The mayor was standing at his open window; he was wearing a dress shirt with a dainty breastpin in its frill. He was very well shaven, self-done, though he had cut himself slightly and had stuck a small bit of newspaper over the cut.
"Listen, youngster!" he boomed.The youngster was none other than the washerwoman's son, who respectfully took off his cap as he passed. This cap was broken at the rim, so that he could put it into his pocket. In his poor but clean and very neatly mended clothes, and his heavy wooden shoes, the boy stood as respectfully as if he were before the king.
"You're a good boy, a well-behaved lad!" said the Mayor. "I suppose your mother is washing down at the river, and no doubt you are going to bring her what you have in your pocket. That's an awful thing with your mother! How much have you there?""A half pint," said the boy in a low, trembling voice."And this morning she had the same?" continued the Mayor."No, it was yesterday!" answered the boy."Two halves make a whole! She is no good! It is sad there are such people. Tell your mother she ought to be ashamed of herself. Don't you become a drunkard-but I suppose you will! Poor child! Run along now."
And the boy went, still holding his cap in his hand, while the wind rippled the waves of his yellow hair. He went down the street and through an alley to the river, where his mother stood at her washing stool in the water, beating the heavy linen with a wooden beater. The current was strong, for the mill's sluices were open; the bed sheet was dragged along by the stream and nearly swept away her washing stool, and the woman had all she could do to stand up against it.
"I was almost carried away," she said. "It's a good thing you've come, for I need something to strengthen me. It's so cold in the water; I've been standing here for six hours. Have you brought me anything?"
The boy drew forth a flask, and his mother put it to her lips and drank a little.
"Oh, that does me good! How it warms me! It's just as good as hot food, and it isn't as expensive! Drink, my boy! You look so pale, and you're freezing in your thin clothes. Remember it is autumn. Ooh, the water is cold! If only I don't get ill! But I won't. Give me a little more, and drink some yourself, but only a little drop, for you mustn't get used to it, my poor dear child!"
And she walked out of the water and up onto the bridge where the boy stood. The water dripped from the straw mat that she had tied around her waist and from her petticoat.
"I work and slave till the blood runs out at my fingernails, but I do it gladly if I can bring you up honestly, my sweet child!"
Just then came an elderly woman, poorly clad, lame in one leg, and with an enormously large, false curl hanging down over one of her eyes, which was blind. This curl was supposed to hide the eye, but it only made the defect the more conspicuous. The neighbors called her " Maren with the curl," and she was an old friend of the washerwoman's.
"You poor thing," she cried, "slaving and toiling in the cold water! You certainly need something to warm you a little, and yet the gossips cry about the few drops you take!" And soon all that the Mayor had said to the boy was repeated to his mother, for Maren had overheard it, and it had angered her to hear him talk so to the child about his own mother and the few drops she took, because on that same day the Mayor was having a big dinner party with many bottles of wine.
"Good wine, strong wine! Many will drink more than they should, but they don't call that drinking. They are all right, but you are good for nothing!"
"What! Did the Mayor really say that, child?" asked the laundress, her lips quivering. "So you have a mother who is good for nothing! Perhaps he's right, though he shouldn't say so to a child. But I mustn't complain; good things have come to me from that house."
"Why, yes, you were in service there, when the Mayor's parents were alive. That was many years ago. Many bushels of salt have been eaten since then, so people may well be thirsty! laughed Maren. "The big dinner today at the Mayor's would have been postponed if everything hadn't been prepared. I heard the news from the porter. A letter came, an hour ago, telling them that the Mayor's younger brother, in Copenhagen, is dead.""Dead!" cried the laundress, turning as white as a ghost.
"What does it matter to you" said Maren. "Of course, you must have known him, since you worked in the house."
"Is he really dead? He was the best and kindest of men-indeed, there aren't many like him!" Tears were rolling down her cheeks. "Oh, my God! Everything is going around! That's because I emptied the bottle. I couldn't stand so much. I feel so ill!" And she leaned against the fence for support.
"Good heavens, you are ill, indeed!" said Maren. "Try to get over it!
No, you really are sick! I'd better get you home!""But the washing
there!""I'll take care of that. Here, give me your arm. The boy can stay
here and watch it till I come back and wash what's left. It's only a few
The poor laundress' legs were trembling under her. "I've stood too long in the cold water, with no food since yesterday! I have a burning fever. Oh, dear Lord Jesus, help me to get home! Oh, my poor child!" And she wept.
The boy cried too, as he sat alone beside the river, guarding the wet linen. The two women made their way slowly, the washerwoman dragging her shaky limbs up the little alley and through the street where the Mayor lived. Just as she reached the front of his house, she sank down on the cobblestones. A crowd gathered around her.Limping Maren ran into his yard for help. The Mayor and his guests came to the windows.
"It's the washerwoman!" he said. "She's had a bit too much to drink; she's no good! It's a pity for that handsome boy of hers, I really like that child, but his mother is good for nothing."
And the washerwoman was brought to her own humble room, where she was put to bed. Kindly Maren hastened to prepare a cup of warm ale with butter and sugar-she could think of no better medicine in such a case-and then returned to the river, where, although she meant well, she did a very poor job with the washing; she only pulled the wet clothes out of the water and put them into a basket.
That evening she appeared again in the washerwoman's miserable room. She had begged from the Mayor's cook a couple of roasted potatoes and a fine fat piece of ham for the sick woman. Maren and the boy feasted on these, but the patient was satisfied with the smell, "For that was very nourishing," she said.
The boy was put to bed, in the same one in which his mother slept, lying crosswise at his mother's feet, with a blanket of old blue and red carpet ends sewed together.
The laundress felt a little better now; the warm ale had given her strength, and the smell of the good food had been nourishing.
"Thank you, my kind friend," she said to Maren, "I'll tell you all about it, while the boy is asleep. He's sleeping already; see how sweet he looks with his eyes closed. He doesn't think of his mother's sufferings; may our Lord never let him feel their equal! Well, I was in service at the Councilor's, the Mayor' parents, when their youngest son came home from his studies. I was a carefree young girl then, but honest-I must say that before heaven. And the student was so pleasant and jolly; every drop of blood in his veins was honest and true; a better young man never lived. He was a son of the house, and I was only a servant, but we became sweethearts-all honorably; a kiss is no sin, after all, if people really love each other. And he told his mother that he loved me. She was an angel in his eyes, wise and kind and loving. And when he went away again he put his gold ring on my finger.
"After he had gone my mistress called me in to speak to me; she looked so grave and yet so kind, and spoke as wisely as an angel indeed. She pointed out to me the gulf of difference, both mentally and materially, that lay between her son and me. 'Now he is attracted by your good looks, but that will fade in time. You haven't received his education; intellectually you can never rise to his level. I honor the poor,' she continued, ' and I know that there is many a poor man who will sit in a higher seat in the kingdom of heaven than many a rich man; but that is no reason for crossing the barrier in this world. Left to yourselves, you two would drive your carriage full tilt against obstacles, until it toppled over with you both. Now I know that Erik, the glovemaker, a good, honest craftsman, wants to marry you; he is a well-to-do widower with no children. Think it over!'
"Every word my mistress spoke went through my heart like a knife, but I knew she was right, and that weighed heavily upon me. I kissed her hand, and my bitter tears fell upon it. But still bitterer tears fell when I lay upon my bed in my own room. Oh, the long, dreary night that followed-our Lord alone knows how I suffered!
"Not until I went to church on Sunday did peace of mind come after my pain. It seemed the working of Providence that as I left the church I met Erik himself. There were no doubts in my mind now; we were suited to each other, both in rank and in means; he was even a well-to-do man. So I went straight up to him, took his hand, and asked, 'Do you still think of me?'" 'Yes, always and forever,' he said." 'Do you want to marry a girl who likes and respects you, but does not love you?'" 'I believe love will come,' he said, and then we joined hands.
"I went home to my mistress. The gold ring that her son had given me I had been wearing every day next to my heart, and every night on my finger in bed, but now I drew it out. I kissed it until my lips bled, then gave it to my mistress and told her that next week the banns would be read for me and the glovemaker.
"My mistress took me in her arms and kissed me; she didn't say I was good for nothing, but at that time I was perhaps better than I am now, for I had not yet known the misfortunes of the world. The wedding was at Candlemas, and for our first year we were quite happy. My husband had a workman and an apprentice with him, and you, Maren, were our servant."
"Oh, and such a good mistress you were!" said Maren. "I shall never forget how kind you and your husband were to me!"
"Ah, but you were with us during our good times! We had no children then. I never saw the student again. Oh, yes, I saw him once, but he didn't see me. He came to his mother's funeral, and I saw him standing by her grave, looking so sad and pale-but that was all for his mother's sake. When his father died later he was abroad and didn't come to that funeral. He didn't come here again; he became a lawyer, and he never married, I know. But he thought no more of me, and if he had seen me he would certainly have never recognized me, ugly as I am now. And it is all for the best!"
Then she went on to tell of the bitter days of hardship, when misfortune had fallen upon them. They had saved five hundred dollars, and since in their neighborhood a house could be bought for two hundred, they considered it a good investment to buy one, tear it down, and build again. So the house was bought, and the bricklayers and carpenters estimated that the new house would cost a thousand and twenty dollars. Erik had credit and borrowed that sum in Copenhagen, but the captain who was to have brought the money was shipwrecked and the money lost.
"It was just then that my darling boy, who lies sleeping there, was born. Then his father had a long and severe illness, and for nine months I even had to dress and undress him every day. We kept on going backward. We had to borrow more and more; one by one all our possessions were sold; and at last Erik died. Since then I have worked and slaved for the boy's sake, have gone out scrubbing floors and washing linen, done coarse work or fine, whatever I could get. But I was not to be better off; it is the Lord's will! He will take me away and find better provisions for my child." Then she fell asleep.
In the morning she seemed better and decided she was strong enough to return to her work. But the moment she felt the cold water a shivering seized her; she grasped about convulsively with her hands, took one step forward, and fell. Her head lay on the dry bank, but her feet were in the water of the river; her wooden shoes, in each of which there was a handful of straw, were carried away by the current.
And here she was found by Maren, when she came to bring her some coffee.
A message had come to her lodging that the Mayor wanted to see her, for he had something to say to her. It was too late. A doctor was summoned; the poor washerwoman was dead."She has drunk herself to death," said the Mayor.
The letter that had brought the Mayor the news of his brother's death also gave a summary of his will, and among other bequests he had left six hundred dollars to the glovemaker's widow, who had formerly served his parents! The money was to be paid at discretion in large or small sums to her and her child.
"There was some nonsense about love between my brother and her," said the Mayor. "It's just as well she's out of the way. Now it will all come to the boy, and I'll place him with some honest people who will make him a good workman." And on these words our Lord laid his blessings.
And the Mayor sent for the boy, promised to take care of him, and told him it was a lucky thing his mother was dead; she was good for nothing.
They carried her to the churchyard, to a pauper's grave. Maren planted a little rose tree on her grave, while the boy stood beside her.
"My darling mother," he said as the tears started from his eyes. "Is it true that she was good for nothing?"
"No, it is not true!" said the old woman, looking up to heaven. "I have known it for many years and especially since the night before she died. I tell you she was a good and fine woman, and our Lord in heaven will say so, too, so let the world say: 'She was good for nothing!' "
英文版：What Old Johanne Told
The wind whistles in the old willow tree. It is as if one were hearing a song; the wind sings it; the tree tells it. If you do not understand it, then ask old Johanne in the poor house; she knows about it; she was born here in the parish.
Many years ago, when the King's Highway still lay along here, the tree was already large and conspicuous. It stood, as it still stands, in front of the tailor's whitewashed timber house, close to the ditch, which then was so large that the cattle could be watered there, and where in the summertime the little peasant boys used to run about naked and paddle in the water. Underneath the tree stood a stone milepost cut from a big rock; now it is overturned, and a bramblebush grows over it.
The new King's Highway was built on the other side of the rich farmer's manor house; the old one became a field path; the ditch became a puddle overgrown with duckweed; if a frog tumbled down into it, the greenery was parted, and one saw the black water; all around it grew, and still grow, "muskedonnere," buckbean, and yellow iris.
The tailor's house was old and crooked; the roof was a hotbed for moss and houseleek. The dovecot had collapsed, and starlings built their nests there. The swallows hung nest after nest on the house gable and all along beneath the roof; it was just as if luck itself lived there.
And once it had; now, however, this was a lonely and silent place. Here in solitude lived weak-willed "Poor Rasmus," as they called him. He had been born here; he had played here, had leaped across meadow and over hedge, had splashed, as a child, in the ditch, and had climbed up the old tree. The tree would raise its big branches with pride and beauty, just as it raises them yet, but storms had already bent the trunk a little, and time had given it a crack. Wind and weather have since lodged earth in the crack, and there grow grass and greenery; yes, and even a little serviceberry has planted itself there.
When in spring the swallows came, they flew about the tree and the roof and plastered and patched their old nests, while Poor Rasmus let his nest stand or fall as it liked. His motto was, "What good will it do?" - and it had been his father's, too.
He stayed in his home. The swallows flew away, but they always came back, the faithful creatures! The starling flew away, but it returned, too, and whistled its song again. Once Rasmus had known how, but now he neither whistled nor sang.
The wind whistled in the old willow tree then, just as it now whistles; indeed, it is as if one were hearing a song; the wind sings it; the tree tells it. And if you do not understand it, then ask old Johanne in the poorhouse; she knows about it; she knows about everything of old; she is like a book of chronicles, with inscriptions and old recollections.
At the time the house was new and good, the country tailor, Ivar Ölse, and his wife, Maren, moved into it - industrious, honest folk, both of them. Old Johanne was then a child; she was the daughter of a wooden-shoemaker - one of the poorest in the parish. Many a good sandwich did she receive from Maren, who was in no want of food. The lady of the manor house liked Maren, who was always laughing and happy and never downhearted. She used her tongue a good deal, but her hands also. She could sew as fast as she could use her mouth, and, moreover, she cared for her house and children; there were nearly a dozen children
- eleven altogether; the twelfth never made its appearance.
"Poor people always have a nest full of youngsters," growled the master of the manor house. "If one could drown them like kittens, and keep only one or two of the strongest, it would be less of a misfortune!"
"God have mercy!" said the tailor's wife. "Children are a blessing from God; they are such a delight in the house. Every child is one more Lord's prayer. If times are bad, and one has many mouths to feed, why, then a man works all the harder and finds out ways and means honestly; our Lord fails not when we do not fail."
The lady of the manor house agreed with her; she nodded kindly and patted Maren's cheek; she had often done so, yes, and had kissed her as well, but that had been when the lady was a little child and Maren her nursemaid. The two were fond of each other, and this feeling did not wane.
Each year at Christmastime winter provisions would arrive at the tailor's house from the manor house - a barrel of meal, a pig, two geese, a tub of butter, cheese, and apples. That was indeed an asset to the larder. Ivar Ölse looked quite pleased, too, but soon came out with his old motto, "What good will it do?"
The house was clean and tidy, with curtains in the windows, and flowers as well, both carnations and balsams. A sampler hung in a picture frame, and close by hung a love letter in rhyme, which Maren Ölse herself had written; she knew how to put rhymes together. She was almost a little proud of the family name Ölse; it was the only word in the Danish language that rhymed with pölse . "At least that's an advantage to have over other people," she said, and laughed. She always kept her good humor, and never said, like her husband, "What good will it do?" Her motto was, "Depend on yourself and on our Lord." So she did, and that kept them all together. The children thrived, grew out over the nest, went out into the world, and prospered well.
Rasmus was the smallest; he was such a pretty child that one of the great portrait painters in the capital had borrowed him to paint from, and in the picture he was as naked as when he had come into this world. That picture was now hanging in the King's palace. The lady of the manor house saw it, and recognized little Rasmus, though he had no clothes on.
But now came hard times. The tailor had rheumatism in both hands, on which great lumps appeared. No doctor could help him - not even the wise Stine, who herself did some "doctoring."
"One must not be downhearted," said Maren. "It never helps to hang the head. Now that we no longer have father's two hands to help us, I must try to use mine all the faster. Little Rasmus, too, can use the needle." He was already sitting on the sewing table, whistling and singing. He was a happy boy. "But he should not sit there the whole day long," said the mother; "that would be a shame for the child. He should play and jump about, too."
The shoemaker's Johanne was his favorite playmate. Her folks were still poorer than Rasmus'. She was not pretty. She went about barefooted, and her clothes hung in rags, for she had no one to mend them, and to do it herself did not occur to her - she was a child, and as happy as a bird in our Lord's sunshine.
By the stone milepost, under the large willow tree, Rasmus and Johanne played. He had ambitious thoughts; he would one day become a fine tailor and live in the city, where there were master tailors who had ten workmen at the table; this he had heard from his father. There he would be an apprentice, and there he would become a master tailor, and then Johanne could come to visit him; and if by that time she knew how to cook, she could prepare the meals for all of them and have a large apartment of her own. Johanne dared not expect that, but Rasmus believed it could happen. They sat beneath the old tree, and the wind whistled in the branches and leaves; it seemed as if the wind were singing and the tree talking.
In the autumn every single leaf fell off; rain dripped from the bare branches. "They will be green again," said Mother Ölse.
"What good will it do?" said her husband. "New year, new worries about our livelihood."
"The larder is full," said the wife. "We can thank our good lady for that. I am healthy and have plenty of strength. It is sinful for us to complain."
The master and lady of the manor house remained there in the country over Christmas, but the week after the new year, they were to go to the city, where they would spend the winter in festivity and amusement. They would even go to a reception and ball given by the King himself. The lady had bought two rich dresses from France; they were of such material, of such fashion, and so well sewn that the tailor's Maren had never seen such magnificence. She asked the lady if she might come up to the house with her husband, so that he could see the dresses as well. Such things had surely never been seen by a country tailor, she said. He saw them and had not a word to say until he returned home, and what he did say was only what he always said, "What good will it do?" And this time he spoke the truth.
The master and lady of the manor house went to the city, and the balls and merrymaking began. But amid all the splendor the old gentleman died, and the lady then, after all, did not wear her grand dresses. She was so sorrowful and was dressed from head to foot in heavy black mourning. Not so much as a white tucker was to be seen. All the servants were in black; even the state coach was covered with fine black cloth.
It was an icy-cold night; the snow glistened and the stars twinkled. The heavy hearse brought the body from the city to the country church, where it was to be laid in the family vault. The steward and the parish bailiff were waiting on horseback, with torches, in front of the cemetery gate. The church was lighted up, and the pastor stood in the open church door to receive the body. The coffin was carried up into the chancel; the whole congregation followed. The pastor spoke, and a psalm was sung. The lady was present in the church; she had been driven there in the black-draped state coach, which was black inside as well as outside; such a carriage had never before been seen in the parish.
Throughout the winter, people talked about this impressive display of grief; it was indeed a "nobleman's funeral."
"One could well see how important the man was," said the village folk. "He was nobly born and he was nobly buried."
"What good will it do him?" said the tailor. "Now he has neither life nor goods. At least we have one of these."
"Don't speak such words!" said Maren. "He has everlasting life in the kingdom of heaven."
"Who told you that, Maren?" said the tailor. "A dead man is good manure, but this man was too highborn to even do the soil any good; he must lie in a church vault."
"Don't speak so impiously!" said Maren. "I tell you again he has everlasting life!"
"Who told you that, Maren?" repeated the tailor. And Maren threw her apron over little Rasmus; he must not hear that kind of talk. She carried him off into the peathouse and wept.
"The words you heard over there, little Rasmus, were not your father's; it was the evil one who was passing through the room and took your father's voice. Say your Lord's Prayer. We'll both say it." She folded the child's hands. "Now I am happy again," she said. "Have faith in yourself and in our Lord."
The year of mourning came to and end. The widow lady dressed in half mourning, but she had whole happiness in her heart. It was rumored that she had a suitor and was already thinking of marriage. Maren knew something about it, and the pastor knew a little more.
On Palm Sunday, after the sermon, the banns of marriage for the widow lady and her betrothed were to be published. He was a wood carver or a sculptor; just what the name of his profession was, people did not know; at that time not many had heard of Thorvaldsen and his art. The future master of the manor was not a nobleman, but still he was a very stately man. His was one profession that people did not understand, they said; he cut out images, was clever in his work and young and handsome. "What good will it do?" said Tailor Ölse.
On Palm Sunday the banns were read from the pulpit; then followed a psalm and Communion. The tailor, his wife, and little Rasmus were in church; the parents received Communion, while Rasmus sat in the pew, for he was not yet confirmed. Of late there had been a shortage of clothes in the tailor's house; the old ones had been turned, and turned again, stitched and patched. Now they were all three dressed in new clothes, but of black material - as at a funeral. They were dressed in the drapery from the funeral coach. The man had a jacket and trousers of it; Maren, a high-necked dress, and Rasmus, a whole suit to grow in until confirmation time. Both the outside and inside cloth from the funeral carriage had been used. No one needed to know what it had been used for before, but people soon got to know.
The wise woman, Stine, and a couple of other equally wise women, who did not live on their wisdom, said that the clothes would bring sickness and disease into the household. "One cannot dress oneself in cloth from a funeral carriage without riding to the grave." The wooden-shoemaker's Johanne cried when she heard this talk. And it so happened that the tailor became more and more ill from that day on, until it seemed apparent who was going to suffer that fate. And it proved to be so.
On the first Sunday after Trinity, Tailor Ölse died, leaving Maren alone to keep things together. She did, keeping faith in herself and in our Lord.
The following year Rasmus was confirmed. He was then ready to go to the city as an apprentice to a master tailor - not, after all, one with ten assistants at the table, but with one; little Rasmus might be counted as a half. He was happy, and he looked delighted indeed, but Johanne wept; she was fonder of him than she had realized. The tailor's wife remained in the old house and carried on the business.
It was at that time that the new King's Highway was opened, and the old one, by the willow tree and the tailor's, became a field path, with duckweed growing over the water left in the ditch there; the milepost tumbled over, for it had nothing to stand for, but the tree kept itself strong and beautiful, the wind whistling among its branches and leaves.
The swallows flew away, and the starlings flew away, but they came again in the spring. And when they came back the fourth time, Rasmus, too, came back to his home. He had served his apprenticeship, and was a handsome but slim youth. Now he would buckle up his knapsack and see foreign countries; that was what he longed for. But his mother clung to him; home was the best place! All the other children were scattered about; he was the youngest, and the house would be his. He could get plenty of work if he would go about the neighborhood - be a traveling tailor, and sew for a fortnight at this farm and a fortnight at that. That would be traveling, too. And Rasmus followed his mother's advice.
So again he slept beneath the roof of his birthplace. Again he sat under the old willow tree and heard it whistle. He was indeed good-looking, and he could whistle like a bird and sing new and old songs.
He was well liked at the big farms, especially at Klaus Hansen's, the second richest farmer in the parish. Else, the daughter, was like the loveliest flower to look at, and she was always laughing. There were people who were unkind enough to say that she laughed simply to show her pretty teeth. She was happy indeed, and always in the humor for playing tricks; everything suited her.
She was fond of Rasmus, and he was fond of her, but neither of them said a word about it. So he went about being gloomy; he had more of his father's disposition than his mother's. He was in a good humor only when Else was present; then they both laughed, joked, and played tricks; but although there was many a good opportunity, and played tricks; but although there was many a good opportunity, he did not say a single word about his love. "What good will it do?" was his thought. "Her parents look for profitable marriage for her, and that I cannot give her. The wisest thing for me to do would be to leave." But he could not leave. It was as if Else had a string fastened to him; he was like a trained bird with her; he sang and whistled for her pleasure and at her will.
Johanne, the shoemaker's daughter, was a servant girl at the farm, employed for common work. She drove the milk cart in the meadow, where she and the other girls milked the cows; yes, and she even had to cart manure when it was necessary. She never came into the sitting room and didn't see much of Rasmus or Else, but she heard that the two were as good as engaged.
"Now Rasmus will be well off," she said. "I cannot begrudge him that." And her eyes became quite wet. But there was really nothing to cry about.
There was a market in the town. Klaus Hansen drove there, and Rasmus went along; he sat beside Else, both going there and coming home. He was numb from love, but he didn't say a word about it.
"He ought to say something to me about the matter," thought the girl, and there she was right. "If he won't talk, I'll have to frighten him into it."
And soon there was talk at the farm that the richest farmer in the parish had proposed to Else; and so he had, but no one knew what answer she had given.
Thoughts buzzed around in Rasmus' head.
One evening Else put a gold ring on her finger and then asked Rasmus what that signified.
"Betrothal," he said.
"And with whom do you think?" she asked.
"With the rich farmer?" he said.
"There, you have hit it," she said, nodding, and then slipped away.
But he slipped away, too; he went home to his mother's house like a bewildered man and packed his knapsack. He wanted to go out into the wide world; even his mother's tears couldn't stop him.
He cut himself a stick from the old willow and whistled as if he were in a good humor; he was on his way to see the beauty of the whole world.
"This is a great grief to me," said the mother. "But I suppose it is wisest and best for you to go away, so I shall have to put up with it. Have faith in yourself and in our Lord; then I shall have you back again merry and happy."
He walked along the new highway, and there he saw Johanne come
come driving with a load of rubbish; she had not noticed him, and he did not wish to be seen by her, so he sat down behind the hedge; there he was hidden - and Johanne drove by.
Out into the world he went; no one knew where. His mother thought, "He will surely come home again before a year passes. Now he will see new things and have new things to think about, but then he will fall back into the old folds; they cannot be ironed out with any iron. He has a little too much of his father's disposition; I would rather he had mine, poor child! But he will surely come home again; he cannot forget either me or the house."
The mother would wait a year and a day. Else waited only a month and then she secretly went to the wise woman, Stine Madsdatter, who, besides knowing something about "doctoring," could tell fortunes in cards and coffee and knew more than her Lord's Prayer. She, of course, knew where Rasmus was; she read it in the coffee grounds. He was in a foreign town, but she couldn't read the name of it. In this town there were soldiers and beautiful ladies. He was thinking of either becoming a soldier or marrying one of the young ladies.
This Else could not bear to hear. She would willingly give her savings to buy him back, but no one must know that it was she.
And old Stine promised that he would come back; she knew of a charm, a dangerous charm for him; it would work; it was the ultimate remedy. She would set the pot boiling for him, and then, wherever in all the world he was, he would have to come home where the pot was boiling and his beloved was waiting for him. Months might pass before he came, but come he must if he was still alive. Without peace or rest night and day, he would be forced to return, over sea and mountain, whether the weather were mild or rough, and even if his feet were ever so tired. He would come home; he had to come home.
The moon was in the first quarter; it had to be for the charm to work, said old Stine. It was stormy weather, and the old willow tree creaked. Stine, cut a twig from it and tied it in a knot. That would surely help to draw Rasmus home to his mother's house. Moss and houseleek were taken from the roof and put in the pot, which was set upon the fire. Else had to tear a leaf out of the psalmbook; she tore out the last leaf by chance, that on which the list of errata appeared. "That will do just as well," said Stine, and threw it into the pot.
Many sorts of things went into the stew, which had to boil and boil steadily until Rasmus came home. The black cock in old Stine's room had to lose its red comb, which went into the pot. Else's heavy gold ring went in with it, and that she would never get again, Stine told her beforehand. She was so wise, Stine. Many things that we are unable to name went into the pot, which stood constantly over the flame or on glowing embers or hot ashes. Only she and Else knew about it.
Whenever the moon was new or the moon was on the wane, Else would come to her and ask, "Can't you see him coming?"
"Much do I know," said Stine, "and much do I see, but the length of the way before him I cannot see. Now he is over the first mountains; now he is on the sea in bad weather. The road is long, through large forests; he has blisters on his feet, and he has fever in his bones, but he must go on."
"No, no!" said Else. "I feel so sorry for him."
"He cannot be stopped now, for if we stop him, he will drop dead in the road!"
A year and a day had gone. The moon shone round and big, and the wind whistled in the old tree. A rainbow appeared across the sky in the bright moonlight.
"That is a sign to prove what I say," said Stine. "Now Rasmus is coming."
But still he did not come.
"The waiting time is long," said Stine.
"Now I am tired of this," said Else. She seldom visited Stine now and brought her no more gifts. Her mind became easier, and one fine morning they all knew in the parish that Else had said "yes" to the rich farmer. She went over to look at the house and grounds, the cattle, and the household belongings. All was in good order, and there was no reason to wait with the wedding.
It was celebrated with a great party lasting three days. There was dancing to the clarinet and violins. No one in the parish was forgotten in the invitations. Mother Ölse was there, too, and when the party came to an end, and the hosts had thanked the guests, and the trumpets had blown, she went home with the leavings from the feast.
She had fastened the door only with a peg; it had been taken out, the door stood open, and in the room sat Rasmus. He had returned home - come that very hour. Lord God, how he looked! He was only skin and bone; he was pale and yellow.
"Rasmus!" said his mother. "Is it you I see? How badly you look! But I am so happy in my heart to have you back."
And she gave him the good food she had brought home from the party, a piece of the roast and of the wedding cake.
He had lately, he said, often thought of his mother, his home, and the old willow tree; it was strange how often in his dreams he had seen the tree and the little barefooted Johanne. He did not mention Else at all. He was ill and had to go to bed.
But we do not believe that the pot was the cause of this, or that it had exercised any power over him. Only old Stine and Else believed that, but they did not talk about it.
Rasmus lay with a fever - an infectious one. For that reason no one came to the tailor's house, except Johanne, the shoemaker's daughter. She cried when she saw how miserable Rasmus was.
The doctor wrote a prescription for him to have filled at the pharmacy. He would not take the medicine. "What good will it do?" he said.
"You will get well again then," said his mother. "Have faith in yourself and in our Lord! If I could only see you get flesh on your body again, hear you whistle and sing; for that I would willingly lay down my life."
And Rasmus was cured of his illness, but his mother contracted it. Our Lord summoned her, and not him.
It was lonely in the house; he became poorer and poorer. "He is worn out," they said in the parish. "Poor Rasmus." He had led a wild life on his travels; that, and not the black pot that had boiled, had sucked out his marrow and given him pain in his body. His hair became thin and gray. He was too lazy to work. "What good will it do?" he said. He would rather visit the tavern than the church.
One autumn evening he was staggering through rain and wind along the muddy road from the tavern to his house; his mother had long since gone and been laid in her grave. The swallows and starlings were also gone, faithful as they were. Johanne, the shoemaker's daughter, was not gone; she overtook him on the road and then followed him a little way.
"Pull yourself together, Rasmus."
"What good will it do?" he said.
"That is an awful saying that you have," said she. "Remember your mother's words, 'Have faith in yourself and in our Lord.' You do not, Rasmus, but you must, and you shall. Never say, 'What good will it do?' for then you pull up the root of all your doings."
She followed him to the door of his house, and there she left him. He did not stay inside; he wandered out under the old willow tree and sat on a stone from the overturned milepost.
The wind whistled in the tree's branches; it was like a song: it was like talk.
Rasmus answered it; he spoke aloud but no one heard him except the tree and the whistling wind.
"I am getting so cold. It is time to go to bed. Sleep, sleep!"
And he walked away, not toward the house, but over to the ditch, where he tottered and fell. Rain poured down, and the wind was icy cold, but he didn't feel this. When the sun rose, and the crows flew over the bulrushes, he awoke, deathly ill. Had he laid his head where he put his feet, he would never have arisen; the green duckweed would have been his burial sheet.
Later in the day Johanne came to the tailor's house. She helped him; she managed to get him to the hospital.
"We have known each other since we were little," she said. "Your mother gave me both ale and food; for that I can never repay her. You will regain your health; you will be a man with a will to live!"
And our Lord willed that he should live. But he had his ups and downs, both in health and mind.
The swallows and the starlings returned, and flew away, and returned again. Rasmus became older than his years. He sat alone in his house, which deteriorated more and more. He was poor, poorer now than Johanne.
"You have no faith," she said, "and if we do not believe in God, what have we? You should go to Communion," she said; "you haven't been since your confirmation."
"What good will it do?" he said.
"If you say that and believe it, then let it be; the Master does not want an unwilling guest at His table. But think of your mother and your childhood. Once you were a good, pious boy. Let me read a psalm to you."
"What good will it do?" he said.
"It always comforts me," she answered.
"Johanne, you have surely become one of the saints." And he looked at her with dull, weary eyes.
And Johanne read the psalm, but not from a book, for she had none; she knew it by heart.
"Those were beautiful words," he said, "but I could not follow you altogether. My head feels so heavy."
Rasmus had become an old man. But Else, if we may mention her, was no longer young, either; Rasmus never mentioned her. She was a grandmother. Her granddaughter was an impudent little girl.
The little one was playing with the other children in the village. Rasmus came along, supporting himself on his stick. He stopped, watched the children play, and smiled to them, old times were in his thoughts. Else's granddaughter pointed at him. "Poor Rasmus!" she shouted. The other little girls followed her example. "Poor Rasmus!" they shouted, and pursued the old man with shrieks. It was a gray, gloomy day, and many others followed. But after gray and gloomy days, there comes a sunshiny day.
It was a beautiful Whitsunday morning. The church was decorated with green birch branches; there was a scent of the woods within it, and the sun shone on the church pews. The large altar candles were lighted, and Communion was being held. Johanne was among the kneeling, but Rasmus was not among them. That very morning the Lord had called him.
In God are grace and mercy.
Many years have since passed. The tailor's house still stands there, but no one lives in it. It might fall the first stormy night. The ditch is overgrown with bulrush and buck bean. The wind whistles in the old tree; it is as if one were hearing a song; the wind sings it; the tree tells it. If you do not understand it, ask old Johanne in the poorhouse.
She still lives there; she sings her psalm, the one she read for Rasmus. She thinks of him, prays to our Lord for him - she, the faithful soul. She can tell of bygone times, of memories that whistle in the old willow tree.
英文版：The Porters Son
THE General lived in the grand first floor, and the porter lived in the cellar. There was a great distance between the two families the whole of the ground floor, and the difference in rank; but they lived in the same house, and both had a view of the street, and of the courtyard. In the courtyard was a grass-plot, on which grew a blooming acacia tree (when it was in bloom), and under this tree sat occasionally the finely-dressed nurse, with the still more finely-dressed child of the Generallittle Emily. Before them danced about barefoot the little son of the porter, with his great brown eyes and dark hair; and the little girl smiled at him, and stretched out her hands towards him; and when the General saw that from the window, he would nod his head and cry, Charming! The Generals lady (who was so young that she might very well have been her husbands daughter from an early marriage) never came to the window that looked upon the courtyard. She had given orders, though, that the boy might play his antics to amuse her child, but must never touch it. The nurse punctually obeyed the gracious ladys orders.
The sun shone in upon the people in the grand first floor, and upon the people in the cellar; the acacia tree was covered with blossoms, and they fell off, and next year new ones came. The tree bloomed, and the porters little son bloomed too, and looked like a fresh tulip.
The Generals little daughter became delicate and pale, like the leaf of the acacia blossom. She seldom came down to the tree now, for she took the air in a carriage. She drove out with her mamma, and then she would always nod at the porters George; yes, she used even to kiss her hand to him, till her mamma said she was too old to do that now.
One morning George was sent up to carry the General the letters and newspapers that had been delivered at the porters room in the morning. As he was running up stairs, just as he passed the door of the sand-box, he heard a faint piping. He thought it was some young chicken that had strayed there, and was raising cries of distress; but it was the Generals little daughter, decked out in lace and finery.
Dont tell papa and mamma, she whimpered; they would be angry.
Whats the matter, little missie? asked George.
Its all on fire! she answered. Its burning with a bright flame! George hurried up stairs to the Generals apartments; he opened the door of the nursery. The window curtain was almost entirely burnt, and the wooden curtain-pole was one mass of flame. George sprang upon a chair he brought in haste, and pulled down the burning articles; he then alarmed the people. But for him, the house would have been burned down.
The General and his lady cross-questioned little Emily.
I only took just one lucifer-match, she said, and it was burning directly, and the curtain was burning too. I spat at it, to put it out; I spat at it as much as ever I could, but I could not put it out; so I ran away and hid myself, for papa and mamma would be angry.
I spat! cried the Generals lady; what an expression! Did you ever hear your papa and mamma talk about spitting? You must have got that from down stairs!
And George had a penny given him. But this penny did not go to the bakers shop, but into the savings-box; and soon there were so many pennies in the savings-box that he could buy a paint-box and color the drawings he made, and he had a great number of drawings. They seemed to shoot out of his pencil and out of his fingers ends. His first colored pictures he presented to Emily.
Charming! said the General, and even the Generals lady acknowledged that it was easy to see what the boy had meant to draw. He has genius. Those were the words that were carried down into the cellar.
The General and his gracious lady were grand people. They had two coats of arms on their carriage, a coat of arms for each of them, and the gracious lady had had this coat of arms embroidered on both sides of every bit of linen she had, and even on her nightcap and her dressing-bag. One of the coats of arms, the one that belonged to her, was a very dear one; it had been bought for hard cash by her father, for he had not been born with it, nor had she; she had come into the world too early, seven years before the coat of arms, and most people remembered this circumstance, but the family did not remember it. A man might well have a bee in his bonnet, when he had such a coat of arms to carry as that, let alone having to carry two; and the Generals wife had a bee in hers when she drove to the court ball, as stiff and as proud as you please.
The General was old and gray, but he had a good seat on horseback, and he knew it, and he rode out every day, with a groom behind him at a proper distance. When he came to a party, he looked somehow as if he were riding into the room upon his high horse; and he had orders, too, such a number that no one would have believed it; but that was not his fault. As a young man he had taken part in the great autumn reviews which were held in those days. He had an anecdote that he told about those days, the only one he knew. A subaltern under his orders had cut off one of the princes, and taken him prisoner, and the Prince had been obliged to ride through the town with a little band of captured soldiers, himself a prisoner behind the General. This was an ever-memorable event, and was always told over and over again every year by the General, who, moreover, always repeated the remarkable words he had used when he returned his sword to the Prince; those words were, Only my subaltern could have taken your Highness prisoner; I could never have done it! And the Prince had replied, You are incomparable. In a real war the General had never taken part. When war came into the country, he had gone on a diplomatic career to foreign courts. He spoke the French language so fluently that he had almost forgotten his own; he could dance well, he could ride well, and orders grew on his coat in an astounding way. The sentries presented arms to him, one of the most beautiful girls presented arms to him, and became the Generals lady, and in time they had a pretty, charming child, that seemed as if it had dropped from heaven, it was so pretty; and the porters son danced before it in the courtyard, as soon as it could understand it, and gave her all his colored pictures, and little Emily looked at them, and was pleased, and tore them to pieces. She was pretty and delicate indeed.
My little Roseleaf! cried the Generals lady, thou art born to wed a prince.
The prince was already at the door, but they knew nothing of it; people dont see far beyond the threshold.
The day before yesterday our boy divided his bread and butter with her! said the porters wife. There was neither cheese nor meat upon it, but she liked it as well as if it had been roast beef. There would have been a fine noise if the General and his wife had seen the feast, but they did not see it.
George had divided his bread and butter with little Emily, and he would have divided his heart with her, if it would have pleased her. He was a good boy, brisk and clever, and he went to the night school in the Academy now, to learn to draw properly. Little Emily was getting on with her education too, for she spoke French with her bonne, and had a dancing master.
George will be confirmed at Easter, said the porters wife; for George had got so far as this.
It would be the best thing, now, to make an apprentice of him, said his father. It must be to some good callingand then he would be out of the house.
He would have to sleep out of the house, said Georges mother. It is not easy to find a master who has room for him at night, and we shall have to provide him with clothes too. The little bit of eating that he wants can be managed for him, for hes quite happy with a few boiled potatoes; and he gets taught for nothing. Let the boy go his own way. You will say that he will be our joy some day, and the Professor says so too.
The confirmation suit was ready. The mother had worked it herself; but the tailor who did repairs had cut them out, and a capital cutter-out he was.
If he had had a better position, and been able to keep a workshop and journeymen, the porters wife said, he might have been a court tailor.
The clothes were ready, and the candidate for confirmation was ready. On his confirmation day, George received a great pinchbeck watch from his godfather, the old iron mongers shopman, the richest of his godfathers. The watch was an old and tried servant. It always went too fast, but that is better than to be lagging behind. That was a costly present. And from the Generals apartment there arrived a hymn-book bound in morocco, sent by the little lady to whom George had given pictures. At the beginning of the book his name was written, and her name, as his gracious patroness. These words had been written at the dictation of the Generals lady, and the General had read the inscription, and pronounced it Charming!
That is really a great attention from a family of such position, said the porters wife; and George was sent up stairs to show himself in his confirmation clothes, with the hymn-book in his hand.
The Generals lady was sitting very much wrapped up, and had the bad headache she always had when time hung heavy upon her hands. She looked at George very pleasantly, and wished him all prosperity, and that he might never have her headache. The General was walking about in his dressing-gown. He had a cap with a long tassel on his head, and Russian boots with red tops on his feet. He walked three times up and down the room, absorbed in his own thoughts and recollections, and then stopped and said:
So little George is a confirmed Christian now. Be a good man, and honor those in authority over you. Some day, when you are an old man, you can say that the General gave you this precept.
That was a longer speech than the General was accustomed to make, and then he went back to his ruminations, and looked very aristocratic. But of all that George heard and saw up there, little Miss Emily remained most clear in his thoughts. How graceful she was, how gentle, and fluttering, and pretty she looked. If she were to be drawn, it ought to be on a soap-bubble. About her dress, about her yellow curled hair, there was a fragrance as of a fresh-blown rose; and to think that he had once divided his bread and butter with her, and that she had eaten it with enormous appetite, and nodded to him at every second mouthful! Did she remember anything about it? Yes, certainly, for she had given him the beautiful hymn-book in remembrance of this; and when the first new moon in the first new year after this event came round, he took a piece of bread, a penny, and his hymn-book, and went out into the open air, and opened the book to see what psalm he should turn up. It was a psalm of praise and thanksgiving. Then he opened the book again to see what would turn up for little Emily. He took great pains not to open the book in the place where the funeral hymns were, and yet he got one that referred to the grave and death. But then he thought this was not a thing in which one must believe; for all that he was startled when soon afterwards the pretty little girl had to lie in bed, and the doctors carriage stopped at the gate every day.
They will not keep her with them, said the porters wife. The good God knows whom He will summon to Himself.
But they kept her after all; and George drew pictures and sent them to her. He drew the Czars palace; the old Kremlin at Moscow, just as it stood, with towers and cupolas; and these cupolas looked like gigantic green and gold cucumbers, at least in Georges drawing. Little Emily was highly pleased, and consequently, when a week had elapsed, George sent her a few more pictures, all with buildings in them; for, you see, she could imagine all sorts of things inside the windows and doors.
He drew a Chinese house, with bells hanging from every one of sixteen stories. He drew two Grecian temples with slender marble pillars, and with steps all round them. He drew a Norwegian church. It was easy to see that this church had been built entirely of wood, hewn out and wonderfully put together; every story looked as if it had rockers, like a cradle. But the most beautiful of all was the castle, drawn on one of the leaves, and which he called Emilys Castle. This was the kind of place in which she must live. That is what George had thought, and consequently he had put into this building whatever he thought most beautiful in all the others. It had carved wood-work, like the Norwegian church; marble pillars, like the Grecian temple; bells in every story; and was crowned with cupolas, green and gilded, like those of the Kremlin of the Czar. It was a real childs castle, and under every window was written what the hall or the room inside was intended to be; for instance: Here Emily sleeps; Here Emily dances; Here Emily plays at receiving visitors. It was a real pleasure to look at the castle, and right well was the castle looked at accordingly.
Charming! said the General.
But the old Countfor there was an old Count there, who was still grander than the General, and had a castle of his ownsaid nothing at all; he heard that it had been designed and drawn by the porters little son. Not that he was so very little, either, for he had already been confirmed. The old Count looked at the pictures, and had his own thoughts as he did so.
One day, when it was very gloomy, gray, wet weather, the brightest of days dawned for George; for the Professor at the Academy called him into his room.
Listen to me, my friend, said the Professor; I want to speak to you. The Lord has been good to you in giving you abilities, and He has also been good in placing you among kind people. The old Count at the corner yonder has been speaking to me about you. I have also seen your sketches; but we will not say any more about those, for there is a good deal to correct in them. But from this time forward you may come twice a-week to my drawing-class, and then you will soon learn how to do them better. I think theres more of the architect than of the painter in you. You will have time to think that over; but go across to the old Count this very day, and thank God for having sent you such a friend.
It was a great housethe house of the old Count at the corner. Round the windows elephants and dromedaries were carved, all from the old times; but the old Count loved the new time best, and what it brought, whether it came from the first floor, or from the cellar, or from the attic.
I think, said, the porters wife, the grander people are, the fewer airs do they give themselves. How kind and straightforward the old count is! and he talks exactly like you and me. Now, the General and his lady cant do that. And George was fairly wild with delight yesterday at the good reception he met with at the Counts, and so am I to-day, after speaking to the great man. Wasnt it a good thing that we didnt bind George apprentice to a handicraftsman? for he has abilities of his own.
But they must be helped on by others, said the father.
That help he has got now, rejoined the mother; for the Count spoke out quite clearly and distinctly.
But I fancy it began with the General, said the father, and we must thank them too.
Let us do so with all my heart, cried the mother, though I fancy we have not much to thank them for. I will thank the good God; and I will thank Him, too, for letting little Emily get well.
Emily was getting on bravely, and George got on bravely too. In the course of the year he won the little silver prize medal of the Academy, and afterwards he gained the great one too.
It would have been better, after all, if he had been apprenticed to a handicraftsman, said the porters wife, weeping; for then we could have kept him with us. What is he to do in Rome? I shall never get a sight of him again, not even if he comes back; but that he wont do, the dear boy.
It is fortune and fame for him, said the father.
Yes, thank you, my friend, said the mother; you are saying what you do not mean. You are just as sorrowful as I am.
And it was all true about the sorrow and the journey. But everybody said it was a great piece of good fortune for the young fellow. And he had to take leave, and of the General too. The Generals lady did not show herself, for she had her bad headache. On this occasion the General told his only anecdote, about what he had said to the Prince, and how the Prince had said to him, You are incomparable. And he held out a languid hand to George.
Emily gave George her hand too, and looked almost sorry; and George was the most sorry of all.
Time goes by when one has something to do; and it goes by, too, when one has nothing to do. The time is equally long, but not equally useful. It was useful to George, and did not seem long at all, except when he happened to be thinking of his home. How might the good folks be getting on, up stairs and down stairs? Yes, there was writing about that, and many things can be put into a letterbright sunshine and dark, heavy days. Both of these were in the letter which brought the news that his father was dead, and that his mother was alone now. She wrote that Emily had come down to see her, and had been to her like an angel of comfort; and concerning herself, she added that she had been allowed to keep her situation as porteress.
The Generals lady kept a diary, and in this diary was recorded every ball she attended and every visit she received. The diary was illustrated by the insertion of the visiting cards of the diplomatic circle and of the most noble families; and the Generals lady was proud of it. The diary kept growing through a long time, and amid many severe headaches, and through a long course of half-nights, that is to say, of court balls. Emily had now been to a court ball for the first time. Her mother had worn a bright red dress, with black lace, in the Spanish style; the daughter had been attired in white, fair and delicate; green silk ribbons fluttered like flag-leaves among her yellow locks, and on her head she wore a wreath of water-lillies. Her eyes were so blue and clear, her mouth was so delicate and red, she looked like a little water spirit, as beautiful as such a spirit can be imagined. The Princes danced with her, one after another of course; and the Generals lady had not a headache for a week afterwards.
But the first ball was not the last, and Emily could not stand it; it was a good thing, therefore, that summer brought with it rest, and exercise in the open air. The family had been invited by the old Count to visit him at him castle. That was a castle with a garden which was worth seeing. Part of this garden was laid out quite in the style of the old days, with stiff green hedges; you walked as if between green walls with peep-holes in them. Box trees and yew trees stood there trimmed into the form of stars and pyramids, and water sprang from fountains in large grottoes lined with shells. All around stood figures of the most beautiful stonethat could be seen in their clothes as well as in their faces; every flower-bed had a different shape, and represented a fish, or a coat of arms, or a monogram. That was the French part of the garden; and from this part the visitor came into what appeared like the green, fresh forest, where the trees might grow as they chose, and accordingly they were great and glorious. The grass was green, and beautiful to walk on, and it was regularly cut, and rolled, and swept, and tended. That was the English part of the garden.
Old time and new time, said the Count, here they run well into one another. In two years the building itself will put on a proper appearance, there will be a complete metamorphosis in beauty and improvement. I shall show you the drawings, and I shall show you the architect, for he is to dine here to-day.
Charming! said the General.
Tis like Paradise here, said the Generals lady, and yonder you have a knights castle!
Thats my poultry-house, observed the Count. The pigeons live in the tower, the turkeys in the first floor, but old Elsie rules in the ground floor. She has apartments on all sides of her. The sitting hens have their own room, and the hens with chickens have theirs; and the ducks have their own particular door leading to the water.
Charming! repeated the General.
And all sailed forth to see these wonderful things. Old Elsie stood in the room on the ground floor, and by her side stood Architect George. He and Emily now met for the first time after several years, and they met in the poultry-house.
Yes, there he stood, and was handsome enough to be looked at. His face was frank and energetic; he had black shining hair, and a smile about his mouth, which said, I have a brownie that sits in my ear, and knows every one of you, inside and out. Old Elsie had pulled off her wooden shoes, and stood there in her stockings, to do honor to the noble guests. The hens clucked, and the cocks crowed, and the ducks waddled to and fro, and said, Quack, quack! But the fair, pale girl, the friend of his childhood, the daughter of the General, stood there with a rosy blush on her usually pale cheeks, and her eyes opened wide, and her mouth seemed to speak without uttering a word, and the greeting he received from her was the most beautiful greeting a young man can desire from a young lady, if they are not related, or have not danced many times together, and she and the architect had never danced together.
The Count shook hands with him, and introduced him.
He is not altogether a stranger, our young friend George.
The Generals lady bowed to him, and the Generals daughter was very nearly giving him her hand; but she did not give it to him.
Our little Master George! said the General. Old friends! Charming!
You have become quite an Italian, said the Generals lady, and I presume you speak the language like a native?
My wife sings the language, but she does not speak it, observed the General.
At dinner, George sat at the right hand of Emily, whom the General had taken down, while the Count led in the Generals lady.
Mr. George talked and told of his travels; and he could talk well, and was the life and soul of the table, though the old Count could have been it too. Emily sat silent, but she listened, and her eyes gleamed, but she said nothing.
In the verandah, among the flowers, she and George stood together; the rose-bushes concealed them. And George was speaking again, for he took the lead now.
Many thanks for the kind consideration you showed my old mother, he said. I know that you went down to her on the night when my father died, and you stayed with her till his eyes were closed. My heartiest thanks!
He took Emilys hand and kissed ithe might do so on such an occasion. She blushed deeply, but pressed his hand, and looked at him with her dear blue eyes.
Your mother was a dear soul! she said. How fond she was of her son! And she let me read all your letters, so that I almost believe I know you. How kind you were to me when I was little girl! You used to give me pictures.
Which you tore in two, said George.
No, I have still your drawing of the castle.
I must build the castle in reality now, said George; and he became quite warm at his own words.
The General and the Generals lady talked to each other in their room about the porters sonhow he knew how to behave, and to express himself with the greatest propriety.
He might be a tutor, said the General.
Intellect! said the Generals lady; but she did not say anything more.
During the beautiful summer-time Mr. George several times visited the Count at his castle; and he was missed when he did not come.
How much the good God has given you that he has not given to us poor mortals, said Emily to him. Are you sure you are very grateful for it?
It flattered George that the lovely young girl should look up to him, and he thought then that Emily had unusually good abilities. And the General felt more and more convinced that George was no cellar-child.
His mother was a very good woman, he observed. It is only right I should do her that justice now she is in her grave.
The summer passed away, and the winter came; again there was talk about Mr. George. He was highly respected, and was received in the first circles. The General had met him at a court ball.
And now there was a ball to be given in the Generals house for Emily, and could Mr. George be invited to it?
He whom the King invites can be invited by the General also, said the General, and drew himself up till he stood quite an inch higher than before.
Mr. George was invited, and he came; princes and counts came, and they danced, one better than the other. But Emily could only dance one dancethe first; for she made a false stepnothing of consequence; but her foot hurt her, so that she had to be careful, and leave off dancing, and look at the others. So she sat and looked on, and the architect stood by her side.
I suppose you are giving her the whole history of St. Peters, said the General, as he passed by; and smiled, like the personification of patronage.
With the same patronizing smile he received Mr. George a few days afterwards. The young man came, no doubt, to return thanks for the invitation to the ball. What else could it be? But indeed there was something else, something very astonishing and startling. He spoke words of sheer lunacy, so that the General could hardly believe his own ears. It was the height of rhodomontade, an offer, quite an inconceivable offerMr. George came to ask the hand of Emily in marriage!
Man! cried the General, and his brain seemed to be boiling. I dont understand you at all. What is it you say? What is it you want? I dont know you. Sir! Man! What possesses you to break into my house? And am I to stand here and listen to you? He stepped backwards into his bed-room, locked the door behind him, and left Mr. George standing alone. George stood still for a few minutes, and then turned round and left the room. Emily was standing in the corridor.
My father has answered? she said, and her voice trembled.
George pressed her hand.
He has escaped me, he replied; but a better time will come.
There were tears in Emilys eyes, but in the young mans eyes shone courage and confidence; and the sun shone through the window, and cast his beams on the pair, and gave them his blessing.
The General sat in his room, bursting hot. Yes, he was still boiling, until he boiled over in the exclamation, Lunacy! porter! madness!
Not an hour was over before the Generals lady knew it out of the Generals own mouth. She called Emily, and remained alone with her.
You poor child, she said; to insult you so! to insult us so! There are tears in your eyes, too, but they become you well. You look beautiful in tears. You look as I looked on my wedding-day. Weep on, my sweet Emily.
Yes, that I must, said Emily, if you and my father do not say yes.
Child! screamed the Generals lady; you are ill! You are talking wildly, and I shall have a most terrible headache! Oh, what a misfortune is coming upon our house! Dont make your mother die, Emily, or you will have no mother.
And the eyes of the Generals lady were wet, for she could not bear to think of her own death.
In the newspapers there was an announcement. Mr. George has been elected Professor of the Fifth Class, number Eight.
Its a pity that his parents are dead and cannot read it, said the new porter people, who now lived in the cellar under the Generals apartments. They knew that the Professor had been born and grown up within their four walls.
Now hell get a salary, said the man.
Yes, thats not much for a poor child, said the woman.
Eighteen dollars a year, said the man. Why, its a good deal of money.
No, I mean the honor of it, replied the wife. Do you think he cares for the money? Those few dollars he can earn a hundred times over, and most likely hell get a rich wife into the bargain. If we had children of our own, husband, our child should be an architect and a professor too.
George was spoken well of in the cellar, and he was spoken well of in the first floor. The old Count took upon himself to do that.
The pictures he had drawn in his childhood gave occasion for it. But how did the conversation come to turn on these pictures? Why, they had been talking of Russia and of Moscow, and thus mention was made of the Kremlin, which little George had once drawn for Miss Emily. He had drawn many pictures, but the Count especially remembered one, Emilys Castle, where she was to sleep, and to dance, and to play at receiving guests.
The Professor was a true man, said the Count, and would be a privy councillor before he died, it was not at all unlikely; and he might build a real castle for the young lady before that time came: why not?
That was a strange jest, remarked the Generals lady, when the Count had gone away. The General shook his head thoughtfully, and went out for a ride, with his groom behind him at a proper distance, and he sat more stiffly than ever on his high horse.
It was Emilys birthday. Flowers, books, letters, and visiting cards came pouring in. The Generals lady kissed her on the mouth, and the General kissed her on the forehead; they were affectionate parents, and they and Emily had to receive grand visitors, two of the Princes. They talked of balls and theatres, of diplomatic missions, of the government of empires and nations; and then they spoke of talent, native talent; and so the discourse turned upon the young architect.
He is building up an immortality for himself, said one, and he will certainly build his way into one of our first families.
One of our first families! repeated the General and afterwards the Generals lady; what is meant by one of our first families?
I know for whom it was intended, said the Generals lady, but I shall not say it. I dont think it. Heaven disposes, but I shall be astonished.
I am astonished also! said the General. I havent an idea in my head! And he fell into a reverie, waiting for ideas.
There is a power, a nameless power, in the possession of favor from above, the favor of Providence, and this favor little George had. But we are forgetting the birthday.
Emilys room was fragrant with flowers, sent by male and female friends; on the table lay beautiful presents for greeting and remembrance, but none could come from Georgenone could come from him; but it was not necessary, for the whole house was full of remembrances of him. Even out of the ash-bin the blossom of memory peeped forth, for Emily had sat whimpering there on the day when the window-curtain caught fire, and George arrived in the character of fire engine. A glance out of the window, and the acacia tree reminded of the days of childhood. Flowers and leaves had fallen, but there stood the tree covered with hoar frost, looking like a single huge branch of coral, and the moon shone clear and large among the twigs, unchanged in its changings, as it was when George divided his bread and butter with little Emily.
Out of a box the girl took the drawings of the Czars palace and of her own castleremembrances of George. The drawings were looked at, and many thoughts came. She remembered the day when, unobserved by her father and mother, she had gone down to the porters wife who lay dying. Once again she seemed to sit beside her, holding the dying womans hand in hers, hearing the dying womans last words: Blessing George! The mother was thinking of her son, and now Emily gave her own interpretation to those words. Yes, George was certainly with her on her birthday.
It happened that the next day was another birthday in that house, the Generals birthday. He had been born the day after his daughter, but before her of coursemany years before her. Many presents arrived, and among them came a saddle of exquisite workmanship, a comfortable and costly saddleone of the Princes had just such another. Now, from whom might this saddle come? The General was delighted. There was a little note with the saddle. Now if the words on the note had been many thanks for yesterdays reception, we might easily have guessed from whom it came. But the words were From somebody whom the General does not know.
Whom in the world do I not know? exclaimed the General. I know everybody; and his thoughts wandered all through society, for he knew everybody there. That saddle comes from my wife! he said at last. She is teasing mecharming!
But she was not teasing him; those times were past.
Again there was a feast, but it was not in the Generals house, it was a fancy ball at the Princes, and masks were allowed too.
The General went as Rubens, in a Spanish costume, with a little ruff round his neck, a sword by his side, and a stately manner. The Generals lady was Madame Rubens, in black velvet made high round the neck, exceedingly warm, and with a mill-stone round her neck in the shape of a great ruffaccurately dressed after a Dutch picture in the possession of the General, in which the hands were especially admired. They were just like the hands of the Generals lady.
Emily was Psyche. In white crape and lace she was like a floating swan. She did not want wings at all. She only wore them as emblematic of Psyche.
Brightness, splendor, light and flowers, wealth and taste appeared at the ball; there was so much to see, that the beautiful hands of Madame Rubens made no sensation at all.
A black domino, with an acacia blossom in his cap, danced with Psyche.
Who is that? asked the Generals lady.
His Royal Highness, replied the General. I am quite sure of it. I knew him directly by the pressure of his hand.
The Generals lady doubted it.
General Rubens had no doubts about it. He went up to the black domino and wrote the royal letters in the masks hand. These were denied, but the mask gave him a hint.
The words that came with the saddle: One whom you do not know, General.
But I do know you, said the General. It was you who sent me the saddle.
The domino raised his hand, and disappeared among the other guests.
Who is that black domino with whom you were dancing, Emily? asked the Generals lady.
I did not ask his name, she replied, because you knew it. It is the Professor. Your protégé is here, Count! she continued, turning to that nobleman, who stood close by. A black domino with acacia blossoms in his cap.
Very likely, my dear lady, replied the Count. But one of the Princes wears just the same costume.
I knew the pressure of the hand, said the General. The saddle came from the Prince. I am so certain of it that I could invite that domino to dinner.
Do so. If it be the Prince he will certainly come, replied the Count.
And if it is the other he will not come, said the General, and approached the black domino, who was just speaking with the King. The General gave a very respectful invitation that they might make each others acquaintance, and he smiled in his certainty concerning the person he was inviting. He spoke loud and distinctly.
The domino raised his mask, and it was George. Do you repeat your invitation, General? he asked.
The General certainly seemed to grow an inch taller, assumed a more stately demeanor, and took two steps backward and one step forward, as if he were dancing a minuet, and then came as much gravity and expression into the face of the General as the General could contrive to infuse into it; but he replied,
I never retract my words! You are invited, Professor! and he bowed with a glance at the King, who must have heard the whole dialogue.
Now, there was a company to dinner at the Generals, but only the old Count and his protégé were invited.
I have my foot under his table, thought George. Thats laying the foundation stone.
And the foundation stone was really laid, with great ceremony, at the house of the General and of the Generals lady.
The man had come, and had spoken quite like a person in good society, and had made himself very agreeable, so that the General had often to repeat his Charming! The General talked of this dinner, talked of it even to a court lady; and this lady, one of the most intellectual persons about the court, asked to be invited to meet the Professor the next time he should come. So he had to be invited again; and he was invited, and came, and was charming again; he could even play chess.
Hes not out of the cellar, said the General; hes quite a distinguished person. There are many distinguished persons of that kind, and its no fault of his.
The Professor, who was received in the Kings palace, might very well be received by the General; but that he could ever belong to the house was out of the question, only the whole town was talking of it.
He grew and grew. The dew of favor fell from above, so no one was surprised after all that he should become a Privy Councillor, and Emily a Privy Councillors lady.
Life is either a tragedy or a comedy, said the General. In tragedies they die, in comedies they marry one another.
In this case they married. And they had three clever boysbut not all at once.
The sweet children rode on their hobby-horses through all the rooms when they came to see the grandparents. And the General also rode on his stick; he rode behind them in the character of groom to the little Privy Councillors.
And the Generals lady sat on her sofa and smiled at them, even when she had her severest headache.
So far did George get, and much further; else it had not been worth while to tell the story of THE PORTERS SON.