The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen (Stratton)/The Goloshes of Happiness
The Goloshes of Happiness
N a house in Copenhagen, not far from the King's New Market, there was company. A great many persons had been invited, probably in the hope of receiving return invitations. Half of the company had already sat down to the card table, and the other
"THESE GOLOSHES HAVE THE PROPERTY INSTANTLY TO TRANSPORT WHOMSOEVER SHALL PUT THEM ON TO THE PLACE AND TIME HE BEST LIKES."
While this topic forms the ground-work of the conversation, which was only momentarily disturbed by the arrival of a newspaper containing nothing worth reading, we will go out into the ante-room, where the mantles, sticks, and goloshes were laid by. Here sat two maidens, a young one and an old one, just as if they had come to accompany their mistresses home; but, on a nearer inspection, one could have perceived that they were no common abigails. Their noble figures, delicate skins, and the very cut of their clothes, forbade such a possibility. They were a couple of fairies. The younger was not Happiness herself, but a waiting-maid of one of her lady's-maids, who distribute the minor gifts of Happiness. The elder looked rather gloomy: she was Care; she always looks after her own affairs personally, and then she knows they are properly attended to.
They related to each other where they had been that day. The messenger of Happiness had only performed some trifling acts, coming more under the denomination of luck, such as saving a new hat from a shower, obtaining for an honourable man a bow from a titled nonentity, and so forth. But what remained was something quite unusual.
"I must tell you," said she, "that it is, to-day, my birthday, in honour of which I have been entrusted with a pair of goloshes that I am to introduce amongst mankind. These goloshes have the property instantly to transport whomsoever shall put them on to the place and times he best likes. Every wish relative to time, place, or existence will be instantly fulfilled, and one mortal, at least, will be happy, for the time being, here below."
"So you fancy," said Care; "most likely he will be very unhappy, and will bless the moment when he gets rid of the goloshes."
"What are you thinking about?" said the other. "Now, I'll place them near the door; some one will get hold of them, and be happy."
Such was the conversation that passed between the two.
II—WHAT BEFELL THE COUNCILLOR OF JUSTICE
T was late. Councillor Knap, who was deep in his speculations about King Hans' days, now wanted to go home, and Fate so ordained it that he drew on the Goloshes of Happiness instead of his own, and stepped out into East Street. Only, being transported back to the times of King Hans, by the magic spell of the goloshes, he immediately set his foot into the mire and swamp of the street, which in those days boasted no pavement.
"How dreadfully dirty it is here!" said the councillor. "The whole pavement has vanished, and all the lamps are out."
The moon had not risen high enough, and the air was, besides, so thick that all the surrounding objects were confused in the gloom. At the nearest corner there hung a lantern in front of an image of the Madonna; but the light was as good as nothing at all, for he only perceived it when he was just under it; and his eyes fell on the painted Child and His mother.
"Probably," thought he, "this is some curiosity-shop, where they have forgotten to take down the sign."
A couple of men, in the dress of the Middle Ages, passed by him.
"What odd figures!" thought he. "Surely they come from a masquerade."
There suddenly struck up a sound of drums and fifes, while torches shed a brilliant light. The councillor started back in amaze, and now beheld a most singular procession pass before him! First came a whole troop of drummers, that were belabouring their instruments amain; these were followed by body-guards with bows and cross-bows. The principal person in the procession was a clerical gentleman. The astonished councillor asked what it all meant, and who the man could be?
"The Bishop of Zealand."
"Good gracious! What is the bishop thinking about?" sighed the councillor, shaking his head. "Surely it could not be the bishop!" While trying to make out the truth, the councillor, who could see neither to the right nor to the left, went through East Street, and across the Habro Platz. The bridge leading to the square in front of the palace was not to be found, and he perceived he was near the bank of a shallow sheet of water, and at length met two people in a boat.
"Does his honour wish to be ferried over to the Holme?" asked they.
"To the Holme!" echoed the councillor of justice, not knowing the age he was in. "I want to go to Christianshaven, and to Little Market Street."
The people stared at him.
"Tell me where the bridge is," said he. "It is really shameful that the lamps are not lighted hereabouts; and, besides, it is as dirty as if one were wading through a swamp."
The more he talked with the boatmen, the more incomprehensible they appeared to him.
"I don't understand your gibberish," said he, at last, in a pet, and turned his back upon them
THE MORE HE TALKED WITH THE BOATMEN, THE MORE INCOMPREHENSIBLE THEY APPEARED TO HIM.
He could not find the bridge, and there was no parapet. "It is scandalous what a state the place is in!" said he. And the age he lived in had never appeared more pitiful than it did this evening. "I think the best thing I could do would be to have a droschka," thought he. But where were the droschkas? Not one was to be seen. "I must go back to the stand in the King's New Market, and find a coach, or else I shall never reach Christianshaven."
He now went to East Street, and was nearly through it, when the moon emerged from a cloud.
"Good gracious! what is this scaffold put up here for?" said he, on seeing the East Gate, which in those days stood at the end of East Street.
He managed, however, to find an opening, which led him to our New Market, but which was then a large meadow. A few bushes stood around, and a wide canal or stream crossed right through the meadow. A few miserable wooden booths, for the convenience of Dutch ships, stood on the opposite shore.
"Either I am deceived by a fata morgana, or I must be tipsy!" said the councillor. "What's this? What's this?"
He turned back, in the full persuasion that he must be ill; and, on again retracing his steps through the street, he looked more attentively at the houses. They were mostly built of boards, and had only thatched roofs.
"I am ill, to a certainty!" sighed he; "and yet I only drank one glass of punch. But I never can stand it; and, moreover, it was quite monstrous to give us punch and hot salmon. I must mention it to the lady. Suppose I went back, and said how I feel? Only it looks so ridiculous; and then it is a question, after all, whether they are still up."
He looked for the house, but it was not to be found.
"It is really frightful! but I can't recognise East Street. There is not a shop to be seen, and nothing but wretched old tumble-down houses, just as if I were in Roeskilde or Ringstedt. Surely I must be ill! So there's no use making any ceremony. But where, in the world, is the house? It is no longer the same; only there are still persons stirring in it. Oh! I must be very ill!"
He now pushed against a half-open door, through a chink in which a light was streaming. It was an inn such as existed in those times, being a kind of ale-house. The room looked like a Dutch interior: a knot of people, composed of seamen, Copenhagen citizens, together with a
"EXCUSE ME," SAID THE COUNCILLOR OF JUSTICE TO THE LANDLADY; "I AM VERY ILL, AND SHOULD BE GLAD IF YOU COULD SEND FOR A DROSCHKA TO DRIVE ME TO CHRISTIANSHAVEN."
couple of learned men, were in deep converse over their pitchers, and paid little attention to the new-comer.
"Excuse me," said the councillor of justice to the landlady; "I am very ill, and should be glad if you could send for a droschka to drive me to Christianshaven."
The woman stared at him, and shook her head, and then spoke to him in German. The councillor thought that she did not know Danish, and therefore repeated his request in German, which, together with his clothes, confirmed her in the opinion that he must be a foreigner. She soon understood that he was ill, and brought him a pitcher of water, which did, to be sure, smack somewhat of salt water, though it was drawn from the well outside.
The councillor leant his head on his hand, fetched his breath, and then endeavoured to sift the meaning of all the strange things that had befallen him.
"Is that the last number of the News of the Day?" asked he mechanically, seeing the landlady laying by a large piece of paper, which he took for the newspaper of his own times.
She did not understand what he meant, but handed him the paper. It was a woodcut, representing a meteor that had been seen in the town of Cologne.
"This is very old," said the councillor, brightening up at the sight of this piece of antiquity. "How did you come by this singular sheet? It is extremely interesting, although the whole is but a fiction. Such phenomena are now accounted for as being a kind of aurora borealis; and they probably arise from electricity."
Those who sat near him, and heard what he said, looked at him in great astonishment, and one of them rose, and doffed his hat respectfully, saying, with a serious face: "You must certainly be a most learned man, monsieur."
"Oh, by no means," returned the councillor; "I can only discuss those topics that everybody must know something about."
"Modestia is a great virtue," said the stranger; "moreover, I may add to your speech, mihi secus videtur; though, in this case, I willingly suspend my judicium."
"May I ask whom I have the pleasure of addressing?" returned the councillor.
"I am a Baccalaureus Scripturæ Sacræ" said the man.
This answer satisfied the councillor; for in this case the title agreed with the dress. "This
"HOW ARE YOU NOW?" SAID THE LANDLADY, PULLING THE COUNCILLOR'S SLEEVE.
is surely," thought he, "some old village schoolmaster—one of those odd fellows one still meets with occasionally in Jutland."
"This is no locus docendi," observed the stranger; "yet, I wish you would favour us with your conversation. You are assuredly deeply versed in antiquarian lore."
"Why, yes," replied the councillor of justice; "I like to read all useful old writings: but I like the modern ones as well, with the exception of the 'Domestic Tales,' of which we really have a surfeit."
"'Domestic tales'?" inquired our baccalaureus.
"Yes; I allude to the new novels that come out."
"And yet," said the bookworm, smiling, "they are very witty, and are read at court. The king is especially fond of the romance of Sir Iwain and Sir Gawain, which treats of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. He joked about it with the gentlemen of his court."
"Well, I have not read that," said the councillor; "it must be quite a new one, published by Heiberg."
"No," said the other, "not by Heiberg, but by Godfred von Gehmen."
"Oh, is that the publisher?" said the councillor. "That's a very old name. Why, the first printer and publisher in Denmark was called the same."
"Yes, he is our first printer," said the man.
So far, so good; then one of the citizens spoke of the plague that raged a few years previous, meaning 1484. The councillor thought it was the cholera that was alluded to; and so the conversation got on. The buccaneers' war of 1490 was so recent that it could not fail to be touched upon. The English buccaneers had captured ships in the road, and the councillor being versed in the events of 1801, quite agreed with them in blaming the English. The rest of the conversation, however, did not turn out so well, and was continually assuming the tone of a funeral oration. The good baccalaureus was too ignorant for him not to consider the simplest observations of the councillor as both bold and fantastical. They stared at each other, and when they could not get on at all, the baccalaureus spoke Latin, in hopes of being better understood; but it was of no use.
"How are you now?" said the landlady, pulling the councillor's sleeve. His recollection now returned, for, in the course of the conversation, he had clean forgotten all that had happened.
"Good gracious! where am I?" said he, and he grew dizzy as he thought about it.
"Let's drink claret, mead, and Bremen beer!" cried one of the guests, "and you shall join us."
Two maids came in and poured out the drink, and retired with a curtsey. The councillor felt a cold shiver run through his frame.
"What is this? What is this?" repeated he. But he was forced, willy-nilly, to drink with them, for they overpowered the good man with their kind attentions. He was in despair, and when one of them observed that he was tipsy, he never doubted the truth of the man's words, but begged them to procure him a droschka.
They now thought he was speaking Muscovitish.
He had never before been in such rough and vulgar company. "One would think the land
JUST AS HE WAS GOING OUT, THE COMPANY PERCEIVED HIS INTENTION AND SEIZED HIM BY THE FEET.
had returned to paganism," observed he; "this is the most dreadful moment of my life." But just then, it entered his head to stoop under the table, and creep from thence to the door; which he accordingly proceeded to do, only, just as he was going out, the company perceived his intention, and seized him by the feet, when, luckily for him, the goloshes came off, and with them vanished the whole vision.
The councillor now plainly saw a lamp, and a large building behind it; everything looked familiar and handsome. It was East Street, such as we know it. He lay with his legs turned towards a door, and opposite sat the watchman asleep.
"Bless me! have I been lying here in the street, dreaming?" said he. "Yes, this is East Street. How beautifully bright and gay it looks! It is shocking to think how a glass of punch must have upset me!"
Two minutes after, he sat in a droschka, that drove him to Christianshaven. He thought of all the anxiety and misery that he had endured, and now heartily relished the happy reality of our own age, which, with all its shortcomings, is yet far superior to the one in which he had so lately found himself.
III.—THE WATCHMAN'S ADVENTURE
"These sort of things must keep one nice and warm," said he. "They are of such soft leather." They fitted his feet exactly. "What an odd world this is!" mused he: "now there's a fellow who might lie in his warm bed, yet, hang me if he does. There walks up and down the room! That's a happy fellow for you! He has neither wife nor children, and goes into company every evening. How I wish I were he; I should then be a happy man indeed."
No sooner had he spoken this wish than the magic of the goloshes, which he had put on, took effect, and the watchman merged into the lieutenant. He now stood up there in his room, holding a piece of pink note-paper between his fingers, on which was penned a poem written by the lieutenant himself—for who has not had a lyrical fit once in their lives? And then, if one writes down one's thoughts, they of course flow in poetry. The following verses were written on the paper:—
"Were I but rich!" I often sighed
In boyhood's days, and thought with pride,
If rich I'd be a soldier brave,
With sword and snowy plumes that wave—
A soldier's colours now I have,
But richer never shall I be,
Alas, poor me!
I mind me once, in early youth,
A little maiden kissed my mouth.
For rich was I in fairy lore.
Though still—alas! in gold so poor;
But she by money set no store—
My wealth all lay in youthful glee,
Alas, poor me!
"Were I but rich!" is still my prayer—
The child has grown a woman fair.
Good, beautiful, and true as gold.
Oh! might I but my heart unfold,
Or she but read the tale untold;
But I must ever silent be—
Alas, poor me!
Oh! were I rich in peace and rest.
Not paper should my woes attest.
May she I love but read this leaf.
And learn my youthful joys were brief,
And moist with tears this tale of grief,
For dark my future still must be,
Alas, poor me!
One writes such verses as these when one is in love; but a rational man does not print them. Lieutenant, love, and poverty form a triangle, or, perhaps, rather the half of the broken die of luck. The lieutenant felt this to be the case, and, therefore, leant his head against the window-frame, and sighed deeply.
"The poor watchman out in the street," thought he, "is happier than I am. He does not suffer from the same penury as I do. He has a home, a wife, and children, who weep at his sorrows, and rejoice over his joys. I should be far happier could I exchange my existence for his, and wander through life with no higher hopes and expectations than his. Yes, he is far happier than I."
At the same moment, the watchman again became a watchman; for, after having passed into
THE LIEUTENANT FELT THIS TO BE THE CASE, AND, THEREFORE, LEANT HIS HEAD AGAINST THE WINDOW-FRAME, AND SIGHED DEEPLY.
"It was an ugly dream," said he, "but funny enough. I thought myself the lieutenant up above there, and yet I was not satisfied. I missed my wife and my brats, who are all ready to smother me with their kisses."
He sat down again, and began to nod. He could not get his dream out of his head; for he had still the goloshes on his feet. A falling star shot across the sky.
"There goes one," said he; "however, there are plenty left. I should like to be able to examine them a little closer, and particularly the moon, for that would not slip through one's fingers. When we die, says the student for whom my wife washes, we fly about from one star to the other. It is not true; but it would be very pretty, if it were. I wish I could take a leap up thither, while my body remained lying here on the doorsteps."
There are certain things in the world that one must be very cautious of pronouncing aloud; and one need be doubly so when one has the Goloshes of Happiness on one's feet. Now you shall hear what befell the watchman.
We are nearly all of us acquainted with the locomotive powers of steam, which we have experienced either on a railway or in a steamer; yet such modes of transport are like the pace of the sloth or the snail compared to the rapidity with which light journeys. It flies nineteen million times faster than the best racer, yet electricity is more rapid still. Death is an electric shock, which we receive in our hearts; and our soul, thus set free, flies away on the wings of electricity. A sunbeam requires only eight minutes and a few seconds to perform a journey of twenty millions of miles; but, with the aid of an express train of electricity, the soul requires still fewer minutes to achieve its flight. The space between the spheres is no greater for the soul than the distance is for us, in the same town, from one friend's house to another, supposing them to lie in the same neighbourhood. Nevertheless, this electric shock through our hearts costs us the use of our bodies here below, unless we happen, like the watchman, to be wearing the Goloshes of Happiness.
In a few seconds, the watchman had cleared the 52,000 miles up to the moon, which, as we all know, is of a much lighter material than the earth, and as soft as new-fallen snow, as we should call it. He found himself on one of the countless circular ranges of mountains that we see in Dr. Madler's large map of the moon. In the interior it formed a kind of caldron, of the perpendicular depth of about half a mile. Below, there lay a town, of the appearance of which we can form a faint idea by turning the white of an egg into a glass of water. The materials it was built of were just as soft, and shadowed forth towers, with cupolas and galleries in the form of sails, quite trans-
HE FOUND HIMSELF ON ONE OF THE COUNTLESS CIRCULAR RANGES OF MOUNTAINS THAT WE SEE IN DR. MADLER'S LARGE MAP OF THE MOON.
parent, and swimming in the thin air. Our earth floated above his head, like a large, deep red ball.
He then perceived a number of beings, that were assuredly meant for what we should call men; but they looked quite different from us. A much richer imagination than the pseudo-Herschel's had called them into existence. If they were placed in groups, and then painted, one would say: "That is a pretty arabesque." They had, too, a language of their own; though nobody could require of the watchman's soul to understand it. Nevertheless, it was able to do so; for our souls have far greater capabilities than is generally supposed. Does it not show an astonishing talent for dramatic composition in our dreams, where each of our acquaintances speaks so perfectly in character, and so exactly in the voice belonging to him, that we should never be able to mimic it half so well in our waking hours? How well, too, our soul reminds us of persons whom we have forgotten for years, when they suddenly start up to our recollection with the most
THE YOUNG FELLOW THEN FILLIPED HIS NOSE, WHICH MADE HIM LOSE HIS BALANCE.
vivid distinctness, even to their smallest characteristics. After all, our souls' capacity for thinking seems to place us in a somewhat ticklish position: it enables us to recall every sin and every wicked thought we may have indulged in; and then the question will arise, whether we should be in a condition account for every guilty word that m have been whispered in our hearts have risen to our lips.
The watchman's soul, according understood the language of the inhabitants of the moon very tolerably. They were disputing about our earth, and doubted whether it could be inhabited. The atmosphere, they contended, must be too thick for rational, moon-born beings to live in it. They considered that the moon alone was inhabited, and was the real earth, where lived the ancient inhabitants of the world.
They likewise talked politics—but we will descend to East Street, and see what happened to the watchman's body.
It lay lifeless on the steps. His star-tipped mace had fallen from his hand, and his eyes were turned upwards to the moon, where his honest soul was rambling.
"What's o'clock, watchman?" asked a passer-by. But no answer did the watchman return. The young fellow then filliped his nose, which made him lose his balance. There lay the body, sprawling at full length: the man was dead. All his comrades were very much frightened—dead he was, and dead he remained. Notice was given of the event; it was talked over; and at dawn the body was removed to the hospital.
This was likely to prove a pretty joke for the soul, in case it returned, and, in all probability, went to seek for its body in East Street, and could not find it. Most likely, it would have applied first to the police, and next repaired to the directory office, that inquiries might be made for it amongst other lost articles; and, lastly, have found its way to the hospital. However, we may comfort ourselves with the conviction that the soul is wisest when acting on its own impulse; the body alone makes it stupid.
As before said, the watchman's body was carried to the hospital, where it was taken into a room to be cleaned, when, naturally, the first thing they did was to take off the goloshes, thereby forcing his soul to return. It immediately took the straightest road to its earthly tenement, and in a couple of seconds the poor man had revived. He assured the bystanders that this had been the most dreadful night in his existence: he would not take two gold pieces to be obliged to undergo such sensations over again. However, luckily, it was over now.
He was discharged that same day, but the goloshes remained in the hospital.
IV.—AN EVENTFUL MOMENT—A VERY UNUSUAL JOURNEY
VERY inhabitant of Copenhagen knows what the entry to Frederick's Hospital is like, but as it is probable that some non-residents in that town may read this little tale, we will give a short description of its appearance.
The hospital is divided from the street by a rather high iron railing, the bars of which are so wide asunder that, it is said, very slim fellows have squeezed themselves through, and gone to pay their visits in the town. The part of the body most difficult to get through was the head; so in this, as in most cases in the world, the little heads were the best off. Thus much may serve as an introduction to what follows.
One of the young assistants, who had, only physically speaking, a large head, was upon duty this very evening. The rain was pouring down; yet, in spite of these two obstacles, he positively wanted to go out. It was only for a quarter of an hour, therefore not worth while, thought he, to let the porter into his confidence, if he could but slip through the iron railings. There lay the goloshes the watchman had forgotten; and though it never occurred to him that it could be those of Happiness, he thought they might do him good service in such weather, and therefore he put them on. Now, the question was, whether he could squeeze himself through the railings, which he had hitherto never attempted. And there he stood.
"Would to Heaven my head was on the other side!" said he; when, big as it was, it instantly slipped safely through. The goloshes had contrived to effect this; but now the body must needs follow, and that was no easy job.
"I am too stout," said he. "I thought the head was the worst. I shall not be able to get through!"
He now attempted to withdraw his head suddenly, but this he found impracticable. He could move his neck easily enough, but that was all. His first feeling was vexation; but in a few seconds his spirits fell below zero. The Goloshes of Happiness had brought him into this dreadful scrape, and, unluckily, it did not occur to him to wish himself well out of it. No, instead of wish-
THE FIRST HEART HE ENTERED WAS A LADY'S, BUT AT FIRST HE FANCIED HE HAD GOT INTO AN ORTHOPÆDIC INSTITUTION.
ing, he kept striving, but without being able to free himself. The rain continued pouring down, and not a being was to be seen in the street. He could not reach the bell, and how was he to get loose? He foresaw that he must stand here until dawn, when a locksmith must be sent for, to file the iron rails. But that would be a long job: the charity-school opposite would be astir; and the whole adjoining neighbourhood, that is swarming with sailors, would come to see him standing in the pillory, and there would be such a crowd!
"Oh! the blood rushes to my head so that I shall go mad!" cried he. "Yes! I am crazy. Oh! would that I could get loose, and then it would pass off."
He should have said so sooner. At the very moment the wish was expressed, his head was freed, and he started back, half distracted by the fright the Goloshes of Happiness had occasioned him.
But it must not be thought his trials ended here—no! more things were yet to come. The night and the day following had passed by, and the goloshes were not claimed.
That evening there was to be a declamatory performance in an amateur theatre, situated m a distant street The house was crowded, and amongst the spectators was the assistant from the hospital, who seemed to have forgotten the preceding evening's adventure. He had on the goloshes, which had not been fetched away; and as the streets were dirty, he thought they might do him good service. A new poem, entitled "My Cousin's Spectacles," was recited. These spectacles, it was pretended, if put on when one sat facing a large assembly, made all the people present look like cards, from which one could foretell all that was to happen to them in the following year.
This idea struck him forcibly, that he would like to have had such a pair of spectacles. Perhaps,
if used properly, they might enable one to see into the hearts of those present, which was far more interesting, he thought, than to see what would happen to them next year, for that one would learn in the end, while the other remained a sealed book. "I can fancy myself peeping into the hearts of the gentlemen and ladies on the first row of benches," said he to himself. "It would be like looking into a kind of shop; and how my eyes would rove all over it! I am sure I should find a large millinery establishment in yonder lady's heart; that other lady's shop is empty, but it would be all the better for a little cleaning. But perhaps there may be some better shops amongst the rest? Indeed there are!" sighed he. "I know one in which everything is solid, only there is a shopman in it already, and that is its only fault! From many others, the words, 'Pray come in,' would be sure to be heard. I wish I could step in like a little, tiny thought, and glide through the hearts of those now present."
This was the cue for the goloshes. The assistant shrank up, and set out on a most unusual journey through the hearts of the front row of spectators. The first heart he entered was a lady's, but at first he fancied he had got into an orthopædic institution, where plaster casts of deformed limbs were hanging on the walls, only with this difference, that in the institution the casts were taken when the patient comes in, while in this heart the casts had been taken and preserved after the worthy owners had left the place. They were casts of female friends, and their physical and moral defects were here carefully treasured up.
A moment after he was in another female heart. Only this one appeared to him like a spacious, holy church, where the white dove of innocence was hovering over the high altar. He would willingly have sunk on his knees, but he was obliged to slip into the neighbouring heart. Yet he still heard the tones of the organ, and he fancied himself a newer and better man. He felt himself not unworthy to enter the next sanctuary, which showed him a shabby garret, with a sick mother. But God's warm sunshine streamed through the window, lovely roses were nodding their heads in the little wooden box on the roof, and two azure birds sang of childlike joys, while the sick mother called down blessings on her daughter's head.
He now crept on all fours through an over-loaded butcher's shop. He stumbled over meat, and nothing but meat. This was the heart of a wealthy and respectable man, whose name stands, beyond a doubt, in the directory.
He now entered the heart of the rich man's wife, which was an old tumble-down dovecot. Her husband's portrait served as a weather-cock, and it was combined with the doors, so that they opened and shut just as the husband veered about.
He next entered a cabinet lined with looking-glasses, like the one in the Rosenburg palace; only the glasses magnified everything to an extraordinary degree. In the middle of the floor, like a Delhi Lama, sat the insignificant self of the owner, lost in the contemplation of his own greatness.
He now thought himself transported into a narrow needle-case, full of sharp needles. So he thought: "This must be the heart of some old maid." It was not, however, the case, it was that of a young officer with several orders, of whom it was generally said that he was a man of sound heart and intellect.
The poor assistant came out of the last heart in the row half stunned. He could not collect his thoughts, and concluded that it was his over-vivid imagination that had led him this dance.
THE ATTENDANT UTTERED A LOUD EXCLAMATION AT THE SIGHT OF A MAN IN ALL HIS CLOTHES.
"Good gracious!" sighed he, "surely I have a propensity for going crazy! It is so very hot in this place that my blood rushes to my head." And he now called to mind the great event of the preceding evening, when his head had stuck between the railings of the hospital. "It must have arisen from that," thought he, "and I must see to it in time. A vapour bath would do me good. I wish I were now lying on the upper shelf of one."
And he instantly found himself lying on the upper shelf of a vapour-bath, only with his clothes, boots, and goloshes still on. The hot drops of water fell from the ceiling upon his countenance.
"Dear! dear!" cried he, getting down to take a shower-bath. The attendant uttered a loud exclamation at the sight of a man in all his clothes.
He had sufficient presence of mind to whisper to the assistant: "It is a wager." But the first thing he did on reaching his own room was to put a large blister on his neck and another on his back, in order to draw out his madness.
Next morning his back was quite raw, and this was all he gained by the Goloshes of Happiness.
V—THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE CLERK
HE watchman—our old friend, whom we have not forgotten—recollected meanwhile the goloshes he had found and taken to the hospital. He therefore fetched them away; but as neither the lieutenant nor anybody belonging to the street recognised them as their property, he delivered them over to the police.
"They are very like my own goloshes," said one of the clerks, looking at the foundlings, and placing them beside his own. "It's only a shoemaker's eye that could see the difference of a pin between them."
"Master clerk," said a servant, coming in with some papers.
The clerk turned round to speak to the man, after which, on looking once more at the goloshes, he felt quite uncertain whether the pair on his left or that on his right were those belonging to him.
"It must be the wet ones that are mine," thought he. It happened to be quite the reverse, for it was the Goloshes of Happiness that were wet. But may not the police be subject to err occasionally? So he drew them on, put his papers into his pocket, and took several manuscripts under his arm, which he was going to read through and take minutes from at home; but it was Sunday afternoon, and the weather was fine. "It would do me good to take a turn to Fredericksberg," thought he, and away he went.
There was not a quieter or less frivolous young man in the world than he. So we will not grudge him his little walk, which could but be good for his health after so much sitting. He went his ways at first like a person without thought or wish; therefore, the goloshes had no opportunity to display their magic powers.
In one of the avenues he chanced to meet with an acquaintance, one of our younger poets, who told him that next day he intended setting out on his summer's journey.
"Are you already about to start?" cried the clerk. "What a free and happy man you are! You can fly whither you please, while such as we are chained by the foot."
"Only it is fastened to a bread-tree," returned the poet. "You have no cares for the morrow, and in your old age you will obtain a pension."
"Yours is the best life, after all," said the amanuensis. "It is a pleasure to sit and write verses. The whole world says agreeable things to you, and then you are your own master! You should only try for once how you would like to sit in a court of justice, and be bored with the trivial matters we have to listen to."
The poet shook his head, and the clerk shook his. They each retained their own opinion, and thereupon they parted.
"These poets are a peculiar race," thought the clerk. "I should like to try the experiment of becoming identified with a poet's being. I am certain I should not write such wretched verses as the rest of them! Here's a true spring day for your poet! The air is so unusually clear, the clouds are so beautiful, and the trees and grass are quite fragrant. For years I have never felt as I do at this moment!"
We may already perceive that he had become a poet. To chronicle such a fact would, in most cases, be highly absurd; for it is a foolish idea to imagine a poet to be different from other men, since far more poetical natures may frequently be met with amongst the crowd than we often find in many a professed poet. The only difference is, that a poet's intellectual memory is better: he can keep hold of an idea or a feeling, till it is clearly and plainly embodied in words, which the others cannot do. Nevertheless, the transition from a humdrum, every-day sort of nature, to a more gifted one, is a great transition, and could but strike the clerk.
"What a delicious perfume!" said he; "it reminds me of my Aunt Lone's violets. Ay, that was when I was a little boy. Dear me! how long it is since I have thought of those times.
CLOSE BY STOOD A BOY, STRIKING WITH A STICK IN A SWAMPY DITCH.
She is a good old maid! She lives yonder behind the Exchange—and she used always to have a sprig, or a few green shoots, in water, let the winter be ever so severe. The violets used to scent the room, while I would lay warm copper pennies on the frozen window-panes, to make holes to peep through. And a pretty view it was that I looked upon. There lay the ships, ice-bound in the canal, and deserted by their crews; a croaking raven alone manned one of the vessels. Then when came the spring breezes, everything grew animated; the ice was sawed through amidst songs and cheers, the ships were tarred and tackled, and they sailed for foreign shores. I remained here, and here I am likely to remain, nailed to my seat in the police-office, and condemned to see others taking out their passports to go abroad. Such is my lot—alas! that it should be so!" said he, with a deep sigh. He then paused a moment. "My goodness! what has come to me?" cried he, presently; "I have never thought or felt anything of the kind before. It must be the springtime air. It makes one quite uneasy, yet it is very agreeable." He felt in his pocket for his papers. "These will afford food for very different ideas," said he, glancing his eye over the first page, when he read: Mistress Sigbrith; an Original Tragedy, in five Acts. What is this?—and in my own handwriting too. Can I have written this tragedy? An Intrigue on the Ramparts, or Fast-day: a Vaudeville. But how, in the name of fortune, did I come by them? They must have been put into my pocket—but here is a letter." This was from the manager of the theatre, who refused the pieces, and had not taken the trouble to couch his epistle in the most courteous terms either. "Hem—hem"—said the clerk, sitting down on a bench, while his thoughts grew quite elastic, and his heart waxed vastly soft. He involuntarily seized hold of the nearest flower, which proved to be a little common daisy. This tiny flower tells us in a moment that which a botanist takes many lectures to expound. It related the myth of its birth, and told the power of the sunshine, which expands its delicate leaves, and compels it to yield a perfume. He then reflected on the struggles of life that likewise awaken sensations in our bosoms. Light and air are the flower's lovers, but light is the favoured swain. The flower turns towards the light, and, as soon as it disappears, rolls up its leaves, and sleeps in the embraces of the air. "It is light that adorns me," said the flower. "But the air gives you life," whispered the poet's voice.
Close by stood a boy, striking with a stick in a swampy ditch; and as drops of water splashed through the green boughs, the clerk thought what millions of animalcules were thrown up into the air in each single drop, and to a distance as great for them, in proportion to their size, as it would be for us to be whirled up above the clouds. While these reflections crossed the clerk's mind, and as he mused upon the change that had come over him, he smiled, and said to himself: "I am sleeping and dreaming! Still, it is remarkable how naturally we can dream, and yet be aware all the time that it is nothing but a dream. I hope I shall be able to remember it to-morrow when I wake. I seem to be most unusually capable of doing so. I have a clear perception of everything, and feel quite awake, yet I am sure that if I retain any of it to-morrow, it will seem most stupid stuff—this has happened to me before! It fares just the same with all the wise and witty things one says and hears in dreams, as with the money of the underground folk—which is rich and splendid when one receives it, but turns to stones and dried leaves by daylight. Ah!"
AT THE SAME MOMENT THE SKIRTS AND SLEEVES OF HIS COAT BECAME WINGS, HIS CLOTHES TURNED TO FEATHERS, AND HIS GOLOSHES TO CLAWS
sighed he sorrowfully, as he gazed at the birds that were warbling, and hopping from branch to branch, "they are far better off than I. Flying is a splendid gift! Happy he who is born with it! Yes; if I could transform myself into any other shape, I would assume that of a little lark!"
At the same moment the skirts and sleeves of his coat became wings, his clothes turned to feathers, and his goloshes to claws. On perceiving this metamorphosis, he smiled inwardly, observing: "This is the finishing stroke to convince me that I am dreaming. But I never before dreamt such foolish things." And he flew up into a green branch and sang—but there was no poetry in his song, for the poetical element had left him. The goloshes, like all those who do things thoroughly, could only attend to one thing at a time. He wanted to be a poet, and he was one. Now he wanted to be a little bird, and in order to become a bird, he must abdicate his former individuality.
"This is delightful!" said he. "By day I sit in the police-office, amongst the most matter-of-fact deeds; and by night I can dream that I am flying about as a lark in the Fredericksberg garden. Really, a whole comedy might be written on the subject."
He now flew down to the grass, twisted his head about in all directions, and pecked at the pliant blades, that appeared to him, in proportion to his present size, like the palm-trees of Northern Africa.
In another moment it was as dark as pitch all round him. An enormous object seemed to be thrown over him, which was in reality only a large cap that a sailor boy flung over the bird. A hand was thrust under the cap, which seized the clerk by the back and wings, till he screeched again. In his first alarm he cried out: "You shameless scapegrace! I'm a clerk in the police-office." But to the boy it only sounded like "tweat-tweat!" He gave the bird a knock on its bill, and took him away.
In the avenue he met a couple of schoolboys, belonging to the educated class; that is to say, in a social point of view; for as regards intellect they might be reckoned as appertaining to the lowest class of the school. They purchased the bird for eightpence, and so the clerk returned to Copenhagen.
"It is well that I am only dreaming," said the clerk, "or else I should be quite angry. I was first a poet, and now I'm a lark. It was the poetical element, to a certainty, that transformed me into this little animal. It is a lamentable story, especially when one falls into boys' hands. I shall like to know how it will end."
The boys took him into a most elegant room, where they were received by a stout, smiling lady. But she was not very well pleased that a common field-bird, as she termed the lark, should be introduced into the house. She would only put up with it just for this one day, provided, however, the bird were placed in the empty cage near the window. " It will perhaps please Poll," added she, smiling at a large, green parrot, who was rocking himself very majestically on his swinging perch, in the pretty brass-wired cage. "It is Poll's birthday," said she tenderly, "and therefore the field-bird begs to offer his congratulations."
Poll did not answer a word, but continued see-sawing in dignified silence; on the other hand a pretty canary-bird that had been brought last summer from the sunny, fragrant land of his birth, began singing loudly.
"You little screamer!" said the lady, throwing a white handkerchief over the cage.
"Tweat! tweat!" sighed he, "what a dreadful snow-storm!" And so saying he was silent.
The clerk, or, as the lady would have called him, the field-bird, was placed in a little cage,
THEY PURCHASED THE BIRD FOR EIGHTPENCE, AND SO THE CLERK RETURNED TO COPENHAGEN.
close to the canary-bird, and not far from the parrot. The only human sentence that Poll could chatter, and which sometimes made a very droll effect, was: "Now, let us be men." All the rest of the noise he screamed was just as unintelligible as the twittering of the canary-bird; but not to the clerk, who was now himself a bird, and consequently understood his comrades perfectly.
"I used to fly beneath green palm-trees and blooming almond-trees," sang the canary-bird. "I used to fly with my brothers and sisters over lovely flowers, and across the limpid surface of the lake, where plants were waving to and fro in the waters below. I used to see many pretty parrots, who told the most entertaining stories—and they knew so many stories, and such long ones!"
"Those were wild birds," returned the parrot, "who were wholly uneducated. Now, let us be men! Why do you not laugh? Since the lady and all her visitors laugh at this, you surely might. It is a great defect not to be able to appreciate what is witty. Now, let us be men!"
"Do you remember the pretty girls who used to dance beneath the tent, beside the trees in full blossom? Do you remember the delicious fruit, and the cooling sap of the wild herbs?"
"Oh yes," said the parrot, "but I'm much better off here. I am well fed, and treated with distinction. I know that I am intellectual, and I desire nothing better. Now, let us be men! You have what is called a poetical soul. I have solid acquirements and wit, while you have genius, but no discretion. You raise your natural tones to so high a pitch that you get covered over. That is never done to me—oh, dear me, no! for I cost them a great deal more. I overawe them with my beak, and can utter witty sayings. Now, let us be men!"
"O my warm and blooming country!" sang the canary-bird, "I will sing your dark green trees, and your calm gulf, where the boughs kiss the clear surface of the water—and I will sing the joys of my glittering brothers and sisters, who are frolicking in the land where grows the cactus."
"Do leave alone these elegiac strains," said the parrot, "and sing something to make one laugh. Laughter is the sign of the highest point of all intellect. You never see a dog or a horse laughing. No—they can cry, but to man alone is given the faculty of laughter. Ho-ho-ho!" laughed the parrot, adding his oft-repeated witty saying: "Now, let us be men."
"You little grey Danish bird," said the canary-bird, "you, too, have become a prisoner. It must be very cold in your forests, but still there's liberty to be found in them. Fly away! They have forgotten to close your cage, and the window is open at the top. Fly away! fly away!"
The clerk instinctively obeyed and left the cage; at the same moment the half-open door leading to the adjoining room creaked on its hinges, and the cat, with its green, sparkling eyes, stole in and began to pursue him. The canary-bird fluttered in its cage, while the parrot flapped his wings, crying: "Now, let us be men!" The poor clerk experienced the most deadly fright, and flew out of the window, over the houses and across the streets, till at last he was obliged to rest.
A house that stood opposite to him looked familiar. He flew in at the open window, and found himself in his own room. He perched upon the table.
"Now, let us be men!" said he, involuntarily mimicking the parrot, and at the same moment he was the clerk once more—only he was sitting on the table.
"Heaven help me!" said he, "how did I get up here, and fall asleep in this manner? It was an uneasy dream that I had anyhow. The whole of it was most nonsensical stuff."
VI.—THE BEST THING THE GOLOSHES BROUGHT
"Pray lend me your goloshes," said he; "it is so, wet in the garden, although the sun is shining brightly, and I want to go down and smoke a pipe."
He drew on the goloshes, and was presently down in the garden, that contained one plum-tree and one apple-tree. Yet even so small a garden as that is a treasure in the midst of a town.
The theologian sauntered up and down the walk. It was now six o'clock, and he heard a postman's horn in the street.
"O travelling—travelling!" cried he, "there is no greater delight in the world! That is the height of all my wishes! My restless feelings would then find a vent and be appeased, provided I went far enough. I should wish to see beautiful Switzerland, and Italy, and—"
It was well the goloshes took immediate effect, or else he would have travelled rather too far, both for himself and for us. He was now journeying through Switzerland, only packed inside a diligence with eight fellow-passengers. His head ached, his neck was stiff, and the blood had rushed downwards to his feet, which were swollen, and sorely pinched by his boots. He was in a dreamy state between waking and sleeping. In his right-hand pocket was a letter of credit, in his left-hand pocket his passport, and a small leather purse, in which a few louis-d'ors were carefully stitched up. Every dream pictured forth the loss of one or other of these valuables, and he would awake from his naps with a feverish start, when the first evolution his hand described was a triangular one from right to left, and to the top of his breast, to feel whether his goods were still in his possession. Umbrellas, sticks, and hats were swinging about in the net above his head, and quite spoiled the prospect, which was a most imposing one. He just peeped at it, while his heart sang the lines, which a poet, whom we know, sang in Switzerland, though hitherto he has not had them printed:—
"'Tis lovely here beyond compare,
I see Mont Blanc's white finger—
And till my money melts to air,
I gladly here would linger."
The landscape around was grand, dark, and gloomy. The forests of fir-trees appeared like so much heath on the high rocks, whose summits were lost in clouds of mist. It now snowed, and a cold wind began to blow.
"Oh, dear!" sighed he; "I wish we were on the other side of the Alps, and then it would be summer, and I should have taken out the money for my letter of credit. I am so uneasy about its safety that I cannot enjoy Switzerland. Oh, how I wish I were on the other side!"
LOVELY, HALF-NAKED CHILDREN WERE TENDING A HERD OF COAL-BLACK SWINE, UNDER A KNOT OF FRAGRANT LAURELS.
Accordingly, he was on the other side, and far away into Italy, between Florence and Rome. The Lake of Thrasymene lay like a sheet of flaming gold, in the glowing sunset, between the dark blue mountains. Here, where Hannibal defeated Flaminius, the tendrils of the vines were peacefully clasping each other's green fingers; while lovely, half-naked children were tending a herd of coal-black swine, under a knot of fragrant laurels. If we could but picture forth this scene correctly, every one would exclaim: "Delightful Italy!" But neither the theologian nor any of his fellow-travellers in the coach felt inclined to say anything of the kind.
Thousands of venomous flies and gnats were swarming in the coach. It was in vain they drove them away with a sprig of myrtle: the flies stung them in spite of all their efforts. There was not a person in the coach whose face was not swollen and bleeding from numerous bites, the poor horses looked like skeletons: vast armies of flies were encamped on their backs, and they only obtained a temporary relief by the coachman getting down, and rubbing their tormentors off. fhe sun now set. An icy coldness, though but of short duration, pervaded all nature: it was like the cold air of a vault after a hot summer's day; but the surrounding mountains and the clouds displayed that peculiar green tint which we find in old pictures, and which we look upon as unnatural, unless we have seen nature's own colouring in the south. It was a splendid sight, but—their stomachs were empty, and their bodies tired; and all their longings tended towards a lodging
THE SHRIVELLED ARMS AND THE MONOTONOUS. WHINES OF "MISERABILI! ECCELENZA!" CAME IN MUCH FASTER THAN THE BREEZES.
for the night, though they did not yet know where that might be. But everybody was far more eagerly on the look-out for that than inclined to admire the beauties of nature.
The road ran through a wood of olives: it was like driving through a grove of knotty willows in his own country. Here stood the lonely inn. A dozen crippled beggars were encamped in front, the most vigorous amongst whom looked, to use an expression of Marryat's, like "hunger's eldest son, just come to the years of manhood." The others were either blind, or had withered legs, that obliged them to creep about on their hands; or shrivelled arms, with fingerless hands. It was squalid poverty, peeping out from its tatters. "Eccelenza! miserabili!" sighed they, holding out their diseased limbs. The landlady herself with bare feet, uncombed hair, and huddled up in a dirty blouse, came forward to receive her guests. The doors were fastened up with twine; the rooms presented floors made of bricks, half of which were scattered about in all directions; bats were flying under the ceilings; and as to the odour—!
"Let's have dinner served up in the stable," said one of the travellers, "and then, at least, we shall know what we are breathing."
The windows were opened to let in a little fresh air; but the shrivelled arms and the monotonous whines of "Miserabili! eccelenza!" came in much faster than the breezes. On the walls were penned inscriptions, most of them railing at la bella Italia.
The meal was now served up. It consisted of water soup, seasoned with pepper and rancid oil, which latter played a conspicuous part in the salad. Addled eggs and fried cocks'-combs were the best dishes on the table: even the wine had a strong taste, for it was finely adulterated.
At night the trunks were all placed against the door. One of the travellers was to keep watch while the others slept. It fell to the lot of the theologian. Oh, how sultry it was in that stifling room! The heat was oppressive, the gnats were buzzing about and stinging, while the miserabili outside were whining even in their dreams.
"Travelling is all very fine," observed the theologian, "if one could but get rid of one's body. What a pity the body can't rest while the spirit would fly! Wherever I go, I feel a void that oppresses my heart—a longing for something better than the present moment—yes, for something better, and even for the best of all. But where is that to be found? In point of fact, I don't myself exactly know what I want; but I wish to attain a happy goal—ay, the happiest of all."
And no sooner had he spoken these words than he was transported home. The long white curtains were drawn over the windows, and in the middle of the floor stood a black coffin, in which he lay wrapped in the sleep of death. His wish was fulfilled: his body was at rest and his spirit was travelling. "Call no man happy till he is in his grave," were Solon's words; and the case in point offered a fresh proof of their truth.
Every corpse is a sphinx of immortality. Thus, the present sphinx, in its black sarcophagus, recalled in the lines that the living man had penned only two days before:—
"Oh, mighty death! thy silence fills with awe,
'Tis churchyard graves alone that mark thy traces—
But by a ladder, such as Jacob saw,
Shall not our spirit mount to brighter places?
The greatest sorrows oft remain unknown!
Thou who wert lonely till thy day of dying,
By duties stern thy heart was more weighed down
Than by the earth upon thy coil now lying!"
Two figures were moving about the room. They are both known to us. One was the fairy named Care, and the other the ambassadress of Happiness.
"Look there," said Care. "What happiness did your goloshes afford mankind?"
"They have, at least, wrought a lasting good for him who is slumbering here," answered Joy.
"Not so," said Care. "He went away of himself, without being called. His intellectual powers were not strong enough to dig up the treasures he was destined to discover. I will confer a benefit upon him."
And she drew the goloshes off his feet, when the sleep of death ended, and he once more revived. Care disappeared, and with her the goloshes; she doubtless considered them to be her own property.
SHE DREW THE GOLOSHES OFF HIS FEET, WHEN THE SLEEP OF DEATH ENDED, AND HE ONCE MORE REVIVED.
- He died in 1513. He was married to Christine, daughter of the Electoral Prince Ernest of Saxony.
- The Danish mile is equal to about 4¾ English miles.