After the main sallies against the enemy on the second of September
and the twentieth of October, the town rang with the fame of Ulrik
Christian Gyldenlöve. Colonel Satan, the people called him. His name
was on every lip. Every child in Copenhagen knew his sorrel, Bellarina,
with the white socks, and when he rode past–a slim, tall figure in
the wide-skirted blue uniform of the guard with its enormous white
collar and cuffs, red scarf, and broad sword-belt–the maidens of the
city peeped admiringly after him, proud when their pretty faces won
them a bow or a bold glance from the audacious soldier. Even the sober
fathers of families and their matrons in beruffled caps, who well knew
how naughty he was and had heard the tales of all his peccadillos,
would nod to each other with pleasure in meeting him, and would fall to
discussing the difficult question of what would have happened to the
city if it had not been for Gyldenlöve.
The soldiers and men on the ramparts idolized him, and no wonder, for
he had the same power of winning the common people that distinguished
his father, King Christian the Fourth. Nor was this the only point
of resemblance. He had inherited his father’s hot-headedness and
intemperance, but also much of his ability, his gift of thinking
quickly and taking in a situation at a glance. He was extremely blunt.
Several years at European courts had not made him a courtier, nor
even passably well mannered. In daily intercourse, he was taciturn to
the point of rudeness, and in the service, he never opened his mouth
without cursing and swearing like a common sailor.
With all this, he was a genuine soldier. In spite of his youth–for he
was but eight-and-twenty–he conducted the defence of the city, and led
the dangerous but important sallies, with such masterful insight and
such mature perfection of plan that the cause could hardly have been in
better hands with any one else among the men who surrounded Frederik
No wonder, therefore, that his name outshone all others, and that the
poetasters, in their versified accounts of the fighting, addressed him
as “thou vict’ry-crowned Gyldenlöv’, thou Denmark’s saviour brave!” or
greeted him: “Hail, hail, thou Northern Mars, thou Danish David bold!”
and wished that his life might be as a cornucopia, yea, even as a horn
of plenty, full and running over with praise and glory, with health,
fortune, and happiness. No wonder that many a quiet family vespers
ended with the prayer that God would preserve Mr. Ulrik Christian, and
some pious souls added a petition that his foot might be led from the
slippery highways of sin, and his heart be turned from all that was
evil, to seek the shining diadem of virtue and truth, and that he,
who had in such full measure won the honor of this world, might also
participate in the only true and everlasting glory.
Marie Grubbe’s thoughts were much engrossed by this kinsman of her
aunt. As it happened, she had never met him either at Mistress
Rigitze’s or in society, and all she had seen of him was a glimpse in
the dusk when Lucie had pointed him out in the street.
All were speaking of him. Nearly every day some fresh story of his
valor was noised abroad. She had heard and read that he was a hero, and
the murmur of enthusiasm that went through the crowds in the streets,
as he rode past, had given her an unforgettable thrill.
The hero-name lifted him high above the ranks of ordinary human beings.
She had never supposed that a hero could be like other people. King
Alexander of Macedonia, Holger the Dane, and Chevalier Bayard were
tall, distant, radiant figures–ideals rather than men. Just as she had
never believed, in her childhood, that any one could form letters with
the elegance of the copy-book, so it had never occurred to her that
one could become a hero. Heroes belonged to the past. To think that
one might meet a flesh-and-blood hero riding in Store-Færgestræde was
beyond anything she had dreamed of. Life suddenly took on a different
aspect. So it was not all dull routine! The great and beautiful and
richly colored world she had read of in her romances and ballads was
something she might actually see with her own eyes. There was really
something that one could long for with all one’s heart and soul; all
these words that people and books were full of had a meaning. They
stood for something. Her confused dreams and longings took form, since
she knew that they were not hers alone, but that grown people believed
in such things. Life was rich, wonderfully rich and radiant.
It was nothing but an intuition, which she knew to be true, but could
not yet see or feel. He was her only pledge that it was so, the only
thing tangible. Hence her thoughts and dreams circled about him
unceasingly. She would often fly to the window at the sound of horse’s
hoofs, and, when out walking, she would persuade the willing Lucie to
go round by the castle, but they never saw him.
Then came a day toward the end of October, when she was plying her
bobbins by the afternoon light, at a window in the long drawing-room
where the fireplace was. Mistress Rigitze sat before the fire, now and
then taking a pinch of dried flowers or a bit of cinnamon bark from
a box on her lap and throwing it on a brazier full of live coals that
stood near her. The air in the low-ceilinged room was hot and close
and sweet. But little light penetrated between the full curtains of
motley, dark-flowered stuff. From the adjoining room came the whirr
of a spinning-wheel, and Mistress Rigitze was nodding drowsily in her
Marie Grubbe felt faint with the heat. She tried to cool her burning
cheeks against the small, dewy window-pane and peeped out into the
street, where a thin layer of new-fallen snow made the air dazzlingly
bright. As she turned to the room again, it seemed doubly dark and
oppressive. Suddenly Ulrik Christian came in through the door, so
quickly that Mistress Rigitze started. He did not notice Marie, but
took a seat before the fire. After a few words of apology for his long
absence, he remarked that he was tired, leaned forward in his chair,
his face resting on his hand, and sat silent, scarcely hearing Mistress
Rigitze’s lively chatter.
Marie Grubbe had turned pale with excitement, when she saw him enter.
She closed her eyes for an instant with a sense of giddiness, then
blushed furiously and could hardly breathe. The floor seemed to be
sinking under her, and the chairs, tables, and people in the room
falling through space. All objects appeared strangely definite and yet
flickering, for she could hold nothing fast with her eyes, and moreover
everything seemed new and strange.
So this was he. She wished herself far away or at least in her own
room, her peaceful little chamber. She was frightened and could feel
her hands tremble. If he would only not see her! She shrank deeper into
the window recess and tried to fix her eyes on her aunt’s guest.
Was this the way he looked?–not very, very much taller? And his eyes
were not fiery black, they were blue–such dear blue eyes, but sad–that
was something she could not have imagined. He was pale and looked as if
he were sorry about something. Ah, he smiled, but not in a really happy
way. How white his teeth were, and what a nice mouth he had, so small
and finely formed!
As she looked, he grew more and more handsome in her eyes, and she
wondered how she could ever have fancied him larger or in any way
different from what he was. She forgot her shyness and thought only of
the eulogies of him she had heard. She saw him storming at the head of
his troops, amid the exultant cries of the people. All fell back before
him, as the waves are thrown off, when they rise frothing around the
broad breast of a galleon. Cannon thundered, swords flashed, bullets
whistled through dark clouds of smoke, but he pressed onward, brave and
erect, and on his stirrup Victory hung–in the words of a chronicle she
Her eyes shone upon him full of admiration and enthusiasm.
He made a sudden movement and met her gaze, but turned his head away,
with difficulty repressing a triumphant smile. The next moment he rose
as though he had just caught sight of Marie Grubbe.
Mistress Rigitze said this was her little niece, and Marie made her
Ulrik Christian was astonished and perhaps a trifle disappointed to
find that the eyes that had given him such a look were those of a child.
“_Ma chère_,” he said with a touch of mockery, as he looked down at
her lace, “you’re a past mistress in the art of working quietly and
secretly; not a sound have I heard from your bobbins in all the time
I’ve been here.”
“No,” replied Marie, who understood him perfectly; “when I saw you,
Lord Gyldenlöve,”–she shoved the heavy lace-maker’s cushion along the
window-sill,–“it came to my mind that in times like these ’twere more
fitting to think of lint and bandages than of laced caps.”
“Faith, I know that caps are as becoming in war-times as any other
day,” he said, looking at her.
“But who would give them a thought in seasons like the present!”
“Many,” answered Ulrik Christian, who began to be amused at her
seriousness, “and I for one.”
“I understand,” said Marie, looking up at him gravely; “’tis but a
child you are addressing.” She courtesied ceremoniously and reached
for her work.
“Stay, my little maid!”
“I pray you, let me no longer incommode you!”
“Hark’ee!” He seized her wrists in a hard grip and drew her to him
across the little table. “By God, you’re a thorny person, but,” he
whispered, “if one has greeted me with a look such as yours a moment
ago, I will not have her bid me so poor a farewell–I will not have it!
There–now kiss me!”
Her eyes full of tears, Marie pressed her trembling lips against his.
He dropped her hands, and she sank down over the table, her head in
her arms. She felt quite dazed. All that day and the next she had a
dull sense of bondage, of being no longer free. A foot seemed to press
on her neck and grind her helplessly in the dust. Yet there was no
bitterness in her heart, no defiance in her thoughts, no desire for
revenge. A strange peace had come over her soul and had chased away
the flitting throng of dreams and longings. She could not define her
feeling for Ulrik Christian; she only knew that if he said Come, she
must go to him, and if he said Go, she must quit him. She did not
understand it, but it was so and had always been so, thus and not
With unwonted patience she worked all day long at her sewing and her
lace-making, meanwhile humming all the mournful ballads she had ever
known, about the roses of love which paled and never bloomed again,
about the swain who must leave his truelove and go to foreign lands,
and who never, never came back any more, and about the prisoner who sat
in the dark tower such a long dreary time, and first his noble falcon
died, and then his faithful dog died, and last his good steed died,
but his faithless wife Malvina lived merrily and well and grieved not
for him. These songs and many others she would sing, and sometimes she
would sigh and seem on the point of bursting into tears, until Lucie
thought her ill and urged her to put way-bread leaves in her stockings.
When Ulrik Christian came in, a few days later, and spoke gently and
kindly to her, she too behaved as though nothing had been between them,
but she looked with childlike curiosity at the large white hands that
had held her in such a hard grip, and she wondered what there could
be in his eyes or his voice that had so cowed her. She glanced at the
mouth, too, under its narrow, drooping moustache, but furtively and
with a secret thrill of fear.
In the weeks that followed he came almost every day, and Marie’s
thoughts became more and more absorbed in him. When he was not there,
the old house seemed dull and desolate, and she longed for him as the
sleepless long for daylight, but when he came, her joy was never full
and free, always timid and doubting.
One night she dreamed that she saw him riding through the crowded
streets as on that first evening, but there were no cheers, and all
the faces seemed cold and indifferent. The silence frightened her. She
dared not smile at him, but hid behind the others. Then he glanced
around with a strange questioning, wistful look, and this look fastened
on her. She forced her way through the mass of people and threw herself
down before him, while his horse set its cold, iron-shod hoof on her
She awoke and looked about her, bewildered, at the cold, moonlit
chamber. Alas, it was but a dream! She sighed; she did want so much to
show him how she loved him. Yes, that was it. She had not understood it
before, but she loved him. At the thought, she seemed to be lying in a
stream of fire, and flames flickered before her eyes, while every pulse
in her heart throbbed and throbbed and throbbed. She loved him. How
wonderful it was to say it to herself! She loved him! How glorious the
words were, how tremendously real, and yet how unreal! Good God, what
was the use, even if she did love him? Tears of self-pity came into her
eyes–and yet! She huddled comfortably under the soft, warm coverlet of
down,–after all it was delicious to lie quite still and think of him
and of her great, great love.
When Marie met Ulrik Christian again, she no longer felt timid. Her
secret buoyed her up with a sense of her own importance, and the fear
of revealing it gave her manner a poise that made her seem almost a
woman. They were happy days that followed, fantastic, wonderful days!
Was it not joy enough when Ulrik Christian went, to throw a hundred
kisses after him, unseen by him and all others, or when he came, to
fancy how her beloved would take her in his arms and call her by every
sweet name she could think of, how he would sit by her side, while they
looked long into each other’s eyes, and how she would run her hand
through his soft, wavy brown hair? What did it matter that none of
these things happened? She blushed at the very thought that they might
They were fair and happy days, but toward the end of November Ulrik
Christian fell dangerously ill. His health, long undermined by
debauchery of every conceivable kind, had perhaps been unable to endure
the continued strain of night-watches and hard work in connection
with his post. Or possibly fresh dissipations had strung the bow too
tightly. A wasting disease, marked by intense pain, wild fever dreams,
and constant restlessness, attacked him, and soon took such a turn that
none could doubt the name of the sickness was death.
On the eleventh of December, Pastor Hans Didrichsen Bartskjær, chaplain
to the royal family, was walking uneasily up and down over the fine
straw mattings that covered the floor in the large leather-brown room
outside of Ulrik Christian’s sick-chamber. He stopped absentmindedly
before the paintings on the walls, and seemed to examine with intense
interest the fat, naked nymphs, outstretched under the trees, the
bathing Susannas, and the simpering Judith with bare, muscular arms.
They could not hold his attention long, however, and he went to the
window, letting his gaze roam from the gray-white sky to the wet,
glistening copper roofs and the long mounds of dirty, melting snow in
the castle park below. Then he resumed his nervous pacing, murmuring,
Was that the door opening? He stopped short to listen. No! He drew
a deep breath and sank down into a chair, where he sat, sighing and
rubbing the palms of his hands together, until the door really opened.
A middle-aged woman wearing a huge flounced cap of red-dotted stuff
appeared and beckoned cautiously to him. The pastor pulled himself
together, stuck his prayer-book under his arm, smoothed his cassock,
and entered the sick-chamber.
The large oval room was wainscoted in dark wood from floor to ceiling.
From the central panel, depressed below the surface of the wall,
grinned a row of hideous, white-toothed heads of blackamoors and Turks,
painted in gaudy colors. The deep, narrow lattice-window was partially
veiled by a sash-curtain of thin, blue-gray stuff, leaving the lower
part of the room in deep twilight, while the sunbeams played freely on
the painted ceiling, where horses, weapons, and naked limbs mingled in
an inextricable tangle, and on the canopy of the four-poster bed, from
which hung draperies of yellow damask fringed with silver.
The air that met the pastor, as he entered, was warm, and so heavy with
the scent of salves and nostrums that for a moment he could hardly
breathe. He clutched a chair for support, his head swam, and everything
seemed to be whirling around him–the table covered with flasks and
phials, the window, the nurse with her cap, the sick man on the bed,
the sword-rack, and the door opening into the adjoining room where a
fire was blazing in the grate.
“The peace of God be with you, my lord!” he greeted in a trembling
voice as soon as he recovered from his momentary dizziness.
“What the devil d’ye want here?” roared the sick man, trying to lift
himself in bed.
“_Gemach, gnädigster Herr, gemach!_” Shoemaker’s Anne, the nurse,
hushed him, and coming close to the bed, gently stroked the coverlet.
“‘Tis the venerable _Confessionarius_ of his Majesty, who has been sent
hither to give you the sacrament.”
“Gracious Sir, noble Lord Gyldenlöve!” began the pastor, as he
approached the bed. “Though ’tis known to me that you have not been
among the simple wise or the wisely simple who use the Word of the Lord
as their rod and staff and who dwell in His courts, and although that
God whose cannon is the crashing thunderbolt likewise holds in His hand
the golden palm of victory and the blood-dripping cypresses of defeat,
yet men may understand, though not justify, the circumstance that you,
whose duty it has been to command and set a valiant example to your
people, may for a moment have forgotten that we are but as nothing,
as a reed in the wind, nay, as the puny grafted shoot in the hands of
the mighty Creator. You may have thought foolishly: This have I done,
this is a fruit that I have brought to maturity and perfection. Yet
now, beloved lord, when you lie here on your bed of pain, now God who
is the merciful God of love hath surely enlightened your understanding
and turned your heart to Him in longing with fear and trembling to
confess your uncleansed sins, that you may trustfully accept the grace
and forgiveness which His loving hands are holding out to you. The
sharp-toothed worm of remorse–”
“Cross me fore and cross me aft! Penitence, forgiveness of sins, and
life eternal!” jeered Ulrik Christian and sat up in bed. “Do you
suppose, you sour-faced baldpate, do you suppose, because my bones
are rotting out of my body in stumps and slivers, that gives me more
stomach for your parson-palaver?”
“Most gracious lord, you sadly misuse the privilege which your high
rank and yet more your pitiable condition give you to berate a poor
servant of the Church, who is but doing his duty in seeking to turn
your thoughts toward that which is assuredly to you the one thing
needful. Oh, honored lord, it avails but little to kick against the
pricks! Has not the wasting disease that has struck your body taught
you that none can escape the chastisements of the Lord God, and that
the scourgings of heaven fall alike on high and low?”
Ulrik Christian interrupted him, laughing: “Hell consume me, but you
talk like a witless school-boy! This sickness that’s eating my marrow
I’ve rightfully brought on myself, and if you suppose that heaven
or hell sends it, I can tell you that a man gets it by drinking and
wenching and revelling at night. You may depend on’t. And now take your
scholastic legs out of this chamber with all speed, or else I’ll–”
Another attack seized him, and as he writhed and moaned with the
intense pain, his oaths and curses were so blasphemous and so appalling
in their inventiveness that the scandalized pastor stood pale and
aghast. He prayed God for strength and power of persuasion, if mayhap
he might be vouchsafed the privilege of opening this hardened soul to
the truth and glorious consolation of religion. When the patient was
quiet again he began: “My lord, my lord, with tears and weeping I beg
and beseech you to cease from such abominable cursing and swearing!
Remember, the axe is laid unto the root of the tree, and it shall be
hewn down and cast into the fire, if it continues to be unfruitful and
does not in the eleventh hour bring forth flowers and good fruit! Cease
your baleful resistance, and throw yourself with penitent prayers at
the feet of our Saviour–”
When the pastor began his speech, Ulrik Christian sat up at the
headboard of the bed. He pointed threateningly to the door and cried
again and again: “Begone, parson! Begone, march! I can’t abide you any
“Oh, my dear lord,” continued the clergyman, “if mayhap you are
hardening yourself because you misdoubt the possibility of finding
grace, since the mountain of your sins is overwhelming, then hear with
rejoicing that the fountain of God’s grace is inexhaustible–”
“Mad dog of a parson, will you go!” hissed Ulrik Christian between
clenched teeth; “one–two!”
“And if your sins were red as blood, ay, as Tyrian purple–”
“Right about face!”
“He shall make them white as Lebanon’s–”
“Now by St. Satan and all his angels!” roared Ulrik Christian as he
jumped out of bed, caught a rapier from the sword-rack, and made
a furious lunge after the pastor, who, however, escaped into the
adjoining room, slamming the door after him. In his rage, Ulrik
Christian flung himself at the door, but sank exhausted to the floor,
and had to be lifted into bed, though he still held the sword.
The forenoon passed in a drowsy calm. He suffered no pain, and the
weakness that came over him seemed a pleasant relief. He lay staring
at the points of light penetrating the curtain, and counted the black
rings in the iron lattice. A pleased smile flitted over his face when
he thought of his onslaught on the pastor, and he grew irritable only
when Shoemaker’s Anne would coax him to close his eyes and try to
In the early afternoon a loud knock at the door announced the entrance
of the pastor of Trinity Church, Dr. Jens Justesen. He was a tall,
rather stout man, with coarse, strong features, short black hair, and
large, deep-set eyes. Stepping briskly up to the bed, he said simply:
As soon as Ulrik Christian became aware that another clergyman was
standing before him, he began to shake with rage, and let loose a
broadside of oaths and railing against the pastor, against Shoemaker’s
Anne, who had not guarded his peace better, against God in heaven and
all holy things.
“Silence, child of man!” thundered Pastor Jens. “Is this language meet
for one who has even now one foot in the grave? ‘Twere better you
employed the flickering spark of life that still remains to you in
making your peace with the Lord, instead of picking quarrels with men.
You are like those criminals and disturbers of peace who, when their
judgment is fallen and they can no longer escape the red-hot pincers
and the axe, then in their miserable impotence curse and revile the
Lord our God with filthy and wild words. They seek thereby courage to
drag themselves out of that almost brutish despair, that craven fear
and slavish remorse without hope, into which such fellows generally
sink toward the last, and which they fear more than death and the
tortures of death.”
Ulrik Christian listened quietly, until he had managed to get his
sword out from under the coverlet. Then he cried: “Guard yourself,
priest-belly!” and made a sudden lunge after Pastor Jens, who coolly
turned the weapon aside with his broad prayer-book.
“Leave such tricks to pages!” he said contemptuously. “They’re scarce
fitting for you or me. And now this woman”–turning to Shoemaker’s
Anne–“had best leave us private.”
Anne quitted the room, and the pastor drew his chair up to the bed,
while Ulrik Christian laid his sword on the coverlet.
Pastor Jens spoke fair words about sin and the wages of sin, about
God’s love for the children of men, and about the death on the cross.
Ulrik Christian lay turning his sword in his hand, letting the light
play on the bright steel. He swore, hummed bits of ribald songs, and
tried to interrupt with blasphemous questions, but the pastor went on
speaking about the seven words of the cross, about the holy sacrament
of the altar, and the bliss of heaven.
Then Ulrik Christian sat up in bed and looked the pastor straight in
“‘Tis naught but lies and old wives’ tales,” he said.
“May the devil take me where I stand, if it isn’t true!” cried the
pastor,–“every blessed word!” He hit the table with his fist, till the
jars and glasses slid and rattled against one another, while he rose to
his feet and spoke in a stern voice: “‘Twere meet that I should shake
the dust from my feet in righteous anger and leave you here alone, a
sure prey to the devil and his realm, whither you are most certainly
bound. You are one of those who daily nail our Lord Jesus to the gibbet
of the cross, and for all such the courts of hell are prepared. Do not
mock the terrible name of hell, for it is a name that contains a fire
of torment and the wailing and gnashing of teeth of the damned! Alas,
the anguish of hell is greater than any human mind can conceive; for
if one were tortured to death and woke in hell, he would long for the
wheel and the red-hot pincers as for Abraham’s bosom. ‘Tis true that
sickness and disease are bitter to the flesh of man when they pierce
like a draught, inch by inch, through every fibre of the body, and
stretch the sinews till they crack, when they burn like salted fire in
the vitals, and gnaw with dull teeth in the innermost marrow! But the
sufferings of hell are a raging storm racking every limb and joint, a
whirlwind of unthinkable woe, an eternal dance of anguish; for as one
wave rolls upon another, and is followed by another and another in all
eternity, so the scalding pangs and blows of hell follow one another
ever and everlastingly, without end and without pause.”
The sick man looked around bewildered. “I won’t!” he said, “I won’t!
I’ve nothing to do with your heaven or hell. I would die, only die and
“You shall surely die,” said the pastor, “but at the end of the dark
valley of death are two doors, one leading to the bliss of heaven and
one to the torments of hell. There is no other way, no other way at
“Yes, there is, pastor, there must be–tell me, is there not?–a deep,
deep grave hard by for those who went their own way, a deep black grave
leading down to nothing–to no earthly thing?”
“They who went their own way are headed for the realm of the devil.
They are swarming at the gate of hell; high and low, old and young,
they push and scramble to escape the yawning abyss, and cry miserably
to that God whose path they would not follow, begging Him to take them
away. The cries of the pit are over their heads, and they writhe in
fear and agony, but the gates of hell shall close over them as the
waters close over the drowning.”
“Is it the truth you’re telling me? On your word as an honest man, is
it anything but a tale?”
“But I won’t! I’ll do without your God! I don’t want to go to heaven,
only to die!”
“Then pass on to that horrible place of torment, where those who are
damned for all eternity are cast about on the boiling waves of an
endless sea of sulphur, where their limbs are racked by agony, and
their hot mouths gasp for air, among the flames that flicker over the
surface. I see their bodies drifting like white gulls on the sea, yea,
like a frothing foam in a storm, and their shrieks are like the noise
of the earth when the earthquake tears it, and their anguish is without
a name. Oh, would that my prayers might save thee from it, miserable
man! But grace has hidden its countenance, and the sun of mercy is set
“Then help me, pastor, help me!” groaned Ulrik Christian. “What are
you a parson for, if you can’t help me? Pray, for God’s sake, pray!
Are there no prayers in your mouth? Or give me your wine and bread, if
there’s salvation in ’em as they say! Or is it all a lie–a confounded
lie? I’ll crawl to the feet of your God like a whipped boy, since He’s
so strong–it is not fair–He’s so mighty, and we’re so helpless! Make
Him kind, your God, make Him kind to me! I bow down–I bow down–I can
do no more!”
“Ay, I’ll pray, I’ll pray all you want–indeed!” he knelt in bed and
folded his hands. “Is that right?” he asked, looking toward Pastor
Jens. “Now, what shall I say?”
The pastor made no answer.
For a few moments Ulrik Christian knelt thus, his large, bright,
feverish eyes turned upward. “There are no words, pastor,” he
whimpered. “Lord Jesu, they’re all gone,” and he sank down, weeping.
Suddenly he sprang up, seized his sword, broke it, and cried: “Lord
Jesu Christ, see, I break my sword!” and he lifted the shining pieces
of the blade. “_Pardon_, Jesu, _pardon_!”
The pastor then spoke words of consolation to him and gave him the
sacrament without delay, for he seemed not to have a long time left.
After that Pastor Jens called Shoemaker’s Anne and departed.
The disease was believed to be contagious, hence none of those who had
been close to the dying man attended him in his illness, but in the
room below a few of his family and friends, the physician in ordinary
to the King, and two or three gentlemen of the court were assembled
to receive the noblemen, foreign ministers, officers, courtiers, and
city councilmen who called to inquire about him. So the peace of the
sick-chamber was not disturbed, and Ulrik Christian was again alone
with Shoemaker’s Anne.
Twilight fell. Anne threw more wood on the fire, lit two candles, took
her prayer-book, and settled herself comfortably. She pulled her cap
down to shade her face and very soon was asleep. A barber-surgeon and
a lackey had been posted in the ante-room to be within call, but they
were both squatting on the floor near the window, playing dice on the
straw matting to deaden the sound. They were so absorbed in their game
that they did not notice some one stealing through the room, until they
heard the door of the sick-chamber close.
“It must have been the doctor,” they said, looking at each other in
It was Marie Grubbe. Noiselessly she stole up to the bed and bent over
the patient, who was dozing quietly. In the dim, uncertain light,
he looked very pale and unlike himself, the forehead had a deathly
whiteness, the eyelids were unnaturally large, and the thin wax-yellow
hands were groping feebly and helplessly over the dark blue bolster.
Marie wept. “Art thou so ill?” she murmured. She knelt, supporting her
elbows on the edge of the bed, and gazed at his face.
“Ulrik Christian,” she called, and laid her hand on his shoulder.
“Is any one else here?” he moaned weakly.
She shook her head. “Art thou very ill?” she asked.
“Yes, ’tis all over with me.”
“No, no, it must not be! Whom have I if you go? No, no, how can I bear
“To live?–’tis easy to live, but I have had the bread of death and
the wine of death, I must die–yes, yes,–bread and wine–body and
blood–d’you believe they help? No, no, in the name of Jesus Christ, in
the name of Jesus Christ! Say a prayer, child, make it a strong one!”
Marie folded her hands and prayed.
“Amen, amen! Pray again! I’m such a great sinner, child, it needs
so much! Pray again, a long prayer with many words–many words! Oh,
no, what’s that? Why is the bed turning?–Hold fast, hold fast! ‘Tis
turning–like a whirlwind of unthinkable woe, a dance of eternal
anguish, and–ha, ha, ha! Am I drunk again? What devilry is this–what
have I been drinking? Wine! Ay, of course, ’twas wine I drank, ha, ha!
We’re gaily yet, we’re gaily–Kiss me, my chick!
Herzen und Küssen
Ist Himmel auf Erd–
Kiss me again, sweetheart, I’m so cold, but you’re round and warm.
Kiss me warm! You’re white and soft, white and smooth–”
He had thrown his arms around Marie, and pressed the terrified child
close to him. At that moment, Shoemaker’s Anne woke and saw her patient
sitting up and fondling a strange woman. She lifted her prayer-book
threateningly and cried: “_H’raus_, thou hell-born wench! To think of
the shameless thing sitting here and wantoning with the poor dying
gentleman before my very eyes! _H’raus_, whoever ye are–handmaid of
the wicked one, sent by the living Satan!”
“Satan!” shrieked Ulrik Christian and flung away Marie Grubbe in horror.
“Get thee behind me! Go, go!” he made the sign of the cross again and
again. “Oh, thou cursed devil! You would lead me to sin in my last
breath, in my last hour, when one should be so careful. Begone, begone,
in the blessed name of the Lord, thou demon!” His eyes wide open, fear
in every feature, he stood up in bed and pointed to the door.
Speechless and beside herself with terror, Marie rushed out. The sick
man threw himself down and prayed and prayed, while Shoemaker’s Anne
read slowly and in a loud voice prayer after prayer from her book with
the large print.
A few hours later Ulrik Christian was dead.