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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesO. T., A Danish Romance - Chapter 16
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O. T., A Danish Romance - Chapter 16 Post by :twoelfling Category :Long Stories Author :Hans Christian Andersen Date :May 2012 Read :1407

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O. T., A Danish Romance - Chapter 16

CHAPTER XVI

"Sure 'tis fair in foreign land,
But not so fair as home;

Let me but see thy mountains grand
Glaciers and snowy dome!

Let me but hear the sound that tells
Of climbing cattle, dressed with bells."

The Switzer's Homesickness.


Not until after breakfast did the preacher pass over to Otto's affairs. His grandfather's will made him the sole heir to the large property; a man in Copenhagen, the merchant Berger, should be his guardian, since the preacher did not wish to undertake the office. Rosalie was not forgotten: her devotion and fidelity had won for her a relative's right. Her last days should be free from care: she had truly striven to remove all care from the dead whilst yet he lived. An old age free from care awaited her; but Otto wished that she should also have a happy old age. He imparted his plan to the preacher; but the latter shook his head, thought it was not practicable, and regarded it as a mere fancy--a whim. But such it was not.

Some days passed by. One afternoon Rosalie sat upon a small wooden bench under the cherry-trees, and was making mourning for the winter.

"This is the last summer that we shall sit here," said she; "the last summer that this is our home. Now I am become equally rooted to this spot; it grieves me that I must leave it."

"Thou wast forced to leave thy dear Switzerland," said Otto; "that was still harder!"

"I was then young," answered she. "The young tree may be easily transplanted, but the old one has shot forth deeper roots. Denmark is a good land--a beautiful land!"

"But not the west coast of Jutland!" exclaimed Otto. "For thy green pasture hast thou here heath; for thy mountains, low sand-hills."

"Upon the Jura Mountains there is also heath," said Rosalie. "The heath here often reminds me of my home on the Jura. There also is it cold, and snow can fall already in August. The fir-trees then stand as if powdered over."

"I love Switzerland, which I have never seen," pursued Otto. "Thy relation has given me a conception of the picturesque magnificence of this mountain-land. I have a plan, Rosalie. I know that in the heart of a mountaineer homesickness never dies. I remember well how thy eyes sparkled when thou toldest of the walk toward Le Locle and Neufchatel; even as a boy I felt at thy words the light mountain air. I rode with thee upon the dizzy height, where the woods lay below us like potato fields. What below arose, like the smoke from a charcoal-burner's kiln, was a cloud in the air. I saw the Alpine chain, like floating cloud mountains; below mist, above dark shapes with glancing glaciers."

"Yes, Otto," said Rosalie, and her eyes sparkled with youthful fire; "so looks the Alpine chain when one goes from Le Locle to Neulfchatel: so did I see it when I descended the Jura for the list time. It was in August. The trees, with their autumnal foliage, stood yellow and red between the dark firs; barberries and hips grew among the tall fern. The Alps lay in such a beautiful light, their feet blue as heaven, their peaks snow-white in the clear sunshine. I was in a sorrowful mood; I was leaving my mountains! Then I wrote in my book--O, I remember it so well!--The high Alps appear to me the folded wings of the earth: how if she should raise them! how if the immense wings should unfold, with their gay images of dark woods, glaciers, and clouds! What a picture! At the Last Judgment will the earth doubtless unfold these pinions, soar up to God, and in the rays of His sunlight disappear! I also have been young, Otto," pursued she, with a melancholy smile. "Thou wouldst have felt still more deeply at the sight of this splendor of nature. The lake at the foot of the mountains was smooth as a mirror; a little boat with white sails swam, like a swan, upon its expanse. On the road along which we drove were the peasants beating down chestnuts; the grapes hung in large black bunches. How an impression such as this can root itself in the memory! It is five and thirty years since, and yet I still see that boat with the white sail, the high Alps, and the black grapes."

"Thou shalt see thy Switzerland again, Rosalie," exclaimed Otto; "again hear the bells of the cows upon the green pastures! Thou shalt go once more to the chapel in Franche Compte, shalt visit thy friends at Le Locle, see the subterranean mill, and the Doub fall."

"The mill wheel yet goes round, the water dashes down as in my youth; but the friends are gone, my relatives dispersed! I should appear a stranger there; and when one has reached my age, nature cannot satisfy--one must have people!"

"Thou knowest, Rosalie, my grandfather has settled a sum upon thee so long as thou livest. Now I have thought thou couldst spend thy latter days with thy beloved ones at home, in the glorious Switzerland. In October I take my philosophicum; the following summer I would then accompany thee. I must also see that splendid mountain-land,--know something more of the world than I have yet known. I know how thy thoughts always dwell upon Switzerland. Thither will I reconduct thee; thou wilt feel thyself less lonely there than here in Denmark."

"Thou art carried away by the thoughts of youth, as thou shouldst and must be, thou dear, sweet soul!" said Rosalie, smiling. "At my age it is not so easy."

"We will make short days' journeys," said Otto, "go with the steamboat up the Rhine--that is not fatiguing; and from Basel one is soon in Franche Compte on the Jura."

"No, upon the heath, near Vestervovov, as it is called here, will old Rosalie die; here I have felt myself at home, here I have two or three friends. The family at Lemvig have invited me, have for me a place at table, a little room, and friendly faces. Switzerland would be no longer that Switzerland which I quitted. Nature would greet me as an old acquaintance; it would be to me music, once more to hear the ringing of the cows' bells; it would affect me deeply, once again to kneel in the little chapel on the mountain: but I should soon feel myself a greater stranger there than here. Had it been fifteen years ago, my sister would still have been living, the dear, pious Adele! She dwelt with my uncle close on the confines of Neufchatel, as thou knowest, scarcely a quarter of a mile from Le Locle--_the town_, as we called it, because it was the largest place in the neighborhood. Now there are only distant relations of mine living, who have forgotten me. I am a stranger there. Denmark gave me bread, it will also give me a grave!"

"I thought of giving thee a pleasure!" said Otto.

"That thou dost by thy love to me!" returned she.

"I thought thou wouldst have shown me thy mountains, thy home, of which thou hast so often spoken!"

"That can I still do. I remember every spot, every tree--all remains so clear in my recollection. Then we ascend together the Jura higher and higher; here are no more vineyards to be found, no maize, no chestnuts only dark pines, huge cliffs, here and there a beech, as green and large as in Denmark. Now we have the wood behind us, we are many feet above the sea; thou canst perceive this by the freshness of the air. Everywhere are green meadows; uninterruptedly reaches our ear the ringing of the cow-bells. Thou as yet seest no town, and yet we are close upon Le Locle. Suddenly the road turns; in the midst of the mountain-level we perceive a small valley, and in this lies the town, with its red roofs, its churches, and large gardens. Close beneath the windows rises the mountain-side, with its grass and flowers; it looks as though the cattle must be precipitated upon the houses. We go through the long street, past the church; the inhabitants are Protestants--it is a complete town of watchmakers. My uncle and Adele also sat the whole day, and worked at wheels and chains. That was for Monsieur Houriet, in Le Locle. His daughters I know; one is called Rosalie, like myself. Rosalie and Lydia, they will certainly have forgotten me! But it is true that we are upon our own journey! Now, thou seest, at the end of the town we do not follow the broad road--that leads to Besancon; we remain in the lesser one, here in the valley where the town lies. The beautiful valley! The green mountain-sides we keep to our right; on it are scattered houses, with large stones upon their steep wooden roofs, and with little gardens tilled with plum-trees. Steep cliff-walls shut in the valley; there stands up a crag; if thou climbest it thou canst look straight into France: one sees a plain, flat like the Danish plains. In the valley where we are, close under the rock, lies a little house; O, I see it distinctly! white-washed and with blue painted window-frames: at the gate a great chained dog. I hear him bark! We step into that quiet, friendly little house! The children are playing about on the ground. O, my little Henry-Numa-Robert! Ah, it is true that now he is older and taller than thou! We descend the steps toward the cellar. Here stand sacks and chests of flour; under the floor one hears a strange roaring; still a few steps lower, and we must light the lamp, for here it is dark. We find ourselves in a great water-mill, a subterranean mill. Deep below in the earth rushes a river-- above no one dreams of it; the water dashes down several fathoms over the rushing wheel, which threatens to seize our clothes and whirl us away into the circle. The steps on which we stand are slippery: the stone walls drip with water, and only a step beyond the depth appears bottomless! O, thou wilt love this mill as I love it! Again having reached the light of day, and under free heaven, one only perceives the quiet, friendly little house. Dost thou know, Otto, often as thou hast sat quiet and dreaming, silent as a statue, have I thought of my mill, and the repose which it presented? and yet how wildly the stream roared in its bosom, how the wheels rushed round, and how gloomy it was in the depth!"

"We will leave the mill!" said Otto, and sought to lead her from her reflections back to her own relation. "We find ourselves in the wood, where the ringing of the evening-bell reaches our ear from the little chapel in Franche Compte."

"There stands my father's house!" said Rosalie. "From the corner-window one looks over the wood toward Aubernez, (Author's Note: A village in the canton Neufchatel, lying close upon the river Doub, where it forms the boundary between Switzerland and France.) where the ridge leads over the Doub. The sun shines upon the river, which, far below, winds along, gleaming like the clearest silver."

"And the whole of France spreads itself out before us!" said Otto.

"How beautiful! O, how beautiful!" exclaimed Rosalie, and her eyes sparkled as she gazed before her; but soon her glance became sad, and she pressed Otto's hand. "No one will welcome me to my home! I know neither their joys nor their sorrows--they are not my own family! In Denmark--I am at home. When the cold sea-mist spreads itself over the heath I often fancy I am living among my mountains, where the heather grows. The mist seems to me then to be a snow-cloud which rests over the mountains, and thus, when other people are complaining of the bad weather, I am up among my mountains!"

"Thou wilt then remove to the family at Lemvig?" asked Otto.

"There I am welcome!" returned she.

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