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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesO. T., A Danish Romance - Chapter 35
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O. T., A Danish Romance - Chapter 35 Post by :twoelfling Category :Long Stories Author :Hans Christian Andersen Date :May 2012 Read :2209

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O. T., A Danish Romance - Chapter 35

CHAPTER XXXV

"Tell me
What would my heart?
My heart's with thee,
With thee would have a part."
GOETHE'S West-ostlicher Divan.

"There stands the man again--
The man with gloomy mien."
Memories of Travel, by B. C. INGEMANN.


Several days passed; the fine crimson again returned to Eva's cheeks. The first occasion of her going out with the others was to see the rape-stalks burned. These were piled together in two immense stacks. In the morning, at the appointed hour, which had been announced through the neighborhood that no one might mistake it for a conflagration, the stalks were set fire to. This took place in the nearest field, close beside the hall, where the rape-seed was threshed upon an out-spread sail.

The landscape-painter, Dahl, has given us a picture of the burning Vesuvius, where the red lava pours down the side of the mountain; in the background one sees across the bay as far as Naples and Ischia: it is a piece full of great effect. Such a splendid landscape is not to be found in flat Denmark, where there are no great natural scenes, and yet this morning presented even there a picture with the same brilliant coloring. We will study it. In the foreground there is a hedge of hazels, the nuts hang in great clusters, and contrast strongly with their bright green against the dark leaves; the blue chicory-flower and the blood-red poppy grew on the side of the ditch, upon which are some tall rails, over which the ladies have to climb: the delicate sylph-like figure is Eva. In the field, where nothing remains but the yellow stubble, stand Otto and Wilhelm; two magnificent hounds wag their tails beside them. To the left is a little lake, thickly overgrown with reeds and water-lilies, with the yellow trollius for its border. In the front, where the wood retreats, lie, like a great stack, the piled-together rape-stalks: the man has struck fire, has kindled the outer side of them, and with a rapidity like that of the descending lava the red fire flashes up the gigantic pile. It crackles and roars within it. In a moment it is all a burning mound; the red flames flash aloft into the blue air, high above the wood which is now no longer visible. A thick black smoke ascends up into the clear air, where it rests like a cloud. Out of the flames, and even out of the smoke, the wind carries away large masses of fire, which, crackling and cracking, are borne on to the wood, and which fill the spectator with apprehension of their falling upon the nearest trees and burning up leaf and branch.

"Let us go further off," said Sophie; "the heat is too great here."

They withdrew to the ditch.

"O, how many nuts!" exclaimed Wilhelm; "and I do not get one of them! I shall go after them if they be ripe."

"But you have grapes and other beautiful fruit!" said Eva smiling. "We have our beautiful things at home!"

"Yes, it is beautiful, very beautiful at home!" exclaimed Wilhelm; "glorious flowers, wild nuts; and there we have Vesuvius before us!" He pointed to the burning pile.

"No," said Sophie; "it seems to me much more like the pile upon which the Hindoo widow lays herself alive to be burned! That must be horrible!"

"One should certainly be very quickly dead!" said Eva.

"Would you actually allow yourself to be burned to death, if you were a Hindoo widow--after, for instance, Mr. Thostrup, or after Wilhelm," said she, with a slight embarrassment, "if he lay dead in the fire?"

"If it were the custom of the country, and I really had lost the only support which I had in the world--yes, so I would!"

"O, no, no!" said Louise.

"In fact it is brilliant!" exclaimed Sophie.

"Burning is not, perhaps, the most painful of deaths!" said Otto, and plucked in an absent manner the nuts from the hedge. "I know a story about a true conflagration."

"What is it like?" asked Wilhelm.

"Yet it is not a story to tell in a large company; it can only be heard when two and two are together. When I have an opportunity, I shall tell it!"

"O, I know it!" said Wilhelm. "You can relate it to one of my sisters there, whichever you like best! Then I shall--yes, I must relate it to Eva!"

"It is too early in the day to hear stories told!" said Louise; "let us rather sing a song!"

"No, then we shall have to weep in the evening," replied Wilhelm. And they had neither the song nor the story.

Mamma came wandering with Vasserine, the old, faithful hound: they two also wished to see how beautiful the burning looked. It succeeded excellently with the rape-stalks; but the other burning, of which the story was to be told, it did not yet arrive at an outbreak! It might be expected, however, any hour in the day.

In the evening Otto walked alone through the great chestnut avenue. The moon shone brightly between the tree-branches. When he entered the interior court Wilhelm and Sophie skipped toward him, but softly, very softly. They lifted their hands as if to impress silence.

"Come and see!" said Sophie; "it is a scene which might be painted! it goes on merrily in the servants' hall; one can see charmingly through the window!"

"Yes, come!" said Wilhelm.

Otto stole softly forward. The lights shone forth.

Within there was laughter and loud talking; one struck upon the table, another sung,--


"And I will away to Prussia land,
Hurrah!
And when I am come to Prussia land,
Hurrah!" (Note: People's song.)


Otto looked in through the window.

Several men and maids sat within at the long wooden table at the end of this stood Sidsel in a bent attitude, her countenance was of a deep crimson; she spoke a loud oath and laughed--no one imagined that they were observed. All eyes were riveted upon a great fellow who, with his shirt-sleeves rolled up, and a pewter tankard in his hand, was standing there. It was the German Heinrich, who was exhibiting to them his conjuring tricks. Otto turned pale; had the dead arisen from the bier before him it could not have shocked him more.

"Hocus-pocus Larifari!" cried Heinrich within, and gave the tankard to a half-grown fellow, of the age between boy and man.

"If thou hast already a sweetheart," said he; "then the corn which is within it will be turned to flour; but if thou art still only a young cuckoo, then it will remain only groats."

"Nay, Anders Peersen!" said all the girls laughing, "now we shall see whether thou art a regular fellow!"

Sophie stole away.

The echoing laughter and clapping of hands announced the result.

"Is it not the same person who was playing conjuring tricks in the park?" inquired Wilhelm.

"Yes, certainly," replied Otto; "he is to me quite repulsive!" And so saying, he followed Sophie.

Late in the evening, when all had betaken themselves to rest, Wilhelm proposed to Otto that they should make a little tour, as he called it.

"I fancy Meg Merrilies, as my sister calls Sidsel," said he, "has made a conquest of the conjuror, although he might be her father. They have been walking together down the avenue; they have been whispering a deal together; probably he will to-night sleep in one of the barns. I must go and look after him; he will be lying there and smoking his pipe, and may set our whole place on fire. Shall we go down together? We can take Vasserine and Fingel with us."

"Let him sleep!" said Otto; "he will not be so mad as to smoke tobacco in the straw! To speak candidly, I do not wish to be seen by him. He was several times at my grandfather's house. I have spoken with him, and now that I dislike him I do not wish to see him!"

"Then I will go alone!" said Wilhelm.

Otto's heart beat violently; he stood at the open window and looked out over the dark wood, which was lit up by the moon. Below in the court he heard Wilhelm enticing the dogs out. He heard yet another voice, it was that of the steward, and then all was again silent. Otto thought upon the German Heinrich and upon Sophie, his life's good and bad angels; and he pictured to himself how it would be if she extended to him her hand--was his bride! and Heinrich called forth before her the recollections which made his blood curdle.

It seemed to him as if something evil impended over him this night. "I feel a forewarning of it!" said he aloud.

Wilhelm came not yet back.

Almost an hour passed thus. Wilhelm entered, both dogs were with him; they were miry to their very sides.

"Did you meet any one?" inquired Otto.


"Yes, there was some one," said Wilhelm, "but not in the barn. The stupid dogs seemed to lose their nature; it was as if there was a somebody stealing along the wall, and through the reeds in the moat. The hounds followed in there; you can see how they look!--but they came the next moment back again, whined, and hung down their ears and tails. I could not make them go in again. Then the steward was superstitious! But, however, it could only be either the juggler, or one of the servant-men who had stilts. How otherwise any one could go in among the reeds without getting up to their necks, I cannot conceive!"

All was again perfectly still without. The two friends went to the open window, threw their arms over each other's shoulders, and looked out into the silent night.

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