H. C. Andersen
(No description provided)
THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES
THE REAL PRINCESS
THE SHOES OF FORTUNE
THE FIR TREE
THE SNOW QUEEN
THE OLD HOUSE
THE HAPPY FAMILY
THE STORY OF A MOTHER
THE FALSE COLLAR
THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL
THE DREAM OF LITTLE TUK
THE NAUGHTY BOY
THE RED SHOES
Many years ago, there was an Emperor, who was so excessively fond of new clothes, that he spent all his money in dress. He did not trouble himself in the least about his soldiers; nor did he care to go either to the theatre or the chase, except for the opportunities then afforded him for displaying his new clothes. He had a different suit for each hour of the day; and as of any other king or emperor, one is accustomed to say, “he is sitting in council,” it was always said of him, “The Emperor is sitting in his wardrobe.”
Time passed merrily in the large town which was his capital; strangers arrived every day at the court. One day, two rogues, calling themselves weavers, made their appearance. They gave out that they knew how to weave stuffs of the most beautiful colors and elaborate patterns, the clothes manufactured from which should have the wonderful property of remaining invisible to everyone who was unfit for the office he held, or who was extraordinarily simple in character.
“These must, indeed, be splendid clothes!” thought the Emperor. “Had I such a suit, I might at once find out what men in my realms are unfit for their office, and also be able to distinguish the wise from the foolish! This stuff must be woven for me immediately.” And he caused large sums of money to be given to both the weavers in order that they might begin their work directly.
So the two pretended weavers set up two looms, and affected to work very busily, though in reality they did nothing at all. They asked for the most delicate silk and the purest gold thread; put both into their own knapsacks; and then continued their pretended work at the empty looms until late at night.
“I should like to know how the weavers are getting on with my cloth,” said the Emperor to himself, after some little time had elapsed; he was, however, rather embarrassed, when he remembered that a simpleton, or one unfit for his office, would be unable to see the manufacture. To be sure, he thought he had nothing to risk in his own person; but yet, he would prefer sending somebody else, to bring him intelligence about the weavers, and their work, before he troubled himself in the affair. All the people throughout the city had heard of the wonderful property the cloth was to possess; and all were anxious to learn how wise, or how ignorant, their neighbors might prove to be.
“I will send my faithful old minister to the weavers,” said the Emperor at last, after some deliberation, “he will be best able to see how the cloth looks; for he is a man of sense, and no one can be more suitable for his office than he is.”
So the faithful old minister went into the hall, where the knaves were working with all their might, at their empty looms. “What can be the meaning of this?” thought the old man, opening his eyes very wide. “I cannot discover the least bit of thread on the looms.” However, he did not express his thoughts aloud.
The impostors requested him very courteously to be so good as to come nearer their looms; and then asked him whether the design pleased him, and whether the colors were not very beautiful; at the same time pointing to the empty frames. The poor old minister looked and looked, he could not discover anything on the looms, for a very good reason, viz: there was nothing there. “What!” thought he again. “Is it possible that I am a simpleton? I have never thought so myself; and no one must know it now if I am so. Can it be, that I am unfit for my office? No, that must not be said either. I will never confess that I could not see the stuff.”
“Well, Sir Minister!” said one of the knaves, still pretending to work. “You do not say whether the stuff pleases you.”
“Oh, it is excellent!” replied the old minister, looking at the loom through his spectacles. “This pattern, and the colors, yes, I will tell the Emperor without delay, how very beautiful I think them.”
“We shall be much obliged to you,” said the impostors, and then they named the different colors and described the pattern of the pretended stuff. The old minister listened attentively to their words, in order that he might repeat them to the Emperor; and then the knaves asked for more silk and gold, saying that it was necessary to complete what they had begun. However, they put all that was given them into their knapsacks; and continued to work with as much apparent diligence as before at their empty looms.
The Emperor now sent another officer of his court to see how the men were getting on, and to ascertain whether the cloth would soon be ready. It was just the same with this gentleman as with the minister; he surveyed the looms on all sides, but could see nothing at all but the empty frames.
“Does not the stuff appear as beautiful to you, as it did to my lord the minister?” asked the impostors of the Emperor's second ambassador; at the same time making the same gestures as before, and talking of the design and colors which were not there.
“I certainly am not stupid!” thought the messenger. “It must be, that I am not fit for my good, profitable office! That is very odd; however, no one shall know anything about it.” And accordingly he praised the stuff he could not see, and declared that he was delighted with both colors and patterns. “Indeed, please your Imperial Majesty,” said he to his sovereign when he returned, “the cloth which the weavers are preparing is extraordinarily magnificent.”
The whole city was talking of the splendid cloth which the Emperor had ordered to be woven at his own expense.
And now the Emperor himself wished to see the costly manufacture, while it was still in the loom. Accompanied by a select number of officers of the court, among whom were the two honest men who had already admired the cloth, he went to the crafty impostors, who, as soon as they were aware of the Emperor's approach, went on working more diligently than ever; although they still did not pass a single thread through the looms.
“Is not the work absolutely magnificent?” said the two officers of the crown, already mentioned. “If your Majesty will only be pleased to look at it! What a splendid design! What glorious colors!” and at the same time they pointed to the empty frames; for they imagined that everyone else could see this exquisite piece of workmanship.
“How is this?” said the Emperor to himself. “I can see nothing! This is indeed a terrible affair! Am I a simpleton, or am I unfit to be an Emperor? That would be the worst thing that could happen—Oh! the cloth is charming,” said he, aloud. “It has my complete approbation.” And he smiled most graciously, and looked closely at the empty looms; for on no account would he say that he could not see what two of the officers of his court had praised so much. All his retinue now strained their eyes, hoping to discover something on the looms, but they could see no more than the others; nevertheless, they all exclaimed, “Oh, how beautiful!” and advised his majesty to have some new clothes made from this splendid material, for the approaching procession. “Magnificent! Charming! Excellent!” resounded on all sides; and everyone was uncommonly gay. The Emperor shared in the general satisfaction; and presented the impostors with the riband of an order of knighthood, to be worn in their button-holes, and the title of “Gentlemen Weavers.”
The rogues sat up the whole of the night before the day on which the procession was to take place, and had sixteen lights burning, so that everyone might see how anxious they were to finish the Emperor's new suit. They pretended to roll the cloth off the looms; cut the air with their scissors; and sewed with needles without any thread in them. “See!” cried they, at last. “The Emperor's new clothes are ready!”
And now the Emperor, with all the grandees of his court, came to the weavers; and the rogues raised their arms, as if in the act of holding something up, saying, “Here are your Majesty's trousers! Here is the scarf! Here is the mantle! The whole suit is as light as a cobweb; one might fancy one has nothing at all on, when dressed in it; that, however, is the great virtue of this delicate cloth.”
“Yes indeed!” said all the courtiers, although not one of them could see anything of this exquisite manufacture.
“If your Imperial Majesty will be graciously pleased to take off your clothes, we will fit on the new suit, in front of the looking glass.”
The Emperor was accordingly undressed, and the rogues pretended to array him in his new suit; the Emperor turning round, from side to side, before the looking glass.
“How splendid his Majesty looks in his new clothes, and how well they fit!” everyone cried out. “What a design! What colors! These are indeed royal robes!”
“The canopy which is to be borne over your Majesty, in the procession, is waiting,” announced the chief master of the ceremonies.
“I am quite ready,” answered the Emperor. “Do my new clothes fit well?” asked he, turning himself round again before the looking glass, in order that he might appear to be examining his handsome suit.
The lords of the bedchamber, who were to carry his Majesty's train felt about on the ground, as if they were lifting up the ends of the mantle; and pretended to be carrying something; for they would by no means betray anything like simplicity, or unfitness for their office.
So now the Emperor walked under his high canopy in the midst of the procession, through the streets of his capital; and all the people standing by, and those at the windows, cried out, “Oh! How beautiful are our Emperor's new clothes! What a magnificent train there is to the mantle; and how gracefully the scarf hangs!” in short, no one would allow that he could not see these much-admired clothes; because, in doing so, he would have declared himself either a simpleton or unfit for his office. Certainly, none of the Emperor's various suits, had ever made so great an impression, as these invisible ones.
“But the Emperor has nothing at all on!” said a little child.
“Listen to the voice of innocence!” exclaimed his father; and what the child had said was whispered from one to another.
“But he has nothing at all on!” at last cried out all the people. The Emperor was vexed, for he knew that the people were right; but he thought the procession must go on now! And the lords of the bedchamber took greater pains than ever, to appear holding up a train, although, in reality, there was no train to hold.
There was once a poor Prince, who had a kingdom. His kingdom was very small, but still quite large enough to marry upon; and he wished to marry.
It was certainly rather cool of him to say to the Emperor's daughter, “Will you have me?” But so he did; for his name was renowned far and wide; and there were a hundred princesses who would have answered, “Yes!” and “Thank you kindly.” We shall see what this princess said.
It happened that where the Prince's father lay buried, there grew a rose tree—a most beautiful rose tree, which blossomed only once in every five years, and even then bore only one flower, but that was a rose! It smelt so sweet that all cares and sorrows were forgotten by him who inhaled its fragrance.
And furthermore, the Prince had a nightingale, who could sing in such a manner that it seemed as though all sweet melodies dwelt in her little throat. So the Princess was to have the rose, and the nightingale; and they were accordingly put into large silver caskets, and sent to her.
The Emperor had them brought into a large hall, where the Princess was playing at “Visiting,” with the ladies of the court; and when she saw the caskets with the presents, she clapped her hands for joy.
“Ah, if it were but a little pussy-cat!” said she; but the rose tree, with its beautiful rose came to view.
“Oh, how prettily it is made!” said all the court ladies.
“It is more than pretty,” said the Emperor, “it is charming!”
But the Princess touched it, and was almost ready to cry.
“Fie, papa!” said she. “It is not made at all, it is natural!”
“Let us see what is in the other casket, before we get into a bad humor,” said the Emperor. So the nightingale came forth and sang so delightfully that at first no one could say anything ill-humored of her.
“Superbe! Charmant!” exclaimed the ladies; for they all used to chatter French, each one worse than her neighbor.
“How much the bird reminds me of the musical box that belonged to our blessed Empress,” said an old knight. “Oh yes! These are the same tones, the same execution.”
“Yes! yes!” said the Emperor, and he wept like a child at the remembrance.
“I will still hope that it is not a real bird,” said the Princess.
“Yes, it is a real bird,” said those who had brought it. “Well then let the bird fly,” said the Princess; and she positively refused to see the Prince.
However, he was not to be discouraged; he daubed his face over brown and black; pulled his cap over his ears, and knocked at the door.
“Good day to my lord, the Emperor!” said he. “Can I have employment at the palace?”
“Why, yes,” said the Emperor. “I want some one to take care of the pigs, for we have a great many of them.”
So the Prince was appointed “Imperial Swineherd.” He had a dirty little room close by the pigsty; and there he sat the whole day, and worked. By the evening he had made a pretty little kitchen-pot. Little bells were hung all round it; and when the pot was boiling, these bells tinkled in the most charming manner, and played the old melody,
“Ach! du lieber Augustin,
Alles ist weg, weg, weg!”*
* “Ah! dear Augustine! All is gone, gone, gone!”
But what was still more curious, whoever held his finger in the smoke of the kitchen-pot, immediately smelt all the dishes that were cooking on every hearth in the city—this, you see, was something quite different from the rose.
Now the Princess happened to walk that way; and when she heard the tune, she stood quite still, and seemed pleased; for she could play “Lieber Augustine”; it was the only piece she knew; and she played it with one finger.
“Why there is my piece,” said the Princess. “That swineherd must certainly have been well educated! Go in and ask him the price of the instrument.”
So one of the court-ladies must run in; however, she drew on wooden slippers first.
“What will you take for the kitchen-pot?” said the lady.
“I will have ten kisses from the Princess,” said the swineherd.
“Yes, indeed!” said the lady.
“I cannot sell it for less,” rejoined the swineherd.
“He is an impudent fellow!” said the Princess, and she walked on; but when she had gone a little way, the bells tinkled so prettily
“Ach! du lieber Augustin, Alles ist weg, weg, weg!”
“Stay,” said the Princess. “Ask him if he will have ten kisses from the ladies of my court.”
“No, thank you!” said the swineherd. “Ten kisses from the Princess, or I keep the kitchen-pot myself.”
“That must not be, either!” said the Princess. “But do you all stand before me that no one may see us.”
And the court-ladies placed themselves in front of her, and spread out their dresses—the swineherd got ten kisses, and the Princess—the kitchen-pot.
That was delightful! The pot was boiling the whole evening, and the whole of the following day. They knew perfectly well what was cooking at every fire throughout the city, from the chamberlain's to the cobbler's; the court-ladies danced and clapped their hands.
“We know who has soup, and who has pancakes for dinner to-day, who has cutlets, and who has eggs. How interesting!”
“Yes, but keep my secret, for I am an Emperor's daughter.”
The swineherd—that is to say—the Prince, for no one knew that he was other than an ill-favored swineherd, let not a day pass without working at something; he at last constructed a rattle, which, when it was swung round, played all the waltzes and jig tunes, which have ever been heard since the creation of the world.
“Ah, that is superbe!” said the Princess when she passed by. “I have never heard prettier compositions! Go in and ask him the price of the instrument; but mind, he shall have no more kisses!”
“He will have a hundred kisses from the Princess!” said the lady who had been to ask.
“I think he is not in his right senses!” said the Princess, and walked on, but when she had gone a little way, she stopped again. “One must encourage art,” said she, “I am the Emperor's daughter. Tell him he shall, as on yesterday, have ten kisses from me, and may take the rest from the ladies of the court.”
“Oh—but we should not like that at all!” said they. “What are you muttering?” asked the Princess. “If I can kiss him, surely you can. Remember that you owe everything to me.” So the ladies were obliged to go to him again.
“A hundred kisses from the Princess,” said he, “or else let everyone keep his own!”
“Stand round!” said she; and all the ladies stood round her whilst the kissing was going on.
“What can be the reason for such a crowd close by the pigsty?” said the Emperor, who happened just then to step out on the balcony; he rubbed his eyes, and put on his spectacles. “They are the ladies of the court; I must go down and see what they are about!” So he pulled up his slippers at the heel, for he had trodden them down.
As soon as he had got into the court-yard, he moved very softly, and the ladies were so much engrossed with counting the kisses, that all might go on fairly, that they did not perceive the Emperor. He rose on his tiptoes.
“What is all this?” said he, when he saw what was going on, and he boxed the Princess's ears with his slipper, just as the swineherd was taking the eighty-sixth kiss.
“March out!” said the Emperor, for he was very angry; and both Princess and swineherd were thrust out of the city.
The Princess now stood and wept, the swineherd scolded, and the rain poured down.
“Alas! Unhappy creature that I am!” said the Princess. “If I had but married the handsome young Prince! Ah! how unfortunate I am!”
And the swineherd went behind a tree, washed the black and brown color from his face, threw off his dirty clothes, and stepped forth in his princely robes; he looked so noble that the Princess could not help bowing before him.
“I am come to despise thee,” said he. “Thou would'st not have an honorable Prince! Thou could'st not prize the rose and the nightingale, but thou wast ready to kiss the swineherd for the sake of a trumpery plaything. Thou art rightly served.”
He then went back to his own little kingdom, and shut the door of his palace in her face. Now she might well sing,
“Ach! du lieber Augustin, Alles ist weg, weg, weg!”
There was once a Prince who wished to marry a Princess; but then she must be a real Princess. He travelled all over the world in hopes of finding such a lady; but there was always something wrong. Princesses he found in plenty; but whether they were real Princesses it was impossible for him to decide, for now one thing, now another, seemed to him not quite right about the ladies. At last he returned to his palace quite cast down, because he wished so much to have a real Princess for his wife.
One evening a fearful tempest arose, it thundered and lightened, and the rain poured down from the sky in torrents: besides, it was as dark as pitch. All at once there was heard a violent knocking at the door, and the old King, the Prince's father, went out himself to open it.
It was a Princess who was standing outside the door. What with the rain and the wind, she was in a sad condition; the water trickled down from her hair, and her clothes clung to her body. She said she was a real Princess.
“Ah! we shall soon see that!” thought the old Queen-mother; however, she said not a word of what she was going to do; but went quietly into the bedroom, took all the bed-clothes off the bed, and put three little peas on the bedstead. She then laid twenty mattresses one upon another over the three peas, and put twenty feather beds over the mattresses.
Upon this bed the Princess was to pass the night.
The next morning she was asked how she had slept. “Oh, very badly indeed!” she replied. “I have scarcely closed my eyes the whole night through. I do not know what was in my bed, but I had something hard under me, and am all over black and blue. It has hurt me so much!”
Now it was plain that the lady must be a real Princess, since she had been able to feel the three little peas through the twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds. None but a real Princess could have had such a delicate sense of feeling.
The Prince accordingly made her his wife; being now convinced that he had found a real Princess. The three peas were however put into the cabinet of curiosities, where they are still to be seen, provided they are not lost.
Wasn't this a lady of real delicacy?
Every author has some peculiarity in his descriptions or in his style of writing. Those who do not like him, magnify it, shrug up their shoulders, and exclaim—there he is again! I, for my part, know very well how I can bring about this movement and this exclamation. It would happen immediately if I were to begin here, as I intended to do, with: “Rome has its Corso, Naples its Toledo”—“Ah! that Andersen; there he is again!” they would cry; yet I must, to please my fancy, continue quite quietly, and add: “But Copenhagen has its East Street.”
Here, then, we will stay for the present. In one of the houses not far from the new market a party was invited—a very large party, in order, as is often the case, to get a return invitation from the others. One half of the company was already seated at the card-table, the other half awaited the result of the stereotype preliminary observation of the lady of the house:
“Now let us see what we can do to amuse ourselves.”
They had got just so far, and the conversation began to crystallise, as it could but do with the scanty stream which the commonplace world supplied. Amongst other things they spoke of the middle ages: some praised that period as far more interesting, far more poetical than our own too sober present; indeed Councillor Knap defended this opinion so warmly, that the hostess declared immediately on his side, and both exerted themselves with unwearied eloquence. The Councillor boldly declared the time of King Hans to be the noblest and the most happy period.*
* A.D. 1482-1513
While the conversation turned on this subject, and was only for a moment interrupted by the arrival of a journal that contained nothing worth reading, we will just step out into the antechamber, where cloaks, mackintoshes, sticks, umbrellas, and shoes, were deposited. Here sat two female figures, a young and an old one. One might have thought at first they were servants come to accompany their mistresses home; but on looking nearer, one soon saw they could scarcely be mere servants; their forms were too noble for that, their skin too fine, the cut of their dress too striking. Two fairies were they; the younger, it is true, was not Dame Fortune herself, but one of the waiting-maids of her handmaidens who carry about the lesser good things that she distributes; the other looked extremely gloomy—it was Care. She always attends to her own serious business herself, as then she is sure of having it done properly.
They were telling each other, with a confidential interchange of ideas, where they had been during the day. The messenger of Fortune had only executed a few unimportant commissions, such as saving a new bonnet from a shower of rain, etc.; but what she had yet to perform was something quite unusual.
“I must tell you,” said she, “that to-day is my birthday; and in honor of it, a pair of walking-shoes or galoshes has been entrusted to me, which I am to carry to mankind. These shoes possess the property of instantly transporting him who has them on to the place or the period in which he most wishes to be; every wish, as regards time or place, or state of being, will be immediately fulfilled, and so at last man will be happy, here below.”
“Do you seriously believe it?” replied Care, in a severe tone of reproach. “No; he will be very unhappy, and will assuredly bless the moment when he feels that he has freed himself from the fatal shoes.”
“Stupid nonsense!” said the other angrily. “I will put them here by the door. Some one will make a mistake for certain and take the wrong ones—he will be a happy man.”
Such was their conversation.
II. What Happened to the Councillor
It was late; Councillor Knap, deeply occupied with the times of King Hans, intended to go home, and malicious Fate managed matters so that his feet, instead of finding their way to his own galoshes, slipped into those of Fortune. Thus caparisoned the good man walked out of the well-lighted rooms into East Street. By the magic power of the shoes he was carried back to the times of King Hans; on which account his foot very naturally sank in the mud and puddles of the street, there having been in those days no pavement in Copenhagen.
“Well! This is too bad! How dirty it is here!” sighed the Councillor. “As to a pavement, I can find no traces of one, and all the lamps, it seems, have gone to sleep.”
The moon was not yet very high; it was besides rather foggy, so that in the darkness all objects seemed mingled in chaotic confusion. At the next corner hung a votive lamp before a Madonna, but the light it gave was little better than none at all; indeed, he did not observe it before he was exactly under it, and his eyes fell upon the bright colors of the pictures which represented the well-known group of the Virgin and the infant Jesus.
“That is probably a wax-work show,” thought he; “and the people delay taking down their sign in hopes of a late visitor or two.”
A few persons in the costume of the time of King Hans passed quickly by him.
“How strange they look! The good folks come probably from a masquerade!”
Suddenly was heard the sound of drums and fifes; the bright blaze of a fire shot up from time to time, and its ruddy gleams seemed to contend with the bluish light of the torches. The Councillor stood still, and watched a most strange procession pass by. First came a dozen drummers, who understood pretty well how to handle their instruments; then came halberdiers, and some armed with cross-bows. The principal person in the procession was a priest. Astonished at what he saw, the Councillor asked what was the meaning of all this mummery, and who that man was.
“That's the Bishop of Zealand,” was the answer.
“Good Heavens! What has taken possession of the Bishop?” sighed the Councillor, shaking his head. It certainly could not be the Bishop; even though he was considered the most absent man in the whole kingdom, and people told the drollest anecdotes about him. Reflecting on the matter, and without looking right or left, the Councillor went through East Street and across the Habro-Platz. The bridge leading to Palace Square was not to be found; scarcely trusting his senses, the nocturnal wanderer discovered a shallow piece of water, and here fell in with two men who very comfortably were rocking to and fro in a boat.
“Does your honor want to cross the ferry to the Holme?” asked they.
“Across to the Holme!” said the Councillor, who knew nothing of the age in which he at that moment was. “No, I am going to Christianshafen, to Little Market Street.”
Both men stared at him in astonishment.
“Only just tell me where the bridge is,” said he. “It is really unpardonable that there are no lamps here; and it is as dirty as if one had to wade through a morass.”
The longer he spoke with the boatmen, the more unintelligible did their language become to him.
“I don't understand your Bornholmish dialect,” said he at last, angrily, and turning his back upon them. He was unable to find the bridge: there was no railway either. “It is really disgraceful what a state this place is in,” muttered he to himself. Never had his age, with which, however, he was always grumbling, seemed so miserable as on this evening. “I'll take a hackney-coach!” thought he. But where were the hackney-coaches? Not one was to be seen.
“I must go back to the New Market; there, it is to be hoped, I shall find some coaches; for if I don't, I shall never get safe to Christianshafen.”
So off he went in the direction of East Street, and had nearly got to the end of it when the moon shone forth.
“God bless me! What wooden scaffolding is that which they have set up there?” cried he involuntarily, as he looked at East Gate, which, in those days, was at the end of East Street.
He found, however, a little side-door open, and through this he went, and stepped into our New Market of the present time. It was a huge desolate plain; some wild bushes stood up here and there, while across the field flowed a broad canal or river. Some wretched hovels for the Dutch sailors, resembling great boxes, and after which the place was named, lay about in confused disorder on the opposite bank.
“I either behold a fata morgana, or I am regularly tipsy,” whimpered out the Councillor. “But what's this?”
He turned round anew, firmly convinced that he was seriously ill. He gazed at the street formerly so well known to him, and now so strange in appearance, and looked at the houses more attentively: most of them were of wood, slightly put together; and many had a thatched roof.
“No—I am far from well,” sighed he; “and yet I drank only one glass of punch; but I cannot suppose it—it was, too, really very wrong to give us punch and hot salmon for supper. I shall speak about it at the first opportunity. I have half a mind to go back again, and say what I suffer. But no, that would be too silly; and Heaven only knows if they are up still.”
He looked for the house, but it had vanished.
“It is really dreadful,” groaned he with increasing anxiety; “I cannot recognise East Street again; there is not a single decent shop from one end to the other! Nothing but wretched huts can I see anywhere; just as if I were at Ringstead. Oh! I am ill! I can scarcely bear myself any longer. Where the deuce can the house be? It must be here on this very spot; yet there is not the slightest idea of resemblance, to such a degree has everything changed this night! At all events here are some people up and stirring. Oh! oh! I am certainly very ill.”
He now hit upon a half-open door, through a chink of which a faint light shone. It was a sort of hostelry of those times; a kind of public-house. The room had some resemblance to the clay-floored halls in Holstein; a pretty numerous company, consisting of seamen, Copenhagen burghers, and a few scholars, sat here in deep converse over their pewter cans, and gave little heed to the person who entered.
“By your leave!” said the Councillor to the Hostess, who came bustling towards him. “I've felt so queer all of a sudden; would you have the goodness to send for a hackney-coach to take me to Christianshafen?”
The woman examined him with eyes of astonishment, and shook her head; she then addressed him in German. The Councillor thought she did not understand Danish, and therefore repeated his wish in German. This, in connection with his costume, strengthened the good woman in the belief that he was a foreigner. That he was ill, she comprehended directly; so she brought him a pitcher of water, which tasted certainly pretty strong of the sea, although it had been fetched from the well.
The Councillor supported his head on his hand, drew a long breath, and thought over all the wondrous things he saw around him.
“Is this the Daily News of this evening?” he asked mechanically, as he saw the Hostess push aside a large sheet of paper.
The meaning of this councillorship query remained, of course, a riddle to her, yet she handed him the paper without replying. It was a coarse wood-cut, representing a splendid meteor “as seen in the town of Cologne,” which was to be read below in bright letters.
“That is very old!” said the Councillor, whom this piece of antiquity began to make considerably more cheerful. “Pray how did you come into possession of this rare print? It is extremely interesting, although the whole is a mere fable. Such meteorous appearances are to be explained in this way—that they are the reflections of the Aurora Borealis, and it is highly probable they are caused principally by electricity.”
Those persons who were sitting nearest him and heard his speech, stared at him in wonderment; and one of them rose, took off his hat respectfully, and said with a serious countenance, “You are no doubt a very learned man, Monsieur.”
“Oh no,” answered the Councillor, “I can only join in conversation on this topic and on that, as indeed one must do according to the demands of the world at present.”
“Modestia is a fine virtue,” continued the gentleman; “however, as to your speech, I must say mihi secus videtur: yet I am willing to suspend my judicium.”
“May I ask with whom I have the pleasure of speaking?” asked the Councillor.
“I am a Bachelor in Theologia,” answered the gentleman with a stiff reverence.
This reply fully satisfied the Councillor; the title suited the dress. “He is certainly,” thought he, “some village schoolmaster—some queer old fellow, such as one still often meets with in Jutland.”
“This is no locus docendi, it is true,” began the clerical gentleman; “yet I beg you earnestly to let us profit by your learning. Your reading in the ancients is, sine dubio, of vast extent?”
“Oh yes, I've read something, to be sure,” replied the Councillor. “I like reading all useful works; but I do not on that account despise the modern ones; 'tis only the unfortunate 'Tales of Every-day Life' that I cannot bear—we have enough and more than enough such in reality.”
“'Tales of Every-day Life?'” said our Bachelor inquiringly.
“I mean those new fangled novels, twisting and writhing themselves in the dust of commonplace, which also expect to find a reading public.”
“Oh,” exclaimed the clerical gentleman smiling, “there is much wit in them; besides they are read at court. The King likes the history of Sir Iffven and Sir Gaudian particularly, which treats of King Arthur, and his Knights of the Round Table; he has more than once joked about it with his high vassals.”
“I have not read that novel,” said the Councillor; “it must be quite a new one, that Heiberg has published lately.”
“No,” answered the theologian of the time of King Hans: “that book is not written by a Heiberg, but was imprinted by Godfrey von Gehmen.”
“Oh, is that the author's name?” said the Councillor. “It is a very old name, and, as well as I recollect, he was the first printer that appeared in Denmark.”
“Yes, he is our first printer,” replied the clerical gentleman hastily.
So far all went on well. Some one of the worthy burghers now spoke of the dreadful pestilence that had raged in the country a few years back, meaning that of 1484. The Councillor imagined it was the cholera that was meant, which people made so much fuss about; and the discourse passed off satisfactorily enough. The war of the buccaneers of 1490 was so recent that it could not fail being alluded to; the English pirates had, they said, most shamefully taken their ships while in the roadstead; and the Councillor, before whose eyes the Herostratic [*] event of 1801 still floated vividly, agreed entirely with the others in abusing the rascally English. With other topics he was not so fortunate; every moment brought about some new confusion, and threatened to become a perfect Babel; for the worthy Bachelor was really too ignorant, and the simplest observations of the Councillor sounded to him too daring and phantastical. They looked at one another from the crown of the head to the soles of the feet; and when matters grew to too high a pitch, then the Bachelor talked Latin, in the hope of being better understood—but it was of no use after all.