Anne Lisbeth


Anne Lisbeth

Anne Lisbeth's complexion was like peaches and cream; her eyes were bright, her teeth shiny white; she was young, gay, and beautiful to look upon; her steps were light and her mind was even lighter. What would come of all this? "That awful brat," people said about her baby; and indeed he wasn't pretty, so he was left with the ditchdigger's wife.

Anne Lisbeth went into service in the Count's castle. There she sat in a magnificent room, dressed in silk and velvet; not a breath of wind was allowed to blow on her nor anyone to speak a harsh word to her. She was nurse to the Count's child, who was as beloved as a prince, beautiful as an angel. How she loved him!

Her own child was provided for in the ditchdigger's house, where his wife's temper boiled over more often than her pot. Sometimes the child was left alone all day long, and cried; but what nobody hears doesn't bother anyone! He cried himself to sleep, and in sleep there is neither hunger nor thirst; sleep is such a good invention!

"Ill weeds grow fast," says the proverb, and Anne Lisbeth's boy did indeed shoot up rapidly. It was as if he had taken root in the ditchdigger's household; his mother had paid for his upbringing and considered herself well rid of him. She was a city lady now, was well provided for, and whenever she went out she was beautifully dressed; but she never went to see her son at the ditchdigger's; that was too far from the city, and there was no reason for her to go there, anyway; the boy was theirs, and now, they decided, it was time for him to earn his keep; so he found work tending Mads Jensen's red cow.

The watchdog at Blegdam Manor sits proudly on top of its house in the sunshine, barking at passers-by, but in rainy weather it lies, warm and dry, inside its kennel. Anne Lisbeth's boy sat at the edge of a ditch in the sunshine, whittling sticks or watching three blossoming strawberry plants; he hoped they would soon turn into berries - that was his happiest thought - but the berries never ripened. Through sunshine or showers he sat there; he was often soaked to the skin, but the cold wind soon dried his clothes on his body. Whenever he went to the farmyard he received only kicks and cuffs and was called "stupid and ugly"; he was used to that - nobody loved him.

How did Anne Lisbeth's boy get along? How could he under such circumstances? It was his fate never to be loved.

At last he was literally pushed off the earth and sent to sea in a wretched little sailing vessel. Here he took the helm while the skipper drank - a frostbitten, shabby-looking little boy, and always hungry! One would think he never had enough to eat, and that really was the case.

It was late in the autumn, wet, raw, stormy weather, with a wind that cut through the warmest clothing, especially out at sea. A miserable little vessel with one sail drove on before the wind; it had a crew of two men, or rather a man and a half - the skipper and his boy. All day the light had been no brighter than twilight; now it grew still darker and it was bitterly cold. The skipper brought forth a bottle and a glass and took a swallow to warm himself up; the top of the glass was whole, but its foot had been broken off, so instead it had a little piece of wood, painted blue, to stand on. A drink is a great comfort, and two are even better. The boy was at the helm, holding it with rough, tarred hands, a wretched, shrinking form with unkempt hair; it was the ditchdigger's boy, registered in the parish records as the son of Anne Lisbeth.

The wind drove the ship hard before it; the sail bellied out before the power of the wind; it was rough and wet everywhere, and it might soon be even worse. Stop! What was that? What crashed? What sprang up? What grasped the little vessel? The boat whirled around. Was it a waterspout or a tidal wave? The boy at the helm screamed, "Lord Jesus, save us!" The vessel had struck on a great rock, and it sank like a waterlogged old shoe in a duckpond; sank with "man and mouse," as the saying goes; there were mice on board, but only a man and a half - the skipper and the ditchdigger's boy. No one saw it, save the screaming gulls above and the darting fishes beneath, and these hardly saw it clearly, for they fled in terror when the water poured into the doomed vessel. There it lay, scarcely a fathom below the water, and the two were drowned and forgotten. Only the glass was left, for the blue wooden block kept it afloat, and it drifted onto the shore. Where and when? That is of no consequence. That old broken glass had been useful, and had been loved, too, in a way; which Anne Lisbeth's son had never been. However, in the kingdom of heaven no soul shall ever have cause to sigh, "Never loved!"

Anne Lisbeth meanwhile had been living for several years in a large town; she was addressed as "madam" and always held herself very proudly when she spoke of olden times, of the times when she rode in a carriage and talked with countesses and baronesses. And she talked of her foster child, that sweetest of little angels, and how he had loved her and she had loved him, how they had kissed and caressed each other, for he was her pride and joy. Now he was tall, fourteen years old, a bright, beautiful boy. She hadn't seen him since the time she carried him in her arms; for many years she had not been at the Count's castle, which was a long journey away.

"But I must find a way to get there someday," said Anne Lisbeth. "I must see my sweet young count again. He must be missing me, and loving me as he did when his angelic little arms clung around my neck and he said, 'Ann-Lis,' as sweet as a violin. Ah, yes, I must make short work of it and see him again!"

So she made the long trip, partly on foot and partly by wagon. The castle was as magnificent and the gardens as lovely as ever, but the servants were all new to her, and not one of them knew Anne Lisbeth or what she had once meant there. But the Countess would tell them, she thought, and her own boy; how she longed for him!

Now Anne Lisbeth was finally here, but they kept her waiting a long time. At last, just before the household went to dinner, she was called in. The Countess spoke to her very courteously and promised that after dinner she should see her beloved boy. So she had to wait for another summons.

How tall, thin, and lanky he had grown, but he still had his beautiful eyes and angelic mouth; and he looked straight at her without a word. Certainly he had no recollection of her. He turned to go, but she caught his hand and pressed it to her lips. "All right," he said, "that's enough," and then he left the room.

The ungrateful young nobleman, whom she had loved above all on earth and had made the pride of her life!

So Anne Lisbeth left the castle and made her way homeward along the highway. She was very sorrowful; he had been so cold and strange to her, without a word or thought for her, he whom she had once carried in her arms night and day and always had carried in her heart.

Then a huge black raven flew down and alighted on the road just in front of her and croaked again and again. "Oh, what bird of ill omen are you?" she said.

As she passed the ditchdigger's house, his wife was standing in the doorway, and they spoke to one another.

"How robust you look!" said the ditchdigger's wife. "You are plump and stout! Everything must be going well with you."

"Pretty well," replied Anne Lisbeth.

"The boat went down with them," said the ditchdigger's wife. "Skipper Lars and your boy were both drowned. So that ends that. But I hoped that the boy would have lived to help me out from time to time with a little money; he hasn't cost you anything for a long while, you know, Anne Lisbeth."

"Drowned, are they?" repeated Anne Lisbeth, and then said nothing more on that subject.

Anne Lisbeth was heartsick because the young count wouldn't speak to her, she who loved him so and had taken that long trip to see him; the journey had also been expensive. The pleasure it had brought her was little indeed. But she didn't say a word about it; she wouldn't lighten her mind by talking about it to the ditchdigger's wife, who might think she was no longer welcome at the Count's castle. While they were talking, the raven again flew screaming over her head. "That ugly black thing!" said Anne Lisbeth. "That's the second time it's frightened me today!"

She had brought some coffee beans and chicory with her; it would be a kindness to the ditchdigger's wife to give these to her and share a cup with her. While the old woman went to make the coffee Anne Lisbeth sat down and soon fell asleep.

Strangely enough, she dreamed of one whom she had never seen in her dreams before - her own child, who in that very house had hungered and wept, who had been kicked about in heat and cold, and who now lay deep below the sea, the good Lord only knew where. She dreamed that even as she sat there waiting for the coffee and smelling the fragrance drifting in to her from the kitchen, a shining little angel, beautiful as the young count, stood in the doorway and spoke to her.

"The end of the world is come," said the little angel. "Hold fast to me, for you are still my mother! You have an angel in paradise. Hold fast to me!" Then he took hold of her, and at that very moment there came a tremendous crash, as though the whole world were bursting into pieces, and as the angel rose in the air, holding her tightly by her sleeves, she felt herself lifted from the ground. But then something heavy clung to her feet and dragged her down; it was as if a hundred other women were holding tightly to her, screaming, "If you are to be saved, we must be saved, too! Hold fast! Hold fast!" And then they all clung to her. The weight was too heavy; ritsch, ratsch! - her sleeves were split, and she fell down in terror - and awoke.

Her head was so dizzy she nearly fell off the chair where she was sitting. She could not understand her dream clearly, but she felt it foretold evil for her.

They had their coffee and talked for a while. Then Anne Lisbeth walked on to the nearest village, where she was to meet the carrier and drive home with him that evening. But when she got there, the carrier told her he couldn't start until the following evening. She thought it over - what it would cost her to stay there, the length of the distance home, and realized that if she went along the seashore instead of by road, it would be nearly two miles shorter; it was clear weather and the moon was at the full. And so Anne Lisbeth decided to go at once; she could be home the next day.

The sun had set, the vesper bells were still ringing - no, it was not the bells, but Peter Oxe's frogs croaking in their pond. Soon they, too, were silent, and then all was still; no bird raised its voice, for all were at rest; and it seemed the owl was not at home. The hush of death settled over forest and shore. She could hear her own footsteps in the sand. No wave disturbed the sea, the deep waters were at peace; everywhere was silence, silence among the living and the dead.

Anne Lisbeth walked on, not thinking of anything in particular, as we say. Yet, though she was not conscious of it, her thoughts were busy within her, as they always are within all of us. They lie asleep inside us, thoughts that have already shaped themselves into action and thoughts that have never yet stirred - there they lie still, and someday they will come forth. It is written: "The labor of righteousness is peace"; and again it is written: "The wages of sin are death!" Much has been said and written that one does not know - or, as it was with Anne Lisbeth, does not remember - but such things can appear before one's subconscious self, can come to mind, though one is unaware of it.

The germs of vices and virtues are alive deep in our hearts - in yours and mine; they lurk like tiny invisible seeds. There comes a ray of sunshine or the touch of an evil hand; you turn to the right or to the left, and the little seed quivers into life, puts forth shoots, and pours its life throughout all the veins. Walking in a daydream, one may be unconscious of many painful thoughts, but they have their being within us all the same; thus Anne Lisbeth walked as if in a daydream, but her thoughts lived within her.

From Candlemas to Candlemas the heart has much written upon it, even the record of the whole year. Many sins are forgotten, sins in word or thought, sins against God or our neighbor or our own conscience; we think not of them, nor did Anne Lisbeth. She had broken no laws of the land; she knew that she was popular, esteemed, even respected.

Now, as she walked along the shore, suddenly something made her start and stand still! What was it? Only an old man's hat. Where could that have been washed overboard? She drew closer and looked down at it.

Oh! What was that lying over there? She became very frightened, and yet it was nothing but a heap of tangled seaweed, but to her fancy it had seemed for a moment the body of a man. As she continued on her way she remembered many stories she had heard as a child about the old superstitious belief in the "sea ghost" - the ghost of a drowned body that lay still unburied, washed by the tides on the wild seashore. The lifeless body itself could harm no one, but the "sea ghost" would follow a solitary wanderer, clinging fast to him and demanding to be carried to the churchyard and buried in consecrated ground. "Hold on! Hold on!" it would cry; and as Anne Lisbeth thought of these words, all at once there came back to her most vividly her dream - how the mothers had clung to her, screaming, "Hold fast! Hold on!" how the world had split beneath her, how her sleeves had been torn apart and she had fallen from the grasp of her child, who had tried to hold her up in the hour of doom. Her child, her own flesh and blood, whom she had never loved and scarcely ever thought of, was now lying at the bottom of the sea; any day his body might be washed ashore, and his ghost might follow her, wailing, "Hold on! Hold on! Bury me in Christian earth!"

Panic-stricken by this horrible thought, she ran faster and faster. Terror touched her heart with a cold, clammy finger; she was ready to faint. And as she looked upon the sea, the air grew thicker and thicker, a heavy mist fell over the scene, veiling tree and bush in strange disguises. She turned to seek for the moon behind her - and it was only a pale disk without rays. Then something heavy seemed to drag at her limbs; "Hold on! Hold on!" she thought. And when she again turned toward the moon its white face seemed close beside her, and the mist hung like a shroud over her shoulders. "Hold on! Bury me in Christian earth!" - she could almost hear those words. And then she did hear a sound, so hollow, so hoarse - not the voices of the frogs in the pond nor the tones of the raven, for neither was near by, but clearly she heard the dreadful words, "Bury me! Bury me!" Yes! It was, it must be, the ghost of her own child, who could find no rest for his soul until his body was carried to the churchyard and laid in a Christian grave.

To the churchyard she would hurry; that very hour she would dig the grave; and as she turned toward the church her burden seemed to grow lighter, until it disappeared altogether. As soon as she felt that, she started back to follow the short cut to her home, but once more her limbs sank beneath her, and again the terrible words rang in her ears, "Hold on!

Hold on!" It sounded like the croaking of a frog and like a wailing bird.

"Bury me! Bury me!"

Cold and clammy was the mist, but still colder and clammier were her hands and face under the touch of fear! A heavy weight again clung to her and seemed to drag her down; her heart quaked with thoughts and feelings that had never stirred within her before this moment.

In our Northern countries a single spring night is often enough to dress the beech wood, and in the morning sunlight it appears in its young, bright foliage.

In one second the seed of sin within us may be lifted to the light and unfolded into thoughts, words, and deeds; and thus it is when conscience is awakened. And our Lord awakens it when we lest expect it; when there is no way to excuse ourselves, the deed stands open to view, bearing witness against us; thoughts spring into words, and words ring clearly throughout the world. Then we are horrified to find what we have carried within us, that we have not overcome the evil we have sown in thoughtlessness and pride. The heart hides within itself all vices and virtues, and they grow even in the shallowest ground.

Anne Lisbeth, overwhelmed with the realization of her sin, sank to the ground and crept along for some distance. "Bury me! "Bury me!" still rang in her ears, and gladly would she have buried herself, if the grave could have brought eternal forgetfulness. It was her hour of awakening, and she was full of anguish and horror; superstition made her blood run hot and cold. Many things of which she had feared to speak came into her mind. There passed before her, silently as a shadowy cloud in the clear moonlight, a vision she had heard of before. It was a glowing chariot of fire, drawn by four snorting horses, with fire blazing from their eyes and nostrils; and nostrils; and inside sat a wicked nobleman who more than a century ago had ruled here. Every midnight, he rode into his courtyard and right out again. He was not pale, like other ghosts; no, his face was as black as burnt coal. As he passed Anne Lisbeth he nodded and beckoned to her, "Hold on! Hold on! You may ride in a count's carriage once more and forget your child."

She pulled herself together and hastened to the churchyard, but the black crosses and the black ravens mingled before her eyes; the ravens screamed as they had done that morning, but now she could understand what they were saying. "I am Mother Raven! I am Mother Raven!" said each of them, and Anne Lisbeth knew the name fitted herself well; maybe she would be changed into a huge black bird like these, and have to cry as they cried, if she did not dig the grave.

Then she flung herself on the ground and began frantically digging with her hands in the hard earth; she dug till the blood ran from her fingers.

"Bury me! Bury me!" Still she heard those words, and every moment she dreaded to hear the cock crow and see the first streak of dawn in the east. For if her task were not completed before daylight she knew she would be lost.

And the cock did crow, and the light appeared in the east - and the grave was only half dug, and behold! an icy hand slid over her head and face, down to her heart. A voice seemed to sigh, "Only half the grave!" and a shadowy form drifted past her and down to the bottom of the ocean. Yes, it was indeed the "sea ghost," and Anne Lisbeth fell fainting to the earth, exhausted and overpowered, and her senses left her.

When she came to, it was bright daylight, and two men were lifting her up. She was lying, not in the churchyard, but down on the seashore, where she had been digging a deep hole in the sand, and had cut her fingers on a broken glass, the stem of which was stuck in a wooden block painted blue.

Anne Lisbeth was ill; her conscience had spoken loudly to her that night, and superstitious terror had mingled its voice with the voice of conscience. She had no power to distinguish between them; she was now convinced that she had but half a soul, while the other half had been borne away by her child, away to the bottom of the ocean; and never could she hope for the mercy of God until she again possessed the half soul that was imprisoned in those deep waters.

Anne Lisbeth went home, but she was no longer the same. Her thoughts were like tangled yarn; there was only one thread that she could clearly grasp; just one idea possessed her, that she must carry the "sea ghost" to the churchyard and there dig a grave for it. Many a night they missed her from her home and always found her down by the shore, waiting for the "sea ghost." So a whole year passed, and then one night she disappeared and this time was sought in vain. All of the following day was spent in searching for her.

Toward evening, when the parish clerk entered the church to ring the bell for vespers, he found Anne Lisbeth lying before the altar. She had been here ever since dawn; her strength was nearly gone, but her eyes were bright and a faint rosy hue lighted her face; the last sunbeams shone down upon her, streamed over the altar, and glowed on the bright silver clasps of the Bible, open at this text from the Prophet Joel; "Rend your heart and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God." This was just by chance, said people, as so many things happen by chance.

In Anne Lisbeth's face, as the setting sun shone upon it, were peace and grace. Now she was so happy, she said. Now she had won back her soul! During the past night the spirit of her own child had been with her, and had said, "You dug but half a grave for me, but now for a year and a day you have entombed me in your own heart, and that is the only proper resting place a mother can provide for her child!" And then he had returned to her lost half soul and guided her to the church!

"Now I am in God's house!" she said. "And only there can one be happy!"

When the sun had set, the soul of Anne Lisbeth had gone way up from this earth to where there are no fears nor the troubles that we have here, even such as those of Anne Lisbeth.
Anne Lisbeth var som Melk og Blod, ung og fornøiet, deilig at see paa, Tænderne skinnede saa hvide, Øinene saa klare; Foden var let i Dandsen og Sindet endnu mere let! hvad kom der ud af det? - "Den lede Unge!" - ja, deilig var han ikke! han blev sat ud til Grøftegraverens Kone, Anne Lisbeth kom paa det grevelige Slot, sad i stadselig Stue med Klæder af Silke og Fløiel; ikke en Vind turde blæse paa hende, Ingen sige hende et haardt Ord, for det havde hun Skade af og det turde hun ikke taale. Hun ammede det grevelige Barn, det var fiint som en Prinds, deiligt som en Engel, hvor elskede hun dette Barn; hendes eget, ja det var i Grøftegraverens Huus, hvor ikke Gryden kogte over, men Munden kogte over, og oftest var der Ingen hjemme, Drengen græd, men hvad Ingen hører det Ingen rører, han græd sig isøvn og i Søvnen føler man ikke til Sult og Tørst, Søvnen er saadan en god Opfindelse; i Aaringer - ja, som Tiden gaaer, skyder Ukrud op, siger man, Anne Lisbeths Dreng skød op, og dog var han sat i Væxten, sagde de; men heelt var han voxet ind i Familien her, de havde faaet Penge derfor, Anne Lisbeth var ham aldeles qvit, hun var Kjøbstadmadame, havde det luunt og godt inde og Hat paa, gik hun ud, men hun gik aldrig til Grøftegraverens, det var saa langt fra Staden og hun havde der heller ikke Noget at gjøre, Drengen var deres og tære sin Kost kunde han, sagde de, Gavn for Føden skulde han gjøre, og saa passede han Mads Jensens røde Ko, han kunde nok røgte og tage sig Noget for.

Lænkehunden paa Herregaardens Blegdam sidder i Solskinet stolt oven paa sit Huus og gjøer af hver, der kommer forbi, i Regnveiret kryber den indenfor, ligger tørt og luunt. Anne Lisbeths Dreng sad paa Grøften i Solskin, snittede paa en Tøirepæl, i Foraaret vidste han tre Jordbærplanter i Blomster, de vilde nok sætte Bær, det var hans gladeste Tanke, men der kom ingen Bær. Han sad i Regn og Rusk, blev vaad til Skindet, den skarpe Vind tørrede siden Tøiet paa Kroppen; kom han til Gaarden blev han puffet og stødt, han var led og grim, sagde Piger og Karle, det var han vandt til - aldrig elsket!

Hvordan gik det Anne Lisbeths Dreng? Hvorledes skulde det gaae ham? det var hans Lod: "aldrig elsket."

Fra Landjorden blev han kastet overbord, gik tilsøes paa en ussel Skude, sad ved Roret, mens Skipperen drak; skiden og led var han, forfrossen og graadig, man skulde troe, at han aldrig havde været mæt og det havde han heller ikke.

Det var seent paa Aaret, raat, vaadt, blæsende Veir, Vinden skar koldt gjennem de tykke Klæder, især til Søes, og der gik for eet Seil en ussel Skude med kun to Mand ombord, ja kun een og en halv kan man ogsaa sige, det var Skipperen og hans Dreng. Tusmørke havde det været den hele Dag, nu blev det sortere, det var en bidende Kulde. Skipperen tog sig en Dram det kunde varme indvendig! Flasken var fremme og Glasset med, det var heelt for oven, men Foden knækket af, og havde istedetfor den en tilsnittet blaamalet Træklods at staae paa. - En Dram gjorde godt, to gjorde bedre, meente Skipperen. Drengen sad ved Roret, det, han holdt paa med sine haarde, tjærede Hænder, grim var han, Haaret stridt, forkuet og forkrympet var han, det var Grøftegraverens Dreng, i Kirkebogen hed han Anne Lisbeths.

Vinden skar paa sin Viis, Skuden paa sin! Seilet bovnede, Vinden havde fat, der var flyvende Fart - raat, vaadt rundt omkring, men mere endnu kunde der komme - Stop! - hvad var det! hvad stødte, hvad sprang, hvad greb i Skuden? den dreiede sig om! kom der et Skybrud, løftede sig en Braadsø? - Drengen ved Roret skreg høit: "I Jesu Navn!" Skuden var stødt paa en mægtig Steen i Havbunden og sank som en gammel Sko i Gadekjæret; sank med Mand og Muus som man siger; og der var Muus, men kun halvanden Mand: Skipperen og Grøftegraverens Dreng. Ingen saae det, uden de skrigende Maager og Fiskene dernede, ja og de saae det ikke endda saa rigtigt, thi de fore forskrækkede tilside, da Vandet buldrede ind i Skuden, der sank; knap en Favn under Vandet stod den; gjemte vare de to; gjemte, glemte! kun Glasset med den blaamalede Træklods til Fod sank ikke, Træklodsen holdt det oppe; Glasset drev for at knækkes over og skylles op paa Stranden, - hvor og naar? ja det var jo ikke noget videre! nu havde det tjent ud og det havde været elsket; det havde ikke Anne Lisbeths Dreng! dog i Himmeriges Rige vil ingen Sjæl kunde sige meer: "aldrig elsket!"

Anne Lisbeth var i Kjøbstaden og det allerede i mange Aar, blev kaldt Madam og kneisede især op, naar hun talte om gamle Minder, den grevelige Tid, da hun kjørte i Karreet og kunde talte med Grevinder og Baronesser. Hendes søde Grevebarn var den yndigste Guds Engel, den kjærligste Sjæl, han havde holdt af hende og hun havde holdt af ham. De havde kysset hinanden og klappet hinanden, han var hendes Glæde, hendes halve Liv. Nu var han stor, var fjorten Aar, havde Lærdom og Deilighed; hun havde ikke seet ham siden hun bar ham paa sine Arme; ikke havde hun i mange Aaringer været paa det grevelige Slot, det var en heel Reise derhen.

"Jeg maa tage det overtvært engang!" sagde Anne Lisbeth, "jeg maa til min Herlighed, til mit søde Grevebarn! ja, han længes vist ogsaa efter mig, tænker paa mig, holder af mig, som da han hang med sine Engle-Arme om min Hals og sagde: "An-Lis!" det var ligesom en Violin! ja jeg maa tage det overtvært og see ham igjen!"

Hun kjørte med Kalvevogn, hun gik paa sin Fod, hun kom til det grevelige Slot, det var stort og skinnende som altid før, Haven som før derudenfra, men Folkene i Huset vare alle Fremmede, ikke Een af dem kjendte Noget til Anne Lisbeth, de vidste ikke hvad hun havde betydet her engang, det vilde nok Grevinden sige dem, ogsaa hendes egen Dreng! hvor længtes hun efter ham.

Nu var Anne Lisbeth her; længe maatte hun vente og Ventetid er lang! Før Herskabet gik til Bords blev hun kaldt ind til Greveinden, og meget godt tiltalt. Sin søde Dreng skulde hun see efter Bordet, saa blev hun kaldt ind igjen!

Hvor var han bleven stor, lang og tynd, men de yndige Øine havde han og den Engle-Mund! han saae paa hende, men han sagde ikke et Ord. Han kjendte hende vist ikke. Han vendte sig om, vilde gaae igjen, men da tog hun hans Haand, trykkede den op til sin Mund! "Naa, det er godt!" sagde han, og saa gik han ud af Stuen, han, hendes Kjærligheds Tanke, han, som hun havde elsket og elskede høiest, han, hendes jordiske Stolthed.

Anne Lisbeth gik udenfor Slottet paa den aabne Landevei, hun var saa trist; han havde været saa fremmed imod hende, ikke havt Tanke for hende, ikke Ord, han, som hun engang ved Nat og Dag havde baaret, og altid bar i Tanken.

Der fløi en stor sort Ravn ned paa Veien foran hende, skreg, skreg igjen, "Eia!" sagde hun, "hvad er Du for en Ulykkensfugl!"

Hun kom forbi Grøftegraverens Huus, der stod Konen i Døren og saa talte de sammen.

"Du er vel ved Magt!" sagde Grøftegraverens Kone, "Du er tyk og fed! Dig gaaer det godt!"

"Saamænd!" sagde Anne Lisbeth.

"Fartøiet med dem er da forgaaet!" sagde Grøftegraverens Kone. "Lars Skipper og Drengen ere druknede begge To. Nu har de Ende paa det. Jeg havde dog troet, at Drengen engang skulde kunne have hjulpet mig med en Skilling, Dig kostede han nu ikke meer, Anne Lisbeth!"

"Ere de druknede!" sagde Anne Lisbeth, og saa talte de ikke mere om den Ting. Anne Lisbeth var saa bedrøvet, fordi hendes Grevebarn ikke gad tale til hende, hun, som elskede ham og havde taget den lange Vei for at komme her, det havde ogsaa kostet Penge, Fornøielsen, hun havde faaet, var ikke stor, men det sagde hun her ikke et Ord om, hun vilde ikke lette sit Sind ved at tale om det til Grøftegraverens Kone, hun kunde jo troe, at hun ikke meer var anseet hos Grevens. Da skreg igjen Ravnen hen over hende.

"Det sorte Spectakel," sagde Anne Lisbeth, "gjør mig nok forskrækket i Dag!"

Hun havde bragt med kaffebønner og Cichorie, det vilde være en Velgjerning mod Grøftegraverens Kone at give hende det til at lave en Skaal Kaffe, Anne Lisbeth kunde faae sig en kop med, og Grøftegraverens Kone gik hen at koge den, og Anne Lisbeth satte sig paa en Stol og der faldt hun i Søvn; da drømte hun om Den, hun aldrig før havde drømt om, det var underligt nok: hun drømte om sit eget Barn, der her i Huset havde sultet og skraalet, drevet for Lud og koldt Vand, og nu laae i det dybe Hav, Vor Herre vidste hvor. hun drømte, at hun sad hvor hun sad, og at Grøftegraverens Kone var ude at lave kaffe, hun kunde lugte Bønnerne, og der stod i Døren saadan en deilig Een, han var ligesaa kjøn som Grevebarnet, og den Lille sagde:

"Nu forgaaer Verden! hold Dig fast ved mig, for Du er dog min Moder! Du har en Engel i Himmeriges Rige! hold fast ved mig!"

Og saa greb han efter hende, men der lød saadan et Rabalder, det var nok Verden der gik fra hinanden, og Englen løftede sig og holdt hende fast i hendes Særkeærme, saa fast, syntes hun, at hun lettedes fra Jorden, men der hang sig Noget saa tungt ved hendes Been, det laae hen over hendes Ryg, det var ligesom om hundrede Qvinder klyngede sig fast, og de sagde: "Skal Du frelses, maae vi ogsaa! hæng paa! hæng paa!" og saa hang de Allesammen paa; det var for Meget, "Ritsch-ratsch!" sagde det, Ærmet flængedes og Anne Lisbeth faldt forfærdeligt, saa at hun vaagnede ved det - og var lige ved at styrte om med Stolen, hun sad paa, hun var saa fortumlet i Hovedet, at hun slet ikke kunde huske hvad hun havde drømt, men noget Ilde havde det været.

Saa blev Kaffen drukken, saa blev der talt, og saa gik Anne Lisbeth til den nærmeste By, hvor hun skulde træffe Fragtmanden og endnu denne Aften og Nat kjøre med ham til sit Hjemsted; men da hun kom til Fragtmanden, sagde han, at de ikke kunde komme afsted før den næste Dags Aften, hun tænkte da over, hvad det vilde koste hende at blive, tænkte over Veilængden og betænkte, at gik hun langs Stranden og ikke af Kjøreveien, da var det næsten to Miil kortere; det var jo høit Veir og nok Fuldmaane, og saa vilde Anne Lisbeth gaae, næste Dag kunde hun være hjemme

Solen var nede, Aftenklokkerne klang endnu, - nei, det var ikke Klokkerne, det var Peder Oxes Frøer, der koaxede i Kærene. Nu taug de, Alt var stille, ikke en Fugl hørte man, hver af dem var til Ro, og Uglen var nok ikke hjemme; lydløst var der ved Skov og Strand, hvor hun gik, hun hørte sine egne Fodtrin i Sandet, Havet havde ikke Skvulpen, Alt derude i det dybe Vand var lydløst; stumme vare de Alle dernede, de Levende og de Døde.

Anne Lisbeth gik og tænkte ikke paa nogen Ting, som man siger, hun var borte fra sine Tanker, men Tankerne vare ikke borte fra hende, de ere aldrig borte fra os, de ligge bare i en Døs, baade de levendegjorte Tanker, der havde lagt sig, og de, som endnu ikke have rørt sig. Men Tankerne kommer nok frem, de kunne røre sig i Hjertet, røre sig i vort Hoved eller falde ned over os!

"God Gjerning har sin Velsignelsens Frugt!" staaer der skrevet; "i Synden er Død!" staaer der ogsaa skrevet! Meget staaer skrevet, Meget er sagt, man veed det ikke, man husker ikke, saadan gik det Anne Lisbeth; men det kan gaae op for Een, det kan komme!

Alle Laster, alle Dyder ligge i vort Hjerte! i dit, i mit! de ligge som smaa ikke synlige Korn; saa kommer der udenfra en Solstraale, en ond Haands Berørelse, Du dreier om Hjørnet, til Høire eller Venstre, ja, det kan afgjøre det, og det lille Frøkorn rystes, det svulmer derved, det sprænges, og gyder sine Safer i alt dit Blod og saa er Du paa Farten. Det er ængstende Tanker; dem har man ikke naar man gaaer i en Døs, men de ere i Røre: Anne Lisbeth gik i en Døs, Tankerne vare i Røre! Fra Kyndelmisse til Kyndelmisse har Hjertet Meget paa sit Regnebræt, det har Aars Regnskab, Meget er glemt, Synd i Ord og Tanker mod Gud, vor Næste og mod vor egen Samvittighed; vi tænke ikke derover, det gjorde heller ikke Anne Lisbeth, hun havde intet Ondt gjort mod Lands Lov og Ret, hun var meget godt anseet, skikkelig og hæderlig, vidste hun. Og som hun nu gik ved Stranden, - hvad var det der laae? Hun standsede; hvad var der skyllet op? en gammel Mandshat laae der. Hvor mon den var gaaet overbord. Hun gik nærmere, blev staaende og saae paa den, - eia! hvad laae der! hun blev ganske forskrækket; men der var ikke Noget at blive forskrækket over, det var Tang og Siv, der laae snoet hen over en stor aflang Steen, det saae ud som et heelt Menneske, det var kun Siv og Tang, men forskrækket blev hun og idet hun gik videre, kom hende i Tanke saa Meget, hun havde hørt som Barn, al den Overtro om "Strandvarslet," Spøgelset af den Ubegravne, der laae skyllet op paa den øde Strandbred. "Strandvaskeren": den døde Krop, den gjorde Intet, men dens Spøgelse, Strandvarslet fulgte den eensomme Vandrer, hang sig fast og forlangte at bæres til Kirkegaarden, for at begraves i christen Jord. "Hæng paa! hæng paa!" sagde det; og som Anne Lisbeth gjentog for sig selv disse Ord, gik med Eet op for hende hele hendes Drøm, saa lyslevende, hvorledes Mødrene havde klyget sig til hende med dette Udraab: "hæng paa! hæng paa!" hvorledes Verden sank, hendes Særkeærme revnede og hun faldt fra sit Barn, der i Dommens Stund vilde have holdt hende oppe. Hendes Barn, hendes eget kjødelige Barn, det, hun aldrig havde elsket, ja, ikke engang tænkt paa, dette Barn var nu paa Havsens Bund, det kunde som Strandvarsel komme og raabe: "hæng paa! hæng paa! bring mig i christen Jord!" og idet hun tænkte det, prikkede Angesten hende i Hælene, saa at hun gik raskere; Frygten kom som en kold klam Haand og lagde sig i hendes Hjertekule, saa hun var lige ved at faae ondt, og i det hun nu saae ud over Havet, blev der tykkere og tættere; en tung Taage skød sig frem, lagde sig om Busk og Træer, de fik et underligt Udseende derved. Hun vendte sig for at see efter Maanen, der stod bagved hende, den var som en bleg Skive uden Straaler, det var som Noget havde lagt sig tungt paa alle hendes Lemmer: hæng paa! hæng paa! tænkte hun, og da hun igjen vendte sig om og saae paa Maanen, syntes hun, at dens hvide Ansigt var lige tæt ved hende, og Taagen hang som et Lin ned over hendes Skuldre: "hæng paa! bring mig i christen Jord!" vilde hun høre og hørte ogsaa en Lyd, saa huul, saa sær, den kom ikke fra Frøerne i Kæret, ikke fra Ravne eller Krager, for dem saae hun jo ikke, "begrav mig! begrav mig!" klang det lydeligt! ja, det var Strandvarslet af hendes Barn, der laae paa Havsens Bund, det fik ikke Fred før det blev baaret til Kirkegaarden og Graven gravet i christen Jord. Derhen vilde hun gaae, der vilde hun grave, hun gik i den Retning hvor Kirken laae, og da syntes hun at Byrden blev lettere, den forsvandt, og hun vilde saa igjen vende om og naae ad den korteste Vei hjem, men da knugede det hende igjen: hæng paa! hæng paa! - det lød som Frøernes Qvæk, det lød som en klynkende Fugl, det lød saa grangiveligt "begrav mig! begrav mig!"

Taagen var kold og klam, hendes Haand og Ansigt var koldt og klamt af Rædsel! udenom hende klemte det, indeni hende blev der et uendeligt Rum for Tanker, hun før aldrig havde fornummet.

I een Foraarsnat her i Norden kan Bøgeskoven springe ud, staae i sin unge, lyse Pragt ved Dagens Solskin, i eet eneste Secund kan indeni os hæve og udfolde sig den Sæd af Synd i Tanke, Ord og Gjerning, der i vort første Liv er nedlagt; den løfter og udfolder sig i eet eneste Secund, naar Samvittigheden vaagner; og Vor Herre vækker den, naar vi mindst vente det; da er det Intet at undskylde, Gjerningen staaer og vidner, Tankerne faae Ord og Ordene klinge lydeligt ud over Verden. Vi forfærdes over, hvad vi have baaret i os og ikke qvalt, forfærdes over, hvad vi i Overmod og Tankeløshed have strøet ud. Hjertet har i Gjemme alle Dyder, men ogsaa alle Laster, og de kunne trives selv i den goldeste Grund.

Anne Lisbeth rummede i Tankerne, hvad vi her have sagt i Ord, hun var overvældet deraf, hun sank til Jorden, krøb henad den et Stykke, "Begrav mig! begrav mig!" sagde det, og helst havde hun begravet sig selv, dersom Graven var en evig Forglemmelse af Alt. - Det var Alvorens Vækkelses-Stund med Gru og Angest. Overtroen kom Hedt og Koldt i hendes Blod, saa Meget, hun aldrig gad tale om, kom i Tanke. Lydløs, som Skyens Skygge i det klare Maaneskin, foer forbi hende et Syn, hun havde hørt om det før. Tæt forbi hende joge fire fnysende Heste, Ilden skinnede dem ud af Øine og Næsebor, de trak en gloende Karreet, i den sad den onde Herremand, der for meer end et hundred Aar siden havde huseret her i Egnen. Hver Midnat, hed det, foer han ind i sin Gaard og vendte strax igjen, han var ikke hvid som man siger den Døde er, nei, han var sort som et Kul, et udbrændt Kul. Han nikkede til Anne Lisbeth og vinkede: "hæng paa! hæng paa! saa kan Du igjen kjøre i grevelig Vogn og glemme dit Barn!"

Mere iilsom skyndte hun sig afsted og hun naaede Kirkegaarden; men de sorte Kors og de sorte Ravne blandede sig for hendes Øine, Ravnene Skreg som Ravnen i Dag havde skreget, dog nu forstod hun hvad det var, den sagde: "jeg er Ravnemoder! jeg er Ravnemoder!" sagde hver af dem, og Anne Lisbeth vidste, at Navnet ogsaa gjaldt hende, hun vilde maaskee blive forvandlet til saadan en sort Fugl og ideligt maatte skrige, hvad den skreg, fik hun ikke Graven gravet.

Og hun kastede sig ned paa Jorden, og hun gravede med sine Hænder en Grav i den haarde Jord, saa at Blodet sprang hende ud af Fingrene.

"Begrav mig! begrav mig!" lød det ideligt, hun frygtede for Hanegal og den første røde Stribe i Øst, thi kom de før hendes Arbeide var endt, da var hun fortabt. Og Hanen galede og i Øst lyste det - - Graven var kun halv gravet, en isnende Haand gled hen over hendes Hoved og Ansigt ned til Hjertestedet. "Halv Grav kun!" sukkede det og svævede bort, ned paa Havsens Bund, ja, det var Strandvarslet; Anne Lisbeth sank overvældet og betagen til Jorden, hun havde ikke Tanke eller Fornemmelse.

Det var lys Dag, da hun kom til sig selv, to Karle løftede hende i Veiret; hun laae ikke paa Kirkegaarden, men nede paa Strandbredden, og der havde hun gravet foran sig et dybt Hul i Sandet og skaaret sine Fingre tilblods paa et sønderbrudt Glas, hvis skarpe Stilk stak i en blaamalet Træfod. Anne Lisbeth var syge; Samvittigheden havde blandet Overtroens Kort, lagt dem op og faaet ud deraf, at nu havde hun kun en halv Sjæl, den anden Halvdel havde hendes Barn taget med sig ned paa Havsens Bund; aldrig vilde hun kunne flyve op mod Himmeriges Naade, før hun havde igjen den anden halve Deel, der holdtes paa i det dybe Vand; Anne Lisbeth kom til sit Hjem, hun var ikke det Menneske meer, hun før havde været; hendes Tanker vare spegede som Garnet, der speges, een Traad kun havde hun red, den, at bære Strandvarslet til Kirkegaarden, grave det en Grav og derved vinde sin hele Sjæl tilbage.

Mangen Nat blev hun savnet i sit Hjem og altid fandt man hende da ved Stranden, hvor hun ventede paa Strandvarslet; saaledes hengik et heelt Aar, da forsvandt hun igjen en Nat, men var ikke at finde; hele den følgende Dag gik hen med forgjæves Søgen.

Henimod Aften, da Degnen kom ind i Kirken for at ringe til Solnedgang, saae han foran Altret laae Anne Lisbeth; her havde hun været fra den tidlige Morgenstund, hendes Kræfter vare næsten borte, men hendes Øine lyste, hendes Ansigt havde en rødmende Glands; de sidste Solstraaler skinnede ind paa hende, straalede hen over Alterbordet paa de blanke Spænder af Bibelen, der laae opslaaet, med de Ord af Propheten Joel: "Sønderriver Eders Hjerter og ikke Eders Klæder, vender om til Herren!" - "det var nu saaledes tilfældigt!" sagde man, som saa Meget er tilfældigt!

I Anne Lisbeths Ansigt, som Solen belyste, var der at læse om Fred og Naade. Hun var saa vel! sagde hun. Nu havde hun forvundet Sit! i Nat havde Strandvarslet, hendes eget Barn, været hos hende, det havde sagt: Du gravede kun halv Grav - for mig, men Du har nu Aar og Dag begravet mig heelt i dit Hjerte, og der gjemmer en Moder sit Barn bedst! og saa havde det givet hende igjen hendes tabte halve Sjæl og ledet hende herind i Kirken.

"Nu er jeg i Guds huus!" sagde hun, "og i det er man salig!"

Da Solen var heelt nede, var Anne Lisbeths Sjæl heelt oppe, hvor der er ingen Frygt, naar den her udstridt, og udskridt havde Anne Lisbeth.

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