Twelve by the mail

Tolv med posten

It was very frosty, starry clear weather, quiet and calm.
Bump! A pot was thrown against a door. Bang! Fireworks were shot off to welcome the new year, for it was New Year's Eve; and now the clock struck twelve!
Trateratra! There came the mail. The big mail coach stopped outside the gate to the town. It carried twelve people and couldn't hold more, for all the seats were taken.
"Hurrah! Hurrah!" rang out in the houses, where people were celebrating New Year's Eve. They arose with full glasses and drank a toast to the new year.
"Health and good wishes for the new year!" they said. "A pretty little wife! Lots of money! An end to nonsense!"
Yes, these were their wishes for one another, and glasses were struck together, while the mail coach stopped in front of the town gate with the unknown guests, the twelve travelers.
What kind of people were they? They had passports and luggage with them; yes, even presents for you and me and for all the people in the town. Who were these strangers? What did they want, and what did they bring?
"Good morning!" they said to the sentry at the town gate.
"Good morning!" said he, as the clock had struck twelve. "Your name? Your profession?" asked the sentry when the first of them stepped out of the carriage.
"Look in the passport!" said the man. "I am myself!" And a splendid-looking fellow he was, too, dressed in a bearskin and fur boots. "I am the man on whom many people pin their hopes. Come to see me tomorrow, and I'll give you a real new year! I throw dollars and cents about, give presents, and, yes, I even give balls, thirty-one of them; that's all the nights I have to spare. My ships are frozen tight, but in my office it is warm. I am a merchant, and my name is January. I have only bills!"
Then came the second. He was a comedian, a theatrical director, the manager of masked balls, and all the amusements you could think of. His luggage consisted of a great barrel.
"We'll beat the cat out of the barrel at carnival time!" he said. "I'll amuse others, and myself, too, for I have the shortest time to live of the whole family; I get to be only twenty-eight days old. Yes, sometimes they throw in an extra day, but that doesn't make much difference. Hurrah!"
"You must not shout so loud!" said the sentry.
"Yes, I may!" said the man. "I am Prince Carnival, and traveling under the name of February!"
Now came the third. He looked very much like Fasting itself, but strutted proudly, for he was related to the "Forty Knights," and was a weather prophet. But that is hardly fattening employment, and for that reason he approved of Fasting. He had a cluster of violets in his buttonhole, but they were very small.
"March, March!" shouted the fourth, and pushed the third. "March, March! Into the guardroom; there's punch there! I can smell it!"
But it wasn't true; he only wanted to make an April fool of him; thus the fourth began his career in the town. He looked very jolly, did little work, and had lots of holidays.
"Good humor one day and bad the next!" he said. "Rain and sunshine. Moving out and moving in. I am also moving-day commissioner; I am an undertaker. I can both laugh and cry. I have summer clothes in my trunk, but it would be very foolish to use them now. Here I am! When I dress up I wear silk stockings and carry a muff!"
Now a lady came out of the carriage. "Miss May," she called herself, and wore summer clothes and overshoes. She had on a beech-tree-green silk dress, and anemones in her hair, and she was so scented with wild thyme that the sentry had to sneeze.
"God bless you!" she said, and that was her greeting.
She was beautiful. And she was a singer; not of the theater, but a singer of the woodlands; not at county fairs; no, she roamed through the fresh green forest and sang there for her own entertainment. In her handbag she had a copy of Christian Winther's Woodcuts, which were like the beech-tree forest itself, and also Little Poems by Richardt, which were like the wild thyme.
"Now comes the mistress, the young mistress!" shouted those inside the carriage.
And then out came the lady, young and delicate, proud and pretty. You could easily see that she was born to be a lady of leisure. She gave a great feast on the longest day of the year, so that her guests might have time to eat the many dishes of food at her table. She could afford to ride in a carriage of her own, but still she traveled in the mail coach like the others, for she wanted to show she wasn't too proud. But she didn't travel alone; with her was her elder brother, July.
' He was a well-fed fellow, in attire, and with a Panama hat. He had but little baggage with him, because it was a nuisance in the heat. He had brought only his bathing cap and swimming trunks; that isn't much.
Now came the mother, Madam August, a wholesale fruit dealer, proprietor of many fish tanks, and landowner, wearing a great crinoline. She was fat and hot, and took an active part in everything; she herself even carried beer out to the workmen in the fields.
"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread," she said. "That is written in the Bible. Afterward we can have the picnics and dances in the woods and the harvest festivals."
Such was the mother.
Now again came a man, a painter by profession, a master of colors, as the forest soon learned. The leaves had to change their colors - but how beautifully - whenever he wished it; soon the wood glowed with red, yellow, and brown. The painter whistled like the black starling bird, and was a brisk worker. He wound the brown-green hop plants around his beer jug, which decorated it beautifully; indeed, he had an eye for decorating. There he stood with his color pot, and that was all the luggage he had.
Now followed a land proprietor, who was thinking of the grain month, of the plowing and preparing of the land, and, yes, also a little of the pleasures of field sports. He had his dog and his gun, and he had nuts in his game bag. Crack, crack! He had an awful lot of baggage with him, and even an English plow. And he talked about farming, but you couldn't hear much of what he said, because of the coughing and gasping.
It was November coming. He had a cold, such a violent cold that he used a bed sheet instead of a handkerchief; and yet he had to accompany the servant girls and initiate them into their winter service, he said; but his cold would go when he went out woodcutting, which he had to do, because he was master sawyer for the firewood guild. His evenings he spent cutting soles for skates, knowing that in a few weeks there would be good use for these amusing shoes.
Now came the last passenger, a little old mother, with her firepot. She was cold, but her eyes sparkled like two bright stars. She carried a flowerpot with a little fir tree growing in it.
"I shall guard and nurse this tree, so that it may grow large by Christmas Eve and reach from the ground right up to the ceiling, and be covered with lighted candles, golden apples, and little cut-out paper decorations. This fire-kettle warms like a Stove. I take the storybook from my pocket and read aloud, so that all the children in the room become quiet. But the dolls on the tree come to life, and the little wax angel on top of the tree shakes its golden tinsel wings, flies down from the green top, and kisses in the room, yes, the poor children, too, who stand outside and sing the Christmas carol about the star of Bethlehem."
"And now the coach can drive again," said the sentry. "We have the twelve. Let another coach drive up!"
"First let the twelve come inside," said the Captain of the Guard, " one at a time. I'll keep the passports. Each is good for a month; when that has passed, I'll write a report of their behavior on each passport. Be so good, Mr. January; please step inside."
And in he went.
When a year has passed, I shall be able to tell you what the twelve have brought you, me, and all of us. I don't know it now, and they probably don't know it themselves, for these are strange times we live in.
Det var knagende frost, stjerneklart vejr, blikstille. "Bums!" der slog de en potte på døren, "pjaf!" der skød de nytår ind; det var nytårsaften; nu slog klokken tolv.
"Trateratra!" dér kom posten. Den store postkaret holdt uden for byens port, den bragte tolv personer, ikke flere kunne der rummes, alle pladser var besat.
"Hurra! Hurra!" blev der sunget inde i husene, hvor folk holdt nytårsaften og just nu havde rejst sig med det fyldte glas og drak det nye års skål:
"Sundhed og helsen i det nye år!" sagde de, "en lille kone! mange penge! ende på vrøvlet!"
Ja, således ønskede man og der blev klinket og – posten holdt for byens port med de fremmede gæster, de tolv rejsende.
Hvad var det for personer? De havde pas og rejsegods med, ja, foræringer til dig og mig og alle mennesker i byen. Hvem var de fremmede? Hvad ville de og hvad bragte de?
"Godmorgen!" sagde de til skildvagten ved porten.
"Godmorgen!" sagde han, for klokken var jo slået tolv.
"Deres navn? Deres stand?" spurgte skildvagten den, der først trådte ud af vognen.
"Se i passet!" sagde manden. "Jeg er jeg!" Det var også en hel karl, klædt i bjørneskindspels og med kanestøvler. "Jeg er den mand, hvem grumme mange sætter sit håb til. Kom i morgen, skal du få nytår! jeg kaster skillinger og dalere i grams, giver presenter, ja jeg giver baller, hele enogtredve baller, flere nætter har jeg ikke at give bort. Mine skibe er indefrosset, men der er varmt på mit kontor. Jeg er grosserer og hedder Januar. Jeg har kun regninger med mig!"
Så kom den næste, han var lystigmager, han var direktør for komedierne, maskeraderne og al den fornøjelse der kan findes på. Hans rejsegods var en stor tønde.
"Den skal vi til fastelavn slå meget mere af end katten!" sagde han. "Jeg vil fornøje andre og mig selv med, for jeg har den korteste levetid af hele familien; jeg bliver kun otteogtyve! ja, måske skyder man en dag til; men det gør lige meget. Hurra!"
"De må ikke skrige så højt!" sagde skildvagten.
"Jo vist må jeg så!" sagde manden, "jeg er prins Karneval og rejser under navnet Februarius!"
Nu kom den tredje; han så ud som bare faste, men knejsede, for han var i familie med "de fyrretyve riddere" og var vejrprofet; men det er ikke noget fedt embede, derfor priste han fastetiden. Hans pynt var en dusk violer i knaphullet, men de var meget små.
"Marts, march!" råbte den fjerde og stødte til den tredje. "Marts, march! ind i vagten, her er punch! jeg kan lugte den!" men det var ikke sandt, han ville narre ham april, dermed begyndte den fjerde fyr. Han så ud til at være rask på det; han bestilte nok ikke meget, men holdt mange helligdage! "Op og ned er det med humøret!" sagde han, "regn og solskin, flytten ud og flytten ind! jeg er også flyttedagskommissær, jeg er bedemand, jeg kan både le og græde. Jeg har sommertøj i kufferten, men det ville være meget galt at tage det i brug. Her er jeg! til stads går jeg i silkestrømper og med muffe!"
Nu kom der en dame ud af vognen.
"Frøken Maj!" sagde hun. I sommertøj med galocher; hun havde en bøgebladegrøn silkekjole på, anemoner i håret, og hun duftede dertil sådan af skovmærker, så skildvagten måtte nyse. "Gud velsigne Dem!" sagde hun, det var hendes hilsen. Hun var nydelig! og sangerinde var hun; ikke på teatrene, men inde i skoven; ikke i teltene, nej, i den friske grønne skov gik hun og sang for sin egen fornøjelse; hun havde i sin sypose Christian Winthers "Træsnit," for de er som bøgeskoven selv, og "Smådigte af Richardt," de er ligesom skovmærker.
"Nu kommer fruen, den unge frue!" råbte de inde i vognen, og så kom fruen, ung og fin, stolt og nydelig. Hun var født til at holde "syvsovere," kunne man straks se. Hun gjorde gilde på den længste dag i året, for at man kunne få tid til at spise de mange retter mad; hun havde råd til at køre i egen vogn, men kom dog med posten som de andre, hun ville derved vise at hun ikke var hovmodig; alene rejste hun heller ikke, hun var fulgt af sin yngre broder Julius.
Han var vel ved magt, sommerklædt og med panamahat. Kun lidt rejsetøj førte han med, det var så besværligt i varmen. Han havde kun badehætte og svømmebukser; det er ikke meget.
Nu kom mutter, madam August, frugthandlerske i tøndevis, ejerinde af mange hyttefade, landmand i stor krinoline; hun var fed og varm, tog del i alt, gik selv med ølbimpel til folkene ud på marken. "Æde sit brød i sit ansigts sved, skal man," sagde hun, "det står i Bibelen; bagefter kan man holde skovbal og høstgilde!" Hun var mutter.
Nu kom igen et mandfolk, maler af profession, kulørmesteren, det fik skoven at vide, bladene måtte skifte kulør, men dejligt, når han ville det; rød, gul, brun kom skoven snart til at se ud. Mester fløjtede som den sorte stær, var en flink arbejder og hang den brungrønne humleranke om sit ølkrus, det pyntede, og pynt havde han øje for. Her stod han nu med sin farvepotte, den var hele hans rejsegods.
Nu fulgte proprietæren, der tænkte på sædemåned, på jordens pløjning og behandling, ja, også lidt på jagtens fornøjelse; han havde hund og gevær, han havde nødder i sin taske, knik knak! rædsom meget gods førte han med, og en engelsk plov; han talte landøkonomisk, men man fik ikke meget at høre for hosten og hiven, – det var November som kom.
Han havde snue, voldsom snue, så at han brugte lagen og ikke lommetørklæde, og dog skulle han følge pigerne i kondition! sagde han, men forkølelsen gik nok over, når han kom til at hugge brænde, og det ville han, for han var savskærermester for lavet. Aftnerne tilbragte han med at skære skøjter, han vidste at om ikke mange uger havde man brug for det fornøjelige skotøj.
Nu kom den sidste, den gamle morlille med ildpotten; hun frøs, men hendes øjne strålede som to klare stjerner. Hun bar en urtepotte med et lille grantræ. "Det vil jeg pleje og det vil jeg passe, så at det bliver stort til juleaften, når fra gulvet lige op til loftet, og gror med tændte lys, forgyldte æbler og udklipninger. Ildpotten varmer som en kakkelovn, jeg tager eventyrbogen op af lommen og læser højt, så at alle børnene i stuen bliver stille, men dukkerne på træet bliver levende og den lille engel af voks, øverst oppe i træet, ryster med knitterguldsvingerne, flyver fra den grønne top og kysser små og store inde i stuen, ja de fattige børn med, som står udenfor og synger julesangen om stjernen over Bethlehem!"
"Og så kan kareten køre igen!" sagde skildvagten, "nu har vi tylten. Lad en ny rejsevogn køre frem!"
"Lad først de tolv komme vel ind!" sagde kaptajnen, som havde vagt. "Én ad gangen! Passet beholder jeg; det gælder for hver, én måned; når den er omme, skal jeg skrive på det hvorledes hver har opført sig. Vær så god, hr. Januar, vil De behage at træde ind!"
Og så gik han ind. –
– Når et år er omme skal jeg sige dig hvad de tolv har bragt dig, mig og os alle sammen. Nu ved jeg det ikke, og de ved det nok heller ikke selv, – for det er en underlig tid vi lever i!