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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesO. T., A Danish Romance - Chapter 22
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O. T., A Danish Romance - Chapter 22 Post by :twoelfling Category :Long Stories Author :Hans Christian Andersen Date :May 2012 Read :3418

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O. T., A Danish Romance - Chapter 22

CHAPTER XXII

"A man only gains importance by a poet's fancy, when his genius vividly represents to our imagination a clearer, but not an ennobled image of men and objects which have an existence; then alone he understands how to idealize."--H. HERTZ.

We pass on several weeks. It was toward the end of September, the examen philosophicum was near. Preparations for this had been Otto's excuse for not yet having visited the family circle of his guardian, the merchant Berger. This was, however, brought about by Otto's finding one day, when he went to speak with his guardian, the mistress of the house in the same room. We know that there are five daughters in the house, and that only one is engaged, yet they are all well-educated girls--domestic girls, as their mother assured her friend upon more than one occasion.

"So, then, I have at length the honor of making your acquaintance," said Mrs. Berger. "this visit, truly, is not intended either for me or the children, but still you must now drink a cup of coffee with us. Within it certainly looks rather disorderly; the girls are making cloaks for the winter. We will not put ourselves out of the way for you: you shall be regarded as a member of the family: but then you must come to us in a friendly way. Every Thursday our son-in-law dines with us, will you then be contented with our dinner? Now you shall become acquainted with my daughters."

"And I must to my office," said the husband; "therefore let us consider Thursday as an appointment. We dine at three o'clock, and after coffee Laide gives us music."

The lady now conducted Otto into the sitting-room, where he found the four daughters in full activity with a workwoman. The fifth daughter, Julle, was, as they had told him, gone to the shops for patterns: yesterday she had run all over the town, but the patterns she received were not good.

The lady told him the name of each daughter; their characteristics he naturally learnt later.

All the five sisters had the idea that they were so extremely different, and yet they resembled each other to a hair. Adelaide, or Laide, as she was also called, was certainly the prettiest; that she well knew also, therefore she would have a fur cape, and no cloak; her figure should be seen. Christiane was what one might call a practical girl; she knew how to make use of everything. Alvilde had always a little attack of the tooth-ache; Julle went shopping, and Miss Grethe was the bride. She was also musical, and was considered witty. Thus she said one evening when the house-door was closed, and groaned dreadfully on its hinges, "See now, we have port wine after dinner." (Translator's Note: A pun which it is impossible to translate. The Danish word Portviin according to sound, may mean either port wine or the creaking of a door.) The brother, the only son of the house, with whom we shall become better acquainted, had written down this conceit; "but that was only to be rude toward her," said Miss Grethe. "Such good ideas as this I have every hour of the day!"

We ought really to accuse these excellent girls of nothing foolish; they were very good and wise. The lover, Mr. Svane, was also a zealous wit; he was so lively, they said. Every one with whom he became a little familiar he called immediately Mr. Petersen, and that was so droll!

"Now the father has invited Mr. Thostrup to come on Thursday!" said the lady. "I also think, if we were to squeeze ourselves a little together, he might find a place with us in the box; the room is, truly, very confined."

Otto besought them not to incommode themselves.

"O, it is a large box!" said the lady, but she did not say how many of them were already in it. Only eleven ladies went from the family itself. They were obliged to go to the theatre in three parties, so that people might not think; if they all went together, there was a mob. One evening, when the box had been occupied by eighteen persons, beside several twelve-year old children, who had sat in people's laps, or stood before them, and the whole party had returned home in one procession, and were standing before the house door to go in, people streamed together, imagining there was some alarm, or that some one had fallen into convulsions. "What is the matter?" they asked, and Miss Grethe immediately replied, "It is a select company!" (Translator's Note: A select or shut-out company. We regret that this pun, like the foregoing one, is untransferable into English.) Since that evening they returned home in separate divisions.

"It is really a good box!" said Alvilde; "if we had only other neighbors! The doors are opening and shutting eternally, and make a draught which is not bearable for the teeth. And then they speak so loud! the other night I did not hear a single word of the pretty song about Denmark."

"But did you lose much through that?" asked Otto, smiling, and soon they found themselves very much at variance, just as if they had been old acquaintances. "I do not think much of these patriotic scraps, where the poet, in his weakness, supports himself by this beautiful sentiment of patriotism in the people. You will certainly grant that here the multitude always applauds when it only hears the word 'Father-land,' or the name of 'Christian IV.' The poet must give something more; this is a left-handed kind of patriotism. One would really believe that Denmark were the only country in the world!"

"Fie, Mr. Thostrup!" said the lady: "do you not then love your father-land?"

"I believe I love it properly!" returned he: "and because it really possesses so much that is excellent do I desire that only what is genuine should be esteemed, only what is genuine be prized."

"I agree in the main with Mr. Thostrup," said Miss Grethe, who was busied in unpicking and turning her cloak, in order, as she herself said, to spoil it on the other side. "I think he is right! If a poem is well spoken on the stage, it has always a kind of effect. It is just the same as with stuffs--they may be of a middling quality and may have an unfavorable pattern, but if they are worn by a pretty figure they look well after all!"

"I am often vexed with the public!" said Otto. "It applauds at improper places, and sometimes exhibits an extraordinary innocence."

"Those are 'the lords of the kingdom of mind,'" said Miss Grethe, smiling.


(Note: "We are the lords of the kingdom of mind!
We are the stem which can never decay!"
--Students' Song, by CHRISTIAN WINTHER.)


"No, the _neighb ors_!" replied Otto quickly.

At this moment Miss Julle entered. She had been wandering from shop to shop, she said, until she could bear it no longer! She had had the stuffs down from all the shelves, and at length had succeeded so far as to become possessed of eight small pieces--beautiful patterns, she maintained. And now she knew very well where the different stuffs were to be had, how wide they were, and how much the yard. "And whom did I meet?" said she; "only think! down the middle of East Street came the actor--you know well! Our little passion! He is really charming off the stage."

"Did you meet him?" said Laide. "That girl is always lucky!"

"Mr. Thostrup," said the mother, presenting him, for the young lady seemed to forget him entirely, so much was she occupied with this encounter and her patterns.

Julle bowed, and said she had seen him before: he had heard Mynster, and had stood near the chair where she sat; he was dressed in an olive-green coat.

"Then you are acquainted with each other!" said the lady. "She is the most pious of all the children. When the others rave about Spindler and Johanne Schoppenhauer, she raves about the clergyman who confirmed her. You know my son? He became a student a year before you. He sees you in the club sometimes."

"There you will have seen him more amiable than you will find him at home," said Adelaide. "Heaven knows he is not gallant toward his sisters!"

"Sweet Laide, how can you say so!" cried the mother. "You are always so unjust toward Hans Peter! When you become better acquainted with him, Mr. Thostrup, you will like him; he is a really serious young man, of uncorrupted manners. Do you remember, Laide, how he hissed that evening in the theatre when they gave that immoral piece? And how angry he is with that 'Red Riding Hood?' O, the good youth! Besides, in our family, you will soon meet with an old acquaintance--in a fortnight a lady out of Jutland will come here. She remains the winter here. Do you not guess who it is? A little lady from Lemvig!"

"Maren!" exclaimed Otto.

"Yes, truly!" said the lady. "She is said to have such a beautiful voice!"

"Yes, in Lemvig," remarked Adelaide. "And what a horrible name she has! We must christen her again, when she comes. She must be called Mara, or Massa."

"We could call her Massa Carara!" said Grethe.

"No; she shall be called Maja, as in the 'Every-day Tales,'" said Christiane.

"I am of Jane's opinion!" said the mother. "We will christen her again, and call her Maja."

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