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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesO. T., A Danish Romance - Chapter 10
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O. T., A Danish Romance - Chapter 10 Post by :twoelfling Category :Long Stories Author :Hans Christian Andersen Date :May 2012 Read :1806

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O. T., A Danish Romance - Chapter 10

CHAPTER X

"Were the pease not tender, and the vegetables fresh and sweet as sugar What was the matter with the hams, the smoked goose-breasts, and the herrings? What with the roasted lamb, and the refreshing red-sprinkled head-lettuce? Was not the vinegar sharp, and the nut-oil balmy? Was not the butter as sweet as a nut, the red radishes tender? What?" --VOSS'S Louise.

"Mr. Thostrup shall see the Kammerjunker's old country-seat; to-morrow we must go over."

Louise could not go with them, a hundred small duties chained her to the house. The most important of them all was ironing.

"But that the house-maid can do," said Sophie. "Do come with us."

"When thou seest thy linen nice and neat in thy drawers," returned Louise, "thou wilt certainly pardon me for remaining at home."

"Yes, thou art a glorious girl!" said Sophie; "thou dost deserve to have been known by Jean Paul, and made immortal in one of his books. Thou dost deserve the good fortune of being sung of by such a poet."

"Dost thou call it good fortune," answered the sister, "when the whole world directs its attention to one person?--that must be painful! unhappy! No, it is much better not to be remarked at all. Take my greetings with you, and ask for my Claudius back; they have had it now a whole half year."

"There, they have kept half my sister's library," said Sophie, smiling to Otto. "You must know she has only two books: Mynster's Sermons, and the 'Wandsbecker Boten.'"

The carriage rolled away through the chestnut avenue. "There upon the hill, close by the wood, did I act the elf-maiden," said Sophie. "I was not yet confirmed; there were strangers staying with us at the hall, and we wandered in the beautiful moonlight through the wood. Two of my friends and I hastened toward the hill, took hold of each other's hands and danced in a ring. The day after, two persons of the congregation told the preacher about three elfin-maidens, clad in white, who had danced upon the hill in the moonlight. The elfin-maidens were we; but that our backs were hollow as baking-troughs, and that the hill glanced like silver, was their own invention."

"And in this oak," exclaimed Wilhelm, "when a boy, I killed the first bird which fell from my shot. It was a crow, and was very honorably interred."

"Yes, beneath my sister's weeping-willow," said Sophie. "We buried it in an old chapeaubras, adorned with white bows; the grave was decorated with peony-leaves and yellow lilies. Wilhelm, who was then a big boy, made an oration, and Louise strewed flowers."

"You were little fools!" said the mother. "But see, who comes here?"

"O, my little Dickie, my dwarf of Kenilworth!" exclaimed Sophie, as a little hump-backed man, with thin legs and an old face, approached. He was dressed as a peasant, and bore upon his back a little knapsack of red calfskin, the hairy side turned outward: in this he carried his violin.

"Is he called Dickie?" asked Otto.

"No, that is only a joke of Sophie's," pursued Wilhelm; "she must always make suitable people romantic. He is called commonly 'Musikanti.' The inhabitant of Funen Italianizes most names; otherwise he is called Peter Cripple."

"You will hear his tones," said Sophie. "The day after to-morrow, when we have the mowing-feast, he will he number one. He understands music with which you are scarcely acquainted; he will play you the 'Shoemaker's Dance' as well as 'Cherry-soup:' such dances as these have people here in the country."

"We are now beyond my lands, and upon our neighbor's," said the old lady. "You will see a thorough old mansion."

"Now, I should like to know how the inhabitants will please Mr. Thostrup," said Sophie. "The Kammerjunker you know; he is an excellent country gentleman. His sister, on the contrary, is a little peculiar: she belongs to that class of people who always, even wily the best intentions, say unpleasant things. She has for this quite a rare talent--you will soon experience this; but she does not intend anything so bad. She can also joke! Thank God that you will not remain there over night, otherwise you would experience what she and the Mamsell can invent!"

"Yes, the Mamsell is my friend!" said Wilhelm. "You will see her work-box with all the curiosities. That little box plays a great part: it is always taken out with her when she pays a visit--for the sake of conversation it is brought out; all is then looked through, and every article goes the round of the company. Yes, there are beautiful things to be seen: a little wheelbarrow with a pincushion, a silver fish, and the little yard-measure of silk ribbon."

"Yes, and the amber heart!" said Sophie; "the little Napoleon of cast iron, and the officer who is pasted fast to the bottom of the box: that is a good friend in Odense, she lately told to me in confidence."

"See what beautiful stone fences the Kammerjunker has made!" said the mother. "And how beautifully the cherry-trees grow! He is an industrious man!"

They approached the garden. It was laid out in the old French style, with straight walks, pyramids of box, and white painted stone figures: satyrs and goddesses peeped through the green foliage. You now caught sight of a high tower with a spire; and soon the whole of the old mansion presented itself to view. The water was conveyed away from the broad moats, where the weeping willows with bowed heads and uncovered roots stood in the warm sunshine. A number of work-people were busily employed in clearing the moats of mud, which was wheeled in barrows on both sides.

They soon reached the principal court-yard. The barns and the out-buildings lay on the opposite side. A crowd of dogs rushed forth barking toward the carriage--all possible races, from the large Danish hound, which is known to the Parisian, down to the steward's little pug-dog, which had mixed with this company. Here stood the greyhound, with his long legs, beside the turnspit. You saw all varieties, and each had its peculiar and melodious bark. A couple of peacocks, with bright outspread tails, raised at the same time a cry, which must have made an impression. The whole court-yard had a striking air of cleanliness. The grass was weeded from between the stones; all was swept and arranged in its appointed order. Before the principal flight of steps grew four large lime-trees; their tops, from youth bent together and then clipped short, formed in spring and summer two large green triumphal arches. On the right stood upon an upright beam, which was carved and formed into a pillar, a prettily painted dove-cot; and its gay inhabitants fluttered and cooed around. The peacock-pigeon emulated the peacock in spreading its tail; and the cropper-pigeon elevated itself upon its long legs, and drew itself up, as though it would welcome the strangers with the air of a grand gentleman. The reddish-brown tiles and the bright window-panes were the only things which had a modern air. The building itself, from the stone window-seats to the old-fashioned tower through which you entered, proclaimed its antiquity. In the vaulted entrance-hall stood two immense presses: the quantity of wood which formed them, and the artistical carving, testified to their great age. Above the door were fastened a couple of antlers.

The Kammerjunker's sister, Miss Jakoba, a young lady of about thirty, neither stout nor thin, but with a strange mixture of joviality and indolence, approached them. She appeared to rejoice very much in the visit.

"Well, you are come over, then!" said she to Wilhelm. "I thought you had enough to do with your examination."

Wilhelm smiled, and assured her that after so much study people required relaxation.

"Yes, you doubtless study in handsome boots!" said the young lady, and in a friendly manner turned toward Sophie. "Good heavens, miss!" she exclaimed, "how the sun has burnt your nose! That looks horrible! Don't you ever wear a veil? you, who otherwise look so well!"

Otto was a stranger to her. He escaped such unpleasant remarks. "They should spend the whole day there," insisted Miss Jakoba; but mamma spoke of being at home by noon.

"Nothing will come of that!" said Jakoba. "I have expected you; and we have cooked a dinner, and made preparations, and I will not have had all this trouble in vain. There are some especial dishes for you, and of these you shall eat." This was all said in such a good-humored tone that even a stranger could not have felt himself offended. The Kammerjunker was in the fields looking after his flax; he would soon be back. Squire Wilhelm could in the mean time conduct Mr. Thostrup about the premises: "he would otherwise have nothing to do," said she.

No one must remain in the sitting-room; it was so gloomy there! The walls were still, as in by-gone days, covered with black leather, upon which were impressed gold flowers. No, they should go to the hall--that had been modernized since the Baroness was last there. The old chimney-piece with carved ornaments was removed, and a pretty porcelain stove had taken its place. The walls were covered with new paper from Paris. You could there contemplate all the public buildings of that city,--Notre Dame, Saint Sulpice, and the Tuileries. Long red curtains, thrown over gilt rods, hung above the high windows. All this splendor was admired.

"I prefer the antique sitting-room, after all," said Sophie; "the old chimney-piece and the leather hangings. One fairly lives again in the days of chivalry!"

"Yes, you have always been a little foolish!" said Jakoba, but softened her words by a smile and a pressure of the hand. "No, the hall is more lively. Ah!" she suddenly exclaimed; "Tine has placed her work-box in the window! That is disorder!"

"O, is that the celebrated work-box, with its many fool's tricks?" inquired Wilhelm, as he laughingly took it up.

"There are neither fools nor tricks in the box," said Jakoba. "But only look in the mirror in the lid, and then you will perhaps see one of the two."

"No rude speeches, my young lady!" said Wilhelm; "I am an academical burgher!"

The Kammerjunker now entered, attired in the same riding dress in which we made his acquaintance. He had visited his hay and oats, had seen after the people who were working at the fences, and had been also in the plantation. It had been a warm forenoon.

"Now, Miss Sophie," said he, "do you see how I am clearing out the court? It costs me above five hundred dollars; and still they are the peasants of the estate who clear away the mud. But I shall get a delicate manure-heap, so fit and rich that it's quite a pleasure. But, Jakoba, where is the coffee?"

"Only let it come in through the door," said Jakoba, somewhat angrily. "You certainly ate something before you went from home. Let me attend to the affairs of the ladies, and do thou attend to the gentlemen, so that they may not stand and get weary."

The Kammerjunker conducted the friends up the winding stone stairs into the old tower.

"All solid and good!" said he. "We no longer build in this manner. The loop-holes here, close under the roof, were walled up already in my father's time. But only notice this timber!"

The whole loft appeared a gigantic skeleton composed of beams, one crossing the other. On either side of the loft was a small vaulted chamber, with a brick fire-place. Probably these chambers had been used as guard-rooms; a kind of warder's walk led from these, between the beam-palisade and the broad wall.

"Yes, here," said the Kammerjunker, "they could have had a good lookout toward the enemy. Look through my telescope. You have here the whole country from Vissenberg to Munkebobanke, the Belt, and the heights of Svendborg. Only see! The air is clear. We see both Langeland and Zealand. Here one could, in 1807, have well observed the English fleet."

The three climbed up the narrow ladder and came past the great clock, the leaden weights of which, had they fallen, would have dashed through the stone steps, and soon the gentlemen sat on the highest point. The Kammerjunker requested the telescope, placed it and exclaimed:--

"Did I not think so? If one has not them always under one's eyes they begin playing pranks! Yes, I see it very well! There, now, the fellows who are working at the fences have begun to romp with the girls! they do nothing! Yes, they don't believe that I am sitting here in the tower and looking at them!"

"Then a telescope is, after all, a dangerous weapon!" exclaimed Wilhelm. "You can look at people when they least expect it. Fortunately, our seat lies hidden behind the wood: we are, at all events, safe."

"Yes, that it is, my friend," returned the other; "the outer sides of the garden are still bare. Did I not, last autumn, see Miss Sophie quite distinctly, when she was gathering service-berries in her little basket? And then, what tricks did she not play? She certainly did not think that I sat here and watched tier pretty gambols!"

They quitted the tower, and passed through the so-called Knight's Hall, where immense beams, laid one on the other, supported the roof. At either end of the hall was a huge fireplace, with armorial bearings painted above: the hall was now used as a granary; they were obliged to step over a heap of corn before reaching the family pew in the little chapel, which was no longer used for divine service.

"This might become a pretty little room," said the Kammerjunker, "but we have enough, and therefore we let this, for curiosity's sake, remain in its old state. The moon is worth its money!" and he pointed toward the vaulted ceiling, where the moon was represented as a white disk, in which the painter, with much naivete, had introduced a man bearing a load of coals upon his back; in faithful representation of the popular belief regarding the black spot in the moon, which supposes this to be a man whom the Lord has sent up there because he stole his neighbor's coal. "That great picture on the right, there," pursued he, "is Mrs. Ellen Marsviin; I purchased it at an auction. One of the peasants put up for it; I asked him what he would do with this big piece of furniture--he could never get it in through his door. But do you know what a speculation he had? It was not such a bad one, after all. See! the rain runs so beautifully off the painted canvas, he would have a pair of breeches made out of it, to wear in rainy weather behind the plough; they would keep the rain off! I thought, however, I ought to prevent the portrait of the highly honorable Mrs. Ellen Marsviin being so profaned. I bought it: now she hangs there, and looks tolerably well pleased. The peasant got a knight instead--perhaps one of my own ancestors, who was now cut up into breeches. See, that is what one gets by being painted!"

"But the cupboard in the pillar there?" inquired Otto.

"There, certainly, were Bibles and Prayer-books kept. Now I have in it what I call sweetmeats for the Chancery-counselor Thomsen: old knives of sacrifice, coins and rings, which I have found in the horse-pond and up yonder in the cairns: not a quarter of a yard below the turf we found one pot upon another; round each a little inclosure of stones--a flat stone as covering, and underneath stood the pot, with burnt giants' bones, and a little button or the blade of a knife. The best things are already gone away to Copenhagen, and should the Counselor come, he will, God help me! carry away the rest. That may be, then, willingly, for I cannot use the stuff, after all."

After coffee, the guests wandered through the old garden: the clearing away of the mud was more closely observed, the dairy and pig-sty visited, the new threshing-machine inspected. But now the Russian bath should be also essayed; "it was heated!" But the end of the affair was, that only the Kammerjunker himself made use of it. The dinner-table was prepared, and then he returned. "But here something is wanting!" exclaimed he; left the room, and returned immediately with two large bouquets, which he stuck into an ale-glass which he placed upon the table. "Where Miss Sophie dines, the table must be ornamented with flowers: certainly we cannot lay garlands, as you do!" He seated himself at the end of the table, and wished, as he himself said, to represent the President Lars: they had had the "Wandsbecker Boten" half a year in the house, and it would certainly please Miss Sophie if they betrayed some acquaintance with books. This Lars and the flowers, here, meant quite as much as in the south a serenade under the windows of the fair one.

When, toward evening, the carriage for their return drew up before the door, Otto still stood contemplating some old inscriptions which were built into the tower-wall.

"That you can look at another time," said Jakoba; "now you must be of use a little!" And she reached him the ladies' cloaks.

Amidst promises of a return visit and the parting yelping of the dogs the carriage rolled away.

"I have fairly fallen in love with the old place!" said Sophie.

"The Kaminerjunker gains much upon nearer acquaintance," said Otto.

They bad now reached the furthest extremity of the garden. A flower-rain showered itself over them and the carriage. The Kammerjunker, Jakoba, and the Mamsell, had taken a shorter way, and now waved an adieu to the travellers, whilst at the same time they scattered hyacinths and stocks over them. With a practiced hand Jakoba threw, as a mark of friendship, a great pink straight into Otto's face. "Farewell, farewell!" sounded from both sides, and, accompanied by the sound of the evening-bell from the near village, for it was sunset, the carriage rolled away.

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