The Shoes of
Fortune by Hans Christian Andersen
I. A Beginning
Every author has some peculiarity in his descriptions or in his style of
writing. Those who do not like him, magnify it, shrug up their shoulders, and
exclaim--there he is again! I, for my part, know very well how I can bring
about this movement and this exclamation. It would happen immediately if I
were to begin here, as I intended to do, with: "Rome has its Corso, Naples its
Toledo"--"Ah! that Andersen; there he is again!" they would cry; yet I must,
to please my fancy, continue quite quietly, and add: "But Copenhagen has its
Here, then, we will stay for the present. In one of the houses not far from
the new market a party was invited--a very large party, in order, as is often
the case, to get a return invitation from the others. One half of the company
was already seated at the card-table, the other half awaited the result of the
stereotype preliminary observation of the lady of the house:
"Now let us see what we can do to amuse ourselves."
They had got just so far, and the conversation began to crystallise, as it
could but do with the scanty stream which the commonplace world supplied.
Amongst other things they spoke of the middle ages: some praised that period
as far more interesting, far more poetical than our own too sober present;
indeed Councillor Knap defended this opinion so warmly, that the hostess
declared immediately on his side, and both exerted themselves with unwearied
eloquence. The Councillor boldly declared the time of King Hans to be the
noblest and the most happy period.*
* A.D. 1482-1513
While the conversation turned on this subject, and was only for a moment
interrupted by the arrival of a journal that contained nothing worth reading,
we will just step out into the antechamber, where cloaks, mackintoshes,
sticks, umbrellas, and shoes, were deposited. Here sat two female figures, a
young and an old one. One might have thought at first they were servants come
to accompany their mistresses home; but on looking nearer, one soon saw they
could scarcely be mere servants; their forms were too noble for that, their
skin too fine, the cut of their dress too striking. Two fairies were they; the
younger, it is true, was not Dame Fortune herself, but one of the
waiting-maids of her handmaidens who carry about the lesser good things that
she distributes; the other looked extremely gloomy--it was Care. She always
attends to her own serious business herself, as then she is sure of having it
They were telling each other, with a confidential interchange of ideas, where
they had been during the day. The messenger of Fortune had only executed a few
unimportant commissions, such as saving a new bonnet from a shower of rain,
etc.; but what she had yet to perform was something quite unusual.
"I must tell you," said she, "that to-day is my birthday; and in honor of it,
a pair of walking-shoes or galoshes has been entrusted to me, which I am to
carry to mankind. These shoes possess the property of instantly transporting
him who has them on to the place or the period in which he most wishes to be;
every wish, as regards time or place, or state of being, will be immediately
fulfilled, and so at last man will be happy, here below."
"Do you seriously believe it?" replied Care, in a severe tone of reproach.
"No; he will be very unhappy, and will assuredly bless the moment when he
feels that he has freed himself from the fatal shoes."
"Stupid nonsense!" said the other angrily. "I will put them here by the door.
Some one will make a mistake for certain and take the wrong ones--he will be a
Such was their conversation.
II. What Happened to the Councillor
It was late; Councillor Knap, deeply occupied with the times of King Hans,
intended to go home, and malicious Fate managed matters so that his feet,
instead of finding their way to his own galoshes, slipped into those of
Fortune. Thus caparisoned the good man walked out of the well-lighted rooms
into East Street. By the magic power of the shoes he was carried back to the
times of King Hans; on which account his foot very naturally sank in the mud
and puddles of the street, there having been in those days no pavement in
"Well! This is too bad! How dirty it is here!" sighed the Councillor. "As to a
pavement, I can find no traces of one, and all the lamps, it seems, have gone
The moon was not yet very high; it was besides rather foggy, so that in the
darkness all objects seemed mingled in chaotic confusion. At the next corner
hung a votive lamp before a Madonna, but the light it gave was little better
than none at all; indeed, he did not observe it before he was exactly under
it, and his eyes fell upon the bright colors of the pictures which represented
the well-known group of the Virgin and the infant Jesus.
"That is probably a wax-work show," thought he; "and the people delay taking
down their sign in hopes of a late visitor or two."
A few persons in the costume of the time of King Hans passed quickly by him.
"How strange they look! The good folks come probably from a masquerade!"
Suddenly was heard the sound of drums and fifes; the bright blaze of a fire
shot up from time to time, and its ruddy gleams seemed to contend with the
bluish light of the torches. The Councillor stood still, and watched a most
strange procession pass by. First came a dozen drummers, who understood pretty
well how to handle their instruments; then came halberdiers, and some armed
with cross-bows. The principal person in the procession was a priest.
Astonished at what he saw, the Councillor asked what was the meaning of all
this mummery, and who that man was.
"That's the Bishop of Zealand," was the answer.
"Good Heavens! What has taken possession of the Bishop?" sighed the
Councillor, shaking his bead. It certainly could not be the Bishop; even
though he was considered the most absent man in the whole kingdom, and people
told the drollest anecdotes about him. Reflecting on the matter, and without
looking right or left, the Councillor went through East Street and across the
Habro-Platz. The bridge leading to Palace Square was not to be found; scarcely
trusting his senses, the nocturnal wanderer discovered a shallow piece of
water, and here fell in with two men who very comfortably were rocking to and
fro in a boat.
"Does your honor want to cross the ferry to the Holme?" asked they.
"Across to the Holme!" said the Councillor, who knew nothing of the age in
which he at that moment was. "No, I am going to Christianshafen, to Little
Both men stared at him in astonishment.
"Only just tell me where the bridge is," said he. "It is really unpardonable
that there are no lamps here; and it is as dirty as if one had to wade through
The longer he spoke with the boatmen, the more unintelligible did their
language become to him.
"I don't understand your Bornholmish dialect," said he at last, angrily, and
turning his back upon them. He was unable to find the bridge: there was no
railway either. "It is really disgraceful what a state this place is in,"
muttered he to himself. Never had his age, with which, however, he was always
grumbling, seemed so miserable as on this evening. "I'll take a
hackney-coach!" thought he. But where were the hackneycoaches? Not one was to
"I must go back to the New Market; there, it is to be hoped, I shall find some
coaches; for if I don't, I shall never get safe to Christianshafen."
So off he went in the direction of East Street, and had nearly got to the end
of it when the moon shone forth.
"God bless me! What wooden scaffolding is that which they have set up there?"
cried he involuntarily, as he looked at East Gate, which, in those days, was
at the end of East Street.
He found, however, a little side-door open, and through this he went, and
stepped into our New Market of the present time. It was a huge desolate plain;
some wild bushes stood up here and there, while across the field flowed a
broad canal or river. Some wretched hovels for the Dutch sailors, resembling
great boxes, and after which the place was named, lay about in confused
disorder on the opposite bank.
"I either behold a fata morgana, or I am regularly tipsy," whimpered out the
Councillor. "But what's this?"
He turned round anew, firmly convinced that he was seriously ill. He gazed at
the street formerly so well known to him, and now so strange in appearance,
and looked at the houses more attentively: most of them were of wood, slightly
put together; and many had a thatched roof.
"No--I am far from well," sighed he; "and yet I drank only one glass of punch;
but I cannot suppose it--it was, too, really very wrong to give us punch and
hot salmon for supper. I shall speak about it at the first opportunity. I have
half a mind to go back again, and say what I suffer. But no, that would be too
silly; and Heaven only knows if they are up still."
He looked for the house, but it had vanished.
"It is really dreadful," groaned he with increasing anxiety; "I cannot
recognise East Street again; there is not a single decent shop from one end to
the other! Nothing but wretched huts can I see anywhere; just as if I were at
Ringstead. Ohl I am ill! I can scarcely bear myself any longer. Where the
deuce can the house be? It must be here on this very spot; yet there is not
the slightest idea of resemblance, to such a degree has everything changed
this night! At all events here are some people up and stirring. Oh! oh! I am
certainly very ill."
He now hit upon a half-open door, through a chink of which a faint light
shone. It was a sort of hostelry of those times; a kind of public-house. The
room had some resemblance to the clay-floored halls in Holstein; a pretty
numerous company, consisting of seamen, Copenhagen burghers, and a few
scholars, sat here in deep converse over their pewter cans, and gave little
heed to the person who entered.
"By your leave!" said the Councillor to the Hostess, who came bustling towards
him. "I've felt so queer all of a sudden; would you have the goodness to send
for a hackney-coach to take me to Christianshafen?"
The woman examined him with eyes of astonishment, and shook her head; she then
addressed him in German. The Councillor thought she did not understand Danish,
and therefore repeated his wish in German. This, in connection with his
costume, strengthened the good woman in the belief that he was a foreigner.
That he was ill, she comprehended directly; so she brought him a pitcher of
water, which tasted certainly pretty strong of the sea, although it had been
fetched from the well.
The Councillor supported his head on his hand, drew a long breath, and thought
over all the wondrous things he saw around him.
"Is this the Daily News of this evening?" be asked mechanically, as he saw the
Hostess push aside a large sheet of paper.
The meaning of this councillorship query remained, of course, a riddle to her,
yet she handed him the paper without replying. It was a coarse wood-cut,
representing a splendid meteor "as seen in the town of Cologne," which was to
be read below in bright letters.
"That is very old!" said the Councillor, whom this piece of antiquity began to
make considerably more cheerful. "Pray how did you come into possession of
this rare print? It is extremely interesting, although the whole is a mere
fable. Such meteorous appearances are to be explained in this way--that they
are the reflections of the Aurora Borealis, and it is highly probable they are
caused principally by electricity."
Those persons who were sitting nearest him and beard his speech, stared at him
in wonderment; and one of them rose, took off his hat respectfully, and said
with a serious countenance, "You are no doubt a very learned man, Monsieur."
"Oh no," answered the Councillor, "I can only join in conversation on this
topic and on that, as indeed one must do according to the demands of the world
"Modestia is a fine virtue," continued the gentleman; "however, as to your
speech, I must say mihi secus videtur: yet I am willing to suspend my
"May I ask with whom I have the pleasure of speaking?" asked the Councillor.
"I am a Bachelor in Theologia," answered the gentleman with a stiff reverence.
This reply fully satisfied the Councillor; the title suited the dress. "He is
certainly," thought he, "some village schoolmaster-some queer old fellow, such
as one still often meets with in Jutland."
"This is no locus docendi, it is true," began the clerical gentleman; "yet I
beg you earnestly to let us profit by your learning. Your reading in the
ancients is, sine dubio, of vast extent?"
"Oh yes, I've read a something, to be sure," replied the Councillor. "I like
reading all useful works; but I do not on that account despise the modern
ones; 'tis only the unfortunate 'Tales of Every-day Life' that I cannot
bear--we have enough and more than enough such in reality."
"'Tales of Every-day Life?'" said our Bachelor inquiringly.
"I mean those new fangled novels, twisting and writhing themselves in the dust
of commonplace, which also expect to find a reading public."
"Oh," exclaimed the clerical gentleman smiling, "there is much wit in them;
besides they are read at court. The King likes the history of Sir Iffven and
Sir Gaudian particularly, which treats of King Arthur, and his Knights of the
Round Table; he has more than once joked about it with his high vassals."
"I have not read that novel," said the Councillor; "it must be quite a new
one, that Heiberg has published lately."
"No," answered the theologian of the time of King Hans: "that book is not
written by a Heiberg, but was imprinted by Godfrey von Gehmen."
"Oh, is that the author's name?" said the Councillor. "It is a very old name,
and, as well as I recollect, he was the first printer that appeared in
"Yes, he is our first printer," replied the clerical gentleman hastily.
So far all went on well. Some one of the worthy burghers now spoke of the
dreadful pestilence that had raged in the country a few years back, meaning
that of 1484. The Councillor imagined it was the cholera that was meant, which
people made so much fuss about; and the discourse passed off satisfactorily
enough. The war of the buccaneers of 1490 was so recent that it could not fail
being alluded to; the English pirates had, they said, most shamefully taken
their ships while in the roadstead; and the Councillor, before whose eyes the
Herostratic* event of 1801 still floated vividly, agreed entirely with the
others in abusing the rascally English. With other topics he was not so
fortunate; every moment brought about some new confusion, and threatened to
become a perfect Babel; for the worthy Bachelor was really too ignorant, and
the simplest observations of the Councillor sounded to him too daring and
phantastical. They looked at one another from the crown of the head to the
soles of the feet; and when matters grew to too high a pitch, then the
Bachelor talked Latin, in the hope of being better understood--but it was of
no use after all.
* Herostratus, or Eratostratus--an Ephesian, who wantonly set fire to the
famous temple of Diana, in order to commemorate his name by so uncommon an
"What's the matter?" asked the Hostess, plucking the Councillor by the sleeve;
and now his recollection returned, for in the course of the conversation he
had entirely forgotten all that had preceded it.
"Merciful God, where am I!" exclaimed he in agony; and while he so thought,
all his ideas and feelings of overpowering dizziness, against which he
struggled with the utmost power of desperation, encompassed him with renewed
force. "Let us drink claret and mead, and Bremen beer," shouted one of the
guests--"and you shall drink with us!"
Two maidens approached. One wore a cap of two staring colors, denoting the
class of persons to which she belonged. They poured out the liquor, and made
the most friendly gesticulations; while a cold perspiration trickled down the
back of the poor Councillor.
"What's to be the end of this! What's to become of me!" groaned he; but he was
forced, in spite of his opposition, to drink with the rest. They took hold of
the worthy man; who, hearing on every side that he was intoxicated, did not in
the least doubt the truth of this certainly not very polite assertion; but on
the contrary, implored the ladies and gentlemen present to procure him a
hackney-coach: they, however, imagined he was talking Russian.
Never before, he thought, had he been in such a coarse and ignorant company;
one might almost fancy the people had turned heathens again. "It is the most
dreadful moment of my life: the whole world is leagued against me!" But
suddenly it occurred to him that he might stoop down under the table, and then
creep unobserved out of the door. He did so; but just as he was going, the
others remarked what he was about; they laid hold of him by the legs; and now,
happily for him, off fell his fatal shoes--and with them the charm was at an
The Councillor saw quite distinctly before him a lantern burning, and behind
this a large handsome house. All seemed to him in proper order as usual; it
was East Street, splendid and elegant as we now see it. He lay with his feet
towards a doorway, and exactly opposite sat the watchman asleep.
"Gracious Heaven!" said he. "Have I lain here in the street and dreamed? Yes;
'tis East Street! How splendid and light it is! But really it is terrible
what an effect that one glass of punch must have had on me!"
Two minutes later, he was sitting in a hackney-coach and driving to
Frederickshafen. He thought of the distress and agony he had endured, and
praised from the very bottom of his heart the happy reality--our own
time--which, with all its deficiencies, is yet much better than that in which,
so much against his inclination, he had lately been.
III. The Watchman's Adventure
"Why, there is a pair of galoshes, as sure as I'm alive!" said the watchman,
awaking from a gentle slumber. "They belong no doubt to the lieutenant who
lives over the way. They lie close to the door."
The worthy man was inclined to ring and deliver them at the house, for there
was still a light in the window; but he did not like disturbing the other
people in their beds, and so very considerately he left the matter alone.
"Such a pair of shoes must be very warm and comfortable," said he; "the
leather is so soft and supple." They fitted his feet as though they had been
made for him. "'Tis a curious world we live in," continued he, soliloquizing.
"There is the lieutenant, now, who might go quietly to bed if he chose, where
no doubt he could stretch himself at his ease; but does he do it? No; he
saunters up and down his room, because, probably, he has enjoyed too many of
the good things of this world at his dinner. That's a happy fellow! He has
neither an infirm mother, nor a whole troop of everlastingly hungry children
to torment him. Every evening he goes to a party, where his nice supper costs
him nothing: would to Heaven I could but change with him! How happy should I
While expressing his wish, the charm of the shoes, which he had put on, began
to work; the watchman entered into the being and nature of the lieutenant. He
stood in the handsomely furnished apartment, and held between his fingers a
small sheet of rose-colored paper, on which some verses were written--written
indeed by the officer himself; for who has not', at least once in his life,
had a lyrical moment? And if one then marks down one's thoughts, poetry is
produced. But here was written:
OH, WERE I RICH!
"Oh, were I rich! Such was my wish, yea such
When hardly three feet high, I longed for much.
Oh, were I rich! an officer were I,
With sword, and uniform, and plume so high.
And the time came, and officer was I!
But yet I grew not rich. Alas, poor me!
Have pity, Thou, who all man's wants dost see.
"I sat one evening sunk in dreams of bliss,
A maid of seven years old gave me a kiss,
I at that time was rich in poesy
And tales of old, though poor as poor could be;
But all she asked for was this poesy.
Then was I rich, but not in gold, poor me!
As Thou dost know, who all men's hearts canst see.
"Oh, were I rich! Oft asked I for this boon.
The child grew up to womanhood full soon.
She is so pretty, clever, and so kind
Oh, did she know what's hidden in my mind--
A tale of old. Would she to me were kind!.
But I'm condemned to silence! oh, poor me!
As Thou dost know, who all men's hearts canst see.
"Oh, were I rich in calm and peace of mind,
My grief you then would not here written find!
O thou, to whom I do my heart devote,
Oh read this page of glad days now remote,
A dark, dark tale, which I tonight devote!
Dark is the future now. Alas, poor me!
Have pity Thou, who all men's pains dost see."
Such verses as these people write when they are in love! But no man in his
senses ever thinks of printing them. Here one of the sorrows of life, in which
there is real poetry, gave itself vent; not that barren grief which the poet
may only hint at, but never depict in its detail--misery and want: that animal
necessity, in short, to snatch at least at a fallen leaf of the bread-fruit
tree, if not at the fruit itself. The higher the position in which one finds
oneself transplanted, the greater is the suffering. Everyday necessity is the
stagnant pool of life--no lovely picture reflects itself therein. Lieutenant,
love, and lack of money--that is a symbolic triangle, or much the same as the
half of the shattered die of Fortune. This the lieutenant felt most
poignantly, and this was the reason he leant his head against the window, and
sighed so deeply.
"The poor watchman out there in the street is far happier than I. He knows not
what I term privation. He has a home, a wife, and children, who weep with him
over his sorrows, who rejoice with him when he is glad. Oh, far happier were
I, could I exchange with him my being--with his desires and with his hopes
perform the weary pilgrimage of life! Oh, he is a hundred times happier than
In the same moment the watchman was again watchman. It was the shoes that
caused the metamorphosis by means of which, unknown to himself, he took upon
him the thoughts and feelings of the officer; but, as we have just seen, he
felt himself in his new situation much less contented, and now preferred the
very thing which but some minutes before he had rejected. So then the watchman
was again watchman.
"That was an unpleasant dream," said he; "but 'twas droll enough altogether. I
fancied that I was the lieutenant over there: and yet the thing was not very
much to my taste after all. I missed my good old mother and the dear little
ones; who almost tear me to pieces for sheer love."
He seated himself once more and nodded: the dream continued to haunt him, for
he still had the shoes on his feet. A falling star shone in the dark
"There falls another star," said he: "but what does it matter; there are
always enough left. I should not much mind examining the little glimmering
things somewhat nearer, especially the moon; for that would not slip so easily
through a man's fingers. When we die--so at least says the student, for whom
my wife does the washing--we shall fly about as light as a feather from one
such a star to the other. That's, of course, not true: but 'twould be pretty
enough if it were so. If I could but once take a leap up there, my body might
stay here on the steps for what I care."
Behold--there are certain things in the world to which one ought never to give
utterance except with the greatest caution; but doubly careful must one be
when we have the Shoes of Fortune on our feet. Now just listen to what
happened to the watchman.
As to ourselves, we all know the speed produced by the employment of steam; we
have experienced it either on railroads, or in boats when crossing the sea;
but such a flight is like the travelling of a sloth in comparison with the
velocity with which light moves. It flies nineteen million times faster than
the best race-horse; and yet electricity is quicker still. Death is an
electric shock which our heart receives; the freed soul soars upwards on the
wings of electricity. The sun's light wants eight minutes and some seconds to
perform a journey of more than twenty million of our Danish* miles; borne by
electricity, the soul wants even some minutes less to accomplish the same
flight. To it the space between the heavenly bodies is not greater than the
distance between the homes of our friends in town is for us, even if they live
a short way from each other; such an electric shock in the heart, however,
costs us the use of the body here below; unless, like the watchman of East
Street, we happen to have on the Shoes of Fortune.
*A Danish mile is nearly 4 3/4 English.
In a few seconds the watchman had done the fifty-two thousand of our miles up
to the moon, which, as everyone knows, was formed out of matter much lighter
than our earth; and is, so we should say, as soft as newly-fallen snow. He
found himself on one of the many circumjacent mountain-ridges with which we
are acquainted by means of Dr. Madler's "Map of the Moon." Within, down it
sunk perpendicularly into a caldron, about a Danish mile in depth; while below
lay a town, whose appearance we can, in some measure, realize to ourselves by
beating the white of an egg in a glass Of water. The matter of which it was
built was just as soft, and formed similar towers, and domes, and pillars,
transparent and rocking in the thin air; while above his head our earth was
rolling like a large fiery ball.
He perceived immediately a quantity of beings who were certainly what we call
"men"; yet they looked different to us. A far more, correct imagination than
that of the pseudo-Herschel* had created them; and if they had been placed in
rank and file, and copied by some skilful painter's hand, one would, without
doubt, have exclaimed involuntarily, "What a beautiful arabesque!"
*This relates to a book published some years ago in Germany, and said to be by
Herschel, which contained a description of the moon and its inhabitants,
written with such a semblance of truth that many were deceived by the
Probably a translation of the celebrated Moon hoax, written by Richard A.
Locke, and originally published in New York.
They had a language too; but surely nobody can expect that the soul of the
watchman should understand it. Be that as it may, it did comprehend it; for in
our souls there germinate far greater powers than we poor mortals, despite all
our cleverness, have any notion of. Does she not show us--she the queen in the
land of enchantment--her astounding dramatic talent in all our dreams? There
every acquaintance appears and speaks upon the stage, so entirely in
character, and with the same tone of voice, that none of us, when awake, were
able to imitate it. How well can she recall persons to our mind, of whom we
have not thought for years; when suddenly they step forth "every inch a man,"
resembling the real personages, even to the finest features, and become the
heroes or heroines of our world of dreams. In reality, such remembrances are
rather unpleasant: every sin, every evil thought, may, like a clock with alarm
or chimes, be repeated at pleasure; then the question is if we can trust
ourselves to give an account of every unbecoming word in our heart and on our
The watchman's spirit understood the language of the inhabitants of the moon
pretty well. The Selenites* disputed variously about our earth, and expressed
their doubts if it could be inhabited: the air, they said, must certainly be
too dense to allow any rational dweller in the moon the necessary free
respiration. They considered the moon alone to be inhabited: they imagined it
was the real heart of the universe or planetary system, on which the genuine
Cosmopolites, or citizens of the world, dwelt. What strange things men--no,
what strange things Selenites sometimes take into their heads!
*Dwellers in the moon.
About politics they had a good deal to say. But little Denmark must take care
what it is about, and not run counter to the moon; that great realm, that
might in an ill-humor bestir itself, and dash down a hail-storm in our faces,
or force the Baltic to overflow the sides of its gigantic basin.
We will, therefore, not listen to what was spoken, and on no condition run in
the possibility of telling tales out of school; but we will rather proceed,
like good quiet citizens, to East Street, and observe what happened meanwhile
to the body of the watchman.
He sat lifeless on the steps: the morning-star,* that is to say, the heavy
wooden staff, headed with iron spikes, and which had nothing else in common
with its sparkling brother in the sky, had glided from his hand; while his
eyes were fixed with glassy stare on the moon, looking for the good old fellow
of a spirit which still haunted it.
*The watchmen in Germany, had formerly, and in some places they still carry
with them, on their rounds at night, a sort of mace or club, known in ancient
times by the above denomination.
"What's the hour, watchman?" asked a passer-by. But when the watchman gave no
reply, the merry roysterer, who was now returning home from a noisy drinking
bout, took it into his bead to try what a tweak of the nose would do, on which
the supposed sleeper lost his balance, the body lay motionless, stretched out
on the pavement: the man was dead. When the patrol came up, all his comrades,
who comprehended nothing of the whole affair, were seized with a dreadful
fright, for dead be was, and he remained so. The proper authorities were
informed of the circumstance, people talked a good deal about it, and in the
morning the body was carried to the hospital.
Now that would be a very pretty joke, if the spirit when it came back and
looked for the body in East Street, were not to find one. No doubt it would,
in its anxiety, run off to the police, and then to the "Hue and Cry" office,
to announce that "the finder will be handsomely rewarded," and at last away to
the hospital; yet we may boldly assert that the soul is shrewdest when it
shakes off every fetter, and every sort of leading-string--the body only makes
The seemingly dead body of the watchman wandered, as we have said, to the
hospital, where it was brought into the general viewing-room: and the first
thing that was done here was naturally to pull off the galoshes--when the
spirit, that was merely gone out on adventures, must have returned with the
quickness of lightning to its earthly tenement. It took its direction towards
the body in a straight line; and a few seconds after, life began to show
itself in the man. He asserted that the preceding night had been the worst
that ever the malice of fate had allotted him; he would not for two silver
marks again go through what he had endured while moon-stricken; but now,
however, it was over.
The same day he was discharged from the hospital as perfectly cured; but the
Shoes meanwhile remained behind.
IV. A Moment of Head Importance--An Evening's "Dramatic Readings"--A Most
Every inhabitant of Copenhagen knows, from personal inspection, how the
entrance to Frederick's Hospital looks; but as it is possible that others, who
are not Copenhagen people, may also read this little work, we will beforehand
give a short description of it.
The extensive building is separated from the street by a pretty high railing,
the thick iron bars of which are so far apart, that in all seriousness, it is
said, some very thin fellow had of a night occasionally squeezed himself
through to go and pay his little visits in the town. The part of the body most
difficult to manage on such occasions was, no doubt, the head; here, as is so
often the case in the world, long-headed people get through best. So much,
then, for the introduction.
One of the young men, whose head, in a physical sense only, might be said to
be of the thickest, had the watch that evening.The rain poured down in
torrents; yet despite these two obstacles, the young man was obliged to go
out, if it were but for a quarter of an hour; and as to telling the
door-keeper about it, that, he thought, was quite unnecessary, if, with a
whole skin, he were able to slip through the railings. There, on the floor lay
the galoshes, which the watchman had forgotten; he never dreamed for a moment
that they were those of Fortune; and they promised to do him good service in
the wet; so he put them on. The question now was, if he could squeeze himself
through the grating, for he had never tried before. Well, there he stood.
"Would to Heaven I had got my head through!" said he, involuntarily; and
instantly through it slipped, easily and without pain, notwithstanding it was
pretty large and thick. But now the rest of the body was to be got through!
"Ah! I am much too stout," groaned he aloud, while fixed as in a vice. "I had
thought the head was the most difficult part of the matter--oh! oh! I really
cannot squeeze myself through!"
He now wanted to pull his over-hasty head back again, but he could not. For
his neck there was room enough, but for nothing more. His first feeling was of
anger; his next that his temper fell to zero. The Shoes of Fortune had placed
him in the most dreadful situation; and, unfortunately, it never occurred to
him to wish himself free. The pitch-black clouds poured down their contents in
still heavier torrents; not a creature was to be seen in the streets. To reach
up to the bell was what he did not like; to cry aloud for help would have
availed him little; besides, how ashamed would he have been to be found caught
in a trap, like an outwitted fox! How was he to twist himself through! He saw
clearly that it was his irrevocable destiny to remain a prisoner till dawn,
or, perhaps, even late in the morning; then the smith must be fetched to file
away the bars; but all that would not be done so quickly as he could think
about it. The whole Charity School, just opposite, would be in motion; all the
new booths, with their not very courtier-like swarm of seamen, would join them
out of curiosity, and would greet him with a wild "hurrah!" while he was
standing in his pillory: there would be a mob, a hissing, and rejoicing, and
jeering, ten times worse than in the rows about the Jews some years ago--"Oh,
my blood is mounting to my brain; 'tis enough to drive one mad! I shall go
wild! I know not what to do. Oh! were I but loose; my dizziness would then
cease; oh, were my head but loose!"
You see he ought to have said that sooner; for the moment he expressed the
wish his head was free; and cured of all his paroxysms of love, he hastened
off to his room, where the pains consequent on the fright the Shoes had
prepared for him, did not so soon take their leave.
But you must not think that the affair is over now; it grows much worse.
The night passed, the next day also; but nobody came to fetch the Shoes.
In the evening "Dramatic Readings" were to be given at the little theatre in
King Street. The house was filled to suffocation; and among other pieces to be
recited was a new poem by H. C. Andersen, called, My Aunt's Spectacles; the
contents of which were pretty nearly as follows:
"A certain person had an aunt, who boasted of particular skill in
fortune-telling with cards, and who was constantly being stormed by persons
that wanted to have a peep into futurity. But she was full of mystery about
her art, in which a certain pair of magic spectacles did her essential
service. Her nephew, a merry boy, who was his aunt's darling, begged so long
for these spectacles, that, at last, she lent him the treasure, after having
informed him, with many exhortations, that in order to execute the interesting
trick, he need only repair to some place where a great many persons were
assembled; and then, from a higher position, whence he could overlook the
crowd, pass the company in review before him through his spectacles.
Immediately 'the inner man' of each individual would be displayed before him,
like a game of cards, in which he unerringly might read what the future of
every person presented was to be. Well pleased the little magician hastened
away to prove the powers of the spectacles in the theatre; no place seeming to
him more fitted for such a trial. He begged permission of the worthy audience,
and set his spectacles on his nose. A motley phantasmagoria presents itself
before him, which he describes in a few satirical touches, yet without
expressing his opinion openly: he tells the people enough to set them all
thinking and guessing; but in order to hurt nobody, he wraps his witty
oracular judgments in a transparent veil, or rather in a lurid thundercloud,
shooting forth bright sparks of wit, that they may fall in the powder-magazine
of the expectant audience."
The humorous poem was admirably recited, and the speaker much applauded. Among
the audience was the young man of the hospital, who seemed to have forgotten
his adventure of the preceding night. He had on the Shoes; for as yet no
lawful owner had appeared to claim them; and besides it was so very dirty
out-of-doors, they were just the thing for him, he thought.
The beginning of the poem he praised with great generosity: he even found the
idea original and effective. But that the end of it, like the Rhine, was very
insignificant, proved, in his opinion, the author's want of invention; he was
without genius, etc. This was an excellent opportunity to have said something
Meanwhile he was haunted by the idea--he should like to possess such a pair of
spectacles himself; then, perhaps, by using them circumspectly, one would be
able to look into people's hearts, which, he thought, would be far more
interesting than merely to see what was to happen next year; for that we
should all know in proper time, but the other never.
"I can now," said he to himself, "fancy the whole row of ladies and gentlemen
sitting there in the front row; if one could but see into their hearts--yes,
that would be a revelation--a sort of bazar. In that lady yonder, so strangely
dressed, I should find for certain a large milliner's shop; in that one the
shop is empty, but it wants cleaning plain enough. But there would also be
some good stately shops among them. Alas!" sighed he, "I know one in which all
is stately; but there sits already a spruce young shopman, which is the only
thing that's amiss in the whole shop. All would be splendidly decked out, and
we should hear, 'Walk in, gentlemen, pray walk in; here you will find all you
please to want.' Ah! I wish to Heaven I could walk in and take a trip right
through the hearts of those present!"
And behold! to the Shoes of Fortune this was the cue; the whole man shrunk
together and a most uncommon journey through the hearts of the front row of
spectators, now began. The first heart through which he came, was that of a
middle-aged lady, but he instantly fancied himself in the room of the
"Institution for the cure of the crooked and deformed," where casts of
mis-shapen limbs are displayed in naked reality on the wall. Yet there was
this difference, in the institution the casts were taken at the entry of the
patient; but here they were retained and guarded in the heart while the sound
persons went away. They were, namely, casts of female friends, whose bodily or
mental deformities were here most faithfully preserved.
With the snake-like writhings of an idea he glided into another female heart;
but this seemed to him like a large holy fane.* The white dove of innocence
fluttered over the altar. How gladly would he have sunk upon his knees; but he
must away to the next heart; yet he still heard the pealing tones of the
organ, and he himself seemed to have become a newer and a better man; he felt
unworthy to tread the neighboring sanctuary which a poor garret, with a sick
bed-rid mother, revealed. But God's warm sun streamed through the open window;
lovely roses nodded from the wooden flower-boxes on the roof, and two sky-blue
birds sang rejoicingly, while the sick mother implored God's richest blessings
on her pious daughter.
He now crept on hands and feet through a butcher's shop; at least on every
side, and above and below, there was nought but flesh. It was the heart of a
most respectable rich man, whose name is certain to be found in the Directory.
He was now in the heart of the wife of this worthy gentleman. It was an old,
dilapidated, mouldering dovecot. The husband's portrait was used as a
weather-cock, which was connected in some way or other with the doors, and so
they opened and shut of their own accord, whenever the stern old husband
Hereupon he wandered into a boudoir formed entirely of mirrors, like the one
in Castle Rosenburg; but here the glasses magnified to an astonishing degree.
On the floor, in the middle of the room, sat, like a Dalai-Lama, the
insignificant "Self" of the person, quite confounded at his own greatness. He
then imagined he had got into a needle-case full of pointed needles of every
"This is certainly the heart of an old maid," thought he. But he was mistaken.
It was the heart of a young military man; a man, as people said, of talent and
In the greatest perplexity, he now came out of the last heart in the row; he
was unable to put his thoughts in order, and fancied that his too lively
imagination had run away with him.
"Good Heavens!" sighed he. "I have surely a disposition to madness--'tis
dreadfully hot here; my blood boils in my veins and my head is burning like a
coal." And he now remembered the important event of the evening before, how
his head had got jammed in between the iron railings of the hospital. "That's
what it is, no doubt," said he. "I must do something in time: under such
circumstances a Russian bath might do me good. I only wish I were already on
the upper bank"*
*In these Russian (vapor) baths the person extends himself on a bank or form,
and as he gets accustomed to the heat, moves to another higher up towards the
ceiling, where, of course, the vapor is warmest. In this manner he ascends
gradually to the highest.
And so there he lay on the uppermost bank in the vapor-bath; but with all his
clothes on, in his boots and galoshes, while the hot drops fell scalding from
the ceiling on his face.
"Holloa!" cried he, leaping down. The bathing attendant, on his side, uttered
a loud cry of astonishment when he beheld in the bath, a man completely
The other, however, retained sufficient presence of mind to whisper to him,
"'Tis a bet, and I have won it!" But the first thing he did as soon as he got
home, was to have a large blister put on his chest and back to draw out his
The next morning he had a sore chest and a bleeding back; and, excepting the
fright, that was all that he had gained by the Shoes of Fortune.
V. Metamorphosis of the Copying-Clerk
The watchman, whom we have certainly not forgotten, thought meanwhile of the
galoshes he had found and taken with him to the hospital; he now went to fetch
them; and as neither the lieutenant, nor anybody else in the street, claimed
them as his property, they were delivered over to the police-office.*
* As on the continent, in all law and police practices nothing is verbal, but
any circumstance, however trifling, is reduced to writing, the labor, as well
as the number of papers that thus accumulate, is enormous. In a
police-office, consequently, we find copying-clerks among many other scribes
of various denominations, of which, it seems, our hero was one.
"Why, I declare the Shoes look just like my own," said one of the clerks,
eying the newly-found treasure, whose hidden powers, even he, sharp as he was,
was not able to discover. "One must have more than the eye of a shoemaker to
know one pair from the other," said he, soliloquizing; and putting, at the
same time, the galoshes in search of an owner, beside his own in the corner.
"Here, sir!" said one of the men, who panting brought him a tremendous pile of
The copying-clerk turned round and spoke awhile with the man about the reports
and legal documents in question; but when he had finished, and his eye fell
again on the Shoes, he was unable to say whether those to the left or those to
the right belonged to him. "At all events it must be those which are wet,"
thought he; but this time, in spite of his cleverness, he guessed quite wrong,
for it was just those of Fortune which played as it were into his hands, or
rather on his feet. And why, I should like to know, are the police never to be
wrong? So he put them on quickly, stuck his papers in his pocket, and took
besides a few under his arm, intending to look them through at home to make
the necessary notes. It was noon; and the weather, that had threatened rain,
began to clear up, while gaily dressed holiday folks filled the streets. "A
little trip to Fredericksburg would do me no great harm," thought he; "for I,
poor beast of burden that I am, have so much to annoy me, that I don't know
what a good appetite is. 'Tis a bitter crust, alas! at which I am condemned to
Nobody could be more steady or quiet than this young man; we therefore wish
him joy of the excursion with all our heart; and it will certainly be
beneficial for a person who leads so sedentary a life. In the park he met a
friend, one of our young poets, who told him that the following day he should
set out on his long-intended tour.
"So you are going away again!" said the clerk. "You are a very free and happy
being; we others are chained by the leg and held fast to our desk."
"Yes; but it is a chain, friend, which ensures you the blessed bread of
existence," answered the poet. "You need feel no care for the coming morrow:
when you are old, you receive a pension."
"True," said the clerk, shrugging his shoulders; "and yet you are the better
off. To sit at one's ease and poetise--that is a pleasure; everybody has
something agreeable to say to you, and you are always your own master. No,
friend, you should but try what it is to sit from one year's end to the other
occupied with and judging the most trivial matters."
The poet shook his head, the copying-clerk did the same. Each one kept to his
own opinion, and so they separated.
"It's a strange race, those poets!" said the clerk, who was very fond of
soliloquizing. "I should like some day, just for a trial, to take such nature
upon me, and be a poet myself; I am very sure I should make no such miserable
verses as the others. Today, methinks, is a most delicious day for a poet.
Nature seems anew to celebrate her awakening into life. The air is so
unusually clear, the clouds sail on so buoyantly, and from the green herbage a
fragrance is exhaled that fills me with delight, For many a year have I not
felt as at this moment."
We see already, by the foregoing effusion, that he is become a poet; to give
further proof of it, however, would in most cases be insipid, for it is a most
foolish notion to fancy a poet different from other men. Among the latter
there may be far more poetical natures than many an acknowledged poet, when
examined more closely, could boast of; the difference only is, that the poet
possesses a better mental memory, on which account he is able to retain the
feeling and the thought till they can be embodied by means of words; a faculty
which the others do not possess. But the transition from a commonplace nature
to one that is richly endowed, demands always a more or less breakneck leap
over a certain abyss which yawns threateningly below; and thus must the sudden
change with the clerk strike the reader.
"The sweet air!" continued he of the police-office, in his dreamy imaginings;
"how it reminds me of the violets in the garden of my aunt Magdalena! Yes,
then I was a little wild boy, who did not go to school very regularly. O
heavens! 'tis a long time since I have thought on those times. The good old
soul! She lived behind the Exchange. She always had a few twigs or green
shoots in water--let the winter rage without as it might. The violets exhaled
their sweet breath, whilst I pressed against the windowpanes covered with
fantastic frost-work the copper coin I had heated on the stove, and so made
peep-holes. What splendid vistas were then opened to my view! What change-what
magnificence! Yonder in the canal lay the ships frozen up, and deserted by
their whole crews, with a screaming crow for the sole occupant. But when the
spring, with a gentle stirring motion, announced her arrival, a new and busy
life arose; with songs and hurrahs the ice was sawn asunder, the ships were
fresh tarred and rigged, that they might sail away to distant lands. But I
have remained here--must always remain here, sitting at my desk in the office,
and patiently see other people fetch their passports to go abroad. Such is my
fate! Alas!"--sighed he, and was again silent. "Great Heaven! What is come to
me! Never have I thought or felt like this before! It must be the summer air
that affects me with feelings almost as disquieting as they are refreshing."
He felt in his pocket for the papers. "These police-reports will soon stem the
torrent of my ideas, and effectually hinder any rebellious overflowing of the
time-worn banks of official duties"; he said to himself consolingly, while his
eye ran over the first page. "DAME TIGBRITH, tragedy in five acts." "What is
that? And yet it is undeniably my own handwriting. Have I written the tragedy?
Wonderful, very wonderful! --And this--what have I here? 'INTRIGUE ON THE
RAMPARTS; or THE DAY OF REPENTANCE: vaudeville with new songs to the most
favorite airs.' The deuce! Where did I get all this rubbish? Some one must
have slipped it slyly into my pocket for a joke. There is too a letter to me;
a crumpled letter and the seal broken."
Yes; it was not a very polite epistle from the manager of a theatre, in which
both pieces were flatly refused.
"Hem! hem!" said the clerk breathlessly, and quite exhausted he seated himself
on a bank. His thoughts were so elastic, his heart so tender; and
involuntarily he picked one of the nearest flowers. It is a simple daisy, just
bursting out of the bud. What the botanist tells us after a number of
imperfect lectures, the flower proclaimed in a minute. It related the mythus
of its birth, told of the power of the sun-light that spread out its delicate
leaves, and forced them to impregnate the air with their incense--and then he
thought of the manifold struggles of life, which in like manner awaken the
budding flowers of feeling in our bosom. Light and air contend with chivalric
emulation for the love of the fair flower that bestowed her chief favors on
the latter; full of longing she turned towards the light, and as soon as it
vanished, rolled her tender leaves together and slept in the embraces of the
air. "It is the light which adorns me," said the flower.
"But 'tis the air which enables thee to breathe," said the poet's voice.
Close by stood a boy who dashed his stick into a wet ditch. The drops of water
splashed up to the green leafy roof, and the clerk thought of the million of
ephemera which in a single drop were thrown up to a height, that was as great
doubtless for their size, as for us if we were to be hurled above the clouds.
While he thought of this and of the whole metamorphosis he had undergone, he
smiled and said, "I sleep and dream; but it is wonderful how one can dream so
naturally, and know besides so exactly that it is but a dream. If only
to-morrow on awaking, I could again call all to mind so vividly! I seem in
unusually good spirits; my perception of things is clear, I feel as light and
cheerful as though I were in heaven; but I know for a certainty, that if
to-morrow a dim remembrance of it should swim before my mind, it will then
seem nothing but stupid nonsense, as I have often experienced
already--especially before I enlisted under the banner of the police, for that
dispels like a whirlwind all the visions of an unfettered imagination. All we
hear or say in a dream that is fair and beautiful is like the gold of the
subterranean spirits; it is rich and splendid when it is given us, but viewed
by daylight we find only withered leaves. Alas!" he sighed quite sorrowful,
and gazed at the chirping birds that hopped contentedly from branch to branch,
"they are much better off than I! To fly must be a heavenly art; and happy do
I prize that creature in which it is innate. Yes! Could I exchange my nature
with any other creature, I fain would be such a happy little lark!"
He had hardly uttered these hasty words when the skirts and sleeves of his
coat folded themselves together into wings; the clothes became feathers, and
the galoshes claws. He observed it perfectly, and laughed in his heart. "Now
then, there is no doubt that I am dreaming; but I never before was aware of
such mad freaks as these." And up he flew into the green roof and sang; but in
the song there was no poetry, for the spirit of the poet was gone. The Shoes,
as is the case with anybody who does what he has to do properly, could only
attend to one thing at a time. He wanted to be a poet, and he was one; he now
wished to be a merry chirping bird: but when he was metamorphosed into one,
the former peculiarities ceased immediately. "It is really pleasant enough,"
said he: "the whole day long I sit in the office amid the driest law-papers,
and at night I fly in my dream as a lark in the gardens of Fredericksburg; one
might really write a very pretty comedy upon it." He now fluttered down into
the grass, turned his head gracefully on every side, and with his bill pecked
the pliant blades of grass, which, in comparison to his present size, seemed
as majestic as the palm-branches of northern Africa.
Unfortunately the pleasure lasted but a moment. Presently black night
overshadowed our enthusiast, who had so entirely missed his part of
copying-clerk at a police-office; some vast object seemed to be thrown over
him. It was a large oil-skin cap, which a sailor-boy of the quay had thrown
over the struggling bird; a coarse hand sought its way carefully in under the
broad rim, and seized the clerk over the back and wings. In the first moment
of fear, he called, indeed, as loud as he could-"You impudent little
blackguard! I am a copying-clerk at the police-office; and you know you cannot
insult any belonging to the constabulary force without a chastisement.
Besides, you good-for-nothing rascal, it is strictly forbidden to catch birds
in the royal gardens of Fredericksburg; but your blue uniform betrays where
you come from." This fine tirade sounded, however, to the ungodly sailor-boy
like a mere "Pippi-pi." He gave the noisy bird a knock on his beak, and walked
He was soon met by two schoolboys of the upper class-that is to say as
individuals, for with regard to learning they were in the lowest class in the
school; and they bought the stupid bird. So the copying-clerk came to
Copenhagen as guest, or rather as prisoner in a family living in Gother
"'Tis well that I'm dreaming," said the clerk, "or I really should get angry.
First I was a poet; now sold for a few pence as a lark; no doubt it was that
accursed poetical nature which has metamorphosed me into such a poor harmless
little creature. It is really pitiable, particularly when one gets into the
hands of a little blackguard, perfect in all sorts of cruelty to animals: all
I should like to know is, how the story will end."
The two schoolboys, the proprietors now of the transformed clerk, carried him
into an elegant room. A stout stately dame received them with a smile; but she
expressed much dissatisfaction that a common field-bird, as she called the
lark, should appear in such high society. For to-day, however, she would allow
it; and they must shut him in the empty cage that was standing in the window.
"Perhaps he will amuse my good Polly," added the lady, looking with a
benignant smile at a large green parrot that swung himself backwards and
forwards most comfortably in his ring, inside a magnificent brass-wired cage.
"To-day is Polly's birthday," said she with stupid simplicity: "and the little
brown field-bird must wish him joy."
Mr. Polly uttered not a syllable in reply, but swung to and fro with dignified
condescension; while a pretty canary, as yellow as gold, that had lately been
brought from his sunny fragrant home, began to sing aloud.
"Noisy creature! Will you be quiet!" screamed the lady of the house, covering
the cage with an embroidered white pocket handkerchief.
"Chirp, chirp!" sighed he. "That was a dreadful snowstorm"; and he sighed
again, and was silent.
The copying-clerk, or, as the lady said, the brown field-bird, was put into a
small cage, close to the Canary, and not far from "my good Polly." The only
human sounds that the Parrot could bawl out were, "Come, let us be men!"
Everything else that he said was as unintelligible to everybody as the
chirping of the Canary, except to the clerk, who was now a bird too: he
understood his companion perfectly.
"I flew about beneath the green palms and the blossoming almond-trees," sang
the Canary; "I flew around, with my brothers and sisters, over the beautiful
flowers, and over the glassy lakes, where the bright water-plants nodded to me
from below. There, too, I saw many splendidly-dressed paroquets, that told the
drollest stories, and the wildest fairy tales without end."
"Oh! those were uncouth birds," answered the Parrot. "They had no education,
and talked of whatever came into their head.
If my mistress and all her friends can laugh at what I say, so may you too, I
should think. It is a great fault to have no taste for what is witty or
amusing--come, let us be men."
"Ah, you have no remembrance of love for the charming maidens that danced
beneath the outspread tents beside the bright fragrant flowers? Do you no
longer remember the sweet fruits, and the cooling juice in the wild plants of
our never-to-be-forgotten home?" said the former inhabitant of the Canary
Isles, continuing his dithyrambic.
"Oh, yes," said the Parrot; "but I am far better off here. I am well fed, and
get friendly treatment. I know I am a clever fellow; and that is all I care
about. Come, let us be men. You are of a poetical nature, as it is called--I,
on the contrary, possess profound knowledge and inexhaustible wit. You have
genius; but clear-sighted, calm discretion does not take such lofty flights,
and utter such high natural tones. For this they have covered you over--they
never do the like to me; for I cost more. Besides, they are afraid of my beak;
and I have always a witty answer at hand. Come, let us be men!"
"O warm spicy land of my birth," sang the Canary bird; "I will sing of thy
dark-green bowers, of the calm bays where the pendent boughs kiss the surface
of the water; I will sing of the rejoicing of all my brothers and sisters
where the cactus grows in wanton luxuriance."
"Spare us your elegiac tones," said the Parrot giggling. "Rather speak of
something at which one may laugh heartily. Laughing is an infallible sign of
the highest degree of mental development. Can a dog, or a horse laugh? No, but
they can cry. The gift of laughing was given to man alone. Ha! ha! ha!"
screamed Polly, and added his stereotype witticism. "Come, let us be men!"
"Poor little Danish grey-bird," said the Canary; "you have been caught too. It
is, no doubt, cold enough in your woods, but there at least is the breath of
liberty; therefore fly away. In the hurry they have forgotten to shut your
cage, and the upper window is open. Fly, my friend; fly away. Farewell!"
Instinctively the Clerk obeyed; with a few strokes of his wings he was out of
the cage; but at the same moment the door, which was only ajar, and which led
to the next room, began to creak, and supple and creeping came the large
tomcat into the room, and began to pursue him. The frightened Canary fluttered
about in his cage; the Parrot flapped his wings, and cried, "Come, let us be
men!" The Clerk felt a mortal fright, and flew through the window, far away
over the houses and streets. At last he was forced to rest a little.
The neighboring house had a something familiar about it; a window stood open;
he flew in; it was his own room. He perched upon the table.
"Come, let us be men!" said he, involuntarily imitating the chatter of the
Parrot, and at the same moment he was again a copying-clerk; but he was
sitting in the middle of the table.
"Heaven help me!" cried he. "How did I get up here--and so buried in sleep,
too? After all, that was a very unpleasant, disagreeable dream that haunted
me! The whole story is nothing but silly, stupid nonsense!"
VI. The Best That the Galoshes Gave
The following day, early in the morning, while the Clerk was still in bed,
someone knocked at his door. It was his neighbor, a young Divine, who lived on
the same floor. He walked in.
"Lend me your Galoshes," said he; "it is so wet in the garden, though the sun
is shining most invitingly. I should like to go out a little."
He got the Galoshes, and he was soon below in a little duodecimo garden, where
between two immense walls a plumtree and an apple-tree were standing. Even
such a little garden as this was considered in the metropolis of Copenhagen as
a great luxury.
The young man wandered up and down the narrow paths, as well as the prescribed
limits would allow; the clock struck six; without was heard the horn of a
"To travel! to travel!" exclaimed he, overcome by most painful and passionate
remembrances. "That is the happiest thing in the world! That is the highest
aim of all my wishes! Then at last would the agonizing restlessness be
allayed, which destroys my existence! But it must be far, far away! I would
behold magnificent Switzerland; I would travel to Italy, and----"
It was a good thing that the power of the Galoshes worked as instantaneously
as lightning in a powder-magazine would do, otherwise the poor man with his
overstrained wishes would have travelled about the world too much for himself
as well as for us. In short, he was travelling. He was in the middle of
Switzerland, but packed up with eight other passengers in the inside of an
eternally-creaking diligence; his head ached till it almost split, his weary
neck could hardly bear the heavy load, and his feet, pinched by his torturing
boots, were terribly swollen. He was in an intermediate state between sleeping
and waking; at variance with himself, with his company, with the country, and
with the government. In his right pocket he had his letter of credit, in the
left, his passport, and in a small leathern purse some double louis d'or,
carefully sewn up in the bosom of his waistcoat. Every dream proclaimed that
one or the other of these valuables was lost; wherefore he started up as in a
fever; and the first movement which his hand made, described a magic triangle
from the right pocket to the left, and then up towards the bosom, to feel if
he had them all safe or not. From the roof inside the carriage, umbrellas,
walking-sticks, hats, and sundry other articles were depending, and hindered
the view, which was particularly imposing. He now endeavored as well as he was
able to dispel his gloom, which was caused by outward chance circumstances
merely, and on the bosom of nature imbibe the milk of purest human enjoyment.
Grand, solemn, and dark was the whole landscape around. The gigantic
pine-forests, on the pointed crags, seemed almost like little tufts of
heather, colored by the surrounding clouds. It began to snow, a cold wind blew
and roared as though it were seeking a bride.
"Augh!" sighed he, "were we only on the other side the Alps, then we should
have summer, and I could get my letters of credit cashed. The anxiety I feel
about them prevents me enjoying Switzerland. Were I but on the other side!"
And so saying he was on the other side in Italy, between Florence and Rome.
Lake Thracymene, illumined by the evening sun, lay like flaming gold between
the dark-blue mountain-ridges; here, where Hannibal defeated Flaminius, the
rivers now held each other in their green embraces; lovely, half-naked
children tended a herd of black swine, beneath a group of fragrant
laurel-trees, hard by the road-side. Could we render this inimitable picture
properly, then would everybody exclaim, "Beautiful, unparalleled Italy!" But
neither the young Divine said so, nor anyone of his grumbling companions in
the coach of the vetturino.
The poisonous flies and gnats swarmed around by thousands; in vain one waved
myrtle-branches about like mad; the audacious insect population did not cease
to sting; nor was there a single person in the well-crammed carriage whose
face was not swollen and sore from their ravenous bites. The poor horses,
tortured almost to death, suffered most from this truly Egyptian plague; the
flies alighted upon them in large disgusting swarms; and if the coachman got
down and scraped them off, hardly a minute elapsed before they were there
again. The sun now set: a freezing cold, though of short duration pervaded the
whole creation; it was like a horrid gust coming from a burial-vault on a warm
summer's day--but all around the mountains retained that wonderful green tone
which we see in some old pictures, and which, should we not have seen a
similar play of color in the South, we declare at once to be unnatural. It was
a glorious prospect; but the stomach was empty, the body tired; all that the
heart cared and longed for was good night-quarters; yet how would they be? For
these one looked much more anxiously than for the charms of nature, which
every where were so profusely displayed.
The road led through an olive-grove, and here the solitary inn was situated.
Ten or twelve crippled-beggars had encamped outside. The healthiest of them
resembled, to use an expression of Marryat's, "Hunger's eldest son when he had
come of age"; the others were either blind, had withered legs and crept about
on their hands, or withered arms and fingerless hands. It was the most
wretched misery, dragged from among the filthiest rags. "Excellenza,
miserabili!" sighed they, thrusting forth their deformed limbs to view. Even
the hostess, with bare feet, uncombed hair, and dressed in a garment of
doubtful color, received the guests grumblingly. The doors were fastened with
a loop of string; the floor of the rooms presented a stone paving half torn
up; bats fluttered wildly about the ceiling; and as to the smell
therein--no--that was beyond description.
"You had better lay the cloth below in the stable," said one of the
travellers; "there, at all events, one knows what one is breathing."
The windows were quickly opened, to let in a little fresh air. Quicker,
however, than the breeze, the withered, sallow arms of the beggars were thrust
in, accompanied by the eternal whine of "Miserabili, miserabili, excellenza!"
On the walls were displayed innumerable inscriptions, written in nearly every
language of Europe, some in verse, some in prose, most of them not very
laudatory of "bella Italia."
The meal was served. It consisted of a soup of salted water, seasoned with
pepper and rancid oil. The last ingredient played a very prominent part in the
salad; stale eggs and roasted cocks'-combs furnished the grand dish of the
repast; the wine even was not without a disgusting taste--it was like a
At night the boxes and other effects of the passengers were placed against the
rickety doors. One of the travellers kept watch ' while the others slept. The
sentry was our young Divine. How close it was in the chamber! The heat
oppressive to suffocation--the gnats hummed and stung unceasingly--the
"miserabili" without whined and moaned in their sleep.
"Travelling would be agreeable enough," said he groaning, "if one only had no
body, or could send it to rest while the spirit went on its pilgrimage
unhindered, whither the voice within might call it. Wherever I go, I am
pursued by a longing that is insatiable--that I cannot explain to myself, and
that tears my very heart. I want something better than what is but what is
fled in an instant. But what is it, and where is it to be found? Yet, I know
in reality what it is I wish for. Oh! most happy were I, could I but reach one
aim--could but reach the happiest of all!"
And as he spoke the word he was again in his home; the long white curtains
hung down from the windows, and in the middle of the floor stood the black
coffin; in it he lay in the sleep of death. His wish was fulfilled--the body
rested, while the spirit went unhindered on its pilgrimage. "Let no one deem
himself happy before his end," were the words of Solon; and here was a new and
brilliant proof of the wisdom of the old apothegm.
Every corpse is a sphynx of immortality; here too on the black coffin the
sphynx gave us no answer to what he who lay within had written two days
"O mighty Death! thy silence teaches nought,
Thou leadest only to the near grave's brink;
Is broken now the ladder of my thoughts?
Do I instead of mounting only sink?
Our heaviest grief the world oft seeth not,
Our sorest pain we hide from stranger eyes:
And for the sufferer there is nothing left
But the green mound that o'er the coffin lies."
Two figures were moving in the chamber. We knew them both; it was the fairy of
Care, and the emissary of Fortune. They both bent over the corpse.
"Do you now see," said Care, "what happiness your Galoshes have brought to
"To him, at least, who slumbers here, they have brought an imperishable
blessing," answered the other.
"Ah no!" replied Care. "He took his departure himself; he was not called away.
His mental powers here below were not strong enough to reach the treasures
lying beyond this life, and which his destiny ordained he should obtain. I
will now confer a benefit on him."
And she took the Galoshes from his feet; his sleep of death was ended; and he
who had been thus called back again to life arose from his dread couch in all
the vigor of youth. Care vanished, and with her the Galoshes. She has no doubt
taken them for herself, to keep them to all eternity.