The air beneath the linden crowns had flowed in across brown heath and parched meadow.

It brought the heat of the sun and was laden with dust
from the road, but in the cool, thick foliage it had been cleansed and
freshened, while the yellow linden flowers had given it moisture and
fragrance. In the blissful haven of the green vault it lay quivering in
light waves, caressed by the softly stirring leaves and the flutter of
white-gold butterfly wings.

The human lips that breathed this air were full and fresh; the bosom
it swelled was young and slight. The bosom was slight, and the foot
was slight, the waist small, the shape slim, and there was a certain
lean strength about the whole figure. Nothing was luxuriant except the
partly loosened hair of dull gold, from which the little dark blue
cap had slipped until it hung on her back like a tiny cowl. Otherwise
there was no suggestion of the convent in her dress. A wide, square-cut
collar was turned down over a frock of lavender homespun, and from its
short, slashed sleeves billowed ruffles of fine holland. A bow of red
ribbon was on her breast, and her shoes had red rosettes.

Her hands behind her back, her head bent forward, she went slowly up
the path, picking her steps daintily. She did not walk in a straight
line, but meandered, sometimes almost running into a tree at her
left, then again seeming on the point of strolling out among the
bushes to her right. Now and then, she would stop, shake the hair
from her cheeks, and look up to the light. The softened glow gave her
child-white face a faint golden sheen and made the blue shadows under
the eyes less marked. The scarlet of her lips deepened to red-brown,
and the great blue eyes seemed almost black. She was lovely–lovely!–a
straight forehead, faintly arched nose, short, clean-cut upper lip, a
strong, round chin and finely curved cheeks, tiny ears, and delicately
pencilled eyebrows….

She smiled as she walked, lightly and carelessly, thought of nothing,
and smiled in harmony with everything around her. At the end of the
path, she stopped and began to rock on her heel, first to the right,
then to the left, still with her hands behind her back, head held
straight, and eyes turned upward, as she hummed fitfully in time with
her swaying.

Two flagstones led down into the garden, which lay glaring under the
cloudless, whitish-blue sky. The only bit of shade hugged the feet of
the clipped box-hedge. The heat stung the eyes, and even the hedge
seemed to flash light from the burnished leaves. The amber-bush trailed
its white garlands in and out among thirsty balsamines, nightshade,
gillyflowers, and pinks, which stood huddling like sheep in the open.
The peas and beans flanking the lavender border were ready to fall from
their trellis with heat. The marigolds had given up the struggle and
stared the sun straight in the face, but the poppies had shed their
large red petals and stood with bared stalks.

The child in the linden lane jumped down the steps, ran through the
sun-heated garden, with head lowered as one crosses a court in the
rain, made for a triangle of dark yew-trees, slipped behind them,
and entered a large arbor, a relic from the days of the Belows. A
wide circle of elms had been woven together at the top as far as the
branches would reach, and a framework of withes closed the round
opening in the centre. Climbing roses and Italian honeysuckle, growing
wild in the foliage, made a dense wall, but on one side they had
failed, and the hopvines planted instead had but strangled the elms
without filling the gap.

Two white seahorses were mounted at the door. Within the arbor stood a
long bench and table made of a stone slab, which had once been large
and oval, but now lay in three fragments on the ground, while only one
small piece was unsteadily poised on a corner of the frame. The child
sat down before it, pulled her feet up under her on the bench, leaned
back, and crossed her arms. She closed her eyes and sat quite still.
Two fine lines appeared on her forehead, and sometimes she would lift
her eyebrows, smiling slightly.

“In the room with the purple carpets and the gilded alcove, Griselda
lies at the feet of the margrave, but he spurns her. He has just torn
her from her warm bed. Now he opens the narrow, round-arched door, and
the cold air blows in on poor Griselda, who lies on the floor weeping,
and there is nothing between the cold night air and her warm, white
body except the thin, thin linen. But he turns her out and locks the
door on her. And she presses her naked shoulder against the cold,
smooth door, and sobs, and she hears him walking inside on the soft
carpet, and through the keyhole the light from the scented taper falls
and makes a little sun on her bare breast. And she steals away, and
goes down the dark staircase, and it is quite still, and she hears
nothing but the soft patter of her own feet on the ice-cold steps. Then
she goes out into the snow–no, it’s rain, pouring rain, and the heavy
cold water splashes on her shoulders. Her shift clings to her body, and
the water runs down her bare legs, and her tender feet press the soft,
chilly mud, which oozes out beside them. And the wind–the bushes
scratch her and tear her frock,–but no, she hasn’t any frock on,–just
as they tore my brown petticoat! The nuts must be ripe in Fastrup
Grove–such heaps of nuts there were at Viborg market! God knows if
Anne’s teeth have stopped aching.

“No, Brynhild!–the wild steed comes galloping… Brynhild and
Grimhild–Queen Grimhild beckons to the men, then turns, and walks
away. They drag in Queen Brynhild, and a squat, black yokel with long
arms–something like Bertel in the turnpike house–catches her belt
and tears it in two, and he pulls off her robe and her underkirtle,
and his huge black hands brush the rings from her soft white arms, and
another big, half-naked, brown and shaggy churl puts his hairy arm
around her waist, and he kicks off her sandals with his clumsy feet,
and Bertel winds her long black locks around his hands, and drags her
along, and she follows with body bent forward, and the big fellow puts
his sweaty palms on her naked back and shoves her over to the black,
fiery stallion, and they throw her down in the gray dust in the road,
and they tie the long tail of the horse around her ankles–”

The lines came into her forehead again and stayed there a long time.
She shook her head and looked more and more vexed. At last she opened
her eyes, half rose, and glanced around her wearily.

Mosquitoes swarmed in the gap between the hopvines, and from the garden
came puffs of fragrance from mint and common balm, mingling sometimes
with a whiff of sow-thistle or anise. A dizzy little yellow spider ran
across her hand, tickling her, and made her jump up. She went to the
door and tried to pick a rose growing high among the leaves, but could
not reach it. Then she began to gather the blossoms of the climbing
rose outside, and getting more and more eager, soon filled her skirt
with flowers, which she carried into the arbor. She sat down by the
table, took them from her lap, and laid one upon the other until the
stone was hidden under a fragrant cover of pale rose.

When the last flower had been put in its place, she smoothed the folds
of her frock, brushed off the loose petals and green leaves that
had caught in the nap, and sat with hands in her lap gazing at the
blossoming mass.

This bloom of color, curling in sheen and shadow, white flushing to
red and red paling to blue, moist pink that is almost heavy, and
lavender light as wafted on air, each petal rounded like a tiny vault,
soft in the shadow, but gleaming in the sun with thousands of fine
light-points; with all its fair blood-of-rose flowing in the veins,
spreading through the skin–and the sweet, heavy fragrance, rising like
vapor from that red nectar that seethes in the flower-cup….

Suddenly she turned back her sleeves, and laid her bare arms in the
soft, moist coolness of the flowers. She turned them round and round
under the roses, until the loosened petals fluttered to the ground,
then jumped up and with one motion swept everything from the table, and
went out into the garden, pulling down her sleeves as she walked. With
flushed cheeks and quickened step, she followed the path to the end,
then skirted the garden toward the turnpike. A load of hay had just
been overturned and was blocking the way to the gate. Several other
wagons halted behind it, and she could see the brown polished stick of
the overseer gleaming in the sun, as he beat the unlucky driver.

She put her fingers in her ears to shut out the sickening sound of the
blows, ran toward the house, darted within the open cellar door, and
slammed it after her.

The child was Marie Grubbe, the fourteen-year-old daughter of Squire
Erik Grubbe of Tjele Manor.

* * * * *

The blue haze of twilight rested over Tjele. The falling dew had put a
stop to the haymaking. The maids were in the stable milking, while the
men busied themselves about the wagons and harness in the shed. The
tenant farmers, after doing their stint of work for the squire, were
standing in a group outside the gate, waiting for the call to supper.

Erik Grubbe stood at an open window, looking out into the court. The
horses, freed from harness and halter, came slowly, one by one, from
the stable and went up to the watering-trough. A red-capped boy was
hard at work putting new tines in a rake, and two greyhounds played
around the wooden horse and the large grindstone in one corner of the
yard.

It was growing late. Every few minutes the men would come out of
the stable door and draw back, whistling or humming a tune. A maid,
carrying a full bucket of milk, tripped with quick, firm steps across
the yard, and the farmers were straggling in, as though to hasten the
supper-bell. The rattling of plates and trenchers grew louder in the
kitchen, and presently some one pulled the bell violently, letting
out two groups of rusty notes, which soon died away in the clatter of
wooden shoes and the creaking of doors. In a moment the yard was empty,
except for the two dogs barking loudly out through the gate.

Erik Grubbe drew in the window and sat down thoughtfully. The room
was known as the winter-parlor, though it was in fact used all the
year round for dining-room and sitting-room, and was practically the
only inhabited part of the house. It was a large room with two windows
and a high oak panelling. Glazed Dutch tiles covered the walls with a
design of blue nosegays on a white ground. The fireplace was set with
burned bricks, and a chest of drawers had been placed before it as a
screen against the draught that came in whenever the door was opened.
A polished oak table with two rounded leaves hanging almost to the
floor, a few high-backed chairs with seats of leather worn shiny, and
a small green cupboard set high on the wall–that was all there was in
the parlor.

As Erik Grubbe sat there in the dusk, his housekeeper, Anne Jensdaughter,
entered, carrying in one hand a lighted candle and in the other a mug
of milk, warm from the udder. Placing the mug before him, she seated
herself at the table. One large red hand still held the candlestick,
and as she turned it round and round, numerous rings and large brilliants
glittered on her fingers.

“Alack-a-day!” she groaned.

“What now?” asked Erik Grubbe, glancing up.

“Sure, I may well be tired after stewing ‘roun’ till I’ve neither
stren’th nor wit left.”

“Well, ’tis busy times. Folks have to work up heat in summer to sit in
all winter.”

“Busy–ay, but there’s reason in everythin’. Wheels in ditch an’ coach
in splinters’s no king’s drivin’, say I. None but me to do a thing!
The indoor wenches’re nothin’ but draggle-tails,–sweethearts an’
town-talk’s all they think of. Ef they do a bit o’ work, they boggle
it, an’ it’s fer me to do over. Walbor’s sick, an’ Stina an’ Bo’l–the
sluts–they pother an’ pother till the sweat comes, but naught else
comes o’t. I might ha’ some help from M’ree, ef you’d speak to her, but
you won’t let her put a finger to anything.”

“Hold, hold! You run on so fast you lose your breath and the King’s
Danish too. Don’t blame me, blame yourself. If you’d been patient
with Marie last winter, if you’d taught her gently the right knack of
things, you might have had some help from her now, but you were rough
and cross-grained, she was sulky, and the two of you came nigh to
splitting each other alive. ‘Tis to be more than thankful for there’s
an end on’t.”

“Ay, stand up fer M’ree! You’re free to do it, but ef you stand up fer
yours, I stand up fer mine, and whether you take it bad or not, I tell
you M’ree’s more sperrit than she can carry through the world. Let that
be fer the fault it is, but she’s bad. You may say ‘No,’ but I say
she is. She can never let little Anne be–never. She’s a-pinchin’ and
a-naggin’ her all day long and a-castin’ foul words after her, till the
poor child might wish she’d never been born,–and I wish she hadn’t,
though it breaks my heart. Alack-a-day, may God have mercy upon us!
Ye’re not the same father to the two children, but sure it’s right that
the sins of the fathers should be visited upon the children unto the
third and fourth generation–and the sins of the mother too, and little
Anne’s nothin’ but a whore’s brat–ay, I tell ye to yer face, she’s
nothin’ but a whore’s brat, a whore’s brat in the sight of God and
man,–but you, her father!–shame on ye, shame!–yes, I tell ye, even
‘f ye lay hands on me, as ye did two years ago come Michaelmas, shame
on ye! Fie on ye that ye let yer own child feel she’s conceived in sin!
ye do let her feel it, you and M’ree both of ye let her feel it,–even
ef ye hit me, I say ye let her feel it–”

Erik Grubbe sprang up and stamped the floor.

“Gallows and wheel! Are you spital-mad, woman? You’re drunk, that’s
what you are. Go and lie down on your bed and sleep off your booze
and your spleen too! ‘Twould serve you right if I boxed your ears,
you shrew! No–not another word! Marie shall be gone from here before
to-morrow is over. I want peace–in times of peace.”

Anne sobbed aloud.

“O Lord, O Lord, that such a thing should come to pass–an everlastin’
shame! Tell _me_ I’m tipsy! In all the time we’ve ben together or all
the time before, have ye seen me in the scullery with a fuddled head?
Have y’ ever heard me talkin’ drivel? Show me the spot where ye’ve seen
me o’ercome with drink! That’s the thanks I get. Sleep off my booze!
Would to God I might sleep! would to God I might sink down dead before
you, since ye put shame upon me–”

The dogs began to bark outside, and the beat of horses’ hoofs sounded
beneath the windows.

Anne dried her eyes hastily, and Erik Grubbe opened the window to ask
who had come.

“A messenger riding from Fovsing,” answered one of the men about the
house.

“Then take his horse and send him in,” and with these words the window
was closed.

Anne straightened herself in her chair and held up one hand to shade
her eyes, red with weeping.

The messenger presented the compliments of Christian Skeel of Fovsing
and Odden, Governor of the Diocese, who sent to apprise Erik Grubbe
of the notice he had that day received by royal courier, saying that
war had been declared on June first. Since it became necessary that
he should travel to Aarhus and possibly even to Copenhagen, he made
inquiry of Erik Grubbe whether he would accompany him on the road so
far as served his convenience, for they might at least end the suit
they were bringing against certain citizens of Aarhus. With regard
to Copenhagen, the Governor well knew that Erik Grubbe had plenty of
reasons for going thither. At all events, Christian Skeel would arrive
at Tjele about four hours after high noon on the following day.

Erik Grubbe replied that he would be ready for the journey, and the
messenger departed with this answer.

Anne and Erik Grubbe then discussed at length all that must be done
while he was away, and decided that Marie should go with him to
Copenhagen and remain for a year or two with her Aunt Rigitze.

The impending farewells had calmed them both, though the quarrel was on
the point of blazing out again when it came to the question of letting
Marie take with her sundry dresses and jewels that had belonged to her
dead mother. The matter was settled amicably at last, and Anne went to
bed early, for the next day would be a long one.

Again the dogs announced visitors, but this time it was only the pastor
of Tjele and Vinge parish, Jens Jensen Paludan.

“Good even to the house!” he said as he stepped in.

He was a large-boned, long-limbed man, with a stoop in his broad
shoulders. His hair was rough as a crow’s nest, grayish and tangled,
but his face was of a deep yet clear pink, seemingly out of keeping
with his coarse, rugged features and bushy eyebrows.

Erik Grubbe invited him to a seat and asked about his haymaking. The
conversation dwelt on the chief labors of the farm at that season and
died away in a sigh over the poor harvest of last year. Meanwhile the
pastor was casting sidelong glances at the mug and finally said: “Your
honor is always temperate–keeping to the natural drinks. No doubt they
are the healthiest. New milk is a blessed gift of heaven, good both for
a weak stomach and a sore chest.”

“Indeed the gifts of God are all good, whether they come from the udder
or the tap. But you must taste a keg of genuine mum that we brought
home from Viborg the other day. She’s both good and German, though I
can’t see that the customs have put their mark on her.”

Goblets and a large ebony tankard ornamented with silver rings were
brought in and set before them.

They drank to each other.

“Heydenkamper! Genuine, peerless Heydenkamper!” exclaimed the pastor in
a voice that trembled with emotion. He leaned back blissfully in his
chair and very nearly shed tears of enthusiasm.

“You are a connoisseur,” smirked Erik Grubbe.

“Ah, connoisseur! We are but of yesterday and know nothing,” murmured
the pastor absent-mindedly, “though I’m wondering,” he went on in a
louder voice, “whether it be true what I have been told about the
brew-house of the Heydenkampers. ‘Twas a free-master who related it in
Hanover, the time I travelled with young Master Jörgen. He said they
would always begin the brew on a Friday night, but before any one was
allowed to put a finger to it he had to go to the oldest journeyman and
lay his hand on the great scales and swear by fire and blood and water
that he harbored no spiteful or evil thoughts, for such might harm
the beer. The man also told me that on Sundays, when the church-bells
sounded, they would open all the doors and windows to let the ringing
pass over the beer. But the most important of all was what took place
when they set the brew aside to ferment; for then the master himself
would bring a splendid chest, from which he would take heavy gold rings
and chains and precious stones inscribed with strange signs, and all
these would be put into the beer. In truth, one may well believe that
these noble treasures would impart to it something of their own secret
potency given them by nature.”

“That is not for us to say,” declared Erik Grubbe. “I have more faith,
I own, in the Brunswick hops and the other herbs they mix.”

“Nay,” said the pastor, “it were wrong to think so, for there is much
that is hidden from us in the realm of nature,–of that there can be no
doubt. Everything, living or dead, has its _miraculum_ within it, and
we need but patience to seek and open eyes to find. Alas, in the old
days when it was not so long since the Lord had taken his hands from
the earth, then all things were still so engirded with his power that
they exhaled healing and all that was good for time and eternity. But
now the earth is no longer new nor fine: it is defiled with the sins
of many generations. Now it is only at particular times that these
powers manifest themselves, at certain places and certain seasons,
when strange signs may be seen in the heavens,–as I was saying to
the blacksmith, when we spoke of the awful flaming light that has
been visible in half the heavens for several nights recently…. That
reminds me, a mounted courier passed us just then; he was bound this
way, I think.”

“So he was, Pastor Jens.”

“I hope he rode with none but good tidings?”

“He rode with the tidings that war has been declared.”

“Lord Jesu! Alas the day! Yet it had to come some time.”

“Ay, but when they’d waited so long, they might as well have waited
till folks had their harvest in.”

“‘Tis the Skaanings who are back of it, I make no doubt. They still
feel the smart of the last war and would seek balm in this.”

“Oh, it’s not only the Skaanings. The Sjælland people are ever spoiling
for war. They know it will pass them by as usual. Well, it’s a good
time for neats and fools, when the Councillors of the Realm have gone
mad one and all!”

“‘Tis said the Lord High Constable did not desire war.”

“May the devil believe that! Perhaps not–but there’s little to be made
of preaching quiet in an ant-hill. Well, the war’s here, and now it’s
every man for himself. We shall have our hands full.”

The conversation turned to the journey of the morrow, passed on to
the bad roads, lingered on fatted oxen and stall-feeding, and again
reverted to the journey. Meanwhile they had not neglected the tankard.
The beer had gone to their heads, and Erik Grubbe, who was just telling
about his voyage to Ceylon and the East Indies in the “Pearl,” had
difficulty in making headway through his own laughter, whenever a new
joke came to his mind.

The pastor was getting serious. He had collapsed in his chair, but once
in a while he would turn his head, look fiercely around, and move his
lips as though to speak. He was gesticulating with one hand, growing
more and more excited, until at last he happened to strike the table
with his fist, and sank down again with a frightened look at Erik
Grubbe. Finally, when the squire had got himself quite tangled up in a
story of an excessively stupid scullery lad, the pastor rose and began
to speak in a hollow, solemn voice.

“Verily,” he said, “verily, I will bear witness with my mouth–with my
mouth–that you are an offence and one by whom offence cometh–that
it were better for you that you were cast into the sea–verily, with
a millstone and two barrels of malt–the two barrels of malt that
you owe me, as I bear witness solemnly with my mouth–two heaping
full barrels of malt in my own new sacks. For they were not my sacks,
never kingdom without end, ’twas your own old sacks, and my new ones
you kept,–and it _was_ rotten malt–verily! See the abomination of
desolation, and the sacks are mine, and I will repay–vengeance is
mine, I say. Do you not tremble in your old bones–you old whoremonger?
You should live like a Christian–but you live with Anne Jensdaughter
and make her cheat a Christian pastor. You’re a–you’re a–Christian
whoremonger–yes–”

During the first part of the pastor’s speech, Erik Grubbe sat smiling
fatuously and holding out his hand to him across the table. He thrust
out his elbow as though to poke an invisible auditor in the ribs and
call his attention to how delightfully drunk the parson was. But at
last some sense of what was being said appeared to pierce his mind.
His face suddenly became chalky white; he seized the tankard and threw
it at the pastor, who fell backward from his chair and slipped to the
floor. It was nothing but fright that caused it, for the tankard failed
to reach its mark. It merely rolled to the edge of the table and lay
there, while the beer flowed in rivulets down on the floor and the
pastor.

The candle had burned low and was flaring fitfully, sometimes lighting
the room brightly for a moment, then leaving it almost in darkness,
while the blue dawn peeped in through the windows.

The pastor was still talking, his voice first deep and threatening,
then feeble, almost whining.

“There you sit in gold and purple, and I’m laid here, and the dogs
lick my sores,–and what did you drop in Abraham’s bosom? What did
you put on the contribution plate? You didn’t give so much as a
silver eightpenny bit in Christian Abraham’s bosom. And now you are
in torments–but no one shall dip the tip of his finger in water for
you,”–and he struck out with his hand in the spilled beer,–“but I
wash my hands–both hands–I have warned you–hi!–there you go–yes,
there you go in sackcloth and ashes–my two new sacks–malt–”

He mumbled yet a while, then dropped asleep. Meanwhile Erik Grubbe
tried to take revenge. He caught the arm of his chair firmly, stretched
to his full length, and kicked the leg of the chair with all his might,
in the hope that it was the pastor.

Presently all was still. There was no sound but the snoring of the two
old gentlemen and the monotonous drip, drip of the beer running from
the table.