THE GOLOSHES OF FORTUNE
Ⅰ A BEGINNING
IT was in Copenhagen, in East Street, and in one of the houses not far from the King' s New Market, that a large company had assembled, for one must occasionally give a party, in order to be invited in return. Half of the company already sat at the card-tables, the other half awaited the result of the hostess's question, “What shall we do now?” They had progressed so far, and the conversation went as best it could. Among other subjects the conversation turned upon the Middle Ages . Some considered that period much more interesting than our own times : Yes , Councillor Knap defended this view so zealously that the lady of the house went over at once to his side; and both loudly exclaimed against Oersted's treatise in the Almanac on old and modem times , in which the chief advantage is given to our own day. The councillor considered the times of the Danish King Hans as the noblest and happiest age .
While the conversation takes this turn , only interrupted for a moment by the arrival of a newspaper, which contains nothing worth reading, we will betake ourselves to the antechamber, where the cloaks , sticks , and goloshes had found a place . Here sat two maids----an old one and a young one. One would have thought they had come to escort their mistresses home; but, on looking at them more closely, the observer could see that they were not ordinary servants : their hands were too fine for that , their bearing and all their movements too majestic, and the cut of their dresses too uncommon . They were two fairies . The younger was not Fortune, but, lady's-maid to one of her ladies of the bed-chamber, who carry about the more trifling gifts of Fortune .The elder one looked somewhat more gloomy----shewas Care, who always goes herself in her own exalted person to perform her business, for then she knows that it is well done .
They were telling each other where they had been that day. The messenger of Fortune had only transacted a few unimportant affairs, as, for instance, she had preserved a new bonnet from a shower of rain, had procured an honest man a bow from a titled Nobody , and so on ; but what she had still to relate was something quite extraordinary.
“I can likewise tell,” said she, “that today is my birthday; and in honour of it a pair of goloshes has been entrusted to me , which I am to bring to the human race . These goloshes have the property that everyone who puts them on is at once transported to the time and place in which he likes best to be----every wish in reference to time, place, and circumstance is at once fulfilled; and so for once man can be happy here below!”
“Believe me,” said Care, “he will be very unhappy, and will bless the moment when he can get rid of the goloshes again.”
“What are you thinking of ?” retorted the other. “Now I shall put them at the door. Somebody will take them by mistake, and become the happy one!”
You see , that was the dialogue they held .
Ⅱ WHAT HAPPENED TO THE COUNCILLOR
It was late. Councillor Knap, lost in contemplation of the times of King Hans, wished to get home; and fate willed that instead of his own goloshes he should put on those of Fortune , and thus went out into East Street . But by the power of the goloshes he had been put back three hundred years----into the days of King Hans; and therefore he put his foot into mud and mire in the street, because in those days there was not any pavement .
“Why, this is horrible----how dirty it is here!” said the councillor. “The good pavement is gone, and all the lamps are put out . ”
The moon did not yet stand high enough to give much light, and the air was tolerably thick, so that all objects,seemed to melt together in the darkness . At the next corner a lamp hung before a picture of the Madonna, but the light it gave was as good as none; he only noticed it when he stood just under it, and his eyes fell upon the painted figure of the mother and child .
“That is probably a museum of art ,” he thought , “where they have forgotten to take down the sign .”
A couple of men in the costume of those past days went by him.
“How they look!” he said . “They must come from a masquerade .”
Suddenly there was a sound of drums and fifes, and torches gleamed brightly . The councillor started . And now he saw a strange procession go past . First came a whole troop of drummers , beating their instruments very dexterously; they were followed by men-at-arms, with longbows and crossbows . The chief man in the procession was a clerical lord . The astonished councillor asked what was the meaning of this, and who the man might be.
“That is the Bishop of Zealand.”
“What in the world has come to the bishop ?” said the councillor, with a sigh, shaking his head. “This could not possibly be the bishop!”
Ruminating on this , and without looking to the right or to the left , the councillor went through the East Street , and over the Highbridge Place . The bridge which led to the Palace Square was not to be found; he perceived the shore of a shallow water, and at length encountered two people, who sat in a boat .
“Do you wish to be ferried over to the Holm, sir ?” they asked.
“To the Holm! ” repeated the councillor, who did not know, you see, in what period he was. “I want to go to Christian' s Haven and to Little Turf Street .”
The men stared at him.
“Pray tell me where the bridge is?” said he. “It is shameful that no lanterns are lighted here; and it is as muddy , too , as if one were walking in a marsh .” But the longer he talked with the boatmen the less could he understand them. “I don' t understand your Bornholm talk,” he at last cried , angrily , and turned his back upon them.He could not find the bridge, nor was there any paling.
“It is quite scandalous how things look here!” hesaid----Never had he thought his own times so miserable as this evening .
“I think it will be best if I take a cab,” thought he. But where were the cabs? ----Not one was to be seen.“I shall have to go back to the King' s New Market, where there are many carriages standing, otherwise I shall never get as far as Christian' s Haven .”
Now he went towards East Street , and had almost gone through it when the moon burst forth .
“What in the world have they been erecting here?” he exclaimed, when he saw the East Gate, which in those days stood at the end of East Street .
In the meantime, however, he found a passage open, and through this he came out upon our New Market; but it was a broad meadow. Single bushes stood forth, and across the meadow ran a great canal or stream . A few miserable wooden booths for skippers from Holland were erected on the opposite shore .
“Either I behold a Fata Morgana , or I am tipsy,” sighed the councillor. “What can that be ? What can that
He turned back, in the full persuasion that he must be ill. In walking up the street he looked more closely at the houses; most of them were built of laths, and many were only thatched with straw.
“No , I don' t feel well at all !” he lamented .“And yet I only drank one glass of punch ! But I cannot stand that; and besides, it was very foolish to give us punch and warm salmon. I shall mention that to our hostess----the agent' s lady . Suppose I go back , and say how I feel ? But that looks ridiculous, and it is a question if they will be up still .”
He looked for the house, but could not find it. “That is dreadful!” he cried; “I don' t know East Street again . Not one shop is to be seen ; old , miserable , tumble-down huts are all I see , as if I were at Roskilde or Ringstedt . Oh , I am ill ! It ' s no use to make ceremony. But where in all the world is the agent' s house? It is no longer the same; but within there are people up still. I certainly must be ill ! ”
He now reached a half-open door, where the light shone through a chink . It was a tavern of that date----a kind of beer-house . The room had the appearance of a farmhouse kitchen in Holstein; a number of people, consisting of seamen, citizens of Copenhagen, and a few scholars, sat in deep conversation over their jugs, and paid little attention to the new-comer.
“I beg pardon ,” said the councillor to the hostess , “but I feel very unwell; would you let them get me a fly to go to Christian's Haven ?”
The woman looked at him and shook her head; then she spoke to him in German.
The councillor now supposed that she did not understand Danish, so he repeated his wish in the German language .This , and his costume , convinced the woman that he was a foreigner. She soon understood that he felt unwell, and therefore brought him a jug of water. It certainly tasted a little of sea water, though it had been taken from the spring outside .
The councillor leaned his head on his hand , drew a deep breath , and thought of all the strange things that were happening about him.
“Is that today's number of the Day?” he said, quite mechanically , for he saw that the woman was putting away a large sheet of paper .
She did not understand what he meant , but handed him the leaf : it was a woodcut representing a strange appearance in the air which had been seen in the city of Cologne .
“That is very old!” said the councillor, who became quite cheerful at sight of this antiquity . “How did you come by this strange leaf ? That is very interesting, although the whole thing is a fable . Nowadays these appearances are explained to be northern lights that have been seen ; probably they arise from electricity .”
Those who sat nearest to him and heard his speech, looked at him in surprise, and one of them rose, took off his hat respectfully, and said, with a very grave face,
“You must certainly be a very learned man , sir!”
“Oh, no!” replied the councillor; “I can only say a word or two about things one ought to understand .”
“ Modestia is a beautiful virtue , ” said the man . “Moreover, I must say to your speech, mihi secus videtur; yet I will gladly suspend my judicium . ”
“May I ask with whom I have the pleasure of speaking?” asked the councillor.
“I am a bachelor of theology ,” replied the man .
This answer sufficed for the councillor; the title corresponded with the garb.
“Certainly,” he thought, “this must be an old village schoolmaster, a queer character, such as one finds sometimes over in Jutland . ”
“This is certainly not a locus docendi,” began the man ; “but I beg you to take the trouble to speak . You are doubtless well read in the ancients ?”
“Oh, yes,” replied the councillor. “I am fond of reading useful old books; and am fond of the modem ones , too , with the exception of the ‘Everyday Stories’, of which we have enough, in all conscience.”
“Everyday Stories ?” replied the bachelor, inquiringly .
“Yes , I mean the new romances we have now .”
“Oh ! ”said the man , with a smile ,“they are verywitty , and are much read at court . The king is especially partial to the romance by Messieurs Iffven and Gaudian, which talks about King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table . He has jested about it with his noble lords.”
“That I have certainly not yet read,” said the councillor; “that must be quite a new book published by Heiberg .”
“No,” retorted the man, “it is not published byHeiberg , but by Godfrey von Gehmen .”
“Indeed! Is he the author?” asked the councillor. “That is a very old name : was not that the name of the first printer who appeared in Denmark ?”
“Why, he is our first printer,”replied the man.
So far it had gone well . Now one of the men began to speak of a pestilence which he said had been raging a few years ago : he meant the plague of 1484. The councillor supposed that he meant the cholera, and so the conversation went on tolerably . The Freebooters' War of 1490 was so recent that it could not escape mention .
The English pirates had taken ships from the very wharves, said the man; and the councillor, who was well acquainted with the events of 1801, joined in manfully against the English. The rest of the talk, however, did not pass over so well ; every moment there was a contradiction . The good bachelor was terribly ignorant, and the simplest assertion of the councillor seemed too bold or too fantastic . They looked at each other, and when it became too bad, the bachelor spoke Latin , in the hope that he would be better understood ; but it was of no use .
“ How are you now? ” asked the hostess , and she plucked the councillor by the sleeve .
Now his recollection came back : in the course of the conversation he had forgotten everything that had happened.
“Good heavens! Where am I?” he said, and he felt dizzy when he thought of it .
“We'll drink claret , mead , and Bremen beer ,”cried one of the guests ,“and you shall drink with us .”
Two girls came in . One of them had on a cap of two colours . They poured out drink and bowed : the councillor felt a cold shudder running all down his back . “What' s that? What' s that?” he cried; but he was obliged to drink with them. They took possession of the good man quite politely . He was in despair, and when one said that he was tipsy he felt not the slightest doubt regarding the truth of the statement, and only begged them to procure him a droshky. Now they thought he was speaking Muscovite .
Never had he been in such rude vulgar company.
“One would think the country was falling back intoheathenism,” was his reflection. “This is the most terrible moment of my life.”
But at the same time the idea occurred to him to bend down under the table , and then to creep to the door. He did so; but just as he had reached the entry the others discovered his intention. They seized him by the feet; and now the goloshes , to his great good fortune, came off, and----the whole enchantment vanished.
The councillor saw quite plainly, in front of him, a lamp burning, and behind it a great building; everything looked familiar and splendid. It was East Street, as we know it now. He lay with his legs turned towards a porch, and opposite to him sat the watchman asleep.
“Good heavens ! Have I been lying here in the street dreaming?” he exclaimed .
“Yes, this is East Street sure enough! How splendidly bright and gay! It is terrible what an effect that one glass of punch must have had on me !”
Two minutes afterwards he was sitting in a fly, which drove him out to Christian's Haven. He thought of the terror and anxiety he had undergone, and praised from his heart the happy present, our own time, which, with all its shortcomings, was far better than the period in which he had been placed a short time before.
Ⅲ THE WATCHMAN' S ADVENTURES
“On my word, yonder lies a pair o' goloshes!” said the watchman . “They must certainly belong to the lieutenant who lives upstairs. They are lying close to the door.”
The honest man would gladly have rung the bell and delivered them, for upstairs there was a light still burning; but he did not wish to disturb the other people in the house , and so he let it alone .
“It must be very warm to have a pair of such things on , ” said he . “How nice and soft the leather is ! ” They fitted his feet very well. “How droll it is in the world! Now, he might lie down in his warm bed, and yet he does not! There he is pacing up and down the room. He is a happy man! He has neither wife nor children, and every evening he is at a party . Oh , I wish I were he, then I should be a happy man!”
As he uttered the wish, the goloshes he had put onproduced their effect , and the watchman was transported into the body and being of the lieutenant . Then he stood up in the room, and held a little pink paper in his fingers, on which was a poem, a poem written by the lieutenant himself . For who is there who has not once in his life had a poetic moment ? And at such a moment , if one writes down one' s thoughts , there is poetry .
Yes, people write poetry when they are in love; but a prudent man does not print such poems. The lieutenant was in love----and poor----that's a triangle, or, so to speak, the half of a broken square of happiness . The lieutenant felt that very keenly , and so he laid his head against the window-frame and sighed a deep sigh .
“The poor watchman in the street yonder is far happier than I . He does not know what I call want . He has a home, a wife, and children, who weep at his sorrow and rejoice at his joy. Oh! I should be happier than I am, if I could pass right over into him, for he is happier than I !”
In that same moment the watchman became a watch man again; for though the power of the goloshes of For tune he had assumed the personality of the lieutenant ; but then we know he felt far less content , and preferred to be what he really was. So the watchman became a watchman again .
“That was an ugly dream ,” said he , “ but droll enough . It seemed to me that I was the lieutenant up yonder, and that it was not pleasant at all. I missed the wife and the boys, who are now ready to half stifle me with kisses .”
He sat down again and nodded . The dream would not go quite out of his thoughts . He had the goloshes still on his feet. A falling star glided down the sky.
“There went one , ” said he , “but for all that , there are enough left . I should like to look at those things a little nearer, especially the moon, for that won't vanish under one' s hands . The student for whom my wife washes says that when we die we fly from one star to another. That's not true. but it would be very nice. If I could only make a little spring up there , then my body might lie here on the stairs for all I care . ”
Now there are certain things we should be very cautious of uttering in this world, but doubly careful when we have goloshes of Fortune on our feet . Just hear what happened to the watchman .
So far as we are concerned , we all understand the rapidity of dispatch by steam; we have tried it either in railways, or in steamers across the sea . But this speed is as the crawling of the sloth or the march of the snail in comparison with the swiftness with which light travels. That flies nineteen million times quicker than the best racer, and yet electricity is still quicker. Death is an electric shock we receive in our hearts, and on the wings of electricity the liberated soul flies away .
The sunlight requires eight minutes and a few seconds for a journey of more than ninety-five millions of miles; on the wings of electric power the soul requires only a few moments to accomplish the same flight . The space between the orbs of the universe is, for her, not greater than, for us, the distances between the houses of our friends dwelling in the same town and even living close together. Yet this electric shock costs us the life of the body here below, unless, like the watchman, we have the magic goloshes on.
In a few seconds the watchman had traversed the distance of two hundred and sixty thousand miles to the moon, which body, as we know, consists of a much lighter material than that of our earth , and is , as we should say , soft as new-fallen snow. He found himself on one of the many ring mountains with which we are familiar from Dr. M dler's great map of the moon. Within the ring a great bowl-shaped hollow went down to the depth of a couple of miles. At the base of the hollow lay a town, of whose appearance we can only form an idea by pouring the white of an egg, into a glass of water : the substance here was just as soft as white of egg, and formed similar towers, and cupolas, and terraces like sails, transparent and floating in the thin air. Our earth hung over his head like a great fiery red ball .
He immediately became aware of a number of beings, who were certainly what we call “men”, but their appear-ance was very different from ours . They had also a language, but no one could expect that the soul of the watchman should understand it. But it did understand, nevertheless .
Thus the watchman's soul understood the language of the people in the moon very well. They disputed about this earth, and doubted if it could be inhabited; the air, they asserted , must be too thick for a sensible moon-man to live there. They considered that the moon alone was peopled; for that, they said, was the real body in which the oldworld people dwelt . [They also talked of politics .]
But let us go down to the East Street , and see how it fared with the body of the watchman .
He sat lifeless upon the stairs .
His pike had fallen out of his hand, and his eyes stared up at the moon , after his honest soul which was going about up there.
“What 's o'clock , watchman?” asked a passer-by. But the man who didn' t answer was the watchman . Then the passenger tweaked him quite gently by the nose , and then he lost his balance. There lay the body stretched out at full length----the man was dead . Great fear fell upon the man who had tweaked him; dead the watchman was, and dead he remained. It was reported, and it was discussed, and in the morning the body was carried out to the hospital.
That would be a pretty jest for the soul if it should chance to come back, and probably seek its body in the East Street, and not find it ! Most likely it would go first to the police and afterwards to the address office, that inquiries might be made from thence respecting the missing goods; and then it would wander out to the hospital. But we may console ourselves with the idea that the soul is most clever when it acts upon its own account; it is the body that makes it stupid.
As we have said , the watchman' s body was taken to the hospital, and brought into the washing-room; and naturally enough the first thing they did there was to pull off the goloshes ; and then the soul had to come back . It took its way directly towards the body, and in a few seconds there was life in the man . He declared that this had been the most terrible night of his life; he would not have such feelings again, not for a shilling; but now it was past and over.
The same day he was allowed to leave ; but the goloshes remained at the hospital.
Ⅳ A GREAT MOMENT A VERY UNUSUAL JOURNEY
Every one who belongs to Copenhagen knows the look of the entrance to the Frederick's Hospital in Copenhagen; but as, perhaps, a few will read this story who do not belong to Copenhagen, it becomes necessary to give a short description of it .
The hospital is separated from the street by a tolerably high railing, in which the thick iron rails stand so far apart , that certain very thin inmates are said to have squeezed between them, and thus paid their little visits outside the premises . The part of the body most difficult to get through was the head ; and here , as it often happens in the world , small heads were the most fortunate . This will be sufficient as an introduction .
One of the young volunteers , of whom one could only say in one sense that he had a great head , had the watch that evening. The rain was pouring down; but in spite of this obstacle he wanted to go out, only for a quarter of an hour . It was needless , he thought , to tell the porter of his wish , especially if he could slip through between the rails .There lay the goloshes which the watchman had forgotten . It never occurred to him in the least that they were goloshes of Fortune . They would do him very good service in this rainy weather, and he pulled them on . Now the question was whether he could squeeze through the bars ; till now he had never tried it . There he stood .
“I wish to goodness I had my head outside! ”cried he . And immediately, though his head was very thick and big, it glided easily and quickly through . The goloshes must have understood it well; but now the body was to slip through also, and that could not be done.
“I' m too fat , ” said he .“ I thought my head would be theworst thing . I shan' t get through .”
Now he wanted to pull his head back quickly , but he could not manage it : he could move his neck , but that was all. His first feeling was one of anger, and then his spirits sank down to zero. The goloshes of Fortune had placed him in this terrible condition, and, unfortunately, it never occurred to him to wish himself free. No: instead of wishing, he only strove , and could not stir from the spot .
The rain poured down ; not a creature was to be seen in the street ; he could not reach the gate-bell , and how was he to get loose ? He foresaw that he would have to remain here until the morning, and then they would have to send for a blacksmith, to file through the iron bars. But such a business is not to be done quickly. The whole charity school opposite would be upon its legs; the whole sailors' quarter close by would come up and see him standing in the pillory; and a fine crowd there would be.
“Ugh !” he cried , “the blood' s rising to my head, and I shall go mad! Yes, I' m going mad! 0 I wish I were free again , then most likely it would pass over . ”
That's what he ought to have said a little sooner. The very moment he had uttered the thought his head was free; and now he rushed in, quite dazed with the fright the goloshes of Fortune had given him. But we must not think the whole affair was over; there was much worse to come yet .
The night passed away, and the following day too, and nobody sent for the goloshes. In the evening a representation was to take place in an amateur theatre in a distant street . The house was crammed ; and among the audience was the volunteer from the hospital , who appeared to have forgotten his adventure of the previous evening. He had the goloshes on, for they had not been sent for; and as it was dirty in the streets , they might do him good service. A new piece was recited: it was called My Aunt's Spectacles. These were spectacles which, when any one put them on in a great assembly of people, made all present look like cards, so that one could prophesy from them all that would happen in the coming year.
The idea struck him : he would have liked to possess such a pair of spectacles. If they were used rightly, they would enable the wearer to look into people' s hearts ; and that , he thought , would be more interesting than to see what was going to happen in the next year; for future events would be known in time, but the people's thoughts never.
“Now I'll look at the row of ladies and gentlemen on the first bench: if one could look directly into their hearts! Yes, that must be a hollow, a sort of shop. How my eyes would wander about in that shop!
In every lady's , yonder, I should doubtless find a great milliner' s warehouse : with this one here the shop is empty , but it would do no harm to have it cleaned out . But there would also be substantial shops . Ah , yes !” he continued, sighing, “I know one in which all the goods are first-rate, but there's a shopman in it already; that's the only drawback in the whole shop! From one and another the word would be ‘Please to step in!’Oh that I might only step in, like a neat little thought, and slip through their hearts!”
That was the word of command for the goloshes . The volunteer shrivelled up, and began to take a very remarkable journey through the hearts of the first row of spectators. The first heart through which he passed was that of a lady: but he immediately fancied himself in the Orthopaedic Institute, in the room where the plaster casts of deformed limbs are kept hanging against the walls; the only difference was , that these casts were formed in the institute when the patients came in, but here in the heart they were formed and preserved after the good persons had gone away . For they were casts of female friends , whose bodily and mental faults were preserved here.
Quickly he had passed into another female heart . But this seemed to him like a great holy church; the white dove of innocence fluttered over the high altar. Gladly would he have sunk down on his knees ; but he was obliged to go away into the next heart . Still , however, he heard the tones of the organ, and it seemed to him that he himself had become another and a better man . He felt himself not unworthy to enter into the next sanctuary, which showed itself in the form of a poor garret, containing a sick mother. But through the window the warm sun streamed in , beautiful roses nodded from the little wooden box on the roof, and two sky-blue birds sang full of childlike joy, while the sick mother prayed for a blessing on her daughter.
Now he crept on his hands and knees through an overfilled butcher' s shop . There was meat , and nothing but meat , wherever he went . It was the heart of a rich respectable man , whose name is certainly to be found in the directory .
Now he was in the heart of this man' s wife: this heart was an old dilapidated pigeon-house. The husband'sportrait was used as a mere weathercock: it stood in connection with the doors, and these doors opened and shut according as the husband turned .
Then he came into a cabinet of mirrors, such as we find in the castle of Rosenborg; but the mirrors magnified in a great degree. In the middle of the floor sat, like a Grand Lama, the insignificant I of the proprietor, astonished in the contemplation of his own greatness.
Then he fancied himself transported into a narrow needle-case full of pointed needles; and he thought, “This must decidedly be the heart of an old maid!” But that was not the case. It was a young officer, wearing several orders, and of whom one said, “He's a man of intellect and heart . ”
Quite confused was the poor volunteer when he emerged from the heart of the last person in the first row. He could not arrange his thoughts, and fancied it must be his powerful imagination which had run away with him.
“Gracious powers!” he sighed , “ I must certainly have a great tendency to go mad . It is also unconscionably hot in here : the blood is rising to my head ! ”
And now he remembered the great event of the last evening, how his head had been caught between the iron rails of the hospital.
“That' s where I must have caught it , ” thought he . “I must do something at once . A Russian bath might be very good . I wish I were already lying on the highest board in the bath-house .”
And there he lay on the highest board in the vapour bath; but he was lying there in all his clothes, in boots and goloshes, and the hot drops from the ceiling, were falling on his face .
“Hi!” he cried, and jumped down to take a plunge bath .
The attendant uttered a loud cry on seeing a person there with all his clothes on. The volunteer had, however, enough presence of mind to whisper to him, “It's for a wager!” But the first thing he did when he got into his own room was to put a big blister on the nape of his neck, and another on his back, that they might draw out his madness.
Next morning he had a very sore back; and that was all he had got by the goloshes of Fortune .
Ⅴ THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE COPYING CLERK
The watchman , whom we assuredly have not yet forgotten, in the meantime thought of the goloshes, which he had found and brought to the hospital. He took them away; but as neither the lieutenant nor any one in the street would own them, they were taken to the police office .
“They look exactly like my own goloshes , ” said one of the copying gentlemen , as he looked at the unowned articles and put them beside his own. “More than a shoemaker' s eye is required to distinguish them from one another.”
“Mr. Copying Clerk,” said a servant, coming in with some paper.
The copying clerk turned and spoke to the man: when he had done this, he turned to look at the goloshes again; he was in great doubt if the right-hand or the left-hand pair belonged to him.
“It must be those that are wet . ” he thought . “ Now here he thought wrong, for these were the goloshes of Fortune; but why should not the police be sometimes mistaken? He put them on, thrust some papers into his pocket,and put a few manuscripts under his arm, for they were to be read at home, and abstracts to be made from them. But now it was Sunday morning, and the weather was fine .“A walk to Fredericksberg would do me good,” said he; and he went out accordingly .
There could not be a quieter, steadier person than this young man. We grant him his little walk with all our hearts; it will certainly do him good after so much sitting. At first he only walked without thinking of anything, so the goloshes had no opportunity of displaying their magic power.
In the avenue he met an acquaintance, a young poet, who told him that he was going to start, next day, on a summer trip .
“Are you going away again already?”
asked the copying clerk. “What a happy, free man you are! You can fly wherever you like; we others have a chain to our foot . ”
“But it is fastened to the bread tree! ” replied the poet. “You need not be anxious for the morrow; and when you grow old you get a pension . ”
“But you are better off , after all ,” said the copying clerk . “It must be a pleasure to sit and write poetry . Everybody says agreeable things to you, and then you are your own master . Ah , you should just try it , poring over the frivolous affairs in the court . ”
The poet shook his head; the copying clerk shook his head also: each retained his own opinions; and thus they parted .
“They are a strange race , these poets ! ” thought the copying clerk . “I should like to try and enter into such a nature----to become a poet myself . I am certain I should not write such complaining verses as the rest . What a splendid spring day for a poet ! The air is so remarkably clear , the clouds are so beautiful , and the green smells so sweet . For many years I have not felt as I feel at this moment .”
We already notice that he has become a poet . It wascertainly not an obvious change, for it is a foolish fancy to imagine a poet different from other people, for among the latter there may be natures more poetical than those of many an acknowledged poet . The difference is only that the poet has a better spiritual memory: he can hold fast the feeling and the idea until they are embodied clearly and firmly in words; and the others cannot do that. But the transition from an everyday nature to that of a poet is always a transition, and as such it must be noticed in the copying clerk .
“What glorious fragrance !” he cried . “How it reminds me of the violets at Aunt Laura' s! Yes , that was when I was a little boy . I have not thought of that for a long time . The good old lady! She lived over there behind the Exchange . She always had a twig or a couple of green shoots in water, let the winter be as severe as it might. The violets bloomed, while I had to put warm farthings against the frozen window-panes to make peepholes . That was a pretty view. Out in the canal the ships were frozen in, and deserted by the whole crew; a screamingcrow was the only living creature left. Then, when the spring breezes blew, it all became lively: the ice was sawn asunder amid shouting and cheers , the ships were tarred and rigged, and then they sailed away to strange lands. I remained here, and must always remain, and sit at the police office , and let others take passports for abroad . That' s my fate . Oh , yes! ” and he sighed deeply . Suddenly he paused. “Good heaven! What is come to me? I never thought or felt as I do now . It must be the spring air : it is both charming and agreeable!”
He felt in his pockets for his papers . “These will give me something else to think of,” said he, and let his eyes wander over the first leaf . There he read : “Dame Sigbrith; an original tragedy in five acts .”“What is that ? And it is my own hand . Have I written this tragedy ? The Intrigue on the Promenade ; or , the Day of Penance .---- Vaudeville . But where did I get that from ? It must have been put into my pocket. Here is a letter.”
Yes, it was from the manager of the theatre; the pieces were rejected, and the letter is not at all politely worded.
“H' m ! H' m !” said the copying clerk , and he sat down upon a bench: his thoughts were so living, his heart so soft . Involuntarily he grasped one of the nearest flowers ; it was a common little daisy . What the botanists require several lectures to explain to us, this flower told in a minute. It told the story of its birth; it told of the strength of the sunlight, which spread out the delicate leaves and made them give out fragrance . Then he thought of the battles of life, which likewise awaken feelings in our breasts. Air and light are the lovers of the flower. But light is the favoured one . Towards the light it turned , and only when the light vanished the flower rolled her leaves together and slept in the embrace of the air.
“It is light that adorns me!” said the flower.
“But the air allows you to breathe ,” whispered the poet's voice.
Just by him stood a boy, knocking with his stick in a muddy ditch . The drops of water spurted up among the green twigs, and the copying clerk thought of the millions of invisible animals which were cast up on high with the drops, which was the same to them, in proportion to their size,as it would be to us if we were hurled high over the clouds. And the copying clerk thought of this, and of the great change which had taken place within him, he smiled .
“I sleep and dream ! It is wonderful , though , how naturally one can dream, and yet know all the time that it is a dream. I should like to be able to remember it all clearly tomorrow when I wake . I seem to myself quite unusually excited. What a clear appreciation I have of everything, and how free I feel ! But I am certain that if I remember anything of it tomorrow, it will be nonsense. That has often been so with me before . It is with all the clever famous things one says and hears in dreams , as with the money of the elves under the earth; when one receives it , it is rich and beautiful , but looked at by daylight, it is nothing but stones and dried leaves. Ah!”he sighed, quite plaintively, and gazed at the chirping birds, as they sprang merrily from bough to bough,
“They are much better off than I. Flying is a noble art . Happy he who is born with wings . Yes , if I could change myself into anything, it should be into a lark.”
In a moment his coat-tails and sleeves grew together and formed wings; his clothes became feathers, and his goloshes claws. He noticed it quite plainly, and laughed inwardly . “Well , now I can see that I am dreaming, but Ihave never dreamed before so wildly .”And he flew up into the green boughs and sang; but there was no poetry in the song, for the poetic nature was gone. The goloshes, like everyone who wishes to do any business thoroughly , could only do one thing at a time . He wished to be a poet , and he became one . Then he wished to be a little bird, and in changing thus, the former peculiarity was lost.
“That is very funny! ” he said . “In the daytime I sit in the police office among the driest of law papers; at night I can dream that I am flying about, as a lark in the Fredericksberg Garden . One could really write quite a popular comedy upon it . ”
Now he flew down into the grass, turned his head in every direction, and beat with his beak upon the bending stalks of grass , which , in proportion to his size , seemed to him as long as palm branches of Northern Africa.
It was only for a moment , and then all around him became as the blackest night . It seemed to him that some immense substance was cast over him; it was a great cap, which a boy threw over the bird. A hand came in and seized the copying clerk by the back and wings in a way that made him chirp. In his first terror he cried aloud, “You impudent rascal ! I am copying clerk at the police office ! ” But that sounded to the boy only like “piep ! piep” and he tapped the bird on the beak and wandered on with him .
In the alley the boy met with two other boys, who belonged to the educated classes, socially speaking; but, according to abilities, they ranked in the lowest class in the school. These bought the bird for threepence; and so the copying clerk was carried back to Copenhagen.
“It's a good thing that I am dreaming,” he said, “or I should become really angry . First I was a poet , and now I' m a lark ! Yes , it must have been the poetic nature which transformed me into that little creature. It is a miserable state of things, especially when one falls into the hands of boys . I should like to know what the end of it will be .”
The boys carried him into a very elegant room. A stout smiling lady received them. But she was not at all gratified to see the common field bird, as she called the lark, coming in too. Only for that day she would consent to it; but they must put the bird in the empty cage which stood by the window .
“Perhaps that will please Polly , ” she added , and laughed at a great parrot swinging himself proudly in his ring in the handsome brass cage .
“It's Polly's birthday,” she said, fatuously, “so the little field bird shall congratulate him.”
Polly did not answer a single word; he only swung proudly to and fro . But a pretty bird , who had been brought here last summer out of his warm fragrant fatherland , began to sing loudly .
“Screamer!” said the lady; and she threw a white handkerchief over the cage.
“Piep! piep!” sighed he; “here's a terrible snowstorm . And thus sighing , he was silent .
The copying clerk or, as the lady called him, the field bird, was placed in a little cage close to the canary, and not far from the parrot . The only human words which Polly could say, and which often sounded very comically, were , “Come , let ' s be men now ! ” Everything else that he screamed out was just as unintelligible as the song of the canary bird, except for the copying clerk , who was now also a bird, and who understood his comrades very well .
“I flew under the green palm tree and the blossoming almond tree! ” sang the canary . “ I flew with my brothers and sisters over the beautiful flowers and over the bright sea, where the plants waved in the depths. I also saw many beautiful parrots , who told the merriest stories.”
“Those were wild birds,”replied the parrot. “They had no education . Let us be men now ! Why don' t you laugh? If the lady and all the strangers could laugh at it, so can you . It is a great fault to have no taste for what is humorous . No , let us be men now . ”
“Do you remember the pretty girls who danced under the tents spread out beneath the blooming trees? Do you remember the sweet fruits and the cooling juice in the wild plants?”
“Oh , yes !” replied the parrot ; “but here I am far better off . I have good care and genteel treatment . I know I've a good head, and I don't ask for more. Let us be men now . You are what they call a poetic soul . I have thorough knowledge and wit . You have genius , but no prudence . You mount up into those high natural notes of your; , and then you get covered up . That is never done to me ; no , no , for I cost them a little more . I make an impression with my beak, and can cast wit round me. Now let us be men !”
“O my warm flowery fatherland ! ” sang the canary . “I will praise thy dark green trees and thy quiet bays, where the branches kiss the clear watery mirror; I'll sing of the joy of all my shining brothers and sisters, where the plants grow by the desert springs . ”
“Now, pray leave off these dismal tones,” cried the parrot . “Sing something at which one can laugh ! Laughter is the sign of the highest mental development . Look if a dog or a horse can laugh ! No , they can cry ; but laughter----that is given to men alone . Ho ! Ho ! Ho !” screamed Polly, and finished the jest with “Let us be men now.”
“You little grey Danish bird,” said the canary; “so you have also become a prisoner. It is certainly cold in your woods , but still liberty is there . Fly out ! They have forgotten to close your cage ; the upper window is open . Fly! Fly!”
Instinctively the copying clerk obeyed, and flew forth from his prison . At the same moment the half-opened door of the next room creaked, and stealthily, with fierce sparkling eyes , the house cat crept in , and made chase upon him. The canary fluttered in its cage, the parrot flapped its wings, and cried, “Let us be men now.” The copying clerk felt mortally afraid, and flew through the window,away over the houses and streets ; at last he was obliged to rest a little .
The house opposite had a homelike look: one of the windows stood open, and he flew in. It was his own room: he perched upon the table .
“Let us be men now , ” he broke out , involuntarily imitating the parrot ; and in the same moment he was restored to the form of the copying clerk; but he was sitting on the table .
“Heaven preserve me! ” he cried . “How could I have come here and fallen so soundly asleep ? That was an unquiet dream, too, that I had. The whole thing was great nonsense.”
Ⅵ THE BEST THAT THE GOLOSHES BROUGHT
On the following day, quite early in the morning, as the clerk still lay in bed, there came a tapping at his door:it was his neighbour who lodged on the same floor, a young theologian; and he came in.
“Lend me your goloshes,”said he. “It is very wet in the garden, but the sun shines gloriously, and I should like to smoke a pipe down there.”
He put on the goloshes, and was soon in the garden,which contained a plum tree and a pear tree. Even a little garden like this is highly prized in Copenhagen.
The student wandered up and down the path; it was only six o'clock, and a post-horn sounded out in the street.
“Oh, travelling! Travelling!”he cried out;“that's the greatest happiness in all the world. That's the highest goal of my wishes. Then this disquietude that I feel would be stilled. But it would have to be far away. I should like to see beautiful Switzerland, to travel through Italy, to----”
Yes, it was a good thing that the goloshes took effect immediately, for he might have gone too far even for himself, and for us others too. He was travelling; he was in the midst of Switzerland, packed tightly with eight others in the interior of a diligence. He had a headache and a weary feeling in his neck, and his feet had gone to sleep, for they were swollen by the heavy boots he had on. He was hovering in a condition between sleeping and waking. In his right-hand pocket he had his letter of credit, in his left-hand pocket his passport, and a few louis d'or were sewn into a little bag he wore on his breast. Whenever he dozed off, he dreamed he had lost one or other of these possessions; and then he would start up in a feverish way, and the first movement his hand made was to describe a triangle from left to right, and towards his breast, to feel whether he still possessed them or not. Umbrellas, hats, and walkingsticks swung in the net over him, and almost took away the prospect, which was impressive enough: he glanced out at it, and his heart sang what one poet at least, whom we know, has sung in Switzerland, but has not yet printed:
'Tis a prospect as fine as heart can desire,
Before me Mont Blanc the rough:
'Tis pleasant to tarry here and admire,
If only you've money enough.
Great, grave, and dark was all nature around him.The pine woods looked like tufts of heather upon the high rocks, whose summits were lost in cloudy mists; and then it began to snow, and the wind blew cold.
“Ugh!”he sighed;“if we were only on the other side of the Alps, then it would be summer, and I should have got money on my letter of credit: my anxiety about this prevents me from enjoying Switzerland. Oh, if I were only at the other side!”
And then he was on the other side, in the midst of Italy,between Florence and Rome. The lake Thrasymene lay spread out in the evening light, like flaming gold among the dark blue hills.Here, where Hannibal beat Flaminius, the grape-vines held each other by their green fingers;pretty half-naked children were keeping a herd of coal-black pigs under a clump of fragrant laurels by the wayside. If we could reproduce this scene accurately, all would cry,“Glorious Italy!”But neither the theologian nor any of his travelling companions in the carriage of the vetturino thought this.
Poisonous flies and gnats flew into the carriage by thousands. In vain they beat the air frantically with a myrtle branch----the flies stung them nevertheless. There was not one person in the carriage whose face was not swollen and covered with stings. The poor horses looked miserable,the flies tormented them wofully, and it only mended the matter for a moment when the coachman dismounted and scraped them clean from the insects that sat upon them in great swarms. Now the sun sank down; a short but icy coldness pervaded all nature; it was not at all agreeable,but all around the hills and clouds put on the most beautiful green colour, so clear, so shining----yes, go and see it in person, that is better than any description. It was a glorious spectacle; but the stomachs of all were empty and their bodies exhausted, and every wish of the head turned towards a resting-place for the night; but how could that be won? To descry this resting-place all eyes were turned more eagerly to the road than towards the beauties of nature.
The way now led through an olive wood: he could have fancied himself passing between knotty willow trunks at home. Here, by the solitary inn, a dozen crippled beggars had taken up their positions: the quickest among them looked, to quote an expression of Marryat's, like the eldest son of Famine, who had just come of age. The others were either blind or had withered legs, so that they crept about on their hands, or they had withered arms with fingerless hands. This was misery in rags indeed.“Eccellenza, miserabili!”they sighed, and stretched forth their diseased limbs. The hostess herself, with bare feet, untidy hair, and dressed in a dirty blouse, received her guests. The doors were tied up with string; the floor of the room was of brick, and half of it was grubbed up;bats flew about under the roof, and the smell within----
“Yes, lay the table down in the stable,”said one of the travellers.“There, at least, one knows what one is breathing.”
The windows were opened, so that a little fresh air might find its way in; but quicker than the air came the withered arms and the continual whining,“Miserabili,Eccellenza!”On the walls were many inscriptions; half of them were against“La bella Italia.”
The supper was served. It consisted of a watery soup, seasoned with pepper and rancid oil. This last dainty played a chief part in the salad; musty eggs and roasted cocks'-combs were the best dishes. Even the wine had a strange taste----it was a dreadful mixture.
At night the boxes were placed against the doors. One of the travellers kept watch while the rest slept. The theologian was the sentry. Oh, how close it was in there! The heat oppressed him, the gnats buzzed and stung, and the miserabili outside moaned in their dreams.
“Yes, travelling would be all very well,”said the theologian,“if one had no body. If the body could rest,and the mind fly! Wherever I go, I fine a want that oppresses my heart: it is something better than the present moment that I desire. Yes, something better----the best;but what is that, and where is it? In my own heart I know very well what I want: I want to attain to a happy goal,the happiest of all!”
And as soon as the word was spoken he found himself at home. The long white curtains hung down from the windows and in the middle of the room stood a black coffin; in this he was lying in the quiet sleep of death: his wish was fulfilled----his body was at rest and his spirit roaming.“Esteem no man happy who is not yet in his grave,”were the words of Solon; here their force was proved anew.
Every corpse is a sphinx of immortality; the sphinx here also in the black sarcophagus answered, what the living man had laid down two day before:
Thou strong, stern Death! Thy silence waketh fear,
Thou leavest mould, ring gravestones for thy traces.
Shall not the soul see Jacob's ladder here?
No resurrection type but churchyard grasses?
The deepest woes escape the world's eye:
Thou that alone on duty's path hast sped,
Heavier those duties on thy heart would lie
Than lies the earth now on thy coffined head.
Two forms were moving to and fro in the room. We know them both. They were the Fairy of Care and the Ambassadress of Happiness. They bent down over the dead man.
“Do you see?”said Care.“What happiness have your goloshes brought to men?”
“They have at least brought a permanent benefit to him who slumbers here,“replied Happiness.
“Oh, no!”said Care.“He went away of himself,he was not summoned. His spirit was not strong enough to lift the treasures which he had been destined to lift. I will do him a favour.”
And she drew the goloshes from his feet; then the sleep of death was ended, and the awakened man raised himself up. Care vanished, and with her the goloshes disappeared too: doubtless she looked upon them as her property.