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THE SHADOW

 

IN the hot countries the sun burns very strongly; there the people become quite mahogany brown, and in the very hottest countries they are even burned into negroes. But this time it was only to the hot countries that a learned man out of the cold regions had come. He thought he could roam about there just as he had been accustomed to do at home; but he soon altered his opinion. He and all sensible people had to remain at home, where the window-shutters and doors were shut all day long, and it looked as if all the inmates were asleep or had gone out. The narrow street with the high houses in which he lived was, however, built in such a way that the sun shone upon it from morning till evening; it was really quite unbearable!

The learned man from the cold regions was a young man and a clever man: it seemed to him as if he was sitting in a glowing oven that exhausted him greatly, and he became quite thin; even his Shadow shrivelled up and became much smaller than it had been at home; the sun even told upon it, and it did not recover till the evening, when the sun went down. It was really a pleasure to see this. So soon as a light was brought into the room the Shadow stretched itself quite up the wall, farther even than the ceiling, so tall did it make itself; it was obliged to stretch to get strength again.

The learned man went out into the balcony to stretch himself, and as soon as the stars came out in the beautiful clear sky, he felt himself reviving. On all the balconies in the streets----and in the hot countries there is a balcony to every window----people now appeared, for one must breathe fresh air, even if one has got used to being mahogany; then it became lively above and below; the shoemakers and tailors and everybody sat below in the street; then tables and chairs were brought out, and candles burned, yes, more than a thousand candles; one talked and another sang, and the people walked to and fro;carriages drove past, mules trotted, Kling-ling-ling!for they had bells on their harness; dead people were buried with solemn songs; the church bells rang, and it was indeed very lively in the street.

Only in one house, just opposite to that in which the learned man dwelt, it was quite quiet, and yet somebody lived there, for there were flowers upon the balcony, blooming beautifully in the hot sun, and they could not have done this if they had not been watered, so that some one must have watered them; therefore, there must be people in that house. Towards evening the door was half opened, but it was dark, at least in the front room; farther back, in the interior, music was heard. The strange learned man thought this music very lovely, but it was quite possible that he only imagined this, for out there in the hot countries he found everything exquisite, if only there had been no sun. The stranger's landlord said that he did not know who had taken the opposite house----one saw nobody there, and so far as the music was concerned, it seemed very monotonous to him.

It was just ,he said,as if some one sat there, always practising a piece that he could not manage----always the same piece. He seemed to say, I shall manage it, after all;but he did not manage it, however long he played.

The stranger was asleep one night. He slept with the balcony door open: the wind lifted up the curtain before it, and he fancied that a wonderful radiance came from the balcony of the house opposite; all the flowers appeared like flames of the most gorgeous colours, and in the midst, among the flowers, stood a beautiful slender maiden: it seemed as if a radiance came from her also. His eyes were quite dazzled; but he had only opened them too wide just when he awoke out of his sleep. With one leap he was out of bed; quite quietly he crept behind the curtain; but the maiden was gone, the splendour was gone, the flowers gleamed no longer, but stood there as beautiful as ever. The door was ajar, and from within sounded music, so lovely, so charming, that one fell into sweet thought at the sound. It was just like magic work. But who lived there? Where was the real entrance? for towards the street and towards the lane at the side the whole around floor was shop by shop, and the people could not always run through there.

One evening the stranger sat up on his balcony; in the room just behind him a light was burning, and so it was quite natural that his Shadow fell upon the wall of the opposite house; yes, it sat just among the flowers on the balcony, and when the stranger moved his Shadow moved too.

I think my Shadow is the only living thing we see yonder,said the learned man.Look how gracefully it sits among the flowers. The door is only ajar, but the Shadow ought to be sensible enough to walk in and look round, and then come back and tell me what it has seen.

Yes, you would thus make yourself very useful,said he, in sport.Be so good as to slip in. Now, will you go?And then he nodded at the Shadow, and the Shadow nodded back at him.Now go, but don't stay away altogether.

And the stranger stood up, and the Shadow on the balcony opposite stood up too, and the stranger turned round, and the Shadow turned also, and if any one had noticed closely he would have remarked how the Shadow went away in the same moment, straight through the halfopened door of the opposite house, as the stranger returned into his room and let the curtain fall.

Next morning the learned man went out to drink coffee and read the papers.

What is this?said he, when he came out into the sunshine. I have no Shadow !So it really went away yesterday evening, and did not come back: that's very tiresome.

And that fretted him, but not so much because the Shadow was gone as because he knew that there was a story of a man without a shadow. All the people in the cold lands knew this story, and if the learned man came home and told his own history, they would say that it was only an imitation, and he did not choose that they should say this of him. So he would not speak of it at all, and that was a very sensible idea of his.

In the evening he again went out on his balcony: he had placed the light behind him, for he knew that a shadow always wants its master for a screen, but he could not coax it forth. He made himself little, he made himself long, but there was no shadow, and no shadow came. He said,Here, here!but that did no good.

That was vexatious, but in the warm countries everything grows very quickly, and after the lapse of a week he remarked to his great joy that a new shadow was growing out of his legs when he went into the sunshine, so that the root must have remained behind. After three weeks he had quite a respectable shadow, which, when he started on his return to the North, grew more and more, so that at last it was so long and great that he could very well have parted with half of it.

When the learned man got home he wrote books about what is true in the world, and what is good, and what is pretty; and days went by, and years went by, many years.

He was one evening sitting in his room when there came a little quiet knock at the door. Come in!said he; but nobody came. Then he opened the door, and there stood before him such a remarkably thin man that he felt quite uncomfortable. This man was, however, very respectably dressed; he looked like a man of standing.

Whom have I the honour to address?asked the professor.

Ah!replied the genteel man, I thought you would not know me; I have become so much a body that I have got real flesh and clothes. You never thought to see me in such a condition. Don't you know your old Shadow? You certainly never thought that I would come again. Things have gone remarkably well with me since I was with you last. I've become rich in every respect: if I want to buy myself free from servitude I can do it!

And he rattled a number of valuable charms, which hung by his watch, and put his hand upon the thick gold chain he wore round his neck; and how the diamond rings glittered on his fingers! and everything was real!

No, I cannot regain my self-possession at all!said the learned man. What' s the meaning of all this?

Nothing common, said the Shadow. But you yourself don't belong to common folks; and I have, as you very well know, trodden in your footsteps from my childhood upwards. So soon as you thought that I was experienced enough to find my way through the world alone, I went away. I am in the most brilliant circumstances; but I was seized with a kind of longing to see you once more before you die, and I wanted to see these regions once more, for one always thinks much of one's fatherland. I know that you have got another shadow: have I anything to pay to it, or to you? You have only to tell me.

Is it really you?said the learned man. Why, that is wonderful! I should never have thought that I should ever meet my old Shadow as a man!

Only tell me what I have to pay, said the Shadow, for I don't like to be in any one's debt.

How can you talk in that way?said the learned man. Of what debt can there be a question here? You are as free as any one! I am exceedingly pleased at your good fortune! Sit dorm, old friend, and tell me a little how it has happened, and what you saw in the warm countries, and in the house opposite ours.

Yes, that I will tell you,said the Shadow; and it sat down. But then you must promise me never to tell any one in this town, when you meet me, that I have been your Shadow! I have the intention of engaging myself to be married; I can do more than support a family.

Be quite easy,replied the learned man; I will tell nobody who you really are. Here's my hand. I promise it, and my word is as good as my bond.

A Shadow's word in return!said the Shadow, for he was obliged to talk in that way. But, by the way, it was quite wonderful how complete a man he had become. He was dressed all in black, and wore the very finest black cloth, polished boots, and a hat that could be crushed together till it was nothing but crown and rim, besides what we have already noticed of him, namely, the charms, the gold neck-chain, and the diamond rings. The Shadow was indeed wonderfully well clothed; and it was just this that made a complete man of him.

Now I will tell you,said the Shadow; and then he put down his polished boots as firmly as he could on the arm of the learned man's new shadow that lay like a poodle dog at his feet. This was done perhaps from pride, perhaps so that the new shadow might stick to his feet; but the prostrate shadow remained quite quiet, so that it might listen well, for it wanted to know how one could get free and work up to be one's own master.

Do you know who lived in the house opposite to us?asked the Shadow. That was the most glorious of all; it was Poetry! I was there for three weeks, and that was just as if one had lived there a thousand years, and could read all that has been written and composed. For this I say, and it is truth, I have seen everything, and I know everything!

Poetry!cried the learned man. Yes, she often lives as a hermit in great cities. Poetry! Yes, I myself saw her for one single brief moment, but sleep was heavy on my eyes: she stood on the balcony, gleaming as the Northern Light gleams. Tell me! tell me! You were upon the balcony. You went through the door, and then----

Then I was in the ante-room,said the Shadow. You sat opposite, and were always looking across at the anteroom. There was no light; a kind of twilight reigned there; but one door after another in a whole row of halls and rooms stood open, and there it was light; and the mass of light would have killed me if I had got as far as to where the maiden sat. But I was deliberate, I took my time; and that's what one must do.

And what didst thou see then?asked the learned man.

I saw everything, and I will tell you what; but----itis really not pride on my part----as a free man, and with the acquirements I possess, besides my good position and my remarkable fortune, I wish you would say you to me.

I beg your pardon,said the learned man. This thou is an old habit, and old habits are difficult to alter. You are perfectly right, and I will remember it. But now tell me everything you saw.

Everything,said the Shadow; for I saw everything, and I know everything.

How did things look in the inner room? asked the learned man. Was it there as in the fresh wood? Was it there as in a holy temple? Were the chambers like the starry sky, when one stands on the high mountains?

Everything was there.said the Shadow. I was certainly not, quite inside; I remained in the front room, in the darkness; but I stood there remarkably well. I saw everything and know everything. I have been in the anteroom at the Court of Poetry.

But what did you see? Did all the gods of antiquity march through the halls? Did the old heroes fight there? Did lovely children play there, and relate their dreams?

I tell you that I have been there, and so you will easily understand that I saw everything that was to be seen. If you had got there you would not have become a man; but I became one, and at the same time I learned tounderstand my inner being and the relation in which I stood to Poetry. Yes, when I was with you I did not think of these things; but you know that whenever the sun rises or sets I am wonderfully great. In the moonshine I was almost more noticeable than you yourself. I did not then understand my inward being; in the ante-room it was revealed to me. I became a man! I came out ripe. But you were no longer in the warm countries. I was ashamed to go about as a man in the state I was then in: I required boots, clothes, and all this human varnish by which a man is known. I hid myself; yes, I can confide a secret to you----you will not put it into a book. I hid myself under the cake-woman's gown; the woman had no idea how much she concealed. Only in the evening did I go out: I ran about the streets by moonlight; I stretched myself quite long up the wall: that tickled my back quite agreeably. I ran up and down, looked through the highest windows into the halls and through the roof, where nobody could see, and I saw what nobody saw and what nobody ought to see. On the whole it is a despicable world: I would not be a man if it were not commonly supposed that it is something to be one .

I saw the most incredible things going on among men, and women, and parents, and dear incomparable children. I saw what no one else knows, but what they all would be very glad to know, namely, bad goings on at their neighbours. If I had written a newspaper, how it would have been readBut I wrote directly to the persons interested, and there was terror in every town to which I came. They were so afraid of me that they were remarkably fond of me. The professor made me a professor; the tailor gave me new clothes (I am well provided); the mint-master coined money for me; the women declared I was handsome: and thus I became the man I am. And now, farewe11! Here is my card; I live on the sunny side, and am always at home in rainy weather.

And the Shadow went away .

That was very remarkable,said the learned man. Years and days passed by, and the Shadow came again.

How goes it? he asked.

Ah!said the learned man, I'm writing about the true, the good, and the beautiful; but nobody cares to hear of anything of the kind: I am quite in despair, for I take that to heart.

That I do not,said the Shadow. I' m becoming fat and hearty, and that's what one must try to become. You don't understand the world, and you're getting ill. You must travel. I'll make a journey this summer; will you go too? I should like to have a travelling companion; will you go with me as my shadow? I shall be very happy to take you, and I'll pay the expenses.

That's going a little too far,said the learned man.

As you take it,replied the Shadow.A journey will do you a great deal of good. Will you be my shadow? ----then you shall have everything on the journey for nothing.

That's too strong!said the learned man.

But it's the way of the world,said the Shadow, and so it will remain!And he went away.

The learned man was not at all fortunate. Sorrow and care pursued him, and what he said of the true and the good and the beautiful was as little valued by most people as roses would be by a cow. At last he became quite ill.

You really look like a shadow!people said; and a shiver ran through him at these words, for he attached a peculiar meaning to them.

You must go to a watering-place! said the Shadow, who came to pay him a visit.There's no other help for you. I'll take you with me, for the sake of old acquaintance. I'll pay the expenses of the journey, and you shall make a description of it, and shorten time for me on the way. I want to visit a watering-place. My beard doesn't grow quite as it should, and that is a kind of illness; and a beard I must have. Now, be reasonable and accept my proposal: we shall travel like comrades.

And they travelled. The Shadow was master now, and the master was shadow: they drove together, they rode together, and walked side by side, and before and behind each other, just as the sun happened to stand. The Shadow always knew when to take the place of honour. The learned man did not particularly notice this, for he had a very good heart , and was moreover particularly mild and friendly . Then one day the master said to the Shadow.

As we have in this way become travelling companions, and have also from childhood's days grown up with one another, shall we not drink brotherhood? That sounds more confidential.

You' re saying a thing there,said the Shadow, who was now really the master, that is said in a very kind and straightforward way . I will be just as kind and straight forward . You, who are a learned gentleman , know very well how wonderful nature is. There are some men who cannot bear to touch brown paper, they become sick at it ; others shudder to the marrow of their bones if one scratches with a nail upon a pane of glass; and I for my part have a similar feeling when any one saysthouto me; I feel myself, as I did in my first position with you, oppressed by it. You see that this is a feeling,not pride. I cannot let you saythou to me, but I will gladly saythouto you; and thus your wish will be at any rate Partly fulfilled.

And now the Shadow addressed his former master as thou.

That's rather strong,said the latter,that I am to say you, while he say thou.But he was obliged to submit to it .

They came to a bathing-place, where many strangers were, and among them a beautiful young Princess, who had this disease, that she saw too sharply, which was very disquieting. She at once saw that the new arrival was a very different personage from all the rest.

They say he is here to get his beard to grow; but I see the real reason----he can't throw a shadow.

She had now become inquisitive, and therefore she at once began a conversation with the strange gentleman on the promenade. As a Princess, she was not obliged to use much ceremony, therefore she said outright to him at once,

Your illness consists in this, that you can't throw a shadow.

Your Royal Highness must be much better,replied the Shadow. I know your illness consists in this, that you see too sharply; but you have got the better of that. I have a very unusual shadow: don't you see the person who always accompanies me? Other people have a common shadow, but I don' t love what is common. One often gives one's servants finer cloth for their liveries than one wears oneself, and so I have let my shadow deck himself out like a separate person; yes, you see I have even given him a shadow of his own. That cost very much, but I like to have something peculiar.

How!said the Princess, can I really have been cured? This is the best bathing-place in existence; water has wonderful power nowadays. But I'm not going away from here yet, for now it begins to be amusing. The stranger pleases me remarkably well. I only hope his beard won't grow, for if it does he'll go away.

That evening the Princess and the Shadow danced together in the great ball-room. She was light, but he was still lighter; never had she seen such a dancer. She told him from what country she came, and he knew the country----he had been there, but just when she had been absent. He had looked through the windows of her castle, from below as well as from above; he had learned many circumstances, and could therefore make allusions, and give replies to the Princess, at which she marvelled greatly. She thought he must be the cleverest man in all the world, and was inspired with great respect for all his knowledge. And when she danced with him again, she fell in love with him, and the Shadow noticed that particularly, for she looked him almost through and through with her eyes. They danced together once more, and she was nearly telling him, but she was discreet: she thought of her country and her kingdom, and of the many people over whom she was to rule .

He is a clever man,she said to herself,and that is well, and he dances capitally, and that is well too; but has he well-grounded knowledge? That is just as important, and he must be examined.

And she immediately put such a difficult question to him, that she could not have answered it herself; and the Shadow made a wry face.

You cannot answer me that,said the Princess.

I learned that in my childhood,replied the Shadow,and I believe my very shadow, standing yonder by the door, could answer it.

Your shadow!cried the Princess:that would be very remarkable.

I do not assert as quite certain that he can do so,said the Shadow,but I am almost inclined to believe it, he has now accompanied me and listened for so many years. But your Royal Highness will allow me to remind you that he is so proud of passing for a man, that, if he is to be in a good humour, and he should be so to answer rightly, he must be treated just like a man.

I like that!said the Princess.

And now she went to the learned man at the door; and she spoke with him of sun and moon, of people both inside and out, and the learned man answered very cleverly and very well.

What a man that must be, who has such a clever shadow!she thought.It would be a real blessing for my country and for my people if I chose him for my husband; and I'll do it!

And they soon struck a bargain----the Princess and the Shadow; but no one was to know anything of it till she had returned to her kingdom.

No one----not even my shadow,said the Shadow; and for this he had especial reasons.

And they came to the country where the Princess ruled, and where was her home.

Listen, my friend,said the Shadow to the learned man.Now I am as lucky and powerful as any one can become, I'll do something particular for you. You shall live with me in my palace, drive with me in the royal carriage, and have a hundred thousand dollars a year; but you must let yourself be called a shadow by every one, and may never say that you were once a man : and once a year, when I sit on the balcony and show myself, you must lie at my feet as it becomes my shadow to do . For I will tell you I' m going to marry the Princess, and this evening the wedding will be held.

Now, that's too strong! said the learned man.I won't do it; I won't have it. That would be cheating the whole country and the Princess too. I'll tell everything----that I'm the man and you are the Shadow, and that you are only dressed up!

No one would believe that,said the Shadow. Be reasonable, or I'll call the watch.

I'll go straight to the Princess,said the learned man.

But I'll go first,said the Shadow; and you shall go to prison.

And that was so; for the sentinels obeyed him who they knew was to marry the Princess.

You tremble,said the Princess, when the Shadow came to her.Has anything happened? You must not be ill today, when we are to have our wedding.

I have experienced the most terrible thing that can happen,said the Shadow.Only think! ----such a poor shallow brain cannot bear much----only think! my shadow has gone mad: he fancies he has become a man, and----only think! ----that I am his shadow.

This is terrible!said the Princess.He's locked up, I hope?

Certainly. I'm afraid he will never recover.

Poor shadow!cried the Princess,he's very unfortunate. It would really be a good action to deliver him from his little bit of life. And when I think it over, properly, I believe it is quite necessary to put him quietly out of the way.

That's certainly very hard, for he was a faithful servant.said the Shadow; and he pretended to sigh.

You've a noble character,said the Princess, and she bowed before him.

In the evening the whole town was illuminated, and cannon were fired----bang! ----and the soldiers presented arms. That was a wedding! The Princess and the Shadow stepped out on the balcony to show themselves and receive another cheer.

The learned man heard nothing of all this festivity, for he had already been executed.


 

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