Goloshes of Fortune by Hans Christian Andersen
IN a house in Copenhagennot far from the king's new marketa very largeparty had assembledthe host and his family expectingno doubtto receiveinvitations in return. One half of the company were already seated at thecard-tablesthe other half seemed to be waiting the result of their hostess'squestion"Wellhow shall we amuse ourselves?"
Conversation followedwhichafter a whilebegan to prove veryentertaining. Among other subjectsit turned upon the events of the middle ageswhich some persons maintained were more full of interest than our own times.Counsellor Knapp defended this opinion so warmly that the lady of the houseimmediately went over to his sideand both exclaimed against Oersted's Essayson Ancient and Modern Timesin which the preference is given to our own. Thecounsellor considered the times of the Danish kingHansas the noblest andhappiest.
The conversation on this topic was only interrupted for a moment by thearrival of a newspaperwhich did nothowevercontain much worth readingandwhile it is still going on we will pay a visit to the ante-roomin which cloakssticksand goloshes were carefully placed. Here sat two maidensone youngandthe other oldas if they had come and were waiting to accompany theirmistresses home; but on looking at them more closelyit could easily be seenthat they were no common servants. Their shapes were too gracefultheircomplexions too delicateand the cut of their dresses much too elegant. Theywere two fairies. The younger was not Fortune herselfbut the chambermaid ofone of Fortune's attendantswho carries about her more trifling gifts. Theelder onewho was named Carelooked rather gloomy; she always goes about toperform her own business in person; for then she knows it is properly done. Theywere telling each other where they had been during the day. The messenger ofFortune had only transacted a few unimportant matters; for instanceshe hadpreserved a new bonnet from a shower of rainand obtained for an honest man abow from a titled nobodyand so on; but she had something extraordinary torelateafter all.
"I must tell you" said she"that to-day is my birthday; andin honor of it I have been intrusted with a pair of goloshesto introduceamongst mankind. These goloshes have the property of making every one who putsthem on imagine himself in any place he wishesor that he exists at any period.Every wish is fulfilled at the moment it is expressedso that for once mankindhave the chance of being happy."
No" replied Care; "you may depend upon it that whoever puts onthose goloshes will be very unhappyand bless the moment in which he can getrid of them."
"What are you thinking of?" replied the other. "Now see; Iwill place them by the door; some one will take them instead of his ownand hewill be the happy man."
This was the end of their conversation.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE COUNSELLOR -
IT was late when Counsellor Knapplost in thought about the times of KingHansdesired to return home; and fate so ordered it that he put on the goloshesof Fortune instead of his ownand walked out into the East Street. Through themagic power of the golosheshe was at once carried back three hundred yearstothe times of King Hansfor which he had been longing when he put them on.Therefore he immediately set his foot into the mud and mire of the streetwhichin those days possessed no pavement.
"Whythis is horrible; how dreadfully dirty it is!" said thecounsellor; and the whole pavement has vanishedand the lamps are allout."
The moon had not yet risen high enough to penetrate the thick foggy airandall the objects around him were confused together in the darkness. At thenearest cornera lamp hung before a picture of the Madonna; but the light itgave was almost uselessfor he only perceived it when he came quite close andhis eyes fell on the painted figures of the Mother and Child.
"That is most likely a museum of art" thought he"and theyhave forgotten to take down the sign."
Two menin the dress of olden timespassed by him.
"What odd figures!" thought he; "they must be returning fromsome masquerade."
Suddenly he heard the sound of a drum and fifesand then a blazing lightfrom torches shone upon him. The counsellor stared with astonishment as hebeheld a most strange procession pass before him. First came a whole troop ofdrummersbeating their drums very cleverly; they were followed by life-guardswith longbows and crossbows. The principal person in the procession was aclerical-looking gentleman. The astonished counsellor asked what it all meantand who the gentleman might be.
"That is the bishop of Zealand."
"Good gracious!" he exclaimed; "what in the world has happenedto the bishop? what can he be thinking about?" Then he shook his head andsaid"It cannot possibly be the bishop himself."
While musing on this strange affairand without looking to the right or lefthe walked on through East Street and over Highbridge Place. The bridgewhich hesupposed led to Palace Squarewas nowhere to be found; but insteadhe saw abank and some shallow waterand two peoplewho sat in a boat.
"Does the gentleman wish to be ferried over the Holm?" asked one.
"To the Holm!" exclaimed the counsellornot knowing in what age hewas now existing; "I want to go to Christian's Havenin Little TurfStreet." The men stared at him. "Pray tell me where the bridge is!"said he. "It is shameful that the lamps are not lighted hereand it is asmuddy as if one were walking in a marsh." But the more he talked with theboatmen the less they could understand each other.
"I don't understand your outlandish talk" he cried at lastangrily turning his back upon them. He could nothoweverfind the
bridge nor any railings.
"What a scandalous condition this place is in" said he; nevercertainlyhad he found his own times so miserable as on this evening. "Ithink it will be better for me to take a coach; but where are they?" Therewas not one to be seen! "I shall be obliged to go back to the king's newmarket" said he"where there are plenty of carriages standingor Ishall never reach Christian's Haven." Then he went towards East Streetandhad nearly passed through itwhen the moon burst forth from a cloud.
"Dear mewhat have they been erecting here?" he criedas hecaught sight of the East gatewhich in olden times used to stand at the end ofEast Street. Howeverhe found an opening through which he passedand came outupon where he expected to find the new market. Nothing was to be seen but anopen meadowsurrounded by a few bushesthrough which ran a broad canal orstream. A few miserable-looking wooden boothsfor the accommodation of Dutchwatermenstood on the opposite shore.
"Either I behold a fata morganaor I must be tipsy" groaned thecounsellor. "What can it be? What is the matter with me?" He turnedback in the full conviction that he must be ill. In walking through the streetthis timehe examined the houses more closely; he found that most of them werebuilt of lath and plasterand many had only a thatched roof.
"I am certainly all wrong" said hewith a sigh; and yet I onlydrank one glass of punch. But I cannot bear even thatand it was very foolishto give us punch and hot salmon; I shall speak about it to our hostesstheagent's lady. Suppose I were to go back now and say how ill I feelI fear itwould look so ridiculousand it is not very likely that I should find any oneup." Then he looked for the housebut it was not in existence.
"This is really frightful; I cannot even recognize East Street. Not ashop to be seen; nothing but oldwretchedtumble-down housesjust as if Iwere at Roeskilde or Ringstedt. OhI really must be ill! It is no use to standupon ceremony. But where in the world is the agent's house. There is a housebut it is not his; and people still up in itI can hear. Oh dear! I certainlyam very queer." As he reached the half-open doorhe saw a light and wentin. It was a tavern of the olden timesand seemed a kind of beershop. The roomhad the appearance of a Dutch interior. A number of peopleconsisting of seamenCopenhagen citizensand a few scholarssat in deep conversation over theirmugsand took very little notice of the new comer.
"Pardon me" said the counselloraddressing the landlady"Ido not feel quite welland I should be much obliged if you will send for a flyto take me to Christian's Haven." The woman stared at him and shook herhead. Then she spoke to him in German. The counsellor supposed from this thatshe did not understand Danish; he therefore repeated his request in German. Thisas well as his singular dressconvinced the woman that he was a foreigner. Shesoon understoodhoweverthat he did not find himself quite welland thereforebrought him a mug of water. It had something of the taste of seawatercertainlyalthough it had been drawn from the well outside. Then the counsellor leaned hishead on his handdrew a deep breathand pondered over all the strange thingsthat had happened to him.
"Is that to-day's number of the Day?" he askedquite mechanicallyas he saw the woman putting by a large piece of paper. She did not understandwhat he meantbut she handed him the sheet; it was a woodcutrepresenting ameteorwhich had appeared in the town of Cologne.
"That is very old" said the counsellorbecoming quite cheerful atthe sight of this antique drawing. "Where did you get this singular sheet?It is very interestingalthough the whole affair is a fable. Meteors are easilyexplained in these days; they are northern lightswhich are often seenand areno doubt caused by electricity."
Those who sat near himand heard what he saidlooked at him in greatastonishmentand one of them rosetook off his hat respectfullyand said in avery serious manner"You must certainly be a very learned manmonsieur."
"Oh no" replied the counsellor; "I can only discourse ontopics which every one should understand."
"Modestia is a beautiful virtue" said the man. "MoreoverImust add to your speech mihi secus videtur; yet in this case I would suspend myjudicium."
"May I ask to whom I have the pleasure of speaking?"
"I am a Bachelor of Divinity" said the man. This answer satisfiedthe counsellor. The title agreed with the dress.
"This is surely" thought he"an old village schoolmasteraperfect originalsuch as one meets with sometimes even in Jutland."
"This is not certainly a locus docendi" began the man; "stillI must beg you to continue the conversation. You must be well read in ancientlore."
"Oh yes" replied the counsellor; "I am very fond of readinguseful old booksand modern ones as wellwith the exception of every-daystoriesof which we really have more than enough.
"Every-day stories?" asked the bachelor.
"YesI mean the new novels that we have at the present day."
"Oh" replied the manwith a smile; "and yet they are verywittyand are much read at Court. The king likes especially the romance ofMesseurs Iffven and Gaudianwhich describes King Arthur and his knights of theround table. He has joked about it with the gentlemen of his Court."
"WellI have certainly not read that" replied the counsellor."I suppose it is quite newand published by Heiberg."
"No" answered the man"it is not by Heiberg; Godfred vonGehman brought it out."
"Ohis he the publisher? That is a very old name" said thecounsellor; "was it not the name of the first publisher in Denmark?"
"Yes; and he is our first printer and publisher now" replied thescholar.
So far all had passed off very well; but now one of the citizens began tospeak of a terrible pestilence which had been raging a few years beforemeaningthe plague of 1484. The counsellor thought he referred to the choleraand theycould discuss this without finding out the mistake. The war in 1490 was spokenof as quite recent. The English pirates had taken some ships in the Channel in1801and the counsellorsupposing they referred to theseagreed with them infinding fault with the English. The rest of the talkhoweverwas not soagreeable; every moment one contradicted the other. The good bachelor appearedvery ignorantfor the simplest remark of the counsellor seemed to him eithertoo bold or too fantastic. They stared at each otherand when it became worsethe bachelor spoke in Latinin the hope of being better understood; but it wasall useless.
"How are you now?" asked the landladypulling the counsellor'ssleeve.
Then his recollection returned to him. In the course of conversation he hadforgotten all that had happened previously.
"Goodness me! where am I?" said he. It bewildered him as he thoughtof it.
"We will have some claretor meador Bremen beer" said one ofthe guests; "will you drink with us?"
Two maids came in. One of them had a cap on her head of two
colors. They poured out the winebowed their headsand withdrew.
The counsellor felt a cold shiver run all over him. "What is this? whatdoes it mean?" said he; but he was obliged to drink with themfor theyoverpowered the good man with their politeness. He became at last desperate; andwhen one of them said he was tipsyhe did not doubt the man's word in theleast- only begged them to get a droschky; and then they thought he was speakingthe Muscovite language. Never before had he been in such rough and vulgarcompany. "One might believe that the country was going back to heathenism"he observed. "This is the most terrible moment of my life."
Just then it came into his mind that he would stoop under the tableand socreep to the door. He tried it; but before he reached the entrythe restdiscovered what he was aboutand seized him by the feetwhenluckily for himoff came the goloshesand with them vanished the whole enchantment. Thecounsellor now saw quite plainly a lampand a large building behind it;everything looked familiar and beautiful. He was in East Streetas it nowappears; he lay with his legs turned towards a porchand just by him sat thewatchman asleep.
"Is it possible that I have been lying here in the street dreaming?"said he. "Yesthis is East Street; how beautifully bright and gay it looks!It is quite shocking that one glass of punch should have upset me like this."
Two minutes afterwards he sat in a droschkywhich was to drive him toChristian's Haven. He thought of all the terror and anxiety which he hadundergoneand felt thankful from his heart for the reality and comfort ofmodern timeswhichwith all their errorswere far better than those in whichhe so lately found himself.
THE WATCHMAN'S ADVENTURES -
"WellI declarethere lies a pair of goloshes" said the watchman."No doubtthey belong to the lieutenant who lives up stairs. They arelying just by his door." Gladly would the honest man have rungand giventhem infor a light was still burningbut he did not wish to disturb the otherpeople in the house; so he let them lie. "These things must keep the feetvery warm" said he; "they are of such nice soft leather." Thenhe tried them onand they fitted his feet exactly. "Now" said he"how droll things are in this world! There's that man can lie down in hiswarm bedbut he does not do so. There he goes pacing up and down the room. Heought to be a happy man. He has neither wife nor childrenand he goes out intocompany every evening. OhI wish I were he; then I should be a happy man."
As he uttered this wishthe goloshes which he had put on took effectandthe watchman at once became the lieutenant. There he stood in his roomholdinga little piece of pink paper between his fingerson which was a poem- a poemwritten by the lieutenant himself. Who has not hadfor once in his lifeamoment of poetic inspiration? and at such a momentif the thoughts are writtendownthey flow in poetry. The following verses were written on the pink paper:--
"OH WERE I RICH! -
"Oh were I rich! How oftin youth's bright hour
When youthful pleasures banish every care
I longed for riches but to gain a power
The sword and plume and uniform to wear!
The riches and the honor came for me;
Yet still my greatest wealth was poverty:
Ahhelp and pity me! -
"Once in my youthful hourswhen gay and free
A maiden loved me; and her gentle kiss
Rich in its tender love and purity
Taught mealas! too much of earthly bliss.
Dear child! She only thought of youthful glee;
She loved no wealthbut fairy tales and me.
Thou knowest: ahpity me! -
"Oh were I rich! again is all my prayer:
That child is now a womanfair and free
As good and beautiful as angels are.
Ohwere I rich in lovers' poetry
To tell my fairy talelove's richest lore!
But no; I must be silent- I am poor.
Ahwilt thou pity me? -
"Oh were I rich in truth and peace below
I need not then my poverty bewail.
To thee I dedicate these lines of woe;
Wilt thou not understand the mournful tale?
A leaf on which my sorrows I relate-
Dark story of a darker night of fate.
Ahbless and pity me!" -
"Wellyes; people write poems when they are in lovebut a wise manwill not print them. A lieutenant in loveand poor. This is a triangleor moreproperly speakingthe half of the broken die of fortune." The lieutenantfelt this very keenlyand therefore leaned his head against the window-frameand sighed deeply. "The poor watchman in the street" said he"isfar happier than I am. He knows not what I call poverty. He has a homea wifeand childrenwho weep at his sorrow and rejoice at his joy. Ohhow muchhappier I should be could I change my being and position with himand passthrough life with his humble expectations and hopes! Yeshe is indeed happierthan I am."
At this moment the watchman again became a watchman; for havingthrough thegoloshes of Fortunepassed into the existence of the lieutenantand foundhimself less contented than he expectedhe had preferred his former conditionand wished himself again a watchman. "That was an ugly dream" said he"but droll enough. It seemed to me as if I were the lieutenant up yonderbut there was no happiness for me. I missed my wife and the little oneswho arealways ready to smother me with kisses." He sat down again and noddedbuthe could not get the dream out of his thoughtsand he still had the goloshes onhis feet. A falling star gleamed across the sky. "There goes one!"cried he. "Howeverthere are quite enough left; I should very much like toexamine these a little nearerespecially the moonfor that could not slip awayunder one's hands. The studentfor whom my wife washessays that when we diewe shall fly from one star to another. If that were trueit would be verydelightfulbut I don't believe it. I wish I could make a little spring up therenow; I would willingly let my body lie here on the steps."
There are certain things in the world which should be uttered very cautiously;doubly so when the speaker has on his feet the goloshes of Fortune. Now we shallhear what happened to the watchman.
Nearly every one is acquainted with the great power of steam; we have provedit by the rapidity with which we can travelboth on a railroad or in asteamship across the sea. But this speed is like the movements of the slothorthe crawling march of the snailwhen
compared to the swiftness with which light travels; light flies nineteenmillion times faster than the fleetest race-horseand electricity is more rapidstill. Death is an electric shock which we receive in our heartsand on thewings of electricity the liberated soul flies away swiftlythe light from thesun travels to our earth ninety-five millions of miles in eight minutes and afew seconds; but on the wings of electricitythe mind requires only a second toaccomplish the same distance. The space between the heavenly bodies istothoughtno farther than the distance which we may have to walk from onefriend's house to another in the same town; yet this electric shock obliges usto use our bodies here belowunlesslike the watchmanwe have on the goloshesof Fortune.
In a very few seconds the watchman had travelled more than two hundredthousand miles to the moonwhich is formed of a lighter material than ourearthand may be said to be as soft as new fallen snow. He found himself on oneof the circular range of mountains which we see represented in Dr. Madler'slarge map of the moon. The interior had the appearance of a large hollowbowl-shapedwith a depth about half a mile from the brim. Within this hollowstood a large town; we may form some idea of its appearance by pouring the whiteof an egg into a glass of water. The materials of which it was built seemed justas softand pictured forth cloudy turrets and sail-like terracesquitetransparentand floating in the thin air. Our earth hung over his head like agreat dark red ball. Presently he discovered a number of beingswhich mightcertainly be called menbut were very different to ourselves. A morefantastical imagination than Herschel's must have discovered these. Had theybeen placed in groupsand paintedit might have been said"Whatbeautiful foliage!" They had also a language of their own. No one couldhave expected the soul of the watchman to understand itand yet he didunderstand itfor our souls have much greater capabilities then we are inclinedto believe. Do we notin our dreamsshow a wonderful dramatic talent? each ofour acquaintance appears to us then in his own characterand with his ownvoice; no man could thus imitate them in his waking hours. How clearlytooweare reminded of persons whom we have not seen for many years; they start upsuddenly to the mind's eye with all their peculiarities as living realities. Infactthis memory of the soul is a fearful thing; every sinevery sinfulthought it can bring backand we may well ask how we are to give account of"every idle word" that may have been whispered in the heart or utteredwith the lips. The spirit of the watchman therefore understood very well thelanguage of the inhabitants of the moon. They were disputing about our earthand doubted whether it could be inhabited. The atmospherethey assertedmustbe too dense for any inhabitants of the moon to exist there. They maintainedthat the moon alone was inhabitedand was really the heavenly body in which theold world people lived. They likewise talked politics.
But now we will descend to East Streetand see what happened to thewatchman's body. He sat lifeless on the steps. His staff had fallen out of hishandand his eyes stared at the moonabout which his honest soul waswandering.
"What is it o'clockwatchman?" inquired a passenger. But there wasno answer from the watchman.
The man then pulled his nose gentlywhich caused him to lose his balance.The body fell forwardand lay at full length on the ground as one dead.
All his comrades were very much frightenedfor he seemed quite dead; stillthey allowed him to remain after they had given notice of what had happened; andat dawn the body was carried to the hospital. We might imagine it to be nojesting matter if the soul of the man should chance to return to himfor mostprobably it would seek for the body in East Street without being able to findit. We might fancy the soul inquiring of the policeor at the address officeor among the missing parcelsand then at length finding it at the hospital. Butwe may comfort ourselves by the certainty that the soulwhen acting upon itsown impulsesis wiser than we are; it is the body that makes it stupid.
As we have saidthe watchman's body had been taken to the hospitaland hereit was placed in a room to be washed. Naturallythe first thing done here wasto take off the goloshesupon which the soul was instantly obliged to returnand it took the direct road to the body at onceand in a few seconds the man'slife returned to him. He declaredwhen he quite recovered himselfthat thishad been the most dreadful night he had ever passed; not for a hundred poundswould he go through such feelings again. Howeverit was all over now.
The same day he was allowed to leavebut the goloshes remained at thehospital.
THE EVENTFUL MOMENT - A MOST UNUSUAL JOURNEY -
Every inhabitant of Copenhagen knows what the entrance to Frederick'sHospital is like; but as most probably a few of those who read this little talemay not reside in Copenhagenwe will give a short description of it.
The hospital is separated from the street by an iron railingin which thebars stand so wide apart thatit is saidsome very slim patients have squeezedthroughand gone to pay little visits in the town. The most difficult part ofthe body to get through was the head; and in this caseas it often happens inthe worldthe small heads were the most fortunate. This will serve assufficient introduction to our tale. One of the young volunteersof whomphysically speakingit might be said that he had a great headwas on guardthat evening at the hospital. The rain was pouring downyetin spite of thesetwo obstacleshe wanted to go out just for a quarter of an hour; it was notworth whilehe thoughtto make a confidant of the porteras he could easilyslip through the iron railings. There lay the golosheswhich the watchman hadforgotten. It never occurred to him that these could be goloshes of Fortune.They would be very serviceable to him in this rainy weatherso he drew them on.Now came the question whether he could squeeze through the palings; he certainlyhad never triedso he stood looking at them. "I wish to goodness my headwas through" said heand instantlythough it was so thick and largeitslipped through quite easily. The goloshes answered that purpose very wellbuthis body had to followand this was impossible. "I am too fat" hesaid; "I thought my head would be the worstbut I cannot get my bodythroughthat is certain." Then he tried to pull his head back againbutwithout success; he could move his neck about easily enoughand that was all.His first feeling was one of angerand then his spirits sank below zero. Thegoloshes of Fortune had placed him in this terrible positionand unfortunatelyit never occurred to him to wish himself free. Noinstead of wishing he kepttwisting aboutyet did not stir from the spot. The rain pouredand not acreature could be seen in the street. The porter's bell he was unable to reachand however was he to get loose! He foresaw that he should have to stay theretill morningand then they must send for a smith to file away the iron barsand that would be a work of time. All the charity children would just be goingto school: and all the sailors who inhabited that quarter of the town would bethere to see him standing in the pillory. What a crowd there would be."Ha" he cried"the blood is rushing to my headand I shall gomad. I believe I am crazy already; ohI wish I were
freethen all these sensations would pass off." This is just what heought to have said at first. The moment he had expressed the thought his headwas free. He started backquite bewildered with the fright which the goloshesof Fortune had caused him. But we must not suppose it was all over; noindeedthere was worse to come yet. The night passedand the whole of the followingday; but no one sent for the goloshes. In the evening a declamatory performancewas to take place at the amateur theatre in a distant street. The house wascrowded; among the audience was the young volunteer from the hospitalwhoseemed to have quite forgotten his adventures of the previous evening. He had onthe goloshes; they had not been sent forand as the streets were still verydirtythey were of great service to him. A new poementitled "My Aunt'sSpectacles" was being recited. It described these spectacles as possessinga wonderful power; if any one put them on in a large assembly the peopleappeared like cardsand the future events of ensuing years could be easilyforetold by them. The idea struck him that he should very much like to have sucha pair of spectacles; forif used rightlythey would perhaps enable him to seeinto the hearts of peoplewhich he thought would be more interesting than toknow what was going to happen next year; for future events would be sure to showthemselvesbut the hearts of people never. "I can fancy what I should seein the whole row of ladies and gentlemen on the first seatif I could only lookinto their hearts; that ladyI imaginekeeps a store for things of alldescriptions; how my eyes would wander about in that collection; with manyladies I should no doubt find a large millinery establishment. There is anotherthat is perhaps emptyand would be all the better for cleaning out. There maybe some well stored with good articles. Ahyes" he sighed"I knowonein which everything is solidbut a servant is there alreadyand that isthe only thing against it. I dare say from many I should hear the words'Pleaseto walk in.' I only wish I could slip into the hearts like a little tinythought." This was the word of command for the goloshes. The volunteershrunk up togetherand commenced a most unusual journey through the hearts ofthe spectators in the first row. The first heart he entered was that of a ladybut he thought he must have got into one of the rooms of an orthopedicinstitution where plaster casts of deformed limbs were hanging on the wallswith this differencethat the casts in the institution are formed when thepatient entersbut here they were formed and preserved after the good peoplehad left. These were casts of the bodily and mental deformities of the lady'sfemale friends carefully preserved. Quickly he passed into another heartwhichhad the appearance of a spaciousholy churchwith the white dove of innocencefluttering over the altar. Gladly would he have fallen on his knees in such asacred place; but he was carried on to another heartstillhoweverlisteningto the tones of the organand feeling himself that he had become another and abetter man. The next heart was also a sanctuarywhich he felt almost unworthyto enter; it represented a mean garretin which lay a sick mother; but the warmsunshine streamed through the windowlovely roses bloomed in a little flowerboxon the rooftwo blue birds sang of childlike joysand the sick mother prayedfor a blessing on her daughter. Next he crept on his hands and knees through anoverfilled butcher's shop; there was meatnothing but meatwherever hestepped; this was the heart of a richrespectable manwhose name is doubtlessin the directory. Then he entered the heart of this man's wife; it was an oldtumble-down pigeon-house; the husband's portrait served as a weather-cock; itwas connected with all the doorswhich opened and shut just as the husband'sdecision turned. The next heart was a complete cabinet of mirrorssuch as canbe seen in the Castle of Rosenberg. But these mirrors magnified in anastonishing degree; in the middle of the floor satlike the Grand Lamatheinsignificant I of the ownerastonished at the contemplation of his ownfeatures. At his next visit he fancied he must have got into a narrowneedlecasefull of sharp needles: "Oh" thought he"this mustbe the heart of an old maid;" but such was not the fact; it belonged to ayoung officerwho wore several ordersand was said to be a man of intellectand heart.
The poor volunteer came out of the last heart in the row quite bewildered. Hecould not collect his thoughtsand imagined his foolish fancies had carried himaway. "Good gracious!" he sighed"I must have a tendency tosoftening of the brainand here it is so exceedingly hot that the blood isrushing to my head." And then suddenly recurred to him the strange event ofthe evening beforewhen his head had been fixed between the iron railings infront of the hospital. "That is the cause of it all!" he exclaimed"I must do something in time. A Russian bath would be a very good thing tobegin with. I wish I were lying on one of the highest shelves." Sureenoughthere he lay on an upper shelf of a vapor bathstill in his eveningcostumewith his boots and goloshes onand the hot drops from the ceilingfalling on his face. "Ho!" he criedjumping down and rushing towardsthe plunging bath. The attendant stopped him with a loud crywhen he saw a manwith all his clothes on. The volunteer hadhoweverpresence of mind enough towhisper"It is for a wager;" but the first thing he didwhen hereached his own roomwas to put a large blister on his neckand another on hisbackthat his crazy fit might be cured. The next morning his back was verysorewhich was all he gained by the goloshes of Fortune.
THE CLERK'S TRANSFORMATION -
The watchmanwhom we of course have not forgottenthoughtafter a whileof the goloshes which he had found and taken to the hospital; so he went andfetched them. But neither the lieutenant nor any one in the street couldrecognize them as their ownso he gave them up to the police. "They lookexactly like my own goloshes" said one of the clerksexamining theunknown articlesas they stood by the side of his own. "It would requireeven more than the eye of a shoemaker to know one pair from the other."
"Master clerk" said a servant who entered with some papers. Theclerk turned and spoke to the man; but when he had done with himhe turned tolook at the goloshes againand now he was in greater doubt than ever as towhether the pair on the right or on the left belonged to him. "Those thatare wet must be mine" thought he; but he thought wrongit was just thereverse. The goloshes of Fortune were the wet pair; andbesideswhy should nota clerk in a police office be wrong sometimes? So he drew them onthrust hispapers into his pocketplaced a few manuscripts under his armwhich he had totake with himand to make abstracts from at home. Thenas it was Sundaymorning and the weather very finehe said to himself"A walk toFredericksburg will do me good:" so away he went.
There could not be a quieter or more steady young man than this clerk. Wewill not grudge him this little walkit was just the thing to do him good aftersitting so much. He went on at first like a mere automatonwithout thought orwish; therefore the goloshes had no opportunity to display their magic power. Inthe avenue he met with an acquaintanceone of our young poetswho told himthat he intended to start on the following day on a summer excursion. "Areyou really going away so soon?" asked the clerk. "What a freehappyman you are. You can roam about where you willwhile such as we are tied by thefoot."
But it is fastened to the bread-tree" replied the poet. "You needhave no anxiety for the morrow; and when you are old there is a pension foryou."
"Ahyes; but you have the best of it" said the clerk; "itmust be so delightful to sit and write poetry. The whole world makes itselfagreeable to youand then you are your own master. You should try how you wouldlike to listen to all the trivial things in a court of justice." The poetshook his headso also did the clerk; each retained his own opinionand sothey parted. "They are strange peoplethese poets" thought theclerk. "I should like to try what it is to have a poetic tasteand tobecome a poet myself. I am sure I should not write such mournful verses as theydo. This is a splendid spring day for a poetthe air is so remarkably clearthe clouds are so beautifuland the green grass has such a sweet smell. Formany years I have not felt as I do at this moment."
We perceiveby these remarksthat he had already become a poet. By mostpoets what he had said would be considered common-placeor as the Germans callit"insipid." It is a foolish fancy to look upon poets as differentto other men. There are many who are more the poets of nature than those who areprofessed poets. The difference is thisthe poet's intellectual memory isbetter; he seizes upon an idea or a sentimentuntil he can embody itclearlyand plainly in wordswhich the others cannot do. But the transition from acharacter of every-day life to one of a more gifted nature is a greattransition; and so the clerk became aware of the change after a time. "Whata delightful perfume" said he; "it reminds me of the violets at AuntLora's. Ahthat was when I was a little boy. Dear mehow long it seems since Ithought of those days! She was a good old maiden lady! she lived yonderbehindthe Exchange. She always had a sprig or a few blossoms in waterlet the winterbe ever so severe. I could smell the violetseven while I was placing warmpenny pieces against the frozen panes to make peep-holesand a pretty view itwas on which I peeped. Out in the river lay the shipsiceboundand forsaken bytheir crews; a screaming crow represented the only living creature on board. Butwhen the breezes of spring cameeverything started into life. Amidst shoutingand cheers the ships were tarred and riggedand then they sailed to foreignlands.
"I remain hereand always shall remainsitting at my post at thepolice officeand letting others take passports to distant lands. Yesthis ismy fate" and he sighed deeply. Suddenly he paused. "Good graciouswhat has come over me? I never felt before as I do now; it must be the air ofspring. It is overpoweringand yet it is delightful."
He felt in his pockets for some of his papers. "These will give mesomething else to think of" said he. Casting his eyes on the first page ofonehe read"'Mistress Sigbirth; an original Tragedyin Five Acts.' Whatis this?- in my own handwritingtoo! Have I written this tragedy?" He readagain"'The Intrigue on the Promenade; orthe Fast-Day. A Vaudeville.'However did I get all this? Some one must have put them into my pocket. And hereis a letter!" It was from the manager of a theatre; the pieces wererejectednot at all in polite terms.
"Hemhem!" said hesitting down on a bench; his thoughts werevery elasticand his heart softened strangely. Involuntarily he seized one ofthe nearest flowers; it was a littlesimple daisy. All that botanists can sayin many lectures was explained in a moment by this little flower. It spoke ofthe glory of its birth; it told of the strength of the sunlightwhich hadcaused its delicate leaves to expandand given to it such sweet perfume. Thestruggles of life which arouse sensations in the bosom have their type in thetiny flowers. Air and light are the lovers of the flowersbut light is thefavored one; towards light it turnsand only when light vanishes does it foldits leaves togetherand sleep in the embraces of the air."
"It is light that adorns me" said the flower.
"But the air gives you the breath of life" whispered the poet.
Just by him stood a boysplashing with his stick in a marshy ditch. Thewater-drops spurted up among the green twigsand the clerk thought of themillions of animalculae which were thrown into the air with every drop of waterat a height which must be the same to them as it would be to us if we werehurled beyond the clouds. As the clerk thought of all these thingsand becameconscious of the great change in his own feelingshe smiledand said tohimself"I must be asleep and dreaming; and yetif sohow wonderful fora dream to be so natural and realand to know at the same time too that it isbut a dream. I hope I shall be able to remember it all when I wake tomorrow. Mysensations seem most unaccountable. I have a clear perception of everything asif I were wide awake. I am quite sure if I recollect all this tomorrowit willappear utterly ridiculous and absurd. I have had this happen to me before. It iswith the clever or wonderful things we say or hear in dreamsas with the goldwhich comes from under the earthit is rich and beautiful when we possess itbut when seen in a true light it is but as stones and withered leaves."
"Ah!" he sighed mournfullyas he gazed at the birds singingmerrilyor hopping from branch to branch"they are much better off thanI. Flying is a glorious power. Happy is he who is born with wings. Yesif Icould change myself into anything I would be a little lark." At the samemoment his coat-tails and sleeves grew together and formed wingshis clotheschanged to feathersand his goloshes to claws. He felt what was taking placeand laughed to himself. "Wellnow it is evident I must be dreaming; but Inever had such a wild dream as this." And then he flew up into the greenboughs and sangbut there was no poetry in the songfor his poetic nature hadleft him. The golosheslike all persons who wish to do a thing thoroughlycould only attend to one thing at a time. He wished to be a poetand he becameone. Then he wanted to be a little birdand in this change he lost thecharacteristics of the former one. "Well" thought he"this ischarming; by day I sit in a police-officeamongst the dryest law papersand atnight I can dream that I am a larkflying about in the gardens ofFredericksburg. Really a complete comedy could be written about it." Thenhe flew down into the grassturned his head about in every directionandtapped his beak on the bending blades of grasswhichin proportion to hissizeseemed to him as long as the palm-leaves in northern Africa.
In another moment all was darkness around him. It seemed as if somethingimmense had been thrown over him. A sailor boy had flung his large cap over thebirdand a hand came underneath and caught the clerk by the back and wings soroughlythat he squeakedand then cried out in his alarm"You impudentrascalI am a clerk in the police-office!" but it only sounded to the boylike "tweettweet;" so he tapped the bird on the beakand walkedaway with him. In the avenue he met two school-boyswho appeared to belong to abetter class of societybut whose inferior abilities kept them in the lowestclass at school. These boys bought the bird for eightpenceand so the clerkreturned to Copenhagen. "It is well for me that I am dreaming" hethought; "otherwise I should become really angry. First I was a poetandnow I am a lark. It must have been the poetic nature that changed me into thislittle creature. It is a miserable story indeedespecially now I have falleninto the hands of boys. I wonder what will be the end of it." The boyscarried him
into a very elegant roomwhere a stoutpleasant-looking lady received thembut she was not at all gratified to find that they had brought a lark- a commonfield-bird as she called it. Howevershe allowed them for one day to place thebird in an empty cage that hung near the window. "It will please Pollyperhaps" she saidlaughing at a large gray parrotwho was swinginghimself proudly on a ring in a handsome brass cage. "It is Polly'sbirthday" she added in a simpering tone"and the little field-birdhas come to offer his congratulations."
Polly did not answer a single wordhe continued to swing proudly to and fro;but a beautiful canarywho had been brought from his own warmfragrantfatherlandthe summer previousbegan to sing as loud as he could.
"You screamer!" said the ladythrowing a white handkerchief overthe cage.
"Tweettweet" sighed he"what a dreadful snowstorm!"and then he became silent.
The clerkor as the lady called him the field-birdwas placed in a littlecage close to the canaryand not far from the parrot. The only human speechwhich Polly could utterand which she sometimes chattered forth most comicallywas "Now let us be men." All besides was a screamquite asunintelligible as the warbling of the canary-birdexcepting to the clerkwhobeing now a birdcould understand his comrades very well.
"I flew beneath green palm-treesand amidst the bloomingalmond-trees" sang the canary. "I flew with my brothers and sistersover beautiful flowersand across the clearbright seawhich reflected thewaving foliage in its glittering depths; and I have seen many gay parrotswhocould relate long and delightful stories.
"They were wild birds" answered the parrot"and totallyuneducated. Now let us be men. Why do you not laugh? If the lady and hervisitors can laugh at thissurely you can. It is a great failing not to be ableto appreciate what is amusing. Now let us be men."
"Do you remember" said the canary"the pretty maidens whoused to dance in the tents that were spread out beneath the sweet blossoms? Doyou remember the delicious fruit and the cooling juice from the wildherbs?"
"Ohyes" said the parrot; "but here I am much better off. Iam well fedand treated politely. I know that I have a clever head; and whatmore do I want? Let us be men now. You have a soul for poetry. I have deepknowledge and wit. You have geniusbut no discretion. You raise your naturallyhigh notes so muchthat you get covered over. They never serve me so. Ohno; Icost them something more than you. I keep them in order with my beakand flingmy wit about me. Now let us be men.
"O my warmblooming fatherland" sang the canary bird"Iwill sing of thy dark-green trees and thy quiet streamswhere the bendingbranches kiss the clearsmooth water. I will sing of the joy of my brothers andsistersas their shining plumage flits among the dark leaves of the plantswhich grow wild by the springs."
"Do leave off those dismal strains" said the parrot; "singsomething to make us laugh; laughter is the sign of the highest order ofintellect. Can a dog or a horse laugh? Nothey can cry; but to man alone is thepower of laughter given. Ha! ha! ha!" laughed Pollyand repeated his wittysaying"Now let us be men."
"You little gray Danish bird" said the canary"you also havebecome a prisoner. It is certainly cold in your forestsbut still there isliberty there. Fly out! they have forgotten to close the cageand the window isopen at the top. Flyfly!"
Instinctivelythe clerk obeyedand left the cage; at the same moment thehalf-opened door leading into the next room creaked on its hingesandstealthilywith green fiery eyesthe cat crept in and chased the lark roundthe room. The canary-bird fluttered in his cageand the parrot flapped hiswings and cried"Let us be men;" the poor clerkin the most deadlyterrorflew through the windowover the housesand through the streetstillat length he was obliged to seek a resting-place. A house opposite to him had alook of home. A window stood open; he flew inand perched upon the table. Itwas his own room. "Let us be men now" said heinvoluntarilyimitating the parrot; and at the same moment he became a clerk againonly thathe was sitting on the table. "Heaven preserve us!" said he; "Howdid I get up here and fall asleep in this way? It was an uneasy dream too that Ihad. The whole affair appears most absurd.
THE BEST THING THE GOLOSHES DID -
Early on the following morningwhile the clerk was still in bedhisneighbora young divinity studentwho lodged on the same storeyknocked athis doorand then walked in. "Lend me your goloshes" said he;"it is so wet in the gardenbut the sun is shining brightly. I should liketo go out there and smoke my pipe." He put on the goloshesand was soon inthe gardenwhich contained only one plum-tree and one apple-tree; yetin atowneven a small garden like this is a great advantage.
The student wandered up and down the path; it was just six o'clockand hecould hear the sound of the post-horn in the street. "Ohto traveltotravel!" cried he; "there is no greater happiness in the world: it isthe height of my ambition. This restless feeling would be stilledif I couldtake a journey far away from this country. I should like to see beautifulSwitzerlandto travel through Italyand"- It was well for him that thegoloshes acted immediatelyotherwise he might have been carried too far forhimself as well as for us. In a moment he found himself in Switzerlandcloselypacked with eight others in the diligence. His head achedhis back was stiffand the blood had ceased to circulateso that his feet were swelled and pinchedby his boots. He wavered in a condition between sleeping and waking. In hisright-hand pocket he had a letter of credit; in his left-hand pocket was hispassport; and a few louis d'ors were sewn into a little leather bag which hecarried in his breast-pocket. Whenever he dozedhe dreamed that he had lost oneor another of these possessions; then he would awake with a startand the firstmovements of his hand formed a triangle from his right-hand pocket to hisbreastand from his breast to his left-hand pocketto feel whether they wereall safe. Umbrellassticksand hats swung in the net before himand almostobstructed the prospectwhich was really very imposing; and as he glanced atithis memory recalled the words of one poet at leastwho has sung ofSwitzerlandand whose poems have not yet been printed:- -
"How lovely to my wondering eyes
Mont Blanc's fair summits gently rise;
'Tis sweet to breathe the mountain air-
If you have gold enough to spare." - Granddarkand gloomy appearedthe landscape around him. The pine-forests looked like little groups of moss onhigh rockswhose summits were lost in clouds of mist. Presently it began tosnowand the wind blew keen and cold. "Ah" he sighed"if Iwere only on the other side of the Alps nowit would be summerand I should beable to get money on my letter of credit. The anxiety I feel on this matter
prevents me from enjoying myself in Switzerland. OhI wish I was on theother side of the Alps."
And therein a momenthe found himselffar away in the midst of Italybetween Florence and Romewhere the lake Thrasymene glittered in the eveningsunlight like a sheet of molten gold between the dark blue mountains. Therewhere Hannibal defeated Flaminiusthe grape vines clung to each other with thefriendly grasp of their green tendril fingers; whileby the waysidelovelyhalf-naked children were watching a herd of coal-black swine under the blossomsof fragrant laurel. Could we rightly describe this picturesque sceneourreaders would exclaim"Delightful Italy!"
But neither the student nor either of his travelling companions felt theleast inclination to think of it in this way. Poisonous flies and gnats flewinto the coach by thousands. In vain they drove them away with a myrtle branchthe flies stung them notwithstanding. There was not a man in the coach whoseface was not swollen and disfigured with the stings. The poor horses lookedwretched; the flies settled on their backs in swarmsand they were onlyrelieved when the coachmen got down and drove the creatures off.
As the sun setan icy coldness filled all naturenot however of longduration. It produced the feeling which we experience when we enter a vault at afuneralon a summer's day; while the hills and the clouds put on that singulargreen hue which we often notice in old paintingsand look upon as unnaturaluntil we have ourselves seen nature's coloring in the south. It was a gloriousspectacle; but the stomachs of the travellers were emptytheir bodies exhaustedwith fatigueand all the longings of their heart turned towards a resting-placefor the night; but where to find one they knew not. All the eyes were tooeagerly seeking for this resting-placeto notice the beauties of nature.
The road passed through a grove of olive-trees; it reminded the student ofthe willow-trees at home. Here stood a lonely innand close by it a number ofcrippled beggars had placed themselves; the brightest among them lookedtoquote the words of Marryat"like the eldest son of Famine who had justcome of age." The others were either blindor had withered legswhichobliged them to creep about on their hands and kneesor they had shrivelledarms and hands without fingers. It was indeed poverty arrayed in rags."Eccellenzamiserabili!" they exclaimedstretching forth theirdiseased limbs. The hostess received the travellers with bare feetuntidy hairand a dirty blouse. The doors were fastened together with string; the floors ofthe rooms were of brickbroken in many places; bats flew about under the roof;and as to the odor within-
"Let us have supper laid in the stable" said one of thetravellers; "then we shall know what we are breathing."
The windows were opened to let in a little fresh airbut quicker than aircame in the withered arms and the continual whining sounds"Miserabilieccellenza. On the walls were inscriptionshalf of them against "la bellaItalia."
The supper made its appearance at last. It consisted of watery soupseasonedwith pepper and rancid oil. This last delicacy played a principal part in thesalad. Musty eggs and roasted cocks'-combs were the best dishes on the table;even the wine had a strange tasteit was certainly a mixture. At nightall theboxes were placed against the doorsand one of the travellers watched while theothers slept. The student's turn came to watch. How close the air felt in thatroom; the heat overpowered him. The gnats were buzzing about and stingingwhilethe miserabilioutsidemoaned in their dreams.
"Travelling would be all very well" said the student of divinityto himself"if we had no bodiesor if the body could rest while the soulif flying. Wherever I go I feel a want which oppresses my heartfor somethingbetter presents itself at the moment; yessomething betterwhich shall be thebest of all; but where is that to be found? In factI know in my heart verywell what I want. I wish to attain the greatest of all happiness."
No sooner were the words spoken than he was at home. Long white curtainsshaded the windows of his roomand in the middle of the floor stood a blackcoffinin which he now lay in the still sleep of death; his wish was fulfilledhis body was at restand his spirit travelling.
"Esteem no man happy until he is in his grave" were the words ofSolon. Here was a strong fresh proof of their truth. Every corpse is a sphinx ofimmortality. The sphinx in this sarcophagus might unveil its own mystery in thewords which the living had himself written two days before- -
"Stern deaththy chilling silence waketh dread;
Yet in thy darkest hour there may be light.
Earth's garden reaper! from the grave's cold bed
The soul on Jacob's ladder takes her flight. -
Man's greatest sorrows often are a part
Of hidden griefsconcealed from human eyes
Which press far heavier on the lonely heart
Than now the earth that on his coffin lies." -
Two figures were moving about the room; we know them both. One was the fairynamed Carethe other the messenger of Fortune. They bent over the dead.
"Look!" said Care; "what happiness have your goloshes broughtto mankind?"
"They have at least brought lasting happiness to him who slumbershere" she said.
"Not so" said Care"he went away of himselfhe was notsummoned. His mental powers were not strong enough to discern the treasureswhich he had been destined to discover. I will do him a favor now." And shedrew the goloshes from his feet.
The sleep of death was endedand the recovered man raised himself. Carevanishedand with her the goloshes; doubtless she looked upon them as her ownproperty. - -