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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesO. T., A Danish Romance - Chapter 2
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O. T., A Danish Romance - Chapter 2 Post by :twoelfling Category :Long Stories Author :Hans Christian Andersen Date :May 2012 Read :2336

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O. T., A Danish Romance - Chapter 2

CHAPTER II

"At last we separate:
To Jutland one, to Funen others go;
And still the quick thought comes,
--A day so bright, so full of fun,
Never again on us shall rise."--CARL BAGGER.

It was in October of the year 1829. Examen artium had been passed through. Several young students were assembled in the evening at the abode of one of their comrades, a young Copenhagener of eighteen, whose parents were giving him and his new friends a banquet in honor of the examination. The mother and sister had arranged everything in the nicest manner, the father had given excellent wine out of the cellar, and the student himself, here the rex convivii, had provided tobacco, genuine Oronoko-canaster. With regard to Latin, the invitation--which was, of course, composed in Latin--informed the guests that each should bring his own.

The company, consisting of one and twenty persons--and these were only the most intimate friends--was already assembled. About one third of the friends were from the provinces, the remainder out of Copenhagen.

"Old Father Homer shall stand in the middle of the table!" said one of the liveliest guests, whilst he took down from the stove a plaster bust and placed it upon the covered table.

"Yes, certainly, he will have drunk as much as the other poets!" said an older one. "Give me one of thy exercise-books, Ludwig! I will cut him out a wreath of vine-leaves, since we have no roses and since I cannot cut out any."

"I have no libation!" cried a third,--"Favete linguis." And he sprinkled a small quantity of salt, from the point of a knife, upon the bust, at the same time raising his glass to moisten it with a few drops of wine.

"Do not use my Homer as you would an ox!" cried the host. "Homer shall have the place of honor, between the bowl and the garland-cake! He is especially my poet! It was he who in Greek assisted me to laudabilis et quidem egregie. Now we will mutually drink healths! Jorgen shall be magister bibendi, and then we will sing 'Gaudeamus igitur,' and 'Integer vitae.'"

"The Sexton with the cardinal's hat shall be the precentor!" cried one of the youths from the provinces, pointing toward a rosy-cheeked companion.

"O, now I am no longer sexton!" returned the other laughing. "If thou bringest old histories up again, thou wilt receive thy old school-name, 'the Smoke-squirter.'"

"But that is a very nice little history!" said the other. "We called him 'Sexton," from the office his father held; but that, after all, is not particularly witty. It was better with the hat, for it did, indeed, resemble a cardinal's hat. I, in the mean time, got my name in a more amusing manner."

"He lived near the school," pursued the other; "he could always slip home when we had out free quarters of an hour: and then one day he had filled his mouth with tobacco smoke, intending to blow it into our faces; but when he entered the passage with his filled cheeks the quarter of an hour was over, and we were again in class: the rector was still standing in the doorway; he could not, therefore, blow the smoke out of his mouth, and so wished to slip in as he was. 'What have you there in your mouth?' asked the rector; but Philip could answer nothing, without at the same time losing the smoke. 'Now, cannot you speak?' cried the rector, and gave him a box on the ear, so that the smoke burst through nose and mouth. This looked quite exquisite; the affair caused the rector such pleasure, that he presented the poor sinner with the nota bene."

"Integer vitae!" broke in the Precentor, and harmoniously followed the other voices. After this, a young Copenhagener exhibited his dramatic talent by mimicking most illusively the professors of the Academy, and giving their peculiarities, yet in such a good-natured manner that it must have amused even the offended parties themselves. Now followed the healths--"Vivant omnes hi et hae!"

"A health to the prettiest girl!" boldly cried one of the merriest brothers. "The prettiest girl!" repeated a pair of the younger ones, and pushed their glasses toward each other, whilst the blood rushed to their cheeks at this their boldness, for they had never thought of a beloved being, which, nevertheless, belonged to their new life. The roundelay now commenced, in which each one must give the Christian name of his lady-love, and assuredly every second youth caught a name out of the air; some, however, repeated a name with a certain palpitation of the heart. The discourse became more animated; the approaching military exercises, the handsome uniform, the reception in the students' club, and its pleasures, were all matters of the highest interest. But there was the future philologicum and philosophicum--yes, that also was discussed; there they must exhibit their knowledge of Latin.

"What do you think," said one of the party, "if once a week we alternately met at each other's rooms, and held disputations? No Danish word must be spoken. This might be an excellent scheme."

"I agree to that!" cried several.

"Regular laws must be drawn up."

"Yes, and we must have our best Latin scholar, the Jutlander, Otto Thostrup, with us! He wrote his themes in hexameters."

"He is not invited here this evening," remarked the neighbor, the young Baron Wilhelm of Funen, the only nobleman in the company.

"Otto Thostrup!" answered the host. "Yes, truly he's a clever fellow, but he seems to me so haughty. There is something about him that does not please me at all. We are still no dunces, although he did receive nine prae caeteris!"

"Yet it was very provoking," cried another, "that he received the only Non in mathematics. Otherwise he would have been called in. Now he will only have to vex himself about his many brilliant characters."

"Yes, and he is well versed in mathematics!" added Wilhelm "There was something incorrect in the writing; the inspector was to blame for that, but how I know not. Thostrup is terribly vehement, and can set all respect at defiance; he became angry, and went out. There was only a piece of unwritten paper presented from him, and this brought him a cipher, which the verbal examination could not bring higher than non. Thostrup is certainly a glorious fellow. We have made a tour together in the steamboat from Helsingoer to Copenhagen, and in the written examination we sat beside each other until the day when we had mathematics, and then I sat below him. I like him very much, his pride excepted; and of that we must break him."

"Herr Baron," said his neighbor, "I am of your opinion. Shall not we drink the Thou-brotherhood?"

"To-night we will all of us drink the Thou!" said the host; "it is nothing if comrades and good friends call each other _you_."

"Evoe Bacchus!" they joyously shouted. The glasses were filled, one arm was thrown round that of the neighbor, and the glasses were emptied, whilst several commenced singing "dulce cum sodalibus!"

"Tell me what thou art called?" demanded one of the younger guests of his new Thou-brother.

"What am I called?" replied he. "With the exception of one letter, the same as the Baron."

"The Baron!" cried a third; "yes, where is he?"

"There he stands talking at the door; take your glasses! now have all of us drank the Thou-brotherhood?"

The glasses were again raised; the young Baron laughed, clinked his glass, and shouted in the circle, "Thou, Thou!" But in his whole bearing there lay something constrained, which, however, none of the young men remarked, far less allowed themselves to imagine that his sudden retreat, during the first drinking, perhaps occurred from the sole object of avoiding it. But soon was he again one of the most extravagant; promised each youth who would study theology a living on his estate when he should once get it into his own hands; and proposed that the Latin disputations should commence with him, and on the following Friday. Otto Thostrup, however, should he of the party--if he chose, of course being understood; for he was a capital student, and his friend they had made a journey together and had been neighbors at the green table.

Among those who were the earliest to make their valete amici was the Baron. Several were not yet inclined to quit this joyous circle. The deepest silence reigned in the streets; it was the most beautiful moonlight. In most houses all had retired to rest--only here and there was a light still seen, most persons slept, even those whose sense of duty should leave banished the god of sleep: thus sat a poor hackney-coachman, aloft upon his coach-box, before the house where he awaited his party, and enjoyed, the reins wound about his hand, the much-desired rest. Wilhelm (henceforth we will only call the young Baron by his Christian name) walked alone through the street. The wine had heated his northern blood--besides which it never flowed slowly; his youthful spirits, his jovial mood, and the gayety occasioned by the merry company he had just quitted did not permit him quietly to pass by this sleeping Endymion. Suddenly it occurred to him to open the coach-door and leap in; which having done, he let the glass fall and called out with a loud voice, "Drive on!" The coachman started up out of his blessed sleep and asked, quite confused, "Where to?" Without reflecting about the matter, Wilhelm cried, "To the Ship in West Street." The coachman drove on; about half-way, Wilhelm again opened the coach-door, a bold spring helped him out, and the coach rolled on. It stopped at the public-house of the Ship. The coachman got down and opened the door; there was no one within; he thrust his head in thoroughly to convince himself; but no, the carriage was empty! "Extraordinary!" said the fellow; "can I have dreamed it? But still I heard, quite distinctly, how I was told to drive to the Ship! Lord preserve us! now they are waiting for me!" He leaped upon the box and drove rapidly back again.

In the mean time Wilhelm had reached his abode in Vineyard Street; he opened a window to enjoy the beautiful night, and gazed out upon the desolate church-yard which is shut in by shops. He had no inclination for sleep, although everything in the street, even the watchmen not excepted, appeared to rejoice the gift of God. Wilhelm thought upon the merry evening party, upon his adventure with the poor hackney-coachman, then took down his violin from the wall and began to play certain variations.

The last remaining guests from the honorable carousal, merrier than when Wilhelm left them, now came wandering up the street. One of them jodeled sweetly, and no watchman showed himself as a disturbing principle. They heard Wilhelm violin and recognized the musician.

"Play us a Francaise, thou up there!" cried they.

"But the watchman?" whispered one of the less courageous.

"Zounds, there he sits!" cried a third, and pointed toward a sleeping object which leaned its head upon a large wooden chest before a closed booth.

"He is happy!" said the first speaker. "If we had only the strong Icelander here, he would soon hang him up by his bandelier upon one of the iron hooks. He has done that before now; he has the strength of a bear. He seized such a lazy fellow as this right daintily by his girdle on one of the hooks at the weighing-booth. There hung the watchman and whistled to the others; the first who hastened to the spot was immediately hung up beside him, and away ran the Icelander whilst the two blew a duet."

"Here, take hold!" cried one of the merry brothers, quickly opening the chest, the lid of which was fastened by a peg. "Let us put the watchman into the chest; he sleeps indeed like a horse!" In a moment, the four had seized the sleeper, who certainly awoke during the operation, but he already lay in the chest. The lid flew down, and two or three of the friends sprang upon it whilst the peg was stuck in again. The watchman immediately seized his whistle and drew the most heart-rending tones from it. Quickly the tormenting spirits withdrew themselves; yet not so far but that they could still hear the whistle and observe what would take place.

The watchmen now came up.

"The deuce! where art thou?" cried they, and then discovered the place.

"Ah, God help me!" cried the prisoner. "Let me out, let me out! I must call!"

"Thou hast drunk more than thy thirst required, comrade!" said the others. "If thou hast fallen into the chest, remain lying there, thou swine!" And laughing they left him.

"O, the rascals!" sighed he, and worked in vain at opening the lid. Through all his powerful exertions the box fell over. The young men now stepped forth, and, as though they were highly astonished at the whole history which he related to them, they let themselves be prevailed upon to open the box, but only upon condition that he should keep street free from the interference of the other watchmen whilst they danced a Francaise to Wilhelm's violin.

The poor man was delivered from his captivity, and must obligingly play the sentinel whilst they arranged them for the dance. Wilhelm was called upon to play, and the dance commenced; a partner, however, was wanting. Just then a quiet citizen passed by. The gentleman who had no partner approached the citizen with comic respect, and besought him to take part in the amusement.

"I never dance!" said the man, laughing, and wished to pursue his way.

"Yes," replied the cavalier, "yet you must still do me this pleasure, or else I shall have no dance." Saying this he took hold of him by the waist and the dance commenced, whether the good man would or no.

"The watchman should receive a present from every one!" said they, when the Francaise was at an end. "He is an excellent man who thus keeps order in the street, so that one can enjoy a little dance."

"These are honest people's children!" said the watchman to himself, whilst he with much pleasure thrust the money into his leathern purse.

All was again quiet in the street; the violin was also silent.

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