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A STORY FROM THE SAND-DUNES

 

THIS is a story from the sand-dunes of Jutlandthough it does not begin in Jutland but far away in the southin SpainThe ocean is the high road between the nationstransport thyself thither in thought to SpainThere it is warm and beautifulthere the fiery pomegranate blossoms flourish among the dark laurelsfrom the mountains a cool refreshing wind blows downupon and over the orange gardens over the gorgeous Moorish halls with their golden cupolas and coloured walls through the streets go children in procession with candles and with waving flagsand over themlofty and clearrises the sky with its gleaming starsThere is a sound of song and of castanetsand youths and maidens join in the dance under the blooming acaciaswhile the beggar sits upon the hewn marble stonerefreshing himself with the juicy melonand dreamily enjoying life The whole is like a glorious dreamAnd there was a newly married couple who completely gave themselves up to its charmmoreoverthey possessed the good things of this lifehealth and cheerfulness of soul riches and honour

We are as happy as it is possible to be,” exclaimed the young couplefrom the depths of their heartsThey had indeed but one step more to mount in the ladder of happiness in the hope that God would give them a childa son like them in form and in spirit

The happy child would be welcomed with rejoicingwould be tended with all care and loveand enjoy every advantage that wealth and ease possessed by an influential family could give

And the days went by like a glad festival

Life is a gracious gift of Providencean almost inappreciable gift!” said the young wife,“and yet they tell us that fullness of joy is found only in the future lifefor ever and everI cannot compass the thought.”

And perhaps the thought arises from the arrogance of men,”said the husband.“It seems a great pride to believe that we shall live for everthat we shall be as godsWere these not the words of the serpentthe origin of falsehood?”

Surely you do not doubt the future life?” exclaimed the young wifeand it seemed as if one of the first shadows flitted over the sunny heaven of her thoughts

Faith promises itand the priests tell us so!”replied the man;“but amid all my happinessI feel that it is arrogance to demand a continued happinessanother life after thisHas not so much been given us in this state of existence that we ought to bethat we must becontented with it?”

Yes it has been given to us,”said the young wife,“but to how many thousands is not this life one scene of hard trial How many have been thrown into this worldas if only to suffer poverty and shame and sickness and misfortune If there were no life after thiseverything on earth would be too unequally distributedand the Almighty would not be justice itself.”

Yonder beggar,” replied the man,“ has his joys which are just as great for him as the king has in his rich palaceAnd then do you not think that the beast of burdenwhich suffers blows and hungerand works itself to deathsuffers from its heavy fate It might likewise demand a future life and declare the decree unjust that does not admit it into a higher place of creation.”

HE has said,‘In my Father's house are many mansions’,” replied the young wife:“heaven is immeasurableas the love of our Maker is immeasurableEven the dumb beast is His creatureand I firmly believe that no life will be lost but that each will receive that amount of happiness which he can enjoy and which is sufficient for him.”

This world is sufficient for me!”said the manand he threw his arms round his beautifulamiable wife and then smoked his cigarette on the open balconywhere the cool air was filled with the fragrance of oranges and pinksThe sound of music and the clatter of castanets came up from the roadthe stars gleamed aboveand two eyes full of affectionsthe eyes of his wifelooked on him with the undying glance of love

Such a moment,” he said,“makes it worth while to be bornto enjoyand to disappear!”and he smiled

The young wife raised her hand in mild reproachand the shadow passed away from her world and they were happyquite happy

Everything seemed to work together for them They advanced in honourin prosperityand in joyThere was a change indeed but only a change of place not in enjoyment of life and of happinessThe young man was sent by his sovereign as ambassador to the Court of RussiaThis was an honourable officeand his birth and his acquirements gave him a title to be thus honouredHe possessed a great fortuneand his wife had brought him wealth equal to his own for she was the daughter of a rich and respected merchantOne of this merchant's largest and finest ships was to be dispatched during that year to Stockholmand it was arranged that the dear young peoplethe daughter and the soninlaw should travel in it to StPetersburg And all the arrangements on board were princelyrich carpets for the feetand silk and luxury on all sides

There is an old balladwhich every Dane knowsit is called,“The King's Son of England.”He also sailed In a gallant shipand the anchor was gilded with ruddy goldand each rope was woven through with silk

And this ship one must think of on seeing the one from Spainfor here was the same pompand the same parting thought arosethe thought

God grant that we all in joy

Once more may meet again

And the wind blew fairly seaward from the Spanish shoreand the parting was to be but a brief one for in a few weeks the voyagers would reach their destination but when they came out upon the high seasthe wind sankthe sea became calm and shiningthe stars of heaven gleamed brightlyand they were festive evenings that were spent in the sumptuous cabin

At lengrth the voyagers began to wish for wind for a favouringbut the breeze would not blow orif it did ariseit was contraryThus weeks passed away two full monthsand then at last the fair wind blewit blew from the south-westThe ship sailed on the high seas be-tween Scotland and Jutland and the wind increased just as in the old song ofThe king's Son of England”.

And it blew a stormand the clouds were dark

And they found neither land nor shelter

Then forth they threw their anchor so true

But the wind blew them east towards Denmark

This all happened a longlong while agoking Christian VII then sat on the Danish throneand he was still a young manMuch has happened since that timemuch has changed or has been changedSea and moorland have been converted into green meadowsheath has become arable landand in the shelter of the West Jute huts grow apple trees and rose bushesthough they certainly require to be sought foras they bend beneath the sharp west windIn Western jutland one may go back in thought to the old timesfarther back than the days when Christian VII bore rule As it did then in Jutlandthe brown heath now also extends for miles with its Grave-mounds”,its mirages and its crossingsandy uneven roads westwardwhere large rivulets run into the bays extend marshes and meadow land girdled with lofty sand-hillswhichlike a row of Alps raise their peaked summits towards the oceanonly broken by the high clavey ridgesfrom which the waves year by year bite out huge mouthfulsso that the impending shores fall down as if by the shock of an earth-quakeThus it is there todayand thus it was manymany years agowhen the happy pair were sailing in the gorgeous ship

It was in the last days of September a Sunday and sunny weather the chiming of the church bells in the Bay of Nissum was wafted along like a chain of soundsThe churches there are erected almost entirely of hewn boulder stoneseach like a piece of rockthe North Sea might foam over themand they would not be overthrownMost of them are without steeplesand the bells are hung between two beams in the open airThe service was overand the congregation thronged out into the churchyardwhere thenas nownot a tree nor a bush was to be seen not a single flower had been planted there nor had a wreath been laid upon the gravesRough mounds show where the dead have been buriedand rank grasstossed by the windgrows thickly over the whole churchyardHere and there a grave had a monument to show in the shape of a half-decayed block of wood rudely shaped into the form of a coffinthe said block having been brought from the forest of West Jutlandbut the forest of West Jutland is the wild sea itselfwhere the inhabitants find the hewn beams and planks and fragments which the breakers cast ashore The wind and the sea fog soon destroy the woodOne of these blocks had been placed on a child s grave and one of the women who had come out of the church stepped towards it She stood stilland let her glance rest on the discolored memorialA few moments afterwards her husband stepped up to her Neither of them spoke a word but he took her hand and they wandered across the brown heathover moor[and meadow]towards the sand-hillsfor a long time they thus walked silently

That was a good sermon today,”the man said at length.“If we had not God to look to we should have nothing!”

Yes,”observed the woman,“ He sends joy and sorrowand He has a right to send themTomorrow our little boy would have been five years old if we had been allowed to keep him.”

You will gain nothing by fretting wife,” said the man.“The boy is Well provided forHe is there whither we pray to go.”

And they said nothing morebut went forward to their house among the sand-hillsSuddenlyin front of one of the houseswhere the sea grass did not keep the sand down there arose what appeared to be a column of smokeit was a gust of wind which swept in among the hillswhirling the particles of sand high in the air Anotherand the strings of fish hung up to dry flapped and beat violently against the wall of the hutand then all was still againand the sun shone down hotly

Man and wife stepped into the houseThey had soon taken off their Sunday clothesand then hurried away over the duneswhich stood there like huge waves of sand suddenly arrested in their coursewhile the sandweeds and the dune grass with its bluish stalks spread a changing colour over themA few neighbours came up and helped one another to draw the boats higher up on the sandThe wind blew more sharply it was cutting and coldand when they went back over the sandhillssand and little pointed stones blew into their facesThe waves reared themselves up with their white crowns of foamand the wind cut off their crests flinging the foam far around

The evening came onIn the air was a swelling roarmoaning and complaining like a troop of despairing spiritsthat sounded above the hoarse rolling of the seaalthough the fisher's little hut was on the very marginThe sand rattled against the windowpanesand every now and then came a violent gust of windthat shook the house to its foundationsIt was darkbut towards midnight the moon would rise

The air became clearer but the storm swept in all its force over the perturbed seaThe fisher people had long gone to bedbut in such weather there was no chance of closing an eyePresently there was a knocking at the windowand the door was opened and a voice said

There s a great ship fast stranded on the outermost reef.”

In a moment the fisher people had sprung from their beds and hastily arrayed themselves

The moon had risenand it was light enough to make the surrounding objects visible to those who could open their eyes for the blinding clouds of sandThe violence of the wind was terribleand only by creeping forward between the gusts was it possible to pass among the sandhillsand now the salt spray flew up from the sea like down while the ocean foamed like a roaring cataract towards the beachIt required a practised eye to descry the vessel out in the offingThe vessel was a noble brigThe billows now lifted it over the reefthree or four cableslength out of the usual channel It drove towards the landstruck against the second reefand remained fixed

To render assistance was impossiblethe sea rolled fairly in upon the vesselmaking a clean breach over herThose on shore fancied they heard the cries for help from on boardand could plainly descry the busy useless efforts made by the stranded crewNow a wave came roling on-wardfalling like a rock upon the bowsprit and tearing it from the brigThe stern was lifted high above the floodTwo people sprang together into the seain a moment moreand one of the largest waves that rolled towards the sandhills threw a body upon the shoreIt was a womanand appeared quite deadbut some women thought they discerned signs of life in her and the stranger was carried across the sand-hills into the fisherman s hutHow beautiful and fair she wasCertainly she must be a great ladyThey laid her upon the humble bed that boasted not a yard of linenbut there was a woolen coverlet to wrap her inand that would keep her warm

Life returned to herbut she was deliriousand knew nothing of what had happened or where she wasand it was better sofor everything she loved and valued lay buried in the seaIt was with her ship as with the vessel in the song ofThe king's Son of England

Alasit was a grief to see

How the gallant ship sank speedily

Portions of wreck and fragments of wood drifted ashoreshe was the only living thing among them allThe wind still drove howling over the coastFor a few moments the strange lady seemed to rest but she awoke in painand cries of anguish and fear came from her lipsShe opened her wonderfully beautiful eyes and spoke a few words but none understood her

And beholdas a reward for the pain and sorrow she had undergoneshe held in her arms a newborn child the child that was to have rested upon a gorgeous couchsurrounded by silken curtains in the sumptuous homeIt was to have been welcomed with joy to a life rich in all the goods of the earthand now Providence had caused it to be born in this humble comerand not even a kiss did it receive from its mother

The fisher's wife laid the child upon the mother's bosomand it rested on a heart that beat no more for she was dead The child who was to be nursed by wealth and fortune was cast into the world washed by the sea among the sandhills to partake the fate and heavy days of the poorAnd here again comes into our mind the old song of the English King's son[in which mention is made of the customs prevalent at that timewhen knights and squires plundered those who had been saved from shipwreck]

The ship had been stranded some distance south of Nissum BayThe hard inhuman daysin whichas people saythe inhabitants of the Jutland shores did evil to the shipwreckedwere long past Affection and sympathy and selfsacrifice for the unfortunate were to be foundas they are to be found in our own time in many a brilliant exampleThe dying mother and the unfortunate child would have found succour and help wherever the wind blew them but

nowhere could they have found more earnest care than in the hut of the poor fisherwifewho had stood but yesterdaywith a heavy heartbeside the grave which covered her child which would have been five years old that day if God had spared it to her

No one knew who the dead stranger was or where she came fromThe pieces of wreck said nothing on the subject

To the rich house in Spain no tidings penetrated of the fate of the daughter and the soninlaw They had not arrived at their destined port and violent storms had raged during the past weeks At last the verdict was given,“Foundered at seaall lost.”

But on the sand-hills near Husby in the fisherman's hutthey now had a little boy

Where Heaven sends food for two a third can manage to make a mealand in the depths of the sea is many a dish of fish for the hungry

And they called the boy Jürgen

It must certainly be a Jewish child,”the people said,“it looks so swarthy.”

It might be an Italian or a Spaniard,”observed the clergyman

But to the fisherwoman these three nations seemed the sameand she consoled herself with the idea that the child was baptized as a Christian

The boy throveThe noble blood in his veins was warmand he became strong on his homely fare He grew apace in the humble houseand the Danish dialect spoken by the West Jutes became his languageThe pomegranate seed from Spanish soil became a hardy plant on the coast of West JutlandSuch may be a man s fateTo this home he clung with the roots of his whole beingHe was to have experience of cold and hungerand the misfortunes and hardships that surrounded the humblebut he tasted also of the poor man 's joys

Childhood has sunny heights for allwhose memory gleams through the while of later lifeThe boy had many opportunities for pleasure and play The whole coastfor miles and mileswas full of play thingsfor it was a mosaic of pebblesred as coralyellow as amberand others again white and rounded like birds eggsand all smoothed and prepared by the sea Even the bleached fish skeletonsthe water plants dried by the windseaweedwhitegleaming and long linenlike bandswaving among the stonesall these seemed made to give pleasure and amusement to the eye and the thoughtsand the boy had an intelligent mindmany and great faculties lay dormant in himHow readily he retained in his mind the stories and songs he heardand how neathanded he wasWith stones and mussel shells he could put together pictures and ships with which one could decorate the roomand he could cut out his thoughts wonderfully on a stick his foster-mother saidthough the boy was still so young and littleHis voice sounded sweetlyevery melody flowed at once from his lipsMany chords were attuned in his heart which might have sounded out into the world if he had been placed elsewhere than in the fisherman's hut by the North Sea

One day another ship was stranded thereAmong other thingsa chest of rare flower bulbs floated ashoreSome were put into the cooking potsfor they were thought to be eatableand others lay and shrivelled in the sandbut they did not accomplish their purpose or unfold the richness of colour whose germ was within themWould it be better with Jürgen The flower bulbs had soon played their partbut he had still years of apprenticeship before him

Neither be nor his friends remarked in what a solitary and uniform way one day succeeded anotherfor there was plenty to do and to seeThe sea itself was a great lessonbookunfolding a new leaf every day such as calm andbreakersbreeze and stormShipwrecks were great eventsThe visits to the church were festal visitsBut among the festal visits in the fisherman 's house one was particularly distinguishedIt was repeated twice in the yearand wasin factthe visit of the brother of Jürgen 's fostermotherthe eel breeder from Fjaltringupon the neighborhood of theBow Hill”.He used to come in a cart painted red and filled with eelsThe cart was covered and locked like a box and painted all over with blue and white tulipsIt was drawn by two dun oxenand Jürgen was allowed to guide them

The eel breeder was a witty fellowa merry guestand brought a measure of brandy with him Every one received a small glassful or a cupful when there was a scarcity of glasseseven Jürgen had as much as a large thimblefulthat he might digest the fat eel the eel breeder saidwho always told the same story over againand when his hearers laughed he immediately told it over again to the same audienceAsduring his childhood and even laterJürgen used many expressions from this story of the eel breeder's and made use of it in various waysit is as well that we should listen to it tooHere it is

The eels went out in the river and the mothereel said to her daughterswho begged leave to go a little way up the river Don t go too far the ugly eel spearer might come and snap you all up.’ But they went too farand of eight daughters only three came back to the eelmotherand these wept and said,‘We only went a little way before the doorand the ugly eel spearer came directlyand stabbed our five sisters to death.’‘They 'll come again'said the mother-eel.‘Ohno!’exclaimed the daughters,‘for he skinned them and cut them in twoand fried them.’‘Oh they'll come again,’ the mother-ell persisted.‘No'replied the daughters,‘for he ate them all up.’‘They'll come again'repeated the mothereel.‘But he drank brandy after them'continued the daughters.‘Ahthen they'll never come back,’ said the mother and she burst out crying It s the brandy that buries the eels.’

And therefore,”said the eel breeder,“it is always right to take brandy after eating eels.”

And this story was the tinsel thread the most humorous recollection of Jürgen's life He likewise wanted to go a little way outside the door and up the riverthat is to say out into the world in a ship and his mother said like the eelmother,“There are so many bad peopleeel spearers!” But he wished to go a little way past the sand-hillsa little way into the dunesand he succeeded in doing soFour merry daysthe happiest of his childhoodunrolled themselves and the whole beauty and splendor of Jutlandall the joy and sunshine of his homewere concentrated in theseHe was to go to a festivalthough it was certainly a burial feast

A wealthy relative of the fisherman's family had diedThe farm lay deep in the countryeastwardand a point towards the north as the saying is Jürgen 's fosterparents were to go and he was to accompany them

From the dunes across heath and moorthey came to the green meadows where the river Skarum rolls its course the river of many eelswhere mother-eels dwell with their daughterswho are caught and eaten up by wicked people But men were said sometimes to have acted no better towards their own fellow men for had not the knight Sir Buggebeen murdered by wicked people and though he was well spoken ofhad he not wanted to kill the architectwho had built for him the castle with the thick walls and towerwhere Jürgen and his parents now stood and where the river falls into the bay The wall on the ramparts still remainedand red crumbling fragments lay strewn aroundHere it was that Sir Bugge

after the architect had left himsaid to one of his men,“Go thou after himand say,‘Master the tower leansIf he turns round you are to kill himand take from him the money I paid himbut if he does not turn round let him depart in peace.”The man obeyedand the architect answered,“The tower does not lean but one day there will come a man from the westin a blue cloakwho will cause it to lean!”And so it chanceda hundred years laterfor the North Sea broke inand the tower was cast downbut the man who then possessed the castle Prebj rn Gyldenstjerne built a new castle higher upat the end of the meadow and that stands to this day and is called n rre vosborg

Past thins castle went Jürgen and his fosterparentsThey had told him its story during the long winter eveningsand now he saw the lordly castlewith its double moat and trees and bushes the wall covered with ferns rose within the moatbut most beautiful of all were the lofty lime treeswhich grew up to the highest windows and filled the air with sweet fragrance In a corner of the garden towards the northwest stood a great bush full of blossom like winter snow amid the summer's greenit was an elder bush the first that Jürgen had seen thus in bloomHe never forgot it nor the lime tree the child s soul treasured up these remembrances of beauty and fragrance to gladden old man

From N rre Vosborg where the elder blossomedthe way went more easily for they encountered other guests who were also bound for the burialand were riding in wagonsOur travelers had to sit all together on a little box at the back of the wagonbut even this was preferable to walkingthey thoughtSo they pursued their journey in the wagon across the rugged heathThe oxen which drew the vehicle slipped every now and then where a patch of fresh glass appeared amid the heather The sun shone warmand it was wonderful to behold how in the far distance something like smoke seemed to be rising and yet this smoke was clearer than the mistit was transparent and looked like rays of light rolling and dancing afar over the heath

That is Lokeman driving his sheep,”said some oneand this was enough to excite the fancy of Jürgen It seemed to him as if they were now going to enter fairylandthough everything was still real

How quiet it was Far and wide the heath extended around them like a beautiful carpetThe heather bloomed and the juniper bushes and the vigorous oak sapling stood up like nosegays from the earthAn inviting place for a frolicif it were not for the unmber of poisonous adders of which the travelers spoke as they did also of the wolves which formerly infested the place from which circumstance the region was still called the wolfborg regionThe old man who guided the oxen related how in the lifetime of his fatherthe horses had to sustain many a hard fight with the wild beasts that were now extinct and how he himself when he went out one morninghad found one of the horses standing with its forefeet on a wolf had killedbut the flesh was quite off the legs of the horse

The journey over the heath and the deep sand was only too quickly accomplished They stopped before the house of mourningwhere they found plenty of guests within and withoutWagon after wagon stood ranged in a row and horses and oxen went out to crop the scanty pasture Great sandhillslike those at home by the North Sea rose behind the house and extended far and wideHow had they come here miles into the interior of the land and as large and high as those on the coastThe wind had lifted and carried them hitherand to them also a history was attached

Psalms were sungand a few of the old people shed tearsbeyond thisthe guests were cheerful enoughas it appeared to Jürgenand there was plenty to eat and drinkEels there were of the fattestupon which brandy should be poured to bury themas the eel breeder saidand certainly his maxim was here carried out

Jürgen went to and fro in the house On the third day he felt quite at homejust as in the fisherman's hut on the sandhills where he had passed his early daysHere on the heath there was certainly an unheard-of wealthfor the flowers and blackberries and bilberries were to be found in plentyso large and sweetthat when they were crushed beneath the tread of the passers-bythe heath was coloured with their red juice

Here was a grave-moundand yonder anotherColumns of smoke rose into the still airit was a heathfirehe was toldthat shone so splendidly in the dark evening

Now came the fourth dayand the funeral festivities were to conclude and they were to go back from the landdunes to the sand-dunes

Ours are the best,” said the old fisherman Jürgen's fosterfather;“these have no strength.”

And they spoke of the way in which the sand-dunes had come into the countryand it seemed all very intelligible

A corpse had been found on the coastand the peasants had buried it in the churchyard and from that time the sand began to fly and the sea broke in violentlyA wise man in the parish advised them to open the grave and to look if the buried man was not lying sucking his thumbfor if so he was a man of the sea and the sea would not rest until it had got him backSo the grave was openedand he really was found with his thumb in his mouthSo they laid him upon a cart and harnessed two oxen before itand as if stung by a gadflythe oxen ran away with the man of the sea over heath and moor land to the ocean and then the sand ceased flying inland but the hills that had been heaped up still remained thereAll this Jürgen heard and treasured in his memory from the happiest days of his childhoodthe days of the burial feastHow glorious it was to get out into strange regions and to see strange peopleAnd he was to go farther stillHe was not yet fourteen years old when he went out in a ship to see what the world could show him bad weatherheavy seasmaliceand hard menthese were his experiences for he became a ship boyThere were cold nightsand bad livingand blows to be enduredthen it was as if his noble Spanish blood boiled within him and bitter wicked words seethed up to his lipsbut it was better to gulp them downthough he felt as the eel must feel when it is flayed and cut up and put into the fryingpan

I shall come again!” said a voice within him He saw the Spanish coastthe native land of his parentsHe even saw the town where they had lived in happiness and prosperitybut he knew nothing of his home or raceand his race knew just as little about him

The poor ship boy was not allowed to landbut on the last day of their stay he managed to get ashoreThere were several purchases to be madeand he was to carry them on board

There stood Jürgen in his shabby clotheswhich looked as if they had been washed in the ditch and dried in the chimney for the first time he the inhabitant of the dunessaw a great city

How lofty the houses seemedand how full of people were the streetsSome pushing this waysome thata perfect maelstrom of citizens and peasantsmonks and soldiersa calling and shoutingand jingling of bellharnessed asses and mulesand the church bells chiming between song and soundhammering and knocking all going on at once Every handicraft had its workshop in the doorway or on the pavementand the sun shore so hotlyand the air was so close that one seemed to be in an oven full of beetles cockchafersbeesand fliesall humming and buzzing togetherJürgen hardly knew where he was or which way he wentThen he saw just in front of him the mighty portal of the cathedral the lights were gleaming in the dark aislesand a fragrance of incense was wafted towards himEven the poorest beggar ventured up the steps into the templeThe sailor with whom Jürgen went took his way through the churchand Jürgen stood in the sanctuary Colored pictures gleamed from their golden groundOn the altar stood the figure of the virgin with the Child Jesussurrounded by lights and flowerspriests in festive garb were chantingand choir boysbeautifully attiredswung the silver censerWhat splendourWhat magnificence did he see hereIt streamed through his soul and overpowered himthe church and the faith of his parents surrounded himand touched a chord in his soulso that the tears overflowed his eyes

From the church they went to the marketplaceHere a quantity of provisions were given him to carryThe way to the harbor was long and tired he rested for a few moments before a splendid housewith marble pillarsstatuesand broad staircasesHere he leaned his burden against the wall Then a liveried Porter came outlifted up a silverheaded cane and drove him awayhimthe grandson of the houseBut no one there knew thatand he just as little as any oneAnd afterwards he went on board againand there were hard words and cuffs little sleep and much worksuch were his experiencesThey say that it is well to suffer in youth,—yeswhen age brings something to make up for itThe time of service had expiredand the vessel lay once more at Ringkj bingin Jutlandhe came ashore and went home to the sand-dunes by Husbybut his fostermother had died while he was away on his voyage

A hard winter followed that summerSnow-storms swept over land and seaand there was a difficulty in getting aboutHow variously things appeared to be distributed in the worldHere biting cold and snowstormwhile in the Spanish land there was burning sunshine and oppressive heatAnd Yetwhen here at home there came a clear frosty dayand Jürgen saw the swans flying in numbers from the sea towards the landand across to Vosborgit appeared to him that people could breathe most freely here and here too was a splendid summer In imagination be saw the heath bloom and grow purple with rich juicy berriesand saw the elder trees and the lime trees at Vosborg in full blossomHe determined to go there once more

Spring came on and the fishery beganJürgen helped with thishe had grown in the last yearand was quick at workHe was full of lifehe understood how to swimto tread water to turn over and tumble in the floodThey often warned him to beware of the shoals of mackerel which could seize the best swimmer

and draw him down and devour himbut such was not Jürgen's fate

At the neighbor s on the dune was a boy named Martin with whom Jürgen was very friendly and the two took service in the same ship to Norwayand also went together to Holland and they had never had any quarrel but

a quarrel can easily come for when a person is hot by nature he often uses strong expressionsand that is what Jürgen did one day on board when they had a quarrel about nothing at allThey were sitting behind the cabin door eating out of an earthenware plate which they had placed between themJürgen held his pocketknife in his handand lifted it against Martinand at the same time became ashy pale in the faceand his eyes had an ugly lookMartin only said

AhHaSo you're one of that sort who are fond of using the knife!”

Hardly were the words spoken when Jürgen s hand sank downHe answered not a syllablebut went on eatingand afterwards walked away to his work When they were resting againhe stepped up to Martinand said

You may hit me in the face I have deserved itBut I feel as if I had a pot in me that boiled over.”

There let the thing rest,” replied Martin

And after that they were almost doubly as good friends as before and when afterwards they got back to the dunes and began telling their adventures this was told among the rest and Martin said that Jürgen was certainly passionatebut a good fellow for all that

They were both young and strongwell grown and stalwartbut Jürgen was the cleverer of the two

In Norway the peasants go up to the mountainsand lead out the cattle there to pasture On the west coast of Jutland huts have been erected among the sandhillsthey are built of pieces of wreckand roofed with turf and heatherThere are sleepingplaces around the walls and here the fisher people live and sleep during the early spring Every fisherman has his female helper whose work consists in baiting the hooks handing the warm beer to the fishermen when they come ashore and getting their dinners cooked when they come back into the hut tired and hungry Moreover the girls bring up the fish from the boats cut them openand have generally a great deal to do

Jürgenhis father and several other fishermen and their helpers inhabited the same hutMartin lived in the next one

One of the girlsElsie by namehad been known to Jürgen from childhoodthey got on well with each otherand in many things were of the same mindbut in outward appearance they were entirely opposite for he was brownwhereas she was pale and had flaxen hairand eyes as blue as the sea in sunshine

One day as they were walking togetherand Jürgen held her hand in his very firmly and warmly she said to him

JürgenI have something weighing upon my heartLet me be your helperfor you are like a brother to mewhereas Martinwho has engaged mehe and I are lovers but you need not tell that to the rest.”

And it seemed to Jürgen as if the loose sand were giving way under his feetHe spoke not a wordbut only nodded his head which signified yes”. More was not required but suddenly he felt in his heart that he detested Martinand the longer considered of thisfor he had never thought of Elsie in this way beforethe more did it become clear to him that Martin had stolen from him the only being he loved and now it was all at once plain to him that Elsie was that one

When the sea is somewhat disturbedand the fisher-men come home in their great boatsit is a sight to behold how they cross the reefsOne of the men stands upright in the bow of the boatand the others watch himsitting with oars in their handsOutside the reef they appear to be rowing not towards the landbut backing out to seatill the man standing in the boat gives them the sign that the great wave is coming which is to float them across the reef and accordingly the boat is liftedlifted high in the air so that its keel is seen from the shore and in the next minute the whole boat is hidden from the eyeneither mast nor keel nor people can be seenas though the sea had devoured thembut in a few moments they emerge like a great sea animal climbing up the wavesand the oars move as if the creature had legsThe second and the third reef are passed in the same mannerand now the fishermen jump into the waterevery wave helps themand pushes the boat well forwardtill at length they have drawn it beyond the range of the breakers

A wrong order given in front of the reefthe slightest hesitationand the boat must founder

Then it would be all over with meand Martin too!”This thought struck Jürgen while they were out at seawhere his foster-father had been taken alarmingly illThe fever had seized himThey were only a few oars' strokes from the reefand Jürgen sprang from his seat and stood up in the bow

Fatherlet me come he said and his eye glanced towards Martin and across the wavesbut while every oar bent with the exertions of the rowersas the great wave came towering towards them

he beheld the pale face of his father and dared not obey the evil impulse that had seized him The boat came safely across the reef to land but the evil thought remained in his bloodand roused up every little fiber of bitterness which had remained in his memory since he and Martin had been comradesBut he could not weave the fibers togethernor did he endeavour to do soHe felt that Martin had despoiled himand this was enough to make him detest his former friend Several of the fishermen noticed thisbut not Martinwho continued be obliging and talkativeindeed a little too talkative

Jürgen 's adopted father had to keep his bed which became his death-bed for in the next week he diedand now Jürgen was installed as heir in the little house behind the sand-hillsIt was but a little housecertainlybut still it was something

and Martin had nothing of the kind

You will not take sea service againJürgen?” observed one of the old fishermen.“You will always stay with usnow.”

But this was not Jürgen 's intention for he was just thinking of looking about him a little in the world The eel breeder of Fjaltring had an uncle in Old Skagenwho was a fishermanbut at the same time a prosperous merchant who had ship upon the sea he was said to be a good old man and it would not be amiss to enter his serviceOld Skagen lies in the extreme north of Jutland as far removed from the Husky dunes as one can travel in that countryand this is just what pleased Jürgenfor he did not want to remain till the wedding of Martin and Elsiewhich was to be celebrated in a few weeks

The old fisherman asserted that it was foolish now to quit the neighborhoodsince Jürgen had a homeand Elsie would probably be inclined to take him rather than Martin

Jürgen answered so much at random that it was not easy to understand what he meantbut the old man brought Elsie to himand she said

You have a home nowthat ought to be well considered.”

And Jürgen thought of many things The sea has heavy wavesbut there are heavier waves in the human beartMany thoughts strong and weak thronged through Jürgen's brainand he said to Elsie

If Martin had a house like minewhom would you rather have?”

But Martin has no houseand cannot get one.”

But let us suppose he had one.”

Whythen I would certainly take Martinfor that's what my heart tells mebut one can't live upon that.”

And jürgen thought of these things all night throughSomething was working within himhe could not understand what it was but he had a thought that was stronger than his love for Elsieand so he went to Martinand what he said and did there was well considered He let the house to Martin on the most liberal terms saying that he wished to go to sea againbecause it pleased him to do so And Elsie kissed him on the mouth when she heard thatfor she loved Martin best

In the early morning Jürgen purposed to start On the evening before his departure when it was already growing late he felt a wish to visit Martin once morehe startedand among the dunes the old fisher met himwho was angry at his goingThe old man made jokes about Martinand declared there must be some magic about that fellow,“of whom all the girls were so fond.”jürgen paid no heed to this speechbut said farewell to the old man and went on towards the house where Martin dweltHe heard loud talking withinMartin was not aloneand this made jürgen waver in his determinationfor he did not wish to encounter Elsieand on second consideration he thought it better not to hear Martin thank him againand therefore he turned back

On the following morningbefore break of dayhe fastened his knapsack took his wooden provisionbox in his handand went away among the sandhills towards the coast pathThat way was easier to traverse than the heavy sand roadand moreover shorter for he intended to go in the first instance to Fjaltring by Bowbergwhere the eel breeder livedto whom he had promised a visit

The sea lay pure and blue before himand mussel shells and sea pebbles the playthings of his youth crunched under his feet While he was thus marching onhis nose suddenly began to bleed it was a trifling incidentbut little things can have great significanceA few large drops of blood fell upon one of his sleevesHe wiped them off and stopped the bleedingand it seemed to him as if this had cleard and lightened his brainIn the sand the sea eringo was blooming here and thereHe broke off a stalk and stuck it in his hathe determined to be merry and of good cheer for he was going into the wide world—“a little way out of the door and up the river,”as the young eels had said.“Beware of bad peoplewho will catch you and flay you cut you in two and put you in the fryingpan !”he repeated in his mindand smiledfor he thought he should find his way through the worldgood courage is a strong weapon

The sun already stood high when he approached the narrow entrance to Nissan BayHe looked back and saw a couple of horsemen galloping a long distance behind himand they were accompanied by other people But this concerned him nothing

The ferry was on the opposite side of the bayJürgen called to the ferrymanand when the latter came over with the boat Jürgen stepped in but before they had gone half-way acrossthe men whom he had seen riding so hastily behind him hailed the ferryman and summoned him to return in the name of the lawJürgen did not understand the reason of thisbut he thought it would be best to turn backand therefore himself took an oar and returned The moment the boat touched the shorethe men sprang on board and before he was aware they had bound his hands with a rope

Thy wicked deed will cost thee thy life,”they said.“It is well that we caught thee.”

He was accused of nothing less than murderMartin had been found deadwith a knife thrust through his neckOne of the fishermen hadlate on the previous eveningmet Jürgen going towards Martin 's house and this was not the first time Jürgen had raised his knife against Martinthey knew so he must be the murdererand it was necessary to get him into safe custodyThe town in which the prison was built was a long way offand the wind was contrary for going there but not half an hour would be required to get across the bayand a quarter of an hour would bring them from thence to N rre Vosborg a great building with walls and ditchesOne of Jürgen 's captors was a fisherman a brother of the keeper of the castleand he declared it might be managed that Jürgen should for the present be put into the dungeon at Vosborgwhere Long Margaret the gypsy had been shut up till her execution

No attention was paid to the defense made by Jürgenthe few drops of blood upon his shirt-sleeve bore heavy witness against himBut Jürgen was conscious of his innocenceand as there was no chance of immediately righting himselfhe submitted to his fate

The party landed just at the spot where Sir Bugge's castle had stood and where Jürgen had walked with his fosterparents after the burial feast during the four happiest days of his childhoodHe was led by the old path over the meadow to Vosborgand again the elder blossomed and the lofty limes smelt sweet and it seemed but yesterday that he had left the spot

In the west wing of the castle a staircase leads down to a spot below the entrance and from thence there is access to a low vaulted cellarHere Long Margaret had been imprisonedand hence she had been led away to the scaffoldShe had eaten the hearts of five children and had been under the delusion that if she could obtain two moreshe would be able to fly and to make herself invisibleIn the cellar wall was a little narrow airholebut no windowThe blooming lindens could not waft a breath of comforting fragrance into that abode where all was dark and mouldyOnly a rough bench stood in the prisonbut a good conscience is a soft pillow”, and consequently Jürgen could sleep well

The thick oaken door was locked and secured on the outside by an iron bar but the goblin of superstition can creep through a keyhole in the baron's castle just as into the fisherman's hutand wherefore should he not creep in herewhere Jürgen sat thinking of Long Margaret and her evil deeds Her last thought on the night before her execution had filled this spaceand all the magic came into Jürgen's mind which tradition asserted to have been practised there in the old times when Sir Svanwedel dwelt thereIt was well known that the watchdogwhich had its place on the drawbridgewas found every morning hanged in its own chain over the railing All this passed through Jürgen's mindand made him shudderbut a sunbeam from without penetrated his heart even here it was blooming elder and the fragrant lime trees

He was not left there longThey carried him off to the town of Ringkj bingwhere his imprisonment was just as bard

Those times were not like oursHard measure was dealt out to the common peopleand it was just after the days when farms were converted into knights estateson which occasions coachmen and servants were often made magistratesand had it in their power to sentence a poor man for a small offense to lose his property and to corporal punishmentJudges of this kind were still to be foundand in Jutlandfar from the capital and from the enlightened wellmeaning government the law was still sometimes very loosely administered and the smallest grievance that Jürgen had was that his case was protracted

Cold and cheerless was his abodeand when would this state of things endHe had innocently sunk into misfortune and sorrowthat was his fateHe had leisure now to ponder on the difference of fortune on earth and to wonder why this fate had been allotted to him and he felt sure that the question would be answered in the next lifethe existence that awaits us when this is overThis faith had grown strong in him in the poor fisherman's hutthat which had never shone into his father 's mindin all the richness and sunshine of Spainwas vouchsafed as a light of comfort to him in cold and darknessa sign of mercy from Godwho never deceives

The spring storms began to blowThe rolling and moaning of the North Sea could be heard for miles inland when the wind was lulledfor then it sounded like the rushing of a thousand wagons over a hard road with a mine beneathJürgenin his prisonheard these soundsand it was a relief to himNo melody could have appealed so directly to his heart as did these sounds of the seathe rolling seathe boundless seaon which a man can be borne across the world before the windcarrying his own house with him wherever he is drivenjust as the snail carries hisone stood always on one 's own groundon the soil of home even in a strange land

How he listened to the deep moaningand how the thought arose in him—“FreeFree How happy to be free even without shoes and in ragged clothes!” Sometimes when such thoughts crossed his mindthe fiery nature rose within himand he beat the wall with his clenched fists

Weeks monthsa whole year had gone bywhen a vagabondNiles the thief called also the horse couperwas arrestedand now the better times cameand it was seen what wrong Jürgen had endured

In the neighbourhood of Ringkj bingat a beer-houseNilesthe thiefhad met Martin on the afternoon before Jürgen's departure from home and before the murder A few glasses were drunknot enough to cloud any one s brainbut yet enough to loosen Martin's tongue and he began to boastand to say that he had obtained a houseand intended to marry and when Niles asked where he intended to get the moneyMartin slapped his pocket proudlyand said

The money is here where it ought to be.”

This boast cost him his life for when he went homeNiles went after himand thrust a knife through his throatto take the money from him

This was circumstantially explained but for us it is enough to know that Jürgen was set at libertyBut what amends did he get for having been imprisoned a whole yearand shut out from all communion with men They told himhe was fortunate in being proved innocentand that he might go The burgomaster gave him ten marks for traveling expensesand many citizens offered him provisions and beerthere were still some good men not allgrind and flay”. But the best of all wasthat the merchant Bronne of Skagenthe same into whose service Jürgen had intended to go a year since was just at that time on business in the town of Ringkj bing Br nne heard the whole storyand the man had a good heart and understood what Jürgen must have felt and sufferedHe therefore made up his mind to make amends to the poor ladand convince him that there were still kind folks in the world

So Jürgen went forth from the prison as if to Paradiseto find freedom affectionand trust He was to travel this road now for no goblet of life is all bitternessno good man would pour out such measure to his fellow manand how should God do it who is love itself

Let all that be buried and forgotten,” said Br nne the merchant.“Let us draw a thick line through last yearand we will even burn the calendar And in two days we'll start for dearfriendlypeaceful SkagenThey call it an outoftheway corner but it's a good warm chimneycornerand its windows open towards every part of the world.”

That was a journey!—it was like taking fresh breathout of the cold dungeon air into the warm sun-shineThe heath stood blooming in its greatest prideand the herdboy sat on the gravemound and blew his pipewhich he had carved for himself out of the sheep s boneFata Morganathe beautiful aerial phenomnon of the desertshowed itself with hanging gardens and swaying forests and the wonderful trembling of the air called here the Lakeman driving his flock”, was seen likewise

Up through the land of the Wendelsup towards Skagenthey went from whence the men with the long beardsthe Longobardior Lombards had emigrated in the days when in the reign of King Snioall the children and the old people were to have been killedtill the noble Dame Gambaruk proposed that the younger people had better leave the countryAll this was known to Jürgenthus much knowledge he hadand even if he did not know the land of the Lombards beyond the high Alpshe had an idea how it must be therefor in his boyhood he had been in the south in Spain He thought of the southern fruits piled up thereof the red pomegranate blossomsof the hummingmurmuring and toiling in the great bee-hive of a city he had seenbutafter all home is best and Jürgen's home was Denmark

At length they reachedWendelskage,” as Skagen is called in the old Norwegian and Icelandic writingsThen already Old Skagenwith Vesterby and steroy extended for mileswith sandhills and arable land as far as the lighthouse near the Fork of SkagenThenas nowhouses and farms were strewn among the windraised sandhillsa desert where the wind sports with the sand and where the voices of the seamews and the wild swans strike harshly on the ear In the southwest a mile from the sealies Old Skagenand here dwelt merchant Br nneand here Jürgen was henceforth to dwellThe great house was painted with tarthe smaller buildings had each an overturned boat for a roofthe pigsty had put together of pieces of wreckThere was no fence herefor indeed there was nothing to fence in but long rows of fishes were hung upon linesone above the other to dry in the wind The whole coast was strewn with spoiled herringsfor there were so many of those fishthat a net was scarcely thrown into the sea before they were caught by carloads there were so manythat often they were thrown back into the sea or left to lie and rot

The old man's wife and daughterand his servants toocame rejoicingly to meet himThere was a great pressing of hand and talking and questioningAnd the daughterwhat a lovely face and bright eyes she had

The interior of the house was roomy and comfortablePlates of fish were set on the tableplaice that a King would have called a splendid dish and there was wine from the vineyard Skagenthat isthe seafor there the grapes come ashore ready pressed and prepared in barrels and in bottles

When the mother and daughter heard who Jürgen wasand how innocently he had suffered they looked at him in a still more friendly wayand the eyes of the charming Clara were the friendliest of allJürgen found a happy home in Old SkagenIt did his heart goodand his heart had been sorely triedand had drunk the bitter goblet of love which softens or hardens according to circumstancesJürgen 's heart was still softit was youngand there was still room in itand therefore it was well that Clara was going in three weeks in her father s ship to Christiansandin Norway to visit an aunt and to stay there the whole winter

On the Sunday before her departure they all went to churchto the Holy CommunionThe church was large and handsome and had been built centuries before by Scotchmen and Hollandersit lay at a little distance from the townIt was certainly somewhat ruinous and the road to it was heavythrough the deep sand but the people gladly went through the difficulties to get to the house of Godto sing psalms and hear the sermon The sand had heaped itself up round the walls of the church but the graves were kept free from it

It was the largest church north of the LimfjordThe Virgin Marywith the golden crown on her head and the Child Jesus in her armsstood lifelike upon the altarthe holy Apostles had been carved in the choir and on the walls hung portraits of the old burgomasters and councilors of Skagenthe pulpit was of carved workThe sun shone brightly into the church and its radiance fell on the polished brass chandelier and on the little ship that hung from the vaulted roof

Jürgen felt as if overcome by a holychildlike feelinglike that which possessed him whenas a boyhe had stood in the splendid Spanish cathedralbut here the feeling was differentfor he felt conscious of being one of the congregation

After the sermon followed the Holy CommunionHe partook of the bread and wineand it happened that he knelt beside Clarabut his thoughts were so fixed upon Heaven and the holy servicethat he did not notice his neighbor until he rose from his kneesand then he saw tears rolling down her cheeks

Two days later she left Skagen and went to NorwayHe stayed behindand made himself useful in the house and in the business He went out fishingand at that time fish were more plentiful than now

Every Sunday when he sat in the churchand his eye rested on the statue of the virgin on the altarhis glance rested for a time on the spot where Clara had knelt beside himand he thought of her how pleasant and kind she had been to him

And so the autumn and the winter time passed awayThere was wealth hereand a real family life even down to the domestic animalswho were all well keptThe kitchen glittered with copper and tin and white platesand from the roof hung hams and beef and winter stores in plenty

All this is still to be seen in many rich farms of the west coast of Jutland plenty to eat and drink clean decorated rooms clever heads happy tempers and hospitalityprevail there as in an Arab tent

Never since the famous burial feast had Jürgen spent such a happy timeand yet Clara was absentexcept in the thoughts and memory of all

In April a ship was to start for Norwayand Jürgen was to sail in it He was full of life and spiritsand looked so stout and jovial that Dame Br nne declared it did her good to see him

And it 's a pleasure to see you too said the old merchant.“Jürgen has brought life into our winter eveningsand into you too mother You look younger this yearand you seem well and bonny But then you were once the prettiest girl in Wiborgand that's saying a great deal for I have always found the Wiborg girls the prettiest of any.”

Jürgen said nothing to thisbut he thought of a certain maiden of Skagenand he sailed to visit that maidenfor the ship steered to Christiansand in Norwayand a favoring wind took him there in half a day

One morning merchant Br nne went out to the lighthouse that stands far away from Old Skagen the coal fire had long gone out and the sun was already high when he mounted the towerThe sand-banks extend under the water a whole mile from the shoreOutside these banksmany ships were seen that dayand with the help of his telescope the old man thought he descried his own vesselthe Karen Br nne

Yessurelythere she wasand the ship was sailing up with Jürgen and Clara on boardThe church and the lighthouse appeared to them as a heron and a swan rising from the blue watersClara sat on deckand saw the sand-hills gradually looming forth if the wind held she might reach her home in about an hourso near were they to home and its joysso near were they to death and its terrorsFor a plank in the ship gave way and the water rushed inThe crew flew to the pumps and attempted to stop the leak and a signal of distress was hoistedbut they were still a full mile from the shoreFishing-boats were in sightbut they were still far distantThe wind blew shorewardand the tide was in their favor too but all was insufficientfor the ship sankJürgen threw his right arm about Clara

With what a look she gazed in his faceAs he threw himself in God's name into the water with hershe uttered a crybut still she felt safecertain that he would not let her sink

And now in the hour of terror and danger Jürgen experienced what the old song told

And written it stoodhow the brave king's son

Embraced the bride his velour had won

How rejoiced he felt that he a good swimmerHe worked his way onward with his feet and with one handwhile with the other he tightly held the young girlHe rested upon the waveshe trod the water he practiced all the arts he knewso as to reserve strength enough to reach the shoreHe heard how Clara uttered a sighand felt a convulsive shudder pass through herand he pressed her to him closer than ever Now and then a wave rolled over themand he was still a few cables length from the landwhen help came in the shape of an approaching boatBut under the waterhe could see it clearlystood a white form gazing at hima wave lifted him upand the form approached himhe felt a shockand it grew darkand everything vanished from his gaze

On the sandreef lay the wreck of a shipwhich the sea washed overthe white figurehead leaned

against an anchorthe sharp iron of which extended just to the surfaceJürgen had come in contact with thisand the tide had driven him against it with double forceHe  sank  down  fainting with  his  load but  the  next  wave lifted  him  and  the  young  girl  aloft  again

The fishermen grasped them and lifted them into

the  boatThe blood  streamed  down  over Jürgen's facehe seemed dead but he still clutched the girl so tightly that they were obliged to loosen her by force from his graspAnd Clara lay pale and lifeless in the boat that now made for the shore

All  means  were  tried  to  restore  Clara  to  lifebu tshe was deadFor some time he had been swimming onward  with  a  corpseand  had  exerted  himself  to  exhaustion for one who was dead

Jürgen was still breathingThe fishermen carried him into the nearest house upon the sandhillsA kind of surgeon who lived thereand who was at the same time a smith and a general dealer  bound up Jürgen's woundstill a physician could be got next day from the nearest town

The brain of the sick man was affectedIn delirium he uttered wild criesbut on the third day he lay quiet and exhausted on his couch and his life seemed to hang by a thread and the physician said it would be best if this string snapped

Let us pray that God may take him to Himselfhe will never be a sane man again!”

But life would not depart from himthe thread would  not  snapbut the thread of  memory broke the thread of all his mental power had been out throughandwhat was most terriblea body remaineda living healthy body

Jürgen remained in the house of the merchant Br nne

He contracted his illness in his endeavor to save our child,”said the old man,“and now he is our son.”

People called Jürgen imbecile but that was not the right expressionHe was like an instrument in which the strings are loose and will sound no moreonly at times for a few minutes they regained their powerand then they sounded anewold melodies were heardsnatches of songpictures unrolled themselvesand then disappeared again in the mistand once more he sat staring before him without a thoughtWe may believe that he did not sufferbut his dark eyes lost their brightnessand looked only like black clouded glass

Poor imbecile Jürgen!” said the people

He it was whose life was to have been so pleasant that it would be presumption and pride to expect or believe in a higher existence hereafterAll his great mental faculties had been lostonly hard days pain and disappointment had been his lot He was like a rare plant torn from its native soiland thrown upon the sandto wither thereAnd was the imagefashioned in God 's likenessto have no better destinationWas it to be merely the sport of chanceNoThe allloving God would certainly repay him in the life to come for what he had suffered and lost here.“The Lord is good to alland His mercy is over all His works.”These words from the Psalms of David the old pious wife of the merchant repeated in patience and hopeand the prayer of her heart was that Jürgen might soon be summoned to enter into the life eternal

In the churchyard where the sand blows across the wallsClara lay buriedIt seemed as if Jürgen knew nothing of thisit did not come within the compass of his thoughtswhich comprised only fragments of a past timeEvery Sunday he went with the old people to churchand sat silent there with vacant gazeOne daywhile the Psalms were being sunghe uttered a deep sighand his eyes gleamedthey were fixed upon the altarupon the place where he had knelt with his friend who was deadHe uttered her nameand became pale as deathand tears rolled over his cheeks

They led him out of the church and he said to the bystanders that he was welland had never been ill hethe heavily afflictedthe waif cast upon the worldremembered nothing of his sufferingsAnd the Lord our Creator is wise and full of lovingkindnesswho can doubt itOur heart and our understanding acknowledge itand the Bible confirms it:“His mercy is over all His works.”

In Spainwhere the warm breezes blow over the Moorish cupolas among the orange trees and laurelswhere song and the sound of castanets are heardsat in the sumptuous house a childless old manthe richest merchant in the placewhile children marched in procession through the streets with waving flags and lighted tapersHow much of his wealth would the old man not have given to have his children again His daughter or her childthat had perhaps never seen the light in this world

Poor child!”

Yespoor childa child stilland yet more than thirty years oldfor to that age Jürgen had attained in Old Skagen

The drifting sand had covered the graves in the churchyard quite up to the walls of the churchbut yet the dead must be buried among their relations and loved ones who had gone before them Merchant Br nne and his wife now rested here with their childrenunder the white sand

It was springtimethe season of stormsThe sand-hills whired up in cloudsand the sea ran highand flocks of birds flew like clouds in the stormsshrieking across the dunesand shipwreck followed shipwreck on the reefs from Skagen as far as the Husby dunesOne evening Jürgen was sitting alone in the roomSuddenly his mind seemed to become clearerand a feeling of unrest came upon himwhich in his younger years had often driven him forth upon the heath and the sandhills

HomeHome!” he exclaimed

No one heard him He went out of the house towards the dunesSand and stones blew into his face and whirled around himHe went on towards the church the sand lay high around the wallshalf over the windowsbut the heap had been shoveled away from the doorand the entrance was free and easy to open and Jürgen went into the church

The storm went howling over the town of SkagenWithin the memory of man no one could remember such a terrible tempest But Jürgen was in the temple of Godand while black night reigned withouta light arose in his soula light that was never to be extinguishedhe felt the heavy stone which seemed to weigh upon his head burst asunderHe thought he heard the sound of the organbut it was the storm and the roaring of the sea He sat down one of the seatsand beholdthe candles were lighted up one by onea richness was displayed such as he had seen only in the chuurch in Spainand all the pictures of the old councilors were endued with lifeand stepped forth from the walls against which they had stood for centuries and seated themselves in the choirThe gates and doors flew openand in came all the dead peoplefestively cladand sat down to the sound of beautiful musicand filled the seats in the churchThen the psalm tune rolled forth like a sounding seaand his old foster-parents from the Husby dunes were here and the old merchant Br nne and his wifeand at their side close to Jürgensat their friendlylovely daughter Clara who gave her hand to Jürgen and they both went to the altar where they had once knelt together and the Priest joined their hands and knit them together for life Then the sound of music was heard againwonderfullike a child's voice full of joy and expectationand it swelled on to an organ's soundto a tempest of fullnoble soundslovely and elevating to hear and yet strong enough to burst the stone tombs

And the little ship that hung down from the roof of the choir came downand became wonderfully large and beautifulwith silken sails and golden yardsthe anchors were of red gold,“and every rope wrought through with silk,” as the old song saidThe married pair went on boardand the whole congregation with themfor there was room and joyfulness for allAnd the walls and arches of the church bloomed like the elder and the fragrant lime trees and the leaves and branches waved and distributed coolnessthen they bent and parted and the ship sailed through the midst of themthrough the sea and through the air and every church taper became a starand the wind sang a psalm tuneand all sang with the wind

In love to gloryno life shall be lostFull of blessedness and joyHallelujah!”

And these words were the last that Jürgen spoke in this world The thread snapped that bound the immortal souland nothing but a dead body lay in the dark churcharound which the storm raged covering it with loose sand

The next morning was Sundayand the congregation and their pastor came to the serviceThe road to church had been heavythe sand made the way almost impassable and now when they at last reached their goal a great hill of sand was piled up before the entrance[and the church itself was buried]The priest spoke a short prayer and said that God had closed the door of this houseand the congregation must go and build a new one for Him elsewhere

So they sang a psalmand went back to their homes

Jürgen was nowhere to be found in the town of Skagenor in the duneshowever much they sought for himIt was thought that the waves which had rolled far up on the sandhad swept him away

His body lay buried in a great sepulcher in the church itselfIn the storm the Lord's hand had thrown earth on his coffinand the heavy mound of sand lay upon it and lies there to this day

The whirling sand had covered the high vaulted passageswhitethorn and wild rose trees grow over the churchover which the wanderer now walkswhile the towerstanding forth like a gigantic tombstone over a grave is to be seen for miles around

No king has a more splendid tombstoneNo one disturbs the rest of the dead no one knew of this before nowthe storm sang the tale to me among the sand-hills

 


 

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