FANDOM


THE HOSIER AND HIS DAUGHTER Edit

By Steen Steensen Blicher Edit

Translated from the Danish by Hanna Astrup Larsen and Published in Twelve stories as Hosekraemmer en, 1829

   "The greatest sorrow, or far or near,   Is to be parted from him you hold dear"

 SOMETIMES when I have wandered across the great moor with nothing but brown heather round about me and blue sky over me; when I have strolled far from human beings and the marks of their piddling here below--mere molehills that time or some restless Tamerlane will level with the ground; when I have flitted, light of heart, proud of my freedom like the Bedouin whom no house, no narrowly bounded field ties to one spot, who possesses all that he sees, who lives no where but roams as he pleases everywhere; when in such a mood my roving eye has caught sight of a house on the horizon which arrested its airy flight unpleasantly, then I would sometimes wish--God forgive me the passing thought, for after all it was nothing more--would that this human dwelling were not there! For it harbors trouble and pain; there people quarrel and wrangle about mine and thine. Alackaday, the happy desert is both mine and thine, is everybody's and nobody's.

A forester has proposed that the entire colony development be wiped out, and that trees be planted in the fields and on the site of the razed villages. I have sometimes been seized by a far more inhuman idea: what if we still had the heather-grown moor, the same that existed thousands of years ago, undisturbed, its sod unturned by human hands! But, as I have said, I didn't mean it seriously. For when, exhausted, weary, languishing with heat and thirst, I have longed intensely for the Arab s hut and his coffeepot, then I have thanked God for a heather-thatched cottage--though miles distant--promising me shade and refreshment.

And I was in just such a state one calm, hot September day, some years ago, when I had walked far out on that same moor which, in an Arabian sense, I call my own. Not a breath of wind stirred the reddening heather; the air was sultry and drowsy. The distant hills that bounded the horizon swam like clouds around the immense plain, and took on marvellous shapes of houses, towers, castles, human beings, and animals, but all in dim, formless outlines, wavering and unstable like dream pictures. One moment a hut was changed into a church and the church into a pyramid; there a spire shot up, and there another sank down; a man became a horse, and the horse an elephant; here rocked a boat and there a ship with all sails spread.

For a long time my eye feasted on the contemplation of these fantastic images--a panorama such as only the sailor and the desert-dweller have an opportunity to enjoy. But presently, feeling tired and thirsty, I began to search for a real house among the many false; I earnestly desired to exchange all my magnificent fairy palaces for a single human cottage. And my search was successful. I soon discerned a real house without spires or towers; its outlines became clearer and sharper as I approached, and the peat stacks flanking it made it seem much larger than it really was.

The people living there were strangers to me. Their garments were poor, their furnishings plain. But I knew that the heath-dweller would often hide precious metals in an unpainted box or a dilapidated hanging cupboard, that he would often carry a thick wallet under a patched coat. When, therefore, my eye was attracted by an alcove stuffed full of stockings, I rightly surmised that I had entered the home of a well-to-do hosier. (Incidentally, I never knew a poor one.)

An elderly, gray-haired, but still hale and hearty man rose from the table and held out his hand to me, saying, "Welcome! By your leave, where does this good friend come from?"

Reader, do not take umbrage at such a direct and indelicate question! The peasant on the heath is just as hospitable as the lairds of Scotland, but slightly more inquisitive, and after all one cannot blame him for wanting to know whom he is entertaining. When I had told him who I was and where I came from, he called his wife, who at once set before me the best the house could afford, urging me with kindly courtesy to eat and drink, though indeed my hunger and thirst made all urging superfluous.

I was in the middle of my meal and in the middle of a political discussion with my host, when a young and very beautiful peasant girl entered. I would without fail have taken her for a disguised young lady, perhaps fleeing from cruel parents and a repugnant marriage, if her reddened hands and genuine peasant dialect had not convinced me that no masquerading had taken place. She, nodded pleasantly, glanced under the table, and came back with a dish of bread and milk, which she set down on the floor with the words, "Perhaps your dog may need something, too."

I thanked her for the attention, but this attention was directed entirely to the big dog. Hungry as he was, he soon emptied the dish and tried to thank the giver by rubbing himself against her, and when she lifted her arm a little timidly, Chasseur took it as an invitation to play, and forced the screaming girl backward against the alcove. I called off the dog and explained to her that he meant no harm. Nor should I have related such a trifling incident except to remark how every movement became her, for this peasant girl, in everything she said and did, had a certain natural grace which could not be attributed to coquetry, unless one would designate an inborn, unconscious instinct by that name.

When she had left the room, I asked the old people if she was their daughter. They said she was, and added that she was an only child.

"You are not likely to keep her long," I said.

"Mercy, what do you mean?" asked the father, but his self-satisfied smile showed well enough that he understood my meaning.

"I imagine," said I, "that she will have no lack of suitors.

"Hm," he growled, "there are plenty of suitors, but if they are good for anything, that's another question. To come courting with a watch and a silver-mounted pipe isn't enough. There's more to driving a horse than just to say giddap!--I declare," he went on, supporting himself with both fists on the table, and bending to look through the low window, "if there isn't one of them now--a herdsboy who has just crawled up from the heather--heh, one of the fellows who run around with a couple of dozen pairs of stockings in a knapsack--stupid dog! Proposing to our daughter with two oxen and three and a half cows--aye, fool him! The beggar!"

These outpourings were not directed to me but at the new arrival, on whom he gazed with darkened eye, as the young man approached the house by a path through the heather. He was still so far away that I had time to ask my host who he was and to receive the information that he was a son of the nearest neighbor--who, however, lived two miles away--and that the father had a little place on which he even owed the hosier two hundred dollars; that the son for the last few years had gone around peddling woollen wares, and finally that he had had the temerity to propose to the beautiful Cecil, but had got a flat refusal. While I was listening to this story, she herself had come in, and from her troubled look, which was turned alternately on the father and the wanderer outside, I could guess that she did not share the old man's view of the case.

As soon as the young peddler came in at one door, she went out of the other, though not without a quick but tender and yearning look.

My host turned toward the newcomer, grasped the table top with both hands as if he needed support, and answered the young man's "God's peace and good-day" with a dry "Welcome."

The other remained standing a little while, took from his inner pocket a pipe and from his back pocket a tobacco pouch, emptied his pipe on the stove at his side, and refilled it. All this was done slowly and with measured movements, while my host stood immovable in the position he had assumed.

The stranger was a very handsome young man, a true son of our Northern nature which induces a slow but vigorous and lasting growth, light-haired, blue-eyed, red-cheeked, with a fine down on his chin which the razor had not yet touched, though he looked to be fully twenty years old. He was dressed after the fashion of peddlers, with a little more pretension than an ordinary peasant or even than the wealthy hosier, in coat and wide pantaloons, a red-striped vest, and a blue-flowered neckerchief. He was no unworthy admirer of the lovely Cecilia. Furthermore, he made a pleasant impression on me by his kindly and open countenance, expressing honesty, patience, and tenacity--leading traits in the North Cimbrian character.

It was quite a while before either of them said anything, but at last the host broke the silence, asking slowly, in a cold, indifferent tone, "Where are you bound for today, Esben?"

The young man answered, while he struck fire, and lit his pipe in a leisurely way, with a few long puffs, "No farther today, but tomorrow I am off for Holstein."

There was again a pause, during which Esben examined the chairs, chose one of them, and sat down on it. Meanwhile the mother and the daughter came in. The young peddler greeted them with an expression so calm and unruffled that I might have imagined he cared nothing about the lovely Cecilia, had I not known that in such a heart love may be strong, however quiet it seems; that it is not a flame which leaps and throws sparks, but a glow which gives a steady and lasting warmth. Cecilia, with a sigh, took a seat at the lower end of the table and began to knit rapidly. The mother, with a low-voiced "Welcome, Esben!" sat down to her spinning wheel.

"I suppose that is in the way of business?" the host now asked.

"That is as may be," answered his guest. "I am going to look for some way of making money in the South. What I came here for today is to ask that you will not be in too great a hurry to marry Cecil off before I come back and we see what luck I have."

Cecil blushed, but did not look up from her work.

The mother stopped the spinning wheel with one hand, dropped the other in her lap, and gazed fixedly at the speaker. But the father said, as he turned to me, "While the grass grows, the mare dies. How can you ask that Cecil shall wait for you? You may be gone a long time--may happen you won't come back at all."

"If so it will be your fault, Michel Kraensen," Esben broke in. "But I tell you that if you force Cecil to take anyone else, you sin greatly against both her and me."

With that he rose, shook hands with the two old people, and bade them a curt good-bye. To his sweetheart he said in a slightly lower and softer tone, "Good-bye, Cecil, and thanks for all your goodness. Think kindly of me if you can. God be with you--and with all of you. Good-bye!"

He turned to the door, put away his pipe, tobacco pouch, and tinder each in its proper pocket, took his stick, and walked away without once turning to look back.

The old man smiled as before; his wife sighed, "Ah, yes," but tear after tear coursed down Cecilia's cheeks.

Here I had the most appropriate occasion for a lecture on the principles that ought to guide parents in regard to the marriage of their children. I could have reminded them that wealth is not enough for wedded bliss, that the heart also must have something to say, that wisdom bids everyone look more on honesty, industry, and ability than on money. I could have reproached the father--for the mother seemed at least to be neutral--with his harshness toward his only daughter. But I knew the peasants too well to waste words on this subject. I knew that worldly goods go before everything else in their class--and I wonder if things are very different in other classes! Furthermore, I knew the firmness, even obstinacy of the peasant on this point, and was aware that in controversies with his superiors he would often seem to yield, and pretend to adopt their view, while he was most inexorably bent on following his own head.

Furthermore, there was another reflection that bade me not to put my finger between the knife and the wall, between the door and the frame, between the hammer and the anvil namely: is not wealth after all the most tangible of all good things on earth?--at least of those which, according to the classification of Epictetus, are "not within our power." Is not money the best substitute for all sublunary benefits--the unexceptionable representative of food and drink, raiment and shelter, respect and friendship, yes, even to some extent of love? Is not wealth, finally, that which gives us the most pleasures, the greatest independence, which compensates for most shortcomings? Is not poverty the rock upon which friendship and even love is often wrecked? "When the stall is empty the horses bite each other," says the peasant; and what say the others when the intoxication of love is evaporated and the honeymoon is at an end? True, it would be well if Cupid and Hymen could always be companions, but nevertheless they do want Pluto as the third.

After this view of the world as it is--more rational perhaps than some would expect and others would like in the author of a novel--my readers will at least give me credit for consistency when I refrained from mixing in the romance of Esben and Cecilia, all the more as on the part of the former it might be an interested speculation directed less toward the beauty and affections of the daughter than the full alcove and heavy hanging cupboard of the father. And although I knew that pure love is not entirely a poetic invention, still I was aware even then that it is found more frequently in books than outside of them.

When therefore the beautiful Cecilia had left the room--probably to give vent more freely to a flood of tears--I merely threw out the remark that it was a pity the young man was not warmer, since he seemed to be a decent chap and fond of the girl. "If he could come back," I added, "with a score of hundred-dollar bills--"

"And if they were his own," said old Michel slyly, "yes, that would be another matter."

I went out again into my empty and careless heath. Far away and to one side I could still see Esben and the ascending smoke from his pipe. So, I thought, his sorrow and love go up in smoke, but what of poor Cecilia? I cast a glance backward at the house of the wealthy hosier and said to myself that, if it had not existed, there would have been fewer tears shed in the world.

* * *

Six years passed before I visited that part of the heath again. It was a warm, quiet September day just like last time. Thirst drove me to look for a house, and as it happened that of the hosier was the nearest. It was not till I recognized the good Michel Kraensen's solitary dwelling that I brought to mind the beautiful Cecilia and her sweetheart; and then curiosity to learn how this idyl of the heath had turned out impelled me just as strongly as my thirst. In such circumstances I am very prone to anticipate the real story; I make my conjectures, I imagine how things could and should have been, and try whether my charting corresponds with the course steered by fate. Alas, usually my guesses are very much at variance with the actual happenings! It turned out so this time. I pictured Esben and Cecilia as man and wife, she with a baby at her breast, the grandfather with one or two bigger ones on his knee, the young peddler himself as the active and successful manager of the expanded hosiery business--but things proved to be very different.

As I stepped into the entry, I heard a soft feminine voice singing what at first I took for a lullaby, and yet the tone was so sad that my high hopes immediately suffered a downfall. I stood still and listened: the song was a plaint of hopeless love. The expression was simple, yet true and touching, but my memory has retained only the refrain which came at the end of each verse:

"The greatest sorrow, or far or near, Is to be parted from him you hold dear."

Filled with dark forebodings, I opened the door to the living room.

A middle-aged, large and stout peasant woman who sat carding wool was the first person I saw, but it was not she who was singing. The singer turned her back to me. She sat rocking herself quickly back and forth and moved her hands as if she were spinning. The nearer of the two rose and wished me welcome, but I advanced in order to see the face of the other.

It was Cecilia, pale but still beautiful, until she looked up at me. Alas! Madness shone in her dully gleaming eyes and in her sickly sweet smile. Then I noticed, too, that she had no spinning wheel; but the one she imagined herself treading must be of the same stuff as Macbeth's dagger.

She stopped both her singing and her airy spinning, and asked me eagerly, "Are you from Holstein? Did you see Esben? Is he coming soon?"

I realized how I had been caught and answered just as quickly, "Yes, he will soon be coming. He sent greetings to you."

"Then I must go out and meet him," she exclaimed happily, started up from her stool, and leaped toward the door.

"Wait a bit, Cecil," said the other woman, putting down her cards, "let me come with you." She winked at me and shook her head--gestures that were quite superfluous.

"Mother," she cried in a loud voice turning toward the kitchen door, "here's a stranger. Come in, for now we're going." She ran after the mad girl, who was already outside.

The old woman came in. I did not recognize her, but took for granted that she must be the unhappy girl's mother, though she was worn with grief and age. Nor did she remember me from my last visit, but after a "Welcome! Sit down," she asked the usual question. "By your leave, where does this good man come from?"

I told her, and reminded her that I had been there some years ago.

"Good God!" she said, and struck her hands together, "is it you? Please sit down by the table while I cut some bread, and butter for you. Perhaps you are thirsty, too?" Without waiting for an answer she hurried into a pantry and soon came back with food and drink.

Although I was eager to learn more about poor Cecilia, a premonition of something especially tragic subdued my curiosity and kept me from direct questions about that which I both wished and dreaded to hear.

"Is your husband at home?" was the first thing I asked.

"My husband?" she said. "The good God has taken him. It will be three years come Michaelmas that I have been a widow. Have another slice! Please--though it's nothing but peasant food."

"Thank you," I replied, "I am more thirsty than hungry.--So your husband has passed away? That was a great loss, a great sorrow for you--"

"Yes, indeed," she sighed, while the tears came into her eyes; "but that was not all--Good God! You saw our daugh-ter?"

"Yes," I said, "she seemed a little strange--"

"She is quite out of her mind," she said, bursting into tears. "We have to keep a woman only to take care of her, and she can't do much else. She's supposed to spin and knit a little, but it doesn't amount to anything, for she has to run after the girl sixteen times a day, when she gets to thinking of Esben--"

"Where is Esben?" I broke in.

"In heaven," she replied. "So you haven't heard that? Yes, God ha' mercy! He got a miserable death; such wretchedness was never known.--You mustn't be too grand, but eat and drink what we have--please! Yes, indeed, I have gone through something since you were here last. And times are difficult; the hosiery trade doesn't pay when we have to hire strangers to look after everything."

When I saw that her grief over the past, mingled with worry over the present, was not so great but that she could bear to tell about her troubles, I asked her to do so. She willingly complied with my request and told me a story which--omitting irrelevant matters--I will repeat as well as I can in the simple and artless style of the narrator.

"We and Kjeld Esbensen," she began, after she had drawn a chair to the table, seated herself, and made ready her knitting, "have been neighbors ever since I came to the place. Kjeld's Esben and our Cecil became good friends before anyone knew it. My husband was not very happy about it, nor I either, for Esben had little and his father nothing at all. Still we thought the girl would have had more sense than to set her heart on such a green boy. To be sure, he ran around with a few pairs of stockings and earned a few pennies, but what would that amount to? Then they came and proposed, and my husband said No--as anyone would--and at that Esben went to Holstein.

"We saw that Cecil got a little down-hearted, but we didn't pay any attention. 'She'll forget him when the right one comes,' said my husband. And it was not long before Mads Egelund--I don't know if you know him? He lives a few miles from here--he came courting with a farm fully paid for and three thousand dollars out at interest. That was good enough. Michel said Yes right away, but Cecil--God help us!--she said No. So my husband got angry and scolded her. It seemed to me he was too hard, but my poor dear husband always wanted his own way, and so he and Mads's father went to the parson and had the banns read for them. It went very well the first two Sundays, but on the third when he asked, 'Does anyone know any impediment?' Cecil rose and said, 'I do. The banns have been read three times for Esben and me in Paradise.' I tried to hush her, but it was too late, everybody in the church had heard it and looked over to our pew--we were put to great shame.  Still I didn't think that she had gone out of her mind, but before the parson got down from the pulpit she started a riga-marole about Esben and Paradise and bridal dress and bridal bed, and so on, all topsy-turvy. We had to get her out of the church. Poor dear Michel scolded her and said she was trying to play a trick on us, but God help us! it was no trick. She was in dead earnest. Crazy she was, and crazy she remained."

Here the woman allowed the stocking she was knitting to sink down in her lap, took the ball of yarn from her left shoulder, turned it round several times, and looked at it from every direction. But her thoughts were elsewhere; after a few minutes' pause she pressed the ball against her eyes, hung it on its hook again, and began to move her knitting needles quickly, as if she were thus taking up the thread of her broken narrative.

"She talked about nothing but how she was dead and had come into Paradise and how she was to marry Esben as soon as he was dead, too; and she kept on with this, night and day. Then poor dear Michel understood how it was. 'It's God's doing,' he said. 'His will no one can resist.' But he felt bad about it anyway, and as for me, it's many an hour I have lain awake and cried when all the others were asleep. Sometimes it seemed to me it would have been better if the two young people could have been married. 'Perhaps,' said my husband, 'but it wasn't to be.'

"The first few months she was very unruly, and we had a hard time with her. Later she quieted down. She didn't speak much, but sighed and wept all the time. She didn't want to do any work, for 'in heaven,' she said, 'there's a holiday every day.'

"So half a year passed, and it was about twice as long since Esben had gone south, and no one had heard from him, either good or bad. Then it happened one day, just as we were sitting here, poor dear Michel and Cecil and I, that Esben came in at the door. He came right from his journey and hadn't been home, so he didn't know how things were here, until he looked at the girl; then of course he saw there was something wrong.

"'You have waited long,' she said. 'The bridal bed has been made for a year and a day. But tell me first: are you living or dead?'

"'Good God, Cecil,' he said. 'Surely you can see that I am living!'

"'That's too bad,' she said. 'Try to lie down and die as soon as you can, for Mads Egelund is trying to get there first.'

"'This state of things isn't so good,' he said. 'Michel, Michel, you have done us a great wrong. Now I'm a man of five thousand dollars or more. My mother's brother in Holstein is dead; he wasn't married, and I'm his heir.'

"'What are you saying?' said my husband. 'It was a shame we didn't know it before, but take your time, the girl may get well yet.'

"Esben shook his head, and went over to our daughter to take her hand. 'Cecil,' he said, 'now try to talk sense. We're alive, both of us, and if you'll only be rational, your parents will give their consent to our being married.'

"But she put both hands behind her back, and cried, 'Get thee behind me! What have I to do with thee? You are a human being, and I am an angel of God.'

"Then he turned around and began to weep quite bitterly. 'God forgive you, Michel Kraensen,' he said, 'for what you have done against us two human beings.'

"'Wait a little,' said my husband. 'It may turn out all right. Stay here overnight, and then we'll see what she says tomorrow.'

"It was in the evening, and there was a bad storm brewing with thunder and lightning--the worst I've ever seen--just as if the world were coming to an end. So then Esben made up his mind to stay with us, and as soon as the storm quieted down a little, he lay down in the best room. We went to bed, too, but for a long time I could hear through the wall how he sighed and wept, and I think he was also praying to God in heaven. At last I dozed, off. Cecil was sleeping in the alcove over there, right opposite to Michel's and mine here.

"It might have been an hour or so past midnight when I awakened. It was calm outside, and the moon was shining in through the window. I lay thinking of all the trouble that had come over us, but least of all could I have foreseen that which I am now going to tell you.

"It came over me that everything was so quiet at Cecil's. I couldn't hear her breathing, nor did I hear anything more of Esben. Somehow I felt that there was something wrong. I stole out of my own bed and over to Cecil's. I peered in. I felt for her with my hand, but she was not there. Then I became really frightened, ran out into the kitchen, lit a candle, and went up into the other room. Alack, God help us in His mercy! What did I see! She was sitting on Esben's bed holding his head in her lap; but when I looked more closely his face was pale as a corpse, and the sheets were red with blood. I screamed and fell to the floor. But Cecil beckoned to me with one hand and patted his cheek with the other. 'Hush, hush,' she said, 'now my dear is sleeping the sweet sleep. As soon as you have buried his body, the angels will bear his soul to Paradise, and there our wedding will be held with great rejoicing.' Alackaday! Merciful God and Father! She had cut his throat--the bloody razor was lying on the floor by the bed."

Here the unhappy widow hid her face in her hands and wept bitterly, while horror and pity wrung my heart. At last she regained control of herself, and went on with her story.

"There was great sorrow and lamentation both here and at Esben's. When our people came driving with him to his parents--they had thought he was safe and sound in Holstein--there was a screaming and crying aloud as if the house had fallen. He was an honest fellow, and now had come into money and wealth, and yet he had to die so miserably in his youth, and at the hands of his sweetheart, too. Poor dear Michel could never forget it; he was never himself again. A few months later he took to his bed, and then Our Lord let him depart from me.

"The very day when he was buried Cecil fell into a deep sleep and slept for three whole days and nights. When she awakened, her mind had come back. I sat by her bed and expected that Our Lord would make an end of her troubles, But then, as she lay there, she fetched a deep sigh, turned her eyes on me, and said, 'What has happened? Where have I been? I have had a strange dream; it seemed to me I was in heaven, and Esben was with me.--Good God, mother, where's Esben? Have you heard nothing from him since he went to Holstein?'

"I hardly knew how much I dared to say. No--I said--we hadn't heard much about him. She sighed. 'Where's father?' she went on. I said her father was well off, that God had taken him. Then she cried, 'Mother, let me see him,' she begged. I said, 'No, my child, you can't see him, he is buried already.' 'God help us!' she shrieked. 'How long have I slept?' I realized from this that she didn't know what condition she had been in. 'If you have wakened me, mother,' she said, 'it was no kindness. I slept so sweetly and dreamt so beautifully; Esben came to see me every night in shining white garments and with a wreath of red beads around his neck.'

At this point the old woman sank into her own melancholy thoughts again and heaved a few deep, heartfelt sighs before she could go on.

"The poor child had got her mind back, but God knows if it was any better for her! She was never happy, but always quiet and sad, didn't speak unless she was spoken to, and tended to her work properly. She was neither sick nor well.

"The rumor spread round about in the neighborhood, and after three months Mads Egelund came and proposed to her again. But she didn't want to have anything to do with him--not on any account. When he saw that she couldn't abide him, he got angry and wanted to hurt her. I and our people and all who came here were always very careful not to say a word about how in her madness she herself had killed poor Esben; and she most likely thought that he was either dead or married down South. But one day when Mads was here and urging her to say Yes, and she answered that she would rather die than marry him, then he said right out that he was not so eager to marry a girl who had cut the throat of her first sweetheart, and with that he told her everything that had happened. I was standing out in the kitchen and heard part of what he said. I dropped what I had in my hand, ran in, and cried, 'Mads, Mads, God forgive you, what are you doing?' But it was too late. She sat on the bench as pale as a whited wall, and her eyes were staring. 'What am I doing?' he said, 'I'm only telling her the truth. It's better she should know it than to make a fool of her by letting her go and wait all her life for a dead man.--Good-bye! I won't trouble you any more.'

"He went away; but she had had a relapse, and I don't suppose she will ever get her mind back in this life. You can see for yourself how she is. Whenever she isn't sleeping she sings the song she made up when Esben went to Holstein, and then she thinks she is spinning thread for the bridal sheets. Otherwise she is quiet--God be thanked!--and doesn't harm the smallest creature. Still we don't dare to let her out of our sight. God look upon her in His mercy and give us both peace soon!"

As she spoke the last words, the unhappy girl came in with her companion. "No," she said, "I can't see him today, but tomorrow I am sure he will come. I must make haste if I am going to get the sheets ready." She sat down quickly on her little stool and, with hands and feet in rapid motion, she began her plaintive song again. A long, deeply drawn sigh each time preceded the refrain, "The greatest sorrow, or far or near, Is to be parted from him you hold dear." Then her beautiful pale face would sink down toward her bosom, hands and feet rested a moment; but soon she straightened up, began another verse, and set her shadowy spinning wheel going again.

Filled with melancholy thoughts, I went my way. My soul had taken on the color of the desert. My imagination hovered around Cecilia and her dreadful fate. In every distant mirage I seemed to see the hosier's daughter, how she sat spinning and rocking and beating the air with her arms. In the plaintive call of the plover, in the mournful, monotonous trilling of the lonely heath lark, I heard only those sad, true words expressing the deepest feeling of thousands of wounded hearts,

"The greatest sorrow, or far or near, Is to be parted from him you hold dear."

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.