They hurried to join the crowd

Winter came with hard times for the beasts of the forest and the birds
of the fields. It was a poor Christmas within mud-walled huts and
timbered ships. The Western Sea was thickly studded with wrecks, icy
hulks, splintered masts, broken boats, and dead ships. Argosies were
hurled upon the coast, shattered to worthless fragments, sunk, swept
away, or buried in the sand; for the gale blew toward land with a high
sea and deadly cold, and human hands were powerless against it. Heaven
and earth were one reek of stinging, whirling snow that drifted in
through cracked shutters and ill-fitting hatches to poverty and rags,
and pierced under eaves and doors to wealth and fur-bordered mantles.
Beggars and wayfaring folk froze to death in the shelter of ditches and
dikes; poor people died of cold on their bed of straw, and the cattle
of the rich fared not much better.

The storm abated, and after it came a clear, tingling frost, which
brought disaster on the land–winter pay for summer folly! The Swedish
army _walked_ over the Danish waters. Peace was declared, and spring
followed with green budding leaves and fair weather, but the young men
of Sjælland did not ride a-Maying that year; for the Swedish soldiers
were everywhere. There was peace indeed, but it carried the burdens
of war and seemed not likely to live long. Nor did it. When the May
garlands had turned dark and stiff under the midsummer sun, the Swedes
went against the ramparts of Copenhagen.

During vesper service on the second Sunday in August, the tidings
suddenly came: “The Swedes have landed at Korsör.” Instantly the
streets were thronged. People walked about quietly and soberly, but
they talked a great deal; they all talked at once, and the sound of
their voices and footsteps swelled to a loud murmur that neither rose
nor fell and never ceased, but went on with a strange, heavy monotony.

The rumor crept into the churches during the sermon. From the seats
nearest the door it leaped in a breathless whisper to some one sitting
in the next pew, then on to three people in the third, then past a
lonely old man in the fourth on to the fifth, and so on till the whole
congregation knew it. Those in the centre turned and nodded meaningly
to people behind them; one or two who were sitting nearest the pulpit
rose and looked apprehensively toward the door. Soon there was not a
face lifted to the pastor. All sat with heads bent as though to fix
their thoughts on the sermon, but they whispered among themselves,
stopped for a tense moment and listened in order to gauge how far it
was from the end, then whispered again. The muffled noise from the
crowds in the streets grew more distinct: it was not to be borne any
longer! The churchpeople busied themselves putting their hymn-books in
their pockets.

“Amen!”

Every face turned to the preacher. During the litany prayer,
all wondered whether the pastor had heard anything. He read the
supplication for the Royal House, the Councillors of the Realm, and the
common nobility, for all who were in authority or entrusted with high
office,–and at that tears sprang to many eyes. As the prayer went on,
there was a sound of sobbing, but the words came from hundreds of lips:
“May God in His mercy deliver these our lands and kingdoms from battle
and murder, pestilence and sudden death, famine and drouth, lightning
and tempest, floods and fire, and may we for such fatherly mercy praise
and glorify His holy name!”

Before the hymn had ended, the church was empty, and only the voice of
the organ sang within it.

On the following day, the people were again thronging the streets,
but by this time they seemed to have gained some definite direction.
The Swedish fleet had that night anchored outside of Dragör. Yet the
populace was calmer than the day before; for it was generally known
that two of the Councillors of the Realm had gone to parley with the
enemy, and were–so it was said–entrusted with powers sufficient to
ensure peace. But when the Councillors returned on Tuesday with the
news that they had been unable to make peace, there was a sudden and
violent reaction.

This was no longer an assemblage of staid citizens grown restless
under the stress of great and ominous tidings. No, it was a maelstrom
of uncouth creatures, the like of which had never been seen within
the ramparts of Copenhagen. Could they have come out of these quiet,
respectable houses bearing marks of sober every-day business? What
raving in long-sleeved sack and great-skirted coat! What bedlam noise
from grave lips and frenzied gestures of tight-dressed arms! None would
be alone, none would stay indoors, all wanted to stand in the middle
of the street with their despair, their tears, and wailing. See that
stately old man with bared head and bloodshot eyes! He is turning his
ashen face to the wall and beating the stones with clenched fists.
Listen to that fat tanner cursing the Councillors of the Realm and
the miserable war! Feel the blood in those fresh cheeks burning with
hatred of the enemy who brings the horrors of war, horrors that youth
has already lived through in imagination! How they roar with rage at
their own fancied impotence, and God in heaven, what prayers! What
senseless prayers!

Vehicles are stopping in the middle of the street. Servants are setting
down their burdens in sheds and doorways. Here and there, people come
out of the houses dressed in their best attire, flushed with exertion,
look about in surprise, then glance down at their clothes, and dart
into the crowd as though eager to divert attention from their own
finery. What have they in mind? And where do all these rough, drunken
men come from? They crowd; they reel and shriek; they quarrel and
tumble; they sit on doorsteps and are sick; they laugh wildly, run
after the women, and try to fight the men.

It was the first terror, the terror of instinct. By noon it was over.
Men had been called to the ramparts, had labored with holiday strength,
and had seen moats deepen and barricades rise under their spades.
Soldiers were passing. Artisans, students, and noblemen’s servants were
standing at watch, armed with all kinds of curious weapons. Cannon had
been mounted. The King had ridden past, and it was announced that he
would stay. Life began to look reasonable, and people braced themselves
for what was coming.

In the afternoon of the following day, the suburb outside of West Gate
was set on fire, and the smoke, drifting over the city, brought out
the crowds again. At dusk, when the flames reddened the weatherbeaten
walls of Vor Frue Church tower and played on the golden balls topping
the spire of St. Peter’s, the news that the enemy was coming down Valby
Hill stole in like a timid sigh. Through avenues and alleys sounded
a frightened “The Swedes! The Swedes!” The call came in the piercing
voices of boys running through the streets. People rushed to the doors,
booths were closed, and the iron-mongers hastily gathered in their
wares. The good folk seemed to expect a huge army of the enemy to pour
in upon them that very moment.

The slopes of the ramparts and the adjoining streets were black with
people looking at the fire. Other crowds gathered farther away from
the centre of interest, at the Secret Passage and the Fountain. Many
matters were discussed, the burning question being: Would the Swedes
attack that night or wait till morning?

Gert Pyper, the dyer from the Fountain, thought the Swedes would be
upon them as soon as they had rallied after the march. Why should they
wait?

The Icelandic trader, Erik Lauritzen of Dyers’ Row, thought it might be
a risky matter to enter a strange city in the dead of night, when you
couldn’t know what was land and what was water.

“Water!” said Gert Dyer. “Would to God we knew as much about our
own affairs as the Swede knows! Don’t trust to that! His spies are
where you’d least think. ‘Tis well enough known to Burgomaster and
Council, for the aldermen have been round since early morning hunting
spies in every nook and corner. Fool him who can! No, the Swede’s
cunning–especially in such business. ‘Tis a natural gift. I found
that out myself–’tis some half-score years since, but I’ve never
forgotten that mummery. You see, indigo she makes black, and she makes
light blue, and she makes medium blue, all according to the mordant.
Scalding and making the dye-vats ready–any ‘prentice can do that, if
he’s handy, but the mordant–there’s the rub! That’s an art! Use too
much, and you burn your cloth or yarn so it rots. Use too little,
and the color will ne-ever be fast–no, not if it’s dyed with the
most pre-cious logwood. Therefore the mordant is a closed _geheimnis_
which a man does not give away except it be to his son, but to the
journeymen–never! No–”

“Ay, Master Gert,” said the trader, “ay, ay!”

“As I was saying,” Gert went on, “about half a score of years ago I
had a ‘prentice whose mother was a Swede. He’d set his mind on finding
out what mordant I used for cinnamon brown, but as I always mixed it
behind closed doors, ’twas not so easy to smoke it. So what does he
do, the rascal? There’s so much vermin here round the Fountain, it
eats our wool and our linen, and for that reason we always hang up
the stuff people give us to dye in canvas sacks under the loft-beams.
So what does he do, the devil’s _gesindchen_, but gets him one of the
‘prentices to hang him up in a sack. And I came in and weighed and
mixed and made ready and was half done, when it happened so curiously
that the cramp got in one of his legs up there, and he began to kick
and scream for me to help him down. Did I help him? Death and fire! But
’twas a scurvy trick he did me, yes, yes, yes! And so they are, the
Swedes; you can never trust ’em over a doorstep.”

“Faith, they’re ugly folk, the Swedes,” spoke Erik Lauritzen. “They’ve
nothing to set their teeth in at home, so when they come to foreign
parts they can never get their bellyful. They’re like poor-house
children; they eat for today’s hunger and for to-morrow’s and
yesterday’s all in one. Thieves and cut-purses they are, too–worse
than crows and corpse-plunderers–and so murderous. It’s not for
nothing people say: Quick with the knife like Lasse Swede!”

“And so lewd,” added the dyer. “It never fails, if you see the
hangman’s man whipping a woman from town, and you ask who’s the hussy,
but they tell you she’s a Swedish trull.”

“Ay, the blood of man is various, and the blood of beasts, too. The
Swede is to other people what the baboon is among the dumb brutes.
There’s such an unseemly passion and raging heat in the humors of his
body that the natural intelligence which God in His mercy hath given
all human creatures cannot hinder his evil lusts and sinful desires.”

The dyer nodded several times in affirmation of the theories advanced
by the trader. “Right you are, Erik Lauritzen, right you are. The Swede
is of a strange and peculiar nature, different from other people. I can
always smell, when an outlandish man comes into my booth, whether he’s
a Swede or from some other country. There’s such a rank odor about the
Swedes–like goats or fish-lye. I’ve often turned it over in my mind,
and I make no doubt ’tis as you say, ’tis the fumes of his lustful and
bestial humors. Ay, so it is.”

“Sure, it’s no witchcraft if Swedes and Turks smell different from
Christians!” spoke up an old woman who stood near them.

“You’re drivelling, Mette Mustard,” interrupted the dyer. “Don’t you
know that Swedes are Christian folks?”

“Call ’em Christian, if you like, Gert Dyer, but Finns and heathens
and troll-men have never been Christians by my prayer-book, and it’s
true as gold what happened in the time of King Christian, God rest his
soul! when the Swedes were in Jutland. There was a whole regiment of
’em marching one night at new moon, and at the stroke o’ midnight they
ran one from the other and howled like a pack of werewolves or some
such devilry, and they scoured like mad round in the woods and fens and
brought ill luck to men and beasts.”

“But they go to church on Sunday and have both pastor and clerk just
like us.”

“Ay, let a fool believe that! They go to church, the filthy gang,
like the witches fly to vespers, when the Devil has St. John’s mass
on Hekkenfell. No, they’re bewitched, an’ nothing bites on ’em, be it
powder or bullets. Half of ’em can cast the evil eye, too, else why
d’ye think the smallpox is always so bad wherever those hell-hounds’ve
set their cursed feet? Answer me that, Gert Dyer, answer me that, if ye
can.”

The dyer was just about to reply, when Erik Lauritzen, who for some
time had been looking about uneasily, spoke to him: “Hush, hush, Gert
Pyper! Who’s the man talking like a sermon yonder with the people
standing thick around him?”

They hurried to join the crowd, while Gert Dyer explained that it must
be a certain Jesper Kiim, who had preached in the Church of the Holy
Ghost, but whose doctrine, so Gert had been told by learned men, was
hardly pure enough to promise much for his eternal welfare or clerical
preferment.

The speaker was a small man of about thirty with something of the
mastiff about him. He had long, smooth black hair, a thick little nose
on a broad face, lively brown eyes, and red lips. He was standing on
a doorstep, gesticulating forcefully and speaking with quick energy
though in a somewhat thick and lisping voice.

“The twenty-sixth chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew,”
he said, “from the fifty-first to the fifty-fourth verse, reads as
follows: ‘And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched
out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high
priest’s, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again
thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish
with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and
he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how
then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?’

“Ay, my beloved friends, thus it must be. The poor walls and feeble
garrison of this city are at this moment encompassed by a strong host
of armed warriors, and their king and commander has ordered them, by
fire and sword, by attack and siege, to subdue this city and make us
all his servants.

“And those who are in the city and see their peace threatened and their
ruin contrary to all feelings of humanity determined upon, they arm
themselves, they bring catapults and other harmful implements of war to
the ramparts, and they say to one another: Should not we with flaming
fire and shining sword fall upon the destroyers of peace who would lay
us waste? Why has God in heaven awakened valor and fearlessness in
the heart of man if not for the purpose of resisting such an enemy?
And, like Peter the Apostle, they would draw their glaive and smite
off the ear of Malchus. But Jesus says: ‘Put up again thy sword into
his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the
sword.’ ‘Tis true, this may seem like a strange speech to the unreason
of the wrathful and like foolishness to the unseeing blindness of the
spiteful. But the Word is not like a tinkle of cymbals, for the ear
only. No, like the hull of a ship, which is loaded with many useful
things, so the Word of God is loaded with reason and understanding. Let
us therefore examine the Word and find, one by one, the points of true
interpretation. Wherefore should the sword remain in his place and he
who takes the sword perish with the sword? This is for us to consider
under three heads:

“Firstly, man is a wisely and beyond all measure gloriously fashioned
microcosm, or as it may be interpreted, a small earth, a world of good
and evil. For does not the Apostle James say that the tongue alone is
a world of iniquity among our members? How much more then the whole
body–the lustful eyes, the hastening feet, the covetous hands, the
insatiable belly, but even so the prayerful knees, and the ears quick
to hear! And if the body is a world, how much more, then, our precious
and immortal soul! Ay, it is a garden full of sweet and bitter herbs,
full of evil lusts like ravening beasts and virtues like white lambs.
And is he who lays waste such a world to be regarded as better than an
incendiary, a brawler, or a field-robber? And ye know what punishment
is meted out to such as these.”

Darkness had fallen, and the crowd around the preacher appeared only as
a large, dark, slowly shifting and growing mass.

“Secondly, man is a microtheos, that is a mirror and image of the
Almighty God. Is not he who lays hands on the image of God to be
regarded as worse than he who merely steals the holy vessels or
vestments of the church or who profanes the sanctuary? And ye know what
punishment is meted out to such a one.

“Thirdly and lastly, it is the first duty of man to do battle for the
Lord, without ceasing, clothed in the shining mail of a pure life and
girded about with the flaming sword of truth. Armed thus, it behooves
him to fight as a warrior before the Lord, rending the throat of hell
and trampling upon the belly of Satan. Therefore the sword of the body
must remain in its place, for verily we have enough to strive with that
of the spirit!”

Meanwhile stragglers came from both ends of the street, stopped, and
took their place in the outskirts of the crowd. Many were carrying
lanterns, and finally the dark mass was encircled with an undulating
line of twinkling lights that flickered and shifted with the movements
of the people. Now and then a lantern would be lifted and its rays
would move searchingly over whitewashed walls and black window-panes
till they rested on the earnest face of the preacher.

“But how is this? you would say in your hearts: Should we deliver
ourselves bound hand and foot into the power of the oppressor, into a
bitter condition of thralldom and degradation? Oh, my well-beloved, say
not so! For then you will be counted among those who doubt that Jesus
could pray his Father and He should send twelve legions of angels. Oh,
do not fall into despair! Do not murmur in your hearts against the
counsel of the Lord, and make not your liver black against His will!
For he whom the Lord would destroy is struck down, and he whom the Lord
would raise abides in safety. He has many ways by which He can guide us
out of the wilderness of our peril. Has He not power to turn the heart
of our enemy, and did He not suffer the angel of death to go through
the camp of Sennacherib? And have you forgotten the engulfing waters of
the Red Sea and the sudden destruction of Pharaoh?”

At this point Jesper Kiim was interrupted.

The crowd had listened quietly except for a subdued angry murmur from
the outskirts, but suddenly Mette’s voice pierced through: “Faugh, you
hell-hound! Hold your tongue, you black dog! Don’t listen to him! It’s
Swede money speaks out of his mouth!”

An instant of silence, then bedlam broke loose! Oaths, curses, and foul
names rained over him. He tried to speak, but the cries grew louder,
and those nearest to the steps advanced threateningly. A white-haired
little man right in front, who had wept during the speech, made an
angry lunge at the preacher with his long, silver-knobbed cane.

“Down with him, down with him!” the cry sounded. “Let him eat his
words! Let him tell us what money he got for betraying us! Down with
him! Send him to us, we’ll knock the maggots out of him!”

“Put him in the cellar!” cried others. “In the City Hall cellar! Hand
him down! hand him down!”

Two powerful fellows seized him. The wretch was clutching the wooden
porch railing with all his might, but they kicked both railing and
preacher down into the street, where the mob fell upon him with kicks
and blows from clenched fists. The women were tearing his hair and
clothes, and little boys, clinging to their fathers’ hands, jumped with
delight.

“Bring Mette!” cried some one in the back of the crowd. “Make way! Let
Mette try him.”

Mette came forward. “Will you eat your devil’s nonsense? Will you,
Master Rogue?”

“Never, never! We ought to obey God rather than men, as it is written.”

“Ought we?” said Mette, drawing off her wooden shoe and brandishing it
before his eyes. “But men have shoes, and you’re in the pay of Satan
and not of God. I’ll give you a knock on the pate! I’ll plaster your
brain on the wall!” She struck him with the shoe.

“Commit no sin, Mette,” groaned the scholar.

“Now may the Devil–” she shrieked.

“Hush, hush!” some one cried. “Have a care, don’t crowd so! There’s
Gyldenlöve, the lieutenant-general.”

A tall figure rode past.

“Long live Gyldenlöve! The brave Gyldenlöve!” bellowed the mob.
Hats and caps were swung aloft, and cheer upon cheer sounded, until
the rider disappeared in the direction of the ramparts. It was the
lieutenant-general of the militia, colonel of horse and foot, Ulrik
Christian Gyldenlöve, the King’s half-brother.

The mob dispersed little by little, till only a few remained.

“Say what you will, ’tis a curious thing,” said Gert the dyer: “here
we’re ready to crack the head of a man who speaks of peace, and we cry
ourselves hoarse for those who’ve brought this war upon us.”

“I give you good-night, Gert Pyper!” said the trader hastily.
“Good-night and God be with you!” He hurried away.

“He’s afraid of Mette’s shoe,” murmured the dyer, and at last he too
turned homeward.

Jesper Kiim sat on the steps alone, holding his aching head. The
watchman on the ramparts paced slowly back and forth, peering out over
the dark land where all was wrapped in silence, though thousands of
enemies were encamped round about.