Meïr Goldschmidt.

The flying mail, Old Olaf, The railroad and the churchyard online

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Mrs. George u ore







i3 as ton antt


Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1870, by


In the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.




/^\F the three writers whose sketches are here
presented, Bjornson is the only one known to
American readers. Mrs. Magdalene Thoresen has
gained a very high reputation in Norway as a writer
of stories of common life. She is of Danish origin,
but is a Norwegian by residence; and Norway
claims the honor of her name. Goldschmidt is a
Dane, and is very famous in his own country as
an author ; but none of his writings have before
this been translated into English, as far as known.
These stories have been selected from a volume
entitled "Wintergreen," composed of tales, sketches,
and poetry, by different authors. Although differ-
ing from each other in their intended effect, and in
many important points, they are all marked by that
vigorous boldness and simplicity of style, that forci-
ble conciseness of expression, which seem to be
characteristic of many Scandinavian writers. De-
scriptions of scenery, too, when they occur, are


effected, not by any tricks of words, but by the
spontaneous outpourings of a strong love of nature,
simply and briefly expressed.

There are added two short sketches by Bjornson,
the " Eagle's Nest" and " The Father," which may
not be without interest to some readers. These are
republished from an English translation by Sivert
and Elizabeth Hjerleid.











FRITZ BAGGER had just been admitted to the bar.
He had come home and entered his room, seeking
rest. All his mental faculties were now relaxed after
their recent exertion, and a long-restrained power was
awakened. He had reached a crisis in life : the future
lay before him, the future, the future ! What was it
to be? He was twenty-four years old, and could turn
himself whichever way he pleased, let fancy run to any
line of the compass. Out upon the horizon, he saw
little rose-colored clouds, and nothing therein but a cer-
tain undefined bliss. He put his hands over his eyes,
and sought to bring this uncertainty into clear vision ;
and after a long time had elapsed, he said : " Yes, and
so one marries."

" Yes, one marries," he continued, after a pause ;
"but whom?"

His thoughts now took a more direct course ; but the
pictures in his mind's eye had not become plainer.
Again the horizon widely around was rose-colored, and
between the tinted cloud-layers angel-heads peeped out,
not Bible angels, which are neither man nor woman ;



but angelic girls, whom he didn't know, and who didn't
know him. The truth was, he didn't know anybody to
whom he could give his heart, but longed, with a cer-
tain twenty-four-year power for her to whom he could
offer it, her who was worthy to receive his whole self-
made being, and in exchange give him all that queer
imagined bliss, which is or ought to be in the world, as
every one so firmly believes.

" Oh, I am a fool ! " he said, as he suddenly became
conscious that he was merely dreaming and wishing.
He tried to think of something practical, thought upon
a little picnic that was to be held in the evening ; but the
same dream returned and overpowered him, because the
season of spring was in him, because life thrilled in him
as in trees and plants when the spring sun shines.

He leaned upon the window-seat it was in an attic
and let the wind cool his forehead. But while the wind
refreshed, the street itself gave his mind new nourish-
ment. Down there it moved, to him unknown, and
veiled and hidden as at a masquerade. What a treasure
might not that easy virgin foot carry ! What a fancy
might there not be moving in the head under that little
bonnet, and what a heart might there not be beating
under the folds of that shawl ! But, too, all this pre-
ciousness might belong to another.

Alas ! yes, there were certainly many amiable ones down
there ! and if destiny should lead him to one of them,
who was free, lovely, well-bred, of good family, could
any one vouch that for her sake he was not giving up
Her, the beau-ideal, the expected, whose portrait had
shown itself between the tinted clouds? or, in any event,
who could vouch for one's success in not missing the
right one?

" Oh ! life is a lottery, a cruel lottery ; for to everybody


there is but one drawing, and the whole man is at stake.
Woe to the loser ! "

After the expiration of some time, Fritz, under the influ-
ence of these meditations, had become melancholy, and all
bright, smiling, and sure as life had recently appeared to
him, so misty, uncertain, and painful it now appeared.
For the second time he stroked his forehead, shook these
thoughts from him, seeking more practical ones, and for
the second time it terminated in going to the window and
gazing out.

A whirlwind filled the street, slamming gates and doors,
shaking windows and carrying dust with it up to his attic
chamber. He was in the act of drawing back, when he
saw a little piece of paper whirled in the dust cloud coming
closely near him. He shut his eyes to keep out the dust,
grasping at random for the paper, which he caught. At
the same moment the whirlwind ceased, and the sky was
again clear. This appeared to him ominous : the scrap
of paper had certainly a meaning to him, a meaning for
him ; the unknown whom he had not really spoken to,
yet had been so exceedingly busy with, could not quite
accidentally have thus conveyed this to his hands, and
with throbbing heart he retired from the window to read
the message.

One side of the paper was blank ; in the left-hand corner
of the other side was written, " beloved," and a little below
it seemed as if there had been a signature, but now there
was nothing left excepting the letters " geb."

" ' Geb,' what does that mean? " asked Fritz Bagger,
with dark humor. " If it had been gek, I could have under-
stood it, although it were incorrectly written. Geb, Geb-
rer, Algebra, Gebriiderbuh, I am a big fool."

" But it is no matter, she shall have an answer," he
shouted after a while, and seated himself to write a long,


glowing love-letter. When it was finished and read, he
tore it in pieces.

"No," said he, " if destiny has intended the least thing
by acting to me as mail-carrier through the window, let
me act reasonably." He wrote on a little piece of paper :

" As the old Norwegians, when they went to Iceland,
threw their high-seat pillars into the sea with the resolution
to settle where they should go ashore, so I send this out.
My faith follows after ; and it is my conviction that where
this alights, I shall one day come, and salute you as my

chosen, as my ." "Yes, now what more shall I

add?" he asked himself. "Ay, as my ' geb ' !" he
added, with an outburst of merry humor, that just com-
pleted the whole sentimental outburst. He went to the
window and threw the paper out : it alighted with a slow
quivering. He was already afraid that it would go di-
rectly down into the ditch ; but then a breeze came lift-
ing it almost up to himself again, then a new current car-
ried it away, lifting it higher and higher, whirling it, till at
last it disappeared from his sight in continual ascension,
so he thought.

" After all, I have become engaged to-day," he said to
himself, with a certain quiet humor, and yet impressed
by a feeling that he had really given himself to the un-


SIX years had passed, and Fritz Bagger had made his
mark, although not as a lover. He had become
Counsellor, and was particularly distinguished for the
skill and energy with which he brought criminals to con-
fession. It is thus that a man of fine and poetic feelings
can satisfy himself in such a business, for a time at least:
with the half of his soul he can lead a life which to him-
self and others seems entire only because it is busy, because
it keeps him at work, and fills him with a consciousness of
accomplishing something practical and good. There is a
youthful working power, which needs not to look sharply
out into the future for a particular aim of feeling or desire.
This power itself, by the mere effort to keep in a given
place, is for such an organization, every day, an aim, a
relish ; and one can for a number of years drive business
so energetically, that he, too, slips over that difficult time
which in every twenty-four hours threatens to meet him,
the time between work and sleep, twilight, when the other
half of the soul strives to awaken.

Be it because his professional duties gave him no time
or opportunity for courtship, or for some other reason,
Fritz Bagger remained a bachelor ; and a bachelor with
the income of his profession is looked upon as a rich man.
Counsellor Bagger would, when business allowed enter
into social life, treating it in that elegant, independ-
ent, almost poetic manner, which in most cases is denied


to married men, and which is one reason why they press
the hand of a bachelor with a sigh, a mixture of envy, ad-
miration, and compassion. If we add here that a bachelor
with such a professional income is the possible stepping-
stone to an advantageous marriage, it is easily seen that
Fritz Bagger was much sought for in company. He
went, too, into it as often as allowed by his legal duties,
from which he would hasten in the black " swallow tail "
to a dinner or soiree, and often amused himself where most
others were weary ; because conversation about anything
whatever with the cultivated was to him a refreshment,
and because he brought with him a good appetite and
good humor, resting upon conscientious work. He
could show interest in divers trifles, because in their
nothingness (quite contrary to the trifles in which half an
hour previous with painful interest he had ferreted out
crime) they appeared to him as belonging to an innocent,
childish world ; and if conversation approached more ear-
nest things, he spoke freely, and evidently gave himself
quite up to the subject, letting the whole surface of his soul
flow out. And this procured him friendship and reputation.
In this way, then, six years had slipped by, when
Counsellor Bagger, or rather Fritz Bagger as we will
call him, in remembrance of his examination-day, and his
notes by the flying mail, was invited to a wedding-party
on the shooting-ground. The company was not very
large, only thirty couples, but very elegant. Bagger
was a friend in the families of both bride and bridegroom,
and consequently being well known to nearly all present
he felt himself as among friends gathered by a mutual
joy, and was more than usually animated. A superb
wine, which the bride's father had himself brought,
crowned their spirits with the last perfect wreath. Al-
though the toast to the bridal pair had been officially


proposed, Bagger took occasion to offer his congratula-
tions in a second encomium of love and matrimony;
which gave a solid, prosaic man opportunity for the witty
remark and hearty wish that so distinguished a practical
office-holder as Counsellor Bagger would carry his fine
theories upon matrimony into practice. The toast was
drunk w r ith enthusiasm, and just at that moment a strong
wind shook the windows, and burst open one of the
doors, blowing so far into the hall as to cause the lights
to flicker much.

Bagger became, through the influence of the wine, the
company, and the sight of the happy bi^idal pair, six
years younger. His soul was carried away from crim-
inal and police courts, and found itself on high, as in the
attic chamber, with a vision of the small tinted clouds
and the angel-heads. The sudden gust of wind carried
him quite back to the moment when he sent out his note
as the Norwegian heroes their high-seat pillars : the
spirit of his twenty-fourth year came wholly over him,
queerly mixed with the half-regretful reflection of the
thirtieth year, with fun, inclination to talk and to
breathe ; and he exclaimed, as he rose to acknowledge
the toast,

" I am engaged."

" Ay ! ay ! Congratulate ! congratulate ! " sounded
from all sides.

"This gust of wind, which nearly extinguished the
lights, brought me a message from my betrothed ! "

"What?" " What is it?" asked the company, their
heads at that moment not in the least condition for guess-
ing charades.

" Counsellor Bagger, have you, like the Doge of
Venice, betrothed yourself to the sea or storm?" asked
the bridegroom.


" Hear him, the fortunate ! sitting upon the golden
doorstep to the kingdom of Love ! Let him surmise and
guess all that concerns Cupid, for he has obtained the
inspiration, the genial sympathy," exclaimed Bagger.
" Yes," he continued, "just like the Doge of Venice, but
not as aristocratic ! From my attic chamber, where I
sat on my examination-day, guided by Cupid, in a man-
ner which it would take too long to narrate, I gave to the
whirlwind a love-letter, and at any moment She can step
forward with my letter, my promise, and demand me
soul and body."

" Who is it then?" asked bridegroom and bride, with
the most earnest interest.

"Yes, how can I tell that? Do I know the whirl-
wind's roads?"

" Was the letter signed with your name?"

" No ; but don't you think I will acknowledge my
handwriting?" replied Bagger, quite earnestly.

This earnestness with reference to an obligation which
no one understood, became comical ; and Bagger felt at
the moment that he was on the brink of the ridiculous.
Trying to collect himself, he said,

" Is it not an obligation we all have ? Do not both
bride and bridegroom acknowledge that loug before they
knew each other the obligation was present?"

" Yes, yes ! " exclaimed the bridegroom.

" And the whirlwind, accident, the unknown power
brought them together so that the obligation was re-

" Yes, yes ! "

" Let us, then," continued Bagger, " drink a toast to
the wind, the accident, the moving power, unknown and
yet controlling. To those of us who, as yet, are unpro-
vided for and under forty, it will at some time undoubt-


edly bring a bride ; to those who are already provided
for will come the expected in another form. So a toast
to the wind, that came in here and flickered the lights ; to
the unknown, that brings us the wished for ; and to our-
selves, that we may be prepared to receive it when

" Bravo ! " exclaimed the bridegroom, looking upon
his bride.

" Puh-h-h ! " thought Bagger, seating himself with in-
tense relief, " I have come out of it somewhat decently
after all. The deuce take me before I again express a

How Counsellor Bagger that night could have fallen
asleep, between memory, or longing and discontent, is
difficult to tell, had he not on his arrival home found a
package of papers, an interesting theft case. He sat
down instantly to read, and day dawned ere they were
finished. His last thought, before his eyelids closed,
was, Two years in the House of Correction.


A MONTH later, toward the close of September, two
ladies, twenty or twenty-two years of age, were
walking in a garden about ten miles from Copenhagen.
Although the walks were quite wide, impediments in
them made it difficult for the ladies to go side by side.
The autumn showed itself uneven and jagged. The
currant and gooseberry boughs, that earlier hung in soft
arches, now projected stiffly forth, catching in the ladies'
dresses ; branches from plum and apple trees hung bare
and broken, and required attention above also. One of
the ladies apparently was at home there : this was evi-
dent partly from her dress, which, although elegant, was
domestic, and partly by her taking the lead and paying
honor, by drawing boughs and branches aside, holding
them until the other lady, who was more showily dressed,
had slipped past. On account of the hindrances of the
walk there' were none of those easy, subdued, familiar
conversations, which otherwise so naturally arise when
young ladies, acquaintances, or " friends," visit each
other, and from the house slip out alone into garden or
wood. An attentive observer meanwhile, by scrutinizing
the physiognomy of both, would, perhaps, have come to
the conclusion, that even if these two had been together
on the most unobstructed road, no confidence would have
arisen between them, and would have suspected the
hostess of trying to atone for her lack of interest, by being


polite and careful. She was not strikingly handsome,
but possessed of a fine nature, which manifested itself in
the whole figure, and perhaps, especially, in the uncom-
monly well formed nose ; yet it was by peering into her
eyes, that one first obtained the idea of a womanhood
somewhat superior to the generality of her sex. Their
expression was not to be caught at once : they told of
both meditation and resolve, and hinted at irony or
badinage, which works so queerly when it comes from
deep ground. The other lady was " burgherly-genteel,"
a handsome, cultivated girl, had certainly also some soul,
but yet was far less busy with a world in her own heart
than with the world of fashion. It was about the world,
the world of Copenhagen, that Miss Brandt at this mo-
ment was giving Miss Hjelm an account, interrupted by the
boughs and branches, and although Miss Hjelm was not,
nun-like, indifferent either to fashions or incidents in high
life, the manner in which Miss Brandt unmistakably laid
her soul therein, caused her to go thus politely before.

" But you have heard about Emmy Ibsen's marriage?"
asked Miss Brandt.

" Yes : it was about a month ago, I think."

" Yes : I was bridesmaid."

" Indeed ! " said Miss Hjelm, in a voice which atoned
for her brevity.

" The party was at the shooting-ground."

" So ! " said Miss Hjelm again, with as correct an
intonation as if she had learned it for "I don't care."
" Take care, Miss Brandt," she added, stooping to avoid
an apple-branch.

" Take care ? oh, for that branch ! " said Miss Brandt,
and avoided it as charmingly and coquettishly as if it had
been living.

" It was very gay," she added, " even more so than


wedding-parties commonly are ; but this was caused a
good deal by Counsellor Bagger."

" So ! "

" Yes : he was very gay. ... I was his companion at

" Ah ! "

" Oh, only to think ! at the table he stands up declaring
that he is engaged."

" Was his lady present?"

" No : that she was not, I think. Do you know who it

" No : how should I know that, Miss Brandt? "

" The whirlwind ! "

"The whirlwind ?"

" Yes. He said that he, as a young man, in a solemn
moment had sent his love-letter or his promise out with
the wind, and he was continually waiting for an answer :
he had given his promise, was betrothed ! Ou ! "

"What is it?" asked Miss Hjelm, sympathetically.
The truth was, the young hostess at this moment had
relaxed her polite care, and a limb of a gooseberry-bush
had struck against Miss Brandt's ankle.

The pain was soon over ; and the two ladies, who now
had reached the termination of the walk, turned toward
the house side by side, each protecting herself, uncon-
scious that any change had occurred.

" But I hardly believe it," continued Miss Brandt : " he
said it perhaps only to make himself conspicuous, for
certain gentlemen are just as coquettish as ... as they
accuse us of being."

Miss Hjelm uttered a doubting, " Um ! "

" Yes : that they really are ! Have you ever seen any
lady as coquettish as an actor?"

" I don't know any of them, but I should suppose an
actress might be."


" No : no actress I have ever met of the better sort
was really coquettish. I don't know how it is with them,
but I believe they have overcome coquettishness."

" But you think, then, Counsellor Bang is coquet-

" Not Bang Bagger. Yes ; for although he said he
had this romantic love for a fairy, he often does court to
modest earthly ladies. He is properly somewhat of a

" That is unbecoming an old man."

" Yes ; but he is not old."

" Oh ! " said Miss Hjelm, laughing : " I have only known
one war counsellor, and he was old ; so I thought of all
war counsellors as old."

" Yes ; but Counsellor Bagger is not war counsellor, but
a real Superior Coui't Counsellor."

" Oh, how earnest that is ! And so he is in love with a
fairy ! "

" Yes : it is ridiculous ! " said Miss Brandt, laughing.
During this conversation they had reached the house, and
Miss Brandt complained that something was yet pricking
her ankle. They went into Miss Hjelm's room, and here
a thorn was discovered and taken out.

" How pretty and cosey this room really is ! " said Miss
Brandt, looking around. " In a situation like this one
can surely live in the country summer and winter. Out
with us at Taarback it blows in through the windows,
doors, and very walls."

" That must be bad in a whirlwind."

"Yes yes : still it might be quite amusing when the
whirlwind carried such billets : not that one would
care for them ; yet they might be interesting for a

" Oh, yes ! perhaps."


" Yes : how do you think a young girl would like it,
when there came from Heaven a billet, in which one
pledged himself to her for time and eternity? "

" That isn't easy to say ; but I don't believe the occur-
rence quite so uncommon. A friend of mine once had
such a billet blown to her, and she presented me with

" Does one give such things away ? Have you the
ibillet ?"

" I will look for it," answered Miss Hjelm ; and surely
enough, after longer search in the sewing-table, in drawers
and small boxes, than was really necessary, she found it.
Miss Brandt read it, taking care not to remark that it very
much appeared to her as if it resembled the one the coun-
sellor had mentioned.

" And such a billet one gives away ! " she said after a

" Yes : will you have it?" asked Miss Hjelm, as though
after a sudden resolution.

Miss Brandt's first impulse was an eager acceptance ;
but she checked herself almost as quickly, and answered :

" Oh, yes, thank you, as a curiosity." Then slowly
put it between her glove and hand.

As Miss Brandt and her company rode away, said Miss
Hjelm's cousin, a handsome, middle-aged widow, to her :

" How is it, Ingeborg? It appears to me you laugh
with one eye and weep with the other."

" Yes : a soap-bubble has burst for me, and glitters,
maybe, for another."

" You know I seldom understand the sentimental enig-
mas : can you not interpret your words ? "

" Yes : to-day an illusion has vanished, that had lasted
for six years."


"For six years?" said her cousin, with an inquiring or
sympathizing look. " So it began when you were hardly
sixteen years."

" Now do you believe, that when I was in my sixteenth
year I saw an ideal of a man, and was enamoured of him,
and to-day I hear that he is married."

" No : I don't know as I believe just that," answered
the cousin, dropping her eyes ; " but I suppose that then
you had a pretty vision, and have carried it along with
you in silence and with faith."

" But it was something more than a vision : it was a
letter, a love-letter."

The cousin looked upon Ingeborg so inquiringly, so
anxiously, that words were unnecessary. Beside this the
cousin knew, that when Ingeborg was inclined to talk,
she did so without being asked, and if she wished to be
silent, she was silent.

Ingeborg continued : " One time, I drove to town with
sainted father. Father was to go no further than to
Noerrebro, and I had an errand at Vestervold. So I
stepped out and went through the Love-path. As I came
to the corner of the path, and the Ladegaardsway, the
wind blew so violently against me, that I could hardly
breathe ; and something blew against my veil, fluttering
with wings like a humming-bird. I tried to drive it away,
for it blinded one of my eyes ; but it blew back again.
So I caught it and was going to let it fly away over my

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Online LibraryMeïr GoldschmidtThe flying mail, Old Olaf, The railroad and the churchyard → online text (page 1 of 9)