O. T., A Danish Romance Part 43

"A heart which overflowed with love, Was gone from earth to love and G.o.d,"

were the words which might be read upon the grave-stone.

A withered bouquet of stocks had been found by Louise, with the certificate of Eva's birth and her hymn-book. These were the flowers which Wilhelm had given her that evening at Roeskelde. Among the dry leaves there lay a piece of paper, on which she had written,--"Even like these flowers let the feelings die away in my soul which these flowers inspire it with!"

And now above her grave the flowers which she had loved sent forth their fragrance.

It was Sunday; the sun shone warm; the church-goers, old and young, a.s.sembled under the great lime-tree near Eva's grave. They expected their young preacher, who to-day was to preach for the third time.

The gentlefolks would also certainly be there, they thought, because the young Baron was come back out of foreign parts, and with him the other gentleman, who certainly was to have Miss Louise.

"Our new preacher is worth hearing," said one of the peasant women; "such a young man, who actually preaches the old faith! as gentle and as meek in conversation as if he were one of ourselves! And in the pulpit, G.o.d help us! it went quite down into my legs the last time about the Day of Judgment!"

"There is Father!" [Note: The general term applied to the preacher by the Danish peasants.] exclaimed the crowd, and the heads of old and young were uncovered. The women courtesied deeply as a young man in priest-robes went into the church-door. His eyes and lips moved to a pious smile, the hair was smooth upon his pale forehead.

"Good day, children!" said he.

It was Hans Peter. He had, indeed, had "the best characters," and thus had received a good living, and now preached effectively about the devil and all his works.

The singing of the community sounded above the grave where the sun shone, where the stocks sent forth their fragrance, and where Eva slept: she whose last wish was to live.

"There is no love i' th' grave below, No music, warmth, or pleasure."

The earth lay firm and heavy upon her coffin-lid.

During the singing of the second hymn a handsome carriage drove up before the church-yard. The two friends, who were only just returned to their home in Denmark, entered the church, together with the mother and Louise.

Travelling and two years had made Wilhelm appear somewhat older; there was a shadow of sadness in his otherwise open and life-rejoicing countenance. Otto looked handsomer than formerly; the gloomy expression in his face was softened, he looked around cheerfully, yet thoughtfully, and a smile was on his lips when he spoke with Louise.

There was in the sermon some allusion made to those who had returned home; for the rest, it was a flowery discourse interlarded with many texts from the Bible. The community shed tears; the good, wise people, they understood it to mean that their young lord was returned home uninjured from all the perils which abound in foreign lands.

The preacher was invited to dinner at the hall. The Kammerjunker and Sophie came also, but it lasted "seven long and seven wide," as Miss Jakoba expressed herself, before they could get through all the unwrapping and were ready to enter the parlor, for they had with them the little son Fergus, as he was called, after the handsome Scotchman in Sir Walter Scott's "Waverley." That was Sophie's wish. The Kammerjunker turned the name of Fergus to Gusseman, and Jacoba a.s.serted that it was a dog's name.

"Now you shall see my little b.u.mpkin!" said he, and brought in a square-built child, who with fat, red cheeks, and round arms, stared around him. "That is a strong fellow! Here is something to take hold of!

Tralla-ralla-ralla!" And he danced him round the room.

Sophie laughed and offered her hand to Otto.

Wilhelm turned to Mamsell. "I have brought something for you," said he, "something which I hope may find a place in the work-box--a man made of very small mussel-sh.e.l.ls; it is from Venice."

"Heavens! from all that way off!" said she and courtesied.

After dinner they walked in the garden.

Wilhelm spoke already of going the following year again to Paris.

"Satan!" said the Kammerjunker. "Nay, I can do better with Mr. Thostrup.

He is patriotic. He lays out his money in an estate. It is a good bargain which you have made, and in a while will be beautiful; there is hill and dale."

"There my old Rosalie shall live with me," said Otto; "there she will find her Switzerland. The cows shall have bells on their necks."

"Lord G.o.d! shall they also be made fools of?" exclaimed Jakoba: "that is just exactly as if it were Sophie."

They went through the avenue where Otto two years before had wept, and had related all his troubles to Louise. He recollected it, and a gentle sigh pa.s.sed his lips whilst his eyes rested on Louise.

"Now, do you feel yourself happy at home?" asked she; "a lovelier summer's day than this you certainly have not abroad."

"Every country has its own beauties," replied Otto. "Our Denmark is not a step child of Nature. The people here are dearest to me, for I am best acquainted with them. They, and not Nature, it is that makes a land charming. Denmark is a good land; and here also will I look for my happiness." He seized Louise's hand; she blushed, and was silent. Happy hours succeeded.

This circle a.s.sembled every Sunday; on the third, their delight was greater, was more festal than on any former occasion.

Nature herself had the same expression. The evening was most beautiful; the full moon shone, magnificent dark-blue clouds raised themselves like mountains on the other side the Belt. Afar off sailed the ships, with every sail set to catch the breeze.

Below the moon floated a coal-black cloud, which foretold a squall.

A little yacht went calmly over the water. At the helm sat a boy--half a child he seemed: it was Jonas, the little singing-bird, as Wilhelm had once called him. Last Whitsuntide he had been confirmed, and with his Confirmation all his singer-dreams were at an end: but that did not trouble him; on the contrary, it had lain very heavy upon his heart that he was not to be a fifer. His highest wish had been to see himself as a regimental fifer, and then he should have gone to his Confirmation in his red uniform, with a sabre at his side, and a feather in his hat half as tall as himself. Thus adorned, he might have gone with the girls into the King's Garden and upon the Round Tower, the usual walk for poor children in Copenhagen. On Confirmation-day they ascend the high tower, just as if it were to gain from it a free view over the world. Little Jonas, however, was confirmed as a sailor, and he now sat at the helm on this quiet night.

Upon the deck lay two persons and slept; a third went tranquilly up and down. Suddenly he shook one of the sleepers, and caught hold on the sail. A squall had arisen with such rapidity and strength, that the vessel in a moment was thrown on her side. Mast and sail were below the water. Little Jonas uttered a shriek. Not a vessel was within sight.

The two sleepers had woke in time to cling to the mast. With great force they seized the ropes, but in vain; the sail hung like lead in the water. The ship did not right herself.

"Joseph, Maria!" exclaimed one of them, a man with gray hairs and unpleasing features. "We sink! the water is in the hold!"

All three clambered now toward the hinder part of the vessel, where a little boat floated after. One of them sprang into it.

"My daughter!" cried the elder, and bent himself toward the narrow entrance into the cabin. "Sidsel, save thy life!" and so saying, he sprang into the boat.

"We must have my daughter out," cried he. One of the ship's cabin windows was under water; he burst in the other window.

"We are sinking!" cried he, and a horrible scream was heard within.

The old man was German Heinrich, who was about to come with this vessel from Copenhagen to Jutland: Sidsel was his daughter, and therefore he wished now to save her life a second time.

The water rushed more and more into the ship. Heinrich thrust his arm through the cabin-window, he grasped about in the water within; suddenly he caught hold on a garment, he drew it toward him; but it was only the captain's coat, and not his daughter, as he had hoped.

"The ship sinks!" shrieked the other, and grasped wildly on the rope which held the boat fast: in vain he attempted to divide it with his pocket-knife. The ship whirled round with the boat and all. Air and water boiled within it, and, as if in a whirlpool, the whole sunk into the deep. The sea agitated itself into strong surges over the place, and then was again still. The moon shone tranquilly over the surface of the water as before. No wreck remained to tell any one of the struggle which there had been with death.

The bell tolled a quarter past twelve; and at that moment the last light at the hall was extinguished.

"I will go to Paris," said Wilhelm, "to my glorious Switzerland; here at home one is heavy-hearted; the gillyflowers on the grave have an odor full of melancholy recollections. I must breathe the mountain air; I must mingle in the tumult of men, and it is quite the best in the world."

Otto closed his eyes; he folded his hands.

"Louise loves me," said he. "I am so happy that I fear some great misfortune may soon meet me; thus it used always to be. Whilst German Heinrich lives I cannot a.s.sure myself of good! If he were away, I should be perfectly tranquil, perfectly happy!"

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