pythias. It was a strong friendship, whose not few thorns seemed to
Damon like so many roses. He had to thrash his companion's former
friend, and fight all that friend's chums, in order to revenge his
Pythias, and prove their misconduct to him; and he got many a bruise,
and many a torn jacket in these battles, which merged into a long,
lasting war--a war he had to sustain alone, for Pythias stood aloof. He
had to write all his friend's exercises, and prompt him every day in
his lessons, which Pythias, trusting to Damon's friendship, had
neglected to learn, and this cost the latter many a scold from the
master, who had observed it. But if ever he happened to require the
least help himself, he got none, for Pythias was incapable of giving
it. Damon not only shared all the nice things he had with his friend,
but he often gave him the largest portion, and, indeed, sometimes the
whole; but he never got anything in return. Pythias took care to eat
all his good things by himself; but Damon never dreamed of finding
fault with this; he was pleased and proud of being able to make various
useful presents to his friend, and loved him the better for it. Thus
passed the whole of his school-days; and in consequence of this sworn
friendship the two were called by all the boys Damon and Pythias.
They were at length to separate, and each to go his own way. 'I am
sorry I am obliged to part with you, I shall miss you very much,' said
Pythias, when the farewell moment came.
'I don't know how I shall exist without you,' said Damon. 'I am truly
They agreed to write to each other often. Damon did write letter after
letter, but never received an answer; that grieved him extremely. He
was taken ill about six months afterwards, but I will not say that it
was disappointed friendship that made him ill; he had caught an
epidemic which was raging then, and had a long illness. Though Pythias
knew this, he had never once inquired for his school friend. As soon as
he could hold a pen, Damon wrote to him over and over again--no reply!
Then he buried his friendship in his silent, faithful breast, until at
last it died, long after it had been buried.
His student-days arrived, and found him full of the enthusiasm of
youth. Damon longed for all that was beautiful and noble, but
especially for friendship. Love had not yet touched him. I believe that
he looked upon it as a sickly, unmanly feeling, which could not be
indulged in without relinquishing the energy and the strength of mind
that ought to characterize a man! Poor Damon! I verily believe such was
Well, Damon found at length his Pythias; but not the old Pythias, for
whom he had toiled and fought, and who had repaid him with such
ingratitude. No; a bran new Pythias had he stumbled upon, one who, like
himself, was 'a master in the kingdom of mind;' one who like himself,
was devoted to the true and the beautiful; one who, he thought, could
sympathize with him in everything, and to whom he attached himself with
the strongest ties of friendship--a really good friend.
And this friendship lasted for some years--during the whole time they
were at the university--and they were nicknamed Damon and Pythias, to
the great satisfaction of one of the friends at least. Damon was
certainly a kind and trustworthy friend. He wrote with untiring
patience all the tedious college manuscripts; Pythias used them almost
always, and, moreover, lent them to strangers, so that Damon never
could get them when he wanted them himself. Damon bought all the books
they both required, for Pythias needed his own money for other
purposes; and when Pythias wanted them no longer he sold them. Damon
remained at home from balls, that Pythias might borrow his dress-coat,
as he did not think his own good enough; and Damon rejoiced that he had
a good coat which fitted Pythias so well. Not a week passed that
Pythias did not borrow money from Damon, of which he never made any
memorandum. Pythias was fond of going to the theatre, and he always
went to the boxes. One day, when Damon suggested that it would be
better for him to go to the pit with him, for the money which one box
ticket cost would pay two pit tickets, and they might go there and
amuse themselves together, as he really could not afford the more
expensive places, Pythias replied that he by no means wished his friend
to spend his money in going to the theatre on his account, that he only
wanted to borrow the money for his own ticket, as he was out of cash
at the moment, but he could not think of going to such a place as the
pit. And the good-natured Damon gave him the last shilling he had, and
remained at home, rejoicing that his dear friend was amusing himself in
At length they were both to graduate, and Pythias held his ground only
because Damon had been an unwearied grinder for him, and had devoted
himself, early and late, to cramming him in order to pull him through.
His success delighted Damon much more than his own.
There was some talk of a foreign tour--and they were both candidates
for the stipend accorded for that purpose--what a pleasure if they
could travel together! But this year there was only one stipend to be
given away; Damon was sure of getting it, having been the cleverest
student. Pythias adjured him, of course in the name of friendship, to
resign his claim, because, for many important reasons, it was necessary
for him--Pythias--to get away for a time; in fact, he could hold out no
longer, while Damon had many other resources. Damon pondered on the
subject, but could not find out what these resources were;
nevertheless, he withdrew his petition, and left the field open to
Pythias, but he endeavoured in vain, also in friendship's name, to
induce him to confide to him the important reasons which had influenced
his dear Pythias to demand the sacrifice he had made for him. He was
enlightened as to the truth, however, afterwards. When Pythias had
obtained the stipend, and was off, it came out that he had been, for a
long time, in the habit of gambling, and that he had lost a great deal
at play. The debts he had left he transferred to his friend in an
affected, high-flown, bombastic epistle to his 'dear, faithful Damon,'
and in order that the latter, to whom he bade farewell for ever, might
still more highly honour friendship, he had drawn without asking leave
a few little bills of exchange in his name, wherein his writing was so
cleverly imitated, that Damon himself had the utmost difficulty in
distinguishing it from his own!
To one who had for so many years put entire confidence in the
reciprocity of the ardent and sincere friendship he himself had felt,
it was a severe blow to meet such scandalous treachery. Damon took
measures to have the bills of exchange paid, and, with a bleeding
heart, he buried Pythias the Second!
Damon now forswore friendship, and withdrew himself from society; it
was easy to do this, for his circle had been principally composed of
Pythias's acquaintances, and he did not much relish seeing them now--he
did not like to hear them pulling Pythias to pieces, and recounting the
many dirty tricks he had played them, to whom he had also pretended to
have been a good friend. Damon commenced his professional career, and
found comfort in his occupations; but his heart was lonely.
One evening he read in the work of a celebrated philosopher the
'The dog is man's best friend--it alone is faithful.'
These words made a deep impression on him. Within eight days he had
purchased a dog, a large handsome Newfoundlander, of a good breed. It
was then only in its puppy years, and had to be brought up to obedience
and cleanliness; this cost him the trouble of bestowing sundry good
thrashings on the animal, but Damon knew that he who loves the child
spares not the rod, and he loved his dog as if it had been his child,
until it should be educated to become his friend. Hector would receive
his caning, steal up to his master's feet, lick his hand, sigh deeply,
and at the slightest glance of encouragement would spring up joyfully
and wag his tail. When Damon looked up from his employment, he always
encountered Hector's friendly gaze. When he took his hat and stick, the
dog would start up from his place near the stove, if he were even in
the soundest sleep, to follow him through thick and thin, by day or by
night. Truly, the philosopher was right; the dog is man's faithful
friend, and Hector was not troublesome, and he obeyed no other being in
this world but his master--they were friends.
This friendship lasted for a couple of years, and it filled up in a
certain degree the vacancy in Damon's heart, and cheered his lonely
But gradually this friendship took the same turn as love often
does--the one loves, and the other allows himself or herself to be
loved. The parts they played changed gradually; Damon assumed the dog's
part, and became humble, obedient, and faithful, whilst Hector took the
master's part, and turned capricious, tyrannical, and ungrateful. The
four-footed creature had become almost like a man, from being the
constant companion of his two-legged friend. Damon put up with all
this, and the dog imposed upon him in his canine fashion, exactly as
the schoolboy and the student had imposed on him formerly in their
Damon had had many disagreeables to encounter latterly. One day he came
home very much fretted, with his head full of some tiresome business
papers, which absolutely required his immediate attention. He patted
his favourite, spoke to him as to a friend who could understand him,
complained to Hector of the provoking chief of the department who had
annoyed him, and Hector fixed on him a thoughtful look; it was as if
the dog comprehended how hard it is to be annoyed. This did his heart
good; he recovered his spirits, and began to work away vigorously at
the papers he had brought home with him. But Hector got angry at
finding himself neglected, and also he wanted to go out to walk. 'No,
my friend, it is impossible--don't disturb me--down, down--there is
no time for walking just now!' The dog became importunate, and was
patted, and dismissed; he then became obstinate, and laid his clumsy
paw upon the table, so that the inkstand was upset over the numerous
half-finished papers. For that he got a slap; he became enraged, and
tried to drag his master off of his chair; Damon kicked him away,
expecting that he would then be quiet, but it made him worse, and he
rushed upon him. Damon also got angry; he seized the ruler, and struck
Hector with it, who, however, dragged the chair from under him with his
teeth and paws. The one swore, the other growled; it was, certes,
anything but friendship that was displayed in this scene, which
collected all the inhabitants of the house on the outside of Damon's
door, in terror at this unusual dog-fight.
I arrived at that moment, having come to speak to Damon on some
business. It was an awful plight in which I found him: excited, bitten,
and with his clothes torn; whilst the dog stood snarling over the
broken chair, with a brutal, triumphant look, flashing eyes, and teeth
set. It was evident that he knew he was the master there, and he looked
with anything but a friendly expression at the subdued Damon.
'And this illusion has fled also!' he said to me, when we had taken
up the overturned chair, and gathered together the scattered and
'And thou also, Brutus!' he exclaimed with a comical degree of gravity,
and a melancholy glance at the sullen-looking dog.
'The bestia bruta!' said I. 'This comes of choosing four-footed
friends.' And I seized, the opportunity of bestowing upon him a lecture
about his animal mania, which had made him quite an oddity, and had
withdrawn him from the society of rational beings. Shame, suffering,
and anger brought him over to my way of thinking; he made a threatening
gesture towards Hector, who instantly rose up and showed his teeth; he
was evidently ready to renew the battle at any moment. It was really
After a great deal of persuasion, I prevailed on Damon to go home with
me, and conclude that uncomfortable evening among my family circle.
Before we left his lodgings, I privately requested the landlord to have
Hector removed to an inn, where he could be tied up till the next day,
when I should come to say what was to be done with him.
The evening passed off tolerably well; it succeeded in dissipating his
chagrin. I accompanied him home towards midnight, and before I left him
I had obtained his permission to send Hector into the country, to a
relation of mine, where he would be well treated and be useful as a
chained dog, for Damon himself perceived that he could not be made a
friend of, and that he was too ill-tempered and dangerous to be allowed
to go about loose. And thus was Pythias the Third, the four-footed,
It was very strange that though he wanted sadly to have his Pythias's
place refilled, he never made the slightest overture to me to occupy
it. Nevertheless, we were very intimate. He often visited me, and found
pleasure in the society of my family, and more especially in that of a
young girl, who was a frequent guest at my house, and who was both
pretty and good, though, perhaps, being a country girl, she wanted a
little of that finer polish which can only be acquired in the capital.
I have no doubt it was her being so open, straightforward,
unsophisticated, and natural, that charmed him with her; oddly enough,
love was never mentioned by either of them; they always spoke of
friendship alone, up to the very day of their betrothal. And, indeed,
after they were betrothed there was no change in their manners to each
other. I never saw him show her any of the usual little attentions, or
bestow on her any of the little endearments so common during this
period; he always spoke to her as if she had been a male friend; it
seemed as if he could not perceive that she belonged to womankind.
This engagement delighted us all, especially my sensible wife, who
augured a peaceful future for them, a life devoid of passion's storms,
calm and even, and rendered comfortable by a competence sufficient for
all their wants, though it could not be called a fortune, according to
the common acceptation of the word.
The damsel's parents gladly gave their consent, and as Damon very
justly considered a long engagement a wearisome affair, before six
months had passed they were man and wife.
The young girl was certainly a sweet pretty bride, and I really cannot
imagine how Damon could be satisfied with calling her 'my friend,' as
he led her from the altar; and I was still more surprised next day to
find that she had already begun to look after her household matters.
There was nothing to be found fault with in this, to be sure, and
neither of them seemed to think this out of the usual way. The young
couple appeared to be quite happy, and it was to be supposed that
Damon's heart had at last found its haven of rest. He had his young
wife, all went as she wished, and his house was, therefore, a pleasant
one; it was evident that it was under the care of a good and kind
I have observed that there is one thing which is a stumbling-block in
almost all young ménages--that is, the continued intimacy, after
marriage, of the husband's young men friends. Most young wives seem to
think that they must keep a watchful eye upon these friends, and
quietly strive to put an end to their baneful influence over the
husband! for they suppose that these former companions will withdraw
his thoughts from the sanctity of domestic life and lead him into
naughty ways. These suspicions seem to be deeply rooted in the minds of
newly-married women. I sincerely believe they are suggested by young
wives, who ought to know better by experience, and might have perceived
that their husbands' earlier associates would, in general, be glad to
be received as members of the family circle. The wives imagine that
their dominion is insecure so long as these suspicious persons are on
board; they think that when such is the case the ship of matrimony may
be at any moment upset, or stranded on unknown shores, that they must
steer with a skilful hand, and that they cannot be safe until they have
had the husbands' early friends cast overboard. I can assert this from
experience, for I have myself been cast overboard more than once on
account of such groundless suspicions.
But a house can hardly be without visitors, and what is more natural
than that these should consist of the young wife's friends and
connections? She believes she can depend upon them; she is accustomed
to them; she likes to display to them her notable housekeeping; it is
so very natural, and therefore one generally sees the husband's friends
and relations by degrees supplanted by those of the wife.
Damon's wife, however, was not obliged to manœuvre at all to get rid
of his especial friends, for, with the exception of myself, who had my
own house, and was already a sedate and discreet person, he never
invited a single old associate. It was not necessary for her to throw
anyone overboard to make room for her friends and relations; these were
self-elected intimates at Mikkel's house, and all went on well there.
There was one of her cousins in particular to whom Damon soon attached
himself. He was a young man who had exactly the qualities which were
wanting in Damon. He was, among other things, witty, lively, amusing;
he was at all times ready for anything, and knew how to make the best
of everything. Damon soon found that he could not do without him, and
he became a daily guest at his house, which there was nothing in the
way of business to prevent his being, as he lived in a state of il
dolce far niente, waiting until some good appointment might offer
itself, which might suit a person of his talents and pretensions.
Before the expiration of a year, I observed that by degrees a change
had taken place in their relative positions. Damon had by this time
nearly undermined his own happiness. His old Pythias folly had awoke
again in him, almost without his being conscious of it. His interest in
his young wife was actually cast into the shade by his friendship for
her cousin, who had become Pythias the Fourth. She discovered at length
that she was quite set aside, and was jealous of this neglect; at the
same time she grew more and more intimate with her cousin, whose lively
conversation pleased her. That he had fallen in love with his young
cousin I will not assert, but he paid her at times such marked
attention, that I often thought this was the only reasonable inference
to be drawn from his conduct; at other times there was so much levity
and carelessness in his manners, so much flightiness in his way of
talking, that I felt myself compelled to discard the supposition.
Certain it is, however, that he was always hovering around her; that
her reputation might run the risk of being injured by his demeanour
towards her, and that dangerous consequences really might arise from
their being so much together in the intimacy of daily life, yet--who
was to blame except Damon?
With his accustomed blindness, the husband could not see anything of
this; he made quite sure that it was entirely for his sake that the
young man played chess, talked politics, smoked tobacco, and went out
to walk or to fish whenever Damon wished to go. In order that they
might manage to be still more together, he had prevailed upon the
cousin to come out and stay with him at a country-house he had hired at
a few miles from town, where they had plenty of room. This invitation
was given much against the wishes of his wife, who had tried to prevent
it, but she had consented to it when she found that Damon had set his
heart on it. He said, jestingly, that he could not do without some male
society, and a trio would be pleasant in their pastoral life. In this
trio he himself voluntarily assigned the second part to the cousin,
while he took the third to himself.
Damon, however, was a little changed; he felt no longer inclined to be
quite so subservient in his friendship as he had formerly been with
his two-and his four-footed friends. By degrees, a desire had crept
into his mind to take his revenge, and for once become himself the
domineering party. He began to be somewhat importunate in his claims on
the time and companionship of the cousin, who, on his side, showed
decided symptoms of wishing to emancipate himself, especially from the
tiresome and frequent fishing expeditions to the neighbouring lake; but
fishing was perhaps Damon's greatest pleasure, especially when he had
the company of a good friend. Damon was annoyed that the cousin had
several times latterly excused himself from accompanying him, and, not
caring to go alone, he had been obliged to relinquish his favourite
amusement. One day--it was too bad--on a beautiful evening in the very
height of summer, he refused to go fishing, when there could be no
earthly reason for his doing so--none that Damon could discover, except
that he preferred to parade up and down the alley of linden-trees at
the other end of the garden with his wife--while he himself sat at the
top of the stone stairs, and fretted until he was quite out of humour.
He could see that they spoke eagerly to each other, and laughed, and
amused themselves, while he was wearying himself; and neither of them
seemed to be thinking of him or his ennui. What were they going to do
now? So! They were actually setting off to walk in the very direction
of the lake, where he would so gladly have gone to fish; but then, it
was too far to go, forsooth!--now, they could go notwithstanding the
distance. It was almost like defying him; that was probably the
A disagreeable light seemed to dawn on his mind. And when this
operation first begins to take place, a man is apt to fancy more than
he has valid grounds for supposing. And this was the case with Damon.
In an exceedingly unpleasant state of mind, he returned to the usual
sitting-room in search of some employment to make time pass less
heavily. The comfortable room spoke volumes to his excited mind, with
its quiet and peace. It was arranged by his wife's taste, everything
bore witness in her favour. There stood her work-table, there lay her
work, the half-finished embroidery which she was preparing for his
birthday, and at which he therefore avoided looking. Upon a table close
by hers lay the cousin's portfolios and drawing materials. There was no
necessity for the tables being so near each other, and he pushed the
table with the drawings a little way from the work-table. The young man
certainly had talent--there were comical sketches and little
landscapes, thrown off as illustrations of poems, not without genius;
he thought he would just look into the portfolios, when, in opening one
of them, a sheet of paper, with pencil drawings, slipped out of it.
What were these? He must see. They were a whole row of caricatures,
in doing which the cousin excelled. There was a man with his nightcap
on, evidently asleep and snoring; a man with a pipe in his mouth,
half-asleep over a fishing-rod; a man half-asleep over a chessboard; a
man half-asleep over a Berlin newspaper; and lastly, a man half asleep
over his tobacco-pipe, while his pretty young wife seemed dreaming over
the work she had in her hand. Of what was she dreaming while he
dozing? This question forced itself upon him. The sleepy-headed man was
no other than himself, caricatured in the most laughable manner; the
young wife might have been taken from nature: it was a charming
likeness. Damon sat as if he had fallen from the skies, with the sheet
of paper in his hand; he could scarcely conceive the ingratitude which
had suggested these sketches, or the barefaced impudence of leaving
them in an open portfolio, in his own daily sitting-room, where anyone
might see them--not only himself and his wife, but his guests and his
Fate brought me to him for a second time at a critical moment. I came
accidentally to pay him a visit, and found him somewhat in the same
state as on the evening Hector had been doing battle with him. I
entered into his angry feelings, but nevertheless could hardly refrain
from bursting into a fit of laughter at the exceedingly impertinent,
but very droll drawings. We had a serious conversation on the position
in which he was placed; with great difficulty I brought him, at length,
to perceive that much of the blame rested with himself, and that his
young wife had nothing to reproach herself with. I combated his
assertion that she must have been cognizant of the existence of these
caricatures, and must have sat for the likeness of herself; and I even
went so far as to promise to prove to him her ignorance of the
drawings, though I did not know how that was to be effected without
occasioning a scene--and I had the greatest horror of scenes.
We had a long conversation, we two, for the wife and the cousin
remained a good while absent--longer than I thought was exactly right,
especially as it was getting late; but Damon did not seem to think
about it; he was engaged in speculating on the theme I had suggested
for his consideration--namely, that a husband who never makes the
slightest effort to find amusement for his young wife, but, without the
least compunction, leaves her to solitude or weariness, has himself to
blame if another succeeds in interesting and amusing her. It is this
unfortunate transition from the devoted assiduity of the days of
courtship, to the sleepy security of married life, that so often
undermines love, and renders the heart empty; and nature has decreed
that a woman's heart can never remain long perfectly vacant.
At last the truants returned. It was evident that the lady, at least,
felt it was not quite right to have stayed out till so long after the
usual hour for tea; she bustled about to get the tea ready, and was
very attentive in helping us to it. Damon maintained a grave silence,
and I felt somewhat embarrassed; the cousin alone seemed quite at his
ease, and not at all gêné; I could not make out whether this was
nature or art. Perhaps it was politic to appear as if he had no idea
that there could be any cause for animadversion on account of their
unusually long walk. My confidence in her began to waver a little,
whilst my anger at him increased.
After tea the conversation fell, by mere accident, on portrait
painting. It was the lady who brought the subject forward, by speaking
of a picture of a female which she had observed in passing, hanging
like a sign, over the open door of a garden. Nothing could have been
more à propos. I hastened to ask the young wife if she had ever had
her likeness taken. No, she never had, and she never intended to have
it taken, for she could not bear the idea that anyone should sit down
and stare at her. The cousin declared this was a silly objection, and
appealed to me if he were not right.
'Oh! that is because he wants to make a sketch of me himself,' she
said, in rather a hurried manner; 'he has often begged me to permit it,
but I won't do so.'
The cousin remarked that there was no question of permission, only of
complaisance; if he chose to make a portrait of her, he could do it
without asking her leave; he could take her likeness without her
knowing anything about it; he could do it from memory. His cousin
laughed at these assertions, and laughed so naturally, that I felt
quite convinced I was right about her. Damon, on the contrary, looked
more and more distressed as this conversation proceeded; it was quite
apparent to me that he was miserable, and in a painful state of doubt,
and I had promised him a proof of his wife's innocence. Without
uttering a word, I laid hold of a corner of the paper on which were the
treacherous drawings, drew it out of the portfolio, and handed it to
her. I admit that this was very hard on the cousin, but why should I
spare the young jackanapes, from whom no mercy for others was to be
expected, as his caricatures showed plainly enough?
She evidently did not know what I meant by showing the drawings to her,
or what she was to do with them. On the first glance at the paper, she
seemed about to burst into a fit of laughter, and no one who had seen
these capital caricatures of Damon could have blamed the child of
nature for doing so. But on the second look, her eye had had time to
run over the whole sheet, and she had beheld her own likeness; the
contrast was too glaring, and there now did not linger the slightest
trace of a smile on her countenance. She blushed crimson, threw the
sketches far away from her, as if they had burned her hand, which for a
short time she placed over her eyes, as one does when suddenly coming
to the brink of a precipice. And her womanly tact had assuredly told
her that such had been her position. It was a moment for a painter of
scenes from domestic life to have taken a sketch. In the background
were the open doors leading from the pretty sitting-room to the garden,
whose trees seemed drawn on the clear evening skies in their full
beauty. On the sofa sat a man, apparently very unhappy, with his cheek
resting on his hand, and a look expressive of the deepest anxiety fixed
upon a young woman, whose guiltless countenance rivalled the glow of
the evening sky; whose whole bearing evinced mingled anger and
humility, innocence and embarrassment, while her eyes were riveted
on the paper she had cast from her, which had revealed to her one
of the dark shades of life. At a little distance from her stood a
grave-looking man, whose face expressed perfect confidence in, and
esteem for, the young wife; he stood as if he wished to inspire her
with courage to follow the dictates of her own heart. And nearest the
door leading to the entrance-hall sat a young gentleman, whose assured,
careless deportment formed a strong contrast to his perplexed and
irresolute glances; no one could have doubted that he was the cause of
the dismal mood which had seized upon all the rest of the party, and
that he was aware of this himself.
But it was only for a few short moments that the young wife stood as
described. Presently she looked up fearlessly, although tears were
streaming down her cheeks; without vouchsafing a single glance to the
young gentleman, she swept past him, threw her arms round her husband's
neck, and sank, weeping, by his side on the sofa. And this charming,
natural act found a response in his heart; he flung his arm round her
waist, and pressed her to his breast. It was a dumb and yet an eloquent
The friend and the cousin were now de trop. I made a sign to him, and
he left the room with me, without the others appearing to notice our
It was rather an embarrassing situation in which we two found ourselves
placed as we walked along the high road together. But as I have always
considered that 'honesty is the best policy,' I did not, on this
occasion, depart from my general rule. I began by telling him frankly
that the ingratitude which he had displayed towards my friend, who
was also his friend, and his cousin's husband, by caricaturing him so
ill-naturedly, and his hardihood in leaving the drawings in an open
portfolio in a sitting-room common to all the family, as if he wished
them to be seen by at least one member of it, had convinced me that
his remaining in that house would be productive of unhappiness to his
host, and would be disagreeable to all parties. It was Damon himself
who by accident had found the caricatures. It was impossible, of
course, that he could pass them over in silence, and their discovery
might have caused an extremely unpleasant scene. I had sought to avoid
this, as I knew that no explanation or apology could have been
accepted; in fact, none satisfactorily could have been offered. I
pointed out to the young man that it was not likely his intercourse
with the family could be renewed; that it would be necessary for him to
determine what he was to do with himself for the future, as he could no
longer reckon on their kindness.
'Soft and fair goes far,' says the proverb, and its truth was shown
here. My words were taken in good part; the cousin and I continued to
walk back and forwards on the high road half the night. He accompanied
me at length to town, and then there was nothing for it--if he were to
have a roof over his head at all--but to give him a bed at my house. We
laid our heads together to think of what could be done to procure a
situation for him, which might give him some profitable employment for
the present, and some prospect of advantage for the future; and at last
we both agreed that he had better look after an appointment in one of
the provincial towns, which had just become vacant, and in the disposal
of which I had some influence. Security, however, to a certain small
extent, would be required, but I would help him to obtain this. I was
quite certain, I said, that if I asked Damon, he would be his security,
for he had a most amiable and forgiving temper. I wished Damon to have
this satisfaction, and the cousin this humiliation; that should be
his only punishment. I am now inclined to believe, however, that he
found the punishment tolerably light, and bore it with great
equanimity, notwithstanding that he vapoured a great deal about
obligation, mortification, contrition, &c. &c.
To cut a long story short, the plan we had hit upon that night was
carried out. The cousin went to the country town and obtained the
situation, Damon became his security, and was not sorry to have this
little revenge upon him. And his young wife, who, through my
indiscretion, found out afterwards what Damon had done, was quite
overcome by her husband's generosity, and thought more of him than
ever. A man is never sorry that his wife should entertain the belief
that he is generous and noble-minded; that raises him much more in her
estimation than if he gave her occasion for the vain satisfaction of
admiring his wit. That, certainly, Damon's wife had no opportunity of
doing, for he possessed neither wit nor genius, but he was a good,
kind-hearted person. Their married life, which had been so nearly
rendered unhappy, after the cloud above referred to had cleared off,
glided on in a calm and even tenour, and nothing occurred to disturb
But man is his own worst enemy, an old philosopher has said, and not
without truth. Before twelve months had expired Damon's old whim had
revived: he longed again for a friend, and began to lament that he had
no one to whom he might speak on many subjects on which he could not
converse with his wife.
'To speak the honest truth,' he said to me one day, 'I miss my wife's
cousin exceedingly. He was a pleasant, sociable young man as could be,
and I really do believe that we did him injustice--at least as far as
my wife was concerned--and that she never would have troubled herself
about him if he had remained in our house till doomsday. I really do
miss him often.'
I opened my eyes in amazement at hearing this speech. But he was in
earnest. Notwithstanding his domestic comforts, and all his previous
unfortunate' experience, he longed for--his phantom, his patented
friend, his Pythias the Fifth! The old fixed idea was again in the
ascendant! His folly almost made me ill, but it also made me very
angry, and this time I did not let him off easily. I remonstrated with
him on the injustice with which he had during his whole life treated
me, who had always been his true friend, a fact which no one could
deny, though he had scarcely considered me as such, while he had run up
friendship after friendship with a set of worthless creatures. His
Pythias-fancy was a positive frenzy with him, approaching to insanity.
But he had never had the least idea of what friendship really was.
And as he was ignorant of it, I would tell him that friendship is the
reward of affection, and it is not to be found in the street, like
acquaintances, the mere result of chance. But what had he gained by his
various friendships? Had they not been for a long time a wretched
slavery, and in the last instance an equally wretched attempt at
governing? The absurdity had merged at length into a perfect monomania,
which deserved no mercy, for it had nearly made his poor wife
thoroughly unhappy. If he could not give up the indulgence of this
caprice, I advised him to engage a Pythias by the month for certain
stipulated wages; some poor devil whom he could order to go with him to
fish, or sit down to a chessboard whenever he pleased, for he required
no other companion. Such an arrangement would be very convenient,
because he could dismiss the hired Pythias when he pleased without
further ado. As to myself, I said, I should continue to visit at his
house only on his wife's account, for, as she was to be so neglected by
him, she might require in her isolation the occasional society of a
sincere friend. I should not come any longer for his sake, as he had
shown me plainly enough how little he cared, or had ever cared, for me.
Damon was quite dumbfounded at the warmth with which I spoke, and at
the unvarnished truths with which I overwhelmed him; his conscience
must have told him that my accusations were not without foundation. He
gave in, and concord was restored between us upon the condition that,
for the future, he should renounce all search after his Pythias
puppets. It was further resolved that the pacification should be 'firm
and lasting,' as it is called in all treaties of peace.
I had been two or three months travelling abroad, when I received a
letter from Damon, giving me to understand that an event was expected
in his house which was looked forward to with much pleasure. I was
delighted to hear it, hoping that it would add so much to the happiness
of my friends in the future. At length, to my joy, came another letter,
announcing the birth of a son, his exact image, and he was so expansive
in his descriptions of the little stranger, whom he seemed to look upon
as a prodigy, that he scarcely left himself room to mention his wife.
As soon as I returned home, I went to see him, and found him, like a
fond papa, in the nursery' where he was pacing up and down, holding a
monologue about the boy's education and future prospects. The young
mother was sitting on the sofa with that languid, touching expression
of heartfelt joy, which is so becoming to young mothers, and with a
dreamy look, as if she, too, were beholding in her mind's eye the
future for her child, and in thought were bestowing on him the cherub
form more meet for an angel than a child of mortality. I congratulated
them both with all my heart. Damon lifted his 'exact image' from the
cradle, raised the infant high in the air, and exclaimed with pleasure
'See here! here is my new born friend--my rightful Pythias!'
I could not help smiling at this truly unexpected outburst. What
The young mother held out her arms, and cried: 'Oh, give him to
me--give me my child, my own little man, my darling!'
And when the infant was placed in her arms she caressed him with that
tenderness which only a mother can show.
'My Pythias!--My darling!' They had both spoken from their hearts, and
found the word which made them happiest.
When the boy was to be christened, the mother proposed that he should
be named Charles, and the father that he should also be called Pythias.
Charles was after me; Pythias was after him, the other--the phantom. I
could not refrain from whispering to Damon, if it would not be well to
have the child also christened 'the Fifth.' He laughed, and pushed me
so, that I had nearly gone head-foremost into the cradle, to 'the
And Charles Pythias united in his own person that which makes the
happiness of marriage--love and friendship. I do not believe that
either of the parents bethought them how long these feelings had been
shared among various individuals, so entirely were they now united and
concentrated in this one little child.
But I pleaded earnestly that the boy should on no account be called
Pythias, and insisted that it was quite enough for him to bear my name,
as his father's friend. I was determined to free myself from hearing
anything more of Pythias. Happily I carried my point, and I did hear
no more of him. The new-born Pythias, however, took, in due time, his
rightful place, though he had escaped bearing the ridiculous name.
THE FATAL CHAIN.
FROM THE SWEDISH OF UNCLE ADAM.
One dreary autumn evening, shortly after I had taken
of my living (thus my friend, the Rev. Mr. Z., began his narrative),
I was sitting alone in my study, the same which I occupy to this day,
and from which I overlook the church and the churchyard, when a
servant-girl entered, and announced that a strange gentleman was
waiting in the drawing-room, who wished to speak to me. I hastened
downstairs, and found a good-looking young man, although he appeared to
be unusually pale, with an expression of wild grief in his eyes, which
led me to conclude that he was the bearer of some unpleasant
'I come to beg you for the key of the Lejonswärd'schen family vault,'
said he; 'I believe you have it.'
'What!' I demanded in astonishment, 'do you wish it now, at this late
'Yes; I must have it,' said the stranger, impatiently, 'for a corpse.
Alas! a corpse is to be interred immediately.'
The stranger's manners seemed to me to be so very peculiar that I still
hesitated. On perceiving this he cried,
'You appear to be unwilling to give it, sir. You need not hesitate; my
name is Lejonswärd, and the corpse which is to be laid in the narrow
tomb is that of my wife. I have one key, but require the other from
you. Will you still refuse it to me?'
I gave him the key, and with scarcely a word of thanks he hastened
away. I returned to my chamber, and gazed forth into the darkness which
shrouded the churchyard. I soon perceived lights moving over the graves
towards the vaults; the vault lies here, on this side, and the wall at
the entrance is ornamented by a lion holding in its paw a pierced
heart. The tomb was opened, and I saw the torchlight through the
grating. It was a gloomy sight, which I shall never forget.
The simple burial was over, and immediately afterwards a servant
brought me back the key.
Several years had passed, when the same gentleman entered my room one
'Do you recollect me?' he asked. I answered in the affirmative. 'It is
well,' continued he; 'I am going to become your parishioner, yonder at
'Are you going to live at Lejonsnäs? Surely you are not in earnest,
Herr Count! No one has resided there for nearly a hundred years.'
'So much the better! I will turn it once more into a human dwelling;
but I shall lead a very secluded life; my servant is to be my
major-domo, my coachman, and my valet; that will be a quiet household!
Will you accompany me?' continued he. 'Though the proprietor of the
estate, I am perfectly ignorant of its situation. Will you accompany
me, and instal me among my dear forefathers who are there in effigy?'
Having acquainted my wife with my intended journey, I seated myself
along with the count in his carriage, and set off, driven by the much
experienced domestic, who, besides his knowledge of the mysteries of
the kitchen and the bed-chamber, was also skilled in managing a pair of
We soon arrived at the estate. A large, heavy building, to which, wings
had been added, stood, with its dingy windows, in gloomy grandeur; a
double row of ancient trees skirted the spacious court-yard, in the
centre of which, surrounded by a wild and partly withered hedge of box,
arose a dried-up fountain. This is a slight description of the place.
The count smiled and looked at me. 'How does the house please you?'
said he. 'To me it looks like the abode of spectres. It is strange,'
continued he, 'that people are always anxious to attach a more intimate
connection with the world of spirits to places such as this, as if
spirits could not reveal their presence anywhere. You doubt my words.
You shake your head. Why? If there be no communication with the world
of spirits, why have we an inward voice which tells us that there is?'
'All have not such a voice,' I answered, smiling.
'There you are mistaken, dear sir,' replied the count, eagerly. 'You
cannot deny that there are things which pass our comprehension, which
therefore originate from a higher power; and there scarcely exists a
man who, once in his life at least, has not been placed in a situation
which has forced him to believe in the influence of a world of spirits.
Tell me, what is it that consoles him who has lost all that he held
dear? For instance, a--'--he was silent a moment, as if struggling with
inward emotion--'a wife,' continued he, 'and child. What is that--when,
crushed by the cruel hand of Fate, one kneels before a coffin--which
illumines the soul like a clear stream of light from a better world, or
whispers sweet comfort to the half-paralyzed heart?'
'Religion,' I replied; 'the consolation of religion, Herr Count.'
'No, no, Herr Pastor; religion has nothing to do with this. Religion
is a sentiment embracing duty and devotion, which is founded on faith,
and directed by reason. The sensation to which I allude is something
outward, something which affects the soul as suddenly as a flash of
lightning, without the thoughts having had time to dwell on the
possibility of consolation. It is as if a stream of light broke
unexpectedly upon the mind, Herr Pastor. It is not religion, but the
spirit of the beloved departed which bestows on the mourner a portion
of its own bliss.'
Just then the inspector arrived with the keys of the castle, and
interrupted our conversation. He also was of the same opinion as
myself, that the castle was not fit to be inhabited; but the count
remained firm to his intention of taking up his abode there.
'Give me the keys, inspector. You need not accompany us; my friend and
I will be able to find our way, I do not doubt. You need only tell us
to which doors the keys belong.'
The inspector bowed, and began as he was requested to sort the keys.
'This one belongs to the large house-door; this, to the suite of rooms
occupied by the councillor of blessed memory; and this, to the
apartments which the councillor's wife inhabited. This key belongs to
the young count's rooms; or,' continued he, rather embarrassed, 'to the
rooms in the western wing, which belonged to your grandfather, Herr
Count, when he was a young man.'
'Enough, good sir. We shall find our way,' said the count, as he
smilingly interrupted him.
We approached the castle. 'Did you hear,' said the count, 'the young
count's rooms?' The young count was my grandfather. This shows that
traditions never grow old. He is still called THE YOUNG COUNT here,
although it is about fifty years since he died, old and infirm.'
As we entered the lofty arched entrance-hall, a chill, dank air met us.
Here and there a portion of the ornamental gilding from the walls had
fallen away, and several large oil-paintings, representing bear-hunts,
had become spotted with mould and dust.
'The entrance-hall is not particularly inviting,' said the count; 'but
let us proceed farther.'
The key was placed into the heavy, elaborately ornamented door, leading
to the apartments of the councillor above mentioned. We entered an
antechamber, hung with several portraits and landscapes of the Dutch
school; here, in a richly-gilt frame, which the hand of time had
partially robbed of its brilliancy, was a lady dressed as a
shepherdess, with a broad-brimmed straw hat upon her powdered head, and
a shepherd's crook in her hand; a lovely smile played round the rosy
lips, and the bright and speaking eyes sparkled with gaiety.
'That,' said the count, 'is my grandmother. She is smiling to us. She
was painted as a bride, and there she still sits in her youthful
beauty. It is the same with portraits as with the soul--they never grow
We went on, and entered a room with a polished oaken floor, and the
walls hung with gilded leather in richly-gilt partitions; there was a
stiff grandeur about the room, which was rendered more formal by the
old-fashioned furniture. The mouldings of the ceilings were decorated
by groups of clumsy figures, a remnant of the grotesque taste, and
accumulation of ornaments so prevalent in the seventeenth century. This
had formerly been the chamber in which the councillor had studied, and
it had been left untouched, just as it was during his lifetime. A
clock, in a large stand of Chinese painting, in black and gold, stood
silent and covered with dust in a corner, and a thick bell-rope with
ponderous silk tassels still hung in another corner near the heavy
writing-table, before which was placed, as if the student had only a
moment before arisen from it, a narrow, high-backed chair, with legs
curved outwards. Beyond this room came a bed-chamber, decorated in the
style as the one we had just left.
'By Heavens,' said the count, 'it almost seems as if you were
right. I cannot reconcile myself to these rooms, and to this furniture.
Rooms and furniture--if I may so express myself--are our nearest
acquaintances--a chair, a table, a sofa, are often our most intimate
At length we arrived at two small rooms, the windows of which looked
out upon the garden; they seemed to have been more recently occupied,
and were more simply furnished.
'I shall pitch my tent here!' said the count. 'The arrangements cannot
be said to be of the newest fashion, but, at any rate, there is a more
cheerful aspect about this place than in any other part of the castle.'
Before the table stood an arm-chair, which formerly had been gilded,
but now the white grounding was visible in many places; the red velvet
with which it was covered was not faded; indeed, upon the whole, the
colours were better preserved in this room than in the others. I was
surprised at it, but the count, who regarded everything in his own
peculiar way, merely remarked that the chamber lay on the northern side
of the house.
'You see, Herr Pastor, where the full glare of the sun cannot
penetrate, anything old is better preserved. It is a well-known fact,
that what is ancient is best preserved in darkness; this holds good as
well in the material as in the moral world, for light is only required
by that which is growing. Objects that decay are more easily destroyed
in light than in twilight. Hence,' he added, with a satirical curl of
his lip, 'darkness is so necessary for the preservation of what is
These apartments having been brought into some sort of order, the count
established himself in them; from the time he had taken possession of
his paternal property, his temper appeared to have become more equable.
The castle harmonized with his restless soul, which cared not for the
present, but loved rather to live amidst the memory of the past, which
was crowded with familiar acquaintances; or, to endeavour to seek a
dark and mysterious intercourse with another and to us unknown, world.
He was a visionary, but a noble visionary, with a deep sense of
everything that is good and grand. I frequently visited him, and found
him often engaged in reading, but he always hid his book when I
entered. Once, however, I happened to catch a glimpse of it; it was
Jung Stilling's works.
'I see, count,' said I, 'that you are reading about ghosts and
apparitions. You surely do not believe in them?'
'Why should I not? Is there anything absurd in that belief, or do you
suppose that man is the only being in the creation intellectually
endowed? That he stands next to God? Do you not believe in the
possibility that the human soul, when freed from its vile earthly
garment, can receive a more perfect, an ethereal body, suited to its
new state? I believe in it, and find comfort in the thought. What
were man if he did not, even here below, penetrate, however dimly, into
a future existence, and acquire a slight knowledge of its mysteries?
What were we did we not all believe in this, to a greater or lesser
extent? I maintain that there does not exist a man who has not some
belief in spirits, even though he may ridicule the idea to others. When
Death steals away the best beloved of a man's heart, seizes her in his
bony arms, and draws her down into the gloom of the grave--when the
hand of Providence lies heavily upon him--rest assured, my friend,
that man will believe in a spiritual world.'
'Assuredly; and he ought to do so. No one should dare to doubt the
future existence of the soul.'
'I speak of the atmosphere as being peopled with spirits; to that
belief the soul of man clings when sorrowing for the dead.'
'Sorrow often leads to wild ideas,' I remarked.
'Sorrow!' repeated the count. 'You are partly right; sorrow constitutes
the night in the fate of mankind. When we are prosperous we heed not
the noiseless, measured movement of the wheel of fate; the earthy
element asserts its right over us, and cheats us into the belief that
we are happy. True happiness and sorrow are more in unison than we are
apt to fancy. If we sit on a peaceful evening with a beloved wife and
her children, and thank the Lord for all the blessings we enjoy, it is
their presence which constitutes our happiness; or, if we fall upon our
knees by the side of their inanimate corpses, though we are bowed down
with grief for their loss at first, after a time we cease to feel that
we are alone. There is a something invisible, inaudible, and yet
intelligible to our inmost soul that tells us restoration succeeds to
dissolution, and life succeeds to death; and this something I call a
mysterious intercourse with the spirit world.'
'But, count,' I suggested, 'reason points out to us--'
'Reason!' repeated he, impetuously interrupting me. 'Speak not of cold
reason! What is that power which some possess of divining every
feeling, every thought of those near them? What is feeling in
comparison with foreboding--judgment in comparison with faith? He who
acknowledges the existence of a higher world--who sincerely and
earnestly believes in a connection between his feelings and their
author--God--is a person of elevated mind; the man, on the contrary,
who in his pride of intellect detracts from the Holy One, and divides
the indivisible, is grovelling and limited in his ideas. I never could
endure that over-wise reason, which would force itself into everything,
fancying that it could take part in everything, without doing so in
reality. Do not say, therefore, Herr Pastor, what reason points out to
us. I contend that reason knows nothing about the matter.'
I found it was not worth while to dispute with the count, for as he
would not admit the right of reason, I had nothing to advance against
his vague and undefinable notions.
'It is a comfort,' said the count, one day, 'to believe in spiritual
visits. I live alone here; my servants inhabit the second story, and
you may possibly fancy that my time often hangs heavily on my hands.
Far from it; when my candles begin to burn dimly in the evening, and
the thick foliage is rustling gently--when the old furniture creaks,
and a distant sound is heard, which may either be taken for the
ringing of bells or the chanting of low murmuring voices, then my true
life begins. I saunter up and down the room, and at times stand still
and listen. Ah, then, often do I feel as if a flood of joy were rushing
on my wounded heart--there is a flitting sound in the adjoining
chamber--"Julia, Julia! thou hast not forgotten me!" I exclaim; and,
calm and happy, I retire to rest and fall asleep dreaming of her.'
The count sank into deep thought, but he soon raised his dark eyes
again, and gazing into my face, he said,
'You are my friend, are you not, even though you do not approve of my
chimeras, as you reasonable people call them? I speak of my Julia; you
do not know her, although she has for year belonged to your parish. She
it was who, on the evening that I saw you for the first time, was
conveyed to her last resting-place--she, my wife. I will tell you about
my Julia, and you must not endeavour to dissuade me, by reasoning, from
a belief which has become so necessary to me.'
The count seated himself in a large arm-chair, and began his narrative
The house of Baron Lindesparre, in Stockholm, was, at the period from
which my story dates, the rendezvous of all the talent and beauty of
the capital. His soirées were noted for the distinguished tone which
pervaded them, for their unconstrained mirth, and their elegance
without ostentation. His splendid apartments were tastefully arranged,
without a single article being placed so as to appear more prominent
than the rest; where all was luxury the profusion was not observable.
It was only when one analyzed the magnificence of the house that one
found it was magnificent.
The baron had been many years a widower: his wife, a Spaniard by birth,
I never saw, but she had left a daughter, beautiful and gentle, a being
formed partly of the glowing roses of the South, and partly of the snow
of the North. She was the fairy of the place, and hundreds vied for a
smile from her lips. This was Julia. She became my wife.
We had been married half a year, and had a separate residence, but on
every soirée Julia went to her father's to do the honours of the house.
On one of these evenings the company was more numerous than usual, and
I observed a gentleman among the crowd whom I did not know, and who
kept his eyes continually fixed upon my wife. He was tall and thin,
with a countenance pale and attenuated, the features were almost stiff
and inanimate, and the flashing eyes alone, which he fixed with a sort
of scornful look upon my Julia, betrayed life. He was dressed in black,
but a small star of brilliants sparkled from his button-hole, showing
that he was in the service of some government. The man appeared to be
about fifty years of ago, and a few grey hairs peeped out here and
there among his otherwise black locks. I know not why I took such a
strong interest in him; I fancied him disagreeable, and yet I was
attracted to him. His was a sort of spell such as certain snakes are
said to exercise over their victims.
My father-in-law came towards me. 'Who is that gentleman dressed in
black?' I asked.
'Ah,' answered the old man, 'I had almost forgotten to introduce you;
he is a Spaniard, a countryman of my beloved wife. Come.'
I followed him, and soon stood before the strange-looking guest.
'Don Caldero,' began my father-in-law; 'allow me to have the honour of
introducing to you my son-in-law, Count Lejonswärd--Don Caldero,
attaché to the Spanish Embassy.'
The stranger in the black dress said a few polite words to my
father-in-law, who then moved on.
'As far as I can judge from observation, count, you are the happiest
husband in all cold Sweden. I am glad to have made your acquaintance,'
said the Spaniard; 'I have long remarked you, and intended to have
inquired your name. You, like myself, appear to pay attention not only
to the outward but also to the inward properties of mankind. I rejoice
to have met a kindred spirit.'
Thus began my acquaintance with a man who, notwithstanding his cold,
severe, repulsive manners, possessed a fiery soul, and a mind capable
of conceiving grand ideas. From this evening Don Caldero became
intimate with me, and his clear understanding, the captivating warmth
which he too well knew how to mingle with his elegant conversation,
guided my ideas and feelings into a direction for which I was already
predisposed by character, but in which, without Don Caldero, I probably
never would have gone so far. He often visited at our house, and I
became more and more attached to the highly-talented and well-informed
Spaniard, and he, too, seemed disposed to like me. It was he who, with
a clearness which I am not capable of imitating, pointed out to me the
connection between God and man, between the visible and the invisible
world, who proved to me the existence of a communication between a
spiritual world and ours, manifested in dreams, forebodings, and in
mysterious intimations of the influence of a higher power, which we
experience in moments of grave importance. It was he who placed before
me the truth of apparitions, purified from all superstition--that is to
say, denying them to be gross, material manifestations, but receiving
them as produced through the interposition of beings endowed with
greater powers of intellect than ourselves. You should have heard him,
sir, and though you are so great a sceptic, you would have believed him
as I did.
We often amused ourselves with playing at chess, game that has always
interested me greatly. Don Caldero shared my taste, and we sometimes
fought a whole evening over one game.
'Chess pleases me,' he used to say, 'because it depends less than
anything else upon the chance of fate. Fate makes itself visible
everywhere, hence one must seek a pastime which excludes it as much as
possible; our pastimes ought to be such, that spirits cannot interfere
and amuse themselves at our expense.'
Don Caldero frequented my father-in-law's soirées, and my house, but
hitherto he had never invited me to visit him. He resided in a large
mansion quite by himself, and never received any strangers. His
character did not attract people, it rather caused him to be avoided;
for few knew, or could understand, his great worth, and fewer still
were inclined to follow him in his bold flights through the vast
regions of fancy.
After praising his friend at some length, the count concluded his
eulogy by saying:
In a word, Herr Pastor, there is but one such man in the world, and
that man is called Caldero.
At length, one evening, Caldero did invite me. He lived at the
farther end of the northern suburb, in a house which he had furnished
according to his own taste. On entering the saloon I found no one, the
apartment was empty, and merely lighted by a single handsome lamp,
which hung from the ceiling, and which cast a subdued light around. I
went farther: everywhere I encountered the same silence, the same
twilight, the same heavy grandeur, which was to be traced in every
object. I stood still, a strange feeling creeping over me, the nursery
legends about enchanted castles flashed across my mind, and I fancied
myself transported into one whose owner, with all his retainers, lay in
one of the inner chambers, buried for many centuries in a profound
magical slumber. These thoughts were soon, however, chafed away by soft
steps upon the rich carpet, and Caldero's gloomy figure stood before
'Welcome, count!' he said, courteously. 'I thank you for coming to my
hermitage, where, you must know, I have never invited anyone but
yourself. I longed for one evening to take entire possession of you;
pardon my selfishness.'
He led me into the inner cabinet. This was a small chamber, but lofty,
and fitted up in a still more gloomy style than the others. The walls,
hung with dark-red velvet, contrasted strangely with the white and gold
pilasters which stood at the four corners. In the middle of the room
was a table, upon which was placed a chessboard between a pair of tall
wax candles. We seated ourselves upon the sofa, and my host appeared to
be reflecting upon something; at length he exclaimed:
'Count! perhaps you may think it extraordinary that the Spaniard
Caldero has formed such an affection for you. He considers it his duty
to explain why; but in order to do so, I must give you a slight sketch
of my history.'
I listened with great attention to what this strange introduction might
lead, and Don Caldero continued:
'I was born and educated in Madrid; my father was a poor but excellent
man, belonging to the ancient nobility, and I imbibed from my earliest
infancy high notions of the value of rank. Latterly it has fallen in my
estimation, although I cannot even now entirely free myself from a
prejudice in favour of the advantages of good birth. I was, as I said
before, poor, but proud, as every Spaniard should be, and an ardent
longing to obtain honour and distinction dwelt in my youthful breast.
This longing was increased tenfold by my passion for a lovely girl as
poor as myself, but even more richly endowed with ancestors. The slight
difference which existed in the ancientness of our lineage, combined
with my poverty, prevented our love from becoming anything more than a
hopeless passion; for her parents, proud of their pure Christian blood,
which for centuries had remained unmixed, could not endure the idea of
their daughter uniting herself to me, whose early ancestor was a Moor,
a scion of that noble race who once occupied a portion of Spain. Still
youth and love easily forget these small differences, and Maria, so the
young lady was called, loved me most fervently. Often when she left
mass she bestowed upon me a few minutes undisturbed by witnesses. Ah!
how happy I then was! I fancied my own individual merit would, in time,
convince Maria's parents that I was worthy of her hand; I therefore
sought to be appointed to the diplomatic corps, a path which, under our
weak government, was a sure road to distinction; nor was it long before
I was named attaché to the mission to Vienna.
'I met my beloved; it was for the last time; and never shall that
moment pass from my memory.
'"Do not forget your faithful Alphonso," I whispered, as I pressed her
in my arms. I felt how her tears rolled down her blooming cheeks.
'"See, beloved Maria," I said, at length, giving her a small golden
chain, which I had received from my mother--"see, here is something as
a remembrance of me; keep it faithfully. If, however, you should
forsake me, then return it to me, and I will wear it, and die thinking
of, and praying for, you."'
'"Never, never!" murmured Maria, as she took the chain.
'"Never, never!" I repeated, pressing her to my heart. "But, Maria!" I
continued after I had become more composed, "you might perhaps, forget
me; will you, as a proof of our eternal union, share a consecrated
wafer with your lover?" I had one, which I broke in two. "God is our
witness!" we both said. The clock in the adjoining cloister struck
'"I must go," cried Maria. "For ever yours; for ever and for ever!"
'Long after she had disappeared I stood rooted to the spot, striving to
catch a glimpse of her in the moonlight. "For ever--for ever!" sounded
in my ears, and, midst golden dreams of a future full of bliss and
honour, I wended my way home.
'I had been about a year in Vienna, when one evening a stranger brought
me a packet. It contained the chain. I was horrified.
'"Deceived!--forsaken!--forgotten!" I cried. "But no, it is
impossible!" A slip of paper which was enclosed, contained, to my
comfort, the following words: "I remember my oath, but am forced to
break it. Do not despise Maria."'
Don Caldero showed me a locket, which he wore near his heart. 'Do you
know this face?' said he. I started; they were the features of my wife.
'My wife!' I cried, in an agitated voice.
'No, my friend,' replied Caldero, with a bitter smile; 'it was her
mother. On this account I attached myself to you, for I still love the
mother in her child. I have suffered, I have become resigned, but I
have never forgotten: and I willingly cling to the belief, that
necessity and compulsion alone robbed me of my Maria. Let us play,
I silently seated myself at the chess-table, on which was ranged a
splendid set of chessmen; the board was of black-and-white stone,
and the men of one party were of silver, with tops of clear
crystal, diamond cut, while those of the other side were of a dark
steel-coloured metal, with dark red-tops.
'It is not usual,' began Don Caldero, 'to play chess for money; yet why
should we not at least venture something? I should like--I have often
very strange ideas--I should like to give your Julia the chain which
her mother possessed for a time; it is neither valuable nor modern, but
perhaps if she hears its history, she may kindly wear it in remembrance
of Don Caldero. I will stake the necklace, and you, count, will you
stake a lock of the dark hair of your Julia? She will doubtless give
it, if you ask for it. You must forgive an old, despised lover, for
fancying he sees the mother when he gazes on your wife.'
'I consent willingly to this arrangement,' I replied, smiling.
We played; but it seemed as though Don Caldero took pains to lose, and
he speedily succeeded in his endeavours.
'I am vanquished,' he said quietly, as he went towards a casket, which
I had not hitherto observed. 'Here, count, is the chain; I shall be
more calm when it is no longer in my hands.'
The chain was more costly than I had imagined, and I was pleased at the
idea of Julia wearing it when Caldero visited us. I instantly wrote a
note to Julia, in which, without mentioning anything about her mother,
I told her of Caldero's and my bet, and begged her for a lock of her
hair, in case, against my expectation, I should lose the next game. I
sent a servant to my house with this note and the chain to my wife,
after which we again returned to the chess-table. Now Caldero became
more cautious; I, on the contrary, was seized by a secret anxiety, an
uneasiness which I could not explain. I did not perceive the false
moves I was too evidently making. Don Caldero drew my attention to my
carelessness and more than once, made me take back my move; all was in
vain, I was as though bewitched, and could no longer calculate my
position. At length the servant returned, bringing a small note from
Julia. She jested at the taste of our Spanish friend, yet sent the lock
of hair, at the same time entreating me not again, not even for more
costly ornaments than the chain, to stake the ringlets of my wife. I
showed Caldero the note; he read it, and seemed to turn pale.
'Her handwriting resembles her mother's,' he said, and laid the note
upon the table. 'Let us continue.'
We played on, but I soon found myself completely surrounded by his men;
my strange uneasiness increased at each moment; I felt as though a
drawn sword were suspended by a hair over my head; the candles seemed
to burn blue; the white tops of my kings appeared to assume a pale
milk-white colour, whereas the dark-red of Calderos men glowed like
fiery coals, radiant with some inward light.
'Checkmated,' he said, in a low tone. 'Checkmated, count,' he repeated,
louder; but I sat immovable, staring fixedly at the chessmen. I
experienced a horrible sensation, as though an evil spirit were
standing behind me, with his burning hot hand upon my head;
nevertheless I was shivering--a death-like coldness had crept over my
whole body, and yet--At length I ventured to glance at Don Caldero; his
gloomy countenance was more pale than usual, he looked like a corpse,
and his dark hollow eyes were intently fixed upon me. 'This is the 12th
of August,' he murmured, as if to himself. 'Reconciliation with the
dead. Count, give me the lock of hair.'
I handed it to him, and then, rising from my seat as one intoxicated, I
staggered out of the house. I was conscious of nothing that was going
on; but Caldero followed me.
'Forgive me, count, my strange behaviour; but it is exactly twenty
years this day since Maria and I shared the consecrated wafer. I have
kept my oath. Good night, count. Do not forget your friend.'
I hastened home. Never in my life have I so distinctly beard a voice of
warning in the inmost depths of my soul. 'Hasten! hasten! hasten!'
cried the voice; and I flew rather than walked.
'Is Julia up still?' I asked of the servant who let me in.
'The countess?' he inquired. 'Yes, yes; the countess!'
'The countess must be still up; she dismissed her maid only a few
I ran to my wife's room. Julia was sitting in an arm-chair before her
toilet-table, and quite calmly, as though she had not heard my hasty
'God be praised that my foreboding of evil has not proved true!' I
'Julia!' I cried, in an agony of anxiety--'Julia, do you not hear me?'
Still the same silence. She sat immovable before the mirror, and her
lovely features were reflected in the glass; the trinket which I had
won was round her neck, and a gentle expression was in her tender black
'Julia! Julia!' I cried, seizing her hand. It was cold, but not rigid.
God! my God! She was dead! I know not what further happened, but a
fortnight later I was with you, Herr Pastor, to place the remains of my
Julia in my family vault.'
The count had risen, and strode up and down the room in great
agitation. The clock struck eleven.
'Art thou there, Julia?' he cried, while his eyes roved wildly round.
'Come in! come in!' He opened the door leading to the adjoining room,
and called out into the darkness, 'Julia, I am here! here is thy
husband!' A cold draught of air alone was wafted into the room, and a
slight rustling noise was discernible. 'She passes on,' said the count.
He slammed the door, and sank into an arm-chair. 'She will not come to
me! My God! my God! let me go to her!'
The count sat for awhile lost in deep thought; at length he sprang up,
gazed at me with eyes beaming with joy, and exclaimed,
'Pastor Z., it is glorious to hope!'
When I left him I actually found myself trembling, and I was right glad
that the servant lighted me along the deserted apartments, so powerful
is the effect of the imagination when excited.
I continued to visit the count from time to time. His grief had, I
fancied, calmed down, but his health was beginning to suffer,
imperceptibly to himself perhaps, but not so to those who saw him now
and then. I remarked that he was gradually becoming more strange; he
often laughed at things which were not at all ludicrous; nevertheless,
he was always the same amiable man I had ever known him, and his
judgment was clear on every subject except when the mystic world was
touched upon, then his thoughts used to wander, and Julia, his beloved
Julia, was always the pivot round which his ideas turned.
In the middle of winter I suddenly received a message, to the effect
that I was wanted immediately at the castle. The messenger could not
tell the reason why I had been summoned, but said that the count's
valet had ordered him to saddle a horse and to ride as fast as he could
to me. I suspected some misfortune, so set off instantly.
When I entered the count's room he was seated at a table.
'Ah, is it you, Pastor Z.?' he said, when he perceived me. 'Have you
come to preach peace to my soul? Begin, sir; it will be amusing to
listen--ha, ha, ha!--to hope in God? God? what is that? No, pastor, now
I am wise--I believe in nothing, not even in myself, nor in you,
priest, you black-skinned slug! You are one of those who wind
themselves round mankind, and lie with a double tongue! Speak on, sir!'
His flashing eyes and uplifted arm, which threatened to strike, caused
me to start back: he was evidently deranged. His pale lips trembled
with rage, and his black hair hung in disorder about his brow, from
which drops of perspiration rolled down his cheeks. I perceived that
here I could be of no use; I therefore went to the bell to summon the
servant. He made his appearance, pale, and with eyes red from weeping.
'Look!' cried the count, wildly laughing--'only look, Pastor Z.! The
livelong night he has been borrowing from the fountain of tears, and
talking no end of nonsense, merely because I told the fool the simple
fact that neither he nor I possessed a soul, and that there is no such
thing as right or wrong. Well? How comical you look--ha, ha, ha! You,
and my man yonder, look like a couple of frightened sheep. You may rely
on what I say, he would have come if it had been in his power; but all
is over, he cannot come. Yes, look yonder, stare at your heaven: it is
air, mere air, nothing but empty air. Do you understand? The earth is a
solid lump, upon which cabbages, long-tailed monkeys, men, and other
plants grow; and above is heaven, that is to say, sensibly speaking,
air, atmosphere. Well? Are you not capable of comprehending this? it is
as clear as the day. Just listen,' he continued; 'mankind is a sort of
animal of prey, which, even when tamed, do not lose their natural
propensities; they are worse than beasts of prey, for even the tiger
loves its mate and its young, but look, man murders them--murders, do
He hid his face in his hands, and wept aloud.
'I do not know what the letter could have contained,' whispered the
servant. 'The count received it yesterday evening; he seemed overjoyed
when he beheld the handwriting, and before I left the room; when I
returned, however, he was just as you now see him. The poor count!' he
continued; 'he was such an excellent master!'
The count sprang to his feet as if he had been terrified by something.
'Ho!' he cried, and his wild eyes wandered round the room. 'So much
blood, so much poison were flowing over the earth; then a serpent
stretched out its scaly head from the bottomless pit and seized the
white dove. She fluttered her wings, the poor little thing, but first
one part of her and then the other was crushed in the serpent's throat.
It was her dead mother who devoured her: it was horrible! Look
yonder--look, Herr Pastor! A thick darkness overspread the earth; not a
single ray of hope could penetrate through the bloody vapour to her!
Nay, good pastor, it was merely a freak of fancy, but at the same time
a picture of the truth. Her mother and her husband murdered her. Do you
In this strain the unhappy man continued to rave for several days. I
remained in the castle, for I hoped he might rally. A doctor was called
in: he applied many remedies, none of which, however, seemed to afford
the sufferer any relief. The count continued to be insane, and never
for an instant did he close his eyes in sleep. At length, however, he
became exhausted, and was obliged to be carried to his bed. I was then
called to him. How much he had changed! his dark eyes had sunken
greatly? and looked like flames half extinguished; his cheeks had
fallen in, and his brow was full of wrinkles. He lay apparently in a
state of complete exhaustion, and when I addressed him he did not
His servant privately handed me the fatal letter. It was from Don
Caldero, and ran as follows:
'Dear Count,--When this letter reaches you, I shall be no more. It
shall be laid in my desk, ready to be sent to you after my death. I owe
you an explanation to divest you of your erroneous ideas respecting
another world. For a long time past I have not believed in a future
life, but it has been one of my favourite amusements to observe the
faith of enthusiasts. It gave me pleasure when I perceived a man misled
by his faith, and I laughed in my sleeve at such folly. I influenced
your opinions, as I found you to be a fit subject for my experiments.
'I am a Catholic; from my youth upwards my eye has been accustomed to
weeping Madonnas; I have heard the miracles respecting the saints
narrated, and was expected to believe all I heard. The consequence is,
that I have ended by believing nothing, The whole of religion rests
upon the conviction of the present and eternal existence of the
immortal soul; but there is no proof that man possesses a soul, any
more than there is proof of the truth of the above-mentioned miracles.
Man is an animal like the other inhabitants of the globe, with this
exception only, that he has a more perfectly-developed brain, and a
greater number of intellectual organs. Life is quite independent of
soul. I have studied these subjects, and have become convinced that the
theory about the soul is a fabrication of the priesthood, invented to
enable them the more easily to govern the body. There can be no Divine
disposer of human events, else wickedness would not prosper in this
world as it does, whilst uprightness suffers. There is a governing law
in nature which dooms mankind to death, just as the trees are compelled
annually to shed their leaves. I saw how oaths were broken with
impunity; I shared with a maiden, whom I loved more than my life, a
consecrated wafer, the most sacred thing I then knew: she broke the
oath and became happy, while I, who kept it, became miserable. Hence
I began to believe in fate, and not in Providence, and learned to
despise mankind to prevent myself from hating them.
'I met you and your Julia; she was her daughter. She was beautiful,
and as yet nothing had occurred to try her character. For awhile my old
dreams of faithful love revived, and for the daughter's sake I forgave
the mother, who had so deeply wounded the most sacred of all feelings,
if anything can be termed sacred. To be brief, count, I fancied myself
once more in my enthusiastic youthful days; I forgot the sentiments
experience had induced me to adopt, and faith in Maria's love blossomed
anew in my heart, like the flowers which take root in the loose ashes
of a volcano. I fancied my innocent Maria would meet me in another
world with a kind welcome, and joyfully traverse with me the regions of
space. You see, count, that the notion of eternity and God proceeds
from our conceptions of love, and that, where there is no love, faith
is also wanting.
'Your wife died suddenly on the anniversary of the day on which Maria
and I had taken the oath. I considered this event as a sign from
Heaven, from her who, yonder above the skies, still loved me. I thought
the mother had called her daughter to herself, for she was the only
being on earth who testified to her broken oath. I deceived myself.
'I had scarcely returned to Spain, when I received a visit from a monk.
'"Pardon me, senor," said he, "if I take the liberty of putting a
question to you. Have you a chain, which you once received from a
distinguished lady whom you loved?"
'I gazed at the man in astonishment, and answered, "Yes; what can you
know about it?"
'"Señor, I prepared an old woman for death who had been engaged in some
cases of poisoning, and she confessed the following, which she gave me
permission to repeat, if by so doing any advantage might be gained:
'One evening,' these were her words, 'I was summoned to a young and
beautiful lady, she was called Maria Viso'--was that the name of your
beloved?--'and she begged me to insert a powerful poison in the clasp
of a chain.'
'"Although the wretched woman was accustomed to such commissions, she
nevertheless asked who was to wear the chain? The lady answered that it
had been given to her by an importunate suitor who was called Caldero,
and she now wished to send back the chain to him. She also said that
her feelings towards him were changed, and she now preferred another,
but that her parents, who formerly opposed her marriage with him, had
become anxious for it, and wished to force it on her, and she was
determined to get rid of him.
'"The woman thereupon inserted the poison into the clasp. The lady had
afterwards married a heretic, and this act of hers it was which had
roused the poisoner's conscience, for notwithstanding her being so
great a criminal, she was an orthodox Catholic. She sought to find you
out, in the hope that the scheme had not succeeded according to the
lady's intentions. The Lord be praised and thanked that you did not
wear that chain, you would undoubtedly have died if you had; the best
thing you can do with it will be to present it to our poor monastery,
for with the pure everything is pure, and the poison might be expunged
by melting the gold."
'I stood like one turned into a statue of stone. It was, then, the
decree of fate that the mother should be accessary to the daughter's
death, and the latter be sacrificed for the crime of the former!
'Picture to yourself now, if you can, count, blessed spirits: imagine
to yourself, now, a heaven on earth with a woman you love; cling to a
belief in another world; if you can do all this, then you are indeed a
perfect fool. I have relapsed into my old views: the earth remains
earth, and nothing more. When you are reading this I shall be dead,
cold, and buried. If, however, I have an immortal soul, you will know
the contents of this letter before it arrives, otherwise you must
believe that nothing remains of him who once was your friend.
The much-to-be-pitied victim of Caldero's cold atheism and contempt of
mankind still sat in the same position, staring gloomily before him,
without uttering a syllable, but now and then heaving a deep-drawn
sigh. It was evident that he would soon be at rest, for every day he
became weaker and weaker.
I scarcely ever left the bedside of the unfortunate young man, in the
hope that he might, if only for a few minutes, regain his senses, when
I could speak peace to his soul.
One evening, after this sad state of affairs had continued without
interruption for a fortnight, I was sitting at a table reading, with my
back turned to the count, when I heard a low whispering behind me; it
was his voice. I listened--it was a fervent, humble prayer for peace in
death, and pardon for all his sins. I let him finish his prayer
'Who is there?' asked the count, in a feeble tone.
I drew near to the bed.
'Is it you, Pastor Z.?' he said mildly. 'Still up? It is late. I am
happy now, my friend, for it will soon be day; I have had a long night.
I am dying, but I bear within me a strong voice crying, 'Love is
faith,' and I pray, bowing myself in humility before the God of Love. I
have wandered from the right path, I was misled, misfortune pursued me,
and I became, through my thoughtlessness, Julia's murderer. The
crushing intelligence contained in Caldero's letter shook my trust in
everything, for it is a relief to a guilty soul not to believe in a
Judge. But my presumptuous folly was punished, my understanding became
obscured. A light has burst upon me now, and since I have prayed I feel
at peace. I prayed--for many years I neglected to do so--yes, I prayed
with clasped hands, as my mother used to teach me when I was an
innocent child. Alas, I ought always to have prayed thus.'
He ceased speaking, and leaning his head against his pillow, he looked
steadfastly at me with a mild, glorified expression of countenance. I
had sunk upon my knees at the side of his bed, and poured forth thanks
to my God for the ray of light and hope which he had permitted to
penetrate the darkened mind of the poor sufferer.
'Lord!' I entreated, 'grant him light!'
'Light,' he repeated, in a low whisper, 'Lord! more light. God be
praised! there is light!'
He closed his eyes, heaved a long sigh, and in another world he
received an explanation of that secret, the solution of which he had
only grasped in his last hour.
He now reposes in the family vault by the side of his beloved Julia;
the receptacle of the dead is full. The pieces of his shattered
escutcheon lie scattered upon the floor around his coffin,
key of the vault will be needed no more!
END OF VOL. II.
LONDON: PRINTED BY W. CLOWES AND SONS, STAMFORD STREET,
AND CHARING CROSS.