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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesO. T., A Danish Romance - Chapter 34
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O. T., A Danish Romance - Chapter 34 Post by :twoelfling Category :Long Stories Author :Hans Christian Andersen Date :May 2012 Read :1852

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O. T., A Danish Romance - Chapter 34

CHAPTER XXXIV

"Alas, I am no sturdy oak!
Alas, I'm but the flower
That wakes the kiss of May!
And when has fled its little hour,
Will voice of Death obey."--RUCKERT.


The following afternoon came visitors--two young ladies from Nyborg, friends of Sophie and Louise. Before dinner they would take a walk through the wood to an inclosure where the flax was in bloom. Otto was to accompany them.

"I am also of the party!" said the Kammerjunker, who just galloped into the court-yard as the ladies, with Otto, were about setting out on their excursion. Thus the whole company consisted of five ladies and two gentlemen.

"The cows are not in the field over which we must go, are they?" asked Eva.

"No, my good girl!" returned Sophie; "you may be quite easy! Besides, we have two gentlemen with us."

"Yes; but they would not be able to protect us from the unruly bullocks!" said Louise. "But we have nothing to fear. Where we are going the cows do not go until after they are milked. I am no heroine! Besides, it is not long since one bullock nearly gored the cowherd to death. He also gored Sidsel a great hole in her arm just lately: you remember the girl with her eyebrows grown together?"

"There is also in the wood a wild sow, with eleven sucking pigs!" said Sophie, in ironical gravity; "it would not be agree able to meet with her!"

"She is almost as dangerous as the bullocks!" said the Kammerjunker, and laughed at Eva.

The conversation took another turn.

"Shall we not visit Peter Cripple?" asked Sophie. "The gentlemen can then see the smith's pretty daughter; she is really too beautiful to be his wife!"

"Is Peter Cripple married?" inquired Otto.

"No, the wedding will be held on Sunday!" replied the Kammerjunker; "but the bride is already in the house. The bans were published last Sunday, and they immediately commenced housekeeping together. This often takes place even earlier, when a man cannot do without a wife. She has taken him on account of his full money-bags!"

"Yes, with the peasant it is seldom love which brings about the affair!" said Louise. "Last year there was quite a young girl who married a man who might have been her grandfather. She took him only, she said, because he had such a good set of earthenware."

"These were very brittle things to marry upon!" remarked Otto.

Meantime they were nearly come to the edge of the wood. Here stood a little house; hops hung luxuriantly over the hedge, the cat stood with bent back upon the crumbling edge of the well.

Sophie, at the head of the whole company, stepped into the room, where Peter Cripple sat on the table sewing; but, light and active as an elf, he sprang down from the table to kiss her hand. The smith's pretty daughter was stirring something in an iron pot in the hearth. St. John's wort, stuck between the beams and the ceiling, shot forth in luxuriant growth, prophesying long life to the inhabitants of the house. On the sooty ceiling glittered herrings' souls, as a certain portion of the herring's entrails is called, and which Peter Cripple, following the popular belief, had flung up to the ceiling, convinced that so long as they hung there he should be freed from the ague.

Otto took no part in the conversation, but turned over a quantity of songs which he found; they were stitched together in a piece of blue tobacco-paper. The principal contents were, "New, Melancholy Songs," "Of the Horrible Murder," "The Audacious Criminal," "The Devil in Salmon Lane," "Boat's Fall," and such things; which have now supplanted, among the peasants, the better old popular songs.

With Louise, Eva, and one of the ladies from Nyborg, Otto slowly preceded the others, who had still some pleasantries to say before leaving Peter Cripple and his bride.

"Shall we not go over the inclosure to the cairn?" said Louise. "It is clear to-day; we shall see Zealand. The others will follow us; here, from the foot-path, they will immediately discover us."

Otto opened the gate and they went through the inclosure. They had already advanced a considerable way, when the Kammerjunker and his ladies reached the foot-path from which they could see the others.

"They are going to the cairn," said he.

"Then they will have a little fright!" said Sophie. "Down in the corner of the inclosure lie the young cattle. They may easily mistake them for cows, and the wild bullocks!"

"Had we not better call them back?" asked the other lady.

"But we must frighten them a little," said Sophie. "Shout to them that there are the cows!"

"Yes, that I can do with a clear conscience!" said the Kammerjunker; and he shouted as loud as he could, "There are the cows! Turn back! turn back!"

Eva heard it the first. "O God!" said she, "hear what they are calling to us!"

Otto glanced around, but saw no cows.

"They are standing still!" said Sophie; "call once again!"

The Kammerjunker shouted as before, and Sophie imitated the lowing of the cows. At this noise the young cattle arose.

Louise now became aware of them. "O heavens!" exclaimed she; "there, down in the corner of the inclosure, are all the cows!"

"Let us run!" cried Eva, and took to flight.

"For God's sake, do not run!" cried Otto; "walk slowly and quietly, otherwise they may come!"

"Come away, away!" resounded from the wood.

"O Lord!" shrieked Eva, when she saw the creatures raise their tails in the air as soon as they perceived the fugitives.

"Now they are coming!" cried the lady who accompanied them, and sent forth a loud scream.

Eva fled first, as if borne by the wind; the lady followed her, and Louise ran on after them.

Otto now really saw all the cattle, which, upon the ladies flight, had instinctively followed, chasing over the field after them in the same direction.

Nothing now remained for him but, like the others, to reach the gate. This he opened, and had just closed again, when the cattle were close upon them, but no one had eyes to see whether the cattle were little or big.

"Now there is no more danger!" cried Otto, as soon as he had well closed the gate; but the ladies still fled on, passing among the trees until they reached the spot where the Kammerjunker and his two ladies awaited them with ringing laughter.

Sophie was obliged to support herself against a tree through all the amusement. It had been a most remarkable spectacle, this flight; Eva at the head, and Mr. Thostrup rushing past them to open the gate. Louise was pale as death, and her whole body trembled; the friend supported her arm and forehead on a tree, and drew a long breath.

"Bah!" again cried Sophie, and laughed.

"But where is Eva?" asked Otto, and shouted her name.

"She ran here before me!" said Louise; "she is doubtless leaning against a tree, and recovering her strength."

"Eva!" cried Sophie. "Where is my hero: 'I want a hero!'" (Author's Note: Byron's Don Juan.)

Otto returned to seek her. At this moment Wilhelm arrived.

The Kammerjunker regretted that he had not seen the race with them, and related the whole history to him.

"O come! come!" they heard Otto shout. They found him kneeling in the high grass. Eva lay stretched out on the ground; she was as pale as death; her head rested in Otto's lap.

"God in heaven!" cried Wilhelm, and flung himself down before her. "Eva! Eva! O, she is dead! and thou art to blame for it, Sophie! Thou hast killed her!" Reproachfully he fixed his eyes on his sister. She burst into tears, and concealed her face in her hands.

Otto ran to the peasant's cottage and brought water. Peter Cripple himself hopped like a mountain-elf behind him through the high nettles and burdocks, which closed above and behind him again.

The Kammerjunker took Eva in his strong arms and carried her to the cottage. Wilhelm did not leave hold of her hand. The others followed in silence.

"Try and get her home," said Wilhelm; "I myself will fetch the physician!" He rushed forth, and hastened through the wood to the ball, where he ordered the men to bring out a sedan-chair for the invalid; then had horses put into one of the lightest carriages, seated himself in it as coachman, and drove away to Nyborg, the nearest town, which, however, was distant almost twenty miles.

Sophie was inconsolable. "It is my fault!" she said, and wept.

Otto found her sitting before the house, under an elder-tree. She could not endure to see Eva's paleness.

"You are innocent," said Otto. "Believe me, to-morrow Eva will be completely restored! She herself," added he, in an assuaging tone, "behaved in an imprudent manner. I warned her not to run. Her own terror is to blame for all."

"No, no," returned Sophie; "my folly, my extravagance, has caused the whole misfortune!"

"Now it is much better," said the Kammerjunker, coming out of the house. "She must be devilish tender to fly before a few calves! I really must laugh when I think of it, although it did come to such an end!"

The men now arrived whom Wilhelm had sent with the sedan-chair.

Eva thought she could walk, if she might lean upon some one; but it would be better, her friends thought, if she were carried.

"Dost thou feel any pain?" asked Louise, and gave her a sisterly kiss on the brow.

"No, none at all," replied Eva. "Do not scold me for having frightened you so. I am so fearful, and the bullock were close behind us."

"They were, God help me, only calves!" answered the Kammerjunker; "they wished to play, and only ran because you ran!"

"It was a foolish joke of mine!" said Sophie, and seized Eva's hand. "I am very unhappy about it!"

"O no!" said Eva, and smiled so pensively, yet happily. "To-morrow I shall be quite well again!" Her eye seemed to seek some one.

Otto understood the glance. "The physician is sent for. Wilhelm has himself driven over for him."

Toward the middle of the wood the mother herself approached them; she was almost as pale as Eva.

All sought to calm her; Eva bowed her head to kiss the good lady's hand. The Kammerjunker told the story to her, and she shook her head. "What an imprudent, foolish joke!" said she; "here you see the consequences!"

Not before late in the afternoon did Wilhelm return with the physician; he found his patient out of all danger, but prescribed what should still be done. Quiet and the warm summer air would do the most for her.

"See," said Otto, when, toward evening he met Sophie in the garden, "to-day Wilhelm did not conceal his feelings!"

"I fear that you are right!" returned Sophie. "He loves Eva, and that is very unfortunate. Tell me what you know about it."

"I know almost nothing!" said Otto, and told about little Jonas and the first meeting with Eva.

"Yes, that he has told us already himself! But do you know nothing more?" Her voice became soft, and her eyes gazed full of confidence into Otto's.

He related to her the short conversation which he had had last autumn with Wilhelm, how angry he had been with his candid warning, and how since then they had never spoken about Eva.

"I must confide my fear to our mother!" said Sophie. "I almost now am glad that he will travel in two months, although we shall then lose you also!"

And Otto's heart beat; the secret of his heart pressed to his lips; every moment he would speak it. But Sophie had always still another question about her brother; they were already out of the garden, already in the court-yard, and yet Otto had said nothing.

Therefore was he so quiet when, late in the evening, he and Wilhelm entered their chamber. Wilhelm also spoke no word, but his eye repeatedly rested expectantly on Otto, as if waiting for him to break the silence. Wilhelm stepped to the open window and drank in the fresh air, suddenly he turned round, flung his arms round Otto, and exclaimed, "I can no longer endure it! I must say it to some one! I love her, and will never give her up, let every one be opposed! I have now silently concealed my feelings for some months; I can do so no longer, or I shall become ill, and for that I am not made!"

"Does she know this?" asked Otto.

"No, and yes! I do not know what I should answer! Here at home I have never spoken alone with her. The last time when Weyse played on the organ at Roeskelde I had bought a pretty silk handkerchief, and this I took with me for her; I know not, but I wished to give her pleasure. There came a woman past with lovely stocks; I stood at the open window; she offered me a bouquet, and I bought it. 'Those are lovely flowers!' said Eva, when she entered. 'They will fade with me!' said I; 'put them in water and keep there for yourself!' She wished only to have a few, but I obliged her to take them all: she blushed, and her eyes gazed strangely down into my soul. I know not what sort of a creature I became, but it was impossible for me to give her the handkerchief; it seemed to me that this would almost be an offense. Eva went away with the flowers, but the next morning it seemed to me that she was uneasy; I fancied I saw her color come and go when I bade her adieu! She must have read the thoughts in my soul!"

"And the handkerchief?" interrupted Otto.

"I gave it to my sister Sophie," said Wilhelm.

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