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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesO. T., A Danish Romance - Chapter 40
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O. T., A Danish Romance - Chapter 40 Post by :twoelfling Category :Long Stories Author :Hans Christian Andersen Date :May 2012 Read :2955

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O. T., A Danish Romance - Chapter 40

CHAPTER XL

"In vain his beet endeavors were;
Dull was the evening, and duller grew."--LUDOLF SCHLEF.

"Seest thou how its little life
The bird hides in the wood?
Wilt thou be my little wife--
Then do it soon. Good!
--A bridegroom am I."--Arion.

Close beside St. Knud's Church, where once the convent stood, is now the dwelling of a private man. (Author's Note: See Oehlenschlager's Jorney to Funen.) The excellent hostess here, who once charmed the public on the Danish stage as Ida Munster, awaited the family to dinner.

After dinner they wandered up and down the garden, which extended to the Odense River.

In the dusk of evening Otto went to visit the German Heinrich; he had mentioned it to Louise, and she promised to divert attention from him whilst he was away.

The company took coffee in the garden-house; Otto walked in deep thought in the avenue by the side of the river. The beautiful scene before him riveted his eye. Close beside lay a water-mill, over the two great wheels of which poured the river white as milk. Behind this was thrown a bridge, over which people walked and drove. The journeyman-miller stood upon the balcony, and whistled an air. It was such a picture as Christian Winther and Uhland give in their picturesque poems. On the other side of the mill arose tall poplars half-buried in the green meadow, in which stood the nunnery; a nun had once drowned herself where now the red daisies grow.

A strong sunlight lit up the whole scene. All was repose and summer warmth. Suddenly Otto's ear caught the deep and powerful tones of an organ; he turned himself round. The tones, which went to his heart, came from St. Knud's Church, which lay close beside the garden. The sunshine of the landscape, and the strength of the music, gave, as it were, to him light and strength for the darkness toward which he was so soon to go.

The sun set; and Otto went alone across the market-place toward the old corner house, where German Heinrich practiced his arts. Upon this place stood St. Albani's Church, where St. Knud, betrayed by his servant Blake, (Author's Note: Whence has arisen the popular expression of "being a false Blake.") was killed by the tumultuous rebels. The common people believe that from one of the deep cellars under this house proceeds a subterranean passage to the so-called "Nun's Hill." At midnight the neighboring inhabitants still hear a roaring under the marketplace, as if of the sudden falling of a cascade. The better informed explain it as being a concealed natural water-course, which has a connection with the neighboring river. In our time the old house is become a manufactory; the broken windows, the gaps of which are repaired either with slips of wood or with paper, the quantity of human bones which are found in the garden, and which remain from the time when this was a church-yard, give to the whole place a peculiar interest to the common people of Odense.

Entering the house at the front, it is on the same level as the market-place; the back of the house, on the contrary, descends precipitously into the garden, where there are thick old walls and foundations. The situation is thus quite romantic; just beside it is the old nunnery, with its dentated gables, and not far off the ruins, in whose depths the common people believe that there resides an evil being, "the river-man," who annually demands his human sacrifice, which he announces the night before. Behind this lie meadows, villas, and green woods.

On the other side of the court, in a back gate-way, German Heinrich had set up his theatre. The entrance cost eight skillings; people of condition paid according to their own will.

Otto entered during the representation. A cloth constituted the whole scenic arrangement. In the middle of the floor sat a horrible goblin, with a coal-black Moorish countenance and crispy hair upon its head. An old bed-cover concealed the figure, yet one saw that it was that of a woman.

The audience consisted of peasants and street boys. Otto kept himself in the background, and remained unobserved by Heinrich.

The representation was soon at an end, and the crowd dispersed. It was then that Otto first came forward.

"We must speak a few words together!" said he. "Heinrich, you have not acted honestly by me! The girl is not that which you represented her to be; you have deceived me: I demand an explanation!"

German Heinrich stood silent, but every feature eloquently expressed first amazement, and then slyness and cunning; his knavish, malicious eye, measured Otto from top to toe.

"Nay; so then, Mr. Thostrup, you are convinced, are you, that I have been cheating you?" said he. "If so, why do you come to me? In that case there needs no explanation. Ask herself there!" And so saying he pointed to the black-painted figure.

"Do not be too proud, Otto!" said she, smiling; "thou couldst yet recognize thy sister, although she has a little black paint on her face!"

Otto riveted a dark, indignant glance upon her, pressed his lips together, and tried to collect himself. "It is my firm determination to have the whole affair searched into," said he, with constrained calmness.

"Yes, but it will bring you some disagreeables!" said Heinrich, and laughed scornfully.

"Do not laugh in that manner when I speak to you!" said Otto, with flushing cheeks.

Heinrich leaned himself calmly against the door which led into the garden.

"I am acquainted with the head of the police," said Otto, "and I might leave the whole business in his hands. But I have chosen a milder way; I am come myself. I shall very soon leave Denmark; I shall go many hundred miles hence shall, probably, never return; and thus you see the principal ground for my coming to you is a whim: I will know wherefore you have deceived me; I will know what is the connection between you and her."

"Nay; so, then, it is _that that you want to know?" said Heinrich, with a malicious glance. "Yes, see you, she is my best beloved; she shall be my wife: but your sister she is for all that, and that remains so!"

"Thou couldst easily give me a little before thou settest off on thy journey!" said Sidsel, who seemed excited by Heinrich's words, and put forth her painted face.

Otto glanced at her with contracted eyebrows.

"Yes," said she, "I say 'thou' to thee: thou must accustom thyself to that! A sister may have, however, that little bit of pleasure!"

"Yes, you should give her your hand!" said Heinrich, and laughed.

"Wretch!" exclaimed Otto, "she is not that which you say! I will find out my real sister! I will have proof in hand of the truth! I will show myself as a brother; I will care for her future! Bring to me her baptismal register; bring to me one only attestation of its reality--and that before eight days are past! Here is my address, it is the envelope of a letter; inclose in it the testimonial which I require, and send it to me without delay. But prove it, or you are a greater villain than I took you for."

"Let us say a few rational words!" said Heinrich, with a constrained, fawning voice. "If you will give to me fifty rix-dollars, then you shall never have any more annoyance with us! See, that would be a great deal more convenient."

"I abide by that which I have said!" answered Otto; "we will not have any more conversation together!" And so saying, he turned him round to go out.

Heinrich seized him by the coat.

"What do you want?" inquired Otto.

"I mean," said Heinrich, "whether you are not going to think about the fifty rix-dollars?"

"Villain!" cried Otto, and, with the veins swelling in his forehead, he thrust Heinrich from him with such force, that he fell against the worm eaten door which led into the garden; the panel of the door fell out, and had not Heinrich seized fast hold on some firm object with both his hands, he must have gone the same way. Otto stood for a moment silent, with flashing eyes, and threw the envelope, on which his address was, at Heinrich's feet, and went out.

When Otto returned to the hotel, he found the horses ready to be put to the carriage.

"Have you had good intelligence?" whispered Louise.

"I have in reality obtained no more than I had before!" replied he; "only my own feelings more strongly convince me than ever that I have been deceived by him."

He related to her the short conversation which had taken place.

The Kammerjunker's carriage was now also brought out; in this was more than sufficient room for two, whereas in the other carriage they had been crowded. The Kammerjunker, therefore, besought that they would avail themselves of the more convenient seat which he could offer; and Otto saw Sophie and her mother enter the Kammerjunker's carriage. This arrangement would shortly before have confounded Otto, now it had much less effect upon him. His mind was so much occupied by his visit to German Heinrich, his soul was filled with a bitterness, which for the moment repelled the impulse which he had felt to express his great love for Sophie.

"I have been made Heinrich's plaything--his tool!" thought he. "Now he ridicules me, and I am compelled to bear it! That horrible being is not my sister!--she cannot be so!"

The street was now quiet. They mounted into the carriage. In the corner house just opposite there was a great company; light streamed through the long curtains, a low tenor voice and a high ringing soprano mingled together in Mozart's "Audiam, audiam, mio bene."

"The bird may not flutter from my heart!" sighed Otto, and seated himself by the side of Louise. The carriage rolled away.

The full moon shone; the wild spiraea sent forth its odor from the road side; steam ascended from the moor-lands; and the white mist floated over the meadows like the daughters of the elfin king.

Louise sat silent and embarrassed; trouble weighed down her heart. Otto was also silent.

The Kammerjunker drove in first, cracked his whip, and struck up a wild halloo.

Wilhelm began to sing, "Charming the summer night," and the Kammerjunker joined in with him.

"Sing with us man," cried Wilhelm to the silent Otto, and quickly the two companies were one singing caravan.

It was late when they reached the hall.

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