J. P. (Jens Peter) Jacobsen.

Marie Grubbe, a lady of the seventeenth century online

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Marie Grubbe was now seventeen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Online LibraryJ. P. (Jens Peter) JacobsenMarie Grubbe, a lady of the seventeenth century → online text (page 7 of 18)