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Title: Marie Grubbe - A Lady of the Seventeenth Century
Author: Jacobsen, J. P. (Jens Peter)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                          MARIE GRUBBE

                A LADY OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY

                               BY

                       JENS PETER JACOBSEN

                   TRANSLATED FROM THE DANISH
                     BY HANNA ASTRUP LARSEN

                [Illustration: (publisher's logo)]

                            NEW YORK
                         BONI & LIVERIGHT
                              1918


    _Copyright, 1917, by The American Scandinavian Foundation_



INTRODUCTION


"Language is like an instrument that requires to be tuned occasionally.
A few times in the course of a century the literary language of a
country needs to be tuned afresh; for as no generation can be satisfied
to think the thoughts of the preceding one, so no group of men in the
world of letters can use the language of the school that went before
them." With these words Georg Brandes begins his discussion[1] of the
influence of J. P. Jacobsen. As Brandes himself was the critic who
found new paths, Jacobsen was the creative artist who moulded his
native language into a medium fit for modern ideas. At the time when
Denmark and Norway had come to a parting of ways intellectually, and
the great Norwegians were forming their own rugged style, Jacobsen
gave the Danes a language suited to their needs, subtle, pliant, and
finely modulated. He found new methods of approach to truth and even a
new manner of seeing nature and humanity. In an age that had wearied
of generalities, he emphasized the unique and the characteristic.
To a generation that had ceased to accept anything because it was
accepted before, he brought the new power of scientific observation
in the domain of the mind and spirit. In order to understand him it
is necessary to follow the two currents, the one poetic, the other
scientific, that ran through his life.

  [1] _Det moderne Gennembruds Mænd._

Jens Peter Jacobsen was born in Jutland, in the little town of
Thisted, on April 7, 1847, and was the son of a merchant in moderate
circumstances. From his mother he inherited a desire to write poetry,
which asserted itself while he was yet a boy. His other chief interest
was botany, then a new feature of the school curriculum. He had a
fervent love of all plant-life and enjoyed keenly the fairy-tales of
Hans Christian Andersen, in which flowers are endowed with personality.
At twenty, Jacobsen wrote in his diary that he did not know whether
to choose science or poetry for his life-work, since he felt equally
drawn to both. He added: "If I could bring into the realm of poetry the
eternal laws of nature, its glories, its riddles, its miracles, then I
feel that my work would be more than ordinary."

He was one of the first in Scandinavia to realize the importance of
Darwin, and translated _The Origin of Species_ and _The Descent of
Man_, besides writing magazine articles elucidating the principles of
evolution. Meanwhile he carried on his botanical research faithfully
and, in 1872, won a gold medal in the University at Copenhagen for a
thesis on the Danish _desmidiaciae_, a microscopic plant growing in
the marshes. In the same year, he made his literary debut with a short
story, _Mogens_, which compelled attention by the daring originality of
its style. From that time on, he seems to have had no doubt that his
life-work was literature, though he became primarily a master of prose
and not, as he had dreamed in his boyhood, a writer of verse.

In the spring of 1873, he wrote from Copenhagen to Edvard Brandes:[2]
"Just think, I get up every morning at eleven and go to the Royal
Library, where I read old documents and letters and lies and
descriptions of murder, adultery, corn rates, whoremongery, market
prices, gardening, the siege of Copenhagen, divorce proceedings,
christenings, estate registers, genealogies, and funeral sermons.
All this is to become a wonderful novel to be called 'Mistress Marie
Grubbe, Interiors from the Seventeenth Century.' You remember, she
is the one who is mentioned in Holberg's Epistles and in _The Goose
Girl_ by Andersen, and who was first married to U. F. Gyldenlöve and
afterwards to a ferryman."

  [2] _Breve fra J. P. Jacobsen._ Med Forord udgivne af Edvard Brandes.

When the first two chapters were finished, an advance honorarium from
his publisher enabled him to follow his longing and make a trip to
the south of Europe, but his stay there was cut short by an attack
of the insidious lung disease that was, eventually, to end his life.
At Florence, he had a hemorrhage and was obliged to return home to
Thisted, where the family physician declared his illness to be mortal.
He recovered partially and lived to write his great works, but for
eleven years his life was a constant struggle with physical disability.

_Marie Grubbe_ cost him nearly four years of labor, during which time
he published nothing except a short story, _Et Skud i Taagen_ ("A
Shot in the Mist"), and a few poems. The first two chapters of his
novel appeared under the title _Marie Grubbes Barndom_ ("The Childhood
of Marie Grubbe"), and were printed in October, 1873, in a monthly
magazine, _Det nittende Aarhundrede_, edited by Edvard and Georg
Brandes. The completed book was published in December, 1876, and had
sufficient popular success to warrant a second edition in February.
Conservative critics, however, needed time to adjust themselves to
so startling a novelty, and one reviewer drew from Georg Brandes the
retort that certain people ought to wear blue goggles when looking at
a style so full of color.

Long before he had finished _Marie Grubbe_, Jacobsen felt a new novel
taking shape in his mind. It was to be the story of a modern youth
and be called _Niels Lyhne_. It was written, bit by bit, in Thisted
and abroad, and did not appear until December, 1880, four years after
_Marie Grubbe_. In the latter, he had written of Renaissance types,
sensual, full-blooded, and impulsive; only in Sti Högh, who was always
cutting up the timber of life into thought-shavings, had he foreshadowed
that modern reflectiveness which Heidenstam calls the curse of the
nineteenth century. Niels Lyhne is the embodiment of this spirit, and
is generally accepted as Jacobsen's self-portrait, although the events
of the story are not those of the author's life. F. Hansen calls it[3]
"a casting up of accounts with life by a man whom death had marked.
Thence its Pindaric elevation of thought and expression. It is instinct
with a spirit like a swan that rises and rises, on broad, slow wings,
till it is lost to sight." It expresses Jacobsen's struggle, not only
against the bodily weakness that laid its paralyzing hand on his
faculties, but also against the sluggish, dreamy blood he had inherited,
which made all creative work an agonizing effort.

  [3] _Illustreret Dansk Litteraturhistorie._

Niels Lyhne is an outsider from life. He seems never to fill any
particular place in his world. He has a poetic gift and high artistic
ideals, but never writes. Two women leave him for other men less fine
and lovable. Finally, he returns to his old home and family traditions,
to manage his father's estate, and to marry a sweet young girl, the
daughter of an old neighbor. She and her child are taken away from
him by death, and in her last illness she forsakes the atheism he has
taught her and turns to the old religion, leaving Niels with a baffled
sense that her spirit has left him even before the parting in death. At
last Niels himself dies "the difficult death"--the closing words of the
book.

This is perhaps the place to say a few words about the atheism that is
a dreary side of Jacobsen's rich and brilliant personality. Early in
life, he became convinced that human beings must rid themselves of the
idea that any supernatural power would interfere between themselves and
their deeds. He saw a supreme moral value in the doctrine of evolution
with its principle of a universe governed by laws of cause and effect.
In _Niels Lyhne_ he emphasized again and again the bitter theory that
no one ever added an inch to his height by dreams, or changed the
consequences of good and evil by wishes and aspirations. Niels tries to
instill into himself and his wife the courage to face life as it is,
without taking refuge from realities in a world of dreams. Further than
this, Jacobsen attacked no sincere faith. It would be interesting to
search out how far, since his day, his principle of the immutability
of law has penetrated religious thought, but that would be beyond the
scope of this sketch.

For eight years, while writing his two novels, Jacobsen had lived in
his little native town in Jutland with occasional trips to the south.
After the completion of _Niels Lyhne_, he resumed his place in the
literary circles of Copenhagen, which he had shunned--so he humbly
confessed--because he was ashamed of never getting anything finished.
His old diffidence seemed to have left him; to the sweetness and quiet
whimsicality that had always endeared him to his friends he added a
new poise and assurance. He was deeply gratified by the reception
given _Niels Lyhne_ by people whose opinion he valued, and when he
was told that Ibsen was reading it aloud to his evening circle, and
had pronounced it the best book of its kind in modern literature, he
characteristically remarked that this was pleasant to hear, even though
John Poulson (Ibsen's friend and biographer) no doubt exaggerated a
little.

This period of Jacobsen's life was in many ways a happy one, in spite
of his declining health. He had his old lodgings and lived there with
the same puritanic simplicity as in his student days, and indeed his
books never brought him enough money to live otherwise, but he revelled
in a luxurious couch, the gift of anonymous women admirers, and in the
flowers with which his friends kept his rooms filled. He wrote at this
time a few short stories, among them _Pesten i Bergamo_ ("The Plague
at Bergamo") and _Fru Fönss_. The latter tells of a woman in middle
life who had the courage to grasp the happiness that youth had denied
her. She dies, and her farewell letter to her children gives Jacobsen
the opportunity to express the longing to be remembered which he could
never have brought himself to utter in his own person. "Those who are
about to die are always poor. I am poor; for all this beautiful world,
which has been my rich, blessed home for so many years, is to be taken
from me. My chair will be empty; the door will be closed after me, and
I shall never set my foot there again. Therefore I look on everything
with a prayer in my eyes that it will love me; therefore I come to you
and beg you to love me with all the love you once gave me. Remember
that to be loved is all the part I shall have in the world of men. Only
to be remembered, nothing more."

With the last remnant of his strength, Jacobsen recast his poems, which
were published after his death. Finally, when his illness could no
longer be fought off, he went home to Thisted to be cared for by his
mother and brother. There he died, on April 30, 1885, as quietly and
bravely as he had lived.

       *       *       *       *       *

The importance of the two short volumes that contain Jacobsen's
complete works has been more fully realized as they have been seen
in the perspective of time. His poems, though few in number, are
exquisite. With _Niels Lyhne_, he introduced the psychological novel
in Denmark. While at work on it, he wrote a friend that after all the
only interesting thing was "the struggle of one or more human beings
for existence, that is their struggle against the existing order of
things for their right to exist in their own way." Vilhelm Andersen
points[4] to these casual words as marking the cleavage between the old
and the new, saying: "Before _Niels Lyhne_, the poetic was the general;
after this book, the poetic became the personal. The literature whose
foremost representative is Adam Oehlenschläger had for its aim the
exaltation of the things common to humanity; the art in which J. P.
Jacobsen became the first master has only one purpose, the presentation
and elucidation of the individual."

  [4] _Litteraturbilleder_, II.

Jacobsen has himself told us his ideal of style in a paragraph of
_Niels Lyhne_, where he lets Fru Boye attack the generalities of
Oehlenschläger's description in his poem _The Mermaid visits King
Helge_. "I want a luxuriant, glowing picture," she exclaims. "I want
to be initiated into the mysterious beauty of such a mermaid body,
and I ask of you, what can I make of lovely limbs with a piece of
gauze spread over them?--Good God!--No, she should have been naked as
a wave and with the wild lure of the sea about her. Her skin should
have had something of the phosphorescence of the summer ocean and her
hair something of the black, tangled horror of the seaweed. Am I not
right? Yes, and a thousand tints of the water should come and go in
the changeful glitter of her eyes. Her pale breast must be cool with
a voluptuous coolness, and her limbs have the flowing lines of the
waves. The power of the maelstrom must be in her kiss, and the yielding
softness of the foam in the embrace of her arms." In the same passage,
Jacobsen praises the vitality of Shakespeare's style as a contrast to
that of the Danish romanticists.

His search for unique and characteristic expressions had free play in
_Marie Grubbe_, where he could draw on the store of quaint archaic and
foreign words he unearthed in his preliminary studies. To avoid the
harsh staccato of the North, he made full use of the redundant words
and unaccented syllables that were more common in the old Danish than
in the modern, and thereby he gained the effect of prose rhythm. While
discarding outworn phrases, he often coins new words, as for instance
when he is not satisfied to let the sunlight play on the wings of the
doves circling around Frederiksborg castle, or even to make the sunlight
golden, but must needs fashion the word "sungold" (_solguld_), which
in two syllables is the concentrated essence of what he wishes to say.
Sometimes he gives a sharper edge to a common expression merely by
changing the usual order of two coupled words, as when he speaks of
Ulrik Christian as slim and tall, instead of tall and slim--a minute
touch that really adds vividness to the picture.

The habit of looking for characteristic features, which he had acquired
in his botanical studies, became an apt tool of his creative faculty.
Sometimes his descriptions seem overloaded with details, as when he
uses two pages to tell about the play of the firelight in the little
parlor at Aggershus, where Marie Grubbe sits singing to the tones of
her lute. Yet the images never blur nor overlap one another. Every word
deepens the central idea: the sport of the storm with the fire and the
consequent struggle between light and darkness in the room. Not only
that, but the entire description ministers subtly to the allurement of
the woman at the hearth. Almost any writer except J. P. Jacobsen would
have told us how the light played on Marie Grubbe's hair and face, but
he prefers to let us feel her personality through her environment. This
is true also of his outdoor pictures, where he uses his flower-lore to
good advantage, as in the first chapter of _Marie Grubbe_, where we
find the lonely, wayward child playing in the old luxuriant, neglected
garden full of a tangle of quaint old-fashioned flowers. But when she
returns to the home of her childhood, we hear no more of the famous
Tjele garden except as a place to raise vegetables in; her later
history is sketched on a background of heathery hill, permeated with a
strong smell of sun-scorched earth, which somehow suggests the harsh,
physical realities of life in the class she has entered.

Another means in his favorite method of indirect approach to a
personality is through woman's dress. Marie Grubbe's attire--from the
lavender homespun and billowing linen ruffles of the young maiden to
the more sophisticated daintiness of Ulrik Frederik's bride in madder
red robe and clocked stockings, the slovenly garb of Palle Dyre's
wife, and finally the neat simple gown marred by a tawdry brocaded cap
which she dons when she falls in love with Sören--is a complete index
to her moral fall and rise. Sofie Urne's shabby velvet, her trailing
plumes and red-nosed shoes, are equally characteristic of her tarnished
attractions, and when her lover bends rapturously over the slim, white
hand which is "not quite clean" we know exactly the nature of the
charm she exercises, though Jacobsen never comments on her character,
as an author of the older school would have done. Nor does he ask our
sympathy for Marie Grubbe, but he lets us feel all the promise and the
tragedy of her life in the description of her eyes as a young girl--a
paragraph of marvellous poignant beauty.

Jacobsen once jestingly compared himself to the sloth (_det berömte
Dovendyr Ai-ai_) which needed two years to climb to the top of a tree.
It was necessary for him to withdraw absolutely from the world and to
retire, as it were, within the character he wished to portray before he
could set pen to paper. It cannot be denied that the laboriousness of
the process is sometimes perceptible in his finished work. His style
became too gorgeous in color, too heavy with fragrance. Yet there
were signs that Jacobsen's genius was freeing itself from the faults
of over-richness. The very last prose that came from his hand, _Fru
Fönss_, has a clarified simplicity that has induced critics to place
it at the very head of his production. Indeed, it is difficult to say
to what heights of artistic accomplishment he might have risen had his
life been spared beyond the brief span of thirty-eight years. As it is,
the books he left us are still, of their kind, unsurpassed in the North.

The translation of _Marie Grubbe_ (a book which Brandes has called one
of the greatest _tours de force_ in Danish literature) was a task to be
approached with diffidence. The author does not reconstruct exactly,
in his dialogue, the language of the period; nor have I attempted it.
Even had I been able to do so, the racy English of the Restoration
would have been an alien medium for the flourishes and pomposities
of Jacobsen's Danish. On the other hand, it would clearly have been
unfair to the author to turn his work into ordinary modern English
and so destroy that stiff, rich fabric of curious, archaic words and
phrases which he had been at such pains to weave. There seemed only
one course open: to follow the original, imitating as far as possible
its color and texture, even though the resultant language may not be of
any particular time or place. The translation has been a task, but also
a pleasure. To live intimately for months with Jacobsen's style is to
find beauty within beauty and truth within truth like "rose upon rose
in flowering splendor."

                                                            H. A. L.
_New York, July 1, 1917._



                         MARIE GRUBBE
                              BY
                      JENS PETER JACOBSEN


To avoid confusion, care should be taken to distinguish between two
characters in the book bearing similar names. Ulrik Frederik Gyldenlöve
and Ulrik Christian Gyldenlöve.



MARIE GRUBBE



CHAPTER I


The air beneath the linden crowns had flowed in across brown heath and
parched meadow. It brought the heat of the sun and was laden with dust
from the road, but in the cool, thick foliage it had been cleansed and
freshened, while the yellow linden flowers had given it moisture and
fragrance. In the blissful haven of the green vault it lay quivering in
light waves, caressed by the softly stirring leaves and the flutter of
white-gold butterfly wings.

The human lips that breathed this air were full and fresh; the bosom
it swelled was young and slight. The bosom was slight, and the foot
was slight, the waist small, the shape slim, and there was a certain
lean strength about the whole figure. Nothing was luxuriant except the
partly loosened hair of dull gold, from which the little dark blue
cap had slipped until it hung on her back like a tiny cowl. Otherwise
there was no suggestion of the convent in her dress. A wide, square-cut
collar was turned down over a frock of lavender homespun, and from its
short, slashed sleeves billowed ruffles of fine holland. A bow of red
ribbon was on her breast, and her shoes had red rosettes.

Her hands behind her back, her head bent forward, she went slowly up
the path, picking her steps daintily. She did not walk in a straight
line, but meandered, sometimes almost running into a tree at her
left, then again seeming on the point of strolling out among the
bushes to her right. Now and then, she would stop, shake the hair
from her cheeks, and look up to the light. The softened glow gave her
child-white face a faint golden sheen and made the blue shadows under
the eyes less marked. The scarlet of her lips deepened to red-brown,
and the great blue eyes seemed almost black. She was lovely--lovely!--a
straight forehead, faintly arched nose, short, clean-cut upper lip, a
strong, round chin and finely curved cheeks, tiny ears, and delicately
pencilled eyebrows....

She smiled as she walked, lightly and carelessly, thought of nothing,
and smiled in harmony with everything around her. At the end of the
path, she stopped and began to rock on her heel, first to the right,
then to the left, still with her hands behind her back, head held
straight, and eyes turned upward, as she hummed fitfully in time with
her swaying.

Two flagstones led down into the garden, which lay glaring under the
cloudless, whitish-blue sky. The only bit of shade hugged the feet of
the clipped box-hedge. The heat stung the eyes, and even the hedge
seemed to flash light from the burnished leaves. The amber-bush trailed
its white garlands in and out among thirsty balsamines, nightshade,
gillyflowers, and pinks, which stood huddling like sheep in the open.
The peas and beans flanking the lavender border were ready to fall from
their trellis with heat. The marigolds had given up the struggle and
stared the sun straight in the face, but the poppies had shed their
large red petals and stood with bared stalks.

The child in the linden lane jumped down the steps, ran through the
sun-heated garden, with head lowered as one crosses a court in the
rain, made for a triangle of dark yew-trees, slipped behind them,
and entered a large arbor, a relic from the days of the Belows. A
wide circle of elms had been woven together at the top as far as the
branches would reach, and a framework of withes closed the round
opening in the centre. Climbing roses and Italian honeysuckle, growing
wild in the foliage, made a dense wall, but on one side they had
failed, and the hopvines planted instead had but strangled the elms
without filling the gap.

Two white seahorses were mounted at the door. Within the arbor stood a
long bench and table made of a stone slab, which had once been large
and oval, but now lay in three fragments on the ground, while only one
small piece was unsteadily poised on a corner of the frame. The child
sat down before it, pulled her feet up under her on the bench, leaned
back, and crossed her arms. She closed her eyes and sat quite still.
Two fine lines appeared on her forehead, and sometimes she would lift
her eyebrows, smiling slightly.

"In the room with the purple carpets and the gilded alcove, Griselda
lies at the feet of the margrave, but he spurns her. He has just torn
her from her warm bed. Now he opens the narrow, round-arched door, and
the cold air blows in on poor Griselda, who lies on the floor weeping,
and there is nothing between the cold night air and her warm, white
body except the thin, thin linen. But he turns her out and locks the
door on her. And she presses her naked shoulder against the cold,
smooth door, and sobs, and she hears him walking inside on the soft
carpet, and through the keyhole the light from the scented taper falls
and makes a little sun on her bare breast. And she steals away, and
goes down the dark staircase, and it is quite still, and she hears
nothing but the soft patter of her own feet on the ice-cold steps. Then
she goes out into the snow--no, it's rain, pouring rain, and the heavy
cold water splashes on her shoulders. Her shift clings to her body, and
the water runs down her bare legs, and her tender feet press the soft,
chilly mud, which oozes out beside them. And the wind--the bushes
scratch her and tear her frock,--but no, she hasn't any frock on,--just
as they tore my brown petticoat! The nuts must be ripe in Fastrup
Grove--such heaps of nuts there were at Viborg market! God knows if
Anne's teeth have stopped aching.

"No, Brynhild!--the wild steed comes galloping... Brynhild and
Grimhild--Queen Grimhild beckons to the men, then turns, and walks
away. They drag in Queen Brynhild, and a squat, black yokel with long
arms--something like Bertel in the turnpike house--catches her belt
and tears it in two, and he pulls off her robe and her underkirtle,
and his huge black hands brush the rings from her soft white arms, and
another big, half-naked, brown and shaggy churl puts his hairy arm
around her waist, and he kicks off her sandals with his clumsy feet,
and Bertel winds her long black locks around his hands, and drags her
along, and she follows with body bent forward, and the big fellow puts
his sweaty palms on her naked back and shoves her over to the black,
fiery stallion, and they throw her down in the gray dust in the road,
and they tie the long tail of the horse around her ankles--"

The lines came into her forehead again and stayed there a long time.
She shook her head and looked more and more vexed. At last she opened
her eyes, half rose, and glanced around her wearily.

Mosquitoes swarmed in the gap between the hopvines, and from the garden
came puffs of fragrance from mint and common balm, mingling sometimes
with a whiff of sow-thistle or anise. A dizzy little yellow spider ran
across her hand, tickling her, and made her jump up. She went to the
door and tried to pick a rose growing high among the leaves, but could
not reach it. Then she began to gather the blossoms of the climbing
rose outside, and getting more and more eager, soon filled her skirt
with flowers, which she carried into the arbor. She sat down by the
table, took them from her lap, and laid one upon the other until the
stone was hidden under a fragrant cover of pale rose.

When the last flower had been put in its place, she smoothed the folds
of her frock, brushed off the loose petals and green leaves that
had caught in the nap, and sat with hands in her lap gazing at the
blossoming mass.

This bloom of color, curling in sheen and shadow, white flushing to
red and red paling to blue, moist pink that is almost heavy, and
lavender light as wafted on air, each petal rounded like a tiny vault,
soft in the shadow, but gleaming in the sun with thousands of fine
light-points; with all its fair blood-of-rose flowing in the veins,
spreading through the skin--and the sweet, heavy fragrance, rising like
vapor from that red nectar that seethes in the flower-cup....

Suddenly she turned back her sleeves, and laid her bare arms in the
soft, moist coolness of the flowers. She turned them round and round
under the roses, until the loosened petals fluttered to the ground,
then jumped up and with one motion swept everything from the table, and
went out into the garden, pulling down her sleeves as she walked. With
flushed cheeks and quickened step, she followed the path to the end,
then skirted the garden toward the turnpike. A load of hay had just
been overturned and was blocking the way to the gate. Several other
wagons halted behind it, and she could see the brown polished stick of
the overseer gleaming in the sun, as he beat the unlucky driver.

She put her fingers in her ears to shut out the sickening sound of the
blows, ran toward the house, darted within the open cellar door, and
slammed it after her.

The child was Marie Grubbe, the fourteen-year-old daughter of Squire
Erik Grubbe of Tjele Manor.

       *       *       *       *       *

The blue haze of twilight rested over Tjele. The falling dew had put a
stop to the haymaking. The maids were in the stable milking, while the
men busied themselves about the wagons and harness in the shed. The
tenant farmers, after doing their stint of work for the squire, were
standing in a group outside the gate, waiting for the call to supper.

Erik Grubbe stood at an open window, looking out into the court. The
horses, freed from harness and halter, came slowly, one by one, from
the stable and went up to the watering-trough. A red-capped boy was
hard at work putting new tines in a rake, and two greyhounds played
around the wooden horse and the large grindstone in one corner of the
yard.

It was growing late. Every few minutes the men would come out of
the stable door and draw back, whistling or humming a tune. A maid,
carrying a full bucket of milk, tripped with quick, firm steps across
the yard, and the farmers were straggling in, as though to hasten the
supper-bell. The rattling of plates and trenchers grew louder in the
kitchen, and presently some one pulled the bell violently, letting
out two groups of rusty notes, which soon died away in the clatter of
wooden shoes and the creaking of doors. In a moment the yard was empty,
except for the two dogs barking loudly out through the gate.

Erik Grubbe drew in the window and sat down thoughtfully. The room
was known as the winter-parlor, though it was in fact used all the
year round for dining-room and sitting-room, and was practically the
only inhabited part of the house. It was a large room with two windows
and a high oak panelling. Glazed Dutch tiles covered the walls with a
design of blue nosegays on a white ground. The fireplace was set with
burned bricks, and a chest of drawers had been placed before it as a
screen against the draught that came in whenever the door was opened.
A polished oak table with two rounded leaves hanging almost to the
floor, a few high-backed chairs with seats of leather worn shiny, and
a small green cupboard set high on the wall--that was all there was in
the parlor.

As Erik Grubbe sat there in the dusk, his housekeeper, Anne Jensdaughter,
entered, carrying in one hand a lighted candle and in the other a mug
of milk, warm from the udder. Placing the mug before him, she seated
herself at the table. One large red hand still held the candlestick,
and as she turned it round and round, numerous rings and large brilliants
glittered on her fingers.

"Alack-a-day!" she groaned.

"What now?" asked Erik Grubbe, glancing up.

"Sure, I may well be tired after stewing 'roun' till I've neither
stren'th nor wit left."

"Well, 'tis busy times. Folks have to work up heat in summer to sit in
all winter."

"Busy--ay, but there's reason in everythin'. Wheels in ditch an' coach
in splinters's no king's drivin', say I. None but me to do a thing!
The indoor wenches're nothin' but draggle-tails,--sweethearts an'
town-talk's all they think of. Ef they do a bit o' work, they boggle
it, an' it's fer me to do over. Walbor's sick, an' Stina an' Bo'l--the
sluts--they pother an' pother till the sweat comes, but naught else
comes o't. I might ha' some help from M'ree, ef you'd speak to her, but
you won't let her put a finger to anything."

"Hold, hold! You run on so fast you lose your breath and the King's
Danish too. Don't blame me, blame yourself. If you'd been patient
with Marie last winter, if you'd taught her gently the right knack of
things, you might have had some help from her now, but you were rough
and cross-grained, she was sulky, and the two of you came nigh to
splitting each other alive. 'Tis to be more than thankful for there's
an end on't."

"Ay, stand up fer M'ree! You're free to do it, but ef you stand up fer
yours, I stand up fer mine, and whether you take it bad or not, I tell
you M'ree's more sperrit than she can carry through the world. Let that
be fer the fault it is, but she's bad. You may say 'No,' but I say
she is. She can never let little Anne be--never. She's a-pinchin' and
a-naggin' her all day long and a-castin' foul words after her, till the
poor child might wish she'd never been born,--and I wish she hadn't,
though it breaks my heart. Alack-a-day, may God have mercy upon us!
Ye're not the same father to the two children, but sure it's right that
the sins of the fathers should be visited upon the children unto the
third and fourth generation--and the sins of the mother too, and little
Anne's nothin' but a whore's brat--ay, I tell ye to yer face, she's
nothin' but a whore's brat, a whore's brat in the sight of God and
man,--but you, her father!--shame on ye, shame!--yes, I tell ye, even
'f ye lay hands on me, as ye did two years ago come Michaelmas, shame
on ye! Fie on ye that ye let yer own child feel she's conceived in sin!
ye do let her feel it, you and M'ree both of ye let her feel it,--even
ef ye hit me, I say ye let her feel it--"

Erik Grubbe sprang up and stamped the floor.

"Gallows and wheel! Are you spital-mad, woman? You're drunk, that's
what you are. Go and lie down on your bed and sleep off your booze
and your spleen too! 'Twould serve you right if I boxed your ears,
you shrew! No--not another word! Marie shall be gone from here before
to-morrow is over. I want peace--in times of peace."

Anne sobbed aloud.

"O Lord, O Lord, that such a thing should come to pass--an everlastin'
shame! Tell _me_ I'm tipsy! In all the time we've ben together or all
the time before, have ye seen me in the scullery with a fuddled head?
Have y' ever heard me talkin' drivel? Show me the spot where ye've seen
me o'ercome with drink! That's the thanks I get. Sleep off my booze!
Would to God I might sleep! would to God I might sink down dead before
you, since ye put shame upon me--"

The dogs began to bark outside, and the beat of horses' hoofs sounded
beneath the windows.

Anne dried her eyes hastily, and Erik Grubbe opened the window to ask
who had come.

"A messenger riding from Fovsing," answered one of the men about the
house.

"Then take his horse and send him in," and with these words the window
was closed.

Anne straightened herself in her chair and held up one hand to shade
her eyes, red with weeping.

The messenger presented the compliments of Christian Skeel of Fovsing
and Odden, Governor of the Diocese, who sent to apprise Erik Grubbe
of the notice he had that day received by royal courier, saying that
war had been declared on June first. Since it became necessary that
he should travel to Aarhus and possibly even to Copenhagen, he made
inquiry of Erik Grubbe whether he would accompany him on the road so
far as served his convenience, for they might at least end the suit
they were bringing against certain citizens of Aarhus. With regard
to Copenhagen, the Governor well knew that Erik Grubbe had plenty of
reasons for going thither. At all events, Christian Skeel would arrive
at Tjele about four hours after high noon on the following day.

Erik Grubbe replied that he would be ready for the journey, and the
messenger departed with this answer.

Anne and Erik Grubbe then discussed at length all that must be done
while he was away, and decided that Marie should go with him to
Copenhagen and remain for a year or two with her Aunt Rigitze.

The impending farewells had calmed them both, though the quarrel was on
the point of blazing out again when it came to the question of letting
Marie take with her sundry dresses and jewels that had belonged to her
dead mother. The matter was settled amicably at last, and Anne went to
bed early, for the next day would be a long one.

Again the dogs announced visitors, but this time it was only the pastor
of Tjele and Vinge parish, Jens Jensen Paludan.

"Good even to the house!" he said as he stepped in.

He was a large-boned, long-limbed man, with a stoop in his broad
shoulders. His hair was rough as a crow's nest, grayish and tangled,
but his face was of a deep yet clear pink, seemingly out of keeping
with his coarse, rugged features and bushy eyebrows.

Erik Grubbe invited him to a seat and asked about his haymaking. The
conversation dwelt on the chief labors of the farm at that season and
died away in a sigh over the poor harvest of last year. Meanwhile the
pastor was casting sidelong glances at the mug and finally said: "Your
honor is always temperate--keeping to the natural drinks. No doubt they
are the healthiest. New milk is a blessed gift of heaven, good both for
a weak stomach and a sore chest."

"Indeed the gifts of God are all good, whether they come from the udder
or the tap. But you must taste a keg of genuine mum that we brought
home from Viborg the other day. She's both good and German, though I
can't see that the customs have put their mark on her."

Goblets and a large ebony tankard ornamented with silver rings were
brought in and set before them.

They drank to each other.

"Heydenkamper! Genuine, peerless Heydenkamper!" exclaimed the pastor in
a voice that trembled with emotion. He leaned back blissfully in his
chair and very nearly shed tears of enthusiasm.

"You are a connoisseur," smirked Erik Grubbe.

"Ah, connoisseur! We are but of yesterday and know nothing," murmured
the pastor absent-mindedly, "though I'm wondering," he went on in a
louder voice, "whether it be true what I have been told about the
brew-house of the Heydenkampers. 'Twas a free-master who related it in
Hanover, the time I travelled with young Master Jörgen. He said they
would always begin the brew on a Friday night, but before any one was
allowed to put a finger to it he had to go to the oldest journeyman and
lay his hand on the great scales and swear by fire and blood and water
that he harbored no spiteful or evil thoughts, for such might harm
the beer. The man also told me that on Sundays, when the church-bells
sounded, they would open all the doors and windows to let the ringing
pass over the beer. But the most important of all was what took place
when they set the brew aside to ferment; for then the master himself
would bring a splendid chest, from which he would take heavy gold rings
and chains and precious stones inscribed with strange signs, and all
these would be put into the beer. In truth, one may well believe that
these noble treasures would impart to it something of their own secret
potency given them by nature."

"That is not for us to say," declared Erik Grubbe. "I have more faith,
I own, in the Brunswick hops and the other herbs they mix."

"Nay," said the pastor, "it were wrong to think so, for there is much
that is hidden from us in the realm of nature,--of that there can be no
doubt. Everything, living or dead, has its _miraculum_ within it, and
we need but patience to seek and open eyes to find. Alas, in the old
days when it was not so long since the Lord had taken his hands from
the earth, then all things were still so engirded with his power that
they exhaled healing and all that was good for time and eternity. But
now the earth is no longer new nor fine: it is defiled with the sins
of many generations. Now it is only at particular times that these
powers manifest themselves, at certain places and certain seasons,
when strange signs may be seen in the heavens,--as I was saying to
the blacksmith, when we spoke of the awful flaming light that has
been visible in half the heavens for several nights recently.... That
reminds me, a mounted courier passed us just then; he was bound this
way, I think."

"So he was, Pastor Jens."

"I hope he rode with none but good tidings?"

"He rode with the tidings that war has been declared."

"Lord Jesu! Alas the day! Yet it had to come some time."

"Ay, but when they'd waited so long, they might as well have waited
till folks had their harvest in."

"'Tis the Skaanings who are back of it, I make no doubt. They still
feel the smart of the last war and would seek balm in this."

"Oh, it's not only the Skaanings. The Sjælland people are ever spoiling
for war. They know it will pass them by as usual. Well, it's a good
time for neats and fools, when the Councillors of the Realm have gone
mad one and all!"

"'Tis said the Lord High Constable did not desire war."

"May the devil believe that! Perhaps not--but there's little to be made
of preaching quiet in an ant-hill. Well, the war's here, and now it's
every man for himself. We shall have our hands full."

The conversation turned to the journey of the morrow, passed on to
the bad roads, lingered on fatted oxen and stall-feeding, and again
reverted to the journey. Meanwhile they had not neglected the tankard.
The beer had gone to their heads, and Erik Grubbe, who was just telling
about his voyage to Ceylon and the East Indies in the "Pearl," had
difficulty in making headway through his own laughter, whenever a new
joke came to his mind.

The pastor was getting serious. He had collapsed in his chair, but once
in a while he would turn his head, look fiercely around, and move his
lips as though to speak. He was gesticulating with one hand, growing
more and more excited, until at last he happened to strike the table
with his fist, and sank down again with a frightened look at Erik
Grubbe. Finally, when the squire had got himself quite tangled up in a
story of an excessively stupid scullery lad, the pastor rose and began
to speak in a hollow, solemn voice.

"Verily," he said, "verily, I will bear witness with my mouth--with my
mouth--that you are an offence and one by whom offence cometh--that
it were better for you that you were cast into the sea--verily, with
a millstone and two barrels of malt--the two barrels of malt that
you owe me, as I bear witness solemnly with my mouth--two heaping
full barrels of malt in my own new sacks. For they were not my sacks,
never kingdom without end, 'twas your own old sacks, and my new ones
you kept,--and it _was_ rotten malt--verily! See the abomination of
desolation, and the sacks are mine, and I will repay--vengeance is
mine, I say. Do you not tremble in your old bones--you old whoremonger?
You should live like a Christian--but you live with Anne Jensdaughter
and make her cheat a Christian pastor. You're a--you're a--Christian
whoremonger--yes--"

During the first part of the pastor's speech, Erik Grubbe sat smiling
fatuously and holding out his hand to him across the table. He thrust
out his elbow as though to poke an invisible auditor in the ribs and
call his attention to how delightfully drunk the parson was. But at
last some sense of what was being said appeared to pierce his mind.
His face suddenly became chalky white; he seized the tankard and threw
it at the pastor, who fell backward from his chair and slipped to the
floor. It was nothing but fright that caused it, for the tankard failed
to reach its mark. It merely rolled to the edge of the table and lay
there, while the beer flowed in rivulets down on the floor and the
pastor.

The candle had burned low and was flaring fitfully, sometimes lighting
the room brightly for a moment, then leaving it almost in darkness,
while the blue dawn peeped in through the windows.

The pastor was still talking, his voice first deep and threatening,
then feeble, almost whining.

"There you sit in gold and purple, and I'm laid here, and the dogs
lick my sores,--and what did you drop in Abraham's bosom? What did
you put on the contribution plate? You didn't give so much as a
silver eightpenny bit in Christian Abraham's bosom. And now you are
in torments--but no one shall dip the tip of his finger in water for
you,"--and he struck out with his hand in the spilled beer,--"but I
wash my hands--both hands--I have warned you--hi!--there you go--yes,
there you go in sackcloth and ashes--my two new sacks--malt--"

He mumbled yet a while, then dropped asleep. Meanwhile Erik Grubbe
tried to take revenge. He caught the arm of his chair firmly, stretched
to his full length, and kicked the leg of the chair with all his might,
in the hope that it was the pastor.

Presently all was still. There was no sound but the snoring of the two
old gentlemen and the monotonous drip, drip of the beer running from
the table.



CHAPTER II


Mistress Rigitze Grubbe, relict of the late lamented Hans Ulrik
Gyldenlöve, owned a house on the corner of Östergade and Pilestræde.
At that time, Östergade was a fairly aristocratic residence section.
Members of the Trolle, Sehested, Rosencrantz, and Krag families lived
there; Joachim Gersdorf was Mistress Rigitze's neighbor, and one or two
foreign ministers usually had lodgings in Carl van Mandern's new red
mansion. Only one side of the street was the home of fashion, however;
on the other side, Nikolaj Church was flanked by low houses, where
dwelt artisans, shopkeepers, and shipmasters. There were also one or
two taverns.

On a Sunday morning, early in September, Marie Grubbe stood looking
out of the dormer window in Mistress Rigitze's house. Not a vehicle in
sight! Nothing but staid footsteps, and now and then the long-drawn cry
of the oyster-monger. The sunlight, quivering over roofs and pavements,
threw sharp, black, almost rectangular shadows. The distance swam in a
faint bluish heat mist.

"At-tention!" called a woman's voice behind her, cleverly mimicking the
raucous tones of one accustomed to much shouting of military orders.

Marie turned. Her aunt's maid, Lucie, had for some time been sitting
on the table, appraising her own well-formed feet with critical eyes.
Tired of this occupation, she had called out, and now sat swinging her
legs and laughing merrily.

Marie shrugged her shoulders with a rather bored smile and would have
returned to her window-gazing, but Lucie jumped down from the table,
caught her by the waist, and forced her down on a small rush-bottomed
chair.

"Look here, Miss," she said, "shall I tell you something?"

"Well?"

"You've forgot to write your letter, and the company will be here at
half-past one o'clock, so you've scarce four hours. D'you know what
they're going to have for dinner? Clear soup, flounder or some such
broad fish, chicken pasty, Mansfeld tart, and sweet plum compote.
Faith, it's fine, but not fat! Your sweetheart's coming, Miss?"

"Nonsense!" said Marie crossly.

"Lord help me! It's neither banns nor betrothal because I say so! But,
Miss, I can't see why you don't set more store by your cousin. He is
the pret-tiest, most be-witching man I ever saw. Such feet he has! And
there's royal blood in him--you've only to look at his hands, so tiny
and shaped like a mould, and his nails no larger than silver groats and
so pink and round. Such a pair of legs he can muster! When he walks
it's like steel springs, and his eyes blow sparks--"

She threw her arms around Marie and kissed her neck so passionately and
covetously that the child blushed and drew herself out of the embrace.

Lucie flung herself down on the bed, laughing wildly.

"How silly you are to-day," cried Marie. "If you carry on like this,
I'll go downstairs."

"Merciful! Let me be merry once in a while! Faith, there's trouble
enough, and I've more than I can do with. With my sweetheart in the
war, suffering ill and worse--it's enough to break one's heart. What if
they've shot him dead or crippled! God pity me, poor maid, I'd never
get over it." She hid her face in the bedclothes and sobbed: "Oh, no,
no, no, my own dear Lorens--I'd be so true to you, if the Lord would
only bring you back to me safe and sound! Oh, Miss, I _can't_ bear it!"

Marie tried to soothe her with words and caresses, and at last she
succeeded in making Lucie sit up and wipe her eyes.

"Indeed, Miss," she said, "no one knows how miserable I am. You see, I
can't possibly behave as I should all the time. 'Tis no use I resolve
to set no store by the young men. When they begin jesting and passing
compliments, my tongue's got an itch to answer them back, and then 'tis
true more foolery comes of it than I could answer for to Lorens. But
when I think of the danger he's in, oh, then I'm more sorry than any
living soul can think. For I love him, Miss, and no one else, upon my
soul I do. And when I'm in bed, with the moon shining straight in on
the floor, I'm like another woman, and everything seems so sad, and I
weep and weep, and something gets me by the throat till I'm like to
choke--it's terrible! Then I keep tossing in my bed and praying to
God, though I scarce know what I'm praying for. Sometimes I sit up in
bed and catch hold of my head and it seems as if I'd lose my wits with
longing. Why, goodness me, Miss, you're crying! Sure you're not longing
for any one in secret--and you so young?"

Marie blushed and smiled faintly. There was something flattering in the
idea that she might be pining for a lover.

"No, no," she said, "but what you say is so sad. You make it seem as if
there's naught but misery and trouble."

"Bless me, no, there's a little of other things too," said Lucie,
rising in answer to a summons from below, and nodding archly to Marie,
as she went.

Marie sighed and returned to the window. She looked down into the cool,
green graveyard of St. Nikolaj, at the red walls of the church, over
the tarnished copper roof of the castle, past the royal dockyard and
ropewalk around to the slender spire of East Gate, past the gardens and
wooden cottages of Hallandsaas, to the bluish Sound melting into the
blue sky, where softly moulded cloud-masses were drifting to the Skaane
shore.

Three months had passed since she came to Copenhagen. When she left
home she had supposed that life in the residential city must be
something vastly different from what she had found. It had never
occurred to her that she might be more lonely there than at Tjele
Manor, where, in truth, she had been lonely enough. Her father had
never been a companion to her, for he was too entirely himself to be
anything to others. He never became young when he spoke to fourteen
years nor feminine when he addressed a little maid. He was always on
the shady side of fifty and always Erik Grubbe.

As for his concubine, who ruled as though she were indeed mistress of
the house, the mere sight of her was enough to call out all there was
of pride and bitterness in Marie. This coarse, domineering peasant
woman had wounded and tortured her so often that the girl could hardly
hear her step without instantly and half unconsciously hardening into
obstinacy and hatred. Little Anne, her half-sister, was sickly and
spoiled, which did not make it easier to get along with her, and to
crown all, the mother made the child her excuse for abusing Marie to
Erik Grubbe.

Who, then, were her companions?

She knew every path and road in Bigum woods, every cow that pastured
in the meadows, every fowl in the hencoop. The kindly greeting of the
servants and peasants when she met them seemed to say: Our young lady
suffers wrong, and we know it. We are sorry, and we hate the woman up
there as much as you do.

But in Copenhagen?

There was Lucie, and she was very fond of her, but after all she
was a servant. Marie was in Lucie's confidence and was pleased and
grateful for it, but Lucie was not in her confidence. She could not
tell her troubles to the maid. Nor could she bear to have the fact of
her unfortunate position put into words or hear a servant discuss her
unhappy family affairs. She would not even brook a word of criticism
against her aunt, though she certainly did not love her father's
kinswoman and had no reason to love her.

Rigitze Grubbe held the theories of her time on the salutary effects of
harsh discipline, and she set herself to bring up Marie accordingly.
She had never had any children of her own, and she was not only a very
impatient foster-mother, but also clumsy, for mother love had never
taught her the useful little arts that smooth the way for teacher and
pupil. Yet a severe training might have been very good for Marie. The
lack of watchful care in her home had allowed one side of her nature
to grow almost too luxuriantly, while the other had been maimed and
stunted by capricious cruelty, and she might have felt it a relief to
be guided in the way she should go by the hard and steady hand of one
who in all common sense could wish her nothing but good.

Yet she was not so guided. Mistress Rigitze had so many irons in the
fire of politics and court intrigue that she was often away for days,
and when at home she would be so preoccupied that Marie did with
herself and her time what she pleased. When Mistress Rigitze had a
moment to spare for the child, the very consciousness of her own neglect
made her doubly irritable. The whole relation therefore wore to Marie
an utterly unreasonable aspect, and was fitted to give her the notion
that she was an outcast whom all hated and none loved.

As she stood at the window looking out over the city, this sense of
forlornness came over her again. She leaned her head against the
casement and lost herself in contemplation of the slowly gliding clouds.

She understood what Lucie had said about the pain of longing. It was
like something burning inside of you, and there was nothing to do but
to let it burn and burn--how well she knew it! What would come of it
all?--One day just like another--nothing, nothing,--nothing to look
forward to. Could it last? Yes, for a long time yet! Even when she had
passed sixteen?--But things did happen to other people! At least she
wouldn't go on wearing a child's cap after she was sixteen; sister
Anne Marie hadn't--_she_ had been married. Marie remembered the noisy
carousing at the wedding long after she had been sent to bed--and the
music. Well, at least she could be married. But to whom? Perhaps to the
brother of her sister's husband. To be sure, he was frightfully ugly,
but if there was nothing else for it--No, that certainly was nothing to
look forward to. Was there anything? Not that she could see.

She left the window, sat down by the table thoughtfully, and began to
write:

My loving greeting always in the name of Our Lord, dear Anne Marie,
good sister and friend! God keep you always and be praised for His
mercies. I have taken upon myself to write _pour vous congratuler_
inasmuch as you have been fortunately delivered of child and are now
restored to good health. Dear sister, I am well and hearty. Our Aunt,
as you know, lives in much splendor, and we often have company, chiefly
gentlemen of the court, and with the exception of a few old dames, none
visit us but men folks. Many of them have known our blessed mother and
praise her beauty and virtue. I always sit at table with the company,
but no one speaks to me except Ulrik Frederik, whom I would prefer to
do without, for he is ever given to bantering and _raillerie_ rather
than sensible conversation. He is yet young and is not in the best
repute; 'tis said he frequents both taverns and ale-houses and the
like. Now I have nothing new to tell except that to-day we have an
assembly, and he is coming. Whenever I speak French he laughs very
much and tells me that it is a hundred years old, which may well be,
for Pastor Jens was a mere youth at the time of his travels. Yet he
gives me praise because I put it together well, so that no lady of
the court can do it better, he says, but this I believe to be but
compliments, about which I care nothing. I have had no word from Tjele.
Our Aunt cannot speak without cursing and lamenting of the enormity
that our dear father should live as he does with a female of such lowly
extraction. I grieve sorely, but that gives no boot for bane. You must
not let Stycho see this letter, but give him greeting from my heart.
September, 1657.

                              Your dear sister,

                                                     MARIE GRUBBE.

  The honorable Mistress Anne Marie Grubbe, consort of Stycho Höegh of
  Gjordslev, my good friend and sister, written in all loving-kindness.

       *       *       *       *       *

The guests had risen from the table and entered the drawing-room,
where Lucie was passing the golden Dantzig brandy. Marie had taken
refuge in a bay-window, half hidden by the full curtains. Ulrik
Frederik went over to her, bowed with exaggerated deference, and with a
very grave face expressed his disappointment at having been seated so
far from mademoiselle at the table. As he spoke, he rested his small
brown hand on the window-sill. Marie looked at it and blushed scarlet.

"_Pardon_, Mademoiselle, I see that you are flushing with anger. Permit
me to present my most humble service! Might I make so bold as to ask
how I have had the misfortune to offend you?"

"Indeed I am neither flushed nor angry."

"Ah, so 'tis your pleasure to call that color white? _Bien!_ But then I
would fain know by what name you designate the rose commonly known as
red!"

"Can you never say a sensible word?"

"Hm--let me see--ay, it has happened, I own, but rarely--

    Doch Chloë, Chloë zürne nicht!
    Toll brennet deiner Augen Licht
    Mich wie das Hundsgestirn die Hunde,
    Und Worte schäumen mir vom Munde
    Dem Geifer gleich der Wasserscheu--"

"Forsooth, you may well say that!"

"_Ach_, Mademoiselle, 'tis but little you know of the power of Eros!
Upon my word, there are nights when I have been so lovesick I have
stolen down through the Silk Yard and leaped the balustrade into
Christen Skeel's garden, and there I've stood like a statue among
fragrant roses and violets, till the languishing Aurora has run her
fingers through my locks."

"Ah, Monsieur, you were surely mistaken when you spoke of Eros; it must
have been Evan--and you may well go astray when you're brawling around
at night-time. You've never stood in Skeel's garden; you've been at the
sign of Mogens in Cappadocia among bottles and Rhenish wineglasses, and
if you've been still as a statue, it's been something besides dreams of
love that robbed you of the power to move your legs."

"You wrong me greatly! Though I may go to the vintner's house
sometimes, 'tis not for pleasure nor revelry, but to forget the gnawing
anguish that afflicts me."

"Ah!"

"You have no faith in me; you do not trust to the constancy of my
_amour_! Heavens! Do you see the eastern louver-window in St. Nikolaj?
For three long days have I sat there gazing at your fair countenance,
as you bent over your broidery frame."

"How unlucky you are! You can scarce open your mouth, but I can catch
you in loose talk. I never sit with my broidery frame toward St.
Nikolaj. Do you know this rigmarole?--

    'Twas black night,
    Troll was in a plight;
    For man held him tight.
    To the troll said he:
    'If you would be free,
    Then teach me quick,
    Without guile or trick,
    One word of perfect truth.'
    Up spake the troll: 'In sooth!'
    Man let him go.
    None on earth, I trow,
    Could call troll liar for saying so."

Ulrik Frederik bowed deferentially and left her without a word.

She looked after him, as he crossed the room. He did walk gracefully.
His silk hose fitted him without fold or wrinkle. How pretty they were
at the ankle, where they met the long, narrow shoe! She liked to look
at him. She had never before noticed that he had a tiny pink scar in
his forehead.

Furtively she glanced at her own hands and made a slight grimace,--the
fingers seemed to her too short.



CHAPTER III


Winter came with hard times for the beasts of the forest and the birds
of the fields. It was a poor Christmas within mud-walled huts and
timbered ships. The Western Sea was thickly studded with wrecks, icy
hulks, splintered masts, broken boats, and dead ships. Argosies were
hurled upon the coast, shattered to worthless fragments, sunk, swept
away, or buried in the sand; for the gale blew toward land with a high
sea and deadly cold, and human hands were powerless against it. Heaven
and earth were one reek of stinging, whirling snow that drifted in
through cracked shutters and ill-fitting hatches to poverty and rags,
and pierced under eaves and doors to wealth and fur-bordered mantles.
Beggars and wayfaring folk froze to death in the shelter of ditches and
dikes; poor people died of cold on their bed of straw, and the cattle
of the rich fared not much better.

The storm abated, and after it came a clear, tingling frost, which
brought disaster on the land--winter pay for summer folly! The Swedish
army _walked_ over the Danish waters. Peace was declared, and spring
followed with green budding leaves and fair weather, but the young men
of Sjælland did not ride a-Maying that year; for the Swedish soldiers
were everywhere. There was peace indeed, but it carried the burdens
of war and seemed not likely to live long. Nor did it. When the May
garlands had turned dark and stiff under the midsummer sun, the Swedes
went against the ramparts of Copenhagen.

During vesper service on the second Sunday in August, the tidings
suddenly came: "The Swedes have landed at Korsör." Instantly the
streets were thronged. People walked about quietly and soberly, but
they talked a great deal; they all talked at once, and the sound of
their voices and footsteps swelled to a loud murmur that neither rose
nor fell and never ceased, but went on with a strange, heavy monotony.

The rumor crept into the churches during the sermon. From the seats
nearest the door it leaped in a breathless whisper to some one sitting
in the next pew, then on to three people in the third, then past a
lonely old man in the fourth on to the fifth, and so on till the whole
congregation knew it. Those in the centre turned and nodded meaningly
to people behind them; one or two who were sitting nearest the pulpit
rose and looked apprehensively toward the door. Soon there was not a
face lifted to the pastor. All sat with heads bent as though to fix
their thoughts on the sermon, but they whispered among themselves,
stopped for a tense moment and listened in order to gauge how far it
was from the end, then whispered again. The muffled noise from the
crowds in the streets grew more distinct: it was not to be borne any
longer! The churchpeople busied themselves putting their hymn-books in
their pockets.

"Amen!"

Every face turned to the preacher. During the litany prayer,
all wondered whether the pastor had heard anything. He read the
supplication for the Royal House, the Councillors of the Realm, and the
common nobility, for all who were in authority or entrusted with high
office,--and at that tears sprang to many eyes. As the prayer went on,
there was a sound of sobbing, but the words came from hundreds of lips:
"May God in His mercy deliver these our lands and kingdoms from battle
and murder, pestilence and sudden death, famine and drouth, lightning
and tempest, floods and fire, and may we for such fatherly mercy praise
and glorify His holy name!"

Before the hymn had ended, the church was empty, and only the voice of
the organ sang within it.

On the following day, the people were again thronging the streets,
but by this time they seemed to have gained some definite direction.
The Swedish fleet had that night anchored outside of Dragör. Yet the
populace was calmer than the day before; for it was generally known
that two of the Councillors of the Realm had gone to parley with the
enemy, and were--so it was said--entrusted with powers sufficient to
ensure peace. But when the Councillors returned on Tuesday with the
news that they had been unable to make peace, there was a sudden and
violent reaction.

This was no longer an assemblage of staid citizens grown restless
under the stress of great and ominous tidings. No, it was a maelstrom
of uncouth creatures, the like of which had never been seen within
the ramparts of Copenhagen. Could they have come out of these quiet,
respectable houses bearing marks of sober every-day business? What
raving in long-sleeved sack and great-skirted coat! What bedlam noise
from grave lips and frenzied gestures of tight-dressed arms! None would
be alone, none would stay indoors, all wanted to stand in the middle
of the street with their despair, their tears, and wailing. See that
stately old man with bared head and bloodshot eyes! He is turning his
ashen face to the wall and beating the stones with clenched fists.
Listen to that fat tanner cursing the Councillors of the Realm and
the miserable war! Feel the blood in those fresh cheeks burning with
hatred of the enemy who brings the horrors of war, horrors that youth
has already lived through in imagination! How they roar with rage at
their own fancied impotence, and God in heaven, what prayers! What
senseless prayers!

Vehicles are stopping in the middle of the street. Servants are setting
down their burdens in sheds and doorways. Here and there, people come
out of the houses dressed in their best attire, flushed with exertion,
look about in surprise, then glance down at their clothes, and dart
into the crowd as though eager to divert attention from their own
finery. What have they in mind? And where do all these rough, drunken
men come from? They crowd; they reel and shriek; they quarrel and
tumble; they sit on doorsteps and are sick; they laugh wildly, run
after the women, and try to fight the men.

It was the first terror, the terror of instinct. By noon it was over.
Men had been called to the ramparts, had labored with holiday strength,
and had seen moats deepen and barricades rise under their spades.
Soldiers were passing. Artisans, students, and noblemen's servants were
standing at watch, armed with all kinds of curious weapons. Cannon had
been mounted. The King had ridden past, and it was announced that he
would stay. Life began to look reasonable, and people braced themselves
for what was coming.

In the afternoon of the following day, the suburb outside of West Gate
was set on fire, and the smoke, drifting over the city, brought out
the crowds again. At dusk, when the flames reddened the weatherbeaten
walls of Vor Frue Church tower and played on the golden balls topping
the spire of St. Peter's, the news that the enemy was coming down Valby
Hill stole in like a timid sigh. Through avenues and alleys sounded
a frightened "The Swedes! The Swedes!" The call came in the piercing
voices of boys running through the streets. People rushed to the doors,
booths were closed, and the iron-mongers hastily gathered in their
wares. The good folk seemed to expect a huge army of the enemy to pour
in upon them that very moment.

The slopes of the ramparts and the adjoining streets were black with
people looking at the fire. Other crowds gathered farther away from
the centre of interest, at the Secret Passage and the Fountain. Many
matters were discussed, the burning question being: Would the Swedes
attack that night or wait till morning?

Gert Pyper, the dyer from the Fountain, thought the Swedes would be
upon them as soon as they had rallied after the march. Why should they
wait?

The Icelandic trader, Erik Lauritzen of Dyers' Row, thought it might be
a risky matter to enter a strange city in the dead of night, when you
couldn't know what was land and what was water.

"Water!" said Gert Dyer. "Would to God we knew as much about our
own affairs as the Swede knows! Don't trust to that! His spies are
where you'd least think. 'Tis well enough known to Burgomaster and
Council, for the aldermen have been round since early morning hunting
spies in every nook and corner. Fool him who can! No, the Swede's
cunning--especially in such business. 'Tis a natural gift. I found
that out myself--'tis some half-score years since, but I've never
forgotten that mummery. You see, indigo she makes black, and she makes
light blue, and she makes medium blue, all according to the mordant.
Scalding and making the dye-vats ready--any 'prentice can do that, if
he's handy, but the mordant--there's the rub! That's an art! Use too
much, and you burn your cloth or yarn so it rots. Use too little,
and the color will ne-ever be fast--no, not if it's dyed with the
most pre-cious logwood. Therefore the mordant is a closed _geheimnis_
which a man does not give away except it be to his son, but to the
journeymen--never! No--"

"Ay, Master Gert," said the trader, "ay, ay!"

"As I was saying," Gert went on, "about half a score of years ago I
had a 'prentice whose mother was a Swede. He'd set his mind on finding
out what mordant I used for cinnamon brown, but as I always mixed it
behind closed doors, 'twas not so easy to smoke it. So what does he
do, the rascal? There's so much vermin here round the Fountain, it
eats our wool and our linen, and for that reason we always hang up
the stuff people give us to dye in canvas sacks under the loft-beams.
So what does he do, the devil's _gesindchen_, but gets him one of the
'prentices to hang him up in a sack. And I came in and weighed and
mixed and made ready and was half done, when it happened so curiously
that the cramp got in one of his legs up there, and he began to kick
and scream for me to help him down. Did I help him? Death and fire! But
'twas a scurvy trick he did me, yes, yes, yes! And so they are, the
Swedes; you can never trust 'em over a doorstep."

"Faith, they're ugly folk, the Swedes," spoke Erik Lauritzen. "They've
nothing to set their teeth in at home, so when they come to foreign
parts they can never get their bellyful. They're like poor-house
children; they eat for today's hunger and for to-morrow's and
yesterday's all in one. Thieves and cut-purses they are, too--worse
than crows and corpse-plunderers--and so murderous. It's not for
nothing people say: Quick with the knife like Lasse Swede!"

"And so lewd," added the dyer. "It never fails, if you see the
hangman's man whipping a woman from town, and you ask who's the hussy,
but they tell you she's a Swedish trull."

"Ay, the blood of man is various, and the blood of beasts, too. The
Swede is to other people what the baboon is among the dumb brutes.
There's such an unseemly passion and raging heat in the humors of his
body that the natural intelligence which God in His mercy hath given
all human creatures cannot hinder his evil lusts and sinful desires."

The dyer nodded several times in affirmation of the theories advanced
by the trader. "Right you are, Erik Lauritzen, right you are. The Swede
is of a strange and peculiar nature, different from other people. I can
always smell, when an outlandish man comes into my booth, whether he's
a Swede or from some other country. There's such a rank odor about the
Swedes--like goats or fish-lye. I've often turned it over in my mind,
and I make no doubt 'tis as you say, 'tis the fumes of his lustful and
bestial humors. Ay, so it is."

"Sure, it's no witchcraft if Swedes and Turks smell different from
Christians!" spoke up an old woman who stood near them.

"You're drivelling, Mette Mustard," interrupted the dyer. "Don't you
know that Swedes are Christian folks?"

"Call 'em Christian, if you like, Gert Dyer, but Finns and heathens
and troll-men have never been Christians by my prayer-book, and it's
true as gold what happened in the time of King Christian, God rest his
soul! when the Swedes were in Jutland. There was a whole regiment of
'em marching one night at new moon, and at the stroke o' midnight they
ran one from the other and howled like a pack of werewolves or some
such devilry, and they scoured like mad round in the woods and fens and
brought ill luck to men and beasts."

"But they go to church on Sunday and have both pastor and clerk just
like us."

"Ay, let a fool believe that! They go to church, the filthy gang,
like the witches fly to vespers, when the Devil has St. John's mass
on Hekkenfell. No, they're bewitched, an' nothing bites on 'em, be it
powder or bullets. Half of 'em can cast the evil eye, too, else why
d'ye think the smallpox is always so bad wherever those hell-hounds've
set their cursed feet? Answer me that, Gert Dyer, answer me that, if ye
can."

The dyer was just about to reply, when Erik Lauritzen, who for some
time had been looking about uneasily, spoke to him: "Hush, hush, Gert
Pyper! Who's the man talking like a sermon yonder with the people
standing thick around him?"

They hurried to join the crowd, while Gert Dyer explained that it must
be a certain Jesper Kiim, who had preached in the Church of the Holy
Ghost, but whose doctrine, so Gert had been told by learned men, was
hardly pure enough to promise much for his eternal welfare or clerical
preferment.

The speaker was a small man of about thirty with something of the
mastiff about him. He had long, smooth black hair, a thick little nose
on a broad face, lively brown eyes, and red lips. He was standing on
a doorstep, gesticulating forcefully and speaking with quick energy
though in a somewhat thick and lisping voice.

"The twenty-sixth chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew,"
he said, "from the fifty-first to the fifty-fourth verse, reads as
follows: 'And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched
out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high
priest's, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again
thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish
with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and
he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how
then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?'

"Ay, my beloved friends, thus it must be. The poor walls and feeble
garrison of this city are at this moment encompassed by a strong host
of armed warriors, and their king and commander has ordered them, by
fire and sword, by attack and siege, to subdue this city and make us
all his servants.

"And those who are in the city and see their peace threatened and their
ruin contrary to all feelings of humanity determined upon, they arm
themselves, they bring catapults and other harmful implements of war to
the ramparts, and they say to one another: Should not we with flaming
fire and shining sword fall upon the destroyers of peace who would lay
us waste? Why has God in heaven awakened valor and fearlessness in
the heart of man if not for the purpose of resisting such an enemy?
And, like Peter the Apostle, they would draw their glaive and smite
off the ear of Malchus. But Jesus says: 'Put up again thy sword into
his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the
sword.' 'Tis true, this may seem like a strange speech to the unreason
of the wrathful and like foolishness to the unseeing blindness of the
spiteful. But the Word is not like a tinkle of cymbals, for the ear
only. No, like the hull of a ship, which is loaded with many useful
things, so the Word of God is loaded with reason and understanding. Let
us therefore examine the Word and find, one by one, the points of true
interpretation. Wherefore should the sword remain in his place and he
who takes the sword perish with the sword? This is for us to consider
under three heads:

"Firstly, man is a wisely and beyond all measure gloriously fashioned
microcosm, or as it may be interpreted, a small earth, a world of good
and evil. For does not the Apostle James say that the tongue alone is
a world of iniquity among our members? How much more then the whole
body--the lustful eyes, the hastening feet, the covetous hands, the
insatiable belly, but even so the prayerful knees, and the ears quick
to hear! And if the body is a world, how much more, then, our precious
and immortal soul! Ay, it is a garden full of sweet and bitter herbs,
full of evil lusts like ravening beasts and virtues like white lambs.
And is he who lays waste such a world to be regarded as better than an
incendiary, a brawler, or a field-robber? And ye know what punishment
is meted out to such as these."

Darkness had fallen, and the crowd around the preacher appeared only as
a large, dark, slowly shifting and growing mass.

"Secondly, man is a microtheos, that is a mirror and image of the
Almighty God. Is not he who lays hands on the image of God to be
regarded as worse than he who merely steals the holy vessels or
vestments of the church or who profanes the sanctuary? And ye know what
punishment is meted out to such a one.

"Thirdly and lastly, it is the first duty of man to do battle for the
Lord, without ceasing, clothed in the shining mail of a pure life and
girded about with the flaming sword of truth. Armed thus, it behooves
him to fight as a warrior before the Lord, rending the throat of hell
and trampling upon the belly of Satan. Therefore the sword of the body
must remain in its place, for verily we have enough to strive with that
of the spirit!"

Meanwhile stragglers came from both ends of the street, stopped, and
took their place in the outskirts of the crowd. Many were carrying
lanterns, and finally the dark mass was encircled with an undulating
line of twinkling lights that flickered and shifted with the movements
of the people. Now and then a lantern would be lifted and its rays
would move searchingly over whitewashed walls and black window-panes
till they rested on the earnest face of the preacher.

"But how is this? you would say in your hearts: Should we deliver
ourselves bound hand and foot into the power of the oppressor, into a
bitter condition of thralldom and degradation? Oh, my well-beloved, say
not so! For then you will be counted among those who doubt that Jesus
could pray his Father and He should send twelve legions of angels. Oh,
do not fall into despair! Do not murmur in your hearts against the
counsel of the Lord, and make not your liver black against His will!
For he whom the Lord would destroy is struck down, and he whom the Lord
would raise abides in safety. He has many ways by which He can guide us
out of the wilderness of our peril. Has He not power to turn the heart
of our enemy, and did He not suffer the angel of death to go through
the camp of Sennacherib? And have you forgotten the engulfing waters of
the Red Sea and the sudden destruction of Pharaoh?"

At this point Jesper Kiim was interrupted.

The crowd had listened quietly except for a subdued angry murmur from
the outskirts, but suddenly Mette's voice pierced through: "Faugh, you
hell-hound! Hold your tongue, you black dog! Don't listen to him! It's
Swede money speaks out of his mouth!"

An instant of silence, then bedlam broke loose! Oaths, curses, and foul
names rained over him. He tried to speak, but the cries grew louder,
and those nearest to the steps advanced threateningly. A white-haired
little man right in front, who had wept during the speech, made an
angry lunge at the preacher with his long, silver-knobbed cane.

"Down with him, down with him!" the cry sounded. "Let him eat his
words! Let him tell us what money he got for betraying us! Down with
him! Send him to us, we'll knock the maggots out of him!"

"Put him in the cellar!" cried others. "In the City Hall cellar! Hand
him down! hand him down!"

Two powerful fellows seized him. The wretch was clutching the wooden
porch railing with all his might, but they kicked both railing and
preacher down into the street, where the mob fell upon him with kicks
and blows from clenched fists. The women were tearing his hair and
clothes, and little boys, clinging to their fathers' hands, jumped with
delight.

"Bring Mette!" cried some one in the back of the crowd. "Make way! Let
Mette try him."

Mette came forward. "Will you eat your devil's nonsense? Will you,
Master Rogue?"

"Never, never! We ought to obey God rather than men, as it is written."

"Ought we?" said Mette, drawing off her wooden shoe and brandishing it
before his eyes. "But men have shoes, and you're in the pay of Satan
and not of God. I'll give you a knock on the pate! I'll plaster your
brain on the wall!" She struck him with the shoe.

"Commit no sin, Mette," groaned the scholar.

"Now may the Devil--" she shrieked.

"Hush, hush!" some one cried. "Have a care, don't crowd so! There's
Gyldenlöve, the lieutenant-general."

A tall figure rode past.

"Long live Gyldenlöve! The brave Gyldenlöve!" bellowed the mob.
Hats and caps were swung aloft, and cheer upon cheer sounded, until
the rider disappeared in the direction of the ramparts. It was the
lieutenant-general of the militia, colonel of horse and foot, Ulrik
Christian Gyldenlöve, the King's half-brother.

The mob dispersed little by little, till only a few remained.

"Say what you will, 'tis a curious thing," said Gert the dyer: "here
we're ready to crack the head of a man who speaks of peace, and we cry
ourselves hoarse for those who've brought this war upon us."

"I give you good-night, Gert Pyper!" said the trader hastily.
"Good-night and God be with you!" He hurried away.

"He's afraid of Mette's shoe," murmured the dyer, and at last he too
turned homeward.

Jesper Kiim sat on the steps alone, holding his aching head. The
watchman on the ramparts paced slowly back and forth, peering out over
the dark land where all was wrapped in silence, though thousands of
enemies were encamped round about.



CHAPTER IV


Flakes of orange-colored light shot up from the sea-gray fog-bank in
the horizon, and lit the sky overhead with a mild, rose-golden flame
that widened and widened, grew fainter and fainter, until it met a
long, slender cloud, caught its waving edge, and fired it with a
glowing, burning radiance. Violet and pale pink, the reflection from
the sunrise clouds fell over the beaches of Kallebodstrand. The dew
sparkled in the tall grass of the western rampart; the air was alive
and quivering with the twitter of sparrows in the gardens and on the
roofs. Thin strips of delicate mist floated over the orchards, and the
heavy, fruit-laden branches of the trees bent slowly under the breezes
from the Sound.

A long-drawn, thrice-repeated blast of the horn was flung out from West
Gate and echoed from the other corners of the city. The lonely watchmen
on the ramparts began to pace more briskly on their beats, shook their
mantles, and straightened their caps. The time of relief was near.

On the bastion north of West Gate, Ulrik Frederik Gyldenlöve stood
looking at the gulls, sailing with white wings up and down along the
bright strip of water in the moat. Light and fleeting, sometimes faint
and misty, sometimes colored in strong pigments or clear and vivid as
fire, the memories of his twenty years chased one another through his
soul. They brought the fragrance of heavy roses and the scent of fresh
green woods, the huntsman's cry and the fiddler's play and the rustling
of stiff, billowy silks. Distant but sunlit, the life of his childhood
in the red-roofed Holstein town passed before him. He saw the tall form
of his mother, Mistress Margrethe Pappen, a black hymn-book in her
white hands. He saw the freckled chamber-maid with her thin ankles and
the fencing-master with his pimpled, purplish face and his bow-legs.
The park of Gottorp castle passed in review, and the meadows with fresh
hay-stacks by the fjord, and there stood the gamekeeper's clumsy boy
Heinrich, who knew how to crow like a cock and was marvellously clever
at playing ducks and drakes. Last came the church with its strange
twilight, its groaning organ, its mysterious iron-railed chapel, and
its emaciated Christ holding a red banner in his hand.

Again came a blast of the horn from West Gate, and in the same moment
the sun broke out, bright and warm, routing all mists and shadowy tones.

He remembered the chase when he had shot his first deer, and old von
Dettmer had made a sign in his forehead with the blood of the animal,
while the poor hunters' boys blew their blaring fanfares. Then there
was the nosegay to the castellan's Malene and the serious interview
with his tutor, then his first trip abroad. He remembered his first
duel in the fresh, dewy morning, and Annette's cascades of ringing
laughter, and the ball at the Elector's, and his lonely walk outside
of the city gates with head aching, the first time he had been tipsy.
The rest was a golden mist, filled with the tinkling of goblets and the
scent of wine, and there were Lieschen and Lotte, and Martha's white
neck and Adelaide's round arms. Finally came the journey to Copenhagen
and the gracious reception by his royal father, the bustling futilities
of court duties by day and the streams of wine and frenzied kisses at
night, broken by the gorgeous revelry of the chase or by nightly trysts
and tender whisperings in the shelter of Ibstrup park or the gilded
halls of Hilleröd castle.

Yet clearer than all these he saw the black, burning eyes of Sofie
Urne; more insistent than aught else her voice sounded in his
spell-bound memory--beautiful and voluptuously soft, its low notes
drawing like white arms, or rising like a flitting bird that soars and
mocks with wanton trills, while it flees....

A rustling among the bushes of the rampart below waked him from his
dreams.

"Who goes there!" he cried.

"None but Daniel, Lord Gyldenlöve, Daniel Knopf," was the answer, as a
little crippled man came out from the bushes, bowing.

"Ha! Hop-o'-my-Thumb? A thousand plagues, what are you doing here?"

The man stood looking down at himself sadly.

"Daniel, Daniel!" said Ulrik Frederik, smiling. "You didn't come
unscathed from the 'fiery furnace' last night. The German brewer must
have made too hot a fire for you."

The cripple began to scramble up the edge of the rampart. Daniel Knopf,
because of his stature called Hop-o'-my-Thumb, was a wealthy merchant
of some and twenty years, known for his fortune as well as for his
sharp tongue and his skill in fencing. He was boon companion with the
younger nobility, or at least with a certain group of gallants, _le
cercle des mourants_, consisting chiefly of younger men about the
court. Ulrik Frederik was the life and soul of this crowd, which,
though convivial rather than intellectual, and notorious rather than
beloved, was in fact admired and envied for its very peccadillos.

Half tutor and half mountebank, Daniel moved among these men. He did
not walk beside them on the public streets, or in houses of quality,
but in the fencing-school, the wine-cellar, and the tavern he was
indispensable. No one else could discourse so scientifically on bowling
and dog-training or talk with such unction of feints and parrying. No
one knew wine as he did. He had worked out profound theories about
dicing and love-making, and could speak learnedly and at length on the
folly of crossing the domestic stud with the Salzburger horses. To
crown all, he knew anecdotes about everybody, and--most impressive of
all to the young men--he had decided opinions about everything.

Moreover, he was always ready to humor and serve them, never forgot the
line that divided him from the nobility, and was decidedly funny when,
in a fit of drunken frolic, they would dress him up in some whimsical
guise. He let himself be kicked about and bullied without resenting it,
and would often good-naturedly throw himself into the breach to stop a
conversation that threatened the peace of the company.

Thus he gained admittance to circles that were to him as the very
breath of life. To him, the citizen and cripple, the nobles seemed like
demigods. Their cant alone was human speech. Their existence swam in
a shimmer of light and a sea of fragrance, while common folk dragged
out their lives in drab-colored twilight and stuffy air. He cursed his
citizen birth as a far greater calamity than his lameness, and grieved
over it, in solitude, with a bitterness and passion that bordered on
insanity.

"How now, Daniel," said Ulrik Frederik, when the little man reached
him. "'Twas surely no light mist that clouded your eyes last night,
since you've run aground here on the rampart, or was the clary at flood
tide, since I find you high and dry like Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat?"

"Prince of the Canaries, you rave if you suppose I was in your company
last night!"

"A thousand devils, what's the matter then?" cried Ulrik Frederik
impatiently.

"Lord Gyldenlöve," said Daniel, looking up at him with tears in his
eyes, "I'm an unhappy wretch."

"You're a dog of a huckster! Is it a herring-boat you're afraid the
Swede will catch? Or are you groaning because trade has come to a
standstill, or do you think the saffron will lose its strength and
the mildew fall on your pepper and paradise grain? You've a ha'penny
soul! As if good citizens had naught else to think about than their own
trumpery going to the devil,--now that we may look for the fall of both
King and realm!"

"Lord Gyldenlöve--"

"Oh, go to the devil with your whining!"

"Not so, Lord Gyldenlöve," said Daniel solemnly, stepping back a pace.
"For I don't fret about the stoppage of trade, nor the loss of money
and what money can buy. I care not a doit nor a damn for herring and
saffron, but to be turned away by officers and men like one sick with
the leprosy or convicted of crime, that's a sinful wrong against me,
Lord Gyldenlöve. That's why I've been lying in the grass all night like
a scabby dog that's been turned out, that's why I've been writhing like
a miserable crawling beast and have cried to God in heaven, asking Him
why I alone should be utterly cast away, why my arm alone should be too
withered and weak to wield a sword, though they're arming lackeys and
'prentice boys--"

"But who the shining Satan has turned you away?"

"Faith, Lord Gyldenlöve, I ran to the ramparts like the others, but
when I came to one party they told me they had room for no more, and
they were only poor citizens anyway and not fit to be with the gentry
and persons of quality. Some parties said they would have no crooked
billets, for cripples drew the bullets and brought ill luck, and none
would hazard life and limb unduly by having amongst them one whom the
Lord had marked. Then I begged Major-General Ahlefeldt that he would
order me to a position, but he shook his head and laughed: things
hadn't come to such a pass yet that they had to stuff the ranks with
stunted stumps who'd give more trouble than aid."

"But why didn't you go to the officers whom you know?"

"I did so, Lord Gyldenlöve. I thought at once of the _cercle_ and spoke
to one or two of the _mourants_--King Petticoat and the Gilded Knight."

"And did they give you no help?"

"Ay, Lord Gyldenlöve, they helped me--Lord Gyldenlöve, they helped me,
may God find them for it! 'Daniel,' they said, 'Daniel, go home and
pick the maggots out of your damson prunes!' They had believed I had
too much tact to come here with my buffoonery. 'Twas all very well if
they thought me fit to wear cap and bells at a merry bout, but when
they were on duty I was to keep out of their sight. Now, was that well
spoken, Lord Gyldenlöve? No, 'twas a sin, a sin! Even if they'd made
free with me in the wine-cellars, they said, I needn't think I was one
of them, or that I could be with them when they were at their post.
I was too presumptuous for them, Lord Gyldenlöve! I'd best not force
myself into their company, for they needed no merry-andrew here. That's
what they told me, Lord Gyldenlöve! And yet I asked but to risk my life
side by side with the other citizens."

"Oh, ay," said Ulrik Frederik, yawning, "I can well understand that
it vexes you to have no part in it all. You might find it irksome to
sweat over your desk while the fate of the realm is decided here on
the ramparts. Look you, you _shall_ be in it! For--" He broke off and
looked at Daniel with suspicion. "There's no foul play, sirrah?"

The little man stamped the ground in his rage and gritted his teeth,
his face pale as a whitewashed wall.

"Come, come," Ulrik Frederik went on, "I trust you, but you can scarce
expect me to put faith in your word as if 'twere that of a gentleman.
And remember, 'twas your own that scorned you first. Hush!"

From a bastion at East Gate boomed a shot, the first that had been
fired in this war. Ulrik Frederik drew himself up, while the blood
rushed to his face. He looked after the white smoke with eager,
fascinated eyes, and when he spoke there was a strange tremor in his
voice.

"Daniel," he said, "toward noon you can report to me, and think no more
of what I said."

Daniel looked admiringly after him, then sighed deeply, sat down in the
grass, and wept as an unhappy child weeps.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the afternoon of the same day, a fitful wind blew through the
streets of the city, whirling up clouds of dust, whittlings, and bits
of straw, and carrying them hither and thither. It tore the tiles
from the roofs, drove the smoke down the chimneys, and wrought sad
havoc with the tradesmen's signs. The long, dull-blue pennants of the
dyers were flung out on the breeze and fell down again in spirals that
tightened around their quivering staffs. The turners' spinning-wheels
rocked and swayed; hairy tails flapped over the doors of the furriers,
and the resplendent glass suns of the glaziers swung in a restless
glitter that vied with the polished basins of the barber-surgeons.
Doors and shutters were slamming in the back-yards. The chickens hid
their heads under barrels and sheds, and even the pigs grew uneasy
in their pens, when the wind howled through sunlit cracks and gaping
joints.

The storm brought an oppressive heat. Within the houses the people were
gasping for breath, and only the flies were buzzing about cheerfully
in the sultry atmosphere. The streets were unendurable, the porches
were draughty, and hence people who possessed gardens preferred to seek
shelter there.

In the large enclosure behind Christoffer Urne's house in
Vingaardsstræde, a young girl sat with her sewing under a Norway maple.
Her tall, slender figure was almost frail, yet her breast was deep and
full. Luxuriant waves of black hair and almost startlingly large dark
eyes accented the pallor of her skin. The nose was sharp, but finely
cut, the mouth wide though not full, and with a morbid sweetness in
its smile. The lips were scarlet, the chin somewhat pointed, but firm
and well rounded. Her dress was slovenly: an old black velvet robe
embroidered in gold that had become tarnished, a new green felt hat
from which fell a snowy plume, and leather shoes that were worn to
redness on the pointed toes. There was lint in her hair, and neither
her collar nor her long, white hands were immaculately clean.

The girl was Christoffer Urne's niece, Sofie. Her father, Jörgen Urne
of Alslev, Councillor of the Realm, Lord High Constable, and Knight of
the Elephant, had died when she was yet a child, and a few years ago
her mother, Mistress Margrethe Marsvin, had followed him. The elderly
uncle, with whom she lived, was a widower, and she was therefore, at
least nominally, the mistress of his household.

She hummed a song as she worked, and kept time by swinging one foot on
the point of her toe.

The leafy crowns over her head rustled and swayed in the boisterous
wind with a noise like the murmur of many waters. The tall hollyhocks,
swinging their flower-topped stems back and forth in unsteady circles,
seemed seized with a sudden tempestuous madness, while the raspberry
bushes, timidly ducking their heads, turned the pale inner side of
their leaves to the light and changed color at every breath. Dry
leaves sailed down through the air, the grass lay flat on the ground,
and the white bloom of the spirea rose and fell froth-like upon the
light-green, shifting waves of the foliage.

There was a moment of stillness. Everything seemed to straighten and
hang breathlessly poised, still quivering in suspense, but the next
instant the wind came shrieking again and caught the garden in a wild
wave of rustling and glittering and mad rocking and endless shifting as
before.

    "In a boat sat Phyllis fair;
    Corydon beheld her there,
    Seized his flute, and loudly blew it.
    Many a day did Phyllis rue it;
    For the oars dropped from her hands,
    And aground upon the sands,
    And aground--"

Ulrik Frederik was approaching from the other end of the garden.
Sofie looked up for a moment in surprise, then bent her head over her
work and went on humming. He strolled slowly up the walk, sometimes
stopping to look at a flower, as though he had not noticed that there
was any one else in the garden. Presently he turned down a side-path,
paused a moment behind a large white syringa to smooth his uniform and
pull down his belt, took off his hat and ran his fingers through his
hair, then walked on. The path made a turn and led straight to Sofie's
seat.

"Ah, Mistress Sofie! Good-day!" he exclaimed as though in surprise.

"Good-day!" she replied with calm friendliness. She carefully disposed
of her needle, smoothed her embroidery with her hands, looked up with
a smile, and nodded. "Welcome, Lord Gyldenlöve!"

"I call this blind luck," he said, bowing. "I expected to find none
here but your uncle, madam."

Sofie threw him a quick glance and smiled. "He's not here," she said,
shaking her head.

"I see," said Ulrik Frederik, looking down.

There was a moment's pause. Then Sofie spoke: "How sultry it is to-day!"

"Ay, we may get a thunderstorm, if the wind goes down."

"It may be," said Sofie, looking thoughtfully toward the house.

"Did you hear the shot this morning?" asked Ulrik Frederik, drawing
himself up as though to imply that he was about to leave.

"Ay, and we may look for heart-rending times this summer. One may
well-nigh turn light-headed with the thought of the danger to life
and goods, and for me with so many kinsmen and good friends in this
miserable affair, who are like to lose both life and limb and all they
possess, there's reason enough for falling into strange and gloomy
thoughts."

"Nay, sweet Mistress Sofie! By the living God, you must not shed
tears!? You paint all in too dark colors--

    Tousiours Mars ne met pas au jour
    Des objects de sang et de larmes,
    Mais"--

and he seized her hand and lifted it to his lips--

          "... tousiours l'Empire d'amour
    Est plein de troubles et d'alarmes."

Sofie looked at him innocently. How lovely she was! The intense,
irresistible night of her eyes, where day welled out in myriad
light-points like a black diamond flashing in the sun, the poignantly
beautiful arch of her lips, the proud lily paleness of her cheeks
melting slowly into a rose-golden flush like a white cloud kindled by
the morning glow, the delicate temples, blue-veined like flower-petals,
shaded by the mysterious darkness of her hair....

Her hand trembled in his, cold as marble. Gently she drew it away,
and her eyelids dropped. The embroidery slipped from her lap. Ulrik
Frederik stooped to pick it up, bent one knee to the ground, and
remained kneeling before her.

"Mistress Sofie!" he said.

She laid her hand over his mouth and looked at him with gentle
seriousness, almost with pain.

"Dear Ulrik Frederik," she begged, "do not take it ill that I beseech
you not to be led by a momentary sentiment to attempt a change in the
pleasant relations that have hitherto existed between us. It serves no
purpose but to bring trouble and vexation to us both. Rise from this
foolish position and take a seat in mannerly fashion here on this bench
so that we may converse in all calmness."

"No, I want the book of my fate to be sealed in this hour," said Ulrik
Frederik without rising. "You little know the great and burning passion
I feel for you, if you imagine I can be content to be naught but your
good friend. For the bloody sweat of Christ, put not your faith in
anything so utterly impossible! My love is no smouldering spark that
will flame up or be extinguished according as you blow hot or cold on
it. _Par dieu!_ 'Tis a raging and devouring fire, but it's for you
to say whether it is to run out and be lost in a thousand flickering
flames and will-o'-the-wisps, or burn forever, warm and steady, high
and shining toward heaven."

"But, dear Ulrik Frederik, have pity on me! Don't draw me into a
temptation that I have no strength to withstand! You must believe that
you are dear to my heart and most precious, but for that very reason I
would to the uttermost guard myself against bringing you into a false
and foolish position that you cannot maintain with honor. You are
nearly six years younger than I, and that which is now pleasing to you
in my person, age may easily mar or distort to ugliness. You smile, but
suppose that when you are thirty you find yourself saddled with an old
wrinkled hag of a wife, who has brought you but little fortune, and
not otherwise aided in your preferment! Would you not then wish that
at twenty you had married a young royal lady, your equal in age and
birth, who could have advanced you better than a common gentlewoman?
Dear Ulrik Frederik, go speak to your noble kinsmen, they will tell
you the same. But what they cannot tell you is this: if you brought to
your home such a gentlewoman, older than yourself, she would strangle
you with her jealousy. She would suspect your every look, nay the
innermost thoughts of your heart. She would know how much you had given
up for her sake, and therefore she would strive the more to have her
love be all in all to you. Trust me, she would encompass you with her
idolatrous love as with a cage of iron, and if she perceived that you
longed to quit it for a single instant, she would grieve day and night
and embitter your life with her despondent sorrow."

She rose and held out her hand. "Farewell, Ulrik Frederik! Our parting
is bitter as death, but after many years, when I am a faded old maid,
or the middle-aged wife of an aged man, you will know that Sofie Urne
was right. May God the Father keep thee! Do you remember the Spanish
romance book where it tells of a certain vine of India which winds
itself about a tree for support, and goes on encircling it, long after
the tree is dead and withered, until at last it holds the tree that
else would fall? Trust me, Ulrik Frederik, in the same manner my soul
will be sustained and held up by your love, long after your sentiment
shall be withered and vanished."

She looked straight into his eyes and turned to go, but he held her
hand fast.

"Would you make me raving mad? Then hear me! Now I know that thou
lovest me, no power on earth can part us! Does nothing tell thee that
'tis folly to speak of what thou wouldst or what I would?--when my
blood is drunk with thee and I am bereft of all power over myself! I am
possessed with thee, and if thou turnest away thy heart from me in this
very hour, thou shouldst yet be mine, in spite of thee, in spite of me!
I love thee with a love like hatred--I think nothing of thy happiness.
Thy weal or woe is nothing to me--only that I be in thy joy, I be in
thy sorrow, that I--"

He caught her to him violently and pressed her against his breast.

Slowly she lifted her face and looked long at him with eyes full of
tears. Then she smiled. "Have it as thou wilt, Ulrik Frederik," and she
kissed him passionately.

Three weeks later their betrothal was celebrated with much pomp. The
King had readily given his consent, feeling that it was time to make an
end of Ulrik Frederik's rather too convivial bachelorhood.



CHAPTER V


After the main sallies against the enemy on the second of September
and the twentieth of October, the town rang with the fame of Ulrik
Christian Gyldenlöve. Colonel Satan, the people called him. His name
was on every lip. Every child in Copenhagen knew his sorrel, Bellarina,
with the white socks, and when he rode past--a slim, tall figure in
the wide-skirted blue uniform of the guard with its enormous white
collar and cuffs, red scarf, and broad sword-belt--the maidens of the
city peeped admiringly after him, proud when their pretty faces won
them a bow or a bold glance from the audacious soldier. Even the sober
fathers of families and their matrons in beruffled caps, who well knew
how naughty he was and had heard the tales of all his peccadillos,
would nod to each other with pleasure in meeting him, and would fall to
discussing the difficult question of what would have happened to the
city if it had not been for Gyldenlöve.

The soldiers and men on the ramparts idolized him, and no wonder, for
he had the same power of winning the common people that distinguished
his father, King Christian the Fourth. Nor was this the only point
of resemblance. He had inherited his father's hot-headedness and
intemperance, but also much of his ability, his gift of thinking
quickly and taking in a situation at a glance. He was extremely blunt.
Several years at European courts had not made him a courtier, nor
even passably well mannered. In daily intercourse, he was taciturn to
the point of rudeness, and in the service, he never opened his mouth
without cursing and swearing like a common sailor.

With all this, he was a genuine soldier. In spite of his youth--for he
was but eight-and-twenty--he conducted the defence of the city, and led
the dangerous but important sallies, with such masterful insight and
such mature perfection of plan that the cause could hardly have been in
better hands with any one else among the men who surrounded Frederik
the Third.

No wonder, therefore, that his name outshone all others, and that the
poetasters, in their versified accounts of the fighting, addressed him
as "thou vict'ry-crowned Gyldenlöv', thou Denmark's saviour brave!" or
greeted him: "Hail, hail, thou Northern Mars, thou Danish David bold!"
and wished that his life might be as a cornucopia, yea, even as a horn
of plenty, full and running over with praise and glory, with health,
fortune, and happiness. No wonder that many a quiet family vespers
ended with the prayer that God would preserve Mr. Ulrik Christian, and
some pious souls added a petition that his foot might be led from the
slippery highways of sin, and his heart be turned from all that was
evil, to seek the shining diadem of virtue and truth, and that he,
who had in such full measure won the honor of this world, might also
participate in the only true and everlasting glory.

Marie Grubbe's thoughts were much engrossed by this kinsman of her
aunt. As it happened, she had never met him either at Mistress
Rigitze's or in society, and all she had seen of him was a glimpse in
the dusk when Lucie had pointed him out in the street.

All were speaking of him. Nearly every day some fresh story of his
valor was noised abroad. She had heard and read that he was a hero, and
the murmur of enthusiasm that went through the crowds in the streets,
as he rode past, had given her an unforgettable thrill.

The hero-name lifted him high above the ranks of ordinary human beings.
She had never supposed that a hero could be like other people. King
Alexander of Macedonia, Holger the Dane, and Chevalier Bayard were
tall, distant, radiant figures--ideals rather than men. Just as she had
never believed, in her childhood, that any one could form letters with
the elegance of the copy-book, so it had never occurred to her that
one could become a hero. Heroes belonged to the past. To think that
one might meet a flesh-and-blood hero riding in Store-Færgestræde was
beyond anything she had dreamed of. Life suddenly took on a different
aspect. So it was not all dull routine! The great and beautiful and
richly colored world she had read of in her romances and ballads was
something she might actually see with her own eyes. There was really
something that one could long for with all one's heart and soul; all
these words that people and books were full of had a meaning. They
stood for something. Her confused dreams and longings took form, since
she knew that they were not hers alone, but that grown people believed
in such things. Life was rich, wonderfully rich and radiant.

It was nothing but an intuition, which she knew to be true, but could
not yet see or feel. He was her only pledge that it was so, the only
thing tangible. Hence her thoughts and dreams circled about him
unceasingly. She would often fly to the window at the sound of horse's
hoofs, and, when out walking, she would persuade the willing Lucie to
go round by the castle, but they never saw him.

Then came a day toward the end of October, when she was plying her
bobbins by the afternoon light, at a window in the long drawing-room
where the fireplace was. Mistress Rigitze sat before the fire, now and
then taking a pinch of dried flowers or a bit of cinnamon bark from
a box on her lap and throwing it on a brazier full of live coals that
stood near her. The air in the low-ceilinged room was hot and close
and sweet. But little light penetrated between the full curtains of
motley, dark-flowered stuff. From the adjoining room came the whirr
of a spinning-wheel, and Mistress Rigitze was nodding drowsily in her
cushioned chair.

Marie Grubbe felt faint with the heat. She tried to cool her burning
cheeks against the small, dewy window-pane and peeped out into the
street, where a thin layer of new-fallen snow made the air dazzlingly
bright. As she turned to the room again, it seemed doubly dark and
oppressive. Suddenly Ulrik Christian came in through the door, so
quickly that Mistress Rigitze started. He did not notice Marie, but
took a seat before the fire. After a few words of apology for his long
absence, he remarked that he was tired, leaned forward in his chair,
his face resting on his hand, and sat silent, scarcely hearing Mistress
Rigitze's lively chatter.

Marie Grubbe had turned pale with excitement, when she saw him enter.
She closed her eyes for an instant with a sense of giddiness, then
blushed furiously and could hardly breathe. The floor seemed to be
sinking under her, and the chairs, tables, and people in the room
falling through space. All objects appeared strangely definite and yet
flickering, for she could hold nothing fast with her eyes, and moreover
everything seemed new and strange.

So this was he. She wished herself far away or at least in her own
room, her peaceful little chamber. She was frightened and could feel
her hands tremble. If he would only not see her! She shrank deeper into
the window recess and tried to fix her eyes on her aunt's guest.

Was this the way he looked?--not very, very much taller? And his eyes
were not fiery black, they were blue--such dear blue eyes, but sad--that
was something she could not have imagined. He was pale and looked as if
he were sorry about something. Ah, he smiled, but not in a really happy
way. How white his teeth were, and what a nice mouth he had, so small
and finely formed!

As she looked, he grew more and more handsome in her eyes, and she
wondered how she could ever have fancied him larger or in any way
different from what he was. She forgot her shyness and thought only of
the eulogies of him she had heard. She saw him storming at the head of
his troops, amid the exultant cries of the people. All fell back before
him, as the waves are thrown off, when they rise frothing around the
broad breast of a galleon. Cannon thundered, swords flashed, bullets
whistled through dark clouds of smoke, but he pressed onward, brave and
erect, and on his stirrup Victory hung--in the words of a chronicle she
had read.

Her eyes shone upon him full of admiration and enthusiasm.

He made a sudden movement and met her gaze, but turned his head away,
with difficulty repressing a triumphant smile. The next moment he rose
as though he had just caught sight of Marie Grubbe.

Mistress Rigitze said this was her little niece, and Marie made her
courtesy.

Ulrik Christian was astonished and perhaps a trifle disappointed to
find that the eyes that had given him such a look were those of a child.

"_Ma chère_," he said with a touch of mockery, as he looked down at
her lace, "you're a past mistress in the art of working quietly and
secretly; not a sound have I heard from your bobbins in all the time
I've been here."

"No," replied Marie, who understood him perfectly; "when I saw you,
Lord Gyldenlöve,"--she shoved the heavy lace-maker's cushion along the
window-sill,--"it came to my mind that in times like these 'twere more
fitting to think of lint and bandages than of laced caps."

"Faith, I know that caps are as becoming in war-times as any other
day," he said, looking at her.

"But who would give them a thought in seasons like the present!"

"Many," answered Ulrik Christian, who began to be amused at her
seriousness, "and I for one."

"I understand," said Marie, looking up at him gravely; "'tis but a
child you are addressing." She courtesied ceremoniously and reached
for her work.

"Stay, my little maid!"

"I pray you, let me no longer incommode you!"

"Hark'ee!" He seized her wrists in a hard grip and drew her to him
across the little table. "By God, you're a thorny person, but," he
whispered, "if one has greeted me with a look such as yours a moment
ago, I will not have her bid me so poor a farewell--I will not have it!
There--now kiss me!"

Her eyes full of tears, Marie pressed her trembling lips against his.
He dropped her hands, and she sank down over the table, her head in
her arms. She felt quite dazed. All that day and the next she had a
dull sense of bondage, of being no longer free. A foot seemed to press
on her neck and grind her helplessly in the dust. Yet there was no
bitterness in her heart, no defiance in her thoughts, no desire for
revenge. A strange peace had come over her soul and had chased away
the flitting throng of dreams and longings. She could not define her
feeling for Ulrik Christian; she only knew that if he said Come, she
must go to him, and if he said Go, she must quit him. She did not
understand it, but it was so and had always been so, thus and not
otherwise.

With unwonted patience she worked all day long at her sewing and her
lace-making, meanwhile humming all the mournful ballads she had ever
known, about the roses of love which paled and never bloomed again,
about the swain who must leave his truelove and go to foreign lands,
and who never, never came back any more, and about the prisoner who sat
in the dark tower such a long dreary time, and first his noble falcon
died, and then his faithful dog died, and last his good steed died,
but his faithless wife Malvina lived merrily and well and grieved not
for him. These songs and many others she would sing, and sometimes she
would sigh and seem on the point of bursting into tears, until Lucie
thought her ill and urged her to put way-bread leaves in her stockings.

When Ulrik Christian came in, a few days later, and spoke gently and
kindly to her, she too behaved as though nothing had been between them,
but she looked with childlike curiosity at the large white hands that
had held her in such a hard grip, and she wondered what there could
be in his eyes or his voice that had so cowed her. She glanced at the
mouth, too, under its narrow, drooping moustache, but furtively and
with a secret thrill of fear.

In the weeks that followed he came almost every day, and Marie's
thoughts became more and more absorbed in him. When he was not there,
the old house seemed dull and desolate, and she longed for him as the
sleepless long for daylight, but when he came, her joy was never full
and free, always timid and doubting.

One night she dreamed that she saw him riding through the crowded
streets as on that first evening, but there were no cheers, and all
the faces seemed cold and indifferent. The silence frightened her. She
dared not smile at him, but hid behind the others. Then he glanced
around with a strange questioning, wistful look, and this look fastened
on her. She forced her way through the mass of people and threw herself
down before him, while his horse set its cold, iron-shod hoof on her
neck.

She awoke and looked about her, bewildered, at the cold, moonlit
chamber. Alas, it was but a dream! She sighed; she did want so much to
show him how she loved him. Yes, that was it. She had not understood it
before, but she loved him. At the thought, she seemed to be lying in a
stream of fire, and flames flickered before her eyes, while every pulse
in her heart throbbed and throbbed and throbbed. She loved him. How
wonderful it was to say it to herself! She loved him! How glorious the
words were, how tremendously real, and yet how unreal! Good God, what
was the use, even if she did love him? Tears of self-pity came into her
eyes--and yet! She huddled comfortably under the soft, warm coverlet of
down,--after all it was delicious to lie quite still and think of him
and of her great, great love.

When Marie met Ulrik Christian again, she no longer felt timid. Her
secret buoyed her up with a sense of her own importance, and the fear
of revealing it gave her manner a poise that made her seem almost a
woman. They were happy days that followed, fantastic, wonderful days!
Was it not joy enough when Ulrik Christian went, to throw a hundred
kisses after him, unseen by him and all others, or when he came, to
fancy how her beloved would take her in his arms and call her by every
sweet name she could think of, how he would sit by her side, while they
looked long into each other's eyes, and how she would run her hand
through his soft, wavy brown hair? What did it matter that none of
these things happened? She blushed at the very thought that they might
happen.

They were fair and happy days, but toward the end of November Ulrik
Christian fell dangerously ill. His health, long undermined by
debauchery of every conceivable kind, had perhaps been unable to endure
the continued strain of night-watches and hard work in connection
with his post. Or possibly fresh dissipations had strung the bow too
tightly. A wasting disease, marked by intense pain, wild fever dreams,
and constant restlessness, attacked him, and soon took such a turn that
none could doubt the name of the sickness was death.

On the eleventh of December, Pastor Hans Didrichsen Bartskjær, chaplain
to the royal family, was walking uneasily up and down over the fine
straw mattings that covered the floor in the large leather-brown room
outside of Ulrik Christian's sick-chamber. He stopped absentmindedly
before the paintings on the walls, and seemed to examine with intense
interest the fat, naked nymphs, outstretched under the trees, the
bathing Susannas, and the simpering Judith with bare, muscular arms.
They could not hold his attention long, however, and he went to the
window, letting his gaze roam from the gray-white sky to the wet,
glistening copper roofs and the long mounds of dirty, melting snow in
the castle park below. Then he resumed his nervous pacing, murmuring,
and gesticulating.

Was that the door opening? He stopped short to listen. No! He drew
a deep breath and sank down into a chair, where he sat, sighing and
rubbing the palms of his hands together, until the door really opened.
A middle-aged woman wearing a huge flounced cap of red-dotted stuff
appeared and beckoned cautiously to him. The pastor pulled himself
together, stuck his prayer-book under his arm, smoothed his cassock,
and entered the sick-chamber.

The large oval room was wainscoted in dark wood from floor to ceiling.
From the central panel, depressed below the surface of the wall,
grinned a row of hideous, white-toothed heads of blackamoors and Turks,
painted in gaudy colors. The deep, narrow lattice-window was partially
veiled by a sash-curtain of thin, blue-gray stuff, leaving the lower
part of the room in deep twilight, while the sunbeams played freely on
the painted ceiling, where horses, weapons, and naked limbs mingled in
an inextricable tangle, and on the canopy of the four-poster bed, from
which hung draperies of yellow damask fringed with silver.

The air that met the pastor, as he entered, was warm, and so heavy with
the scent of salves and nostrums that for a moment he could hardly
breathe. He clutched a chair for support, his head swam, and everything
seemed to be whirling around him--the table covered with flasks and
phials, the window, the nurse with her cap, the sick man on the bed,
the sword-rack, and the door opening into the adjoining room where a
fire was blazing in the grate.

"The peace of God be with you, my lord!" he greeted in a trembling
voice as soon as he recovered from his momentary dizziness.

"What the devil d'ye want here?" roared the sick man, trying to lift
himself in bed.

"_Gemach, gnädigster Herr, gemach!_" Shoemaker's Anne, the nurse,
hushed him, and coming close to the bed, gently stroked the coverlet.
"'Tis the venerable _Confessionarius_ of his Majesty, who has been sent
hither to give you the sacrament."

"Gracious Sir, noble Lord Gyldenlöve!" began the pastor, as he
approached the bed. "Though 'tis known to me that you have not been
among the simple wise or the wisely simple who use the Word of the Lord
as their rod and staff and who dwell in His courts, and although that
God whose cannon is the crashing thunderbolt likewise holds in His hand
the golden palm of victory and the blood-dripping cypresses of defeat,
yet men may understand, though not justify, the circumstance that you,
whose duty it has been to command and set a valiant example to your
people, may for a moment have forgotten that we are but as nothing,
as a reed in the wind, nay, as the puny grafted shoot in the hands of
the mighty Creator. You may have thought foolishly: This have I done,
this is a fruit that I have brought to maturity and perfection. Yet
now, beloved lord, when you lie here on your bed of pain, now God who
is the merciful God of love hath surely enlightened your understanding
and turned your heart to Him in longing with fear and trembling to
confess your uncleansed sins, that you may trustfully accept the grace
and forgiveness which His loving hands are holding out to you. The
sharp-toothed worm of remorse--"

"Cross me fore and cross me aft! Penitence, forgiveness of sins, and
life eternal!" jeered Ulrik Christian and sat up in bed. "Do you
suppose, you sour-faced baldpate, do you suppose, because my bones
are rotting out of my body in stumps and slivers, that gives me more
stomach for your parson-palaver?"

"Most gracious lord, you sadly misuse the privilege which your high
rank and yet more your pitiable condition give you to berate a poor
servant of the Church, who is but doing his duty in seeking to turn
your thoughts toward that which is assuredly to you the one thing
needful. Oh, honored lord, it avails but little to kick against the
pricks! Has not the wasting disease that has struck your body taught
you that none can escape the chastisements of the Lord God, and that
the scourgings of heaven fall alike on high and low?"

Ulrik Christian interrupted him, laughing: "Hell consume me, but you
talk like a witless school-boy! This sickness that's eating my marrow
I've rightfully brought on myself, and if you suppose that heaven
or hell sends it, I can tell you that a man gets it by drinking and
wenching and revelling at night. You may depend on't. And now take your
scholastic legs out of this chamber with all speed, or else I'll--"

Another attack seized him, and as he writhed and moaned with the
intense pain, his oaths and curses were so blasphemous and so appalling
in their inventiveness that the scandalized pastor stood pale and
aghast. He prayed God for strength and power of persuasion, if mayhap
he might be vouchsafed the privilege of opening this hardened soul to
the truth and glorious consolation of religion. When the patient was
quiet again he began: "My lord, my lord, with tears and weeping I beg
and beseech you to cease from such abominable cursing and swearing!
Remember, the axe is laid unto the root of the tree, and it shall be
hewn down and cast into the fire, if it continues to be unfruitful and
does not in the eleventh hour bring forth flowers and good fruit! Cease
your baleful resistance, and throw yourself with penitent prayers at
the feet of our Saviour--"

When the pastor began his speech, Ulrik Christian sat up at the
headboard of the bed. He pointed threateningly to the door and cried
again and again: "Begone, parson! Begone, march! I can't abide you any
longer!"

"Oh, my dear lord," continued the clergyman, "if mayhap you are
hardening yourself because you misdoubt the possibility of finding
grace, since the mountain of your sins is overwhelming, then hear with
rejoicing that the fountain of God's grace is inexhaustible--"

"Mad dog of a parson, will you go!" hissed Ulrik Christian between
clenched teeth; "one--two!"

"And if your sins were red as blood, ay, as Tyrian purple--"

"Right about face!"

"He shall make them white as Lebanon's--"

"Now by St. Satan and all his angels!" roared Ulrik Christian as he
jumped out of bed, caught a rapier from the sword-rack, and made
a furious lunge after the pastor, who, however, escaped into the
adjoining room, slamming the door after him. In his rage, Ulrik
Christian flung himself at the door, but sank exhausted to the floor,
and had to be lifted into bed, though he still held the sword.

The forenoon passed in a drowsy calm. He suffered no pain, and the
weakness that came over him seemed a pleasant relief. He lay staring
at the points of light penetrating the curtain, and counted the black
rings in the iron lattice. A pleased smile flitted over his face when
he thought of his onslaught on the pastor, and he grew irritable only
when Shoemaker's Anne would coax him to close his eyes and try to
sleep.

In the early afternoon a loud knock at the door announced the entrance
of the pastor of Trinity Church, Dr. Jens Justesen. He was a tall,
rather stout man, with coarse, strong features, short black hair, and
large, deep-set eyes. Stepping briskly up to the bed, he said simply:
"Good-day!"

As soon as Ulrik Christian became aware that another clergyman was
standing before him, he began to shake with rage, and let loose a
broadside of oaths and railing against the pastor, against Shoemaker's
Anne, who had not guarded his peace better, against God in heaven and
all holy things.

"Silence, child of man!" thundered Pastor Jens. "Is this language meet
for one who has even now one foot in the grave? 'Twere better you
employed the flickering spark of life that still remains to you in
making your peace with the Lord, instead of picking quarrels with men.
You are like those criminals and disturbers of peace who, when their
judgment is fallen and they can no longer escape the red-hot pincers
and the axe, then in their miserable impotence curse and revile the
Lord our God with filthy and wild words. They seek thereby courage to
drag themselves out of that almost brutish despair, that craven fear
and slavish remorse without hope, into which such fellows generally
sink toward the last, and which they fear more than death and the
tortures of death."

Ulrik Christian listened quietly, until he had managed to get his
sword out from under the coverlet. Then he cried: "Guard yourself,
priest-belly!" and made a sudden lunge after Pastor Jens, who coolly
turned the weapon aside with his broad prayer-book.

"Leave such tricks to pages!" he said contemptuously. "They're scarce
fitting for you or me. And now this woman"--turning to Shoemaker's
Anne--"had best leave us private."

Anne quitted the room, and the pastor drew his chair up to the bed,
while Ulrik Christian laid his sword on the coverlet.

Pastor Jens spoke fair words about sin and the wages of sin, about
God's love for the children of men, and about the death on the cross.

Ulrik Christian lay turning his sword in his hand, letting the light
play on the bright steel. He swore, hummed bits of ribald songs, and
tried to interrupt with blasphemous questions, but the pastor went on
speaking about the seven words of the cross, about the holy sacrament
of the altar, and the bliss of heaven.

Then Ulrik Christian sat up in bed and looked the pastor straight in
the face.

"'Tis naught but lies and old wives' tales," he said.

"May the devil take me where I stand, if it isn't true!" cried the
pastor,--"every blessed word!" He hit the table with his fist, till the
jars and glasses slid and rattled against one another, while he rose to
his feet and spoke in a stern voice: "'Twere meet that I should shake
the dust from my feet in righteous anger and leave you here alone, a
sure prey to the devil and his realm, whither you are most certainly
bound. You are one of those who daily nail our Lord Jesus to the gibbet
of the cross, and for all such the courts of hell are prepared. Do not
mock the terrible name of hell, for it is a name that contains a fire
of torment and the wailing and gnashing of teeth of the damned! Alas,
the anguish of hell is greater than any human mind can conceive; for
if one were tortured to death and woke in hell, he would long for the
wheel and the red-hot pincers as for Abraham's bosom. 'Tis true that
sickness and disease are bitter to the flesh of man when they pierce
like a draught, inch by inch, through every fibre of the body, and
stretch the sinews till they crack, when they burn like salted fire in
the vitals, and gnaw with dull teeth in the innermost marrow! But the
sufferings of hell are a raging storm racking every limb and joint, a
whirlwind of unthinkable woe, an eternal dance of anguish; for as one
wave rolls upon another, and is followed by another and another in all
eternity, so the scalding pangs and blows of hell follow one another
ever and everlastingly, without end and without pause."

The sick man looked around bewildered. "I won't!" he said, "I won't!
I've nothing to do with your heaven or hell. I would die, only die and
nothing more!"

"You shall surely die," said the pastor, "but at the end of the dark
valley of death are two doors, one leading to the bliss of heaven and
one to the torments of hell. There is no other way, no other way at
all."

"Yes, there is, pastor, there must be--tell me, is there not?--a deep,
deep grave hard by for those who went their own way, a deep black grave
leading down to nothing--to no earthly thing?"

"They who went their own way are headed for the realm of the devil.
They are swarming at the gate of hell; high and low, old and young,
they push and scramble to escape the yawning abyss, and cry miserably
to that God whose path they would not follow, begging Him to take them
away. The cries of the pit are over their heads, and they writhe in
fear and agony, but the gates of hell shall close over them as the
waters close over the drowning."

"Is it the truth you're telling me? On your word as an honest man, is
it anything but a tale?"

"It is."

"But I won't! I'll do without your God! I don't want to go to heaven,
only to die!"

"Then pass on to that horrible place of torment, where those who are
damned for all eternity are cast about on the boiling waves of an
endless sea of sulphur, where their limbs are racked by agony, and
their hot mouths gasp for air, among the flames that flicker over the
surface. I see their bodies drifting like white gulls on the sea, yea,
like a frothing foam in a storm, and their shrieks are like the noise
of the earth when the earthquake tears it, and their anguish is without
a name. Oh, would that my prayers might save thee from it, miserable
man! But grace has hidden its countenance, and the sun of mercy is set
forever."

"Then help me, pastor, help me!" groaned Ulrik Christian. "What are
you a parson for, if you can't help me? Pray, for God's sake, pray!
Are there no prayers in your mouth? Or give me your wine and bread, if
there's salvation in 'em as they say! Or is it all a lie--a confounded
lie? I'll crawl to the feet of your God like a whipped boy, since He's
so strong--it is not fair--He's so mighty, and we're so helpless! Make
Him kind, your God, make Him kind to me! I bow down--I bow down--I can
do no more!"

"Pray!"

"Ay, I'll pray, I'll pray all you want--indeed!" he knelt in bed and
folded his hands. "Is that right?" he asked, looking toward Pastor
Jens. "Now, what shall I say?"

The pastor made no answer.

For a few moments Ulrik Christian knelt thus, his large, bright,
feverish eyes turned upward. "There are no words, pastor," he
whimpered. "Lord Jesu, they're all gone," and he sank down, weeping.

Suddenly he sprang up, seized his sword, broke it, and cried: "Lord
Jesu Christ, see, I break my sword!" and he lifted the shining pieces
of the blade. "_Pardon_, Jesu, _pardon_!"

The pastor then spoke words of consolation to him and gave him the
sacrament without delay, for he seemed not to have a long time left.
After that Pastor Jens called Shoemaker's Anne and departed.

The disease was believed to be contagious, hence none of those who had
been close to the dying man attended him in his illness, but in the
room below a few of his family and friends, the physician in ordinary
to the King, and two or three gentlemen of the court were assembled
to receive the noblemen, foreign ministers, officers, courtiers, and
city councilmen who called to inquire about him. So the peace of the
sick-chamber was not disturbed, and Ulrik Christian was again alone
with Shoemaker's Anne.

Twilight fell. Anne threw more wood on the fire, lit two candles, took
her prayer-book, and settled herself comfortably. She pulled her cap
down to shade her face and very soon was asleep. A barber-surgeon and
a lackey had been posted in the ante-room to be within call, but they
were both squatting on the floor near the window, playing dice on the
straw matting to deaden the sound. They were so absorbed in their game
that they did not notice some one stealing through the room, until they
heard the door of the sick-chamber close.

"It must have been the doctor," they said, looking at each other in
fright.

It was Marie Grubbe. Noiselessly she stole up to the bed and bent over
the patient, who was dozing quietly. In the dim, uncertain light,
he looked very pale and unlike himself, the forehead had a deathly
whiteness, the eyelids were unnaturally large, and the thin wax-yellow
hands were groping feebly and helplessly over the dark blue bolster.

Marie wept. "Art thou so ill?" she murmured. She knelt, supporting her
elbows on the edge of the bed, and gazed at his face.

"Ulrik Christian," she called, and laid her hand on his shoulder.

"Is any one else here?" he moaned weakly.

She shook her head. "Art thou very ill?" she asked.

"Yes, 'tis all over with me."

"No, no, it must not be! Whom have I if you go? No, no, how can I bear
it!"

"To live?--'tis easy to live, but I have had the bread of death and
the wine of death, I must die--yes, yes,--bread and wine--body and
blood--d'you believe they help? No, no, in the name of Jesus Christ, in
the name of Jesus Christ! Say a prayer, child, make it a strong one!"

Marie folded her hands and prayed.

"Amen, amen! Pray again! I'm such a great sinner, child, it needs
so much! Pray again, a long prayer with many words--many words! Oh,
no, what's that? Why is the bed turning?--Hold fast, hold fast! 'Tis
turning--like a whirlwind of unthinkable woe, a dance of eternal
anguish, and--ha, ha, ha! Am I drunk again? What devilry is this--what
have I been drinking? Wine! Ay, of course, 'twas wine I drank, ha, ha!
We're gaily yet, we're gaily--Kiss me, my chick!

    Herzen und Küssen
    Ist Himmel auf Erd--

Kiss me again, sweetheart, I'm so cold, but you're round and warm.
Kiss me warm! You're white and soft, white and smooth--"

He had thrown his arms around Marie, and pressed the terrified child
close to him. At that moment, Shoemaker's Anne woke and saw her patient
sitting up and fondling a strange woman. She lifted her prayer-book
threateningly and cried: "_H'raus_, thou hell-born wench! To think of
the shameless thing sitting here and wantoning with the poor dying
gentleman before my very eyes! _H'raus_, whoever ye are--handmaid of
the wicked one, sent by the living Satan!"

"Satan!" shrieked Ulrik Christian and flung away Marie Grubbe in horror.
"Get thee behind me! Go, go!" he made the sign of the cross again and
again. "Oh, thou cursed devil! You would lead me to sin in my last
breath, in my last hour, when one should be so careful. Begone, begone,
in the blessed name of the Lord, thou demon!" His eyes wide open, fear
in every feature, he stood up in bed and pointed to the door.

Speechless and beside herself with terror, Marie rushed out. The sick
man threw himself down and prayed and prayed, while Shoemaker's Anne
read slowly and in a loud voice prayer after prayer from her book with
the large print.

A few hours later Ulrik Christian was dead.



CHAPTER VI


After the attempt to storm Copenhagen in February of fifty-nine,
the Swedes retired, and contented themselves with keeping the city
invested. The beleaguered townspeople breathed more freely. The burdens
of war were lightened, and they had time to rejoice in the honors they
had won and the privileges that had been conferred on them. It is true,
there were some who had found a zest in the stirring scenes of war,
and felt their spirits flag, as they saw dull peace unfold its tedious
routine, but the great mass of people were glad and light at heart.
Their happiness found vent in merry routs, for weddings, christenings,
and betrothals, long postponed while the enemy was so oppressively
near, gathered gay crowds in every court and alley of the city.

Furthermore, there was time to take note of the neighbors and make the
mote in their eyes into a beam. There was time to backbite, to envy and
hate. Jealousies, whether of business or love, shot a powerful growth
again, and old enmity bore fruit in new rancor and new vengeance. There
was one who had lately augmented the number of his enemies, until he
had drawn well-nigh the hate of the whole community upon his head. This
man was Corfitz Ulfeldt. He could not be reached, for he was safe in
the camp of the Swedes, but certain of his relatives and those of his
wife, who were suspected of a friendly regard for him, were subjected
to constant espionage and annoyance, while the court knew them not.

There were but few such, but among them was Sofie Urne, Ulrik
Frederik's betrothed. The Queen, who hated Ulfeldt's wife more than
she hated Ulfeldt himself, had from the first been opposed to Ulrik
Frederik's alliance with a gentlewoman so closely related to Eleonore
Christine, and since the recent actions of Ulfeldt had placed him in
a more sinister light than ever, she began to work upon the King and
others, in order to have the engagement annulled.

Nor was it long before the King shared the Queen's view. Sofie Urne,
who was in fact given to intrigue, had been painted as so wily and
dangerous, and Ulrik Frederik as so flighty and easily led, that the
King clearly saw how much trouble might come of such an alliance. Yet
he had given his consent, and was too sensitive about his word of honor
to withdraw it. He therefore attempted to reason with Ulrik Frederik,
and pointed out how easily his present friendly footing at court might
be disturbed by a woman who was so unacceptable to the King and Queen,
and justly so, as her sympathies were entirely with the foes of the
royal house. Moreover, he said, Ulrik Frederik was standing in his own
light, since none could expect important posts to be entrusted to one
who was constantly under the influence of the enemies of the court.
Finally, he alluded to the intriguing character of Mistress Sofie,
and even expressed doubt of the sincerity of her regard. True love,
he said, would have sacrificed itself rather than bring woe upon its
object, would have hidden its head in sorrow rather than exulted from
the housetops. But Mistress Sofie had shown no scruples; indeed, she
had used his youth and blind infatuation to serve her own ends.

The King talked long in this strain, but could not prevail upon Ulrik
Frederik, who still had a lively recollection of the pleading it had
cost him to make Mistress Sofie reveal her affection. He left the King,
more than ever resolved that nothing should part them. His courtship
of Mistress Sofie was the first serious step he had ever taken in his
life, and it was a point of honor with him to take it fully. There had
always been so many hands ready to lead and direct him, but he had
outgrown all that; he was old enough to walk alone, and he meant to
do it. What was the favor of the King and the court, what were honor
and glory, compared to his love? For that alone he would strive and
sacrifice; in that alone he would live.

The King, however, let it be known to Christoffer Urne that he was
opposed to the match, and the house was closed to Ulrik Frederik, who
henceforth could see Mistress Sofie only by stealth. At first this
merely fed the flame, but soon his visits to his betrothed grew less
frequent. He became more clear-sighted where she was concerned, and
there were moments when he doubted her love, and even wondered whether
she had not led him on, that summer day, while she seemed to hold him
off.

The court, which had hitherto met him with open arms, was cold as
ice. The King, who had taken such a warm interest in his future, was
indifference itself. There were no longer any hands stretched out to
help him, and he began to miss them; for he was by no means man enough
to go against the stream. When it merely ceased to waft him along, he
lost heart instantly. At his birth, a golden thread had been placed in
his hand, and he had but to follow it upward to happiness and honor.
He had dropped this thread to find his own way, but he still saw it
glimmering. What if he were to grasp it again? He could neither stiffen
his back to defy the King nor give up Sofie. He had to visit her in
secret, and this was perhaps the hardest of all for his pride to
stomach. Accustomed to move in pomp and display, to take every step in
princely style, he winced at crawling through back alleys. Days passed,
and weeks passed, filled with inactive brooding and still-born plans.
He loathed his own helplessness, and began to despise himself for a
laggard. Then came the doubt: perhaps his dawdling had killed her love,
or had she never loved him? They said she was clever, and no doubt she
was, but--as clever as they said? Oh, no! What was love, then, if she
did not love, and yet--and yet....

Behind Christoffer Urne's garden ran a passage just wide enough for a
man to squeeze through. This was the way Ulrik Frederik had to take
when he visited his mistress, and he would usually have Hop-o'-my-Thumb
mounted on guard at the end of the passage, lest people in the street
should see him climbing the board fence.

On a balmy, moonlit summer night, three or four hours after bedtime,
Daniel had wrapped himself in his cloak and found a seat for himself
on the remains of a pig's trough, which some one had thrown out from a
neighboring house. He was in a pleasant frame of mind, slightly drunk,
and chuckling to himself at his own merry conceits. Ulrik Frederik
had already scaled the fence and was in the garden. It was fragrant
with elder-blossoms. Linen laid out to bleach made long white strips
across the grass. There was a soft rustling in the maples overhead and
the rose-bushes at his side; their red blossoms looked almost white
in the moonlight. He went up to the house, which stood shining white,
the windows in a yellow glitter. How quiet everything was--radiant and
calm! Suddenly the glassy whirr of a cricket shivered the stillness.
The sharp, blue-black shadows of the hollyhocks seemed painted on the
wall behind them. A faint mist rose from the bleach-linen. There!--he
lifted the latch, and the next moment he was in the darkness within.
Softly he groped his way up the rickety staircase until he felt the
warm, spice-scented air of the attic. The rotten boards of the floor
creaked under his step. The moon shone through a small window overhead,
throwing a square of light on the flat top of a grain-pile. Scramble
over--the dust whirling in the column of light! Now--the gable-room at
last! The door opened from within, and threw a faint reddish glow that
illuminated for a second the pile of grain, the smoke-yellowed, sloping
chimney, and the roof-beams. The next moment they were shut out, and he
stood by Sofie's side in the family clothes-closet.

The small, low room was almost filled with large linen-presses. From
the loft hung bags full of down and feathers. Old spinning-wheels
were flung into the corners, and the walls were festooned with red
onions and silver-mounted harness. The window was closed with heavy
wooden shutters, but on a brass-trimmed chest beneath it stood a small
hand-lantern. Sofie opened its tiny horn-pane to get a brighter light.
Her loosened hair hung down over the fur-edged broadcloth robe she had
thrown over her homespun dress. Her face was pale and grief-worn, but
she smiled gaily and poured out a stream of chatter. She was sitting
on a low stool, her hands clasped around her knees, looking up merrily
at Ulrik Frederik, who stood silent above her, while she talked and
talked, lashed on by the fear his ill-humor had roused in her.

"How now, Sir Grumpy?" she said. "You've nothing to say? In all the
hundred hours that have passed, have you not thought of a hundred
things you wanted to whisper to me? Oh, then you have not longed as I
have!" She trimmed the candle with her fingers, and threw the bit of
burning wick on the floor. Instinctively Ulrik Frederik took a step
forward, and put it out with his foot.

"That's right!" she went on. "Come here, and sit by my side; but first
you must kneel and sigh and plead with me to be fond again, for this is
the third night I'm watching. Yester eve and the night before I waited
in vain, till my eyes were dim." She lifted her hand threateningly. "To
your knees, Sir Faithless, and pray as if for your life!" She spoke
with mock solemnity, then smiled, half beseeching, half impatient.
"Come here and kneel, come!"

Ulrik Frederik looked around almost grudgingly. It seemed too absurd
to fall on his knees there in Christoffer Urne's attic. Yet he knelt
down, put his arm around her waist, and hid his face in her lap, though
without speaking.

She too was silent, oppressed with fear; for she had seen Ulrik
Frederik's pale, tormented face and uneasy eyes. Her hand played
carelessly with his hair, but her heart beat violently in apprehension
and dread.

They sat thus for a long time.

Then Ulrik Frederik started up.

"No, no!" he cried. "This can't go on! God our Father in heaven is my
witness, that you're dear to me as the innermost blood of my heart, and
I don't know how I'm to live without you. But what does it avail? What
can come of it? They're all against us--every one. Not a tongue will
speak a word of cheer, but all turn from me. When they see me, 'tis as
though a cold shadow fell over them, where before I brought a light. I
stand so utterly alone, Sofie, 'tis bitter beyond words. True, I know
you warned me, but I'm eaten up in this strife. It sucks my courage and
my honor, and though I'm consumed with shame, I must ask you to set me
free. Dearest girl, release me from my word!"

Sofie had risen and stood cold and unflinching like a statue, eyeing
him gravely, as he spoke.

"I am with child," she said quietly and firmly.

If she had consented, if she had given him his freedom, Ulrik Frederik
felt that he would not have taken it. He would have thrown himself
at her feet. Sure of her, he would have defied the King and all. But
she did not. She but pulled his chain to show him how securely he was
bound. Oh, she was clever as they said! His blood boiled, he could have
fallen upon her, clutched her white throat to drag the truth out of her
and force her to open every petal and lay bare every shadow and fold
in the rose of her love, that he might know the truth at last! But he
mastered himself and said with a smile: "Yes, of course, I know--'twas
nothing but a jest, you understand."

Sofie looked at him uneasily. No, it had not been a jest. If it had
been, why did he not come close to her and kiss her? Why did he stand
there in the shadow? If she could only see his eyes! No, it was no
jest. He had asked as seriously as she had answered. Ah, that answer!
She began to see what she had lost by it. If she had only said yes, he
would never have left her! "Oh, Ulrik Frederik," she said, "I was but
thinking of our child, but if you no longer love me, then go, go at
once and build your own happiness! I will not hold you back."

"Did I not tell you that 'twas but a jest? How can you think that I
would ask you to release me from my word and sneak off in base shame
and dishonor! Whenever I lifted my head again," he went on, "I must
fear lest the eye that had seen my ignominy should meet mine and force
it to the ground." And he meant what he said. If she had loved him as
passionately as he loved her, then perhaps, but now--never.

Sofie went to him and laid her head on his shoulder, weeping.

"Farewell, Ulrik Frederik," she said. "Go, go! I would not hold you one
hour after you longed to be gone, no, not if I could bind you with a
hair."

He shook his head impatiently. "Dear Sofie," he said, winding himself
out of her arms, "let us not play a comedy with each other. I owe it
both to you and to myself that the pastor should join our hands; it
cannot be too soon. Let it be in two or three days--but secretly, for
it is of no use to set the world against us more than has been done
already." Sofie dared not raise any objection. They agreed on the time
and the place, and parted with tender good-nights.

When Ulrik Frederik came down into the garden, it was dark, for the
moon had veiled itself, and a few heavy raindrops fell from the inky
sky. The early cocks were crowing in the mews, but Daniel had fallen
asleep on his post.

A week later his best parlor was the scene of Mistress Sofie's and
Ulrik Frederik's private marriage by an obscure clergyman. The secret
was not so well guarded, however, but that the Queen could mention it
to the King a few days later. The result was that in a month's time the
contract was annulled by royal decree, and Mistress Sofie was sent to
the cloister for gentlewomen at Itzehoe.

Ulrik Frederik made no attempt to resist this step. Although he felt
deeply hurt, he was weary, and bowed in dull dejection to whatever had
to be. He drank too much almost every day, and when in his cups would
weep and plaintively describe to two or three boon companions, who
were his only constant associates, the sweet, peaceful, happy life he
might have led. He always ended with mournful hints that his days were
numbered, and that his broken heart would soon be carried to that place
of healing where the bolsters were of black earth and the worms were
chirurgeon.

The King, to make an end of all this, ordered him to accompany the
troops which the Dutch were transferring to Fyen, and thence he
returned in November with the news of the victory at Nyborg. He resumed
his place at the court and in the favor of the King, and seemed to be
quite his old self.



CHAPTER VII


Marie Grubbe was now seventeen.

On the afternoon when she fled in terror from the death-bed of Ulrik
Christian Gyldenlöve, she had rushed up to her own chamber and paced
the floor, wringing her hands, and moaning as with intense bodily pain,
until Lucie had run to Mistress Rigitze and breathlessly begged her
for God's sake to come to Miss Marie, for she thought something had
gone to pieces inside of her. Mistress Rigitze came, but could not get
a word out of the child. She had thrown herself before a chair with
face hidden in the cushions, and to all Mistress Rigitze's questions
answered only that she wanted to go home, she wanted to go home, she
wouldn't stay a moment longer, and she had wept and sobbed, rocking her
head from side to side. Mistress Rigitze had finally given her a good
beating and scolded Lucie, saying that between them they had nearly
worried the life out of her with their nonsense, and therewith she left
the two to themselves.

Marie took the beating with perfect indifference. Had any one offered
her blows in the happy days of her love, it would have seemed the
blackest calamity, the deepest degradation, but now it no longer
mattered. In one short hour, her longings, her faith, and her hopes
had all been withered, shrivelled up, and blown away. She remembered
once at Tjele when she had seen the men stone to death a dog that
had ventured within the high railing of the duck-park. The wretched
animal swam back and forth, unable to get out, the blood running from
many wounds, and she remembered how she had prayed to God at every
stone that it might strike deep, since the dog was so miserable that
to spare it would have been the greatest cruelty. She felt like poor
Diana, and welcomed every sorrow, only wishing that it would strike
deep, for she was so unhappy that the deathblow was her only hope.

Oh, if that was the end of all greatness--slavish whimpering, lecherous
raving, and craven terror!--then there was no such thing as greatness.
The hero she had dreamed of, _he_ rode through the portals of death
with ringing spurs and shining mail, with head bared and lance at rest,
not with fear in witless eyes and whining prayers on trembling lips.
Then there was no shining figure that she could dream of in worshipping
love, no sun that she could gaze on till the world swam in light and
rays and color before her blinded eyes. It was all dull and flat and
leaden, bottomless triviality, lukewarm commonplace, and nothing else.

Such were her first thoughts. She seemed to have been transported for
a short time to a fairy-land, where the warm, life-pregnant air had
made her whole being unfold like an exotic flower, flashing sunlight
from every petal, breathing fragrance in every vein, blissful in its
own light and scent, growing and growing, leaf upon leaf and petal upon
petal, in irresistible strength and fullness. But this was all past.
Her life was barren and void again; she was poor and numb with cold. No
doubt the whole world was like that, and all the people likewise. And
yet they went on living in their futile bustle. Oh, her heart was sick
with disgust at seeing them flaunt their miserable rags and proudly
listen for golden music in their empty clatter.

Eagerly she reached for those treasured old books of devotion that had
so often been proffered her and as often rejected. There was dreary
solace in their stern words on the misery of the world and the vanity
of all earthly things, but the one book that she pored over and came
back to again and again was the Revelation of St. John the Divine. She
never tired of contemplating the glories of the heavenly Jerusalem;
she pictured it to herself down to the smallest detail, walked through
every by-way, peeped in at every door. She was blinded by the rays
of sardonyx and chrysolyte, chrysoprasus and jacinth; she rested in
the shadow of the gates of pearl and saw her own face mirrored in the
streets of gold like transparent glass. Often she wondered what she and
Lucie and Aunt Rigitze and all the other people of Copenhagen would
do when the first angel poured out the vial of the wrath of God upon
earth, and the second poured out his vial, and the third poured out
his--she never got any farther, for she always had to begin over again.

When she sat at her work she would sing one long passion hymn after
another, in a loud, plaintive voice, and in her spare moments she would
recite whole pages from "The Chain of Prayerful Souls" or "A Godly
Voice for Each of the Twelve Months;" for these two she knew almost by
heart.

Underneath all this piety there lurked a veiled ambition. Though she
really felt the fetters of sin and longed for communion with God,
there mingled in her religious exercises a dim desire for power, a
half-realized hope that she might become one of the first in the
kingdom of heaven. This brooding worked a transformation in her whole
being. She shunned people and withdrew within herself. Even her
appearance was changed, the face pale and thin, the eyes burning with a
hard flame--and no wonder; for the terrible visions of the Apocalypse
rode life-size through her dreams at night, and all day long her
thoughts dwelt on what was dark and dreary in life. When Lucie had
gone to sleep in the evening, she would steal out of bed and find a
mystic ascetic pleasure in falling on her knees and praying, till her
bones ached and her feet were numb with cold.

Then came the time when the Swedes raised the siege, and all Copenhagen
divided its time between filling glasses as host and draining them as
guest. Marie's nature, too, rebounded from the strain, and a new life
began for her, on a certain day when Mistress Rigitze, followed by a
seamstress, came up to her room and piled the tables and chairs high
with the wealth of sacks, gowns, and pearl-embroidered caps that Marie
had inherited from her mother. It was considered time that she should
wear grown-up clothes.

She was in raptures at being the centre of all the bustle that broke
in on her quiet chamber, all this ripping and measuring, cutting and
basting. How perfectly dear that pounce-red satin, glowing richly where
it fell in long, heavy folds, or shining brightly where it fitted
smoothly over her form! How fascinating the eager parley about whether
this silk chamelot was too thick to show the lines of her figure or
that Turkish green too crude for her complexion! No scruples, no dismal
broodings could stand before this joyous, bright reality. Ah, if she
could but once sit at the festive board--for she had begun to go to
assemblies--wearing this snow-white, crisp ruff, among other young
maidens in just as crisp ruffs, all the past would become as strange
to her as the dreams of yesternight, and if she could but once tread
the saraband and pavan in sweeping cloth of gold and lace mitts and
broidered linen, those spiritual excesses would make her cheeks burn
with shame.

It all came about: she was ashamed, and she did tread the saraband and
pavan; for she was sent twice a week, with other young persons of
quality, to dancing-school in Christen Skeel's great parlor, where an
old Mecklenburger taught them steps and figures and a gracious carriage
according to the latest Spanish mode. She learned to play on the lute,
and was perfected in French; for Mistress Rigitze had her own plans.

Marie was happy. As a young prince who has been held captive is taken
straight from the gloomy prison and harsh jailer to be lifted to the
throne by an exultant people, to feel the golden emblem of power and
glory pressed firmly upon his curls, and see all bowing before him
in smiling homage, so she had stepped from her quiet chamber into
the world, and all had hailed her as a queen indeed, all had bowed,
smiling, before the might of her beauty.

There is a flower called the pearl hyacinth; as that is blue so were
her eyes in color, but their lustre was that of the falling dewdrop,
and they were deep as a sapphire resting in shadow. They could fall as
softly as sweet music that dies, and glance up exultant as a fanfare.
Wistful--ay, as the stars pale at daybreak with a veiled, tremulous
light, so was her look when it was wistful. It could rest with such
smiling intimacy that many a man felt it like a voice in a dream, far
away but insistent, calling his name, but when it darkened with grief
it was full of such hopeless woe that one could almost hear the heavy
dripping of blood.

Such was the impression she made, and she knew it, but not wholly.
Had she been older and fully conscious of her beauty, it might have
turned her to stone. She might have come to look upon it as a jewel to
be kept burnished and in a rich setting, that it might be the desire
of all; she might have suffered admiration coldly and quietly. Yet it
was not so. Her beauty was so much older than herself and she had
so suddenly come into the knowledge of its power, that she had not
learned to rest upon it and let herself be borne along by it, serene
and self-possessed. Rather, she made efforts to please, grew coquettish
and very fond of dress, while her ears drank in every word of praise,
her eyes absorbed every admiring look, and her heart treasured it all.

She was seventeen, and it was Sunday, the first Sunday after peace
had been declared. In the morning she had attended the thanksgiving
service, and in the afternoon she was dressing for a walk with Mistress
Rigitze.

The whole town was astir with excitement; for peace had opened the
city gates, which had been closed for twenty-two long months. All
were rushing to see where the suburb had stood, where the enemy had
been encamped, and where "ours" had fought. They had to go down into
the trenches, climb the barricades, peep into the necks of the mines,
and pluck at the gabions. This was the spot where such a one had been
posted, and here so-and-so had fallen, and over there another had
rushed forward and been surrounded. Everything was remarkable, from the
wheel-tracks of the cannon-carriages and the cinders of the watch-fires
to the bullet-pierced board-fences and the sun-bleached skull of a
horse. And so the narrating and explaining, the supposing and debating,
went on, up the ramparts and down the barricades.

Gert Pyper was strutting about with his whole family. He stamped the
ground at least a hundred times and generally thought he noticed a
strangely hollow sound, while his rotund spouse pulled him anxiously by
the sleeve and begged him not to be too foolhardy, but Master Gert only
stamped the harder. The grown-up son showed his little betrothed where
he had been standing on the night when he got a bullet-hole through his
duffel great-coat, and where the turner's boy had had his head shot
off. The smaller children cried, because they were not allowed to keep
the rifle-ball they had found; for Erik Lauritzen, who was also there,
said it might be poisoned. He was poking the half-rotten straw where
the barracks had stood, for he remembered a story of a soldier who had
been hanged outside of Magdeburg, and under whose pillow seven of his
comrades had found so much money that they had deserted before the
official looting of the city began.

The green fields and grayish white roads were dotted black with people
coming and going. They walked about, examining the well-known spots
like a newly discovered world or an island suddenly shot up from the
bottom of the sea, and there were many who, when they saw the country
stretching out before them, field behind field and meadow behind
meadow, were seized with _wanderlust_ and began to walk on and on as
though intoxicated with the sense of space, of boundless space.

Toward supper time, however, the crowds turned homeward, and as moved
by one impulse, sought the North Quarter, where the graveyard of St.
Peter's Church lay surrounded by spacious gardens; for it was an
old-time custom to take the air under the green trees, after vespers
on summer Sundays. While the enemy was encamped before the ramparts,
the custom naturally fell into disuse, and the churchyard had been as
empty on Sundays as on week days; but this day old habits were revived,
and people streamed in through both entrances from Nörregade: nobles
and citizens, high and low, all had remembered the full-crowned linden
trees of St. Peter's churchyard.

On the grassy mounds and the broad tombstones sat merry groups of
townspeople, man and wife, children and neighbors, eating their
supper, while in the outskirts of the party stood the 'prentice boy
munching the delicious Sunday sandwich, as he waited for the basket.
Tiny children tripped with hands full of broken food for the beggar
youngsters that hung on the wall. Lads thirsting for knowledge spelled
their way through the lengthy epitaphs, while father listened full
of admiration, and mother and the girls scanned the dresses of the
passers-by: for by this time the gentlefolk were walking up and down
in the broad paths. They usually came a little later than the others,
and either supped at home or in one of the eating-houses in the gardens
round about.

Stately matrons and dainty maids, old councillors and young officers,
stout noblemen and foreign ministers, passed in review. There went
bustling, gray-haired Hans Nansen, shortening his steps to the pace of
the wealthy Villem Fiuren and listening to his piping voice. There came
Corfits Trolle and the stiff Otto Krag. Mistress Ide Daa, famed for her
lovely eyes, stood talking to old Axel Urup, who showed his huge teeth
in an everlasting smile, while the shrunken form of his lady, Mistress
Sidsel Grubbe, tripped slowly by the side of Sister Rigitze and the
impatient Marie. There were Gersdorf and Schack and Thuresen of the
tow-colored mane and Peder Retz with Spanish dress and Spanish manners.

Ulrik Frederik was among the rest, walking with Niels Rosenkrands, the
bold young lieutenant-colonel, whose French breeding showed in his
lively gestures. When they met Mistress Rigitze and her companions,
Ulrik Frederik would have passed them with a cold, formal greeting,
for ever since his separation from Sofie Urne he had nursed a spite
against Mistress Rigitze, whom he suspected, as one of the Queen's
warmest adherents, of having had a finger in the matter. But Rosenkrands
stopped, and Axel Urup urged them so cordially to sup with the party in
Johan Adolph's garden that they could not well refuse.

A few minutes later they were all sitting in the little brick
summer-house, eating the simple country dishes that the gardener set
before them.

"Is it true, I wonder," asked Mistress Ide Daa, "that the Swedish
officers have so bewitched the maidens of Sjælland with their pretty
manners that they have followed them in swarms out of land and kingdom?"

"Marry, it's true enough at least of that minx, Mistress Dyre," replied
Mistress Sidsel Grubbe.

"Of what Dyres is she?" asked Mistress Rigitze.

"The Dyres of Skaaneland, you know, sister, those who have such light
hair. They're all intermarried with the Powitzes. The one who fled the
country she's a daughter of Henning Dyre of West Neergaard, he who
married Sidonie, the eldest of the Ove Powitzes, and she went bag and
baggage--took sheets, bolsters, plate, and ready money from her father."

"Ay," smiled Axel Urup, "strong love draws a heavy load."

"Faith," agreed Oluf Daa, who always struck out with his left hand when
he talked, "love--as a man may say--love is strong."

"Lo-ove," drawled Rosenkrands, daintily stroking his moustache with the
back of his little finger, "is like Hercules in female dress, gentle
and charming in appearance and seeming all weak-ness and mild-ness, yet
it has stre-ength and craftiness to complete all the twelve labors of
Hercules."

"Indeed," broke in Mistress Ide Daa, "that is plainly to be seen from
the love of Mistress Dyre, which at least completed one of the labors
of Hercules, inasmuch as it cleaned out chests and presses, even as he
cleaned the stable of Uriah--or whatever his name was--you know."

"I would rather say"--Ulrik Frederik turned to Marie Grubbe--"that
love is like falling asleep in a desert and waking in a balmy
pleasure-garden, for such is the virtue of love that it changes the
soul of man, and that which was barren now seems a very wonder of
delight. But what are your thoughts about love, fair Mistress Marie?"

"Mine?" she asked. "I think love is like a diamond; for as a diamond is
beautiful to look upon, so is love fair, but as the diamond is poison
to any one who swallows it, in the same manner love is a kind of poison
and produces a baneful raging distemper in those who are infected by
it--at least if one is to judge by the strange antics one may observe
in amorous persons and by their curious conversation."

"Ay," whispered Ulrik Frederik gallantly, "the candle may well talk
reason to the poor moth that is crazed by its light!"

"Forsooth, I think you are right, Marie," began Axel Urup, pausing to
smile and nod to her. "Yes, yes, we may well believe that love is but a
poison, else how can we explain that coldblooded persons may be fired
with the most burning passion merely by giving them miracle-philtres
and love-potions?"

"Fie!" cried Mistress Sidsel; "don't speak of such terrible godless
business--and on a Sunday, too!"

"My dear Sidse," he replied, "there's no sin in that--none at all.
Would you call it a sin, Colonel Gyldenlöve? No? Surely not. Does not
even Holy Writ tell of witches and evil sorceries? Indeed and indeed
it does. What I was about to say is that all our humors have their
seat in the blood. If a man is fired with anger, can't he feel the
blood rushing up through his body and flooding his eyes and ears? And
if he's frightened o' the sudden, does not the blood seem to sink
down into his feet and grow cold all in a trice? Is it for nothing,
do you think, that grief is pale and joy red as a rose? And as for
love, it comes only after the blood has ripened in the summers and
winters of seventeen or eighteen years; then it begins to ferment like
good grape-wine; it seethes and bubbles. In later years it clears and
settles as do other fermenting juices; it grows less hot and fierce.
But as good wine begins to effervesce again when the grape-vine is
in bloom, so the disposition of man, even of the old, is more than
ordinarily inclined to love at certain seasons of the year, when the
blood, as it were, remembers the springtime of life."

"Ay, the blood," added Oluf Daa, "as a man may say, the blood--'tis a
subtle matter to understand--as a man may say."

"Indeed," nodded Mistress Rigitze, "everything acts on the blood,
both sun and moon and approaching storm, that's as sure as if 'twere
printed."

"And likewise the thoughts of other people," said Mistress Ide. "I saw
it in my eldest sister. We lay in one bed together, and every night,
as soon as her eyes were closed, she would begin to sigh and stretch
her arms and legs and try to get out of bed as some one were calling
her. And 'twas but her betrothed, who was in Holland, and was so full
of longing for her that he would do nothing day and night but think of
her, until she never knew an hour's peace, and her health--don't you
remember, dear Mistress Sidsel, how weak her eyesight was all the time
Jörgen Bille was from home?"

"Do I remember? Ah, the dear soul! But she bloomed again like a
rosebud. Bless me, her first lying-in--" and she continued the subject
in a whisper.

Rosenkrands turned to Axel Urup. "Then you believe," he said, "that an
_elixir d'am-our_ is a fermenting juice poured into the blood? That
tallies well with a tale the late Mr. Ulrik Christian told me one day
we were on the ramparts together. 'Twas in Antwerp it happened--in the
Hotellerie des Trois Brochets, where he had lodgings. That morning
at ma-ass he had seen a fair, fair maid-en, and she had looked quite
kind-ly at him. All day long she was not in his thoughts, but at
night when he entered his chamber, there was a rose at the head of
the bed. He picked it up and smelled it, and in the same mo-ment the
coun-ter-feit of the maiden stood before him as painted on the wall,
and he was seized with such sudden and fu-rious longing for her that he
could have cried aloud. He rushed out of the house and into the street,
and there he ran up and down, wail-ing like one be-witched. Something
seemed to draw and draw him and burn like fire, and he never stopped
till day dawned."

So they talked until the sun went down, and they parted to go home
through the darkening streets. Ulrik Frederik joined but little in the
general conversation; for he was afraid that if he said anything about
love, it might be taken for reminiscences of his relation with Sofie
Urne. Nor was he in the mood for talking, and when he and Rosenkrands
were alone he made such brief, absentminded replies that his companion
soon wearied of him and left him to himself.

Ulrik Frederik turned homeward to his own apartments, which this time
were at Rosenborg. His valet being out, there was no light in the large
parlor, and he sat alone there in the dark till almost midnight.

He was in a strange mood, divided between regret and foreboding. It was
one of those moods when the soul seems to drift as in a light sleep,
without will or purpose, on a slowly gliding stream, while mist-like
pictures pass on the background of dark trees, and half-formed
thoughts rise from the sombre stream like great dimly-lit bubbles
that glide--glide onward and burst. Bits of the conversation that
afternoon, the motley crowds in the churchyard, Marie Grubbe's smile,
Mistress Rigitze, the Queen, the King's favor, the King's anger that
other time,--the way Marie moved her hands, Sofie Urne, pale and far
away,--yet paler and yet farther away,--the rose at the head of the bed
and Marie Grubbe's voice, the cadence of some word,--he sat listening
and heard it again and again winging through the silence.

He rose and went to the window, opened it, and leaned his elbows on the
wide casement. How fresh it all was--so cool and quiet! The bittersweet
smell of roses cooled with dew, the fresh, pungent scent of new-mown
hay, and the spicy fragrance of the flowering maple were wafted in. A
mist-like rain spread a blue, tremulous dusk over the garden. The black
boughs of the larch, the drooping leafy veil of the birch, and the
rounded crowns of the beech stood like shadows breathed on a background
of gliding mist, while the clipped yew-trees shot upward like the black
columns of a roofless temple.

The stillness was that of a deep grave, save for the raindrops, falling
light as thistledown, with a faint, monotonous sound like a whisper
that dies and begins again and dies there behind the wet, glistening
trunks.

What a strange whisper it was when one listened! How wistful!--like
the beating of soft wings when old memories flock. Or was it a low
rustle in the dry leaves of lost illusions? He felt lonely, drearily
alone and forsaken. Among all the thousands of hearts that beat round
about in the stillness of the night, not one turned in longing to him!
Over all the earth there was a net of invisible threads binding soul
to soul, threads stronger than life, stronger than death; but in all
that net not one tendril stretched out to him. Homeless, forsaken!
Forsaken? Was that a sound of goblets and kisses out there? Was there
a gleam of white shoulders and dark eyes? Was that a laugh ringing
through the stillness?--What then? Better the slow-dripping bitterness
of solitude than that poisonous, sickly sweetness.... Oh, curses on
it! I shake your dust from my thoughts, slothful life, life for dogs,
for blind men, for weaklings.... As a rose! O God, watch over her
and keep her through the dark night! Oh, that I might be her guard
and protector, smooth every path, shelter her against every wind--so
beautiful--listening like a child--as a rose!...



CHAPTER VIII


Admired and courted though she was, Marie Grubbe soon found that,
while she had escaped from the nursery, she was not fully admitted
to the circles of the grown up. For all the flatteries lavished on
them, such young maidens were kept in their own place in society. They
were made to feel it by a hundred trifles that in themselves meant
nothing, but when taken together meant a great deal. First of all,
the children were insufferably familiar, quite like their equals. And
then the servants--there was a well-defined difference in the manner
of the old footman when he took the cloak of a maid or a matron, and
the faintest shade in the obliging smile of the chambermaid showed
her sense of whether she was waiting on a married or an unmarried
woman. The free-and-easy tone which the half-grown younkers permitted
themselves was most unpleasant, and the way in which snubbings and icy
looks simply slid off from them was enough to make one despair.

She liked best the society of the younger men, for even when they were
not in love with her, they would show her the most delicate attention
and say the prettiest things with a courtly deference that quite raised
her in her own estimation,--though to be sure it was tiresome when
she found that they did it chiefly to keep in practice. Some of the
older gentlemen were simply intolerable with their fulsome compliments
and their mock gallantry, but the married women were worst of all,
especially the brides. The encouraging, though a bit preoccupied
glance, the slight condescending nod with head to one side, and the
smile--half pitying, half jeering--with which they would listen to
her--it was insulting! Moreover, the conduct of the girls themselves
was not of a kind to raise their position. They would never stand
together, but if one could humiliate another, she was only too glad
to do so. They had no idea of surrounding themselves with an air of
dignity by attending to the forms of polite society the way the young
married women did.

Her position was not enviable, and when Mistress Rigitze let fall a few
words to the effect that she and other members of the family had been
considering a match between Marie and Ulrik Frederik, she received the
news with joy. Though Ulrik Frederik had not taken her fancy captive,
a marriage with him opened a wide vista of pleasant possibilities.
When all the honors and advantages had been described to her--how she
would be admitted into the inner court circle, the splendor in which
she would live, the beaten track to fame and high position that lay
before Ulrik Frederik as the natural son and even more as the especial
favorite of the King,--while she made a mental note of how handsome he
was, how courtly, and how much in love,--it seemed that such happiness
was almost too great to be possible, and her heart sank at the thought
that, after all, it was nothing but loose talk, schemes, and hopes.

Yet Mistress Rigitze was building on firm ground, for not only had
Ulrik Frederik confided in her and begged her to be his spokesman with
Marie, but he had induced her to sound the gracious pleasure of the
King and Queen, and they had both received the idea very kindly and
had given their consent, although the King had felt some hesitation
to begin with. The match had, in fact, been settled long since by the
Queen and her trusted friend and chief gentlewoman, Mistress Rigitze,
but the King was not moved only by the persuasions of his consort. He
knew that Marie Grubbe would bring her husband a considerable fortune,
and although Ulrik Frederik held Vordingborg in fief, his love of pomp
and luxury made constant demands upon the King, who was always hard
pressed for money. Upon her marriage Marie would come into possession
of her inheritance from her dead mother, Mistress Marie Juul, while
her father, Erik Grubbe, was at that time owner of the manors of
Tjele, Vinge, Gammelgaard, Bigum, Trinderup, and Nörbæk, besides
various scattered holdings. He was known as a shrewd manager who wasted
nothing, and would no doubt leave his daughter a large fortune. So all
was well. Ulrik Frederik could go courting without more ado, and a week
after midsummer their betrothal was solemnized.

Ulrik Frederik was very much in love, but not with the stormy
infatuation he had felt when Sofie Urne ruled his heart. It was a
pensive, amorous, almost wistful sentiment, rather than a fresh, ruddy
passion. Marie had told him the story of her dreary childhood, and
he liked to picture to himself her sufferings with something of the
voluptuous pity that thrills a young monk when he fancies the beautiful
white body of the female martyr bleeding on the sharp spikes of the
torture-wheel. Sometimes he would be troubled with dark forebodings
that an early death might tear her from his arms. Then he would vow to
himself with great oaths that he would bear her in his hands and keep
every poisonous breath from her, that he would lead the light of every
gold-shining mood into her young heart and never, never grieve her.

Yet there were other times when he exulted at the thought that all this
rich beauty, this strange, wonderful soul were given into his power as
the soul of a dead man into the hands of God, to grind in the dust if
he liked, to raise up when he pleased, to crush down, to bend.

It was partly Marie's own fault that such thoughts could rise in
him, for her love, if she did love, was of a strangely proud, almost
insolent nature. It would be but a halting image to say that her love
for the late Ulrik Christian had been like a lake whipped and tumbled
by a storm, while her love for Ulrik Frederik was the same water in the
evening, becalmed, cold, and glassy, stirred but by the breaking of
frothy bubbles among the dark reeds of the shore. Yet the simile would
have some truth, for not only was she cold and calm toward her lover,
but the bright myriad dreams of life that thronged in the wake of her
first passion had paled and dissolved in the drowsy calm of her present
feeling.

She loved Ulrik Frederik after a fashion, but might it not be chiefly
as the magic wand opening the portals to the magnificent pageant of
life, and might it not be the pageant that she really loved? Sometimes
it would seem otherwise. When she sat on his knee in the twilight and
sang little airs about Daphne and Amaryllis to her own accompaniment,
the song would die away, and while her fingers played with the strings
of the cithern, she would whisper in his waiting ear words so sweet
and warm that no true love owns them sweeter, and there were tender
tears in her eyes that could be only the dew of love's timid unrest.
And yet--might it not be that her longing was conjuring up a mere mood,
rooted in the memories of her past feeling, sheltered by the brooding
darkness, fed by hot blood and soft music,--a mood that deceived
herself and made him happy? Or was it nothing but maidenly shyness that
made her chary of endearments by the light of day, and was it nothing
but girlish fear of showing a girl's weakness that made her eyes mock
and her lips jeer many a time when he asked for a kiss or, vowing
love, would draw from her the words all lovers long to hear? Why was
it, then, that when she was alone, and her imagination had wearied of
picturing for the thousandth time the glories of the future, she would
often sit gazing straight before her hopelessly, and feel unutterably
lonely and forsaken?

       *       *       *       *       *

In the early afternoon of an August day Marie and Ulrik Frederik were
riding, as often before, along the sandy road that skirted the Sound
beyond East Gate. The air was fresh after a morning shower, the sun
stood mirrored in the water, and blue thunder-clouds were rolling away
in the distance.

They cantered as quickly as the road would allow them, a lackey in a
long crimson coat following closely. They rode past the gardens where
green apples shone under dark leaves, past fish-nets hung to dry
with the raindrops still glistening in their meshes, past the King's
fisheries with red-tiled roof, and past the glue-boiler's house, where
the smoke rose straight as a column out of a chimney. They jested and
laughed, smiled and laughed, and galloped on.

At the sign of the Golden Grove they turned and rode through the woods
toward Overdrup, then walked their horses through the underbrush down
to the bright surface of the lake. Tall beeches leaned to mirror their
green vault in the clear water. Succulent marsh-grass and pale pink
feather-foil made a wide motley border where the slope, brown with
autumn leaves, met the water. High in the shelter of the foliage, in
a ray of light that pierced the cool shadow, mosquitoes whirled in
a noiseless swarm. A red butterfly gleamed there for a second, then
flew out into the sunlight over the lake. Steel-blue dragon-flies
made bright streaks through the air, and the darting pike drew swift
wavy lines over the surface of the water. Hens were cackling in the
farm-yard beyond the brushwood, and from the other side of the lake
came a note of wood-doves cooing under the domes of the beech-trees in
Dyrehaven.

They slackened their speed and rode out into the water to let their
horses dabble their dusty hoofs and quench their thirst. Marie had
stopped a little farther out than Ulrik Frederik, and sat with reins
hanging in order to let her mare lower its head freely. She was tearing
the leaves from a long branch in her hand, and sent them fluttering
down over the water, which was beginning to stir in soft ripples.

"I think we may get a thunder-storm," she said, her eyes following the
course of a light wind that went whirling over the lake, raising round,
dark, roughened spots on the surface.

"Perhaps we had better turn back," suggested Ulrik Frederik.

"Not for gold!" she answered and suddenly drove her mare to the shore.
They walked their horses round the lake to the road and entered the
tall woods.

"I would I knew," said Marie, when she felt the cool air of the forest
fan her cheeks and drew in its freshness in long, deep breaths. "I
would I knew--" She got no further, but stopped and looked up into the
green vault with shining eyes.

"What wouldst thou know, dear heart?"

"I'm thinking there's something in the forest air that makes sensible
folks mad. Many's the time I have been walking in Bigum woods, when I
would keep on running and running, till I got into the very thickest
of it. I'd be wild with glee and sing at the top of my voice and walk
and pick flowers and throw them away again and call to the birds, when
they flew up--and then, on the sudden, a strange fright would come over
me, and I would feel, oh! so wretched and so small! Whenever a branch
broke I'd start, and the sound of my own voice gave me more fright than
anything else. Hast thou never felt it?"

Before Ulrik Frederik could answer her song rang out:

    "Right merrily in the woods I go
    Where elm and apple grow,
    And I pluck me there sweet roses two
    And deck my silken shoe.
    Oh, the dance,
    Oh, the dance,
    Oh, tra-la-la!
    Oh, the red, red berries on the dogrose bush!"

and as she sang, the whip flew down over her horse, she laughed,
hallooed, and galloped at top speed along a narrow forest path, where
the branches swept her shoulders. Her eyes sparkled, her cheeks
burned, she did not heed Ulrik Frederik calling after her. The whip
whizzed through the air again, and off she went with reins slack! Her
fluttering habit was flecked with foam. The soft earth flew up around
her horse. She laughed and cut the tall ferns with her whip.

Suddenly the light seemed to be lifted from leaf and branch and to flee
from the rain-heavy darkness. The rustling of the bushes had ceased,
and the hoof-beats were silent, as she rode across a stretch of forest
glade. On either side the trees stood like a dark encircling wall.
Ragged gray clouds were scudding over the black, lowering heavens.
Before her rolled the murky blue waters of the Sound, and beyond rose
banks of fog. She drew rein, and her tired mount stopped willingly.
Ulrik Frederik galloped past, swung back in a wide circle, and halted
at her side.

At that moment a shower fell like a gray, heavy, wet curtain drawn
slantwise over the Sound. An icy wind flattened the grass, whizzed
in their ears, and made a noise like foaming waves in the distant
tree-tops. Large flat hailstones rattled down over them in white
sheets, settled like bead strings in the folds of her dress, fell in
a spray from the horses' manes, and skipped and rolled in the grass
as though swarming out of the earth.

They sought shelter under the trees, rode down to the beach, and
presently halted before the low door of the Bide-a-Wee Tavern. A
stable-boy took the horses, and the tall, bareheaded inn-keeper showed
them into his parlor, where, he said, there was another guest before
them. It proved to be Hop-o'-my-Thumb, who rose at their entrance,
offering to give up the room to their highnesses, but Ulrik Frederik
graciously bade him remain.

"Stay here, my man," he said, "and entertain us in this confounded
weather. I must tell you, my dear,"--turning to Marie,--"that this
insignificant mannikin is the renowned comedian and merry-andrew of
ale-houses, Daniel Knopf, well learned in all the liberal arts such
as dicing, fencing, drinking, shrovetide sports, and such matters,
otherwise in fair repute as an honorable merchant in the good city of
Copenhagen."

Daniel scarcely heard this eulogy. He was absorbed in looking at Marie
Grubbe and formulating some graceful words of felicitation, but when
Ulrik Frederik roused him with a sounding blow on his broad back,
his face flushed with resentment and embarrassment. He turned to him
angrily, but mastered himself, and said with his coldest smile: "We're
scarce tipsy enough, Colonel."

Ulrik Frederik laughed and poked his side, crying: "Oh, you sacred
knave! Would you put me to confusion, you plaguy devil, and make me out
a wretched braggart who lacks parchments to prove his boasting? Fie,
fie, out upon you! Is that just? Have I not a score of times praised
your wit before this noble lady, till she has time and again expressed
the greatest longing to see and hear your far-famed drolleries? You
might at least give us the blind Cornelius Fowler and his whistling
birds, or play the trick--you know--with the sick cock and the clucking
hens!"

Marie now added her persuasions, saying that Colonel Gyldenlöve was
quite right, she had often wondered what pastime, what fine and
particular sport, could keep young gentlemen in filthy ale-houses for
half days and whole nights together, and she begged that Daniel would
oblige them without further urging.

Daniel bowed with perfect grace and replied that his poor pranks were
rather of a kind to give fuddled young sparks added occasion for
roaring and bawling than to amuse a dainty and highborn young maiden.
Nevertheless, he would put on his best speed to do her pleasure, for
none should ever say it of him that any command from her fair ladyship
had failed of instant obedience and execution.

"Look 'ee!" he began, throwing himself down by the table and sticking
out his elbows. "Now I'm a whole assembly of your betrothed's honorable
companions and especial good friends."

He took a handful of silver dollars from his pocket and laid them on
the table, pulled his hair down over his eyes, and dropped his lower
lip stupidly.

"Devil melt me!" he drawled, rattling the coins like dice. "I'm not
the eldest son of the honorable Erik Kaase for nothing! What! you'd
doubt my word, you muckworm? I flung ten, hell consume me, ten with a
jingle! Can't you see, you dog? I'm asking if you can't see?--you blind
lamprey, you! Or d'ye want me to rip your guts with my stinger and give
your liver and lungs a chance to see too? Shall I--huh? You ass!"

Daniel jumped up and pulled a long face.

"You'd challenge me, would you?" he said hoarsely with a strong North
Skaane accent, "you stinkard, you! D'you know whom you're challenging?
So take me king o' hell, I'll strike your--Nay, nay," he dropped into
his natural voice, "that's perhaps too strong a jest to begin with. Try
another!"

He sat down, folded his hands on the edge of his knees as though to
make room for his stomach, puffed himself up, fat and heavy jowled,
then whistled firmly and thoughtfully but in an altogether too slow
tempo the ballad of Roselil and Sir Peter. Then he stopped, rolled his
eyes amorously, and called in fond tones:

"Cockatoo--cockadoodle-doo!" He began to whistle again, but had
some difficulty in combining it with an ingratiating smile. "Little
sugar-top!" he called, "little honey-dew, come to me, little chuck!
P'st! Will it lap wine, little kitty? Lap nice sweet wine from little
cruse?"

Again he changed his voice, leaned forward in his chair, winked with
one eye, and crooked his fingers to comb an imaginary beard.

"Now stay here," he said coaxingly, "stay here, fair Karen; I'll
never forsake you, and you must never forsake me,"--his voice grew
weepy,--"we'll never part, my dear, dear heart, never in the world!
Silver and gold and honor and glory and precious noble blood--begone! I
curse you! Begone! I say. You're a hundred heavens high above them, the
thing of beauty you are! Though they've scutcheons and emblems--would
that make 'em any better? You've got an emblem, too--the red mark on
your white shoulder that Master Anders burned with his hot iron, that's
your coat-of-arms! I spit on my scutcheon to kiss that mark--that's
all I think of scutcheons--that's all! For there isn't in all the land
of Sjælland a high-born lady as lovely as you are--is there, huh? No,
there isn't--not a bit of one!"

"That's--that's a lie!" he cried in a new voice, jumped up, and shook
his fist over the table. "My Mistress Ide, you blockhead, she's got a
shape--as a man may say--she's got limbs--as a man may say--limbs, I
tell you, you slubberdegulleon!"

At this point Daniel was about to let himself fall into the chair
again, but at that moment Ulrik Frederik pulled it away, and he rolled
on the floor. Ulrik Frederik laughed uproariously, but Marie ran to
him with hands outstretched as though to help him up. The little man,
half rising on his knees, caught her hand and gazed at her with an
expression so full of gratitude and devotion that it haunted her for a
long time. Presently they rode home, and none of them thought that this
chance meeting in the Bide-a-Wee Tavern would lead to anything further.



CHAPTER IX


The States-General that convened in Copenhagen in the late autumn
brought to town many of the nobility, all anxious to guard their
ancient rights against encroachment, but none the less eager for a
little frolic after the busy summer. Nor were they averse to flaunting
their wealth and magnificence in the faces of the townspeople, who had
grown somewhat loud-voiced since the war, and to reminding them that
the line between gentlemen of the realm and the unfree mob was still
firm and immutable, in spite of the privileges conferred by royalty,
in spite of citizen valor and the glamor of victory, in spite of the
teeming ducats in the strong boxes of the hucksters.

The streets were bright with throngs of noblemen and their ladies,
bedizened lackeys, and richly caparisoned horses in silver-mounted
harness. There was feasting and open house in the homes of the nobility.
Far into the night the violin sounded from well-lit halls, telling the
sleepy citizens that the best blood of the realm was warming to a stately
dance over parquet floors, while the wine sparkled in ancestral goblets.

All these festivities passed Marie Grubbe by; none invited her. Because
of their ties to the royal family, some of the Grubbes were suspected
of siding with the King against the Estate, and moreover the good old
nobility cordially hated that rather numerous upper aristocracy formed
by the natural children of the kings and their relatives. Marie was
therefore slighted for a twofold reason, and as the court lived in
retirement during the session of the States-General, it offered her no
compensation.

It seemed hard at first, but soon it woke the latent defiance of
her nature and made her draw closer to Ulrik Frederik. She loved him
more tenderly for the very reason that she felt herself being wronged
for his sake. So when the two were quietly married on the sixteenth
of December, sixteen hundred and sixty, there was the best reason to
believe that she would live happily with the Master of the King's Hunt,
which was the title and office Ulrik Frederik had won as his share of
the favors distributed by triumphant royalty.

This private ceremony was not in accordance with the original plan, for
it had long been the intention of the King to celebrate their wedding
in the castle, as Christian the Fourth had done that of Hans Ulrik and
Mistress Rigitze, but at the eleventh hour he had scruples and decided,
in consideration of Ulrik Frederik's former marriage and divorce, to
refrain from public display.

       *       *       *       *       *

So now they are married and settled, and time passes, and time flies,
and all is well--and time slackened its speed, and time crawled; for
it is true, alas! that when Leander and Leonora have lived together
for half a year, the glory is often departed from Leander's love,
though Leonora usually loves him much more tenderly than in the days
of their betrothal. She is like the small children, who find the old
story new, no matter how often it is told with the very same words,
the same surprises, and the self-same "Snip, snap, snout, my tale's
out," while Leander is more exacting and grows weary as soon as his
feeling no longer makes him new to himself. When he ceases to be
intoxicated, he suddenly becomes more than sober. The flush and glamor
of his ecstasy, which for a while gave him the assurance of a demigod,
suddenly departs; he hesitates, he thinks, and begins to doubt. He
looks back at the chequered course of his passion, heaves a sigh, and
yawns. He is beset with longing, like one who has come home after a
lengthy sojourn in foreign parts, and sees the altogether too familiar
though long-forgotten spots before him; as he looks at them, he wonders
idly whether he has really been gone from this well-known part of the
world so long.

In such a mood, Ulrik Frederik sat at home one rainy day in September.
He had called in his dogs and had frolicked with them for a while, had
tried to read, and had played a game of backgammon with Marie. The rain
was pouring. It was impossible to go walking or riding, and so he had
sought his armory, as he called it, thinking he would polish and take
stock of his treasures--this was just the day for it! It occurred to
him that he had inherited a chest of weapons from Ulrik Christian; he
had ordered it brought down from the attic, and sat lifting out one
piece after another.

There were splendid rapiers of bluish steel inlaid with gold, or
silvery bright with dull engraving. There were hunting-knives, some
heavy and one-edged, some long and flexible like tongues of flame,
some three-edged and sharp as needles. There were toledo blades, many
toledos, light as reeds and flexible as willows, with hilts of silver
and jasper agate, or of chased gold or gold and carbuncles. One had
nothing but a hilt of etched steel, and for a sword-knot a little
silk ribbon embroidered in roses and vines with red glass beads and
green floss. It must be either a bracelet, a cheap bracelet, or--Ulrik
Frederik thought--more likely a garter, and the rapier was stuck
through it.

It comes from Spain, said Ulrik Frederik to himself, for the late owner
had served in the Spanish army for nine years. Alack-a-day! He too
was to have entered foreign service with Carl Gustaf; but then came
the war, and now he supposed he would never have a chance to get out
and try his strength, and yet he was but three and twenty. To live
forever here at this tiresome little court,--doubly tiresome since the
nobility stayed at home,--to hunt a little, look to his estate once
in a while, some time in the future by the grace of the King to be
made Privy Councillor of the Realm and be knighted, keep on the right
side of Prince Christian and retain his office, now and then be sent
on a tedious embassy to Holland, grow old, get the rheumatism, die,
and be buried in Vor Frue Church,--such was the brilliant career that
stretched before him. And now they were fighting down in Spain! There
was glory to be won, a life to be lived--that was where the rapier and
the sword-knot came from. No, he must speak to the King. It was still
raining, and it was a long way to Frederiksborg, but there was no help
for it. He could not wait; the matter must be settled.

The King liked his scheme. Contrary to his custom, he assented at once,
much to the surprise of Ulrik Frederik, who during his whole ride had
debated with himself all the reasons that made his plan difficult,
unreasonable, impossible. But the King said Yes, he might leave before
Christmas. By that time the preparations could be completed and an
answer received from the King of Spain.

The reply came in the beginning of December, but Ulrik Frederik did
not start until the middle of April; for there was much to be done.
Money had to be raised, retainers equipped, letters written. Finally he
departed.

Marie Grubbe was ill pleased with this trip to Spain. It is true, she
saw the justice of Mistress Rigitze's argument that it was necessary
for Ulrik Frederik to go abroad and win honor and glory, in order that
the King might do something handsome for him; for although his Majesty
had been made an absolute monarch, he was sensitive to what people
said, and the noblemen had grown so captious and perverse that they
would be sure to put the very worst construction on anything the King
might do. Yet women have an inborn dread of all farewells, and in this
case there was much to fear. Even if she could forget the chances of
war and the long, dangerous journey, and tell herself that a king's
son would be well taken care of, yet she could not help her foreboding
that their life together might suffer such a break by a separation of
perhaps more than a year that it would never be the same again. Their
love was yet so lightly rooted, and just as it had begun to grow, it
was to be mercilessly exposed to ill winds and danger. Was it not
almost like going out deliberately to lay it waste? And one thing she
had learned in her brief married life: the kind of marriage she had
thought so easy in the days of her betrothal, that in which man and
wife go each their own way, could mean only misery with all darkness
and no dawn. The wedge had entered their outward life; God forbid that
it should pierce to their hearts! Yet it was surely tempting fate to
open the door by such a parting.

Moreover, she was sadly jealous of all the light papistical feminine
rabble in the land and dominions of Spain.

       *       *       *       *       *

Frederik the Third, who, like many sovereigns of his time, was much
interested in the art of transmuting baser metals into gold, had
charged Ulrik Frederik when he came to Amsterdam to call on a renowned
alchemist, the Italian Burrhi, and to drop a hint that if he should
think of visiting Denmark, the King and the wealthy Christian Skeel of
Sostrup would make it worth his while.

When Ulrik Frederik arrived in Amsterdam, he therefore asked Ole
Borch, who was studying there and knew Burrhi well, to conduct him
to the alchemist. They found him a man in the fifties, below middle
height, and with a tendency to fat, but erect and springy in his
movements. His hair and his narrow moustache were black, his nose was
hooked and rather thick, his face full and yellow in color; from the
corners of his small, glittering black eyes innumerable furrows and
lines spread out like a fan, giving him an expression at once sly and
goodhumored. He wore a black velvet coat with wide collar and cuffs and
crape-covered silver buttons, black knee-breeches and silk stockings,
and shoes with large black rosettes. His taste for fine lace appeared
in the edging on his cravat and shirt bosom and in the ruffles that
hung in thick folds around his wrists and knees. His hands were small,
white, and chubby, and were loaded with rings of such strange, clumsy
shapes that he could not bring the tips of his fingers together. Large
brilliants glittered even on his thumbs. As soon as they were seated,
he remarked that he was troubled with cold hands and stuck them in a
large fur muff, although it was summer.

The room into which he conducted Ulrik Frederik was large and spacious,
with a vaulted ceiling and narrow Gothic windows set high in the
walls. Chairs were ranged around a large centre table, their wooden
seats covered with soft cushions of red silk, from which hung long,
heavy tassels. The top of the table was inlaid with a silver plate on
which the twelve signs of the zodiac, the planets, and some of the
more important constellations were done in niello. Above it, a string
of ostrich eggs hung from the ceiling. The floor had been painted
in a chequered design of red and gray, and near the door a triangle
was formed by old horseshoes that had been fitted into the boards. A
large coral tree stood under one window, and a cupboard of dark carved
wood with brass mountings was placed under the other. A life-size doll
representing a Moor was set in one corner, and along the walls lay
blocks of tin and copper ore. The blackamoor held a dried palm leaf in
his hand.

When they were seated and the first interchange of amenities was over,
Ulrik Frederik--they were speaking in French--asked whether Burrhi
would not with his learning and experience come to the aid of the
searchers after wisdom in the land of Denmark.

Burrhi shook his head.

"'Tis known to me," he replied, "that the secret art has many great
and powerful votaries in Denmark, but I have imparted instruction
to so many royal gentlemen and church dignitaries, and while I will
not say that ingratitude or meagre appreciation have always been my
appointed portion, yet have I encountered so much captiousness and
lack of understanding, that I am unwilling to assume again the duties
of a master to such distinguished scholars. I do not know what rule
or method the King of Denmark employs in his investigations, and my
remarks can therefore contain no disparagement of him, but I can assure
you in confidence that I have known gentlemen of the highest nobility
in the land, nay, anointed rulers and hereditary kings, who have been
so ignorant of their _historia naturalis_ and _materia magica_ that the
most lowborn quacksalver could not entertain such vulgar superstitions
as they do. They even put their faith in that widely disseminated
though shameful delusion that making gold is like concocting a
sleeping-potion or a healing-pillula, that if one has the correct
ingredients, 'tis but to mix them together, set them over the fire,
and lo! the gold is there. Such lies are circulated by catch-pennies
and ignoramuses--whom may the devil take! Cannot the fools understand
that if 'twere so simple a process, the world would be swimming in
gold? For although learned authors have held, and surely with reason,
that only a certain part of matter can be clarified in the form of
gold, yet even so we should be flooded. Nay, the art of the gold-maker
is costly and exacting. It requires a fortunate hand, and there must
be certain constellations and conjunctions in the ascendant, if the
gold is to flow properly. 'Tis not every year that matter is equally
gold-yielding. You have but to remember that it is no mere distillation
nor sublimation, but a very re-creating of nature that is to take
place. Nay, I will dare to say that a tremor passes over the abodes of
the spirits of nature whenever a portion of the pure, bright metal is
freed from the thousand-year-old embrace of _materia vilis_."

"Forgive my question," said Ulrik Frederik, "but do not these occult
arts imperil the soul of him who practises them?"

"Indeed no," said Burrhi; "how can you harbor such a thought? What
magician was greater than Solomon, whose seal, the great as well as
the small, has been wondrously preserved to us unto this day? And who
imparted to Moses the power of conjuring? Was it not Sabaoth, the
spirit of the storm, the terrible one?" He pressed the stone in one of
his rings to his lips. "'Tis true," he continued, "that we know great
names of darkness and awful words, yea, fearful mystic signs, which
if they be used for evil, as many witches and warlocks and vulgar
soothsayers use them, instantly bind the soul of him who names them in
the fetters of Gehenna, but we call upon them only to free the sacred
primordial element from its admixture of and pollution by dust and
earthly ashes; for that is the true nature of gold, it is the original
matter that was in the beginning and gave light, before the sun and the
moon had been set in their appointed places in the vault of heaven."

They talked thus at length about alchemy and other occult arts, until
Ulrik Frederik asked whether Burrhi had been able to cast his horoscope
by the aid of the paper he had sent him through Ole Borch a few days
earlier.

"In its larger aspects," replied Burrhi, "I might prognosticate your
fate, but when the nativity is not cast in the very hour a child is
born, we fail to get all the more subtle phenomena, and the result
is but little to be depended upon. Yet some things I know. Had you
been of citizen birth and in the position of a humble physician, then
I should have had but joyful tidings for you. As it is, your path
through the world is not so clear. Indeed, the custom is in many ways
to be deplored by which the son of an artisan becomes an artisan,
the merchant's son a merchant, the farmer's son a farmer, and so on
throughout all classes. The misfortune of many men is due to nothing
else but their following another career than that which the stars
in the ascendant at the time of their birth would indicate. Thus if
a man born under the sign of the ram in the first section becomes a
soldier, success will never attend him, but wounds, slow advancement,
and early death will be his assured portion, whereas, if he had chosen
a handicraft, such as working in stone or wrought metals, his course
would have run smooth. One who is born under the sign of the fishes,
if in the first section, should till the soil, or if he be a man of
fortune, should acquire a landed estate, while he who is born in the
latter part should follow the sea, whether it be as the skipper of a
smack or as an admiral. The sign of the bull in the first part is for
warriors, in the second part for lawyers. The twins, which were in the
ascendant at the time of your birth, are, as I have said before, for
physicians in the first part and for merchants in the second. But now
let me see your palm."

Ulrik Frederik held out his hand, and Burrhi went to the triangle of
horseshoes, touching them with his shoes as a tight-rope dancer rubs
his soles over the waxed board before venturing out on the line. Then
he looked at the palm.

"Ay," said he, "the honor-line is long and unbroken; it goes as far
as it may go without reaching a crown. The luck-line is somewhat
blurred for a time, but farther on it grows more distinct. There is the
life-line; it seems but poor, I grieve to say. Take great care until
you have passed the age of seven and twenty, for at that time your life
is threatened in some sinister and secret fashion, but after that the
line becomes clear and strong and reaches to a good old age. There is
but one offshoot--ah, no, there is a smaller one hard by. You will have
issue of two beds, but few in each."

He dropped the hand.

"Hark," he said gravely, "there is danger before you, but where it
lurks is hidden from me. Yet it is in no wise the open danger of war.
If it should be a fall or other accident of travel, I would have you
take these triangular malachites, they are of a particular nature. See,
I myself carry one of them in this ring; they guard against falling
from horse or coach. Take them with you and carry them ever on your
breast, or if you have them set in a ring, cut away the gold behind
them, for the stone must touch if it is to protect you. And here is a
jasper. Do you see the design like a tree? It is very rare and most
precious and good against stabbing in the dark and liquid poisons.
Once more I pray you, my dear young gentleman, that you have a care,
especially where women are concerned. Nothing definite is revealed to
me, but there are signs of danger gleaming in the hand of a woman, yet
I know nothing for a certainty, and it were well to guard also against
false friends and traitorous servants, against cold waters and long
nights."

Ulrik Frederik accepted the gifts graciously, and did not neglect, the
following day, to send the alchemist a costly necklace, as a token of
his gratitude for his wise counsel and protecting stones. After that he
proceeded directly to Spain without further interruption.



CHAPTER X


The house seemed very quiet that spring day when the sound of horses'
hoofs had died away in the distance. In the flurry of leave-taking,
the doors had been left open; the table was still set after Ulrik
Frederik's breakfast, with his napkin just as he had crumpled it at
his plate, and the tracks of his great riding-boots were still wet on
the floor. Over there by the tall pier-glass he had pressed her to his
heart and kissed and kissed her in farewell, trying to comfort her
with oaths and vows of a speedy return. Involuntarily she moved to the
mirror as though to see whether it did not hold something of his image,
as she had glimpsed it a moment ago, while locked in his arms. Her own
lonely, drooping figure and pale, tear-stained face met her searching
glance from behind the smooth, glittering surface.

She heard the street door close, and the lackey cleared the table.
Ulrik Frederik's favorite dogs, Nero, Passando, Rumor, and Delphine,
had been locked in, and ran about the room, whimpering and sniffing his
tracks. She tried to call them, but could not for weeping. Passando,
the tall red fox-hound, came to her; she knelt down to stroke and
caress the dog, but he wagged his tail in an absent-minded way, looked
up into her face, and went on howling.

Those first days--how empty every thing was and dreary! The time
dragged slowly, and the solitude seemed to hang over her, heavy and
oppressive, while her longing would sometimes burn like salt in an open
wound. Ay, it was so at first, but presently all this was no longer
new, and the darkness and emptiness, the longing and grief, came again
and again like snow that falls flake upon flake, until it seemed to
wrap her in a strange, dull hopelessness, almost a numbness that made
a comfortable shelter of her sorrow.

Suddenly all was changed. Every nerve was strung to the most acute
sensitiveness, every vein throbbing with blood athirst for life, and
her fancy teemed like the desert air with colorful images and luring
forms. On such days she was like a prisoner who sees youth slip by,
spring after spring, barren, without bloom, dull and empty, always
passing, never coming. The sum of time seemed to be counted out with
hours for pennies; at every stroke of the clock one fell rattling at
her feet, crumbled, and was dust, while she would wring her hands in
agonized life-hunger and scream with pain.

She appeared but seldom at court or in the homes of her family, for
etiquette demanded that she should keep to the house. Nor was she in
the mood to welcome visitors, and as they soon ceased coming, she
was left entirely to herself. This lonely brooding and fretting soon
brought on an indolent torpor, and she would sometimes lie in bed for
days and nights at a stretch, trying to keep in a state betwixt waking
and sleeping, which gave rise to fantastic visions. Far clearer than
the misty dream pictures of healthy sleep, these images filled the
place of the life she was missing.

Her irritability grew with every day, and the slightest noise was
torture. Sometimes she would be seized with the strangest notions and
with sudden mad impulses that might almost raise a doubt of her sanity.
Indeed, there was perhaps but the width of a straw between madness and
that curious longing to do some desperate deed, merely for the sake of
doing it, without the least reason or even real desire for it.

Sometimes, when she stood at the open window, leaning against the
casement and looking down into the paved court below, she would feel
an overmastering impulse to throw herself down, merely to do it. But
in that very second she seemed to have actually made the leap in
her imagination and to have felt the cool, incisive tingling that
accompanies a jump from a height. She darted back from the window
to the inmost corner of the room, shaking with horror, the image of
herself lying in her own blood on the hard stones so vivid in her mind
that she had to go back to the window again and look down in order to
drive it away.

Less dangerous and of a somewhat different nature was the fancy that
would seize her when she looked at her own bare arm and traced, in a
kind of fascination, the course of the blue and deep-violet veins under
the white skin. She wanted to set her teeth in that white roundness,
and she actually followed her impulse, biting like a fierce little
animal mark upon mark, till she felt the pain and would stop and begin
to fondle the poor maltreated arm.

At other times, when she was sitting quietly, she would be suddenly
moved to go in and undress, only that she might wrap herself in a thick
quilt of red silk and feel the smooth, cool surface against her skin,
or put an ice-cold steel blade down her naked back. Of such whims she
had many.

       *       *       *       *       *

Finally, after an absence of fourteen months, Ulrik Frederik returned.
It was a July night, and Marie lay sleepless, listening to the slow
soughing of the wind, restless with anxious thoughts. For the last week
she had been expecting Ulrik Frederik every hour of the day and night,
longing for his arrival and fearing it. Would everything be as in olden
times--fourteen months ago? Sometimes she thought no, then again yes.
The truth was, she could not quite forgive him for that trip to Spain.
She felt that she had aged in this long time, had grown timid and
listless, while he would come fresh from the glamor and stir, full of
youth and high spirits, finding her pale and faded, heavy of step and
of mind, nothing like her old self. At first he would be strange and
cold to her; she would feel all the more cast down, and he would turn
from her, but she would never forsake him. No, no, she would watch over
him like a mother, and when the world went against him he would come
back to her, and she would comfort him and be kind to him, bear want
for his sake, suffer and weep, do everything for him. At other times
she thought that as soon as she saw him all must be as before; yes,
they romped through the rooms like madcap pages; the walls echoed their
laughter and revelry, the corners whispered of their kisses--

With this fancy in her mind she fell into a light sleep. Her dreams
were of noisy frolic, and when she awoke the noise was still there.
Quick steps sounded on the stairs, the street door was thrown open,
doors slammed, coaches rumbled, and horses' hoofs scraped the
cobblestones.

There he is! she thought, sprang up, caught the large quilt, and
wrapping it round her, ran through the rooms. In the large parlor she
stopped. A tallow dip was burning in a wooden candlestick on the floor,
and a few of the tapers had been lit in the sconces, but the servant in
his flurry had run away in the midst of his preparations. Some one was
speaking outside. It was Ulrik Frederik's voice, and she trembled with
emotion.

The door was opened, and he rushed in, still wearing his hat and cloak.
He would have caught her in his arms, but got only her hand, as she
darted back. He looked so strange in his unfamiliar garb. He was tanned
and stouter than of old, and under his cloak he wore a queer dress,
the like of which she had never seen. It was the new fashion of long
waistcoat and fur-bordered coat, which quite changed his figure and
made him still more unlike his old self.

"Marie!" he cried, "dear girl!" and he drew her to him, wrenching her
wrist till she moaned with pain. He heard nothing. He was flustered
with drink; for the night was not warm, and they had baited well in the
last tavern. Marie's struggles were of no avail, he kissed and fondled
her wildly, immoderately. At last she tore herself away and ran into
the next room, her cheeks flushed, her bosom heaving, but thinking that
perhaps this was rather a queer welcome, she came back to him.

Ulrik Frederik was standing in the same spot, quite bewildered between
his efforts to make his fuddled brain comprehend what was happening
and his struggles to unhook the clasps of his cloak. His thoughts and
his hands were equally helpless. When Marie went to him and unfastened
his cloak, it occurred to him that perhaps it was all a joke, and he
burst into a loud laugh, slapped his thigh, writhed and staggered,
threatened Marie archly, and laughed with maudlin good nature. He was
plainly trying to express something funny that had caught his fancy,
started but could not find the words, and at last sank down on a chair,
groaning and gasping, while a broad, fatuous smile spread over his face.

Gradually the smile gave place to a sottish gravity. He rose and
stalked up and down in silent, displeased majesty, planted himself by
the grate in front of Marie, one arm akimbo, the other resting on the
mantel, and--still in his cups--looked down at her condescendingly.
He made a long, potvaliant speech about his own greatness and the
honor that had been shown him abroad, about the good fortune that had
befallen Marie when she, a common nobleman's daughter, had become the
bride of a man who might have brought home a princess of the blood.
Without the slightest provocation, he went on to impress upon Marie
that he meant to be master of his own house, and she must obey his
lightest nod, he would brook no gainsaying, no, not a word, not one.
However high he might raise her, she would always be his slave, his
little slave, his sweet little slave, and at that he became as gentle
as a sportive lynx, wept and wheedled. With all the importunity of a
drunken man he forced upon her gross caresses and vulgar endearments,
unavoidable, inescapable.

The next morning Marie awoke long before Ulrik Frederik. She looked
almost with hatred on the sleeping figure at her side. Her wrist was
swollen and ached from his violent greeting of the night before. He
lay with muscular arms thrown back under his powerful, hairy neck. His
broad chest rose and fell, breathing, it seemed to her, a careless
defiance, and there was a vacant smile of satiety on his dull, moist
lips.

She paled with anger and reddened with shame as she looked at him.
Almost a stranger to her after their long parting, he had forced
himself upon her, demanding her love as his right, cocksure that all
the devotion and passion of her soul were his, just as he would be sure
of finding his furniture standing where he left it when he went out.
Confident of being missed, he had supposed that all her longings had
taken wing from her trembling lips to him in the distance, and that the
goal of all her desire was his own broad breast.

When Ulrik Frederik came out he found her half sitting, half reclining
on a couch in the blue room. She was pale, her features relaxed, her
eyes downcast, and the injured hand lay listlessly in her lap wrapped
in a lace handkerchief. He would have taken it, but she languidly held
out her left hand to him and leaned her head back with a pained smile.

Ulrik Frederik kissed the hand she gave him and made a joking excuse
for his condition the night before, saying that he had never been
decently drunk all the time he had been in Spain, for the Spaniards
knew nothing about drinking. Besides, if the truth were told, he liked
the homemade alicant and malaga wine from Johan Lehn's dram-shop and
Bryhans' cellar better than the genuine sweet devilry they served down
there.

Marie made no reply.

The breakfast table was set, and Ulrik Frederik asked if they should
not fall to, but she begged him to pardon her letting him eat alone.
She wanted nothing, and her hand hurt; he had quite bruised it. When
his guilt was thus brought home to him he was bound to look at the
injured hand and kiss it, but Marie quickly hid it in a fold of her
dress, with a glance--he said--like a tigress defending her helpless
cub. He begged long, but it was of no use, and at last he sat down
to the table laughing, and ate with an appetite that roused a lively
displeasure in Marie. Yet he could not sit still. Every few minutes
he would jump up and run to the window to look out; for the familiar
street scenes seemed to him new and curious. With all this running, his
breakfast was soon scattered about the room, his beer in one window,
the bread-knife in another, his napkin slung over the vase of the
gilded Gueridon, and a bun on the little table in the corner.

At last he had done eating and settled down at the window. As he
looked out, he kept talking to Marie, who from her couch made brief
answers or none at all. This went on for a little while, until she came
over to the window where he sat, sighed, and gazed out drearily.

Ulrik Frederik smiled and assiduously turned his signet ring round
on his finger. "Shall I breathe on the sick hand?" he asked in a
plaintive, pitying tone.

Marie tore the handkerchief from her hand and continued to look out
without a word.

"'Twill take cold, the poor darling," he said, glancing up.

Marie stood resting the injured hand carelessly on the window-sill.
Presently she began drumming with her fingers as on a keyboard, back
and forth, from the sunshine into the shadow of the casement, then from
the shadow to the sunlight again.

Ulrik Frederik looked on with a smile of pleasure at the beautiful
pale hand as it toyed on the casement, gamboled like a frisky kitten,
crouched as for a spring, set its back, darted toward the bread-knife,
turned the handle round and round, crawled back, lay flat on the
window-sill, then stole softly toward the knife again, wound itself
round the hilt, lifted the blade to let it play in the sunlight, flew
up with the knife--

In a flash the knife descended on his breast, but he warded it off,
and it simply cut through his long lace cuff into his sleeve, as he
hurled it to the floor and sprang up with a cry of horror, upsetting
his chair, all in a second as with a single motion.

Marie was pale as death. She pressed her hands against her breast, and
her eyes were fixed in terror on the spot where Ulrik Frederik had been
sitting. A harsh, lifeless laughter forced itself between her lips,
and she sank down on the floor, noiselessly and slowly, as if supported
by invisible hands. While she stood playing with the knife, she had
suddenly noticed that the lace of Ulrik Frederik's shirt had slipped
aside, revealing his chest, and a senseless impulse had come over her
to plunge the bright blade into that white breast, not from any desire
to kill or wound, but only because the knife was cold and the breast
warm, or perhaps because her hand was weak and aching while the breast
was strong and sound, but first and last because she could not help it,
because her will had no power over her brain and her brain no power
over her will.

Ulrik Frederik stood pale, supporting his palms on the table, which
shook under his trembling till the dishes slid and rattled. As a rule,
he was not given to fear nor wanting in courage, but this thing had come
like a bolt out of the blue, so utterly senseless and incomprehensible
that he could only look on the unconscious form stretched on the floor
by the window with the same terror that he would have felt for a ghost.
Burrhi's words about the danger that gleamed in the hand of a woman
rang in his ears, and he sank to his knees praying; for all reasonable
security, all common-sense safeguards seemed gone from this earthly
life together with all human foresight. Clearly the heavens themselves
were taking sides; unknown spirits ruled, and fate was determined by
supernatural powers and signs. Why else should she have tried to kill
him? Why? Almighty God, why, why? Because it must be--must be.

He picked up the knife almost furtively, broke the blade, and threw the
pieces into the empty grate. Still Marie did not stir. Surely she was
not wounded? No, the knife was bright, and there was no blood on his
cuffs, but she lay there as quiet as death itself. He hurried to her
and lifted her in his arms.

Marie sighed, opened her eyes, and gazed straight out before her with
a lifeless expression, then, seeing Ulrik Frederik, threw her arms
around him, kissed and fondled him, still without a word. Her smile
was pleased and happy, but a questioning fear lurked in her eyes.
Her glance seemed to seek something on the floor. She caught Ulrik
Frederik's wrist, passed her hand over his sleeve, and when she saw
that it was torn and the cuff slashed, she shrieked with horror.

"Then I really did it!" she cried in despair. "O God in highest
heaven, preserve my mind, I humbly beseech Thee! But why don't you
ask questions? Why don't you fling me away from you like a venomous
serpent? And yet, God knows, I have no part nor fault in what I did.
It simply came over me. There was something that forced me. I swear to
you by my hope of eternal salvation, there was something that moved my
hand. Ah, you don't believe it! How can you?" And she wept and moaned.

But Ulrik Frederik believed her implicitly, for this fully bore out
his own thoughts. He comforted her with tender words and caresses,
though he felt a secret horror of her as a poor helpless tool under the
baleful spell of evil powers. Nor could he get over this fear, though
Marie, day after day, used every art of a clever woman to win back his
confidence. She had indeed sworn, that first morning, that she would
make Ulrik Frederik put forth all his charms and exercise all his
patience in wooing her over again, but now her behavior said exactly
the reverse. Every look implored; every word was a meek vow. In a
thousand trifles of dress and manner, in crafty surprises and delicate
attentions, she confessed her tender, clinging love every hour of the
day, and if she had merely had the memory of that morning's incident to
overcome, she would certainly have won, but greater forces were arrayed
against her.

Ulrik Frederik had gone away an impecunious prince from a land where
the powerful nobility by no means looked upon the natural son of a
king as more than their equal. Absolute monarchy was yet young, and
the principle that a king was a man who bought his power by paying in
kind was very old. The light of demi-godhead, which in later days cast
a halo about the hereditary monarch, had barely been lit, and was yet
too faint to dazzle any one who did not stand very near it.

From this land Ulrik Frederik had gone to the army and court of Philip
the Fourth, and there he had been showered with gifts and honors, had
been made Grand d'Espagne and put on the same footing as Don Juan
of Austria. The king made it a point to do homage in his person to
Frederik the Third, and in bestowing on him every possible favor he
sought to express his satisfaction with the change of government in
Denmark and his appreciation of King Frederik's triumphant efforts to
enter the ranks of absolute monarchs.

Intoxicated and elated with all this glory, which quite changed his
conception of his own importance, Ulrik Frederik soon saw that he
had acted with unpardonable folly in making the daughter of a common
nobleman his wife. Thoughts of making her pay for his mistake, confused
plans for raising her to his rank and for divorcing her chased one
another through his brain during his trip homeward. On top of this
came his superstitious fear that his life was in danger from her, and
he made up his mind that until he could see his course more clearly,
he would be cold and ceremonious in his manner to her and repel every
attempt to revive the old idyllic relation between them.

Frederik the Third, who was by no means lacking in power of shrewd
observation, soon noticed that Ulrik Frederik was not pleased with his
marriage, and he divined the reason. Thinking to raise Marie Grubbe
in Ulrik Frederik's eyes, he distinguished her whenever he could and
showered upon her every mark of royal grace, but it was of no avail.
It merely raised an army of suspicious and jealous enemies around the
favorite.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Royal Family spent the summer, as often before, at Frederiksborg.
Ulrik Frederik and Marie moved out there to help plan the junketings
and pageants that were to be held in September and October, when the
Elector of Saxony was coming to celebrate his betrothal with the
Princess Anne Sofie. The court was small as yet, but the circle was
to be enlarged in the latter part of August, when the rehearsals of
ballets and other diversions were to begin. It was very quiet, and
they had to pass the time as best they could. Ulrik Frederik took long
hunting and fishing trips almost every day. The King was busy at his
turning-lathe or in the laboratory which he had fitted up in one of the
small towers. The Queen and the princesses were embroidering for the
coming festivities.

In the shady lane that led from the woods up to the wicket of the
little park, Marie Grubbe was wont to take her morning walk. She was
there to-day. Up in the lane, her dress of madder-red shone against
the black earth of the walk and the green leaves. Slowly she came
nearer. A jaunty black felt hat trimmed only with a narrow pearl braid
rested lightly on her hair, which was piled up in heavy ringlets. A
silver-mounted solitaire gleamed on the rim where it was turned up on
the side. Her bodice fitted smoothly, and her sleeves were tight to the
elbow, whence they hung, deeply slashed, held together by clasps of
mother-of-pearl and lined with flesh-colored silk. Wide, close-meshed
lace covered her bare arms. The robe trailed a little behind, but
was caught up high on the sides, falling in rounded folds across the
front, and revealing a black and white diagonally striped skirt, which
was just long enough to give a glimpse of black-clocked stockings and
pearl-buckled shoes. She carried a fan of swan's feathers and raven's
quills.

Near the wicket she stopped, breathed in her hollow hand, held it first
to one eye then to the other, tore off a branch and laid the cool
leaves on her hot eyelids. Still the signs of weeping were plainly to
be seen. She went in at the wicket and started up toward the castle,
but turned back and struck into a side-path.

Her figure had scarcely vanished between the dark green box-hedges
when a strange and sorry couple appeared in the lane: a man who walked
slowly and unsteadily as though he had just risen from a severe
illness, leaning on a woman in an old-fashioned cloth coat and with a
wide green shade over her eyes. The man was trying to go faster than
his strength would allow, and the woman was holding him back, while she
tripped along, remonstrating querulously.

"Hold, hold!" she said. "Wait a bit and take your feet with you! You're
running on like a loose wheel going down hill. Weak limbs must be
weakly borne. Gently now! Isn't that what she told you, the wise woman
in Lynge? What sense is there in limping along on legs that have no
more starch nor strength than an old rotten thread!"

"Alack, good Lord, what legs they are!" whimpered the sick man and
stopped; for his knees shook under him. "Now she's all out of sight"--he
looked longingly at the wicket--"all out of sight! And there will be no
promenade to-day, the harbinger says, and it's so long till to-morrow!"

"There, there, Daniel dear, the time will pass, and you can rest to-day
and be stronger to-morrow, and then we shall follow her all through
the woods way down to the wicket, indeed we shall. But now we must go
home, and you shall rest on the soft couch and drink a good pot of ale,
and then we shall play a game of reversis, and later on, when their
highnesses have supped, Reinholdt Vintner will come, and then you shall
ask him the news, and we'll have a good honest lanterloo, till the sun
sinks in the mountains, indeed we shall, Daniel dear, indeed we shall."

"'Ndeed we shall, 'ndeed we shall!" jeered Daniel. "You with your
lanterloo and games and reversis! When my brain is burning like molten
lead, and my mind's in a frenzy, and--Help me to the edge of the road
and let me sit down a moment--there! Am I in my right mind, Magnille?
Huh? I'm mad as a fly in a flask, that's what I am. 'Tis sensible in a
lowborn lout, a miserable, mangy, rickety wretch, to be eaten up with
frantic love of a prince's consort! Oh ay, it's sensible, Magnille, to
long for her till my eyes pop out of my head, and to gasp like a fish
on dry land only to see a glimpse of her form and to touch with my
mouth the dust she has trodden--'tis sensible, I'm saying. Oh, if it
were not for the dreams, when she comes and bends over me and lays her
white hand on my tortured breast--or lies there so still and breathes
so softly and is so cold and forlorn and has none to guard her but only
me--or she flits by white as a naked lily!--but it's empty dreams,
vapor and moonshine only, and frothy air-bubbles."

They walked on again. At the wicket they stopped, and Daniel supported
his arms on it while his gaze followed the hedges.

"In there," he said.

Fair and calm the park spread out under the sunlight that bathed air
and leaves. The crystals in the gravel walk threw back the light in
quivering rays. Hanging cobwebs gleamed through the air, and the dry
sheaths of the beech-buds fluttered slowly to the ground, while high
against the blue sky, the white doves of the castle circled with
sungold on swift wings. A merry dance-tune sounded faintly from a
lute in the distance.

"What a fool!" murmured Daniel. "Should you think, Magnille, that one
who owned the most precious pearl of all the Indies would hold it as
naught and run after bits of painted glass? Marie Grubbe and--Karen
Fiol! Is _he_ in his right mind? And now they think he's hunting,
because forsooth he lets the gamekeeper shoot for him, and comes back
with godwits and woodcocks by the brace and bagful, and all the while
he's fooling and brawling down at Lynge with a town-woman, a strumpet.
Faugh, faugh! Lake of brimstone, such filthy business! And he's so
jealous of that spring ewe-lambkin, he's afraid to trust her out of his
sight for a day, while--"

The leaves rustled, and Marie Grubbe stood before him on the other side
of the wicket. After she turned into the side-path, she had gone down
to the place where the elks and Esrom camels were kept, and thence back
to a little arbor near the gate. There she had overheard what Daniel
said to Magnille, and now--

"Who are you?" she asked, "and were they true, the words you spoke?"

Daniel grasped the wicket and could hardly stand for trembling.

"Daniel Knopf, your ladyship, mad Daniel," he replied. "Pay no heed to
his talk, it runs from his tongue, sense and nonsense, as it happens,
brain-chaff and tongue-threshing, tongue-threshing and naught else."

"You lie, Daniel."

"Ay, ay, good Lord, I lie; I make no doubt I do; for in here, your
ladyship"--he pointed to his forehead--"'tis like the destruction of
Jerusalem. Courtesy, Magnille, and tell her ladyship, Madam Gyldenlöve,
how daft I am. Don't let that put you out of countenance. Speak up,
Magnille! After all we're no more cracked than the Lord made us."

"Is he truly mad?" Marie asked Magnille.

Magnille, in her confusion, bent down, caught a fold of Marie's dress
through the bars of the wicket, kissed it, and looked quite frightened.
"Oh, no, no, indeed he is not, God be thanked."

"She too"--said Daniel, waving his arm. "We take care of each other, we
two mad folks, as well as we can. 'Tis not the best of luck, but good
Lord, though mad we be yet still we see, we walk abroad and help each
other get under the sod. But no one rings over our graves; for that's
not allowed. I thank you kindly for asking. Thank you, and God be with
you."

"Stay," said Marie Grubbe. "You are no more mad than you make yourself.
You must speak, Daniel. Would you have me think so ill of you as to
take you for a go-between of my lord and her you mentioned? Would you?"

"A poor addle-pated fellow!" whimpered Daniel, waving his arm
apologetically.

"God forgive you, Daniel! 'Tis a shameful game you are playing; and I
believed so much better of you--so very much better."

"Did you? Did you truly?" he cried eagerly, his eyes shining with joy.
"Then I'm in my right mind again. You've but to ask."

"Was it the truth what you said?"

"As the gospel, but--"

"You are sure? There is no mistake?"

Daniel smiled.

"Is--he there to-day?"

"Is he gone hunting?"

"Yes."

"Then, yes."

"What manner"--Marie began after a short pause--"what manner of woman
is she, do you know?"

"Small, your ladyship, quite small, round and red as a pippin, merry
and prattling, laughing mouth and tongue loose at both ends."

"But what kind of people does she come from?"

"'Tis now two years ago or two and a half since she was the wife
of a French _valet de chambre_, who fled the country and deserted
her, but she didn't grieve long for him; she joined her fate with an
out-at-elbows harp-player, went to Paris with him, and remained there
and at Brussels, until she returned here last Whitsun. In truth, she
has a natural good understanding and a pleasing manner, except at times
when she is tipsy. This is all the knowledge I have."

"Daniel!" she said and stopped uncertainly.

"Daniel," he replied with a subtle smile, "is as faithful to you now
and forever as your own right hand."

"Then will you help me? Can you get me a--a coach and coachman who is
to be trusted, the instant I give the word?"

"Indeed and indeed I can. In less than an hour from the moment you give
the word the coach shall hold in Herman Plumber's meadow hard by the
old shed. You may depend on me, your ladyship."

Marie stood still a moment and seemed to consider. "I will see you
again," she said, nodded kindly to Magnille, and left them.

"Is she not the treasure house of all beauties, Magnille?" cried
Daniel, gazing rapturously up the walk where she had vanished. "And so
peerless in her pride!" he went on triumphantly. "Ah, she would spurn
me with her foot, scornfully set her foot on my neck, and softly tread
me down in the deepest dust, if she knew how boldly Daniel dares dream
of her person--So consuming beautiful and glorious! My heart burned
in me with pity to think that she had to confide in me, to bend the
majestic palm of her pride--But there's ecstasy in that sentiment,
Magnille, heavenly bliss, Magnilchen!"

And they tottered off together.

The coming of Daniel and his sister to Frederiksborg had happened
in this wise. After the meeting in the Bide-a-Wee Tavern, poor
Hop-o'-my-Thumb had been seized with an insane passion for Marie. It
was a pathetic, fantastic love, that hoped nothing, asked nothing, and
craved nothing but barren dreams. No more at all. The bit of reality
that he needed to give his dreams a faint color of life he found
fully in occasional glimpses of her near by or flitting past in the
distance. When Gyldenlöve departed, and Marie never went out, his
longing grew apace, until it made him almost insane, and at last threw
him on a sick-bed.

When he rose again, weak and wasted, Gyldenlöve had returned. Through
one of Marie's maids, who was in his pay, he learned that the relation
between Marie and her husband was not the best, and this news fed
his infatuation and gave it new growth, the rank unnatural growth of
fantasy. Before he had recovered enough from his illness to stand
steadily on his feet, Marie left for Frederiksborg. He must follow
her; he could not wait. He made a pretence of consulting the wise
woman in Lynge, in order to regain his strength, and urged his sister
Magnille to accompany him and seek a cure for her weak eyes. Friends
and neighbors found this natural, and off they drove, Daniel and
Magnille, to Lynge. There he discovered Gyldenlöve's affair with Karen
Fiol, and there he confided all to Magnille, told her of his strange
love, declared that for him light and the breath of life existed only
where Marie Grubbe was, and begged her to go with him to the village
of Frederiksborg that he might be near her who filled his mind so
completely.

Magnille humored him. They took lodgings at Frederiksborg and had for
days been shadowing Marie Grubbe on her lonely morning walks. Thus the
meeting had come about.



CHAPTER XI


A few days later, Ulrik Frederik was spending the morning at Lynge. He
was crawling on all fours in the little garden outside of the house
where Karen Fiol lived. One hand was holding a rose wreath, while with
the other he was trying to coax or drag a little white lapdog from
under the hazel bushes in the corner.

"Boncœœœur! Petit, petit Boncœur! Come, you little rogue, oh, come,
you silly little fool! Oh, you brute, you--Boncœur, little dog,--you
confounded obstinate creature!"

Karen was standing at the window laughing. The dog would not come, and
Ulrik Frederik wheedled and swore.

    "Amy des morceaux délicats,"

sang Karen, swinging a goblet full of wine:

    "Et de la débauche polie
    Viens noyer dans nos Vins Muscats
    Ta soif et ta mélancolie!"

She was in high spirits, rather heated, and the notes of her song rose
louder than she knew. At last Ulrik Frederik caught the dog. He carried
it to the window in triumph, pressed the rose chaplet down over its
ears, and, kneeling, presented it to Karen.

"Adorable Venus, queen of hearts, I beg you to accept from your humble
slave this little innocent white lamb crowned with flowers--"

At that moment, Marie Grubbe opened the wicket. When she saw Ulrik
Frederik on his knees, handing a rose garland, or whatever it was,
to that red, laughing woman, she turned pale, bent down, picked up a
stone, and threw it with all her might at Karen. It struck the edge of
the window, and shivered the glass in fragments, which fell rattling to
the ground.

Karen darted back, shrieking. Ulrik Frederik looked anxiously in after
her. In his surprise he had dropped the dog, but he still held the
wreath, and stood dumbfounded, angry, and embarrassed, turning it round
in his fingers.

"Wait, wait!" cried Marie. "I missed you this time, but I'll get you
yet! I'll get you!" She pulled from her hair a long, heavy steel pin
set with rubies, and holding it before her like a dagger, she ran
toward the house with a queer tripping, almost skipping gait. It seemed
as though she were blinded, for she steered a strange meandering course
up to the door.

There Ulrik Frederik stopped her.

"Go away!" she cried, almost whimpering, "you with your chaplet!
Such a creature"--she went on, trying to slip past him, first on one
side, then on the other, her eyes fixed on the door--"such a creature
you bind wreaths for--rose-wreaths, ay, here you play the lovesick
shepherd! Have you not a flute, too? Where's your flute?" she repeated,
tore the wreath from his hand, hurled it to the ground, and stamped on
it. "And a shepherd's crook--Amaryllis--with a silk bow? Let me pass,
I say!" She lifted the pin threateningly.

He caught both her wrists and held her fast. "Would you sting again?"
he said sharply.

Marie looked up at him.

"Ulrik Frederik!" she said in a low voice, "I am your wife before God
and men. Why do you not love me any more? Come with me! Leave the woman
in there for what she is, and come with me! Come, Ulrik Frederik, you
little know what a burning love I feel for you, and how bitterly I have
longed and grieved! Come, pray come!"

Ulrik Frederik made no reply. He offered her his arm and conducted
her out of the garden to her coach, which was waiting not far away.
He handed her in, went to the horses' heads and examined the harness,
changed a buckle, and called the coachman down, under pretence of
getting him to fix the couplings. While they stood there he whispered:
"The moment you get into your seat, you are to drive on as hard as your
horses can go, and never stop till you get home. Those are my orders,
and I believe you know me."

The man had climbed into his seat, Ulrik Frederik caught the side of
the coach as though to jump in, the whip cracked and fell over the
horses, he sprang back, and the coach rattled on.

Marie's first impulse was to order the coachman to stop, to take the
reins herself, or to jump out, but then a strange lassitude came over
her, a deep unspeakable loathing, a nauseating weariness, and she sat
quite still, gazing ahead, never heeding the reckless speed of the
coach.

Ulrik Frederik was again with Karen Fiol.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Ulrik Frederik returned to the castle that evening, he was,
in truth, a bit uneasy--not exactly worried, but with the sense of
apprehension people feel when they know there are vexations and
annoyances ahead of them that cannot be dodged, but must somehow be
gone through with. Marie had, of course, complained to the King. The
King would give him a lecture, and he would have to listen to it all.
Marie would wrap herself in the majestic silence of offended virtue,
which he would be at pains to ignore. The whole atmosphere would be
oppressive. The Queen would look fatigued and afflicted--genteelly
afflicted--and the ladies of the court, who knew nothing and suspected
everything, would sit silently, now and then lifting their heads to
sigh meekly and look at him with gentle upbraiding in large, condoning
eyes. Oh, he knew it all, even to the halo of noble-hearted devotion
with which the Queen's poor groom of the chambers would try to deck his
narrow head! The fellow would place himself at Ulrik Frederik's side
with ludicrous bravado, overwhelming him with polite attentions and
respectfully consoling stupidities, while his small pale-blue eyes and
every line of his thin figure would cry out as plainly as words: "See,
all are turning from him, but _I_, never! Braving the King's anger and
the Queen's displeasure, I comfort the forsaken! I put my true heart
against--" Oh, how well he knew it all--everything--the whole story!

Nothing of all this happened. The King received him with a Latin
proverb, a sure sign that he was in a good humor. Marie rose and
held out her hand to him as usual, perhaps a little colder, a shade
more reserved, but still in a manner very different from what he had
expected. Not even when they were left alone together did she refer
with so much as a word to their encounter at Lynge, and Ulrik Frederik
wondered suspiciously. He did not know what to make of this curious
silence; he would almost rather she had spoken.

Should he draw her out, thank her for not saying anything, give
himself up to remorse and repentance, and play the game that they were
reconciled again?

Somehow he did not quite dare to try it; for he had noticed that,
now and then, she would gaze furtively at him with an inscrutable
expression in her eyes, as if she were looking through him and taking
his measure, with a calm wonder, a cool, almost contemptuous curiosity.
Not a gleam of hatred or resentment, not a shadow of grief or reproach,
not one tremulous glance of repressed sadness! Nothing of that kind,
nothing at all!

Therefore he did not venture, and nothing was said. Once in a while,
as the days went by, his thoughts would dwell on the matter uneasily,
and he would feel a feverish desire to have it cleared up. Still it was
not done, and he could not rid himself of a sense that these unspoken
accusations lay like serpents in a dark cave, brooding over sinister
treasures, which grew as the reptiles grew, blood-red carbuncles rising
on stalks of cadmium, and pale opal in bulb upon bulb slowly spreading,
swelling, and breeding, while the serpents lay still but ceaselessly
expanding, gliding forth in sinuous bend upon bend, lifting ring upon
ring over the rank growth of the treasure.

She must hate him, must be harboring secret thoughts of revenge; for an
insult such as he had dealt her could not be forgotten. He connected
this imagined lust for vengeance with the strange incident when she had
lifted her hand against him and with Burrhi's warning. So he avoided
her more than ever, and wished more and more ardently that their ways
might be parted.

But Marie was not thinking of revenge. She had forgotten both him and
Karen Fiol. In that moment of unutterable disgust her love had been
wiped out and left no traces, as a glittering bubble bursts and is no
more. The glory of it is no more, and the iridescent colors it lent to
every tiny picture mirrored in it are no more. They are gone, and the
eye which was held by their splendor and beauty is free to look about
and gaze far out over the world which was once reflected in the glassy
bubble.

       *       *       *       *       *

The number of guests in the castle increased day by day. The rehearsals
of the ballet were under way, and the dancing-masters and play-actors,
Pilloy and Kobbereau, had been summoned to give instruction as well as
to act the more difficult or less grateful rôles.

Marie Grubbe was to take part in the ballet and rehearsed eagerly.
Since that day at Slangerup, she had been more animated and sociable
and, as it were, more awake. Her intercourse with those about her had
always before been rather perfunctory. When nothing special called
her attention or claimed her interest, she had a habit of slipping
back into her own little world, from which she looked out at her
surroundings with indifferent eyes; but now she entered into all that
was going on, and if the others had not been so absorbed by the new
and exciting events of those days, they would have been astonished at
her changed manner. Her movements had a quiet assurance, her speech an
almost hostile subtlety, and her eyes observed everything. As it was,
no one noticed her except Ulrik Frederik, who would sometimes catch
himself admiring her as if she were a stranger.

Among the guests who came in August was Sti Högh, the husband of
Marie's sister. One afternoon, not long after his arrival, she was
standing with him on a hillock in the woods, from which they could
look out over the village and the flat, sun-scorched land beyond.
Slow, heavy clouds were forming in the sky, and from the earth rose
a dry, bitter smell like a sigh of drooping, withering plants for
the life-giving water. A faint wind, scarcely strong enough to move
the windmill at the cross-road below, was soughing forlornly in the
tree-tops like a timid wail of the forest burning under summer heat
and sun-glow. As a beggar bares his pitiful wound, so the parched,
yellow meadows spread their barren misery under the gaze of heaven.

The clouds gathered and lowered, and a few raindrops fell, one by one,
heavy as blows on the leaves and straws, which would bend to one side,
shake, and then be suddenly still again. The swallows flew low along
the ground, and the blue smoke of the evening meal drooped like a veil
over the black thatched roofs in the village near by.

A coach rumbled heavily over the road, and from the walks at the foot
of the hill came the sound of low laughter and merry talk, rustling
of fans and silk gowns, barking of tiny lapdogs, and snapping and
crunching of dry twigs. The court was taking its afternoon promenade.

Marie and Sti Högh had left the others to climb the hill, and were
standing quite breathless after their hurried ascent of the steep path.

Sti Högh was then a man in his early thirties, tall and lean, with
reddish hair and a long, narrow face. He was pale and freckled, and his
thin, yellow-white brows were arched high over bright, light gray eyes,
which had a tired look as if they shunned the light, a look caused
partly by the pink color that spread all over the lids, and partly by
his habit of winking more slowly, or rather of keeping his eyes closed
longer, than other people did. The forehead was high, the temples well
rounded and smooth. The nose was thin, faintly arched, and rather long,
the chin too long and too pointed, but the mouth was exquisite, the
lips fresh in color and pure in line, the teeth small and white. Yet
it was not its beauty that drew attention to this mouth; it was rather
the strange, melancholy smile of the voluptuary, a smile made up of
passionate desire and weary disdain, at once tender as sweet music and
bloodthirsty as the low, satisfied growl in the throat of the beast of
prey when its teeth tear the quivering flesh of its victim.

Such was Sti Högh--then.

"Madam," said he, "have you never wished that you were sitting safe in
the shelter of convent walls, such as they have them in Italy and other
countries?"

"Mercy, no! How should I have such mad fancies!"

"Then, my dear kinswoman, you are perfectly happy? Your cup of life
is clear and fresh, it is sweet to your tongue, warms your blood, and
quickens your thoughts? Is it, in truth, never bitter as lees, flat and
stale? Never fouled by adders and serpents that crawl and mumble? If
so, your eyes have deceived me."

"Ah, you would fain bring me to confession!" laughed Marie in his face.

Sti Högh smiled and led her to a little grass mound, where they sat
down. He looked searchingly at her.

"Know you not," he began slowly and seeming to hesitate whether to
speak or be silent, "know you not, madam, that there is in the world
a secret society which I might call 'the melancholy company'? It is
composed of people who at birth have been given a different nature
and constitution from others, who yearn more and covet more, whose
passions are stronger, and whose desires burn more wildly than those
of the vulgar mob. They are like Sunday children, with eyes wider open
and senses more subtle. They drink with the very roots of their hearts
that delight and joy of life which others can only grasp between coarse
hands."

He paused a moment, took his hat in his hand, and sat idly running his
fingers through the thick plumes.

"But," he went on in a lower voice as speaking to himself, "pleasure
in beauty, pleasure in pomp and all the things that can be named,
pleasure in secret impulses and in thoughts that pass the understanding
of man--all that which to the vulgar is but idle pastime or vile
revelry--is to these chosen ones like healing and precious balsam. It
is to them the one honey-filled blossom from which they suck their
daily food, and therefore they seek flowers on the tree of life
where others would never think to look, under dark leaves and on dry
branches. But the mob--what does it know of pleasure in grief or
despair?"

He smiled scornfully and was silent.

"But wherefore," asked Marie carelessly, looking past him, "wherefore
name them 'the melancholy company,' since they think but of pleasure
and the joy of life, but never of what is sad and dreary?"

Sti Högh shrugged his shoulders and seemed about to rise, as though
weary of the theme and anxious to break off the discussion.

"But wherefore?" repeated Marie.

"Wherefore!" he cried impatiently, and there was a note of disdain in
his voice. "Because all the joys of this earth are hollow and pass
away as shadows. Because every pleasure, while it bursts into bloom
like a flowering rosebush, in the selfsame hour withers and drops its
leaves like a tree in autumn. Because every delight, though it glow
in beauty and the fullness of fruition, though it clasp you in sound
arms, is that moment poisoned by the cancer of death, and even while it
touches your mouth you feel it quivering in the throes of corruption.
Is it joyful to feel thus? Must it not rather eat like reddest rust
into every shining hour, ay, like frost nip unto death every fruitful
sentiment of the soul and blight it down to its deepest roots?"

He sprang up from his seat and gesticulated down at her as he spoke.
"And you ask why they are called 'the melancholy company,' when every
delight, in the instant you grasp it, sheds its slough in a trice and
becomes disgust, when all mirth is but the last woeful gasp of joy,
when all beauty is beauty that passes, and all happiness is happiness
that bursts like the bubble!"

He began to walk up and down in front of her.

"So it is this that leads your thoughts to the convent?" asked Marie,
and looked down with a smile.

"It is so indeed, madam. Many a time have I fancied myself confined
in a lonely cell or imprisoned in a high tower, sitting alone at my
window, watching the light fade and the darkness well out, while the
solitude, silent and calm and strong, has grown up around my soul and
covered it like plants of mandrake pouring their drowsy juices in my
blood. Ah, but I know full well that it is naught but an empty conceit;
never could the solitude gain power over me! I should long like fire
and leaping flame for life and what belongs to life--long till I lost
my senses! But you understand nothing of all this I am prating. Let us
go, _ma chère_! The rain is upon us; the wind is laid."

"Ah, no, the clouds are lifting. See the rim of light all around the
heavens!"

"Ay, lifting and lowering."

"I say no," declared Marie, rising.

"I swear yes, with all deference."

Marie ran down the hill. "Man's mind is his kingdom. Come, now, down
into yours!"

At the foot of the hill Marie turned into the path leading away from
the castle, and Sti walked at her side.

"Look you, Sti Högh," said Marie, "since you seem to think so well of
me, I would have you know that I am quite unlearned in the signs of the
weather and likewise in other people's discourse."

"Surely not."

"In what you are saying--yes."

"Nay."

"Now I swear yes."

"Oaths gouge no eye without fist follows after."

"Faith, you may believe me or not, but God knows I ofttimes feel that
great still sadness that comes we know not whence. Pastor Jens was
wont to say it was a longing for our home in the kingdom of heaven,
which is the true fatherland of every Christian soul, but I think it
is not that. We long and sorrow and know no living hope to comfort
us--ah, how bitterly have I wept! It comes over one with such a strange
heaviness and sickens one's heart, and one feels so tired of one's
own thoughts and wishes one had never been born. But it is not the
briefness of these earthly joys that has weighed on my thoughts or
caused me grief. No, never! It was something quite different--but 'tis
quite impossible to give that grief a name. Sometimes I have thought
it was really a grief over some hidden flaw in my own nature, some
inward hurt that made me unlike other people--lesser and poorer. Ah,
no, it passes everything how hard it is to find words--in just the
right sense. Look you, this life--this earth--seems to me so splendid
and wonderful, I should be proud and happy beyond words just to have
some part in it. Whether for joy or grief matters not, but that I
might sorrow or rejoice in honest truth, not in play like mummeries
or shrovetide sports. I would feel life grasping me with such hard
hands that I was lifted up or cast down until there was no room in my
mind for aught else but that which lifted me up or cast me down. I
would melt in my grief or burn together with my joy! Ah, you can never
understand it! If I were like one of the generals of the Roman empire
who were carried through the streets in triumphal chariots, I myself
would be the victory and the triumph. I would be the pride and jubilant
shouts of the people and the blasts of the trumpets and the honor and
the glory--all, all in one shrill note. That is what I would be. Never
would I be like one who merely sits there in his miserable ambition and
cold vanity and thinks, as the chariot rolls on, how he shines in the
eyes of the crowd and how helplessly the waves of envy lick his feet,
while he feels with pleasure the purple wrapping his shoulders softly
and the laurel wreath cooling his brow. Do you understand me, Sti Högh?
That is what I mean by life, that is what I have thirsted after, but I
have felt in my own heart that such life could never be mine, and it
was borne in on me that, in some strange manner, I was myself at fault,
that I had sinned against myself and led myself astray. I know not how
it is, but it has seemed to me that this was whence my bitter sorrow
welled, that I had touched a string which must not sound, and its tone
had sundered something within me that could never be healed. Therefore
I could never force open the portals of life, but had to stand without,
unbidden and unsought, like a poor maimed bondwoman."

"You!" exclaimed Sti Högh in astonishment; then, his face changing
quickly, he went on in another voice: "Ah, now I see it all!" He
shook his head at her. "By my troth, how easily a man may befuddle
himself in these matters! Our thoughts are so rarely turned to the road
where every stile and path is familiar, but more often they run amuck
wherever we catch sight of anything that bears a likeness to a trail,
and we're ready to swear it's the King's highway. Am I not right, _ma
chère_? Have we not both, each for herself or himself, in seeking a
source of our melancholy, caught the first thought we met and made
it into the one and only reason? Would not any one, judging from our
discourse, suppose that I went about sore afflicted and weighed down
by the corruption of the world and the passing nature of all earthly
things, while you, my dear kinswoman, looked on yourself as a silly old
crone, on whom the door had been shut, and the lights put out, and all
hope extinguished! But no matter for that! When we get to that chapter,
we are easily made heady by our own words, and ride hard on any thought
that we can bit and bridle."

In the walk below the others were heard approaching, and, joining them,
they returned to the castle.

       *       *       *       *       *

At half-past the hour of eight in the evening of September twenty-sixth,
the booming of cannon and the shrill trumpet notes of a festive march
announced that both their Majesties, accompanied by his Highness Prince
Johan, the Elector of Saxony, and his royal mother, and followed by the
most distinguished men and women of the realm, were proceeding from the
castle, down through the park, to witness the ballet which was soon to
begin.

A row of flambeaux cast a fiery sheen over the red wall, made the yew
and box glow like bronze, and lent all faces the ruddy glow of vigorous
health.

See, scarlet-clothed halberdiers are standing in double rows, holding
flower-wreathed tapers high against the dark sky. Cunningly wrought
lanterns and candles in sconces and candelabra send their rays low
along the ground and high among the yellowing leaves, forcing the
darkness back, and opening a shining path for the resplendent train.

The light glitters on gold and gilded tissue, beams brightly on silver
and steel, glides in shimmering stripes down silks and sweeping satins.
Softly as a reddish dew, it is breathed over dusky velvet, and flashing
white, it falls like stars among rubies and diamonds. Reds make a brave
show with the yellows; clear sky-blue closes over brown; streaks of
lustrous sea-green cut their way through white and violet-blue; coral
sinks between black and lavender; golden brown and rose, steel-gray and
purple are whirled about, light and dark, tint upon tint, in eddying
pools of color.

They are gone. Down the walk, tall plumes nod white, white in the dim
air....

The ballet or masquerade to be presented is called _Die Waldlust_. The
scene is a forest. Crown Prince Christian, impersonating a hunter,
voices his delight in the free life of the merry greenwood. Ladies,
walking about under leafy crowns, sing softly of the fragrant violets.
Children play at hide and seek and pick berries in pretty little
baskets. Jovial citizens praise the fresh air and the clear grape,
while two silly old crones are pursuing a handsome young rustic with
amorous gestures.

Then the goddess of the forest, the virginal Diana, glides forward in
the person of her Royal Highness the Princess Anne Sofie. The Elector
leaps from his seat with delight and throws her kisses with both hands,
while the court applauds.

As soon as the goddess has disappeared, a peasant and his goodwife
come forward and sing a duet on the delights of love. One gay scene
follows another. Three young gentlemen are decking themselves with
green boughs; five officers are making merry; two rustics come
rollicking from market; a gardener's 'prentice sings, a poet sings,
and finally six persons play some sprightly music on rather fantastic
instruments.

This leads up to the last scene, which is played by eleven shepherdesses,
their Royal Highnesses the Princesses Anne Sofie, Friderica Amalie, and
Vilhelmina Ernestina, Madam Gyldenlöve, and seven young maidens of the
nobility. With much skill they dance a pastoral dance, in which they
pretend to tease Madam Gyldenlöve because she is lost in thoughts of
love and refuses to join their gay minuet. They twit her with giving up
her freedom and bending her neck under the yoke of love, but she steps
forward, and, in a graceful _pas de deux_ which she dances with the
Princess Anne Sofie, reveals to her companion the abounding transports
and ecstasies of love. Then all dance forward merrily, winding in and
out in intricate figures, while an invisible chorus sings in their
praise to the tuneful music of stringed instruments:

    "Ihr Nümphen hochberühmt, ihr sterblichen Göttinnen,
    Durch deren Treff'ligkeit sich lassen Heldensinnen
    Ja auch die Götter selbst bezwingen für und für,
    Last nun durch diesen Tantz erblicken eure Zier
    Der Glieder Hurtigkeit, die euch darum gegeben
    So schön und prächtig sind, und zu den End erheben
    Was an euch göttlich ist, auff dass je mehr und mehr
    Man preisen mög an euch des Schöpfers Macht und Ehr."

This ended the ballet. The spectators dispersed through the park,
promenading through well-lit groves or resting in pleasant grottos,
while pages dressed as Italian or Spanish fruit-venders offered wine,
cake, and comfits from the baskets they carried on their heads.

The players mingled with the crowd and were complimented on their art
and skill, but all were agreed that, with the exception of the Crown
Princess and Princess Anne Sofie, none had acted better than Madam
Gyldenlöve. Their Majesties and the Electress praised her cordially,
and the King declared that not even Mademoiselle La Barre could have
interpreted the rôle with more grace and vivacity.

Far into the night the junketing went on in the lighted park and the
adjoining halls of the castle, where violins and flutes called to the
dance, and groaning boards invited to drinking and carousing. From the
lake sounded the gay laughter of revellers in gondolas strung with
lamps. People swarmed everywhere. The crowds were densest where the
light shone and the music played, more scattered where the illumination
was fainter, but even where darkness reigned completely and the music
was almost lost in the rustling of leaves, there were merry groups and
silent couples. One lonely guest had strayed far off to the grotto in
the eastern end of the garden and had found a seat there, but he was
in a melancholy mood. The tiny lantern in the leafy roof of the grotto
shone on a sad mien and pensive brows--yellow-white brows.

It was Sti Högh.

          "... E di persona
    Anzi grande, che no; di vista allegra,
    Di bionda chioma, e colorita alquanto,"

he whispered to himself.

He had not come unscathed from his four or five weeks of constant
intercourse with Marie Grubbe. She had absolutely bewitched him. He
longed only for her, dreamed only of her; she was his hope and his
despair. He had loved before, but never like this, never so timidly
and weakly and hopelessly. It was not the fact that she was the wife
of Ulrik Frederik, nor that he was married to her sister, which
robbed him of his courage. No, it was in the nature of his love to be
faint-hearted--his calf-love, he called it bitterly. It had so little
desire, so much fear and worship, and yet so much desire. A wistful,
feverish languishing for her, a morbid longing to live with her in
her memories, dream her dreams, suffer her sorrows, and share her sad
thoughts, no more, no less. How lovely she had been in the dance, but
how distant and unattainable! The round gleaming shoulders, the full
bosom and slender limbs, they took his breath away. He trembled before
that splendor of body, which made her seem richer and more perfect, and
hardly dared to let himself be drawn under its spell. He feared his own
passion and the fire, hell-deep, heaven-high, that smouldered within
him. That arm around his neck, those lips pressed against his--it was
madness, imbecile dreams of a madman! This mouth--

    "Paragon di dolcezza!
    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·    ·
    ... bocca beata,
    ... bocca gentil, che può ben dirsi
    Conca d' Indo odorata
    Di perle orientali e pellegrine:
    E la porta, che chiude
    Ed apre il bel tesoro,
    Con dolcissimo mel porpora mista."

He started from the bench as with pain. No, no! He clung to his own
humble longing and threw himself again in his thoughts at her feet,
clutched at the hopelessness of his love, held up before his eyes the
image of her indifference, and--Marie Grubbe stood there in the arched
door of the grotto, fair against the outside darkness.

All that evening she had been in a strangely enraptured mood. She
felt calm and sound and strong. The music and pomp, the homage and
admiration of the men, were like a carpet of purple spread out for
her feet to tread upon. She was intoxicated and transported with her
own beauty. The blood seemed to shoot from her heart in rich, glowing
jets and become gracious smiles on her lips, radiance in her eyes,
and melody in her voice. Her mind held an exultant serenity, and her
thoughts were clear as a cloudless sky. Her soul seemed to unfold its
richest bloom in this blissful sense of power and harmony.

Never before had she been so fair as with that imperious smile of joy
on her lips and the tranquillity of a queen in her eyes and bearing,
and thus she stood in the arched door of the grotto, fair against
the outside darkness. Looking down at Sti Högh, she met his gaze of
hopeless adoration, and at that she bent down, laid her white hand as
in pity on his hair, and kissed him. Not in love--no, no!--but as a
king may bestow a precious ring on a faithful vassal as a mark of royal
grace and favor, so she gave him her kiss in calm largesse.

As she did so, her assurance seemed to leave her for a moment, and she
blushed, while her eyes fell. If Sti Högh had tried to take her then or
to receive her kiss as anything more than a royal gift, he would have
lost her forever, but he knelt silently before her, pressed her hand
gratefully to his lips, then stepped aside reverently and saluted her
deeply with head bared and neck bent. She walked past him proudly, away
from the grotto and into the darkness.



CHAPTER XII


In January of sixteen hundred and sixty-four, Ulrik Frederik was
appointed Viceroy of Norway, and in the beginning of April the same
year, he departed for his post. Marie Grubbe went with him.

The relation between them had not improved, except in so far as the
lack of mutual understanding and mutual love had, as it were, been
accepted by both as an unalterable fact, and found expression in the
extremely ceremonious manner they had adopted toward each other.

For a year or more after they had moved to Aggershus, things went on
much in the same way, and Marie, for her part, desired no change. Not
so Ulrik Frederik; for he had again become enamored of his wife.

On a winter afternoon, in the gloaming, Marie Grubbe sat alone in the
little parlor known from olden time as the Nook. The day was cloudy and
dark, with a raw, blustering wind. Heavy flakes of melting snow were
plastered into the corners of the tiny window-panes, covering almost
half the surface of the greenish glass. Gusts of wet, chilly wind went
whirling down between the high walls, where they seemed to lose their
senses and throw themselves blindly upon shutters and doors, rattling
them fiercely, then flying skyward again with a hoarse, dog-like
whimper. Powerful blasts came shrieking across the roofs opposite and
hurled themselves against windows and walls, pounding like waves, then
suddenly dying away. Now and again a squall would come roaring down
the chimney. The flames ducked their frightened heads, and the white
smoke, timidly curling toward the chimney like the comb of a breaker,
would shrink back, ready to throw itself out into the room. Ah, in
the next instant it is whirled, thin and light and blue, up through
the flue, with the flames calling after it, leaping and darting, and
sending sputtering sparks by the handful right in its heels. Then the
fire began to burn in good earnest. With grunts of pleasure it spread
over glowing coals and embers, boiled and seethed with delight in the
innermost marrow of the white birch wood, buzzed and purred like a
tawny cat, and licked caressingly the noses of blackening knots and
smouldering chunks of wood.

Warm and pleasant and luminous the breath of the fire streamed through
the little room. Like a fluttering fan of light it played over the
parquet floor and chased the peaceful dusk which hid in tremulous
shadows to the right and the left behind twisted chair-legs, or shrank
into corners, lay thin and long in the shelter of mouldings, or
flattened itself under the large clothes-press.

Suddenly the chimney seemed to suck up the light and heat with a roar.
Darkness spread boldly across the floor on every board and square, to
the very fire, but the next moment the light leaped back again and
sent the dusk flying to all sides, with the light pursuing it, up the
walls and doors, above the brass latch. Safety nowhere! The dusk sat
crouching against the wall, up under the ceiling, like a cat in a high
branch, with the light scampering below, back and forth like a dog,
leaping, running at the foot of the tree. Not even among the flagons
and tumblers on the top of the press could the darkness be undisturbed,
for red ruby-glasses, blue goblets, and green Rhenish wineglasses lit
iridescent fires to help the light search them out.

The wind blew and the darkness fell outside, but within the fire
glowed, the light played, and Marie Grubbe was singing. Now and again,
she would murmur snatches of the words as they came to her mind, then
again hum the melody alone. Her lute was in her hand, but she was not
playing it, only touching the strings sometimes and calling out a
few clear, long-sounding notes. It was one of those pleasant little
pensive songs that make the cushions softer and the room warmer; one
of those gently flowing airs that seem to sing themselves in their
indolent wistfulness, while they give the voice a delicious roundness
and fullness of tone. Marie was sitting in the light from the fire, and
its beams played around her, while she sang in careless enjoyment, as
if caressing herself with her own voice.

The little door opened, and Ulrik Frederik bent his tall form to enter.
Marie stopped singing instantly.

"Ah, madam!" exclaimed Ulrik Frederik in a tone of gentle remonstrance,
making a gesture of appeal, as he came up to her. "Had I known that you
would allow my presence to incommode you--"

"No, truly, I was but singing to keep my dreams awake."

"Pleasant dreams?" he asked, bending over the firedogs before the grate
and warming his hands on the bright copper balls.

"Dreams of youth," replied Marie, passing her hand over the strings of
the lute.

"Ay, that was ever the way of old age," and he smiled at her.

Marie was silent a moment, then suddenly spoke: "One may be full young
and yet have old dreams."

"How sweet the odor of musk in here! But was my humble person along in
these ancient dreams, madam?--if I may make so bold as to ask."

"Ah, no!"

"And yet there was a time--"

"Among all other times."

"Ay, among all other times there was once a wondrously fair time when
I was exceeding dear to you. Do you bring to mind a certain hour in
the twilight, a sennight or so after our nuptials? 'Twas storming and
snowing--"

"Even as now."

"And you were sitting before the fire--"

"Even as now."

"Ay, and I was lying at your feet, and your dear hands were playing
with my hair."

"Yes, then you loved me."

"Oh, even as now! And you--you bent down over me and wept till the
tears streamed down your face, and you kissed me and looked at me with
such tender earnestness, it seemed you were saying a prayer for me in
your heart, and then all of a sudden--do you remember?--you bit my
neck."

"Ah, merciful God, what love I did bear to you, my lord! When I heard
the clanging of your spurs on the steps the blood pounded in my ears,
and I trembled from head to foot, and my hands were cold as ice. Then
when you came in and pressed me in your arms--"

"_De grace_, madam!"

"Why, it's naught but dead memories of an _amour_ that is long since
extinguished."

"Alas, extinguished, madam? Nay, it smoulders hotter than ever."

"Ah, no, 'tis covered by the cold ashes of too many days."

"But it shall rise again from the ashes as the bird Phenix, more
glorious and fiery than before--pray, shall it not?"

"No, love is like a tender plant; when the night frost touches its
heart, it dies from the blossom down to the root."

"No, love is like the herb named the rose of Jericho. In the dry months
it withers and curls up, but when there is a soft and balmy night, with
a heavy fall of dew, all its leaves will unfold again, greener and
fresher than ever before."

"It may be so. There are many kinds of love in the world."

"Truly there are, and ours was such a love."

"That yours was such you tell me now, but mine--never, never!"

"Then you have never loved."

"Never loved? Now I shall tell you how I have loved. It was at
Frederiksborg--"

"Oh, madam, you have no mercy!"

"No, no, that is not it at all. It was at Frederiksborg. Alas, you
little know what I suffered there. I saw that your love was not as it
had been. Oh, as a mother watches over her sick child and marks every
little change, so I kept watch over your love with fear and trembling,
and when I saw in your cold looks how it had paled, and felt in your
kisses how feeble was its pulse, it seemed to me I must die with
anguish. I wept for this love through long nights; I prayed for it, as
if it had been the dearly loved child of my heart that was dying by
inches. I cast about for aid and advice in my trouble and for physics
to cure your sick love, and whatever secret potions I had heard of,
such as love-philtres, I mixed them, betwixt hope and fear, in your
morning draught and your supper wine. I laid out your breast-cloth
under three waxing moons and read the marriage psalm over it, and on
your bedstead I first painted with my own blood thirteen hearts in
a cross, but all to no avail, my lord, for your love was sick unto
death. Faith, that is the way you were loved."

"No, Marie, my love is not dead, it is risen again. Hear me, dear
heart, hear me! for I have been stricken with blindness and with a mad
distemper, but now, Marie, I kneel at your feet, and look, I woo you
again with prayers and beseechings. Alack, my love has been like a
wilful child, but now it is grown to man's estate. Pray give yourself
trustingly to its arms, and I swear to you by the cross and the honor
of a gentleman that it will never let you go again."

"Peace, peace, what help is in that!"

"Pray, pray believe me, Marie!"

"By the living God, I believe you. There is no shred nor thread of
doubt in my soul. I believe you fully, I believe that your love is
great and strong, but mine you have strangled with your own hands. It
is a corpse, and however loudly your heart may call, you can never wake
it again."

"Say not so, Marie, for those of your sex--I know there are among you
those who when they love a man, even though he spurn them with his
foot, come back ever and ever again; for their love is proof against
all wounds."

"'Tis so indeed, my lord, and I--I am such a woman, I would have you
know, but you--are not the right kind of man."

       *       *       *       *       *

May God in his mercy keep you, my dearly beloved sister, and be to you
a good and generous giver of all those things which are requisite and
necessary, as well for the body as for the soul, that I wish you from
my heart.

To you, my dearly beloved sister, my one faithful friend from the
time of my childhood, will I now relate what fine fruits I have of my
elevation, which may it be cursed from the day it began; for it has,
God knows, brought me naught but trouble and tribulation in brimming
goblets.

Ay, it was an elevation for the worse, as you, my dearly beloved
sister, shall now hear, and as is probably known to you in part. For it
cannot fail that you must have learned from your dear husband how, even
at the time of our dwelling in Sjælland, there was a coolness between
me and my noble lord and spouse. Now here at Aggershus, matters have in
no way mended, and he has used me scurvily that it is past all belief,
but is what I might have looked for in so dainty a _junker_. Not that
I care a rush about his filthy gallantries; it is all one to me, and
he may run amuck with the hangman's wife, if so be his pleasure. All
I ask is that he do not come too near me with his tricks, but that is
precisely what he is now doing, and in such manner that one might fain
wonder whether he were stricken with madness or possessed of the devil.
The beginning of it was on a day when he came to me with fair words
and fine promises and would have all be as before between us, whereas
I feel for him naught but loathing and contempt, and told him in plain
words that I held myself far too good for him. Then hell broke loose,
for _wenn's de Düvel friert_, as the saying is, _macht er sein Hölle
glühn_, and he made it hot for me by dragging into the castle swarms of
loose women and filthy jades and entertaining them with food and drink
in abundance, ay, with costly sweetmeats and expensive stand-dishes
as at any royal banquet. And for this my flowered damask tablecloths,
which I have gotten after our blessed mother, and my silk bolsters
with the fringes were to have been laid out, but that did not come to
pass, inasmuch as I put them all under lock and key, and he had to go
borrowing in the town for wherewithal to deck both board and bench.

My own dearly beloved sister, I will no longer fatigue you with tales
of this vile company, but is it not shameful that such trulls, who
if they were rightly served should have the lash laid on their back
at the public whipping-post, now are queening it in the halls of his
Majesty the King's Viceroy? I say, 'tis so unheard of and so infamous
that if it were to come to the ears of his Majesty, as with all my
heart and soul I wish that it may come, he would talk to _mein guten
Ulrik Friederich_ in such terms as would give him but little joy to
hear. The finest of all his tricks I have yet told you nothing of, and
it is quite new, for it happened only the other day that I sent for a
tradesman to bring me some Brabantian silk lace that I thought to put
around the hem of a sack, but the man made answer that when I sent the
money he would bring the goods, for the Viceroy had forbidden him to
sell me anything on credit. The same word came from the milliner, who
had been sent for, so it would appear that he has stopped my credit in
the entire city, although I have brought to his estate thousands and
thousands of rix-dollars. No more to-day. May we commit all unto the
Lord, and may He give me ever good tidings of you.

                              Ever your faithful sister,
                                                     MARIE GRUBBE.

  At Aggershus Castle, 12 December, 1665.

  The Honorable Mistress Anne Marie Grubbe, Styge Högh's, Magistrate of
  Laaland, my dearly beloved sister, graciously to hand.

       *       *       *       *       *

God in his mercy keep you, my dearest sister, now and forever, is my
wish from a true heart, and I pray for you that you may be of good
cheer and not let yourself be utterly cast down, for we have all our
allotted portion of sorrow, and we swim and bathe in naught but misery.

Your letter, M. D. S., came to hand safe and unbroken in every way,
and thence I have learned with a heavy heart what shame and dishonor
your husband is heaping upon you, which it is a grievous wrong in his
Majesty's Viceroy to behave as he behaves. Nevertheless, it behooves
you not to be hasty, my duck; for you have cause for patience in that
high position in which you have been placed, which it were not well to
wreck, but which it is fitting you should preserve with all diligence.
Even though your husband consumes much wealth on his pleasures, yet
is it of his own he wastes, while my rogue of a husband has made away
with his and mine too. Truly it is a pity to see a man who should guard
what God hath entrusted to us instead scattering and squandering it.
If 'twere but the will of God to part me from him, by whatever means
it might be, that would be the greatest boon to me, miserable woman,
for which I could never be sufficiently thankful; and we might as well
be parted, since we have not lived together for upward of a year, for
which may God be praised, and would that it might last! So you see,
M. D. S., that neither is my bed decked with silk. But you must have
faith that your husband will come to his senses in time and cease to
waste his goods on wanton hussies and filthy rabble, and inasmuch
as his office gives him a large income, you must not let your heart
be troubled with his wicked wastefulness nor by his unkindness. God
will help, I firmly trust. Farewell, my duck! I bid you a thousand
good-nights.

                          Your faithful sister while I live,
                                                ANNE MARIE GRUBBE.

  At Vang, 6 February, 1666.

  Madam Gyldenlöve, my good friend and sister, written in all loving
  kindness.

       *       *       *       *       *

May God in his mercy keep you, my dearly beloved sister, and be to you
a good and generous giver of all those things which are requisite and
necessary, as well for the body as for the soul, that I wish you from
my heart.

My dearly beloved sister, the old saying that none is so mad but he
has a glimmer of sense between St. John and Paulinus, no longer holds
good, for my mad lord and spouse is no more sensible than he was. In
truth, he is tenfold, nay a thousandfold more frenzied than before,
and that whereof I wrote you was but as child's play to what has now
come to pass, which is beyond all belief. Dearest sister, I would have
you know that he has been to Copenhagen, and thence--oh, fie, most
horrid shame and outrage!--he has brought one of his old _canaille_
women named Karen, whom he forthwith lodged in the castle, and she is
set over everything and rules everything, while I am let stand behind
the door. But, my dear sister, you must now do me the favor to inquire
of our dear father whether he will take my part, if so be it that I
can make my escape from here, as he surely must, for none can behold
my unhappy state without pitying me, and what I suffer is so past all
endurance that I think I should but be doing right in freeing myself
from it. It is no longer ago than the Day of the Assumption of Our Lady
that I was walking in our orchard, and when I came in again, the door
of my chamber was bolted from within. I asked the meaning of this and
was told that Karen had taken for her own that chamber and the one next
to it, and my bed was moved up into the western parlor, which is cold
as a church when the wind is in that quarter, full of draughts, and
the floor quite rough and has even great holes in it. But if I were to
relate at length all the insults that are heaped upon me here, it would
be as long as any Lenten sermon, and if it is to go on much longer, my
head is like to burst. May the Lord keep us and send me good tidings of
you.

                              Ever your faithful sister,
                                                     MARIE GRUBBE.

  The Honorable Mistress Anne Marie Grubbe, Sti Högh's, Magistrate of
  Laaland, my dearly beloved sister, graciously to hand.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ulrik Frederik, if the truth were told, was as tired of the state of
affairs at the castle as Marie Grubbe was. He had been used to refining
more on his dissipations. They were sorry boon companions, these poor,
common officers in Norway, and their soldiers' courtesans were not to
be endured for long. Karen Fiol was the only one who was not made up
of coarseness and vulgarity, and even her he would rather bid good-by
to-day than to-morrow.

In his chagrin at being repulsed by Marie Grubbe, he had admitted these
people into his company, and for a while they amused him, but when
the whole thing began to pall and seem rather disgusting, and when
furthermore he felt some faint stirrings of remorse, he had to justify
himself by pretending that such means had been necessary. He actually
made himself believe that he had been pursuing a plan in order to bring
Marie Grubbe back repentant. Unfortunately, her penitence did not seem
to be forthcoming, and so he had recourse to harsher measures in the
hope that, by making her life as miserable as possible, he would beat
down her resistance. That she had really ceased to love him he never
believed for a moment. He was convinced that in her heart she longed
to throw herself into his arms, though she used his returning love
as a good chance to avenge herself for his faithlessness. Nor did he
begrudge her this revenge; he was pleased that she wanted it, if she
had only not dragged it out so long. He was getting bored in this
barbarous land of Norway!

He had a sneaking feeling that it might have been wiser to have let
Karen Fiol stay in Copenhagen, but he simply could not endure the
others any longer; moreover, jealousy was a powerful ally, and Marie
Grubbe had once been jealous of Karen, that he knew.

Time passed, and still Marie Grubbe did not come. He began to doubt
that she ever would, and his love grew with his doubt. Something of
the excitement of a game or a chase had entered into their relation.
It was with an anxious mind and with a calculating fear that he heaped
upon her one mortification after another, and he waited in suspense for
even the faintest sign that his quarry was being driven into the right
track, but nothing happened.

Ah, at last! At last something came to pass, and he was certain that
it was the sign, the very sign he had been waiting for. One day when
Karen had been more than ordinarily impudent, Marie Grubbe took a good
strong bridle rein in her hand, walked through the house to the room
where Karen just then was taking her after-dinner nap, fastened the
door from within, and gave the dumbfounded strumpet a good beating with
the heavy strap, then went quietly back to the western parlor, past
the speechless servants who had come running at the sound of Karen's
screams.

Ulrik Frederik was downtown when it happened. Karen sent a messenger
to him at once, but he did not hurry, and it was late afternoon before
Karen, anxiously waiting, heard his horse in the courtyard. She ran
down to meet him, but he put her aside, quietly and firmly, and went
straight up to Marie Grubbe.

The door was ajar--then she must be out. He stuck his head in, sure
of finding the room empty, but she was there, sitting at the window
asleep. He stepped in as softly and carefully as he could; for he was
not quite sober.

The low September sun was pouring a stream of yellow and golden light
through the room, lending color and richness to its poor tints. The
plastered walls took on the whiteness of swans, the brown timbered
ceiling glowed as copper, and the faded curtains around the bed were
changed to wine-red folds and purple draperies. The room was flooded
with light; even in the shadows it gleamed as through a shimmering mist
of autumn yellow leaves. It spun a halo of gold around Marie Grubbe's
head and kissed her white forehead, but her eyes and mouth were in deep
shadow cast by the yellowing apple-tree which lifted to the window
branches red with fruit.

She was asleep, sitting in a chair, her hands folded in her lap. Ulrik
Frederik stole up to her on tiptoe, and the glory faded as he came
between her and the window.

He scanned her closely. She was paler than before. How kind and gentle
she looked, as she sat there, her head bent back, her lips slightly
parted, her white throat uncovered and bare! He could see the pulse
throbbing on both sides of her neck, right under the little brown
birthmark. His eyes followed the line of the firm, rounded shoulder
under the close-fitting silk, down the slender arm to the white,
passive hand. And that hand was his! He saw the fingers closing over
the brown strap, the white blue-veined arm growing tense and bright,
then relaxing and softening after the blow it dealt Karen's poor back.
He saw her jealous eyes gleaming with pleasure, her angry lips curling
in a cruel smile at the thought that she was blotting out kiss after
kiss with the leather rein. And she was his! He had been harsh and
stern and ruthless; he had suffered these dear hands to be wrung with
anguish and these dear lips to open in sighing.

His eyes took on a moist lustre at the thought, and he felt suffused
with the easy, indolent pity of a drunken man. He stood there staring
in sottish sentimentality, until the rich flood of sunlight had shrunk
to a thin bright streak high among the dark rafters of the ceiling.

Then Marie Grubbe awoke.

"You!" she almost screamed, as she jumped up and darted back so quickly
that the chair tumbled along the floor.

"Marie!" said Ulrik Frederik as tenderly as he could, and held out his
hands pleadingly to her.

"What brings you here? Have you come to complain of the beating your
harlot got?"

"No, no, Marie; let's be friends--good friends!"

"You are drunk," she said coldly, turning away from him.

"Ay, Marie, I'm drunk with love of you--I'm drunk and dizzy with your
beauty, my heart's darling."

"Yes, truly, so dizzy that your eyesight has failed you, and you have
taken others for me."

"Marie, Marie, leave your jealousy!"

She made a contemptuous gesture as if to brush him aside.

"Indeed, Marie, you were jealous. You betrayed yourself when you took
that bridle rein, you know. But now let the whole filthy rabble be
forgotten as dead and given over to the devil. Come, come, cease playing
unkind to me as I have played the faithless rogue to you with all these
make-believe pleasures and gallantries. We do nothing but prepare each
other a pit of hell, whereas we might have an Eden of delight. Come,
whatever you desire, it shall be yours. Would you dance in silks as
thick as chamlet, would you have pearls in strings as long as your hair,
you shall have them, and rings, and tissue of gold in whole webs, and
plumes, and precious stones, whatever you will--nothing is too good
to be worn by you."

He tried to put his arm around her waist, but she caught his wrist and
held him away from her.

"Ulrik Frederik," she said, "let me tell you something. If you could
wrap your love in ermine and marten, if you could clothe it in sable
and crown it with gold, ay, give it shoes of purest diamond, I would
cast it away from me like filth and dung, for I hold it less than the
ground I tread with my feet. There's no drop of my blood that's fond of
you, no fibre of my flesh that doesn't cry out upon you. Do you hear?
There's no corner of my soul where you're not called names. Understand
me aright! If I could free your body from the pangs of mortal disease
and your soul from the fires of hell by being as yours, I would not do
it."

"Yes, you would, woman, so don't deny it!"

"No, and no, and more than no!"

"Then begone! Out of my sight in the accursed name of hell!"

He was white as the wall and shook in every limb. His voice sounded
hoarse and strange, and he beat the air like a madman.

"Take your foot from my path! Take your--take your--take your foot from
my path, or I'll split your skull! My blood's lusting to kill, and
I'm seeing red. Begone--out of the land and dominion of Norway, and
hell-fire go with you! Begone--"

For a moment, Marie stood looking at him in horror, then ran as fast as
she could out of the room and away from the castle.

When the door slammed after her, Ulrik Frederik seized the chair in
which she had been sitting when he came in and hurled it out of the
window, then caught the curtains from the bed and tore the worn stuff
into shreds and tatters, storming round the room all the while. He
threw himself on the floor and crawled around, snarling like a wild
beast, and pounding with his fists till the knuckles were bloody.
Exhausted at last, he crept over to the bed and flung himself face
downward in the pillows, called Marie tender names, and wept and sobbed
and cursed her, then again began to talk in low, wheedling tones, as if
he were fondling her.

That same night Marie Grubbe, for fair words and good pay, got a skipper
to sail with her to Denmark.

The following day Ulrik Frederik turned Karen Fiol out of the castle,
and a few days later he himself left for Copenhagen.



CHAPTER XIII


One fine day, Erik Grubbe was surprised to see Madam Gyldenlöve driving
in to Tjele. He knew at once that something was wrong, since she came
thus without servants or anything, and when he learned the facts, it
was no warm welcome he gave her. In truth, he was so angry that he
went away, slamming the door after him, and did not appear again that
day. When he had slept on the matter, however, he grew more civil, and
even treated his daughter with an almost respectful affection, while
his manner took on some of the formal graces of the old courtier. It
had occurred to him that, after all, there was no great harm done, for
even though there had been some little disagreement between the young
people, Marie was still Madam Gyldenlöve, and no doubt matters could
easily be brought back into the old rut again.

To be sure, Marie was clamoring for a divorce and would not hear of a
reconciliation, but it would have been unreasonable to expect anything
else from her, in the first heat of her anger, with all her memories
like sore bruises and gaping wounds, so he did not lay much stress upon
that. Time would cure it, he felt sure.

There was another circumstance from which he hoped much. Marie had come
from Aggershus almost naked, without clothes or jewels, and she would
soon miss the luxury which she had learned to look upon as a matter of
course. Even the plain food and poor service, the whole simple mode of
living at Tjele, would have its effect on her by making her long for
what she had left. On the other hand, Ulrik Frederik, however angry
he might be, could not well think of a divorce. His financial affairs
were hardly in such a state that he could give up Marie's fortune; for
twelve thousand rix-dollars was a large sum in ready money, and gold,
landed estates, and manorial rights were hard to part with when once
acquired.

For upward of six months all went well at Tjele. Marie felt a sense
of comfort in the quiet country place, where day after day passed all
empty of events. The monotony was something new to her, and she drank
in the deep peace with dreamy, passive enjoyment. When she thought
of the past, it seemed to her like a weary struggle, a restless
pressing onward without a goal, in the glare of smarting, stinging
light, deafened by intolerable noise and hubbub. A delicious feeling
of shelter and calm stole over her, a sense of undisturbed rest in
a grateful shadow, in a sweet and friendly silence, and she liked
to deepen the peace of her refuge by picturing to herself the world
outside, where people were still striving and struggling, while she
had, as it were, slipped behind life and found a safe little haven,
where none could discover her or bring unrest into her sweet twilight
solitude.

As time went on, however, the silence became oppressive, the peace
dull, and the shadow dark. She began to listen for sounds of living
life from without. So it was not unwelcome to her when Erik Grubbe
proposed a change. He wished her to reside at Kalö manor, the property
of her husband, and he pointed out to her that as Ulrik Frederik had
her entire fortune in his possession and yet did not send anything
for her maintenance, it was but fair she should be supported from his
estate. There she would be in clover; she might have a houseful of
servants and live in the elegant and costly fashion to which she was
accustomed, far better than at Tjele, which was quite too poor for
her. Moreover, the King, as a part of his wedding gift, had settled
upon her, in case of Ulrik Frederik's death, an income equal to that
at which Kalö was rated, and in doing so he had clearly had Kalö in
mind, since it was conveyed to Ulrik Frederik six months after their
marriage. If they should not patch up their difference, Ulrik Frederik
would very likely have to give up to her the estate intended for her
dowager seat, and she might as well become familiar with it. It would
be well, too, that Ulrik Frederik should get used to knowing her in
possession of it; he would then the more readily resign it to her.

What Erik Grubbe really had in mind was to rid himself of the expense
of keeping Marie at Tjele and to make the breach between Ulrik Frederik
and his wife less evident in the eyes of the world. It was at least a
step toward reconciliation, and there was no knowing what it might lead
to.

So Marie went to Kalö, but she did not live in the style she had
pictured to herself, for Ulrik Frederik had given his bailiff, Johan
Utrecht, orders to receive and entertain Madam Gyldenlöve, but not to
give her a stiver in ready money. Besides Kalö was, if possible, even
more tiresome than Tjele, and Marie would probably not have remained
there long, if she had not had a visitor who was soon to become more
than a visitor to her.

His name was Sti Högh.

Since the night of the ballet in Frederiksborg Park, Marie had often
thought of her brother-in-law, and always with a warm sense of
gratitude. Many a time at Aggershus, when she had been wounded in some
particularly galling manner, the thought of Sti's reverent, silently
adoring homage had comforted her, and he treated her in precisely the
same way now that she was forgotten and forsaken as in the days of her
glory. There was the same flattering hopelessness in his mien and the
same humble adoration in his eyes.

He would never remain at Kalö for more than two or three days at a
time; then he would leave for a week's visit in the neighborhood, and
Marie learned to long for his coming and to sigh when he went away; for
he was practically the only company she had. They became very intimate,
and there was but little they did not confide to each other.

"Madam," said Sti one day, "is it your purpose to return to his
Excellency, if he make you full and proper apologies?"

"Even though he were to come here crawling on his knees," she replied,
"I would thrust him away. I have naught but contempt and loathing for
him in my heart; for there's not a faithful sentiment in his mind,
not one honest drop of warm blood in his body. He is a slimy, cursed
harlot and no man. He has the empty, faithless eyes of a harlot and the
soulless, clammy desire of a harlot. There has never a warm-blooded
passion carried him out of himself; never a heartfelt word cried from
his lips. I hate him, Sti, for I feel myself besmirched by his stealthy
hands and bawdy words."

"Then, madam, you will sue for a separation?"

Marie replied that she would, and if her father had only stood by her,
the case would have been far advanced, but he was in no hurry, for he
still thought the quarrel could be patched up, though it never would be.

They talked of what maintenance she might look for after the divorce,
and Marie said that Erik Grubbe meant to demand Kalö on her behalf.
Sti thought this was ill-considered. He forecast a very different lot
for her than sitting as a dowager in an obscure corner of Jutland and
at last, perhaps, marrying a country squire, which was the utmost she
could aspire to if she stayed. Her rôle at court was played out, for
Ulrik Frederik was in such high favor that he would have no trouble in
keeping her away from it and it from her. No, Sti's advice was that she
should demand her fortune in ready money and, as soon as it was paid
her, leave the country, never to set foot in it again. With her beauty
and grace, she could win a fairer fate in France than here in this
miserable land with its boorish nobility and poor little imitation of
a court.

He told her so, and the frugal life at Kalö made a good background for
the alluring pictures he sketched of the splendid and brilliant court
of Louis the Fourteenth. Marie was fascinated, and came to regard
France as the theatre of all her dreams.

Sti Högh was as much under the spell of his love for Marie as ever,
and he often spoke to her of his passion, never asking or demanding
anything, never even expressing hope or regret, but taking for granted
that she did not return his love and never would. At first Marie heard
him with a certain uneasy surprise, but after a while she became
absorbed in listening to these hopeless musings on a love of which she
was the source, and it was not without a certain intoxicating sense
of power that she heard herself called the lord of life and death to
so strange a person as Sti Högh. Before long, however, Sti's lack of
spirit began to irritate her. He seemed to give up the fight merely
because the object of it was unattainable, and to accept tamely the
fact that too high was too high. She did not exactly doubt that there
was real passion underneath his strange words or grief behind his
melancholy looks, but she wondered whether he did not speak more
strongly than he felt. A hopeless passion that did not defiantly
close its eyes to its own hopelessness and storm ahead--she could not
understand it and did not believe in it. She formed a mental picture
of Sti Högh as a morbid nature, everlastingly fingering himself and
hugging the illusion of being richer and bigger and finer than he
really was. Since no reality bore out this conception of himself, he
seemed to feed his imagination with great feelings and strong passions
that were, in truth, born only in the fantastic pregnancy of his
over-busy brain. His last words to her--for, at her father's request,
she was returning to Tjele, where he could not follow her--served to
confirm her in the opinion that this mental portrait resembled him in
every feature.

He had bid her good-by and was standing with his hand on the latch,
when he turned back to her, saying: "A black leaf of my book of life is
being turned, now that your Kalö days are over, madam. I shall think
of this time with longing and anguish, as one who has lost all earthly
happiness and all that was his hope and desire, and yet, madam, if
such a thing should come to pass as that there were reason to think
you loved me, and if I were to believe it, then God only knows what it
might make of me. Perhaps it might rouse in me those powers which have
hitherto failed to unfold their mighty wings. Then perhaps the part of
my nature that is thirsting after great deeds and burning with hope
might be in the ascendant, and make my name famous and great. Yet it
might as well be that such unutterable happiness would slacken every
high-strung fibre, silence every crying demand, and dull every hope.
Thus the land of my happiness might be to my gifts and powers a lazy
Capua...."

No wonder Marie thought of him as she did, and she realized that it was
best so. Yet she sighed.

She returned to Tjele by Erik Grubbe's desire, for he was afraid that
Sti might persuade her to some step that did not fit into his plans,
and besides he was bound to try whether he could not talk her into some
compromise, by which the marriage might remain in force. This proved
fruitless, but still Erik Grubbe continued to write Ulrik Frederik
letters begging him to take back Marie. Ulrik Frederik never replied.
He preferred to let the matter hang fire as long as possible, for the
sacrifice of property that would have to follow a divorce was extremely
inconvenient for him. As for his father-in-law's assurances of Marie's
conciliatory state of mind, he did not put any faith in them. Squire
Erik Grubbe's untruthfulness was too well known.

Meanwhile Erik Grubbe's letters grew more and more threatening, and
there were hints of a personal appeal to the King. Ulrik Frederik
realized that matters could not go on this way much longer, and while
in Copenhagen, he wrote his bailiff at Kalö, Johan Utrecht, ordering
him to find out secretly whether Madam Gyldenlöve would meet him there
unknown to Erik Grubbe. This letter was written in March of sixty-nine.
Ulrik Frederik hoped, by this meeting, to learn how Marie really felt,
and in case he found her compliant, he meant to take her back with
him to Aggershus. If not, he would make promises of steps leading to
an immediate divorce, and so secure for himself as favorable terms as
possible. But Marie Grubbe refused to meet him, and Ulrik Frederik was
obliged to go back to Norway with nothing accomplished.

Still Erik Grubbe went on with his futile letter-writing, but in
February of sixteen hundred and seventy, they had tidings of the death
of Frederik the Third, and then Erik Grubbe felt the time had come
to act. King Frederik had always held his son Ulrik Frederik in such
high regard and had such a blind fondness for him that in a case like
this he would no doubt have laid all the blame on the other party.
King Christian might be expected to take a different attitude, for
though he and Ulrik Frederik were bosom friends and boon companions,
a tiny shadow of jealousy might lurk in the mind of the King, who had
often, in his father's time, been pushed aside for his more gifted
and brilliant half-brother. Besides, young rulers liked to show their
impartiality and would often, in their zeal for justice, be unfair
to the very persons whom they might be supposed to favor. So it was
decided that in the spring they should both go to Copenhagen. In the
meantime, Marie was to try to get from Johan Utrecht two hundred
rix-dollars to buy mourning, so that she could appear properly before
the new king, but as the bailiff did not dare to pay out anything
without orders from Ulrik Frederik, Marie had to go without the
mourning, for her father would not pay for it, and thought the lack
of it would make her pitiful condition the more apparent.

They arrived in Copenhagen toward the end of May, and when a meeting
between father and son-in-law had proved fruitless, Erik Grubbe wrote
to the King that he had no words to describe, in due submission, the
shame, disgrace, and dishonor with which his Excellency Gyldenlöve had,
some years ago, driven his wife, Marie Grubbe, out of Aggershus, and
had given her over to the mercies of wind and weather and freebooters,
who at that time infested the sea, there being a burning feud between
Holland and England. God in his mercy had preserved her from the
above-mentioned mortal dangers, and she had returned to his home in
possession of life and health. Nevertheless, it was an unheard-of
outrage that had been inflicted upon her, and he had time and again
with letters, supplications, and tears of weeping, besought his
noble and right honorable son, my lord his Excellency, that he would
consider of this matter, and either bring proofs against Marie why the
marriage should be annulled, or else take her back, but all in vain.
Marie had brought him a fortune of many thousand rix-dollars, and
she had not even been able to get two hundred rix-dollars with which
to buy mourning dress. In brief, her misery was too manifold to be
described; wherefore they now addressed themselves to his Majesty the
King, appealing to the natural kindness and condescension of their most
gracious sovereign, with the prayer that he would for God's sake have
mercy upon him, Erik Grubbe, for his great age, which was seven and
sixty years, and upon her for her piteous condition, and be graciously
pleased to command his Excellency Gyldenlöve that he should either
bring proof against Marie of that for which Christ said married persons
should be parted, which, however, he would never be able to do, or else
take her back, whereby the glory of God would be furthered, the state
of marriage held in honor as God had Himself ordained, great cause of
offence removed, and a soul be saved from perdition.

Marie at first refused to put her name to this document, since she was
determined not to live with Ulrik Frederik, whatever happened, but her
father assured her that the appeal to her husband to take her back was
merely a matter of form. The fact was that Ulrik Frederik now wanted
a divorce at any price, and the wording of the petition would put the
onus of demanding it upon him, thus securing for her better terms.
Marie finally yielded and even added a postscript, written according to
her father's dictation, as follows:

I would fain have spoken with your Royal Majesty, but, miserable woman
that I am, I have no dress proper to appear among people. Have pity on
my wretchedness, most gracious Monarch and King, and help me! God will
reward you.

                                                     MARIE GRUBBE.

       *       *       *       *       *

As she did not put much faith in Erik Grubbe's assurances, she managed
to get a private letter into the hands of the King through one of her
old friends at court. In this she told him plainly how she loathed
Ulrik Frederik, how eagerly she longed to be legally parted from him,
and how she shrank from having even the slightest communication with
him in regard to the settlement of money matters.

Yet Erik Grubbe had, for once, spoken the truth. Ulrik Frederik really
wanted a divorce. His position at court as the King's half-brother was
very different from that of the King's favorite son. He could no longer
trust to fatherly partiality, but simply had to compete with the men
about him for honor and emoluments. To have such a case as this pending
did not help to strengthen his position. It would be much better to
make an end of it as quickly as possible and seek compensation in a new
and wiser marriage for whatever the divorce might cost him in fortune
or reputation. So he brought all his influence to bear to reach this
end.

The King laid the case before the Consistory, and this body delivered
a report, following which the marriage was dissolved by judgment of
the Supreme Court, October fourteenth, sixteen hundred and seventy.
Both parties were to have the right to marry again, and Marie Grubbe's
twelve thousand rix-dollars were to be refunded to her with all her
other dowry of jewels and estates. As soon as the money had been paid
over to her, she began preparations to leave the country, without
listening to her father's remonstrances. As for Ulrik Frederik, he
wrote his half-sister, wife of Johan Georg, Elector of Saxony, telling
her of his divorce, and asking if she would show him so much sisterly
kindness that he might flatter himself with the hope of receiving a
bride from her royal hands.



CHAPTER XIV


Marie Grubbe had never had money of her own, and the possession of a
large sum gave her a sense of powers and possibilities without limit.
Indeed, it seemed to her that a veritable magic wand had been placed in
her hands, and she longed like a child to wave it round and round and
bring all the treasures of the earth to her feet.

Her most immediate wish was to be far away from the towers of
Copenhagen and the meadows of Tjele, from Erik Grubbe and Aunt Rigitze.
She waved the wand once, and lo! she was carried by wheel and keel,
over water and way, from the land of Sjæland to Lübeck town. Her whole
retinue consisted of the maid Lucie, whom she had persuaded her aunt
to let her have, and a trader's coachman from Aarhus, for the real
outfitting for her trip was to be done at Lübeck.

It was Sti Högh who had put into her head the idea of travelling, and
in doing so, he had hinted that he might himself leave the country
to seek his fortune abroad, and had offered his services as courier.
Summoned by a letter from Copenhagen, he arrived in Lübeck a fortnight
after Marie, and at once began to make himself useful by attending to
the preparations necessary for so long a journey.

In her secret heart, Marie had hoped to be a benefactor to poor Sti
Högh. She meant to use some of her wealth to lighten his expenses on
the trip and in France, until it should appear whether some other
fountain would well in his behalf. But when poor Sti Högh came, he
surprised her by being splendidly attired, excellently mounted,
attended by two magnificent grooms, and altogether looking as if his
purse by no means needed to be swelled by her gold. More astonishing
yet was the change in his state of mind. He seemed lively, even merry.
In the past, he had always looked as if he were marching with stately
step in his own funeral procession, but now he trod the floor with the
air of a man who owned half the world and had the other half coming to
him. In the old days, there had always been something of the plucked
fowl about him, but now he seemed like an eagle, with spreading plumage
and sharp eyes hinting of still sharper claws.

Marie at first thought the change was due to his relief in casting
behind him past worries and his hope of winning a future worth while,
but when he had been with her several days, and had not opened his
lips to one of the love-sick, dispirited words she knew so well, she
began to believe he had conquered his passion and now, in the sense
of proudly setting his heel on the head of the dragon love, felt free
and strong and master of his own fate. She grew quite curious to know
whether she had guessed aright, and thought, with a slight feeling of
pique, that the more she saw of Sti Högh, the less she knew him.

This impression was confirmed by a talk she had with Lucie. The two
were walking in the large hall which formed a part of every Lübeck
house, serving as entry and living-room, as playground for the
children and the scene of the chief household labors, besides being
used sometimes for dining-room and storehouse. This particular hall
was intended chiefly for warm weather, and was furnished only with a
long white-scoured deal table, some heavy wooden chairs, and an old
cupboard. At the farther end, some boards had been put up for shelves,
and there cabbages lay in long rows over red mounds of carrots and
bristling bunches of horse-radish. The outer door was wide open and
showed the wet, glistening street, where the rain splashed in shining
rivulets.

Marie Grubbe and Lucie were both dressed to go out, the former in a
fur-bordered cloak of broadcloth, the latter in a cape of gray russet.
They were pacing the red brick floor with quick, firm little steps as
though trying to keep their feet warm while waiting for the rain to
stop.

"Pray, d'you think it's a safe travelling companion you've got?" asked
Lucie.

"Sti Högh? Safe enough, I suppose. Why not?"

"Faith, I hope he won't lose himself on the way, that's all."

"Lose himself?"

"Ay, among the German maidens--or the Dutch, for the matter of that.
You know 'tis said of him his heart is made of such fiery stuff, it
bursts into flame at the least flutter of a petticoat."

"Who's taken you to fools' market with such fables?"

"Merciful! Did you never hear that? Your own brother-in-law? Who'd have
thought that could be news to you! Why, I'd as lief have thought to
tell you the week had seven days."

"Come, come, what ails you to-day? You run on as if you'd had Spanish
wine for breakfast."

"One of us has, that's plain. Pray have you never heard tell of
Ermegaard Lynow?"

"Never."

"Then ask Sti Högh if he should chance to know her. And name to him
Jydte Krag and Christence Rud and Edele Hansdaughter and Lene Poppings
if you like. He might happen to know some fables, as you call it, about
them all."

Marie stopped and looked long and fixedly through the open door at the
rain. "Perhaps you know," she said, as she resumed her walk, "perhaps
you know some of these fables, so that you can tell them."

"Belike I do."

"Concerning Ermegaard Lynow?"

"Concerning her in particular."

"Well, let's have it."

"Why, it had to do with one of the Höghs--Sti, I think his name
was--tall, red-haired, pale--"

"Thanks, but all that I know already."

"And do you know about the poison, too?"

"Nay, nothing."

"Nor the letter?"

"What letter?"

"Faugh, 'tis such an ugly story!"

"Out with it!"

"Why, this Högh was a very good friend,--this happened before he was
married,--and he was the very best of friends with Ermegaard Lynow.
She had the longest hair of any lady--she could well-nigh walk on it,
and she was red and white and pretty as a doll, but he was harsh and
barbarous to her, they said, as if she'd been an unruly staghound and
not the gentle creature she was, and the more inhumanly he used her,
the more she loved him. He might have beaten her black and blue--and
belike he did--she would have kissed him for it. To think that one
person can be so bewitched by another, it's horrible! But then he got
tired of her and never even looked at her, for he was in love with some
one else, and Mistress Ermegaard wept and came nigh breaking her heart
and dying of grief, but still she lived, though forsooth it wasn't much
of a life. At last she couldn't bear it any longer, and when she saw
Sti Högh riding past, so they said, she ran out after him, and followed
alongside of his horse for a mile, and he never so much as drew rein
nor listened to her crying and pleading, but rode on all the faster and
left her. That was too much for her, and so she took deadly poison and
wrote Sti Högh that she did it for him, and she would never stand in
his way, all that she asked was that he would come and see her before
she died."

"And then?"

"Why, God knows if it's true what people say, for if it is, he's the
wickedest body and soul hell is waiting for. They say he wrote back
that his love would have been the best physic for her, but as he had
none to give her, he'd heard that milk and white onions were likewise
good, and he'd advise her to take some. That's what he said. Now, what
do you think of that? Could anything be more inhuman?"

"And Mistress Ermegaard?"

"Mistress Ermegaard?"

"Ay, what of her?"

"Well, no thanks to him, but she hadn't taken enough poison to kill
her, though she was so sick and wretched, they thought she'd never be
well again."

"Poor little lamb!" said Marie, laughing.

Almost every day in the time that followed brought some change in
Marie's conception of Sti Högh and her relation to him. Sti was no
dreamer, that was plain from the forethought and resourcefulness he
displayed in coping with the innumerable difficulties of the journey.
It was evident, too, that in manners and mind he was far above even
the most distinguished of the noblemen they met on their way. What
he said was always new and interesting and different; he seemed to
have a shortcut, known only to himself, to an understanding of men and
affairs, and Marie was impressed by the audacious scorn with which he
owned his belief in the power of the beast in man and the scarcity of
gold amid the dross of human nature. With cold, passionless eloquence
he tried to show her how little consistency there was in man, how
incomprehensible and uncomprehended, how weak-kneed and fumbling and
altogether the sport of circumstance, that which was noble and that
which was base fought for ascendancy in his soul. The fervor with
which he expounded this seemed to her great and fascinating, and
she began to believe that rarer gifts and greater powers had been
given him than usually fell to the lot of mortals. She bowed down in
admiration, almost in worship, before the tremendous force she imagined
him possessed of. Yet withal there lurked in her soul a still small
doubt, which was never shaped into a definite thought, but hovered as
an instinctive feeling, whispering that perhaps his power was a power
that threatened and raged, that coveted and desired, but never swooped
down, never took hold.

       *       *       *       *       *

In Lohendorf, about three miles from Vechta, there was an old inn near
the highway, and there Marie and her travelling companions sought
shelter an hour or two after sundown.

In the evening, when the coachmen and grooms had gone to bed in the
outhouses, Marie and Sti Högh were sitting at the little red painted
table before the great stove in a corner of the tap-room, chatting with
two rather oafish Oldenborg noblemen. Lucie was knitting and looking
on from her place at the end of a bench where she sat leaning against
the edge of the long table running underneath the windows. A tallow
dip, in a yellow earthenware candlestick on the gentlefolk's table,
cast a sleepy light over their faces, and woke greasy reflections in a
row of pewter plates ranged above the stove. Marie had a small cup of
warm wine before her, Sti Högh a larger one, while the two Oldenborgers
were sharing a huge pot of ale, which they emptied again and again, and
which was as often filled by the slovenly drawer, who lounged on the
goose-bench at the farther end of the room.

Marie and Sti Högh would both have preferred to go to bed, for the
two rustic noblemen were not very stimulating company, and no doubt
they would have gone, had not the bedrooms been icy cold and the
disadvantages of heating them even worse than the cold, as they found
when the innkeeper brought in the braziers, for the peat in that part
of the country was so saturated with sulphur that no one who was not
accustomed to it could breathe where it was burning.

The Oldenborgers were not merry, for they saw that they were in very
fine company, and tried hard to make their conversation as elegant as
possible; but as the ale gained power over them, the rein they had kept
on themselves grew slacker and slacker, and was at last quite loose.
Their language took on a deeper local color, their playfulness grew
massive, and their questions impudent.

As the jokes became coarser and more insistent, Marie stirred uneasily,
and Sti's eyes asked across the table whether they should not retire.
Just then the fairer of the two strangers made a gross insinuation. Sti
gave him a frown and a threatening look, but this only egged him on,
and he repeated his foul jest in even plainer terms, whereupon Sti
promised that at one more word of the same kind he would get the pewter
cup in his head.

At that moment, Lucie brought her knitting up to the table to look for
a dropped stitch, and the other Oldenborger availed himself of the
chance to catch her round the waist, force her down on his knee, and
imprint a sounding kiss on her lips.

This bold action fired the fair man, and he put his arm around Marie
Grubbe's neck.

In the same second, Sti's goblet hit him in the forehead with such
force and such sureness of aim that he sank down on the floor with a
deep grunt.

The next moment, Sti and the dark man were grappling in the middle of
the floor, while Marie and her maid fled to a corner.

The drawer jumped up from the goose-bench, bellowed something out at
one door, ran to the other and bolted it with a two-foot iron bar, just
as some one else could be heard putting the latch on the postern. It
was a custom in the inn to lock all doors as soon as a fight began, so
no one could come from outside and join in the fracas, but this was the
only step for the preservation of peace that the inn-people took. As
soon as the doors were closed, they would sneak off to bed; for he who
has seen nothing can testify to nothing.

Since neither party to the fight was armed, the affair had to be
settled with bare fists, and Sti and the dark man stood locked
together, wrestling and cursing. They dragged each other back and
forth, turned in slow, tortuous circles, stood each other up against
walls and doors, caught each other's arms, wrenched themselves loose,
bent and writhed, each with his chin in the other's shoulder. At
last they tumbled down on the floor, Sti on top. He had knocked his
adversary's head heavily two or three times against the cold clay
floor, when suddenly he felt his own neck in the grip of two powerful
hands. It was the fair man, who had picked himself up.

Sti choked, his throat rattled, he turned giddy, and his limbs relaxed.
The dark man wound his legs around him and pulled him down by the
shoulders, the other still clutched his throat and dug his knees into
his sides.

Marie shrieked and would have rushed to his aid, but Lucie had thrown
her arms around her mistress and held her in such a convulsive grip
that she could not stir.

Sti was on the point of fainting, when suddenly, with one last effort
of his strength, he threw himself forward, knocking the head of the
dark man against the floor. The fingers of the fair man slipped from
his throat, opening the way for a bit of air. Sti bounded up with all
his force, hurled himself at the fair man, threw him down, bent over
the fallen man in a fury, but in the same instant got a kick in the
pit of the stomach that almost felled him. He caught the ankle of the
foot that kicked him; with the other hand he grasped the boot-top,
lifted the leg, and broke it over his outstretched thigh, until the
bones cracked in the boot, and the fair man sank down in a swoon. The
dark man, who lay staring at the scene, still dizzy from the blows in
his head, gave vent to a yell of agony as if he had himself been the
maltreated one, and crawled under the shelter of the bench beneath the
windows. With that the fight was ended.

The latent savagery which this encounter had called out in Sti had a
strange and potent effect on Marie. That night, when she laid her head
on the pillow, she told herself that she loved him, and when Sti,
perceiving a change in her eyes and manner that boded good for him,
begged for her love, a few days later, he got the answer he longed for.



CHAPTER XV


They were in Paris. A half year had passed, and the bond of love so
suddenly tied had loosened, and at last been broken. Marie and Sti Högh
were slowly slipping apart. Both knew it, though they had not put the
fact into words. The confession hid so much pain and bitterness, so
much abasement and self-scorn, that they shrank from uttering it.

In this they were one, but in their manner of bearing their distress
they were widely different. Sti Högh grieved ceaselessly in impotent
misery, dulled by his very pain against the sharpest stings of that
pain, despairing like a captured animal that paces back and forth, back
and forth, in its narrow cage. Marie was more like a wild creature
escaped from captivity, fleeing madly, without rest or pause, driven
on and ever on by frantic fear of the chain that drags clanking in its
track.

She wanted to forget, but forgetfulness is like the heather: it grows
of its own free will, and not all the care and labor in the world can
add an inch to its height. She poured out gold from overflowing hands
and purchased luxury. She caught at every cup of pleasure that wealth
could buy or wit and beauty and rank could procure, but all in vain.
There was no end to her wretchedness, and nothing, nothing could take
it from her. If the mere parting from Sti Högh could have eased her
pain or even shifted the burden, she would have left him long ago, but
no, it was all the same, no spark of hope anywhere. As well be together
as apart, since there was no relief either way.

Yet the parting came, and it was Sti Högh who proposed it. They had not
seen each other for several days, when Sti came into the drawing-room
of the magnificent apartment they had rented from Isabel Gilles, the
landlady of _La Croix de Fer_. Marie was sitting there, in tears. Sti
shook his head drearily and took a chair at the other end of the room.
It was hard to see her weep and to know that every word of comfort from
his lips, every sympathetic sigh or compassionate look, merely added
bitterness to her grief and made her tears flow faster.

He went up to her.

"Marie," he said in a low, husky voice, "let us have one more talk and
then part."

"What is the good of that?"

"Nay, Marie, there are yet happy days awaiting you, even now they are
coming thick and fast."

"Ay, days of mourning and nights of weeping in an endless, unbreakable
chain."

"Marie, Marie, have a care what you say, for I understand the meaning
of your words as you never think to have me, and they wound me cruelly."

"I reck but little of wounds that are stung with words for daggers. It
was never in my mind to spare you them."

"Then drive the weapon home, and do not pity me--not for one instant.
Tell me that my love has besmirched you and humbled you in the dust!
Tell me that you would give years of your life to tear from your heart
every memory of me! And make a dog of me and call me cur. Call me by
every shameful name you know, and I will answer to every one and say
you are right; for I know you are right, you are, though it's torture
to say so! Hear me, Marie, hear me and believe if you can: though I
know you loathe yourself because you have been mine, and sicken in your
soul when you think of it, and frown with disgust and remorse, yet do
I love you still--I do indeed. I love you with all my might and soul,
Marie."

"Fie, shame on you, Sti Högh! Shame on you! You know not what you
are saying. And yet--God forgive me--but 'tis true, fearful as it
seems! Oh, Sti, Sti, why are you such a varlet soul? Why are you
such a miserable, cringing worm that doesn't bite when it's trodden
underfoot? If you knew how great and proud and strong I believed
you--you who are so weak! It was your sounding phrases that lied to me
of a power you never owned; they spoke loud of everything your soul
never was and never could be. Sti, Sti, was it right that I should find
weakness instead of strength, abject doubt instead of brave faith, and
pride--Sti, where was your pride?"

"Justice and right are but little mercy, but I deserve naught else, for
I have been no better than a counterfeiter with you, Marie. I never
believed in your love, no, even in the hour when you first vowed it to
me, there was no faith in my soul. Oh! how I wanted to believe, but
could not! I could not down the fear that lifted its dark head from
the ground, staring at me with cold eyes, blowing away my rich, proud
dreams with the breath from its bitterly smiling mouth. I could not
believe in your love, and yet I grasped the treasure of it with both
hands and with all my soul. I rejoiced in it with a timid, anxious
happiness, as a thief might feel joy in his golden booty, though he
knew the rightful owner would step in, the next moment, and tear the
precious thing from his hands. For I know the man will come who will be
worthy of you, or whom you will think worthy, and he will not doubt,
not tremble and entreat. He will mould you like pure gold in his hands
and set his foot on your will, and you will obey him, humbly and
gladly. Not that he will love you more than I, for that no one could,
but that he will have more faith in himself and less sense of your
priceless worth, Marie."

"Why, this is a regular fortune-teller's tale you're giving me, Sti
Högh. You are ever the same, your thoughts roam far afield. You are
like children with a new toy; instead of playing with it, they must
needs pull it to pieces and find out how it was made, and so spoil it.
You never have time to hold and enjoy, because you are ever reaching
and seeking. You cut the timber of life all up into thought-shavings."

"Farewell, Marie."

"Farewell, Sti Högh,--as well as may be."

"Thanks--thanks--it must be so. Yet I would ask of you one thing."

"Well?"

"When you depart from here, let none know the way you go, lest I should
hear it, for if I do, I cannot answer for myself that I shall have
strength to keep from following you."

Marie shrugged her shoulders impatiently.

"God bless you, Marie, now and forever."

With that he left her.

       *       *       *       *       *

In a fair November gloaming, the bronze-brown light of the sun is
slowly receding from the windows still gleaming singly in high gables;
an instant it rests on the slender twin spires of the church, is
caught up there by cross and golden wreath, then freed in luminous
air, and fades, while the moon lifts a shining disc over the distant,
long-flowing lines of the rounded hills.

Yellow, bluish, and purple, the fading tints of the sky are mirrored
in the bright, silently running river. Leaves of willow and maple and
elder and rose drop from golden crowns and flutter down to the water in
tremulous flight, rest on the glittering surface and glide along, under
leaning walls and stone steps, into the darkness, beneath low, massive
bridges, around palings black with moisture. They catch the glow from
the red coal fire in the lighted smithy, are whirled round in the
rust-brown eddies by the grinder's house, then drift away among rushes
and leaky boats, lost among sunken barrels and muddy, water-soaked
fences.

Blue twilight is spreading a transparent dusk over squares and open
markets. In the fountains the water gleams as through a delicate veil,
as it runs from wet snake-snouts and drips from bearded dragon-mouths,
among fantastic broken curves and slender, serrated vessels. It murmurs
gently and trickles coldly; it bubbles softly and drips sharply,
making rapidly widening rings on the dark surface of the brimming
basin. A breath of wind soughs through the square, while round about
the dusky space, a deeper darkness stares from shadowy portals, black
window-panes, and dim alleys.

Now the moon is rising and throwing a silvery sheen over roofs and
pinnacles, dividing light and shadow into sharp-cut planes. Every
carved beam, every flaunting sign, every baluster in the low railing
of the porches is etched on houses and walls. The stone lattice-work
over the church-doors, St. George with his lance there at the corner,
the plant with its leaves here in the window, all stand out like black
figures. What a flood of light the moon pours through the wide street,
and how it glitters on the water in the river! There are no clouds in
the heavens, only a ring like a halo around the moon, and nothing else
except myriads of stars.

It was such a night as this at Nürnberg, and in the steep street
leading up to the castle, in the house known as von Karndorf's, a
feast was held that same evening. The guests were sitting around the
table, merry, and full of food and drink. All but one were men who
had left youth behind, and this one was but eighteen years. He wore
no periwig, but his own hair was luxuriant enough, long, golden, and
curly. His face was fair as a girl's, white and red, and his eyes were
large, blue, and serene. They called him the golden Remigius, golden
not only because of his hair, but because of his great wealth. For all
his youth, he was the richest nobleman in the Bavarian forest--for he
hailed from the Bavarian forest.

They were speaking of female loveliness, these gay gentlemen around
the groaning board, and they all agreed that when they were young the
world was swarming with beauties, beside whom those who laid claim to
the name in these days were as nothing at all.

"But who knew the pearl among them all?" asked a chubby, red-faced
man with tiny, sparkling eyes. "Who ever saw Dorothea von Falkenstein
of the Falkensteiners of Harzen? She was red as a rose and white as a
lamb. She could clasp her waist round with her two hands and have an
inch to spare, and she could walk on larks' eggs without crushing them,
so light of foot was she. But she was none of your scrawny chicks for
all that; she was as plump as a swan swimming in a lake, and firm as a
roe-deer running in the forest."

They drank to her.

"God bless you all, gray though you be!" cried a tall, crabbed old
fellow at the end of the table. "The world is getting uglier every
day. We have but to look at ourselves"--his glance went round the
table--"and think what dashing blades we once were. Well, no matter
for that! But where in the name of everything drinkable--can any one
say? huh? can you?--who can?--can any one tell me what's become of the
plump landladies with laughing mouths and bright eyes and dainty feet,
and the landladies' daughters with yellow, yellow hair and eyes so
blue--what's become of them? huh? Or is't a lie that one could go to
any tavern or wayside inn or ordinary and find them there? Oh, misery
of miseries and wretchedness! Look at the hunchbacked jades the tavern
people keep in these days--with pig's eyes and broad in the beam! Look
at the toothless, bald-pated hags that get the king's license to scare
the life out of hungry and thirsty folks with their sore eyes and
grubby hands! Faugh, I'm as scared of an inn as of the devil himself,
for I know full well the tapster is married to the living image of the
plague from Lübeck, and when a man's as old as I am, there's something
about _memento mori_ that he'd rather forget than remember."

Near the centre of the long table sat a man of strong build with a face
rather full and yellow as wax, bushy eyebrows, and clear, searching
eyes. He looked not exactly ill, but as if he had suffered great bodily
pain, and when he smiled there was an expression about his mouth as
though he were swallowing something bitter. He spoke in a soft, low,
rather husky voice. "The brown Euphemia of the Burtenbacher stock
was statelier than any queen I ever saw. She could wear the stiffest
cloth of gold as if it were the easiest house-dress. Golden chains
and precious stones hung round her neck and waist and rested on her
bosom and hair as lightly as berries the children deck themselves with
when they play in the forest. There was none like her. The other young
maidens would look like reliquaries weighed down by necklaces of gold
and clasps of gold and jewelled roses, but she was fair and fresh and
festive and light as a banner that flies in the wind. There was none
like her, nor is there now."

"Ay, and a better one," cried young Remigius, jumping up. He bent
forward across the table, supporting himself with one hand, while the
other swung a bright goblet, from which the golden grape brimmed over,
wetting his fingers and wrist and falling in clear drops from his full
white lace ruffles. His cheeks were flushed with wine, his eyes shone,
and he spoke in an unsteady voice.

"Beauty! Are you blind, one and all, or have you never even seen the
Lady from Denmark--not so much as seen Mistress Marie! Her hair is like
the sunlight on a field when the grain is ripe. Her eyes are bluer than
a steel blade, and her lips are like the bleeding grape. She walks like
a star in the heavens, and she is straight as a sceptre and stately as
a throne, and all, all charms and beauties of person are hers like rose
upon rose in flowering splendor. But there is that about her loveliness
which makes you feel, when you see her, as on a holy morn when they
blow the trumpets from the tower of the cathedral. A stillness comes
over you, for she is like the sacred Mother of Sorrows on the beauteous
painting; there is the same noble grief in her clear eyes, and the same
hopeless, patient smile around her lips."

He was quite moved. Tears came to his eyes, and he tried to speak, but
could not, and remained standing, struggling with his voice to utter
the words. A man sitting near him laid a friendly hand on his shoulder
and made him sit down. They drank together goblet after goblet, until
all was well. The mirth of the old fellows rose high as before, and
nothing was heard but laughter and song and revelry.

       *       *       *       *       *

Marie Grubbe was at Nürnberg. After the parting from Sti Högh, she had
roamed about from place to place for almost a year, and had finally
settled there. She was very much changed since the night she danced in
the ballet at Frederiksborg park. Not only had she entered upon her
thirtieth year, but the affair with Sti Högh had made a strangely deep
impression upon her. She had left Ulrik Frederik, urged on partly by
accidental events, but chiefly because she had kept certain dreams of
her early girlhood of the man a woman should pay homage to, one who
should be to her like a god upon earth, from whose hands she could
accept, lovingly and humbly, good and evil according to his pleasure.
And now, in a moment of blindness, she had taken Sti for that god, him
who was not even a man. These were her thoughts. Every weakness and
every unmanly doubt in Sti she felt as a stain upon herself that could
never be wiped out. She loathed herself for that short-lived love and
called it base and shameful names. The lips that had kissed him, would
that they might wither! The eyes that had smiled on him, would that
they might be dimmed! The heart that had loved him, would that it might
break! Every virtue of her soul--she had smirched it by this love;
every feeling--she had desecrated it. She lost all faith in herself,
all confidence in her own worth, and as for the future, it kindled no
beacon of hope.

Her life was finished, her course ended. A quiet nook where she could
lay down her head, never to lift it again, was the goal of all her
desires.

Such was her state of mind when she came to Nürnberg. By chance,
she met the golden Remigius, and his fervent though diffident
adoration,--the idolatrous worship of fresh youth,--his exultant faith
in her and his happiness in this faith,--were to her as the cool dew
to a flower that has been trodden under foot. Though it cannot rise
again, neither does it wither; it still spreads delicate, brightly
tinted petals to the sun, and is still fair and fragrant in lingering
freshness. So with her. There was balm in seeing herself pure and holy
and unsullied in the thoughts of another person. It well-nigh made her
whole again to know that she could rouse that clear-eyed trust, that
fair hope and noble longing which enriched the soul of him in whom
they awoke. There was comfort and healing in hinting of her sorrows in
shadowy images and veiled words to one who, himself untried by grief,
would enter into her suffering with a serene joy, grateful to share the
trouble he guessed but did not understand and yet sympathized with. Ay,
it was a comfort to pour out her grief where it met reverence and not
pity, where it became a splendid queenly robe around her shoulders and
a tear-sparkling diadem around her brow.

Thus Marie little by little grew reconciled to herself, but then it
happened one day, when Remigius was out riding, that his horse shied,
threw him from the saddle, and dragged him to death by the stirrups.

When the news was brought to Marie, she sank into a dull, heavy,
tearless misery. She would sit for hours, staring straight before her
with a weary, empty look, silent as if she had been bereft of the power
of speech, and refusing to exert herself in any way. She could not even
bear to be spoken to; if any one tried it, she would make a feeble
gesture of protest and shake her head as if the sound pained her.

Time passed, and her money dwindled, until there was barely enough left
to take them home. Lucie never tired of urging this fact upon her, but
it was long before she could make Marie listen.

At last they started. On the way, Marie fell ill, and the journey
dragged out much longer than they had expected. Lucie was forced to
sell one rich gown and precious trinket after the other, to pay their
way. When they reached Aarhus, Marie had hardly anything left but
the clothes she wore. There they parted; Lucie returned to Mistress
Rigitze, and Marie went back to Tjele.

This was in the spring of seventy-three.



CHAPTER XVI


After she came back to Tjele, Mistress Marie Grubbe remained in her
father's household until sixteen hundred and seventy-nine, when she was
wedded to Palle Dyre, counsellor of justice to his Majesty the King,
and with him she lived in a marriage that offered no shadow of an event
until sixteen hundred and eighty-nine. This period of her life lasted
from the time she was thirty till she was forty-six--full sixteen years.

Full sixteen years of petty worries, commonplace duties, and dull
monotony, with no sense of intimacy or affection to give warmth,
no homelike comfort to throw a ray of light. Endless brawling
about nothing, noisy hectoring for the slightest neglect, peevish
fault-finding, and coarse jibes were all that met her ears. Every
sunlit day of life was coined into dollars and shillings and pennies;
every sigh uttered was a sigh for loss; every wish, a wish for gain;
every hope, a hope of more. All around her was shabby parsimony; in
every nook and corner, busyness that chased away all pleasure; from
every hour stared the wakeful eye of greed. Such was the existence
Marie Grubbe led.

In the early days, she would sometimes forget the hubbub and bustle all
around her and sink into waking dreams of beauty, changing as clouds,
teeming as light. There was one that came oftener than others. It was a
dream of a sleeping castle hidden behind roses. Oh, the quiet garden of
that castle, with stillness in the air and in the leaves, with silence
brooding over all like a night without darkness! There the odors slept
in the flower-cups and the dewdrops on the bending blades of grass.
There the violet drowsed with mouth half open under the curling leaves
of the fern, while a thousand bursting buds had been lulled to sleep,
in the fullness of spring, at the very moment when they quickened
on the branches of the moss-green trees. She came up to the palace.
From the thorny vines of the rose-bushes, a flood of green billowed
noiselessly down over walls and roofs, and the flowers fell like silent
froth, sometimes in masses of bloom, sometimes flecking the green like
pale-pink foam. From the mouth of the marble lion, a fountain jet shot
up like a tree of crystal with boughs of cobweb, and shining horses
mirrored breathless mouths and closed eyes in the dormant waters of the
porphyry basin, while the page rubbed his eyes in sleep.

She feasted her eyes on the tranquil beauty of the old garden, where
fallen petals lay like a rose-flushed snowdrift high against walls and
doors, hiding the marble steps. Oh, to rest! To let the days glide
over her in blissful peace, hour after hour, and to feel all memories,
longings, and dreams flowing away, out of her mind, in softly lapping
waves--that was the most beautiful of all the dreams she knew.

This was true at first, but her imagination tired of flying unceasingly
toward the same goal like an imprisoned bee buzzing against the
window-pane, and all other faculties of her soul wearied too. As a fair
and noble edifice in the hands of barbarians is laid waste and spoiled,
the bold spires made into squat cupolas, the delicate, lace-like
ornaments broken bit by bit, and the wealth of pictures hidden under
layer upon layer of deadening whitewash, so was Marie Grubbe laid waste
and spoiled in those sixteen years.

Erik Grubbe, her father, was old and decrepit, and age seemed to
intensify all his worst traits, just as it sharpened his features and
made them more repulsive. He was grouchy and perverse, childishly
obstinate, quick to anger, extremely suspicious, sly, dishonest,
and stingy. In his later days he always had the name of God on his
lips, especially when the harvest was poor or the cattle were sick,
and he would address the Lord with a host of cringing, fawning names
of his own invention. It was impossible that Marie should either
love or respect him, and besides she had a particular grudge against
him, because he had persuaded her to marry Palle Dyre by dint of
promises that were never fulfilled and by threats of disinheriting
her, turning her out of Tjele, and withdrawing all support from her.
In fact, her chief motive for the change had been her hope of making
herself independent of the paternal authority, though this hope was
frustrated; for Palle Dyre and Erik Grubbe had agreed to work the farms
of Tjele and Nörbæk--which latter was given Marie as a dower on certain
conditions--together, and as Tjele was the larger of the two, and Erik
Grubbe no longer had the strength to look after it, Marie and her
husband spent more time under her father's roof than under their own.

Palle Dyre was the son of Colonel Clavs Dyre of Sandvig and Krogsdal,
later of Vinge, and his wife Edele Pallesdaughter Rodtsteen. He was a
thickset, shortnecked little man, brisk in all his motions and with
a rather forceful face, which, however, was somewhat marred by a
hemorrhage in the lungs that had affected his right cheek.

Marie despised him. He was as stingy and greedy as Erik Grubbe himself.
Yet he was really a man of some ability, sensible, energetic, and
courageous, but he simply lacked any sense of honor whatever. He would
cheat and lie whenever he had a chance, and was never in the least
abashed when found out. He would allow himself to be abused like a dog
and never answer back, if silence could bring him a penny's profit.
Whenever a relative or friend commissioned him to buy or sell anything
or entrusted any other business to him, he would turn the matter to
his own advantage without the slightest scruple. Though his marriage
had been in the main a bargain, he was not without a sense of pride
in winning the divorced wife of the Viceroy; but this did not prevent
him from treating her and speaking to her in a manner that might have
seemed incompatible with such a feeling. Not that he was grossly rude
or violent--by no means. He simply belonged to the class of people
who are so secure in their own sense of normal and irreproachable
mediocrity that they cannot refrain from asserting their superiority
over the less fortunate and naïvely setting themselves up as models. As
for Marie, she was, of course, far from unassailable; her divorce from
Ulrik Frederik and her squandering of her mother's fortune were but too
patent irregularities.

This was the man who became the third person in their life at Tjele.
Not one trait in him gave grounds for hope that he would add to it
any bit of brightness or comfort. Nor did he. Endless quarrelling and
bickering, mutual sullenness and fault-finding, were all that the
passing days brought in their train.

Marie was blunted by it. Whatever had been delicate and flowerlike
in her nature, all the fair and fragrant growth which heretofore had
entwined her life as with luxurious though fantastic and even bizarre
arabesques, withered and died the death. Coarseness in thought as in
speech, a low and slavish doubt of everything great and noble, and a
shameless self-scorn were the effect of these sixteen years at Tjele.
And yet another thing: she developed a thick-blooded sensuousness, a
hankering for the good things of life, a lusty appetite for food and
drink, for soft chairs and soft beds, a voluptuous pleasure in spicy,
narcotic scents, and a craving for luxury which was neither ruled by
good taste nor refined by love of the beautiful. True, she had scant
means of gratifying these desires, but that did not lessen their force.

She had grown fuller of form and paler, and there was a slow languor in
all her movements. Her eyes were generally quite empty of expression,
but sometimes they would grow strangely bright, and she had fallen into
the habit of setting her lips in a meaningless smile.

       *       *       *       *       *

There came a time when they wrote sixteen hundred and eighty-nine. It
was night, and the horse-stable at Tjele was on fire. The flickering
flames burst through the heavy clouds of brown smoke; they lit up the
grassy courtyard, shone on the low outhouses and the white walls of
the manor-house, and even touched with light the black crowns of the
trees in the garden where they rose high above the roof. Servants and
neighbors ran from the well to the fire with pails and buckets full of
water glittering red in the light of the flames. Palle Dyre was here,
there, and everywhere, tearing wildly about, his hair flying, a red
wooden rake in his hand. Erik Grubbe lay praying over an old chaff-bin,
which had been carried out. He watched the progress of the fire from
beam to beam, his agony growing more intense every moment, and he
groaned audibly whenever the flames leaped out triumphantly and swung
their spirals high above the house in a shower of sparks.

Marie, too, was there, but her eyes sought something besides the fire.
They were fixed on the new coachman, who was taking the frightened
horses out from the smoke-filled stable. The doorway had been widened
to more than double its usual size by lifting off the frame and
tearing down a bit of the frail wall on either side, and through this
opening he was leading the animals, one by either hand. They were
crazed with the smoke, and when the stinging, flickering light of the
flames met their eyes, they reared wildly and threw themselves to one
side, until it seemed the man must be torn to pieces or be trampled
down between the powerful brutes. Yet he neither fell nor lost his
hold; he forced their noses down on the ground and ran with them, half
driving, half dragging them, across the courtyard to the gate of the
garden, where he let them go.

There were many horses at Tjele, and Marie had plenty of time to admire
that beautiful, gigantic form in changing postures, as he struggled
with the spirited animals, one moment hanging from a straight arm,
almost lifted from the ground by a rearing stallion, the next instant
thrown violently down and gripping the earth with his feet, then again
urging them on by leaps and bounds, always with the same peculiarly
quiet, firm, elastic movements seen only in very strong men. His short
cotton breeches and blue-gray shirt looked yellow where the light fell
on them but black in the shadows, and outlined sharply the vigorous
frame making a fine, simple background for the ruddy face with its
soft, fair down on lip and chin, and the great shock of blonde hair.

This giant of two-and-twenty was known as Sören Overseer. His real name
was Sören Sörensen Möller, but the title had come down to him from his
father, who had been overseer on a manor in Hvornum.

The horses were all brought out at last. The stable burned to the
ground, and when the fire still smouldering on the site had been put
out, the servants went to get a little morning nap after a wakeful
night.

Marie Grubbe, too, went to bed, but she could not sleep. She lay
thinking, sometimes blushing at her own fancies, then tossing
about as if she feared them. It was late when she rose. She smiled
contemptuously at herself as she dressed. Her every-day attire was
usually careless, even slovenly, though on special occasions she would
adorn herself in a manner more showy than tasteful, but this morning
she put on an old though clean gown of blue homespun, tied a little
scarlet silk kerchief round her neck, and took out a neat, simple
little cap; then she suddenly changed her mind again and chose instead
one with a turned-up rim of yellow and brown flowered stuff and a
flounce of imitation silver brocade in the back, which went but poorly
with the rest. Palle Dyre supposed she wanted to go to town and gossip
about the fire, and he thought to himself there were no horses to drive
her there. She stayed home, however, but somehow she could not work.
She would take up one thing after another, only to drop it as quickly.
At last she went out into the garden, saying that she meant to set
to rights what the horses had trampled in the night, but she did not
accomplish much; for she sat most of the time in an arbor with her
hands in her lap, gazing thoughtfully into the distance.

The unrest that had come over her did not leave her, but grew worse day
by day. She was suddenly seized with a desire for lonely walks in the
direction of Fastrup Grove, or in the more distant parts of the outer
garden. Her father and husband both scolded her, but when she turned a
deaf ear and did not even answer them, they finally made up their minds
that it was best to let her go her own way for a short time, all the
more as it was not the busy season.

About a week after the fire, she was taking her usual walk out Fastrup
way, and was skirting the edge of a long copse of stunted oaks and
dogrose that reached almost to her shoulder, when suddenly she caught
sight of Sören Overseer, stretched at full length in the edge of the
copse, his eyes closed as if he were asleep. A scythe was lying at his
side, and the grass had been cut for some distance around.

Marie stood for a long time gazing at his large, regular features, his
broad, vigorously breathing chest, and his dark, full-veined hands,
which were clasped above his head. But Sören was drowsing rather than
sleeping, and suddenly he opened his eyes, wide awake, and looked up
at her. He was startled at being found by one of the family sleeping
when he should have been cutting hay, but the expression in Marie's
eyes amazed him so much that he did not come to his senses until she
blushed, said something about the heat, and turned to go. He jumped
up, seized his scythe and whetstone, and began to rub the steel until
it sang through the warm, tremulous air. Then he went at the grass,
slashing as if his life were at stake.

After a while, he saw Marie crossing the stile into the grove, and at
that he paused. He stood a moment staring after her, his arms resting
on his scythe, then suddenly flung it away with all his strength, sat
down with legs sprawling, mouth open, palms flat out on the grass, and
thus he sat in silent amazement at himself and his own strange thoughts.

He looked like a man who had just dropped down from a tree.

His head seemed to be teeming with dreams. What if any one had cast a
spell over him? He had never known anything like the way things swarmed
and swarmed inside of his head, as if he could think of seven things at
once, and he couldn't get the hang of them--they came and went as if
he'd nothing to say about it. It surely was queer the way she'd looked
at him, and she hadn't said anything about his sleeping this way in the
middle of the day. She had looked at him so kindly, straight out of her
clear eyes, and--just like Jens Pedersen's Trine she had looked at him.
Her ladyship! Her ladyship! There was a story about a lady at Nörbæk
manor who had run away with her gamekeeper. Had he got such a look when
he was asleep? Her ladyship! Maybe he might get to be good friends
with her ladyship, just as the gamekeeper did. He couldn't understand
it--was he sick? There was a burning spot on each of his cheeks, and
his heart beat, and he felt so queer, it was hard to breathe. He began
to tug at a stunted oak, but he could not get a grip on it where he was
sitting; he jumped up, tore it loose, and threw it away, caught his
scythe, and cut till the grass flew in the swath.

In the days that followed, Marie often came near Sören, who happened
to have work around the house, and he always stared at her with an
unhappy, puzzled, questioning expression, as if imploring her to give
him the answer to the riddle she had thrown in his way, but Marie only
glanced furtively in his direction and turned her head away.

Sören was ashamed of himself and lived in constant fear that his
fellow-servants would notice there was something the matter with him.
He had never in all his life before been beset by any feeling or
longing that was in the least fantastic, and it made him timid and
uneasy. Maybe he was getting addled or losing his wits. There was no
knowing how such things came over people, and he vowed to himself that
he would think no more about it, but the next moment his thoughts were
again taking the road he would have barred them from. The very fact
that he could not get away from these notions was what troubled him
most, for he remembered that he had heard tales of Cyprianus, whom you
could burn and drown, yet he always came back. In his heart of hearts
he really hoped that the fancies would not leave him, for life would
seem very dreary and empty without them, but this he did not admit to
himself. In fact, his cheeks flushed with shame whenever he soberly
considered what he really had in mind.

About a week after the day when she had found Sören asleep, Marie
Grubbe was sitting under the great beech on the heathery hill in
Fastrup Grove. She sat leaning her back against the trunk, and held an
open book in her hand, but she was not reading. With dreamy eyes, she
followed intently a large, dark bird of prey, which hung, in slowly
gliding, watchful flight, over the unending, billowing surface of the
thick, leafy treetops.

The air was drenched with light and sun, vibrant with the drowsy,
monotonous hum of myriad invisible insects. The sweet--too sweet--odor
of yellow-flowered broom and the spicy fragrance of sun-warmed
birch-leaves mingled with the earthy smell of the forest and the almond
scent of white meadowsweet in the hollows.

Marie sighed.

    "Petits oiseaux des bois,"

she whispered plaintively,

                          "que vous estes heureux,
    De plaindre librement vos tourmens amoreux.
    Les valons, les rochers, les forests et les plaines
    Sçauent également vos plaisirs et vos peines."

She sat a moment trying to remember the rest, then took the book and
read in a low, despondent tone:

    "Vostre innocente amour ne fuit point la clarté,
    Tout le monde est pour vous un lieu de liberté,
    Mais ce cruel honneur, ce fléau de nostre vie,
    Sous de si dures loix la retient asservie...."

She closed the book with a bang and almost shouted:

    "Il est vray je ressens une secrète flame
    Qui malgré ma raison s'allume dans mon âme
    Depuis le jour fatal que je vis sous l'ormeau
    Alcidor, qui dançoit au son du chalumeau."

Her voice sank, and the last lines were breathed forth softly, almost
automatically, as if her fancy were merely using the rhythm as an
accompaniment to other images than those of the poem. She leaned her
head back and closed her eyes. It was so strange and disturbing, now
that she was middle-aged, to feel herself again in the grip of the
same breathless longing, the same ardent dreams and restless hopes
that had thrilled her youth. But would they last? Would they not be
like the short-lived bloom that is sometimes quickened by a sunny week
in autumn, the after-bloom that sucks the very last strength of the
flower, only to give it over, feeble and exhausted, to the mercy of
winter? For they were dead, these longings, and had slept many years in
silent graves. Why did they come again? What did they want of her? Was
not their end fulfilled, so they could rest in peace and not rise again
in deceitful shapes of life, to play the game of youth once more?

So ran her thoughts, but they were not real. They were quite impersonal,
as if she were making them up about some one else; for she had no doubt
of the strength and lasting power of her passion. It had filled her so
irresistibly and completely that there was no room left in her for
reflective amazement. Yet for a moment she followed the train of
theoretical reasoning, and she thought of the golden Remigius and his
firm faith in her, but the memory drew from her only a bitter smile
and a forced sigh, and the next moment her thoughts were caught up
again by other things.

She wondered whether Sören would have the courage to make love to
her. She hardly believed he would. He was only a peasant, and she
pictured to herself his slavish fear of the gentlefolks, his dog-like
submission, his cringing servility. She thought of his coarse
habits and his ignorance, his peasant speech and poor clothes, his
toil-hardened body and his vulgar greediness. Was she to bend beneath
all this, to accept good and evil from this black hand? In this
self-abasement there was a strange, voluptuous pleasure, which was in
part gross sensuality, but in part akin to whatever is counted noblest
and best in woman's nature. For such was the manner in which the clay
had been mixed out of which she was fashioned....

A few days later, Marie Grubbe was in the brew-house at Tjele mixing
mead; for many of the bee-hives had been injured on the night of the
fire. She was standing in the corner by the hearth, looking at the open
door, where hundreds of bees, drawn by the sweet smell of honey, were
swarming, glittering like gold in the strip of sunlight that pierced
the gloom.

Just then Sören came driving in through the gate with an empty coach in
which he had taken Palle Dyre to Viborg. He caught a glimpse of Marie
and made haste to unharness and stable the horses and put the coach in
its place. Then he strutted about a little while, his hands buried deep
in the pockets of his long livery coat, his eyes fixed on his great
boots. Suddenly he turned abruptly toward the brew-house, swinging one
arm resolutely, frowning and biting his lips like a man who is forcing
himself to an unpleasant but unavoidable decision. He had, in fact,
been swearing to himself all the way from Viborg to Foulum that this
must end, and he had kept up his courage with a little flask, which his
master had forgotten to take out of the coach.

He took off his hat when he came into the house, but said nothing,
simply stood passing his fingers awkwardly along the edge of the
brewing-vat.

Marie asked whether Sören had any message to her from her husband.

No.

Would Sören taste her brew, or would he like a piece of sugar-honey?

Yes, thank you--or that is, no, thanks--that wasn't what he'd come for.

Marie blushed and felt quite uneasy.

Might he ask a question?

Ay, indeed he might.

Well, then, all he wanted to say was this, with her kind permission,
that he wasn't in his right mind, for waking or sleeping he thought of
nothing but her ladyship, and he couldn't help it.

Ah, but that was just what Sören ought to do.

No, he wasn't so sure of that, for 'twas not in the way of tending to
his work that he thought of her ladyship. 'Twas quite different; he
thought of her in the way of what folks called love.

He looked at her with a timid questioning expression and seemed quite
crestfallen, as he shook his head, when Marie replied that it was quite
right; that was what the pastor said they should all do.

No, 'twasn't in that way either, 'twas kind of what you might call
sweethearting. But of course there wasn't any cause for it--he went on
in an angry tone as if to pick a quarrel--he s'posed such a fine lady
would be afraid to come near a poor common peasant like him, though
to be sure peasants were kind of half way like people too, and didn't
have either water or sour gruel for blood any more than gentlefolks. He
knew the gentry thought they were of a kind by themselves, but really
they were made about the same way as others, and sure he knew they ate
and drank and slept and all that sort of thing just like the lowest,
commonest peasant lout. And so he didn't think it would hurt her
ladyship if he kissed her mouth any more than if a gentleman had kissed
her. Well, there was no use her looking at him like that, even if he
was kind of free in his talk, for he didn't care what he said any more,
and she was welcome to make trouble for him if she liked, for when he
left her, he was going straight to drown himself in the miller's pond
or else put a rope around his neck.

He mustn't do that; for she never meant to say a word against him to
any living creature.

So she didn't? Well, anybody could believe that who was simple enough,
but no matter for that. She'd made trouble enough for him, and 'twas
nobody's fault but hers that he was going to kill himself, for he loved
her beyond anything.

He had seated himself on a bench, and sat gazing at her with a mournful
look in his good, faithful eyes, while his lips trembled as if he were
struggling with tears.

She could not help going over to him and laying a comforting hand on
his shoulder.

She'd best not do that. He knew very well that when she put her hand on
him and said a few words quietly to herself she could read the courage
out of him, and he wouldn't let her. Anyhow, she might as well sit down
by him, even if he was nothing but a low peasant, seeing that he'd be
dead before nightfall.

Marie sat down.

Sören looked at her sideways and moved a little farther away on the
bench. Now he s'posed he'd better say good-by and thank her ladyship
for all her kindness in the time they'd known each other, and maybe
she'd say good-by from him to his cousin Anne--the kitchen-maid at the
manor.

Marie held his hand fast.

Well, now he was going.

No, he must stay; there was no one in all the world she loved like him.

Oh, that was just something she said because she was afraid he'd come
back and haunt her, but she might make herself easy on that score, for
he didn't bear any grudge against her and would never come near her
after he was dead; that he'd both promise and perform, if she would
only let him go.

No, she would never let him go.

Then if there was nothing else for it--Sören tore his hand away, and
ran out of the brew-house and across the yard.

Marie was right on his heels, when he darted into the menservants'
quarters, slammed the door after him, and set his back against it.

"Open the door, Sören, open the door, or I'll call the servants!"

Sören made no answer, but calmly took a bit of pitchy twine from his
pocket and proceeded to tie the latch with it, while he held the door
with his knee and shoulder. Her threat of calling the other servants
did not alarm him, for he knew they were all haymaking in the outlying
fields.

Marie hammered at the door with all her might.

"Merciful God!" she cried. "Why don't you come out! I love you as much
as it's possible for one human being to love another! I love you, love
you, love you--oh, he doesn't believe me! What shall I do--miserable
wretch that I am!"

Sören did not hear her, for he had passed through the large common
room into the little chamber in the rear, where he and the gamekeeper
usually slept. This was where he meant to carry out his purpose, but
then it occurred to him that it would be a pity for the gamekeeper; it
would be better if he killed himself in the other room, where a number
of them slept together. He went out into the large room again.

"Sören, Sören, let me in, let me in! Oh, please open the door! No, no,
oh, he's hanging himself, and here I stand. Oh, for God Almighty's
sake, Sören, open the door! I have loved you from the first moment
I saw you! Can't you hear me? There's no one I'm so fond of as you,
Sören, no one--no one in the world, Sören!"

"Is't true?" asked Sören's voice, hoarse and unrecognizable, close to
the door.

"Oh, God be praised for evermore! Yes, yes, yes, it _is_ true, it _is_
true; I swear the strongest oath there is in the world that I love you
with my whole soul. Oh, God be praised for evermore--"

Sören had untied the twine, and the door flew open. Marie rushed into
the room and threw herself on his breast, sobbing and laughing. Sören
looked embarrassed and hardly knew how to take it.

"Oh, Heaven be praised that I have you once more!" cried Marie. "But
where were you going to do it? Tell me!" She looked curiously around
the room at the unmade beds, where faded bolsters, matted straw, and
dirty leather sheets lay in disorderly heaps.

But Sören did not answer, he gazed at Marie angrily. "Why didn't you
say so before?" he said and struck her arm.

"Forgive me, Sören, forgive me!" wept Marie, pressing close to him,
while her eyes sought his pleadingly.

Sören bent down wonderingly and kissed her. He was utterly amazed.

"And it's neither play-acting nor visions?" he asked, half to himself.

Marie smiled and shook her head.

"The devil! Who'd 'a' thought--"

       *       *       *       *       *

At first the relation between Marie and Sören was carefully concealed,
but when Palle Dyre had to make frequent trips to Randers in his
capacity of royal commissioner, his lengthy absences made them
careless, and before long it was no secret to the servants at Tjele.
When the pair realized that they were discovered, they took no pains to
keep the affair hidden, but behaved as if Palle Dyre were at the other
end of the world instead of at Randers. Erik Grubbe they recked nothing
of. When he threatened Sören with his crutch, Sören would threaten him
with his fist, and when he scolded Marie and tried to bring her to
her senses, she would tease him by reeling off long speeches without
raising her voice, as was necessary now if he were to hear her; for he
had become quite deaf, and besides he was wont to protect his bald head
with a skull-cap with long earlaps, which did not improve his hearing.

It was no fault of Sören's that Palle Dyre, too, did not learn the true
state of affairs; for in the violence of his youthful passion, he did
not stick at visiting Marie even when the master was at home. At dusk,
or whenever he saw his chance, he would seek her in the manor-house
itself, and on more than one occasion it was only the fortunate
location of the stairway that saved him from discovery.

His sentiment for Marie was not always the same, for once in a while
he would be seized with the idea that she was proud and must despise
him. Then he would become capricious, tyrannical, and unreasonable,
and treated her much more harshly and brutally than he really meant,
simply in order to have her sweetness and submissiveness chase away
his doubts. Usually, however, he was gentle and easily led, so long
as Marie was careful not to complain too much of her husband and her
father, or picture herself as too much abused; for then he would wax
furious and swear that he would blow out Palle Dyre's brains and put
his hands around Erik Grubbe's thin neck, and he would be so intent on
carrying out his threat that she had to use prayers and tears to calm
him.

The most serious element of disturbance in their relation was the
persistent baiting of the other servants. They were, of course, highly
incensed at the lovemaking between mistress and coachman, which put
their fellow-servant in a favored position, and--especially in the
absence of the master--gave him an influence to which he had no more
rightful claim than they. So they harassed and tortured poor Sören,
until he was quite beside himself and thought sometimes that he would
run away and sometimes that he would kill himself.

The maids were, of course, his worst tormentors.

       *       *       *       *       *

One evening they were busy making candles in the hall at Tjele. Marie
was standing beside the straw-filled vat in which the copper mould was
placed. She was busy dipping the wicks, while the kitchen-maid, Anne
Trinderup, Sören's cousin, was catching the drippings in an earthenware
dish. The cook was carrying the trays back and forth, hanging them up
under the frame, and removing the candles when they were thick enough.
Sören sat at the hall table looking on. He wore a gold-laced cap of red
cloth trimmed with black feathers. Before him stood a silver tankard
full of mead, and he was eating a large piece of roast meat, which he
cut in strips with his clasp-knife on a small pewter plate. He ate very
deliberately, sometimes taking a draught from his cup, and now and then
answering Marie's smile and nod with a slow, appreciative movement of
his head.

She asked him if he was comfortable.

H'm, it might have been better.

Then Anne must go and fetch him a cushion from the maids' room.

She obeyed, but not without a great many signs to the other maid behind
Marie's back.

Did Sören want a piece of cake?

Yes, that mightn't be out of the way.

Marie took a tallow dip and went to get the cake, but did not return
immediately. As soon as she was out of the room, the two girls began
to laugh uproariously, as if by agreement. Sören gave them an angry,
sidelong glance.

"Dear Sören," said Anne, imitating Marie's voice and manner, "won't
you have a serviette, Sören, to wipe your dainty fingers, Sören, and a
bolstered foot-stool for your feet, Sören? And are you sure it's light
enough for you to eat with that one thick candle, Sören, or shall I get
another for you? And there's a flowered gown hanging up in master's
chamber, shan't I bring it in? 'Twould look so fine with your red cap,
Sören!"

Sören did not deign to answer.

"Ah, won't your lordship speak to us?" Anne went on. "Common folk like
us would fain hear how the gentry talk, and I know his lordship's
able, for you've heard, Trine, that his sweetheart's given him a
compliment-book, and sure it can't fail that such a fine gentleman can
read and spell both backwards and forwards."

Sören struck the table with his fist and looked wrathfully at her.

"Oh, Sören," began the other girl, "I'll give you a bad penny for a
kiss. I know you get roast meat and mead from the old--"

At that moment Marie came in with the cake and set it down before
Sören, but he threw it along the table.

"Turn those women out!" he shouted.

But the tallow would get cold.

He didn't care if it did.

The maids were sent away.

Sören flung the red cap from him, cursed and swore and was angry. He
didn't want her to go there and stuff him with food as if he was an
unfattened pig, and he wouldn't be made a fool of before people with
her making play-actor caps for him, and there'd have to be an end to
this. He'd have her know that he was the man, and didn't care to have
her coddle him, and he'd never meant it that way. He wanted to rule,
and she'd have to mind him; he wanted to give, and she should take. Of
course he knew he didn't have anything to give, but that was no reason
why she should make nothing of him by giving to him. If she wouldn't
go with him through fire and flood, they'd have to part. He couldn't
stand this. She'd have to give herself into his power and run away with
him, she shouldn't sit there and be your ladyship and make him always
look up to her. He needed to have her be a dog with him--be poor, so he
could be good to her and have her thank him, and she must be afraid of
him and not have any one to put her trust in but him.

A coach was heard driving in at the gate. They knew it must be Palle
Dyre, and Sören stole away to the menservants' quarters.

Three of the men were sitting there on their beds, besides the
gamekeeper, Sören Jensen, who stood up.

"Why, there's the baron!" said one of the men, as the coachman came in.

"Hush, don't let him hear you," exclaimed the other with mock anxiety.

"Ugh," said the first speaker, "I wouldn't be in his shoes fer's many
rosenobles as you could stuff in a mill-sack."

Sören looked around uneasily and sat down on a chest that was standing
against the wall.

"It must be an awful death," put in the man who had not yet spoken, and
shuddered.

Sören Gamekeeper nodded gravely to him and sighed.

"What're you talkin' about?" asked Sören with pretended indifference.

No one answered.

"Is't here?" said the first man, passing his fingers across his neck.

"Hush!" replied the gamekeeper, frowning at the questioner.

"Ef it's me you're talkin' about," said Sören, "don't set there an'
cackle, but say what you got to say."

"Ay," said the gamekeeper, laying great stress on the word and looking
at Sören with a serious air of making up his mind. "Ay, Sören, it _is_
you we're talkin' about. Good Lord!" he folded his hands and seemed
lost in dark musings. "Sören," he began, "it's a hangin' matter what
ye're doin', and I give you warnin'"--he spoke as if reading from
a book--"mend your ways, Sören! There stands the gallows and the
block"--he pointed to the manor-house--"and there a Christian life an'
a decent burial"--he waved his hand in the direction of the stable.
"For you must answer with your neck, that's the sacred word of the law,
ay, so it is, so it is, think o' that!"

"Huh!" said Sören defiantly. "Who'll have the law on me?"

"Ay," repeated the gamekeeper in a tone as if something had been
brought forward that made the situation very much worse. "Who'll
have the law on you? Sören, Sören, who'll have the law on you? But
devil split me, you're a fool," he went on in a voice from which the
solemnity had flown, "an' it's fool's play to be runnin' after an old
woman, when there's such a risk to it. If she'd been young! An' such
an ill-tempered satan, too--let Blue-face keep _her_ in peace, there's
other women in the world besides her, Heaven be praised."

Sören had neither courage nor inclination to explain to them that he
could no longer live without Marie Grubbe. In fact, he was almost
ashamed of his foolish passion, and he knew that if he confessed the
truth, it would only mean that the whole pack of men and maids would
hound him, so he lied and denied his love.

"'Tis a wise way you're pointin', but look 'ee here, folks, I've got
a rix-dollar when you haven't any, an' I've got a bit of clothes an'
another bit an' a whole wagon-load, my dear friends, and once I get my
purse full, I'll run away just as quiet, an' then one o' you can try
your luck."

"All well an' good," answered Sören Gamekeeper, "but it's stealin'
money with your neck in a noose, I say. It's all very fine to have
clothes and silver given you for a gift, an' most agreeable to lie in
bed here an' say you're sick an' get wine an' roasted meat an' all
kinds o' belly-cheer sent down, but it won't go long here with so many
people round. It'll get out some day, an' then you're sure o' the worst
that can befall any one."

"Oh, they won't let things come to such a pass," said Sören, a little
crestfallen.

"Well, they'd both like to get rid o' her, and her sisters and her
brothers-in-law are not the kind o' folks who'd stand between, if
there's a chance o' getting her disinherited."

"O jeminy, she'd help me."

"You think so? She may ha' all she can do helpin' herself; she's been
in trouble too often fer any one to help her wi' so much as a bucket o'
oats."

"Hey-day," said Sören, making for the inner chamber, "a threatened man
may live long."

From that day on, Sören was pursued by hints of the gallows and the
block and the red-hot pincers wherever he went. The consequence was
that he tried to drive away fear and keep up his courage with brandy,
and as Marie often gave him money, he was never forced to stay sober.
After a while, he grew indifferent to the threats, but he was much more
cautious than before, kept more to the other servants, and sought Marie
more rarely.

A little before Christmas, Palle Dyre came home and remained there,
which put a stop to the meetings between Sören and Marie. In order to
make the other servants believe that all was over, and so keep them
from telling tales to the master, Sören began to play sweethearts with
Anne Trinderup, and he deceived them all, even Marie, although he had
told her of his plan.

On the third day of Christmas, when most of the people were at church,
Sören was standing by the wing of the manor-house, playing with one of
the dogs, when suddenly he heard Marie's voice calling him, it seemed
to him under the ground.

He turned and saw Marie standing in the low trap-door leading to the
salt-cellar. She was pale and had been weeping, and her eyes looked
wild and haunted under eyebrows that were drawn with pain.

"Sören," she said, "what have I done, since you no longer love me?"

"But I do love you! Can't you see I must have a care, fer they're all
thinkin' o' nothin' but how they can make trouble fer me an' get me
killed. Don't speak to me, let me go, ef ye don't want to see me dead!"

"Tell me no lies, Sören; I can see what is in your heart, and I wish
you no evil, not for a single hour, for I am not your equal in youth,
and you have always had a kindness for Anne, but it's a sin to let me
see it, Sören, you shouldn't do that. Don't think I am begging you to
take me, for I know full well the danger 'twould put you in, and the
labor and wear and tear that would be needed if we were to become a
couple by ourselves, and 'tis a thing hardly to be wished either for
you or me, though I can't help it."

"But I don't want Anne now or ever, the country jade she is! I'm fond
o' you an' no one else in the world, let 'em call you old and wicked
an' what the devil they please."

"I can't believe you, Sören, much as I wish to."

"You don't believe me?"

"No, Sören, no. My only wish is that this might be my grave, the spot
where I stand. Would that I could close the door over me and sit down
to sleep forever in the darkness."

"I'll make you believe me!"

"Never, never! there is nothing in all the world you can do to make me
believe you, for there is no reason in it."

"You make me daft wi' your talk, and you'll live to be sorry; for I'm
goin' to make you believe me, even ef they burn me alive or do me to
death fer it."

Marie shook her head and looked at him sadly.

"Then it must be, come what may," said Sören and ran away.

He stopped at the kitchen door, asked for Anne Trinderup, and was told
that she was in the garden. Then he went over to the menservants'
quarters, took a loaded old gun of the gamekeeper's, and made for the
garden.

Anne was cutting kale when Sören caught sight of her. She had filled
her apron with the green stuff, and was holding the fingers of one hand
up to her mouth to warm them with her breath. Slowly Sören stole up to
her, his eyes fixed on the edge of her dress, for he did not want to
see her face.

Suddenly Anne turned and saw Sören. His dark looks, the gun, and his
stealthy approach alarmed her, and she called to him: "Oh, don't,
Sören, please don't!" He lifted the gun, and Anne rushed off through
the snow with a wild, shrill scream.

The shot fell; Anne went on running, then put her hand to her cheek and
sank down with a cry of horror.

Sören threw down the gun and ran to the side of the house. He found the
trap-door closed. Then on to the front door, in and through all the
rooms, till he found Marie.

"'Tis all over!" he whispered, pale as a corpse.

"Are they after you, Sören?"

"No, I've shot her."

"Anne? Oh, what will become of us! Run, Sören, run--take a horse and
get away, quick, quick! Take the gray one!"

Sören fled. A moment later he was galloping out of the gate. He was
scarcely halfway to Foulum, when people came back from church. Palle
Dyre at once asked where Sören was going.

"There is some one lying out in the garden, moaning," said Marie. She
trembled in every limb and could hardly stand on her feet.

Palle and one of the men carried Anne in. Her screams could be heard
far and wide, but the hurt was not really serious. The gun had only
been loaded with grapeshot, of which a few had gone through her cheek
and a few more had settled in her shoulder, but as she bled freely and
cried piteously, a coach was sent to Viborg for the barber-surgeon.

When she had gathered her wits together a little, Palle Dyre questioned
her about how it had happened, and was told not only that, but the
whole story of the affair between Sören and Marie.

As soon as he came out of the sick-room all the servants crowded
around him and tried to tell him the same tale, for they were afraid
that if they did not, they might be punished. Palle refused to listen
to them, saying it was all gossip and stupid slander. The fact was, the
whole thing was extremely inconvenient to him: divorce, journeys to
court, lawsuit, and various expenditures--he preferred to avoid them.
No doubt the story could be hushed up and smoothed over and all be as
before. Marie's unfaithfulness did not in itself affect him much; in
fact, he thought it might be turned to advantage, by giving him more
power over her and possibly also over Erik Grubbe, who would surely be
anxious to keep the marriage unbroken, even though it had been violated.

When he had talked with Erik Grubbe, however, he hardly knew what to
think, for he could not make out the old man. He seemed furious, and
had instantly sent off four mounted men with orders to take Sören dead
or alive, which was certainly not a good way of keeping matters dark;
for many other things might come up in a trial for attempted murder.

In the evening of the following day, three of the men returned. They
had caught Sören at Dallerup, where the gray horse had fallen under
him, and had brought him to Skanderborg, where he was now held for
trial. The fourth man had lost his way and did not return until a day
later.

In the middle of January, Palle Dyre and Marie moved to Nörbæk manor.
He thought the servants would more easily forget when their mistress
was out of their sight, but in the latter part of February they were
again reminded of the affair, when a clerk came from Skanderborg
to ask whether Sören had been seen in the neighborhood, for he had
broken out of the arrest. The clerk came too early, for not until a
fortnight later did Sören venture to visit Nörbæk one night, and to
rap on Marie's chamber window. His first question, when Marie opened
it, was whether Anne was dead, and it seemed to relieve his mind of a
heavy burden when he heard that she had quite recovered. He lived in a
deserted house on Gassum heath and often came again to get money and
food. The servants as well as Palle Dyre knew that he was in the habit
of visiting the house, but Palle took no notice, and the servants did
not trouble themselves in the matter, when they saw the master was
indifferent.

At haymaking time, the master and mistress moved back to Tjele, where
Sören did not dare to show himself. His absence, added to her father's
taunts and petty persecution, irritated and angered Marie, until she
gave her feelings vent by scolding Erik Grubbe, in private, two or
three times, as if he had been her foot-boy. The result was that, in
the middle of August, Erik Grubbe sent a letter of complaint to the
King. After recounting at great length all her misdeeds, which were a
sin against God, a scandal before men, and an offence to all womanhood,
he ended the epistle saying:

Whereas she hath thus grievously disobeyed and misconducted herself, I
am under the necessity of disinheriting her, and I do humbly beseech
Your Royal Majesty that You will graciously be pleased to ratify and
confirm this my action, and that Your Royal Majesty will furthermore
be pleased to issue Your most gracious command to Governor Mogens
Scheel, that he may make inquiry concerning her aforesaid behavior
toward me and toward her husband, and that because of her wickedness,
she be confined at Borringholm, the expense to be borne by me, in
order that the wrath and visitation of God may be upon her as a
disobedient creature, a warning unto others, and her own soul possibly
unto salvation. Had I not been hard pressed, I should not have made
so bold as to come before You with this supplication, but I live in
the most humble hope of Your Royal Majesty's most gracious answer,
acknowledgment, and aid, which God shall surely reward. I live and die

                      Your Royal Majesty's
                          Most humble and most devoted
                              true hereditary subject

                                                      ERIK GRUBBE.

  Tjele, August 14, 1690.

       *       *       *       *       *

The King desired a statement in the matter from the Honorable Palle
Dyre, and this was to the effect that Marie did not conduct herself
toward him as befitted an honest wife, wherefore he petitioned the
King to have the marriage annulled without process of law. This was
not granted, and the couple were divorced by a decree of the court,
on March twenty-third, sixteen hundred and ninety-one. Erik Grubbe's
supplication that he might lock her up and disinherit her was also
refused, and he had to content himself with keeping her a captive at
Tjele, strictly guarded by peasants, while the trial lasted, and indeed
it must be admitted that he was the last person who had any right to
cast at her the stone of righteous retribution.

As soon as judgment had been pronounced, Marie left Tjele with a poor
bundle of clothes in her hand. She met Sören on the heath to the south,
and he became her third husband.



CHAPTER XVII


About a month later, on an April evening, there was a crowd gathered
outside of Ribe cathedral. The Church Council was in session, and it
was customary, while that lasted, to light the tapers in church three
times a week, at eight o'clock in the evening. The gentry and persons
of quality in town as well as the respectable citizens would assemble
and walk up and down in the nave, while a skilful musician would play
for them on the organ. The poorer people had to be content to listen
from the outside.

Among the latter were Marie Grubbe and Sören.

Their clothing was coarse and ragged, and they looked as if they had
not had enough to eat every day; and no wonder, for it was not a
profitable trade they plied. In an inn between Aarhus and Randers,
Sören had met a poor sick German, who for twenty marks had sold him a
small, badly battered hurdy-gurdy, a motley fool's suit, and an old
checked rug. With these he and Marie gained their livelihood, going
from market to market; she would turn the hurdy-gurdy, and he would
stand on the checked rug, dressed in the motley clothes, lifting and
doing tricks with some huge iron weights and long iron bars, which they
borrowed of the tradesmen.

It was the market that had brought them to Ribe.

They were standing near the door, where a faint, faded strip of light
shone on their pale faces and the dark mass of heads behind them.
People were coming singly or in pairs or small groups, talking and
laughing in well-bred manner to the very threshold of the church, but
there they suddenly became silent, gazed gravely straight before them,
and changed their gait.

Sören was seized with a desire to see more of the show, and whispered
to Marie that they ought to go in; there was no harm in trying, nothing
worse could happen to them than to be turned out. Marie shuddered
inwardly at the thought that _she_ should be turned out from a place
where common artisans could freely go, and she held back Sören, who
was trying to draw her on; but suddenly she changed her mind, pressed
eagerly forward, pulling Sören after her, and walked in without the
slightest trace of shrinking timidity or stealthy caution; indeed, she
seemed determined to be noticed and turned out. At first no one stopped
them, but just as she was about to step into the well-lit, crowded
nave, a church warden, who was stationed there, caught sight of them.
After casting one horrified glance up through the church, he advanced
quickly upon them with lifted and outstretched hands, as if pushing
them before him to the very threshold, and over it. He stood there for
a moment, looking reproachfully at the crowd, as if he blamed it for
what had occurred, then returned with measured tread, and took up his
post, shuddering.

The crowd met the ejected ones with a burst of jeering laughter and a
shower of mocking questions, which made Sören growl and look around
savagely, but Marie was content; she had bent to receive the blow which
the respectable part of society always has ready for such as he, and
the blow had fallen.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the night before St. Oluf's market, four men were sitting in one of
the poorest inns at Aarhus, playing cards.

One of the players was Sören. His partner, a handsome man with
coal-black hair and a dark skin, was known as Jens Bottom, and was a
juggler. The other two members of the party were joint owners of a
mangy bear. Both were unusually hideous: one had a horrible harelip,
while the other was one-eyed, heavy jowled, and pock-marked, and was
known as Rasmus Squint, plainly because the skin around the injured
eye was drawn together in such a manner as to give him the appearance
of being always ready to peer through a key-hole or some such small
aperture.

The players were sitting at one end of the long table which ran under
the window and held a candle and an earless cruse. Opposite them was a
folding-table, fastened up against the wall with an iron hook. A bar
ran across the other end of the room, and a thin, long-wicked candle,
stuck into an old inverted funnel, threw a sleepy light over the shelf
above, where some large, square flasks of brandy and bitters, some
quart and pint measures, and half-a-dozen glasses had plenty of room
beside a basket full of mustard seed and a large lantern with panes
of broken glass. In one corner outside of the bar sat Marie Grubbe,
knitting and drowsing, and in the other sat a man with body bent
forward and elbows resting on his knees. He seemed intent on pulling
his black felt hat as far down over his head as possible, and when that
was accomplished, he would clutch the wide brim, slowly work the hat
up from his head again, his eyes pinched together and the corners of
his mouth twitching, probably with the pain of pulling his hair, then
presently begin all over again.

"Then this is the last game to play," said Jens Bottom, whose lead it
was.

Rasmus Squint pounded the table with his knuckles as a sign to his
partner, Salmand, to cover.

Salmand played two of trumps.

"A two!" cried Rasmus; "have you nothing but twos and threes in your
hand?"

"Lord," growled Salmand, "there's always been poor folks and a few
beggars."

Sören trumped with a six.

"Oh, oh," Rasmus moaned, "are you goin' to let him have it for a six?
What the devil are you so stingy with your old cards for, Salmand?"

He played, and Sören won the trick.

"Kerstie Meek," said Sören, playing four of hearts.

"And her half-crazy sister," continued Rasmus, putting on four of
diamonds.

"Maybe an ace is good enough," said Sören, covering with ace of trumps.

"Play, man, play, if you never played before!" cried Rasmus.

"That's too costly," whimpered Salmand, taking his turn.

"Then I'll put on my seven and another seven," said Jens.

Sören turned the trick.

"And then nine of trumps," Jens went on, leading.

"Then I'll have to bring on my yellow nag," cried Salmand, playing two
of hearts.

"You'll never stable it," laughed Sören, covering with four of spades.

"Forfeit!" roared Rasmus Squint, throwing down his cards. "Forfeit with
two of hearts, that's a good day's work! Nay, nay, 'tis a good thing
we're not goin' to play any more. Now let them kiss the cards that have
won."

They began to count the tricks, and while they were busy with this,
a stout, opulently dressed man came in. He went at once to the
folding-table, let it down, and took a seat nearest the wall. As he
passed the players, he touched his hat with his silver-knobbed cane,
and said: "Good even to the house!"

"Thanks," they replied, and all four spat.

The newcomer took out a paper full of tobacco and a long clay pipe,
filled it, and pounded the table with his cane.

A barefoot girl brought him a brazier full of hot coals and a large
earthenware cruse with a pewter cover. He took out from his vest-pocket
a pair of small copper pincers, which he used to pick up bits of coal
and put them in his pipe, drew the cruse to him, leaned back, and made
himself as comfortable as the small space would allow.

"How much do you have to pay for a paper o' tobacco like the one you've
got there, master?" asked Salmand, as he began to fill his little pipe
from a sealskin pouch held together with a red string.

"Sixpence," said the man, adding, as if to apologize for such
extravagance, "it's very good for the lungs, as you might say."

"How's business?" Salmand went on, striking fire to light his pipe.

"Well enough, and thank you kindly for asking, well enough, but I'm
getting old, as you might say."

"Well," said Rasmus Squint, "but then you've no need to run after
customers, since they're all brought to you."

"Ay," laughed the man, "in respect of that, it's a good business, and,
moreover, you don't have to talk yourself hoarse persuading folks to
buy your wares; they have to take 'em as they come, they can't pick and
choose."

"And they don't want anything thrown in," Rasmus went on, "and don't
ask for more than what's rightly comin' to 'em."

"Master, do they scream much?" asked Sören in a half whisper.

"Well, they don't often laugh."

"Faugh, what an ugly business!"

"Then there's no use my counting on one of you for help, I suppose."

"Are you countin' on us to help you?" asked Rasmus, and rose angrily.

"I'm not counting on anything, but I'm looking for a young man to help
me and to take the business after me, that's what I'm looking for, as
you might say."

"And what wages might a man get for that?" asked Jens Bottom, earnestly.

"Fifteen dollars per annum in ready money, one-third of the clothing,
and one mark out of every dollar earned according to the fixed rate."

"And what might that be?"

"The rate is this, that I get five dollars for whipping at the post,
seven dollars for whipping from town, four dollars for turning out of
the county, and the same for branding with hot iron."

"And for the bigger work?"

"Alack, that does not come so often, but it's eight dollars for cutting
off a man's head, that is with an axe: with a sword it's ten, but that
may not occur once in seven years. Hanging is fourteen rix-dollars, ten
for the job itself and four for taking the body down from the gallows.
Breaking on the wheel is seven dollars, that is for a whole body, but
I must find the stake and put it up too. And now, is there anything
more? Ay, crushing arms and legs according to the new German fashion
and breaking on the wheel, that's fourteen--that's fourteen, and for
quartering and breaking on the wheel I get twelve, and then there's
pinching with red-hot pincers, that's two dollars for every pinch, and
that's all; there's nothing more except such extras as may come up."

"It can't be very hard to learn, is it?"

"The business? Well, any one can do it, but how--that's another matter.
There's a certain knack about it that one gets with practice, just
like any other handicraft. There's whipping at the post, that's not so
easy, if 'tis to be done right,--three flicks with each whip, quick and
light like waving a bit of cloth, and yet biting the flesh with due
chastisement, as the rigor of the law and the betterment of the sinner
require."

"I think I might do it," said Jens, sighing as he spoke.

"Here's the earnest-penny," tempted the man at the folding-table,
putting a few bright silver coins out before him.

"Think well!" begged Sören.

"Think and starve, wait and freeze--that's two pair of birds that are
well mated," answered Jens, rising. "Farewell as an honest and true
guild-man," he went on, giving Sören his hand.

"Farewell, guild-mate, and godspeed," replied Sören.

He went round the table with the same farewell and got the same answer.
Then he shook hands with Marie and with the man in the corner, who had
to let go his hat for the moment.

Jens proceeded to the man at the folding-table, who settled his face
in solemn folds and said: "I, Master Herman Köppen, executioner in
the town of Aarhus, take you in the presence of these honest men, a
journeyman to be and a journeyman's work to perform, to the glory of
God, your own preferment, and the benefit of myself and the honorable
office of executioner," and as he made this unnecessarily pompous
speech, which seemed to give him immense satisfaction, he pressed the
bright earnest-penny into Jens's hand. Then he rose, took off his hat,
bowed, and asked whether he might not have the honor of offering the
honest men who had acted as witnesses a drink of half and half.

The three men at the long table looked inquiringly at one another, then
nodded as with one accord.

The barefoot girl brought a clumsy earthenware cruse, and three green
glasses on which splotches of red and yellow stars were still visible.
She set the cruse down before Jens and the glasses before Sören and
the bear-baiters, and fetched a large wooden mug from which she filled
first the glasses of the three honest men, then the earthenware cruse,
and finally Master Herman's private goblet.

Rasmus drew his glass toward him and spat, the two others followed
suit, and they sat a while looking at one another, as if none of them
liked to begin drinking. Meanwhile Marie Grubbe came up to Sören and
whispered something in his ear, to which he replied by shaking his
head. She tried to whisper again, but Sören would not listen. For a
moment she stood uncertain, then caught up the glass and emptied the
contents on the floor, saying that he mustn't drink the hangman's
liquor. Sören sprang up, seized her arm in a hard grip, and pushed her
out of the door, gruffly ordering her to go upstairs. Then he called
for a half pint of brandy and resumed his place.

"I'd like to ha' seen my Abelone--God rest her soul--try a thing like
that on me," said Rasmus, drinking.

"Ay," said Salmand, "she can thank the Lord she isn't my woman, I'd
ha' given her somethin' else to think o' besides throwin' the gifts o'
God in the dirt."

"But look 'ee, Salmand," said Rasmus, with a sly glance in Master
Herman's direction, "your wife she isn't a fine lady of the gentry,
she's only a poor common thing like the rest of us, and so she gets
her trouncin' when she needs it, as the custom is among common people;
but if instead she'd been one of the quality, you'd never ha' dared to
flick her noble back, you'd ha' let her spit you in the face, if she
pleased."

"No, by the Lord Harry, I wouldn't," swore Salmand, "I'd ha' dressed
her down till she couldn't talk or see, and I'd ha' picked the maggots
out o' her. You just ask mine if she knows the thin strap bruin's tied
up in--you'll see it'll make her back ache just to think of it. But
if she'd tried to come as I'm sitting here and pour my liquor on the
floor, I'd ha' trounced her, if she was the emperor's own daughter, as
long's I could move a hand, or there was breath in my body. What is
she thinking about,--the fine doll,--does she think she's better than
anybody else's wife, since she's got the impudence to come here and
put shame on her husband in the company of honest men? Does she s'pose
it 'ud hurt her if you came near her after drinkin' the liquor of this
honorable man? Mind what I say, Sören, and"--he made a motion as if he
were beating some one--"or else you'll never in the wide world get any
good out of her."

"If he only dared," teased Rasmus, looking at Sören.

"Careful, Squint, or I'll tickle your hide."

With that he left them. When he came into the room where Marie was, he
closed the door after him with a kick, and began to untie the rope that
held their little bundle of clothing.

Marie was sitting on the edge of the rough board frame that served as
a bed. "Are you angry, Sören?" she said.

"I'll show you," said Sören.

"Have a care, Sören! No one yet has offered me blows since I came of
age, and I will not bear it."

He replied that she could do as she pleased, he meant to beat her.

"Sören, for God's sake, for God's sake, don't lay violent hands on me,
you will repent it!"

But Sören caught her by the hair, and beat her with the rope. She did
not cry out, but merely moaned under the blows.

"There!" said Sören, and threw himself on the bed.

Marie lay still on the floor. She was utterly amazed at herself. She
expected to feel a furious hatred against Sören rising in her soul,
an implacable, relentless hatred, but no such thing happened. Instead
she felt a deep, gentle sorrow, a quiet regret at a hope that had
burst--how could he?



CHAPTER XVIII


In May of sixteen hundred and ninety-five Erik Grubbe died at the age
of eighty-seven. The inheritance was promptly divided among his three
daughters, but Marie did not get much, as the old man, before his
death, had issued various letters of credit in favor of the other two,
thus withdrawing from the estate the greater part of his property to
the disadvantage of Marie.

Even so, her portion was sufficient to make her and her husband
respectable folk instead of beggars, and with a little common sense,
they might have secured a fair income to the end of their days.
Unluckily Sören made up his mind to become a horse-dealer, and it was
not long before he had squandered most of the money. Still there was
enough left so they could buy the Burdock House at the Falster ferry.

In the early days they had a hard time, and Marie often had to lend a
hand at the oars, but later on her chief task was to mind the ale-house
which was a part of the ferry privileges. On the whole, they were very
happy, for Marie still loved her husband above everything else in the
world, and though he would sometimes get drunk and beat her, she did
not take it much to heart. She realized that she had enrolled in a
class where such things were an every-day matter, and though she would
sometimes feel irritated, she would soon get over it by telling herself
that this man who could be so rough and hard was the same Sören who had
once shot a human being for her sake.

The people they ferried over were generally peasants and cattle-men,
but occasionally there would come some one who was a little higher up
in the world. One day Sti Högh passed that way. Marie and her husband
rowed him across, and he sat in the stern of the boat, where he could
talk with Marie, who had the oar nearest him. He recognized her at
once, but showed no signs of surprise; perhaps he had known that he
would find her there. Marie had to look twice before she knew him, for
he was very much changed. His face was red and bloated, his eyes were
watery; his lower jaw dropped, as if the corners of his mouth were
paralyzed, his legs were thin, and his stomach hung down,--in short, he
bore every mark of a life spent in stupefying debauchery of every kind,
and this had, as a matter of fact, been his chief pursuit ever since he
left Marie. As far as the external events went, he had for a time been
_gentilhomme_ and _maître d'hôtel_ in the house of a royal cardinal in
Rome, had gone over to the Catholic Church, had joined his brother,
Just Högh, then ambassador to Nimeguen, had been converted back to the
Lutheran religion again, and returned to Denmark, where he was living
on the bounty of his brother.

"Is this," he asked, nodding in the direction of Sören,--"is this the
one I foretold was to come after me?"

"Ay, he is the one," said Marie, hesitating a little, for she would
have preferred not to reply.

"And he is greater than I--was?" he went on, straightening himself in
his seat.

"Nay, you can't be likened to him, your lordship," she answered,
affecting the speech of a peasant woman.

"Oh, ay, so it goes--you and I have indeed cheapened ourselves--we've
sold ourselves to life for less pay than we had thought to, you in one
manner, I in another."

"But your lordship is surely well enough off?" asked Marie, in the same
simple tone.

"Well enough," he laughed, "well enough is more than half ill; I am
indeed well enough off. And you, Marie?"

"Thank you kindly for asking; we've got our health, and when we keep
tugging at the oars every day, we've got bread and brandy too."

They had reached land, and Sti stepped out and said good-by.

"Lord," said Marie, looking after him pityingly, "he's certainly been
shorn of crest and wings too."

       *       *       *       *       *

Peacefully and quietly the days passed at the Burdock House, with
daily work and daily gain. Little by little, the pair improved their
condition, hired boatmen to do the ferrying, carried on a little trade,
and built a wing on their old house. They lived to the end of the old
century and ten years into the new. Marie turned sixty, and she turned
sixty-five, and still she was as brisk and merry at her work as if
she had been on the sunny side of sixty. But then it happened, on her
sixty-eighth birthday, in the spring of seventeen hundred and eleven,
that Sören accidentally shot and killed a skipper from Dragör under
very suspicious circumstances, and in consequence was arrested.

This was a hard blow to Marie. She had to endure a long suspense, for
judgment was not pronounced until midsummer of the following year, and
this, together with her anxiety lest the old affair of his attempt on
the life of Anne Trinderup should be taken up again, aged her very much.

One day, in the beginning of this period of waiting, Marie went down
to meet the ferry just as it was landing. There were two passengers
on board, and one of these, a journeyman, absorbed her attention by
refusing to show his passport, declaring that he had shown it to the
boatmen, when he went on board, which they, however, denied. When
she threatened to charge him full fare, unless he would produce his
passport as proof of his right as a journeyman to travel for half
price, he had to give in. This matter being settled, Marie turned to
the other passenger, a little slender man who stood, pale and shivering
after the seasickness he had just endured, wrapped in his mantle of
coarse, greenish-black stuff, and leaning against the side of a boat
that had been dragged up on the beach. He asked in a peevish voice
whether he could get lodgings in the Burdock House, and Marie replied
that he might look at their spare room.

She showed him a little chamber which, besides bed and chair, contained
a barrel of brandy with funnel and waste-cup, some large kegs of
molasses and vinegar, and a table with legs painted in pearl-color and
a top of square tiles, on which scenes from the Old and New Testament
were drawn in purplish black. The stranger at once noticed that three
of the tiles represented Jonah being thrown on land from the mouth of
the whale, and when he put his hand on them, he shuddered, declaring
he was sure to catch a cold, if he should be so careless as to sit and
read with his elbows on the table.

When Marie questioned him, he explained that he had left Copenhagen on
account of the plague, and meant to stay until it was over. He ate only
three times a day, and he could not stand salt meat or fresh bread. As
for the rest, he was a master of arts, at present fellow at Borch's
Collegium, and his name was Holberg, Ludvig Holberg.

Master Holberg was a very quiet man of remarkably youthful appearance.
At first glance, he appeared to be about eighteen or nineteen years
old, but upon closer examination, his mouth, his hands, and the
inflection of his voice showed that he must be a good deal older. He
kept to himself, spoke but little, and that little--so it seemed--with
reluctance. Not that he avoided other people, but he simply wanted
them to leave him in peace and not draw him into conversation. When
the ferry came and went with passengers, or when the fishermen brought
in their catch, he liked to watch the busy life from a distance and
to listen to the discussions. He seemed to enjoy the sight of people
at work, whether it was ploughing or stacking or launching the boats,
and whenever any one put forth an effort that showed more than common
strength, he would smile with pleasure and lift his shoulders in quiet
delight. When he had been at the Burdock House for a month, he began to
approach Marie Grubbe, or rather he allowed her to approach him, and
they would often sit talking, in the warm summer evenings, for an hour
or two at a time, in the common room, where they could look out through
the open door, over the bright surface of the water, to the blue, hazy
outlines of Möen.

One evening, after their friendship had been well established, Marie
told him her story, and ended with a sigh, because they had taken Sören
away from her.

"I must own," said Holberg, "that I am utterly unable to comprehend how
you could prefer an ordinary groom and country oaf to such a polished
gentleman as his Excellency the Viceroy, who is praised by everybody
as a past master in all the graces of fashion, nay as the model of
everything that is elegant and pleasing."

"Even though he had been as full of it as the book they call the
_Alamodische Sittenbuch_, it would not have mattered a rush, since I
had once for all conceived such an aversion and loathing for him that I
could scarce bear to have him come into my presence; and you know how
impossible it is to overcome such an aversion, so that if one had the
virtue and principles of an angel, yet this natural aversion would be
stronger. On the other hand, my poor present husband woke in me such
instant and unlooked-for inclination that I could ascribe it to nothing
but a natural attraction, which it would be vain to resist."

"Ha! That were surely well reasoned! Then we have but to pack all
morality into a strong chest and send it to Hekkenfell, and live on
according to the desires of our hearts, for then there is no lewdness
to be named but we can dress it up as a natural and irresistible
attraction, and in the same manner there is not one of all the virtues
but we can easily escape from the exercise of it; for one may have
an aversion for sobriety, one for honesty, one for modesty, and such
a natural aversion, he would say, is quite irresistible, so one who
feels it is quite innocent. But you have altogether too clear an
understanding, goodwife, not to know that all this is naught but wicked
conceits and bedlam talk."

Marie made no answer.

"But do you not believe in God, goodwife," Master Holberg went on, "and
in the life everlasting?"

"Ay, God be praised, I do. I believe in our Lord."

"But eternal punishment and eternal reward, goodwife?"

"I believe every human being lives his own life and dies his own death,
that is what I believe."

"But that is no faith; do you believe we shall rise again from the dead?"

"How shall I rise? As the young innocent child I was when I first came
out among people, or as the honored and envied favorite of the King and
the ornament of the court, or as poor old hopeless Ferryman's Marie?
And shall I answer for what the others, the child and the woman in the
fullness of life, have sinned, or shall one of them answer for me? Can
you tell me that, Master Holberg?"

"Yet you have had but one soul, goodwife!"

"Have I indeed?" asked Marie, and sat musing for a while. "Let me speak
to you plainly, and answer me truly as you think. Do you believe that
one who his whole life has sinned grievously against God in heaven, and
who in his last moment, when he is struggling with death, confesses his
sin from a true heart, repents, and gives himself over to the mercy
of God, without fear and without doubt, do you think such a one is
more pleasing to God than another who has likewise sinned and offended
against Him, but then for many years of her life has striven to do her
duty, has borne every burden without a murmur, but never in prayer or
open repentance has wept over her former life, do you think that she
who has lived as she thought was rightly lived, but without hope of any
reward hereafter and without prayer, do you think God will thrust her
from Him and cast her out, even though she has never uttered a word of
prayer to Him?"

"That is more than any man may dare to say," replied Master Holberg and
left her.

Shortly afterwards he went away.

In August of the following year, judgment was pronounced against Sören
Ferryman, and he was sentenced to three years of hard labor in irons at
Bremerholm.

It was a long time to suffer, longer to wait, yet at last it was over.
Sören came home, but the confinement and harsh treatment had undermined
his health, and before Marie had nursed him for a year, they bore him
to the grave.

For yet another long, long year Marie had to endure this life. Then she
suddenly fell ill and died. Her mind was wandering during her illness,
and the pastor could neither pray with her nor give her the sacrament.

On a sunny day in summer they buried her at Sören's side, and over the
bright waters and the golden grainfields sounded the hymn, as the poor
little group of mourners, dulled by the heat, sang without sorrow and
without thought:

    "Lord God, in mercy hear our cry before Thee,
    Thy bloody scourge lift from us, we implore Thee;
    Turn Thou from us Thy wrath all men pursuing
            For their wrongdoing.

    "If Thou regard alone our vile offending,
    If upon us true justice were descending,
    Then must the earth and all upon it crumble,
            Yea, proud and humble."


THE END



  Transcriber's Note: The cover image was created for this e-book and
  is granted to the public domain.





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