[Transcriber's Note: Some words which appear to be typos or misspelled are printed thus in the original book.]
THE HOME IN THE VALLEY.
By EMILIE F. CARLEN,
Author of "One Year Of Wedlock," "The Whimsical Woman," "Gustavus Lindorm," etc. etc.
From the original Swedish by ELBERT PERCE.
New York Charles Scribner, 145 Nassau-street.
Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1854, by CHARLES SCRIBNER, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.
Tobitt's Combination-Type, 181 William St.
A few years ago, Mrs. Carlen was comparatively unknown to readers in this country; but the marked success which followed the publication of "One Year of Wedlock" encouraged the translator in the endeavor to present that lady's works to the American public.
In her writings Mrs. Carlen exhibits a versatility which may be considered remarkable. While in one book she revels in descriptions of home-scenes and characters, in another she presents her readers with events and incidents that bear a strong resemblance to the startling and melo-dramatic productions of many of the modern romance writers of France.
This peculiarity, however, may be accounted for by the fact that she writes—as she herself confesses—entirely from impulse.
When her mind is clouded by sorrow—and she has been oppressed with many bitter griefs—she seeks to remove the cause of her despondency by creating a hero or heroine, afflicted like herself, and following this individual through a train of circumstances which, she imagines, would naturally occur during a life of continued gloom and sorrow.
On the other hand, when life appears bright and beautiful to her, then she tells a tale of joy; a story of domestic life, for where does pure happiness exist except at the fireside at home?
It must have been during one of these bright intervals of her life that Mrs. Carlen wrote "The Home in the Valley," for the work is a continued description of the delights of home, which, although occasionally obscured by grief, and in some instances, by folly, are rendered still more precious by their brief absence.
New York, August 15th, 1854.
In one of father La Fontaine's books, may be found a description of a lovely valley, the residence of a beautiful and modest maiden, and of the heroine of this Arcadia he writes:
"There stands our heroine, as lovely as the valley, her home, and as virtuous and good as her mother, who has devoted a lifetime to the education of her daughter."
But with the history of this maiden he weaves the workings of an evil genius, which in the end is triumphant; for even the pure are contaminated after they arrive at that period when they consider that vice has its virtues.
Our story is located near the beautiful Lake Wenner, in a valley which much resembles that described by La Fontaine. As we enter this valley, the first object that meets our view is a small red-colored cottage. A vine twines itself gracefully over one of the windows, the glass panes of which glisten through the green leaves, which slightly parted, disclose the sober visage of an ancient black cat, that is demurely looking forth upon the door yard. She has chosen a sunny spot on the window sill, for the cheering beams of the sun are as grateful to a cat, as is the genial warmth of the stove to an old man, when winter has resumed his sway upon earth. If we should enter the cottage, we would in all probability find the proprietor of the little estate seated in his old arm-chair, while his daughter-in-law—but more of this anon.
From the cottage the ground descended in a slight slope, which terminated in a white sandy beach at the margin of the lake. Near the beach were fastened the small skiffs, which swayed to and fro amongst the rushes, where the children delighted to sail their miniature ships. From the rear of the house the little valley extended itself in undulating fields and meadows, interspersed with barren hillocks and thrifty potato patches. In the fields could be heard the tinkling of the cow-bells, the bleating of lambs, and the barking of a dog as he gathered together his little flock. Carlo was a fortunate dog, for the farm was so small that he could keep his entire charge within sight at all times.
Near the centre of the valley stood a large tree, the widely spread branches of which shaded a spring, which gushed forth from beneath a huge moss-covered stone. This was the favorite place of resort of a beautiful maiden, who might be seen almost every summer evening reclining upon the moss that bordered the verge of the spring.
"There stands our heroine, as lovely as the valley, her home, and as virtuous and good as her mother, who has devoted a lifetime to the education of her daughter."
But many years before the date of our story, Nanna had lost the protection of her beloved mother; yet the loss had been partially supplied by her sister-in-law, who occupied the places of a kind mother, a gentle sister, and a faithful friend.
Nanna was now in her sixteenth year; but to all appearances she was much younger. Unlike others of her years, her cheeks did not display the bloom of maidenhood, and her countenance lacked the vivacity natural to her age. Her features wore an expression of melancholy, which was perfectly in keeping with the pallor of her cheeks, the pearly whiteness of which vied in brilliancy with the hue of a lily.
Nanna was the child of poverty, and belonged to that class of beings, who, situated between riches and nobility on the one hand, and poverty on the other, are considered as upstarts by the wealthy as well as the poor.
Nanna's father, when young, was placed in an entirely different position of life than that in which we now find him. An illegitimate son, he entered the world with a borrowed title, but with fair prospects for the future; for his father, a man of consequence and wealth, intended to marry his mother, and thus the son would bear no longer the stigma of his father's crime. But death, who in this case had been forgotten, suddenly cut the thread of his father's life, and the mother and son were driven forth from the house of their protector, deprived of honor, wealth, and station.
This is an old, very old and thread-bare story, and not more novel is that which generally follows. First comes melancholy, then great exertions on the part of the injured party; next dashed hope, and finally gloomy resignation.
The mother died, the son lived to pass through the life we have above described, but which was ended, however, by matrimony. He married after he had passed his fortieth year.
Before his marriage, Carl Lonner passed through the various gradations in society, from the nobleman to the simple gentleman. He supported himself by revenues he derived from a small business, and by drawing up legal papers for the surrounding peasantry and fishermen. For a wife he had chosen the daughter of a half pay sergeant, and in this case his fortunate star was in the ascendant, for she not only brought him a loving heart, but also the little farm on which he resided at the date of our story.
We will now, however, turn our attentions to Nanna, who is sitting beneath the tree near the spring, in which she has been bathing her feet.
* * * * *
As Nanna glanced into the clear water of the spring, she shuddered convulsively, although the air was warm, for it was a June evening, but it was a shudder from within that shook her slight form. Nanna had lately perceived that her dear sister-in-law, Magde, when she thought herself unseen, had shed tears, and the poor girl's heart beat with a sensation of undefined fear, for when Magde weeps, thought she, there must have been a great cause.
"Why is the world so formed as it is? Some flowers are so modest and little that they would be trodden under foot unless great care is taken, while others elevate their great and gaudy heads above the grass. The latter are the rich, while the little down-trodden blossoms are the poor. And so it is with even the birds! one is greater than the other, and mankind is not behind them. We belong to the poor; there," she continued, turning her deep eyes towards a distant point in the horizon, on the other side of the lake, "there lives the rich; they take no notice of us. Even the poor fishermen and peasants say, 'Our children cannot be the play-fellows of Mademoiselle Nanna.' Mademoiselle, Mademoiselle," she repeated slowly, "it is shameful to call me so! and how much better it would be to call Magde good mother, than to give her the title of My Lady! To be poor is not so bad, but to be friendless is bitter indeed."
As she thus sat, with her eyes fixed mournfully upon the distant object which was the roof of an elegant house, which was barely visible over the brow of a hill, she was startled by the noise of approaching footsteps. She had scarcely cast her mantle over her white shoulders, which she had uncovered during her ablutions, when, to her great astonishment, she discovered a stranger rapidly approaching towards her. He was clothed in a light frock coat; a knapsack was fastened upon his shoulders, and in his hand he swung a knotted stick. Nanna had never before beheld a personage who resembled the stranger. His face, browned in the sun, until it resembled that of a gipsy, wore an honest and frank expression, and his dark curling hair, which fell in thick clusters from his black felt hat, added to the pleasing aspect of his countenance.
Nanna, who at her first glance at the youth, had thought him a gipsy, which wild tribe she greatly feared, was reassured by a second look.
The stranger, on his side, appeared greatly astonished at the sudden appearance of the beautiful water nymph, for such a goddess Nanna much resembled, as she stood, with her garments flowing gracefully around her slight figure; her tiny white feet playing with the moist grass, and her pale and mournful face, encircled with golden locks, that fell negligently upon her white and well rounded shoulders.
The youth thus addressed her:
"Pardon me, lovely naiad. It appears that I have taken the wrong path, although I supposed that I had chosen the right direction."
"Whither are you going?" inquired Nanna, in a voice sweet and melodious.
"To Almvik," replied the stranger.
"Alas!" said the maid, casting a peculiar glance at his knapsack, "I hoped that you were not a member of the aristocracy."
"Oh, my little sylph, for I know not what else to call you, is my face so poor a recommendation, that I cannot be considered a man because I carry a pack on my back?"
"Are those of noble birth the only men?" inquired Nanna, and a gloomy expression fell upon her lips, which a moment before had been illumined with a sunny smile.
"Ah," replied the youth, "the longer I gaze upon your dear face, the more I esteem you. Far be it from me to wound your sensitive nature. If it will comfort you, I will say that no man can long more earnestly than I do for the time when all mankind shall be equal."
"Do you speak from your heart?"
"I do, earnestly; but tell me your name."
"Nanna, Nanna of the Valley, I am called."
"That is poetical; but have you no other name?"
"I am sometimes called Mademoiselle Nanna; but that grieves me, for we are poor people."
"Ah! I thought that you were something more than a peasant girl. Pardon me, I have spoken too familiarly. I knew not your station."
"I addressed you too warmly."
"Your words sounded well when you thus spoke."
"Possibly; but henceforth I shall address you as Mademoiselle Nanna."
"Shall we then see each other again?"
"Yes, yes, quite probably—we are to be neighbors."
"You intend, then, to reside at Almvik?"
"Yes, for a few weeks, perhaps during the whole summer; but I pray you come with me a few steps on my road, I need your guidance."
Nanna sprang to her feet, and as she stood before the young man, her eyes sparkling with unusual brilliancy, her garments falling in graceful folds over her sylph-like limbs, he gazed at her as if enchained by her almost superhuman beauty. To the youthful stranger's request she answered by putting her little white feet in such active motion, that they seemed to tread upon the air instead of the green sward.
The interior of the little building to which we now turn, was thus arranged: The ground floor was divided into a kitchen and three other apartments, viz:—a middle sized room, by favor called the parlor, in which was generally the dwelling place of the family, and a small chamber on either side of the parlor. One of these was the bed-chamber of Carl Lonner, and the other was occupied by his eldest son and his wife.
The upper story, that is, the attic, contained two divisions, and the sole dominion of these airy apartments was granted to two younger members of the family; the front room belonging to Nanna, and the other to her brother Carl, known in the neighborhood by the nick-name of "Wiseacre," and under certain circumstances as "Crazy Carl," although it would have been difficult to find throughout the entire neighborhood a personage wiser than honest Carl.
Throughout the entire building the marks of poverty were plainly evident; but at the same time each object presented a tidy and cleanly appearance and although the cottage lacked many luxuries, still comfort seemed to reign supreme. The rush covered floor; the table, polished to brightness; and the flower vases, filled with odorous boquets of lilacs, the neat window curtains, the handicraft of Nanna, the crimson sofa curtain, embroidered by the thrifty Magde, all combined, proved that the inmates of the cottage, had not only the taste, but also the inclination to render home pleasant even under the most adverse circumstances.
* * * * *
At the time that Nanna had started forth as a guide to the youthful stranger, old Mr. Lonner was seated near the side of his bed in his private apartment. Although weighed down by age and the grief that had oppressed his early life, he nevertheless possessed that gentleness and sociability, which had ever been the characteristic traits of his life. His flowing white locks fell around his countenance, from which the traces of manly beauty had not been entirely eradicated, and as he smoked his pipe with an air of dignified pleasure, he would occasionally glance towards a young matron, who, seated in a large arm chair, was reading aloud a letter to him.
The letter bore the postmark of Goteborg, and was written by the old man's eldest son, Ragnar Lonner, the husband of the matron. He was mate of a trading vessel, and three months before had bidden farewell to his wife and family. As she continued reading the letter, three children who had been playing, commenced a little dispute about the proprietorship of a large apple. In an opposite corner Carl had stationed himself. He was a full grown youth with a face bearing an expression of mingled silliness and wisdom.—As he glanced from under his long hair, first at the bed-quilt, then at the quarrelling children, he paid close attention to all that his sister-in-law was reading aloud. Carl was not the simpleton people considered him, although his highest ambition appeared to consist in erecting dirt houses and making mud-pies.
"Magde," said the old man, casting a glance of affection upon the vivacious Magdalena. "You had better read that letter again. Ragnar is a son who has his heart in the right place."
"And a husband too!" added Magde, and a flush of joyful pride overspread her blooming cheeks.
"Yes, and a brother also; read the letter once more, it will be none the less pleasant to read it a third time when Nanna returns."
Magde, who had not refolded the letter, commenced reading again, and her voice trembled with pride and emotion as she read as follows:—
"When you shall break the seal of this letter, I feel assured that you will wish you possessed wings that you might be enabled to fly to your loving husband. And as I think I see you approaching me through the air, surrounded by our little angels,—may God protect them,—the tears start to my eyes, tears which no man should be ashamed to shed, and I feel an inward desire to hasten to meet you.
"But now, dear Magde, I must control my thoughts, and so direct them to you, that they shall prove intelligible. I arrived, on the eighth day of this month, at Goteborg, in safety and in good health. I hope our father is well and capable of enjoying as usual, the balmy air and bright verdure of summer.
"Our little cottage is a pleasant residence, in spite of all its disadvantages, and I feel assured that both yourself and Nanna do all that lies in your power to cheer our mutual parent, when he is sick and dispirited.
"One night while our vessel was lying in the canal, I was visited by an evil dream, but dreams are empty and meaningless, and I hope that no more of my disagreeable fancies will be realized than that you at home, may experience a little anxiety and solicitude concerning the welfare of the absent one.
"The Spring of the year is always the most severe season, for winter consumes the harvest of the preceding summer.
"Well, we have many mouths to feed—God protect our children.—When they are older they will work for us. It was my intention to send you a small sum of money in this letter; but I was obliged to wait until Jon Jonson, who is here at present with his sloop, shall commence his homeward voyage, for I can place no dependence upon young Rask to whom I am obliged to entrust this letter, as he might be tempted on his way to the post office to enter a beer-house, and there lose the money. I am forced to send Rask to the office, as I am obliged to remain on the vessel until it is unloaded.
"I will tell you in advance that I shall not be able to send you a large amount of money; but instead of that, I shall forward you when Jonson returns, a quantity of foreign goods which I have been fortunate enough to purchase and to place on board his sloop without paying the duty, which you know is heavy. It consists of sugar, coffee, tobacco, cotton yarn, and a package of silks.
"You, my dear wife, must select the best, a silk shawl which you will find in the package. Nanna may have the next best shawl, and you may give Carl the blue handkerchief which is at the bottom of the parcel. I have not forgotten father. I shall send him a small cask of liquor, and in the parcel of silks you will find a bundle of toys for the children.
"You cannot imagine—but still you must—how pleasant it is to deprive oneself of luxuries that you may provide for the wants of those whom you have left at home.
"My ship-mates frequently say that I am severe towards them when at sea, perhaps I am; but it grieves me when I see those noble men, so skillful in the management of our vessel, lavish their money when on shore in foolish pleasures. They have as great reason to be economical as I have myself, and I cannot resist from occasionally censuring them, and therefore I may not appear so kind to them as I am to you when at home, or while I am writing this letter. Although all my efforts may be fruitless, still I feel assured that there is not one man amongst them who would not peril his existence to rescue 'the tiger,' as they call me, from any danger. They well know that I would not stop to think, but would spring into the ocean at once, if it was necessary, to rescue them.
"But, my dear Magde, a word in confidence. I am neither as wise or as well educated as my father was in his younger days, yet I would not wound your feelings either by word or action; but I must inform you that a rumor has reached my ears about a certain man, whose neck I once would have twisted willingly, because, when in church, he looked at you oftener than he did at the minister.
"But if, when I return, I discover that that villain from Almvik has been poaching on my grounds, he must look to safety. In you, Magde, I can place all confidence, and shall therefore say nothing further. And now farewell. Remember me firstly to my father, and then to my sister, and my children.
"Your faithful husband, "RAGNAR LONNER.
"P.S. During the soft moonlight nights, when on my watch, I see your form, dear Magde, bright and beautiful, as I look over the wake of the vessel. And when the night is dark and cloudy, I see you sitting by my side, the binnacle light shining upon your pleasant face, which is illumined with smiles as I gaze upon little Conrad, whom I imagine a fine full grown lad, climbing the shrouds with all the eagerness of a competent sailor. But, belay, otherwise my letter will be under sail again."
When Magde read the portion of her husband's letter which he had intended as confidential, her voice trembled as it did when she had first read the letter.
"It would have been my desire," said she, "that Ragnar had sent the money in the letter. It has been more than three weeks, dear father, since you have partaken of other food than fish, bread and potatoes. Ah! I wish we had a quarter of beef!"
"O, stop your prating, child! Fish is very good food indeed."
"But not strengthening. How delicious it would be if we only had a partridge, or even a rabbit. Certainly they would not cost much! But who dare think of such luxuries? All delicacies must be sent to Almvik."
"God grant that we may have nothing worse to expect from Almvik, than that they should prevent us from enjoying luxuries that poor people cannot expect to procure."
"O, that is not my opinion. In winter-time, when Ragnar is at home, he procures us many a savory dish with his gun."
"Yes, but I think that if Ragnar has disturbed the hunting grounds of Almvik, he may consider himself fortunate if the proprietor has not poached upon his own premises in return. The affairs of Almvik are far differently conducted than they were formerly, under the sway of the ancient proprietor."
During their conversation the old man and Magde had taken no notice of Carl, who, while he listened to their words, contorted his face in such a manner that it would have been difficult to decide whether he was laughing or crying. He placed his hands over his face; but between his fingers his eyes could be seen peering out with a peculiar expression at Magde.
"I will no longer feign ignorance of your meaning, father," replied Magde, with a visible effort to suppress her anger. "It is true that in words, and even in actions, he has conducted himself with more presumption than he would have dared to assume last winter; but fear not, I well know how to protect the honor of my name."
"And as you thus speak you vainly endeavor to conceal your emotions," said the old man suspiciously.
"Do not think that he has endeavored to plant his snare for a simple dove. When he would snatch his prize, he may learn that I possess both beak and talons."
"Well, my child," replied Mr. Lonner, with a laugh, "it is a fortunate chance that you are the daughter of a father who was a man of the world; but your birth entitled you to a higher position in life than that which you now occupy."
"You speak strangely, father."
"Why, you might have married Mr. Trystedt who possessed riches and lands, while now you live in absolute poverty."
"Why should you think of that? Is it not better to live in poverty with love, than to possess untold riches without love? Does the whole earth contain a better husband than my Ragnar? Is he not a skillful sailor? I have no doubt but that had he not been married he would long ago have been promoted to a captaincy. He is a thousand times more of a gentleman, at any time, than that old Trystedt, who was a torment to all he whom he met."
"Thank God! If you are satisfied, then all is right, and even if we are at present in straightened circumstances all will be made right when Jonson arrives. I hope that he will be careful of the goods entrusted to him."
A slight noise in an adjoining room, notified the mother that her infant child had awakened. She instantly arose and left the apartment. Magde was a dignified and elegant woman, although her countenance was pleasing rather than beautiful, and as she moved towards the door the old man's eyes followed her with a gaze of admiration and love.
HUSBAND AND WIFE.
About a half a mile from the valley—the name of which we shall conceal, as many personages who are to play a part in our little story are still living—was situated the estate of Almvik, which the present proprietor Fabian H——, had purchased one year before, and had immediately removed thither with his family.
Mr. H——, and above all his puissant wife Mistress Ulrica Eugenia, her proper name, but which she had afterwards tortured into the more refined patronymic, Ulrique Eugenie—were individuals who moved in the higher classes of society, at least he who should endeavor to prove to the contrary would find the task a thankless one.
Mr. Fabian H——, imagined himself a second Brutus, that is to say; he was fully convinced that the time would certainly arrive when he should arouse himself from his present listlessness; when he should be released from the thraldom of his wife, and awaken to renewed strength and vigor. But it was much to be feared that poor Brutus never would realize his bright anticipations of liberty.
Mistress Ulrica Eugenia was characterized by a strong desire to assist in the work of emancipating women from the tyranny of men, and that she might forward the good work she had entirely set at naught the command that a wife should obey her husband; she openly declared that the ancient law which compelled the woman to subserve to the man, was but a concoction of man himself, that the Bible itself never contained such an absurd command, but that the translators, who she triumphantly affirmed were men, had placed that law in the scripture, merely to suit their own selfish ends. She also affirmed that she would stake her life upon the issue that she would not find, even if she should search the scriptures through, such an absurd command. And she was right. She would not find it.
In the immediate neighborhood of Almvik, Mr. H—— was reverenced as a wealthy nobleman, and a man of power. He wished to be considered a hospitable man, and frequently rejoiced his neighbors with invitations to visit his beautiful estate. To him strangers were godsends. He entertained them to the best of his ability, invited the neighbors to see them, and although his little soirees were very pleasant, still, as the guests were drawn from all classes of society, many amusing scenes were enacted, in all of which, Mistress Ulrica Eugenia performed a prominent and independent part.
Although Mrs. Ulrica had liberated herself from all obedience to her legal master, and had in fact assumed the reins of government herself, she nevertheless possessed some, if not a great deal of affection for the rosy cheeks and sleepy eyes of her husband, and at the same time she kept a watchful eye upon those whom she suspected of partaking with her in this sentiment. Not only was Mrs. H—— occasionally aggravated by the pangs of jealousy, but she was also tormented by the thought that her husband entirely confided in her own fidelity, thus at once cutting off the possibility of a love quarrel and a reconciliation.
Upon the evening when we first made the personal acquaintance of the inmates of Almvik, Mr. H—— and his wife were riding out in their gig; for in the morning they rode in a light hunting wagon, and at noon they used the large family coach.
Mr. H——, immediately before starting forth on the ride had received a severe lecture from his spouse, because he indulged in an afternoon's nap, instead of devising means for the amusement of the family, that is, of the worthy dame herself, and their only treasure, the little Eugene Ulrich, and Mr. H——, we say, never felt inclined for sprightly conversation after such a lecture.
He well knew that he would be obliged to succumb in everything; but like a stubborn boy, who is punished by being compelled to stand in a corner until shame forces him to submit, Mr. H—— determined, to speak figuratively—to stand silently in that corner the entire day rather than to acknowledge himself conquered.
That was, at least, one point gained, towards his emancipation. It cannot but be supposed, however, that, if the lecture had been upon any other subject less trivial than the mere act of sleeping, Mr. H—— would have undoubtedly acted in an entirely different manner. At least that is the only excuse we can find for his conduct on this occasion.
"Well," said Mistress Ulrica, straightening herself up in her seat with the utmost dignity, "upon my honor, Mr. H——, you are a very agreeable companion."
"I am obliged to be careful while driving."
"Is it necessary that you should sit there as dumb as a fence post?"
"Well, I must say that your sulkiness is not to be envied. Suppose some one should see us—I mean you—why they would readily believe that your wife was an old woman."
"Now, now, my dear Ulrique Eugenie, don't—"
"Your dear Ulrique Eugenie is not yet thirty eight years old, and even though you are two years younger, I do not think that should make any difference."
"On the contrary, on the contrary," grumbled her husband, chuckling inwardly.
"I do not know but what your words have a double meaning; but Fabian, we must not quarrel, let us become reconciled, there is my hand."
"Your heart ever overflows with the milk of human kindness, my dear," said he.
"Thank you, my dear husband,—but can you imagine what I really intended to say?"
"Indeed I cannot."
"I intended to say, should you ever cast your eyes upon another—"
"You may well say God forbid, am I not your wife, who will not allow her rights to be trodden under foot?"
"Am I not aware of that?"
"Even if you are, my dear, there is no harm in my saying that if I should discover the slightest cause which would arouse my suspicion I would scratch out your eyes!"
Ulgenie, a word which the reader will observe, is compounded from the words Ulrica and Eugenie, was one of those contorted terms of endearment, which Mrs. H—— permitted her husband to use during their moments of tenderness. Should he wish to address her in an extremely affectionate manner, he would term her his "pet Ulte," an expression which had also originated in the fertile mind of the loving wife!
On this occasion the husband considered the first expression sufficiently affectionate, and in all probability many tender recollections were associated with those three syllables, for no sooner had he uttered the name "Ulgenie," than she cast her eyes downward with an unusual gentle expression, and in a changed tone of voice, she whispered:—
"Never again my dearest husband shall we differ in our opinions. Equality in marriage renders it a useful institution; but to change the subject, it is long since you have made any hunting excursions, dear Fabian, to-morrow you must go."
As Mistress Ulrica was determined that her husband should become a skillful sportsman, she gave him rest neither night nor day, unless he devoted at least two days of the week to hunting or fishing excursions. Not that Mr. H—— was a sportsman; but that it afforded his wife great pleasure to inform her guests, that a certain moorcock was killed by her dear Fabian, or that he had caught the pike which then graced their table, for, she would add complacently, her Fabian was well aware that she took great delight in eating the game taken by his skillful hand.
Therefore there were no means of escape for him, he must by force become a sportsman, for a wife who is laboring for the emancipation of womankind, never will permit her desires to remain ungratified. During the conversation the vehicle approached the mansion. Mr. Fabian H——, during the entire ride, had thought upon the pipe and sofa which awaited him upon his return, for he smoked like a Turk, and loved the ease of oriental life. There was one pursuit, however, which afforded him still greater pleasure, and that was to ogle other men's wives, for he was an unfortunate son of Adam, never being able to discover beauties which his wife might have possessed.
* * * * *
"Who can that be!" exclaimed Mistress Ulrica Eugenia as the gig entered the court-yard, "who is that elegant young man descending the door steps? is it possible that he is my nephew little Gottlieb?"
"Yes he is, my dear Aunt Ulrica, I was little Gottlieb, but I have grown up to be big Gottlieb," answered a cheerful voice, and the next moment the young man whose acquaintance we have before made, embraced the lady warmly, and then heartily shook his uncle's extended hand. Uncle Fabian however, was not overjoyed at his wife's determination of introducing into his house a stripling who might perhaps become a spy upon his actions and make reports that would call forth the entire vigor of his wife's tongue.
After the first torrent of welcomings, questions and answers,—for Mr. H—— did not dare do otherwise than to cordially welcome his guest—had subsided, and the family had entered the dining room, and the hostess had pressed the acceptance of a third cup of tea upon the young man, who was already sufficiently heated without undergoing this ordeal; she thus addressed him:—
"Now, my dear little Gottlieb, you look remarkably well, you little rogue. Is it really true that you have made this long journey to see us on foot?"
"It is indeed true; this green coat is my usual costume when I do not wear a blouse, which is my favorite garment. My better apparel is contained within my knapsack, and thus I have given you an invoice of my wardrobe, which you see, my dear aunt, is not very extensive."
"But your under-clothes, my child?"
"What, under-clothes, do you think I could give my dear uncle so much trouble as to bring linen clothes with me?"
"What a careless fellow you are!"
"'You have now,' said my mother, when I took my leave, 'you have now four rare pieces of linen, styled shirts; but when you return, you must travel by steam, for you will undoubtedly possess twenty-four!'"
"Ah!" replied his aunt, with a smile, "I understand you now."
"How do you understand me?" inquired Gottlieb.
"As belonging to that class of persons, sir, who never find themselves at a loss," replied uncle Fabian, in a tone of voice which he intended should be overwhelming.
Gottlieb, however, was not inclined to be thus easily driven from the field. "You have hit the nail upon the head," said he, with an assumed expression of respect for the decision of his uncle, "and it is by the means of that very trait of character which you have mentioned, that I hope to work myself through the world, although I am only the son of a poor secretary in a government office, who is embarrassed by debt and a large family, thus you perceive I cannot depend solely upon the whims of fortune."
"What then are your prospects for the future?" inquired the lady seriously.
"I have but one," replied Gottlieb.
"And what is that?"
"My plan is very simple, I have thoroughly studied financial matters, and in the fall intend to help my father in his office, so that he can spare the services of his two assistants. He will then have only one salary to pay; but I think that I can do the work of three, and as I intend to become a model of order, capability and energy, I hope to be able to win the favor of the head of the treasury department, so that when my father, who at present is in a very feeble state of health, shall be obliged to resign, I may be appointed in his stead. This is my plan."
"You are a shrewd young man," said Mistress Ulrica.
"It is not necessary to be shrewd when the high road is plain before you."
"But at least you must possess sufficient knowledge of the world to prevent you, in your youth, from leaving the high road, and wasting your time in useless dreaming."
"Of dreaming, he who has nothing but his head and hands to depend on, must not be afraid. If one wishes to enjoy pleasant dreams, he must not trouble his head about that which he is to eat when he awakes."
"Good! good!" exclaimed Ulrica, "I hope that your wise plans will succeed, and I do not doubt but what they will, they are so well laid, and aside from that you are not striving for yourself alone, but for your parents, to whom I am sure you will always prove a dutiful and grateful child."
"That is why I should become my father's successor, dear aunt. Had I not thought of this plan, I would undoubtedly have formed some other; but with this I am satisfied."
"And do you intend to afford us the pleasure of your company this summer?" inquired uncle Fabian, abruptly.
"With your permission, dear uncle, your invitation arrived at a lucky moment, as it came during my vacation."
"Well, well, nephew," said Mrs. Ulrica, "we will go and prepare a chamber for you."
"Nephew, nephew," exclaimed Gottlieb, merrily, "why we look more like cousins!"
"You are a little wag!"
"O, I must say more. My mother might have been your mother also, from all appearances."
"Ah, I was a mere girl when she was married. She was the eldest while I was the youngest of the family, and the fourteen years discrepancy between our ages accounts for the differences in our appearance."
"And riches and fortune also," added Gottlieb; "poor mother, misfortune has always been her lot; and although she has much trouble, she has nevertheless an angel's forbearance."
"Her disposition resembles mine more than her person does," said Mrs. H——, casting a glance of tender inquiry upon her husband.
"Yes, my dear," replied he, "your angelic disposition and patience are well known."
He well understood the smile with which his wife had accompanied her words.
"Good Fabian, you know how to appreciate your wife!"
Gottlieb glanced from his aunt to his uncle.
"Strange people these," thought he. "I think they are playing bo-peep with each other, or perhaps they are blinding me; well, I care not; so long as they do not disturb me, I will not meddle with their affairs."
As we have before stated, Nanna had supreme control over one of the attic-rooms of the cottage, and for a long time it had been a sanctuary in which she stored her precious things.
Old Mr. Lonner loved Nanna as the apple of his eye. She was not only the youngest child, and consequently the favorite, but she also possessed strong perceptive qualities, and a heart susceptible of the tenderest emotions. She was, so to speak, a living emblem of those harmonious dreams that her father in his youth had hoped to see realized.
The pale and delicate countenance of Nanna, who he thought was destined in all probability to droop and die like a water lily, which she so much resembled, carried the old man's mind back to the time when his father had promised to wed his mother, and he sighed as he thought how different Nanna's station in life would have been had that promise been fulfilled. Instead of neglect and insult, homage from all would have been her portion.
Yet Nanna was the pride and joy of her father's heart, for Ragnar, who at an early age was obliged to labor for his own support, had preferred to become a sailor, rather than to acquire a refined education, and Carl could scarcely comprehend more than that which was necessary for the performance of family worship. Nanna, on the contrary, would listen to her father with the utmost pleasure and interest as he related and explained matters and things which were entirely novel to one placed in her position of life.
And then, with what eagerness would Nanna read those few books with which her father's little library was supplied! She fully comprehended all she read, and she could not resist from becoming gently interested in the characters described in her books. She sympathised with the unhappy and oppressed, and although she rejoiced with those happy heroes and heroines who had passed safely through the ordeals of their loves, yet when she read of the fortunate conclusion of all their troubles, she would sigh deeply.
But after sighing for those who had lived, she sighed also for the living.
She looked forward, with terror, to the day when she should lose her father, whom she worshipped almost as a supreme being.
Her innocent heart shrunk within her as she thought of the time when a man,—for these thoughts had already entered her little head—should look into her eyes in search of a wife. Who shall that man be? she thought. Is it possible that he can be any other than a peasant or a fisherman? Perhaps he may be even worse; a common day-laborer of the parish.
O, that would be impossible!
Such a rude uncouth husband would prove her death. How could she entertain the same thoughts, after her marriage with such a boor, as she had before? He could never sympathise with her. No, she would be obliged to remain unmarried for ever. Perhaps not even a laborer would wed her! On St. John's eve, when she had ventured to attend the ball, did any body request her to dance? No, not one, no, they only gazed at Mademoiselle Nanna, with a stupid and imbecile stare—she did not belong to their class.
* * * * *
The next evening after Nanna had encountered the young stranger near the spring, she was seated alone in her bed-chamber. During the entire day she had endeavored to assist her sister-in law, in the various domestic duties, with her usual activity; which however it must be confessed, was mingled with much pensive abstraction. But after the tea service was removed, she had retired to her chamber, that she might in solitude commune with her own thoughts.
The silence of her apartment was soothing to Nanna's mind.
Besides a small sofa, which was her sleeping place, her little dominions contained a book shelf; three or four flower vases; a bureau, and a small work table. The two latter articles of furniture were specimens of Carl's workmanship.
Carl, when he chose to display his ability, was a skillful carpenter, and formerly Nanna was his special favorite. Of late, however, it could readily be perceived that Magde possessed his affections. She, had she so chosen, could have abused him as if he had been a dog, and like a cur he would have crept back to kiss the hand which had maltreated him. Magde, however, was soft-hearted, and did not abuse her power over the singular boy; but she compelled him to labor with much more assiduity than he had formerly. When at home, Carl generally performed the duties of a nursery maid. The children remained with him willingly, for he tenderly loved them; in fact every child in the neighborhood loved the "Wiseacre," for he would play with them, and upon all occasions take them under his special protection. When he saw his little nephews and nieces, subjected to the discipline of their mother, he would fly into a frenzy of passion, and then he was called, "Crazy Carl." He was an inveterate enemy to corporeal punishment, and he could invent no better method of explaining his doctrine, than by administering to those, who differed with him, a practical illustration of the cruelty of personal castigation. Therefore he would fly around among the parents and the straggling children, preventing their punishment of his favorites by means of his own stalwart arm, and then after the tumult had subsided he would repent and tearfully sue for pardon.
Crazy Carl was laughed at for his exertions in behalf of the children, yet to spare his feelings the necessary punishment of the children was deferred till he was out of sight. None of the neighboring peasant women would leave their homes, to go to the market, to a wedding, or to a funeral, without requesting Carl to remain with the children, and upon his compliance they would go forth untroubled, for they were well aware of the unbounded influence "Wiseacre" possessed over the young people.
Carl's bed-room, which adjoined Nanna's apartment, contained a bedstead, a well whittled table, and a chair mutilated in a like manner. In this chair Carl would rock backward and forward, for hours, and with half closed eyes would look as if by stealth, at a striped woolen waistcoat, which was suspended against the wall, or some other little gift from Magde.
At the same time that Nanna was seated in her room looking towards the large tree near the spring, Carl was rocking in his chair, gazing with his peculiar expression at a brown earthen vase, which was standing upon the table before him. The vase contained two freshly plucked lilacs, one blue and the other white, which emitted a fragrant odor. After Carl had sufficiently regarded these objects, he slowly jerked his chair towards the table, and at each pause his mouth widened into a simple simper. At length he arrived so near the table that by bending forward he could have easily touched the flowers with his nostrils. To accomplish this movement, which was his evident intention, he proceeded with as much gravity and carefulness as he had evinced in approaching the table. He bowed down his head inch by inch, until he could no longer withstand the desire of his senses. With one plunge he thrust his nostrils amidst the fresh leaves of the fragrant flowers.
Suddenly, however, he raised his head, a thought struck his mind—his face lengthened and his brow became cloudy.
And yet a few moments ago he appeared supremely happy.
* * * * *
Nanna's pretty face was pressed against the window pane. Her little world had never before appeared so fresh and beautiful. So great was her abstraction that she did not hear the door open, as Carl with his peculiar lofty strides entered the room.
"Thank you, Nanna," said Carl. Nanna did not hear him. His voice was lost in her recollection of the words of the strange youth, she had met the day before.
"Thank you, Nanna," repeated Carl.
Nanna started. "What for?" said she.
"Do you not know?" replied Carl, "why for the flowers!"
"O," said Carl smiling imbecilely and gazing vacantly around the room.
"If you found lilacs in your room, I did not place them there," said Nanna.
"Ah! then perhaps little Christine sent them to me."
"No, dear Carl," replied Nanna, "the flowers were sent by one who is better than even myself or Christine."
"Who can it be?"
"Magde, of course."
"Ah!" Carl slowly stepped towards the door. "Magde, yes, I ought to have known that!"
"Ask her, and then you will know certainly," said Nanna.
"O, no, but they are beautiful flowers. I hope I will not break them, they smell so sweetly!"
Thus saying Carl strode across the floor to his own chamber where he again seated himself upon his chair and resumed his former occupation; but he did not profane them with his nostrils, for now he regarded them in a holier light. They were Magde's gift.
While he was thus happily engaged, a messenger arrived at the cottage to disturb him. A peasant's wife, who wished to attend a funeral desired his services, and the obliging Carl, although he protested that he had a great deal to engage his attention at home, willingly promised to go to the woman's cottage and take care of her children until her return. In order that his arrival at the cottage might be joyfully welcomed, he returned to his room, and commenced the manufacture of sundry whistles and as he whittled and sung verses of his own composition—for Carl was a poet—he occasionally cast loving glances towards the brown earthen vase.
But how was Nanna employed? Was she reading some of her favorite books, an amusement to which she often devoted her leisure hours? or perhaps she was proceeding over the path which conducted to the spring in the meadow. Neither. She at present appeared perfectly satisfied with her unaccustomed listlessness, from which however she was soon aroused.
From between the trees that bordered the side of the hill, she saw a green coat emerge, which when it reached the plain made its way towards the little fountain beneath the tree.
The wearer of the coat, who was the young man who had carried the knapsack and had called Nanna his little naiad, a term which he supposed she did not understand, cast himself upon the grass near the trunk of the tree. Perhaps he was expecting some one.
For a few moments Nanna stood undecidedly upon the threshold of the door. Her inclinations drew her towards the spring; but her modesty cautioned her to remain.
Why had she so long postponed her usual walk on this particular occasion? She had not expected any one. Certainly not!
At length, however, she seized her bonnet and hastened from the room.
THE FIRST DISAPPOINTMENT.
Nanna had arrived at the bottom step of the flight of stairs, when she encountered Magde who was returning from a visit at a neighbor's house. She had walked fast, and her face was crimson with heat and vexation. When Magde first saw the young girl, she drew her bonnet close around her face, intending to enter the house as quickly as Nanna wished to depart; but when Nanna had reached the threshold she exclaimed:
"Where are you going?"
"To take a little walk," replied Nanna.
"Be careful, Nanna," said Magde seriously, "you will soon be a young woman."
"And why should that affect you so?" replied Nanna, astonished at Magde's caution.
"O, only that poor women who wish to preserve their fair fame, are not allowed to go out when they choose."
"What did you say?"
"I say that the sun, earth, water, trees, and flowers, are made only for the rich, who can admire them from their fine carriages and pleasure yachts."
"But, dear Magde, you have always—"
"Silence, child," interrupted Magde, "you do not know the insults to which we females of humble birth are exposed."
"We are not born that we should thus be insulted," said Nanna.
"True, true; but then we should have been born as deformed and ugly as those sins, which even our modesty will not preserve us from being suspected of."
"Can that be possible!" thought Nanna. Magde, who as she spoke had passed her hand upon her forehead, now removed it, and from the expression of her dark eyes, which beamed with her accustomed cheerfulness, and from her proud and lofty bearing, it could be perceived that she had regained her usual self-possession.
"I grieve you, dear Nanna," said she in a softened tone of voice, "I do not imagine you to be more than a dove which is still fostered within the dovecote. But I was troubled, as I am sometimes, without really knowing the cause."
"Is there no cause, then?" inquired Nanna.
"I can say that there is or is not a cause, and therefore shall remain silent."
"Then remain silent, dear Magde, let us speak no further on the subject," said Nanna quickly, for she was burning with impatience to visit the spring.
She longed to discover by experience whether it was really so dangerous for a woman to walk out alone.
Until the day before, it had not been dangerous, for no one had forbidden her the free enjoyment of God's beautiful earth, and neither had her modesty ever been insulted. On any other occasion, Nanna would have been influenced not only by curiosity, but by a far purer feeling, namely, sympathy for Magde's sorrows,—for she dearly loved her sister-in-law,—and would have asked an explanation of matters which she at present was anxious to avoid.
Magde was silent.
Nanna stepped over the door sill.
But stern fate compelled her to turn back a second time, for the moment that Magde turned to pass into the house, old Mr. Lonner advanced to the door.
"Nanna my child," said he, "bring my chair out into the door-yard. The evening air is so cool and pleasant that it will invigorate my old body; but it would be better I think, if my rheumatism will permit it, to take a little stroll in the fields, with the aid of my walking cane on one side, and with you as a staff to support me on the other."
Nanna blushed so deeply that she felt the blood burning her cheeks, as she advanced the opinion that the exercise might prove injurious to him.
"Poor child, you are grieved on account of your old father. I will take your advice. Bring my arm-chair out, and we will sit here and have a little chat together."
Hitherto, when her father had chatted to her of all that he had seen and experienced, Nanna had considered herself amply rewarded for her days of labor, but on this occasion, she not only went after the chair reluctantly, but also, when she as usual seated herself with her knitting work on her little bench at his side she sighed deeply. Her father did not observe her dejection, perhaps he considered it an impossibility for his precious jewel to sigh when she was with him.
"Well, Nanna," said he stroking his long beard which gave a venerable appearance to his benevolent features, "are you thinking of the fine shawl that Ragnar is to send you by his friend Jon Jonson?"
"Not at all, dear father," replied Nanna.
"True," continued the old man, "your disposition in that respect does not resemble Magde's. She is pleased, as every young woman should be, when she has an opportunity of decorating her person with elegant clothing."
"I think, that hereafter," said Nanna, slightly confused, "I shall also cultivate a taste for such things; but thus far I have had but little opportunity."
"I hope so," replied her father, "I have frequently been much troubled in mind, when I have observed your indifference to dress, so unnatural to one of your age; but which is only a result of the romantic notions that you have always indulged in."
"But dear father, is it not wrong to strive to make ourselves beautiful when we are only poor people?"
"Beautiful!" exclaimed the old man, "what put that into your little head?"
"Magde told me that all poor women ought to be born ugly, that their reputation might not be suspected."
"Magde was a little out of humor, when she said that, and she who wishes to please her husband so much, could not have really intended what she said."
"Yes, but when a woman is married, it alters the case entirely."
"But why should not an unmarried girl wish herself handsome for the sake of her father, her brother, and above all for her own sake? That is a good wish so long as it continues innocent."
"When then, is it not innocent?" inquired Nanna.
"It is no longer innocent when the love of fine apparel, and the desire to be beautiful, changes the heart, and the girl neglects her duties, and gives her sole attention to that which should only serve as a simple recreation; but that I am sure will never be the case with you."
Nanna was silent. She drooped her head. "There is no danger of that," thought she, "for who will care to witness the change?"
"On next St. John's day," continued her father, "you must wear that elegant silk shawl which belonged to your poor mother."
As Nanna heard these words, a smile of peculiar meaning passed over her lips. It was the smile of a woman who anticipates a future triumph.
"Thank God," said the old man, turning the conversation in another channel, "for all the blessings he has bestowed upon us. Although we may now be in trouble, when Ragnar's packages arrive, we shall be in better circumstances. Poverty has many blessings of which the rich man cannot even dream. The poor man's gratitude and joy for even the slightest piece of fortune is too great to describe. The rich man has not that relish for the good things of life that the poor man has."
While honest Lonner was thus losing himself in his meditations, Nanna moved in her seat uneasily, and dropped stitch after stitch of her knitting-work. The former topic of conversation was endurable, but this—
Meanwhile, however, she did not dare to express her desire to be liberated from her irksome position. Why was she afraid to do so? She asked herself the question; the only reply she could make was, that yesterday it would have been easy for her to say, "Father, I want to take a little walk in the meadow;" but to-day, oh! that was different!
"I see you have your bonnet on!" said her father, "were you about taking a walk?"
"I have not been out of the house before, to-day," replied Nanna.
"Well, then run away, my child; take all the enjoyment you can. You have but little here."
Perhaps it was by expressions of this description from her father, that mournful thoughts were engendered within the mind of the young girl, causing her to fancy that something was wanting to complete her happiness, and that she stood beyond the pale of those who should have been her companions.
It is certainly plausible to suppose that these moments which the old man had set apart for familiar conversation with his daughter, whom he loved above all earthly things, for she reminded him of past days, might have proved highly detrimental to Nanna's sensitive and susceptible mind.
As matters now stood, it was plainly evident that, however economical, industrious and thrifty she might be, Nanna would be compelled to be content with her lot, should she wed an honest mechanic or a sloop captain, which were the highest prizes which she, or any of the neighboring maidens, might expect to win.
Like a captive bird which, after many fruitless struggles, finally regains its liberty, Nanna quickly made use of her restored freedom, and hastened from the door-yard. She was fully convinced that the young man was no longer in the meadow, and now she suddenly remembered that she had said nothing to her father or Magde about the stranger whom she had encountered the previous evening. How strange it was that she had forgotten to tell them! Yes, it was the strangest thing that ever had occurred during her whole life, and how greatly astonished they would be when she should tell them of her little adventure! Thus thought Nanna, as she proceeded towards the meadow.
"It was just as I thought!" exclaimed our heroine, as she looked, with pouting lips at the reflection of her pretty figure in the clear waters of the spring. Never before had her hair been so nicely arranged, and her neat white apron, which she had kept concealed beneath her cloak during her entire conversation with Magde and her father, and which she had carefully tied about her waist as soon as she had entered the meadows, how pretty it looked! But how was she repaid for all her trouble? She was about disencumbering herself both of her apron and a little scarf which she had thrown over her shoulders, when she heard a voice that she had already learned to distinguish, calling to her in the distance.
With pleased astonishment she lifted her eyes, and saw an individual whom we need scarcely inform our readers was the owner of the knapsack. He was descending a hill, holding to his lips a blade of grass, upon which he would occasionally blow a vigorous and ear-piercing blast.
"Have you come at last, my naiad queen?" said the youth. "We were such pleasant companions last evening, that I came hither in the hope of finding you at your bath again."
"A naiad queen might bathe her feet before you; but I—" She ceased speaking, and a deep blush suffused her cheeks.
"Ah! then you know something about the naiads, my child?"
"Yes, and about the sylphs, too," replied Nanna, nodding her head, proud at having an opportunity of displaying her knowledge before one whom, besides her father, was the only person that she had ever cared to interest.
"You surprise me! What have you read?"
"O, a little of everything. My father has a large book case, and I have a small collection of books, myself."
"Hm, hm," said the embryo secretary, "but enumerate to me some of the books you have read."
"Do you really wish to know?"
"Yes, dear Nanna,—pardon me—Mademoiselle Nanna I should have said. Now Mademoiselle, please be seated, the grass is quite soft. I wish to catechise you a little."
"But I shall not answer you, sir, if you call me Mademoiselle; it sounds so cold and disagreeable."
"Well, I will be careful not to do so; but let us make a commencement."
"With my qualifications?"
"Certainly; but why do you sit at such a distance?"
"We are not so far from each other."
"That proves you to be no mathematician. Now, tell me, how many yards distance are there between us?"
"Three, I think."
"Poor child, you have not reached your A B C's in arithmetic; but I will be your instructor."
"You shall soon see." He quickly unloosed his neckcloth. "This," he continued, "is precisely one yard in length. Now, I will measure the ground, and when I have measured three yards, then—"
"Then I will seat myself; for you have yourself chosen the distance."
The unsuspecting Nanna had not the slightest idea of the little plot the young man had arranged to entrap her. The poor child was unaccustomed to mirth; for although Magde, Ragnar, and Carl, often indulged in boisterous sports, still Nanna never could feel an inclination to mingle with them, but had merely smiled at their ridiculous jokes. Never had the clear ringing laugh of gleeful childhood issued over her lips; but upon the present occasion her innocent heart entered into the spirit of her gay companion, and when he deliberately measured three lengths of his neckcloth from the spot where he was sitting, and then gravely seated himself at her very side, a merry laugh broke from her lips, in which the youth joined.
"Well," said he, assuming a comfortable position, "I can touch you, at least, now."
"Yes," replied Nanna seriously, for she was musing on Magde's words of caution, "yes, you can; but I do not wish you to."
"You do not?"
"I do not," replied she firmly.
"What an obstinate little creature you are!"
"You desired to know what I have read," said Nanna, wishing to change the subject of conversation.
"True, but why do you hide your little hand under your apron, I shall not touch it without your permission?"
Nanna smiled as she slowly withdrew her hands from their place of concealment and folded them upon her lap.
"Now, my child," said the young man with an assumed air of dignity, "first of all, you may commence at the beginning."
"When I was a little girl, my father bought for me some picture books, which as I read, he explained to me. Next as I progressed further—"
"Well, what happened?"
"Next I studied the catechism, which I liked very much, then I commenced reading the bible, a book which I love above all others, the new testament especially. All that I do not understand my father explains to me, and after he has finished, I go alone to my room, and as I read I cannot refrain from weeping—But my tears are not sorrowful, I think only of—"
"I know not whether I should tell you that."
"Certainly you should; am I not your friend?"
"Well then—but do not speak about it to any one—I cannot help thinking that if I had lived when our Saviour was upon earth, I should have been one of the holy women."
"Who ever heard of such ambition! Why perhaps you would like to have been the virgin Mary, herself?"
"Oh," exclaimed Nanna, turning her face, that she might conceal the blush, which his words of ridicule, as she esteemed them, had called forth.
"But, my child," continued her companion, "we will dwell no longer upon your holy thoughts, so different from others of your age; proceed if you please."
"Aside from the books I have mentioned, at my father's request, I studied history, geography, natural philosophy, and finally ancient mythology."
"You surprise me! Your education has not been neglected; but you can write, can you not?"
"Certainly, and I have also practised drawing a little."
"Indeed! upon my honor, Mademoiselle Nanna you frighten me!"
"Because I cannot comprehend how you can use all your knowledge in this valley."
"I have often thought of that," replied Nanna, sighing deeply.
"Perhaps, it is not such a terrible matter after all," said Gottlieb, "I must thoroughly convince myself."
Gottlieb now commenced to examine and cross-question Nanna in the various departments of learning that she had mentioned, and was pleased to discover by her accurate replies that she comprehended thoroughly all that she had studied. In fact, Nanna was quite his equal in her knowledge of Ancient Mythology, which had always been her favorite study.
"But how is it possible that your father should be so well educated? Yesterday, when we were walking together, you told me that he had resided in this valley nearly half his lifetime, with scarcely sufficient means to support himself and family."
"Alas! a sorrowful story is connected with my father's younger days; but he never speaks of it. He had high hopes, when young, and had they been realized, he would have been a man of consequence; but the death of his patron crushed everything."
"I must call upon your father some pleasant evening. Do you think he would be pleased to see me?"
"Of course, and Magde would also."
"Your sister-in-law? Well, well, I will soon visit them both; but listen now—"
"As the error has already been committed—"
"That you should have been taught more than you ought to know; but still, it is now too late to repent as you have already learned a little, and I do not think there will be any harm in teaching you more."
"Who will teach me?"
"I shall of course.—I have an idea."
Nanna glanced inquiringly towards her companion. "You might be able," he continued, "to earn a little competency for yourself; would you be willing to become a school-teacher?"
"O, yes, nothing could be better! Then I would not be obliged to think of—of—"
"Yes, of marriage."
"And I am of your opinion, for to speak candidly, whom could you marry?"
"I do not know; there is the parish tailor, who has already spoken to Magde about it—"
"The parish tailor!—Aha!"
"And Captain Larsson who owns a sloop, offered Ragnar two barrels of rye flour if he would speak a good word to me about him."
"Two barrels of rye flour as a bribe! And your brother's reply?"
"O, Ragnar is not to be played with," replied Nanna; "'if you wish to purchase my sister,' said he, 'you had better speak to her yourself, she has not authorized me to sell her.'"
"So you have two lovers!"
"Yes, and the sexton, an old widower, is the third. He has considerable wealth, and therefore applied to my father, himself."
"Yes, father told him I was too young."
"Do you not prefer either of your suitors?"
"I would rather throw myself into lake Wenner, than to marry either of them."
"Then let us speak of the school. It will give you a little income, and is, as far as I can see, the only method of using your accomplishments to advantage."
"You are right. It is my only choice."
"I fear so too, for a lover suitable for you would not in all probability find his way hither; but in me you have found a friend at least."
"Thank God, for that."
"But it is necessary that we should make one agreement—"
"What is it?"
"That we shall not fall in love with each other."
"Oh, there is no danger!"
"Ah! who can be sure of that? You possess beauties beyond your personal charms, Miss Nanna, that may conquer me in spite of myself."
"You are also beautiful; but I do not believe that—that—"
"You do not believe that you would ever fall in love with me, you were about saying. Upon my word that is so much the better, for to speak truly I am placed in as bad circumstances as you are yourself."
"Yes, yes, I speak the truth. My only ambition is to become an assistant in my father's office."
"If that is the case," said Nanna, "you must fall in love with a rich girl only."
"I shall be careful of my own interests I assure you," replied Gottlieb, "but now this perplexing point is rightly settled—is it not?"
"Yes, you are to marry a wealthy girl, and I am to keep a school, is that the agreement?"
"Yes, and now we must make another arrangement, which is that we must agree to meet each other during the evening hours at this spot. I own many books that will be useful to you, and if you can sing—"
"I can sing a little, and the old sexton says my voice is beautiful."
"Allow me to hear you sing."
"To-morrow, I cannot this evening."
"O, you should not refuse a friend in that manner. It would be quite different if I was your lover."
Without further words, Nanna commenced singing an old ballad, and her sweet voice, as she trilled forth the beautiful words of her song, fell upon the ear of her young companion like the soft music of a bird.
"You sing excellently, Nanna, and I think your voice would be improved if you could play upon the guitar. I have one at home, and might bring it with me."
"But the guitar would not benefit my future pupils."
"It will serve for your amusement after your scholars have left you in the afternoon. You will find such a relaxation quite necessary, and when you play upon it, and sing one of your beautiful ballads, you will think of your friend."
"And drive away the tedium of the long hours.—O, sir, you are too kind!"
"Stop, Nanna! Call me Gottlieb, not sir. You know friends should—"
"Thanks, Sir Gottlieb! What a beautiful name! But it is quite late!"
Nanna, who was fearful that Magde, anxious at her long absence, would come in search of her, arose from her seat upon the grass, and hastily departed.
The next morning, a few hours before Carl, whistling a ballad of which he was the author, commenced his journey over ditches and stiles, to fulfill his engagement to watch with the children of the peasant woman, Mr. Fabian H—— was awakened by his affectionate wife, who informed him that it was time for him to prepare himself for his hunting expedition.
Sleepy, and unwilling to leave his cozy bed, for the sake of enjoying the damp morning air, Mr. Fabian addressed his spouse with all the tenderness which his state of mind would permit:
"Dear Ulgenie, you—"
Mistress Ulrica, however, did not permit herself to be moved by this gentle epithet.
"Fabian," said she, shaking his shoulder roughly, "you are going to sleep again. Quick! get up! I have had your top boots nicely greased, and on the chair you will find your hunting coat and game-bag. Everything is made as comfortable as possible."
"Sweet Ulgenie," expostulated Mr. Fabian.
The amiable lady smiled as she heard him speak, and had not an unfortunate yawn accompanied those two tender words, in all probability they would have terminated this chapter. But the word yawn is not found in Love's dictionary, and consequently the unlucky husband was forced to rise from his bed preparatory to going forth to perform deeds of valor in obedience to the commands of his mistress.
"Do not neglect to awaken Gottlieb. He also must learn the noble art of hunting."
"I will, my dear, I will," said her husband, perspiring with his exertions, as he forced himself into his hunting garments which Mistress Ulrica had made from a pattern of her own invention. But when Mr. Fabian had completed his toilette, he hastened from the house, intentionally forgetting to awaken Gottlieb, for, as we shall soon discover, he had urgent reasons for wishing to perform his hunting exploits without the hindrance of a companion. As Sir Fabian was, so to speak, his wife's butler, he had provided himself with a deputy butler, who generally received a hint of the day and the hour, when stern fate would compel his master to encase his feet in heavy hunting boots.
We now see this martyr to the holy cause of matrimony, puffing and blowing beneath the weight of his heavy gun, as he wends his way across the fields towards a certain spot in the forest at which he finally arrives. He looks around him with searching eyes; his brow is clouded with anxiety and impatience. Suddenly his eyes gleam with an expression of joy; but he instantly recovers himself and assumes an air of dignified composure, while he gazes angrily upon the form of a man, who is approaching him through the trees.
"Fool! you have kept me waiting!" said he harshly as the man advanced.
Humbly but with a humility which was more assumed than natural, the "Butler," presented Mr. Fabian with two hares, and two partridges; which would fill his game-bag uncommonly well and ensure a loving welcome upon his return home. After this ceremony was performed Mr. H—— threw his accomplice a few pieces of silver, and when the last named performer in this little scene had vanished, our huntsman fatigued by his arduous exertions cast himself upon a moss-covered bank and was soon continuing the dream which had been so unpleasantly interrupted by his sweet Ulgenie.
* * * * *
"In the woods, near the sea I have lived Many a day! Ho, ho, ho, Ha, ha, ha, It is so lovely on the earth!"
Thus sang or hummed Carl as he proceeded on his way.
Suddenly he experienced a strong desire to rush into the woods to listen to the sighing of the wind as it swept through the high branches of the trees. In this music Carl took such delight that he would listen to it, for hours, while great tears of pleasure and excitement would roll down his sun-burnt cheeks. But it was the pleasure and excitement of a religious enthusiast in the house of the God he worshipped. Carl never spoke of these sentiments, and how would it have been possible for him to do so. He never thought from whence they originated. He followed his inclination only.
While Carl was thus engaged he suddenly saw an object which caused him instantly to neglect the sound of his favorite music. In the grass near the fence over which Carl was about climbing, he saw the slumbering huntsman, with the freshly killed game reposing at his side.
Carl, without knowing why, had conceived the idea that Magde disliked Mr. Fabian H——, and as for himself, he instinctively hated that worthy gentleman. And another thought entered his head as he looked upon the game. He remembered that Magde had once said: "Ah! had we but a hare or a partridge, how delicious it would be! But such things are too good for us, they must be sent to the manor house."
Carl laughed silently. He extended his hand towards the sleeping man, and then withdrew it undecidedly. Our friend Carl possessed a few indistinct ideas concerning the law of meum and teum. By dint of great exertion, his father had implanted in his mind the great necessity of observing the eighth commandment, and upon the present occasion the lesson of his younger days interfered in a great degree with the accomplishment of his present designs; for as he gazed upon the objects of his envy, he muttered to himself:
"The Eighth Commandment: Thou shalt not steal!"
His brain was not only troubled with the eighth, but the words of the tenth commandment came to his memory, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his servant, nor his maid, nor his ox, nor his ass."
As he thus spoke, and thought first of the commandments and then of Magde, he continued to advance and retreat, wavering in his decision, and he might have remained in this state until Mr. Fabian awoke, had not a bright idea forced itself upon his mind.
"O," exclaimed he, "the commandments say nothing about game!" and as even the veriest simpleton has it in his power to convince himself of the purity of an action, however wrong, Carl soon satisfied himself with the excuse which he had so ingeniously invented. He entirely forgot the closing line of the commandment, "nor anything that is his," which, however, would not bear consideration on that occasion. He therefore seized the two hares that were nearest him, and by the assistance of a long stick he gained possession of the partridges also.
In the meantime, Mr. Fabian's assistant, who had not yet left the forest, having been attracted by Carl's movements, had been an eye-witness to his proceedings. But instead of warning the lad of his crime, the spectator seemed rather to rejoice at his patron's misfortune. He might safely do this, for after the crime had been committed, he could easily disclose the name of the thief, and thus avert suspicion from himself. He thought that Mr. H—— would not injure a person of Carl's character, and that at all events he would be likely to receive a proper reward for any zeal he should exert to promote the interest of his employer. Carl had discovered that his actions had been observed; but as the spectator, by sundry winks and nods, seemed rather to encourage than to prevent him, Carl proceeded without fear.
And now, having won the victory, he hastened to Magde.
But here trouble awaited him.
When Carl presented Magde the game, she was delighted; but after her outburst of admiration had subsided, her first question naturally was as to where he had procured his prize.
"Is it not enough that it is here?" said Carl, as he stood on the threshold, twirling his hat in his hand.
"Heavens! I trust you have not procured it in an unlawful way?"
"No, I got it while going the right way," replied Carl, mischievously.
"My dear Carl," said Magde, seriously, "you must not think to deceive me by your cunning words."
"You should not say so," answered Carl, sulkily.
"No, I should not, Carl, I spoke foolishly; but if you are a good boy, and love me, you will tell me who has given you this game, or whether you have promised to pay for it by working by-and-bye."
"I have already worked for it," said Carl, with a laugh, "but I must go now, or else I will be too late at Sunnangaarden."
Thus saying, Carl was about putting his long legs in active motion, when Magde exclaimed:
"Carl! Carl! a word more! stop, Carl!"
"I have staid too long already," said Carl; but still he remained.
"Tell me frankly, Carl, did you procure the game honestly?"
Carl, who rested upon the tenth commandment, in which neither hares nor partridges were mentioned, answered shrewdly:
"If you doubt my honor, I will refer you to the catechism. Do you believe in the catechism?"
"Is it true then that you have done nothing contrary to its precepts?"
"It is indeed true," replied Carl, gravely.
"Then I am satisfied," said Magde, "and I am grateful to you, my good Carl, for the welcome present."
"Good? Yes, can I really believe you, Magde?"
"Yes, I so consider you, and therefore I am good to you."
Carl commenced laughing, and assumed a crane-like position, as he balanced himself upon one leg. This was his usual custom when pleased.
"Well, well, then you love poor Carl a little. That's good!"
"Carl is my good boy," replied Magde, who during the conversation had been engaged in spreading out a number of skeins of knitting yarn that had been placed out to bleach upon the grass plot.
"Listen," said Carl, approaching nigher to Magde, "would Magde shed a tear upon my grave if God should call me from earth?"
There reposed in these words a tone of mingled fear and humility, and Magde, much moved by the peculiar expression of Carl's countenance, replied:
"Certainly, Carl, I would shed many, many tears, for I believe there are none who love you as I do."
"I am grateful, Magde," said Carl, violently scraping the ground with the sole of his hob-nailed shoe, an action which could scarcely be called a bow—"your words shall be remembered. I am Magde's servant, and shall be so as long as I live."
With these words, he turned on his heel, and trotted towards his place of destination.
"The poor lad has a good heart," thought Magde, as she concluded her labors in the yard; but she little imagined the true state of Carl's heart.
Magde now entered the house to prepare breakfast. Her three children crowded around her, loudly testifying their admiration of the partridges and hares. She commenced dressing the game with that placidity of countenance, and with that dexterity which proved she was well versed in that most important branch of a housekeeper's duties—cookery.
CONCERNING THE HUNTER IN THE WOODS, AND HIS HOMEWARD WALK.
We now return to our friend the sportsman, who soon awoke from his sound slumber, quite refreshed. He yawned, stretched himself, and mechanically extended his hand towards the spot where he had placed his game-bag.
Although his hand touched nothing but the grass and his gun, he nevertheless was not troubled, for he thought that he had miscalculated the distance. He searched still further; but to his surprise the game-bag was still missing. He now raised himself up in a sitting posture, and rubbing his eyes vigorously, he searched the ground closely. But his eyes, usually so good, must have been dimmed by some enchantment, for he could perceive neither the hares nor the partridges, which he could not but think were there.
Determined, however, not to believe in such marvels, for honest Fabian was a man of intelligence, he arose and peered through the bushes in the grass; he looked in the air, and he closely scanned the tops of the trees; but his efforts were fruitless. The game was not to be found.
"It is astonishing!" said he to himself. "I can not believe it! They must be here! But where the devil are they then!"
The trees retained a stubborn silence, and their example was followed by the earth, the air, and the water. Although the heat of the day was rendered still more insufferable by Mr. Fabian's thick hunting suit, yet his flesh chilled with fear when he discovered the actual loss of his partridges and hares.
To return home without his game, was a misfortune, which under ordinary circumstances he could have endured; but on this occasion he had reason to expect a more than usually severe lecture from his wife whose command he had stubbornly disobeyed by not awakening Gottlieb. While the unfortunate sportsman was bewailing his fate he discovered the face of his "butler," who was peering out from between the bushes with an expression of mingled humility and mirthfulness.
"Where are my partridges, you rascal?" shouted Mr. Fabian, his face glowing with anger.
"Do you think, Mr. H——, that I have taken them?"
"Such a jest would be but natural. What are you doing here? Have I not paid you enough?"
"I never do anything without orders, and if you do not wish me to remain, I will go instantly. I thought, however, that you would be pleased if I should tell you what had become of your game."
"That is just what I wish to know! Has any one presumed to steal it?"
"Who? Quick! Tell me!"
But the butler answered only with a long drawn. "Ah!"
"Can you substantiate what you are about to say?"
"I can swear to it, if it is necessary. I waited here only that I might be able to explain everything to my employer, after he should awake."
"You are a fine fellow, now tell me what evil being has entered the woods, and committed this depredation?"
"If you wish to have a full account of the matter, you should tender full payment," said the butler, who considered this play of words exceedingly apt and forcible.
"Yes, yes, I will not be ungenerous," replied Mr. Fabian taking a bank-note from his pocket.
"Carl,—the fool of the valley—purloined the hares and partridges."
"What! that cur!—the son of old Lonner!"
"Are you certain?"
"Yes, as certain as I am that I live."
"Good," said Mr. Fabian, and he repeated the same word several times, each time appearing better satisfied, and certainly the thoughts that occupied his mind must have afforded him great pleasure, for he not only forgot the trouble that awaited his return home, but also the question, which in truth should have been the first one—why the Butler had not stopped the thief and rescued the booty. The Butler, however, thought it expedient not to await further questions, and therefore soon found an opportunity of retreating.
Our readers may be assured that when the sportsman returned home his wife was not in the best of humor. She awaited his coming in the parlor; but when she heard his footsteps in the court-yard, she could no longer restrain her impatience, but hastened to the window and exclaimed:
"Where were your silly thoughts wandering, when you left the house without calling Gottlieb. I must say that you conduct yourself friendly towards my relations, and I do think it is equally astonishing that you have come home without him. I sent him to look for you a long time ago. What! can I believe my eyes! Where is the game that I was to have for dinner?"
"Dear Ulrique Eugenie, can you not wait until I have changed my clothes? I have travelled so far through the woods, that I can scarcely breathe, I am so weary."
"Where is the game?"
"Whew!" ejaculated her husband, "I can stand these clothes no longer." Thus saying, he hastened into the house, and proceeded to his apartment.
But this respite was of short duration. Mistress Ulrica Eugenie was familiar with the road to the chamber, and her rage reached its highest point, when she heard that the game which was intended for her dinner, had been stolen while her husband, overcome by his arduous exertions, had fallen asleep.
"O, if I only knew who did this, yes, if I only knew, I would have the rascal put in the stocks. But you, you dormouse, yes you, you call yourself a man! you! Don't you wish to borrow my petticoat! To sleep when engaged in the noble art of hunting! To complain of fatigue! Fie upon such men! But can you not discover the thief?"
"No, my dear, I assure you. I cannot, how could I know what happened while I was sleeping?"
"That is the reason why you never knew anything in your life," replied the exasperated woman. "But see there comes Gottlieb with a partridge in his hand. He is a pattern. He never allows his game to be stolen," and Mistress Ulrica composed her features, and assumed an expression of motherly benevolence, while she descended the stairs to receive her nephew.
"Thank you, good Gottlieb," said she meeting him at the door, "thank you, your uncle has been unfortunate this morning; but come with me to the dairy, and you shall have the cream of an entire pan of milk."
"The milk also, if you please, aunty, I feel myself able to devour every thing, pan and all."
"Well, satisfy yourself. By and by we will go to my bleachery and you may select a piece of linen.—Do you understand?"
"Not a word. It is all a mystery. But I do know that there is not a nephew on the entire Scandinavian peninsula, who possesses an aunt with such an affectionate disposition."
"Ah, you flatterer, it is well that you are my nephew or else Fabian might be jealous."
"Well I am not sure but that he may yet have an occasion, for, I am not aware that nephews are forbidden to love their aunts."