Fairy tales and stories (Andersen, Tegner)/The Galoshes of Fortune

For other English-language translations of this work, see The Goloshes of Fortune.

THE GALOSHES OF FORTUNE

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THE GALOSHES HAD THE PROPERTY OF INSTANTLY TRANSPORTING ANY ONE WHO PUT THEM ON, TO WHATEVER PLACE, OR TIME, HE WISHED.

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THE GALOSHES OF FORTUNE

I. THE BEGINNING

IN Copenhagen, in one of the houses in Östergade, not far from Kongens Nytorv,[1] a large party was being given; for you know you must have a party now and then, and then you are done with it, and can expect to be invited in return.

One half of the company already sat at the card-tables, and the other half were waiting to see what would be the result of the remark of the lady of the house: "Well, we must now think of something!"

So far they had got, and the conversation was carried on as best it could. Amongst other things it turned on the Middle Ages. Some considered that period of far greater interest than our times, and Mr. Knap, the councilor, defended this opinion so warmly, that the hostess at once took his side, and both declaimed against Professor Örsted's words in the almanac about old and modern times, in which our age is given the preference.

The councilor looked upon the times of King Hans[2] as the most delightful and happy of all.

During this discussion, which was not interrupted except for a moment by the arrival of the newspaper, in which there was nothing worth reading, we will betake ourselves to the anteroom, where the coats and cloaks, umbrellas, and galoshes had been left.

Here were sitting two maids, one young and one old; one might have thought they had come to fetch their mistresses, some old maiden lady or widow, but if one looked at them a little closer one would soon have seen that they were not ordinary servant-girls; their hands were too delicate, their movements were too stately for that, and their clothes were of quite a peculiar, bold cut. They were two fairies; the youngest was not Fortune herself, but lady's maid to one of the ladies of the bed-chamber, who distributes the smaller gifts of fortune. The older looked very austere; she was Care, who, in her own exalted person, always goes her own errands, for then she knows they will be properly executed.

They were telling one another where they had been that day; she, who was the messenger of Fortune, had only been on some unimportant errands; she had, she said, saved a new hat from a shower of rain, had procured an honest man a bow from some grand nonentity, and such like, but what she had still to perform was something quite unusual.

"I must tell you," she said, "it is my birthday to-day and in honor of it I have been intrusted with a pair of galoshes which I am to give to the world. These galoshes have the virtue of instantly transporting any one who puts them on, to that place or that time in which he would prefer to be; and every wish with regard to place and time will at once be fulfilled, so that mankind will at last be happy down here!"

"So you may think!" said Care. "I think they will be very unhappy and will bless the moment they get rid of the galoshes."

"Whatever do you mean?" said the other fairy. "I will now place the galoshes near the door, and some one will put them on by mistake, and will thus become the fortunate one!"

This was the conversation they held.

II. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE COUNCILOR

It was late. Councilor Knap, deep in meditation on the times of King Hans, was on his way home, but fate had so ordained it that instead of his own galoshes, he had put on the galoshes of fortune, in which he now stepped out into Östergade. By the magic power of the galoshes, however, he was now put back to the days of King Hans, and his feet went right into the mire and mud of the street, for in those days the streets were not paved.

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THE COUNCILOR SAW A LARGE FIELD BEFORE HIM, WITH A FEW BUSHES HERE AND THERE, AND A BROAD STREAM FLOWING THROUGH IT.

"How terribly dirty the street is!" said the councilor. "The whole pavement has vanished and all the lamps are out!"

The moon had not yet risen high in the sky, and the weather was somewhat misty, so that everything around him was buried in the darkness. At the next corner, however, hung a lantern in front of an image of the Madonna, but it gave hardly any light; the councilor only discovered it when he stood just under it, and his eyes fell upon the painted picture of the Mother and the Child.

"That 's probably some traveling show," he thought, "where they have forgotten to take in the sign."

A couple of men in the dress of the period passed him by.

"What curious clothes they wear! They must be coming home from a masquerade."

Suddenly there came the sound of fifes and drums, and flaming torches threw a bright light around; the councilor stopped and saw a wonderful procession coming toward him. First of all came a band of drummers, who were beating their drums right merrily, and after them followed halberdiers with bows and cross-bows. The most important person in the procession was a man of clerical appearance. The councilor asked in astonishment what it all meant and who that person might be.

"The Bishop of Zealand!" was the answer.

"Good gracious, what can the bishop be up to?" said the councilor with a sigh, shaking his head. "Surely it could not be the bishop!" Pondering on thus, and without looking to the right or the left, he walked along Östergade and crossed Höibro-place. The bridge to the open place in front of the palace was not to be seen; he caught a glimpse of a low-lying bank of a river, and came finally to two men who were sitting in a boat.

"Does your honor want to be ferried across to the island?" they asked.

"Across to the island?" said the councilor, who did not know, of course, in what period he was now moving. "I have to get to Lille Torvegade, out at Christianshavn."

The men stared at him.

"Only tell me where the bridge is!" he said. "It is a disgrace that the lamps are not lighted here, and it is as dirty and muddy as if one were wading in a bog!"

The longer he talked to the boatmen, the more unintelligible they appeared to him.

"I can't understand your Bornholm jargon!" he said at last in an angry voice, and turned his back upon them. He could not find the bridge, and there was no sign of a railing. "It is a scandalous state of things!" he said. Never had he been so disappointed with his existence as this evening. "I think I 'll take a coach," he thought. But where were the coaches? Not one was to be seen. "I shall have to go back to Kongens Nytorv; there must be some coaches there, otherwise I shall never get out to Christianshavn!"

He then set off through Östergade and had almost got to the end of it, when the moon made her appearance.

"Good gracious! What scaffolding is that they have put up here?" he exclaimed when he saw the eastern gate, which at that time stood at the end of Östergade.

At last he found a wicket and through this he got out to what is now our Kongens Nytorv, but which at that time was a large field, with a few bushes here and there. A broad canal or stream flowed through the field, and on the opposite bank stood some miserable wooden huts used by the skippers from Halland in Sweden, after whom the place was called Hallandsaas.

"Either I see a Fata Morgana, as they call it, or I am tipsy!" wailed the councilor. "What can this be? What can this be?"

He turned back again, in the full belief that he was ill. When he
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IT WAS ONE OF THE TAVERNS OF THOSE DAYS. A NUMBER OF PEOPLE, CONSISTING OF SKIPPERS, CITIZENS, AND LEARNED PERSONAGES WERE SITTING THERE.

got into the street he looked more closely at the houses; most of them were built of timber and plaster, and many had only thatched roofs.

"No, I am not at all well!" he sighed, "and I drank only one glass of toddy, but it does not agree with me. Besides, it was very wrong to give us toddy and hot salmon; I shall just mention it to Madame. I wonder if I should go back and tell them how I feel? But it would look so bad, and they may have gone to bed."

He began looking for the house, but it was not to be found.

"This is really terrible! I cannot recognize Östergade. There is not a shop to be seen. Only old, miserable shanties, just as if I were in Roskilde or Ringsted. Alas, I am ill! It 's no use being timid. But where in all the world is the house? It is no longer the same. But the people are still up. Oh, I must be quite ill!"

He then pushed against a half-open door, through which the light shone out. It was one of the taverns of those days, a kind of beer-house. The room had the appearance of the Holstein parlors, and a number of people, consisting of skippers, Copenhagen citizens, and a couple of learned personages, were sitting there in deep discourse over their mugs, and paid little attention to the councilor who came in.

"I beg your pardon," said the councilor to the landlady, who came toward him; "I have been taken very ill. Can you get me a coach to Christianshavn?"

The woman looked at him and shook her head, whereupon she spoke to him in the German language. The councilor thought she did not understand Danish, and therefore repeated his request in German; this and his dress confirmed the woman in her belief that he was a foreigner. She soon understood that he was ill, and gave him a jug of water, which was brought from the well and was somewhat brackish in taste.

The councilor rested his head on his hand, drew a deep breath, and wondered at all the strange things around him.

"Is that this evening's 'Daily News'?" he asked for the sake of saying something, as he saw the woman move a large sheet of paper.

She did not understand what he meant, but handed him the paper; it was a wood-cut, representing a Fata Morgana seen in the ancient city of Cologne.

"It is very old," said the councilor, and he became quite cheerful at coming across such an ancient print. "How did you become possessed of this rare copy? It is very interesting, although it is altogether a fable. We explain such aërial visions as being Northern lights which they have seen; probably they are produced by electricity."

Those who sat nearest to him and heard his remarks, looked at him in surprise, and one of them rose to his feet, took off his hat respectfully, and said, with the most serious expression: "You are surely a very learned man, monsieur!"

"Oh, no," answered the councilor; "I can only discuss things in general, as one ought to do."

Modestia is, a great virtue," said the man, "otherwise I must say to your speech mihi secus videtur, yet will I here willingly suspend my judicium."

"May I ask whom I have the pleasure of speaking with?" asked the councilor.

"I am a baccalaureus in the Holy Writ!" answered the man.

This answer was sufficient for the councilor; the title corresponded to the dress in this case. "He must be an old village schoolmaster," he thought, "a quaint old fellow, such as one can still find over in Jutland."

"This is no locus docendi," the man began, "yet I would ask you to condescend to speak. You are, no doubt, deeply versed in the classics?"

"Yes, indeed," answered the councilor; "I like to read old instructive books, but I also like the modern ones, except 'Every-day Stories,' of which we have enough in real life."

"'Every-day Stories?'" asked our baccalaureus.

"Yes, I mean the new romances we have."

"Ah!" said the man, with a smile, "they are very entertaining, and are read much at court; the king is especially fond of the romance of 'Sir Iffven and Sir Gaudian,' which treats of King Arthur and the Knights ot the Round Table; he has had many pleasantries over it with his noble lords."[3]

"I have not yet read that," said the councilor, "it must be quite a new book, which Heiberg has published."

"No," said the man, "it is not published by Heiberg, but by Godfred von Ghemen!"

"Oh, is that the author?" said the councilor; "it is a very old name. Why, it is that of the first printer Denmark ever had!"

"Yes, he is our first printer," replied the man; and so the conversation went on fairly well. One of the good citizens then spoke about the terrible plague which had raged a couple of years before, referring, of course, to the plague of 1484; the councilor thought they spoke about the cholera,[4] and so the discourse went on quite satisfactorily. The freebooter expedition of 1490 was of such recent date, that they could not help referring to it; the English freebooters had seized the ships in the roadstead, they said, and the councilor, who had made a special study of the events of 1801,[5] joined in quite appropriately with his denunciations of the English. The rest of the conversation, however, did not proceed so well; every moment it gave rise to misunderstandings on both sides; the old baccalaureus was very ignorant, and the simplest observations of the councilor appeared to him too bold and too fantastic. They stared at each other, and when matters became too complicated, the baccalaureus spoke in Latin, thinking he would be better understood, but it was of no use.

"How do you feel now?" asked the landlady, pulling the councilor by the sleeve. He now came back to his senses, for while he had been talking he had forgotton what had taken place before.

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BLESS ME!" SAID THE COUNCILOR, "HAVE I BEEN LYING HERE IN THE STREET, DREAMING?"

"Gracious goodness! where am I?" he exclaimed, feeling quite giddy at the thought of it.

"We 'll have some claret! And some mead and some Bremen beer!" cried one of the guests, "and you shall drink with us!"

Two girls came into the room; one of them had on a cap of two colors. They poured out the drink and courtesied; the councilor felt a cold shudder down his back.

"What does this mean? What does this mean?" he asked; but he had to drink with them. The men paid every attention to the good councilor, who was in despair, and when one of them told him that he was tipsy, he did not at all doubt the man's words; he only asked them to get him a droshky, and then they thought he spoke Russian.

Never before had he been in such rough and vulgar company. "One would think the country had gone back to heathen times," he said to himself; "this is the most terrible moment of my life!" Just then it struck him that he would stoop down under the table and creep across to the door and try to get away, but just as he had got to the door the others discovered what he was about; they seized him by the legs, when luckily for him the galoshes came off, and—with that the whole spell was broken.

The councilor saw quite plainly a lamp burning brightly just in front of him, and behind it a large house. He recognized it as well as the house next door to it. It was Östergade, such as we all know it; he was lying with his feet toward a gateway and opposite to him sat the night watchman asleep.

"Bless me! Have I been lying here in the street, dreaming?" he said. "Yes, this is Östergade! How delightfully light and bright! It is terrible to think how one glass of toddy could have affected me!"

Two minutes afterward he sat in a carriage, which drove him to Christianshavn, thinking of the anxiety and anguish he had gone through, and praised with all his heart the happy reality—our own times—which, with all their shortcomings, were far better than the period of which he had just had a glimpse; and that, I think, was very sensible of the councilor.


III. THE WATCHMAN'S ADVENTURE

"Why, here's a pair of galoshes!" said the night watchman. "They must belong to the lieutenant who lives up there. They are lying close to the gate!"

The honest man would gladly have rung the bell and left the galoshes, for there was still a light to be seen in the house, but he did not like to awaken the other people in the house, and so he let it be.

"It must be very warm to have a pair of these things on!" he said. "How soft the leather is!" He put them on and they fitted him exactly. "What a funny world this is! Now there 's the lieutenant, he might lie in his warm bed, but do you think he does? No, he will keep pacing up and down the room. Ah, he is a happy man! He has neither wife nor youngsters! Every evening he goes out to some party. I only wish I were he, then I should be a happy man!"

The moment he uttered this wish the magic power of the galoshes he had put on took effect; the watchman passed over into the lieutenant's body and mind. There he stood, up in the room, holding between his fingers a small rose-colored paper, on which was a poem, written by the lieutenant himself; for who has not, at some time or other in his life, been in the mood to write poetry, and if you then write down your thoughts, then you have the verses. On this paper was written:—


WERE I BUT RICH!

Were I but rich! This was my constant prayer
When scarce an ell in length—without a care.
Were I but rich, a captain I would be,
With saber, plume, and coat so brave to see.
Then came the day when fortune smiled on me:
A captain was I—but a poor man still!

For such was heaven's will.

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THE WATCHMAN SAT DOWN AGAIN AND BEGAN NODDING. HE HAD STILL THE GALOSHES ON HIS FEET.

In youth's first flash I sat at eventide,
A sweetheart maid of seven by my side;
For I had many fairy tales to tell,
And legends rare; but as for wealth—ah, well!
She cared not but for elf or goblin's spell.
Then was I rich, but not—heaven knows!—in gold,

Or silver coins untold.



Were I but rich is still my prayer to heaven.
Though now grown tall, I love the maid of seven,
So good is she, so sweet, so fair to see.
Would that she knew my heart's wild fantasy!
Would that she, as of yore, could care for me!
But I am poor, and so my lips are sealed,

My love is unrevealed.



Were I but rich in comfort and repose,
My pain I would not to the world disclose.
If you, my love, can understand, then read
This as a mem'ry of the past. Yet heed!
'T were best, perhaps, your heart were hard indeed!
I 'm poor, alas! my future dark and drear,

But may God bless you, dear!


Yes, these are the kind of verses one writes when one is in love, but a sensible man does not let them get into print. Lieutenant, love, and poverty form a triangle, or perhaps, rather, the one half of the broken die of fortune. The lieutenant himself felt this keenly, and therefore leaned his head against the window frame and sighed deeply.

"The poor watchman in the street is far happier than I! He does not know what I call privation! He has a home, a wife, and children, who weep with him in his sorrows and rejoice with him in his joys! Oh, I should be happier than I am, if I could change places with him, for he is much happier than I am!"

At the same moment the watchman became again a watchman, for it was through the galoshes of fortune that he had become the lieutenant, but then, as we have just heard, he felt still less contented, and preferred to be what he really was. So the watchman was a watchman once more.

"It was a terrible dream, but funny enough!" he said. "I thought I was the lieutenant up there, and I did not like it at all. I missed the wife and the youngsters, who are always ready to hug me to death!"

He sat down again and began nodding; he could not quite get rid of the dream, and he still had the galoshes on his feet. Just then a falling star shot across the heavens.

"There it goes!" he said, "but there are plenty more. I should like to have a look at those little things a little nearer, especially the moon, for she is not likely to slip through one's fingers. The student for whom my wife does the rough washing, says that when we die we fly from one planet to the other. That 's a story, but it would be great fun, if it were true. I wish I could just take a little leap up there, and my body could remain here on the steps!"

There are certain things in the world one has to be careful about saying, but one ought to be still more careful if one has got the galoshes of fortune on one's feet. Just listen what happened to the watchman.

As far as we human beings are concerned, nearly all of us know the great speed which can be obtained by steam; we see it on the railways and on the steamers crossing the seas. Yet the speed thus obtained is like the pace of the sloth or the snail compared with the rapidity with which light travels; it flies nineteen million times faster than the best race-horse. And yet electricity is still more rapid. Death is an electric shock which we receive in the heart, and on the wings of electricity the liberated soul flies away. A ray of sunlight takes eight minutes and some seconds for its journey over ninety-five millions of miles; with the express speed of electricity a soul needs some minutes less to do the same journey. The distance between the planets is no greater for the soul than the distance between the houses of friends in the same town, even if they are quite close to one another. But this electric shock to the heart costs us the use of our body here below, unless, like the watchman, we happen to have the galoshes of fortune on our feet.

In a few seconds the watchman had traversed the distance of two hundred and fifty thousand miles to the moon, which, as we know, is of a much lighter substance than our earth, and as soft as new-fallen snow, as we might say. He found himself on one of the numerous circular mountains which we know from Dr. Mädeer's large map of the moon. I suppose you have seen this? Inside the ring the mountain formed a caldron with steep sides, about five miles deep; at the bottom of the caldron lay a town, which had the same appearance as the white of an egg poured into a glass of water, with towers, and cupolas, and galleries, like waving sails, all transparent and floating in the thin air. Our globe floated like a large fiery ball above his head.

There were many beings to be seen, most probably what we should call human beings, but they looked quite different to us; they had a language of their own, but although no one could expect the watchman's soul to understand it, it did so for all that.

The watchman's soul understood the language of the inhabitants of the moon very well. They discussed about our globe, and explained their doubts as to its being inhabited; the air there, they said, must be too thick for any sensible dweller on the moon to live in. They considered that the moon alone was inhabited by living beings, and was, after all, the only globe on which the ancient peoples of the planets had ever lived.

But we will have a look at Östergade, and see how the body of the watchman fares.

He sat lifeless on the steps; his pipe had fallen out of his hand, and his eyes were staring up at the moon after his honest soul, which was roaming about there.

"What's o'clock, watchman?" asked a passer-by. But no answer came from the watchman, and the passer-by pulled his nose quite gently; the body lost its balance and fell full length on the ground—the man was dead to all appearance. The stranger, who had pulled the watchman's nose, was greatly frightened—the watchman was dead, and dead he remained. The matter was reported to the authorities, and early in the morning the body was removed to the hospital.

The watchman's soul would have had anything but an easy task if it had come back and—as in all possibility it would have done—had looked for the body in Östergade, but without finding anything. Most likely it would first have inquired at the police-station, and afterward proceeded to the office of the "Public Advertiser" to advertise for it among lost articles, and finally to the hospital. It may, however, be some comfort to us to know that the soul is at its best when it acts by itself; the body only makes it stupid.

As has already been mentioned, the watchman's body was removed to the hospital, where it was brought into the cleansing room, and the first thing they did was, of course, to pull off the galoshes, when the soul had to return to the body; it made straight for it, and all at once there was life in it. The watchman assured everybody that he had passed the most terrible night in his life; not if he were paid half a dollar would he go through the same experience again, but now it was happily all over.

He was discharged the same day, but the galoshes were left at the hospital.

IV. A HEAD IN DIFFICULTY. A RECITATION. A MOST UNUSUAL JOURNEY

Every inhabitant of Copenhagen knows what the entrance to the Frederiks Hospital is like, but as some non-residents in all probability may read this story, we will give a short description of it.

The hospital is separated from the street by a very high railing, the solid iron bars of which are so wide apart, that, as the story goes, some of the very thin students have squeezed themselves through and paid their little visits into the town. The part of the body which was found most difficult to get through was the head, and consequently the small heads were here, as is often the case in this world, the most lucky.

This will suffice as an introduction.

One of the young students, of whom we need only say that he had big head, was on duty this evening; the rain was pouring down, but in spite of these two obstacles he must try to get out, if only for a quarter of an hour. He did not think it was worth while to take the lodge-keeper into his confidence, when he could slip between the bars.

There lay the galoshes which the watchman had forgotten—he little thought they were the galoshes of fortune—they would come in very handy in this weather, and so he put them on. The question was now whether he could squeeze himself through the bars, a thing he had never tried before.

There he stood. "I wish I could get my head through!" he said, and the next moment his head, big as it was, slipped easily and safely through the bars, all thanks to the galoshes. He had still to get his body through, but there he stood in a fix.

"I 'm too fat!" he said; "I thought my head would have been the worst! I sha'n't be able to get through."

He then attempted to pull back his head quickly, but all of no avail. He could move his neck comfortably, but that was all. His first feeling was one of anger, next he felt his spirits sinking below zero. The galoshes of fortune had brought him into this terrible fix, and unfortunately he never thought of wishing himself free; he only tried to extricate himself, but was not able to move from the spot. The rain was pouring down, and not a living being was to be seen in the street. He could not reach the bell; how was he to get loose? He foresaw that he might be kept there till, the early morning, when they would have to send for a smith to get the bars filed through, but that would take some time, and in the meantime the boys of the Blue School opposite would be about and stirring, and all the inhabitants of Nyboder[6] would be passing and see him standing in the pillory; there would be such a crowd of people as had not been seen since the giant agave was shown last year.

"Ugh! the blood is rushing to my head! I shall go mad! Yes, I am going out of my mind! Oh, that I were free again! I should then be all right."

That is what he should have said sooner, for the very next moment after he had expressed the wish, his head was free, and he rushed back quite dazed with the fright the galoshes of fortune had given him.

We must not imagine that this was the end of the matter, no—there were worse things still to come.

The night passed and the following day as well, but no messenger came for the galoshes.

In the evening an entertainment was to be given in the little theater in Kannike lane. The house was crammed; among the recitations was a new poem, which we will listen to. The title was:—

GRANNY'S SPECTACLES

My Granny's wisdom's known to great and small:
In olden days, I have no doubt at all.
They would have burned her for a witch. For she
Knows everything that happens; she can see
Right into next year—aye, and farther, too:
But, tell you all she knows—no, that she will not do.
I wonder what will happen here next year!
The great events I'd like to see—to hear
All that's in store for me, for Art, for King,
And Country; but, alas! one cannot bring
My Granny to disclose such things as these.
Yet one day I did plague her so, and tease.
That she relented, after I had got
A scolding (for she loves me!) which was rather hot!

"For once your wish I 'll gratify," said she.
And handed me her spectacles. "Now see!
You must find out a place—no matter where—
A place where many people go, and there
Stand where you best can overlook the throng.
Put on my glasses; then you'll see ere long
The people like a pack of cards laid out.
From them you may foretell the future without doubt."

I thanked my Granny, and ran off to see
If I could find where that strange place could be.
"Where many people go?" The Promenade?
'T is chilly there! The High Street's quite as bad.
And muddy too! The Theater, then? Why, this
Is just the thing for me—an evening's bliss!
Well, here I am! I first salute all here.
Permit me through my Granny's "specs" to peer.
That I may see—no, do not run away!—
It like a pack of cards you look. I may
Foretell the future thus. Do you assent?
No answer! Then your silence is consent.
By way of recompense, with you I'll share
The hidden secrets which the wondrous cards lay bare.

Now we shall see what fate the cards foretell
For you, for me, for King and Country. Well! (He puts on the spectacles.)
Yes, it's quite true!—Ah, that's a funny sight!
I only wish that you could see it quite
As well as I! But what a lot of beaux.
And Queens of Hearts! Of these there are long rows,
The black ones over there are Clubs and Spades—
I soon shall see them all, both men and maids!
The Oueen of Spades, I see, has only eyes
For one, the Knave of Diamonds—a prize!
Oh, this inpection makes my head turn quite!
There's such a heap of money here to-night,
And strangers, too, from far across the seas!
Yes, but we do not wish to know such things as these
Of Nobles and of Commons!—Well, "The Times"—
But that I must not breathe of in my rhymes!
To injure that great paper I've no wish,
So I'll not take the best bone from the dish!
The theater, then? The latest play? But no!
The manager's my friend: 't is better so!

The future that awaits me? Ah! one's fate
Concerns oneself: one learns it soon or late.
What's this I see? In truth, I hardly know;
You'll see it when it happens. On I go!
Who's happiest among us here just now?
That I can tell you easily. I trow
The happiest is ——. No, it might embarrass,
And possibly the others it might harass!
Well—will this gentleman live longer than
The lady? That't were ruder still to scan!
Shall I, then, tell of ——? No! of ——? No! of ——? No
Of ——? Ah! I hardly know myself what I should show!
So easy 't is to wound, I'm quite put out.
Yet wait! I'll tell you what you think about
My powers of prophecy—no pains I'll spare!
You think—I beg your pardon? Everywhere
You think that, as my promise I have broke,
My undertaking only ends in smoke.
And so I hold my peace, most honored sirs and dames:
I'll own you may be right—but trust that no one blames.

The poem was excellently recited, and the reciter met with a great success. Among the audience was the student from the hospital, who appeared to have forgotten his adventure of the night before; he had put on the galoshes because they had not been called for, and as the streets were very dirty he thought they would be of great service to him.

He liked the poem very much.

The idea took his fancy; he thought he would like to have a pair of spectacles of that sort; if one used them properly one might perhaps look right into people's hearts. That would really be more interesting, he thought, than to see what was going to happen next year, for one was sure to get to know that—but about the other matter one could never get to know anything. "I can just imagine to myself all the gentlemen and ladies in the front row. It one could only look straight into their hearts!—there would, of course, have to be some opening to see through, as if you were looking into a shop. How my eyes would like to roam about in these shops!

"In yon lady's heart I should no doubt find a large millinery establishment! The next lady's is empty, but it would be none the worse for a little cleaning; but there are sure to be some shops of stability! Alas, yes!" he sighed, "I know of one where everything is genuine, but there is already a shopman there, and he is the only useless thing in the whole shop!

"From some of them I should hear, 'Please walk in!' Yes, I should like to step inside, just as a beautiful, fleeting thought passes through the heart!"

This was sufficient for the galoshes; the student disappeared altogether, and a most unusual journey began through the hearts of the spectators in the front row. The first heart he entered was that of a lady, but he thought he had suddenly been transported to an orthopædic institution, which they call the place where the doctors take away human deformities and make people straight; he was in the room where the plaster casts of the deformed limbs hang on the walls, but with this difference, that at the institution the casts are taken when the patients arrive, but in this heart they were taken and preserved after the worthy people were gone. They were the casts of female friends, their bodily and mental defects, were here preserved.

He quickly passed into another female heart; this appeared to him like a large sacred church, where the white dove of innocence was hovering over the high altar. He would gladly have gone down on his knees, but he had to proceed farther on his way to the next heart. He still heard the tones of the organ, and felt as if he himself had become a new and better man, and was worthy to enter the next sanctuary, which showed him a poor garret with a sick mother; but through the open window shone God's warm sun, and from the little wooden box on the roof hung lovely roses, while two azure blue-birds sang of the joys of childhood, and the sick mother prayed for blessings on her daughter.

He next crept on all fours through a well-stocked butcher's shop: it was meat and nothing but meat he came across; it was the heart of a rich, respectable man, whose name was sure to be found in the directory.

He then entered the heart of this man's wife: it was an old dilapitated dove-cote; the husband's portrait was used as a weather-cock, which was connected with the doors in such a way that they opened and shut as the husband veered round.

Afterward he entered a glass cabinet, like the one we have in Rosenberg Castle, only the glass magnified everything to an incredible degree. In the middle of the floor sat a Dalai Lama, the insignificant "I" of the person surprised at seeing his own greatness.

Then he fancied himself in a narrow needle-case, full of sharp needles, and he could not help thinking it must be the heart of an old maid; but that was not the case; it was quite a young officer, with many orders, a man of spirit and heart, as they said.

The poor student came out of the last heart in the row in quite a confused condition; he was not able to collect his thoughts and could only believe it must have been his too vivid imagination which had run away with him.

"Good gracious!" he sighed, "I must have a tendency to madness! Besides, it is insufferably hot in here! the blood is rushing to my head!" And now he remembered his great adventure of the previous evening; how his head had stuck fast between the iron railings of the hospital. "That's where I must have caught it!" he thought. "I must do something at once. A Russian bath would be a good thing. I wish I were lying on the uppermost shelf of one."

And so he found himself lying on the uppermost shelf in a vapor bath, but he was lying with all his clothes on, in his boots and with the galoshes on; the hot drops of water from the ceiling were dripping onto his face.

"Ugh!" he cried, and sprang down from the shelf to get a shower-bath. The attendant uttered a loud cry on seeing a person with all his clothes on in the bath.

The student had, however, sufficient presence of mind to whisper to him: "It is a wager"; but the first thing he did when he got to his own room was to get a large blister on the back of his neck, and another down his back, in order to draw out the madness. Next morning his back was quite raw; and that was all he gained by the galoshes of fortune.

V. THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE CLERK

In the meantime the watchman, whom we are not likely to have forgotten, bethought himself of the galoshes, which he had found and taken with him to the hospital; he called there for them, but as neither the lieutenant nor anybody else living in the street would own them, he took them to the police station.

"They look exactly like my own galoshes!" said one of the clerks in the office, looking at them and placing them beside his own. "It requires more than a shoemaker's eye to know one pair from another!"

A constable now came in with some papers for the clerk, who turned round to talk to him; but when he had done with him and again looked at the galoshes, he was quite uncertain whether it was the pair on the left or on the right which belonged to him. "It must be the soiled ones that are mine!" he thought; but he was mistaken, for they were the galoshes of fortune; besides, why should not the police be mistaken sometimes? He put on the galoshes, stuck some papers in his pocket and some others under his arm; he had to take them home to read them through and copy them. But it happened to be Sunday morning, and as the weather was fine he thought that a walk as far as Frederiksberg would do him good; and off he went.

No one could be a more steady and diligent person than this young man. We hope he will enjoy his little walk; it will do him a great deal of good after so much sitting. At first he only walked on without thinking of anything, and the galoshes had therefore no opportunity of showing their magic power.

In the avenue he met an acquaintance, a young poet, who told him that he was going to set out on his summer trip next day.

"So you are off again!" said the clerk; "you are a lucky man to be so free. You can fly wherever you like, while we others are chained by the foot!"

"But the foot is fixed to the tree that gives you bread," said the poet. "You need not trouble for the morrow, and, when you grow old, you get a pension.

"But you are best off," said the clerk; "to sit and write verses is a pleasure. The whole world says pleasant things to you, and, besides, you are your own master. You should try sitting in court and attending to the trivial matters there."

The poet shook his head, and the clerk shook his also; each of them stuck to his own opinion, and so they parted. "They are a peculiar race of people, these poets!" said the clerk; "I should like to enter into such a nature, to become a poet myself. I am sure I should not write such whimpering verses as the others do! This is truly a spring day for a poet! The air is so wonderfully clear, the clouds are so magnificent, and the trees and greensward smell so sweet. Ah! I have not felt like this for many years!"

We can already notice that he had become a poet; not that it was noticeable in his appearance, for it is foolish to suppose that a poet is different from other people, among whom you may find far more poetical natures than in many of the great poets we recognize. The difference is simply that the poet has a better intellectual memory; he can retain the idea and the feeling till they are clearly and plainly embodied in words, which the others cannot do. But to be transformed from a commonplace nature to a more highly gifted one is always a wonderful transition; and that is what happened to the clerk.

"What a delicious fragrance!" he said; "how it reminds me of the violets at Aunty Loue's! Ah! I was a little boy then! Bless me, I have not thought of that for many a day! The good old lady! She lived just behind the Exchange. She always kept a twig or a couple of green shoots in water, no matter how severe the winter was. The scent of the violets pervaded the whole room, while I put hot copper pennies against the frozen window-panes to make peep-holes.

"What an interesting view it was! Out in the canal lay the ice-bound ships, quite deserted by their crews; a screaming crow was the only living creature on board. But when the spring came, a busy life began; amid singing and cheering the ice was sawed in pieces, the ships were tarred and rigged, and set sail for foreign lands; but I remain here, and must always remain sitting here in the police office, and see others taking out their passports to go abroad. That's my lot, alas, alas!" he sighed deeply, but stopped suddenly. "Bless me, what is the matter with me? I have never thought or felt like this before. It must be the spring air. I feel both anxious and happy."

He felt in his pocket for his papers. "These will give me something else to think about," he said, and let his eyes wander over the first page. "'Sigbrith, an Original Tragedy in Five Acts,'" he read. "What's this?—and it's in my own handwriting! Have I written this tragedy? 'The Intrigue on the Ramparts, or the Day of Prayer'—a vaudeville. Where can I have got this from? Somebody must have put it in my pocket! Why—here's a letter!" It was from the manager of the theater; the plays were rejected, and the letter was not at all politely worded. "H'm, h'm!" said the clerk, and sat down on a bench; his imagination was all alive, and his heart was quite tender; unconsciously he seized hold of one of the nearest flowers; it was a simple little daisy; the flower told him in a minute what would take a botanist many lectures to explain. It told him about the myth of its birth, about the power of the sunlight, which expanded its delicate leaves and made it so fragrant. He then thought of the struggles of life, which likewise awaken feelings in our hearts. Light
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"THE UPPER WINDOW IS OPEN," SAID THE CANARY. "FLY! FLY AWAY!"

and air courted the flower, but light was the favored one; it leaned toward the light; if this vanished the flower rolled its leaves together, and went to sleep embraced by the air. "It is the light which adorns me," said the flower; "but the air gives you the breath of life!" whispered the voice ot the poet.

Close by stood a boy, striking with his stick into the muddy ditch; the drops of water spurted up amongst the green branches, and the clerk thought of the millions of invisible animalcules in the drops which were cast so high in the air, that in proportion to their size it would be the same as if we were whirled up high above the clouds.

As the clerk thought of this, and the great change that had taken place in him, he smiled and said: "I must be asleep and dreaming. It is most remarkable in any case. How naturally one can dream, and at the same time know it is only a dream! I wish I could remember it to-morrow, when I wake up; just now I seem to be quite unusually fit for anything. I can see everything so clearly, and feel so wide awake and bright, but I am sure that if I recollect anything of it to-morrow, it will only be nonsense; I have experienced it before. It is just the same with all the wise and splendid things one learns and says in dreams, as with the gold of supernatural beings, when you receive it, it is bright and sparkling, but by daylight it is only stones and withered leaves. Alas!" he sighed, quite sadly, looking at the birds that were singing and hopping from branch to branch, "they are far better off than I. To fly—that must be a splendid gift of nature—happy is he who is born with it! Yes, if I were to wish to change into anything, it would be into a little lark."

At the same moment the tails and sleeves of his coat grew into wings, his clothes turned into feathers, and the galoshes into claws. He noticed this quite plainly, and laughed to himself: "Well, now I can see I am dreaming. But never have I dreamed anything so foolish before"; and he flew up among the green branches and began to sing; but there was no poetry in his song, for the poetical nature was gone. The galoshes, like every one who does his business thoroughly, could only do one thing at a time; he wanted to be a poet, and he became one; now he wanted to be a little bird, but on changing into this his former characteristics disappeared.

"This is very funny indeed!" said he. "In the daytime I sit in the police office among the most voluminous documents, and at night I dream I am flying about as a lark in Frederiksberg Garden; one could write quite a comedy about it."

He then flew down into the grass, turned his head from one side to the other, and struck his beak at the pliant blades of grass, which, in proportion to his present size, appeared to him as large as the branches of the North-African palms.

The next moment everything around him became as black as the darkest night; it seemed to him as if some enormous object had been thrown over him. It was a large cap which a boy from Nyboder had thrown over the bird; a hand was pushed in under the cap, and the clerk was seized round the back and wings so that he squeaked. In his first fright he cried aloud: "You impudent whelp! I am a clerk in the police office!" But to the boy it only sounded like "tweet, tweet!" He gave the bird a tap on its beak and walked off with it.

In the avenue he met a couple of school-boys of the better class, that is to say, as far as their station in life was concerned, but as regards intellect, they belonged to the lowest class in the school. They bought the bird for fourpence, and in this way the clerk was brought back to Copenhagen to a family which lived in Gothers Street.

"It is a good thing that I am dreaming," said the clerk, "otherwise I should become quite angry. First I was a poet, now I am a lark. Ah! it was that poetical spirit in me that transformed me into this little creature. It is a wretched state of affairs, especially when one falls into the hands of boys. I should like to know how all this is going to end."

The boy took him into a very elegant room; a stout smiling lady received them, but she was not at all pleased at the common field-bird, as she called the lark, being brought into the house; still she would allow it just for one day, but they would have to put the bird into the empty cage over by the window. "Perhaps it will please Polly," she said, smiling at a large green parrot which was swinging majestically on her ring in the pretty brass cage. "It's Polly's birthday," she said, in her foolish, naive way, "and the little field-bird has come to congratulate her."

Polly did not answer a single word, but went on swinging to and fro in her majestic way; but a pretty canary, which had been brought there last summer from his warm, balmy home, began to sing loudly.

"You squealing thing!" said the lady, and threw a white handkerchief over the cage.

"Tweet, tweet!" sighed the bird, "what a terrible snowstorm!" and settled down in silence with a sigh.

The clerk, or the field-bird, as the lady of the house called him, was put in a little cage close to the canary and not far from the parrot. The only sentence which Polly could scream out, and which often came in most comically, was: "Come, let us be human!" Everything else she screamed was as unintelligible as the twittering of the canary; but not to the clerk, who was now himself a bird; he understood his comrades very well.

"I used to fly under the green palms and the blossoming almond-tree!" sang the canary. "I used to fly with my brothers and sisters over the gorgeous flowers and over the crystal lake, where the plants waved to and fro. I also saw many beautiful parrots who told me the funniest stories, ever so long and ever so many."

"But they were wild birds!" answered the parrot, "they had no education. No, come, let us be human! Why don't you laugh? If our mistress and all the strangers can laugh at it, why don't you do so as well? No, come, let us be human!"

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THE NEXT MOMENT HE WAS THE CLERK ONCE MORE, BUT HE FOUND HIMSELF SITTING ON THE TABLE IN HIS ROOM.

'Do you remember the pretty girls, who danced under the awning near the blossoming trees? Do you remember the sweet fruits and the cooling juice of the wild plants?"

"Oh, yes!" said the parrot, "but I am much better off here! I have good food, and am treated in the most friendly way; I know I have a good head, and want for nothing more. Come, let us be human! You have the soul of a poet, as they call it; I have sound knowledge and wit. You possess genuis, but no discretion; you indulge in those high natural tones of yours, and therefore they cover you up! They dare not treat me like that! Oh, no, I cost them a good deal more! I impress them with my beak and can crack a joke. Wit! wit! wit! Come, let us be human!"

"Oh, for the warm and balmy land of my birth!" sang the canary. "I will sing about your dark, green trees, about your calm bays, where the branches kiss the bright surface of the water; I will sing about the joys of my resplendent brothers and sisters, where the cactus grows."

"Do stop those whimpering tones!" said the parrot. "Say something that'll make one laugh. Laughter is a sign of the highest intellectual development. Can a dog or a horse laugh? No, they can weep, but it is only given to man to laugh. Ho, ho, ho!" laughed the parrot, adding his witty saying: "Come, let us be human!"

"You little gray Danish bird," said the canary, "you, too, are a prisoner! It must be cold in your forests, but you have liberty there, at any rate! Fly away! They have forgotten to close your cage, and the upper window is open. Fly! Fly away!"

And the clerk did so, and the next moment he was out of the cage; just then the half-open door, leading to the next room, creaked, and the cat with its green, glistening eyes crept stealthily into the room and started in pursuit of him. The canary fluttered in its cage and the parrot flapped its wings and screamed: "Come, let us be human." The clerk was in a terrible fright, and flew away through the window and over the houses and streets, till at last he was obliged to rest a little.

The house opposite seemed familiar to him; the window stood open, he flew in. It was his own room. He perched on the table. "Come, let us be human!" he said, mimicking the parrot without thinking of what he said; and the next moment he was the clerk once more, but he found himself sitting on the table.

"Good gracious!" he said, "how did I get up here and fall asleep in this way! That was an uneasy dream I had! What a lot of silly nonsense it was."


VI. THE BEST THING THE GALOSHES BROUGHT

Early in the morning of the following day, as the clerk still lay in bed, there came a knock at his door; it was his neighbor on the same floor, a theological student, who came into the room.

"Will you lend me your galoshes?" he asked, "it's so wet in the garden, but the sun is shining brightly and I should like to smoke a pipe down there!"

He put on the galoshes and soon found himself in the garden. There was only a plum-tree and a pear-tree, but even such a small garden is greatly prized in Copenhagen.

The student walked up and down the path; it was only six o'clock; he heard the horn of the mail coach in the street.

"Ah, to travel! to travel!" he exclaimed, "after all, that is the most delightful thing in the world! That is the highest goal of my ambition! Then all this restlessness which I feel would subside. But I must go far, far away! I should like to see beautiful Switzerland, to travel in Italy, and—"

It was a good thing that the galoshes began to apply their magic power at once, or else he would have gone too far away altogether, both for his own convenience and ours. He was now on his travels, in the midst of Switzerland, packed together with eight other people inside a diligence, his head ached, he felt a weary pain in his neck, and his feet, which were swollen and pressed by his boots, had gone to sleep. He was in a half-sleeping, half-waking condition. In his right-hand pocket he had his letter of credit, and in his left-hand pocket his passport, and in a small leather bag, which he wore on his breast, some louis d'or were sewed up; every time he dozed off, he thought that one or the other of these valuable things had been lost, and would therefore awake with a feverish start, and the first movement his hand would make was a triangular one from the right to the left and up to his breast, to feel if he had them still in his possession. Umbrellas, sticks, and hats were swinging to and fro in the net above, and to a certain extent shut out the view, which was highly impressive; he just glanced at it while his heart sang what at least one poet whom we know, has sung in Switzerland, but which has not as yet been printed:—

Here, 'neath the splendor of Mont Blanc,
With awe-filled heart, my love, I wander,
Were purse as full as heart—then long
And happy days we'd live and squander!

The scenery around was grand, impressive, and gloomy; the pine forests looked like the tops of heather on the lofty rocks, the summit of which was hidden in clouds of mist. It began to snow and the wind blew cold.

"Ugh!" he sighed, "I wish we were on the other side of the Alps! Then we should have summer, and I should have drawn out the money for my letter of credit. I am so anxious about this money, that I do not enjoy Switzerland! Oh, that I were on the other side!"

And he was on the other side, far down into Italy, between Florence and Rome.

The lake of Thrasimene lay like a sheet of flaming gold in the sunset between dark-blue mountains; here, where Hannibal defeated Flaminius, the vines now grew peacefully, clutching each other by their green fingers; and pretty, half-naked children were tending a herd of coal-black swine under a clump of fragrant laurels near the roadside. If we could reproduce such a picture accurately every one would exclaim: "Glorious Italy!" but neither the theological student nor any of his traveling companions in the diligence said anything of the kind.

Thousands of venomous flies and mosquitoes swarmed into the coach, the passengers trying in vain to beat them off with sprigs of myrtle; the flies stung in spite of all their exertions; there was not a person in the coach whose face was not swollen and red from their bites. The poor horses looked like carrion; the flies clung in big swarms to them, and it was only a momentary relief when the driver got down and scraped off the insects. The sun was now setting; a sharp, icy cold pervaded all nature; it was not at all pleasant, but all around the hills and clouds assumed the most lovely green tint, so clear, so bright; well, take a trip there and see for yourself; that is better than reading a description of it! It was a glorious sight! The travelers thought so too, but their stomachs were empty, their bodies tired, and all that their hearts yearned for was quarters for the night.

But what would they he like? The passengers were looking far more eagerly for these than for the beauties of nature.

The road passed through an olive wood; it seemed to the student as if he was driving between the knotty willows in his own country. Here stood the lonely inn, outside which a dozen crippled beggars were stretched; the strongest of them looked like "hunger's eldest son just come to the years of manhood," as Marryat says. The others were either blind, or had withered legs, and crept about on their hands, or gaunt arms with fingerless hands. It was real misery, dragged out from its rags.

"Eccellenza, miserabili!" they moaned, as they stretched out their disabled limbs. The landlady herself, with bare feet, uncombed hair, and dressed in a dirty blouse, received the guests. The doors were tied up with string, and the floors in the room presented the appearance of a broken-up roadway paved with bricks; bats were flying about under the ceilings, and the stench——

"She might lay the table down in the stables!" said one of the passengers, "there we should know what it was we were breathing!"

The windows were opened to let in a little fresh air, but quicker than this came in the gaunt arms, and the everlasting whines of "miserabili, Eccellenza!"

On the walls were many inscriptions, half of which were invectives against la bella Italia.

The meal was now served; it consisted of some watery soup, seasoned with pepper and rancid oil, the same kind of oil being also used for the salad; musty eggs and fried cock's-combs were the principal dishes. Even the wine had a disagreeable taste; it was like a black draught!

All the trunks were placed against the door for the night, and one of the travelers was to keep watch while the others slept. This fell to the lot of the theological student. Oh, how suffocating the air was in the room! The heat was oppressive, the mosquitoes were buzzing about and stinging, while the "miserabili" outside were heard whining in their sleep.

"Yes, traveling is all very well!" sighed the student, "if only one was not troubled with a body! If that could rest and the spirit fly! Wherever I go I feel a void which oppresses my heart; I want something better than the momentary, yes, something better—in fact, the best. But where and what is it? I think, however, I know what I really want. I want to reach a happy goal, the happiest of all!"

No sooner had he spoken these words than he was in his own home, the long white curtains were drawn across the window, and in the middle of the room stood a black coffin in which he was lying in his peaceful sleep of death. His wish had been fulfilled, the body rested, the spirit had fled. The truth of Solon's words, "Call no man happy until he is in his grave," were here again confirmed.

Every dead body is a sphinx of immortality. Nor did the sphinx in this black coffin solve what the living being two days before had written:

Oh, mighty Death, thy silence strikes me dumb!
'T is but the churchyard graves that hear thy tread!
Our thought that scales the heavens, must it come
To naught? Is grass the only rising of the dead?

The world knows nothing of our greatest pain:
Thou wert in solitude unto the end!
In life worse presses upon heart and brain
Than heavy clods that on thy coffin-lid descend!

Two figures were moving about in the room; we know them both. They were the two fairies. Care and the messenger of Fortune; they were bending over the dead body. "Do you see," said Care, "what fortune your galoshes brought mankind after all?"

"They brought, at least, a lasting benefit to him who sleeps here," answered Fortune's messenger.

"Oh, no," said Care. "He passed away by his own wish; he was not called. His intellectual power here was not strong enough to raise the treasures yonder, which he, according to his destiny, had to raise. I will do him an act of kindness."

She then pulled the galoshes off his feet; the sleep of death was over, the dead man came to life again, and raised himself.

Care vanished, and with her the galoshes; she, no doubt, considered them her property.

  1. A large public square in the center of Copenhagen. Östergade is the principal thoroughfare leading from it.
  2. 1481—1513.
  3. Holberg tells in his "History of Denmark" that King Hans, one day when he had been reading the romance of King Arthur, was jesting with the well-known Ove Rud, of whom he was very fond. "Sir Iffen and Sir Gaudian, of whom I read in this book," said he, "must have been remarkable knights. Such knights we do not have any more nowadays!" To this Ove Rud answered: "If there were many such kings as King Arthur, there would also be many knights like Sir Iffven and Sir Gaudian."
  4. Copenhagen was visited by a terrible outburst of cholera in 1831.
  5. When the English fleet under Sir Hyde Parker, Lord Nelson, and others, defeated the Danish fleet in the roadstead of Copenhagen.
  6. The sailors' quarter in Copenhagen.