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notice of my mother too. And there cradled in the manger, and mother's really was some whitewashing done, and tears fell in her hymn-book. Dear old the children were cleaned up for a season. mother! She had a house full, and little So that the eight skilling were, if not enough to manage with; but never one wisely, yet well invested, after all.
went hungry or unhelped from her door. No doubt Christmas had something to I am a believer in organized, systematic do with it. Poverty and misery always charity upon the evidence of my senses; seem to jar more at the time when the but-I am glad we have that one season whole world makes merry. We took an in which we can forget our principles and entire week off to keep Christmas in. err on the side of mercy, that little corner Till after New Year's Day no one thought in the days of the dying year for sentiof anything else. The “Holy Eve” was ment and no questions asked. No need the greatest of the year. Then the Dom- to be afraid. It is safe. Christmas kirke shone with a thousand wax candles charity never corrupts. Love keeps it that made the gloom in the deep recesses sweet and good—the love He brought into behind the granite pillars seem deeper the world at Christmas to temper the hard still, and brought out the picture of the reason of man. Let it loose for that little Virgin Mary and her child, long hidden spell. January comes soon enough with under the whitewash of the Reformation, its long cold. Always it seems to me the and so preserved to our day by the very longest month in the year. It is so long means taken to destroy it. The people to another Christmas! sang the dear old hymns about the child To say that Ribe was an old town
hardly describes it to readers at this day. half—that is, one with a wooden leg—was A town might be old and yet have kept increased and uniformed, and the night step with time. In my day Ribe had not watchmen's chant was stopped. But there It had never changed its step or its ways are limits to everything. The town that since whale-oil lanterns first hung in iron had been waked every hour of the night chains across its cobblestone-paved streets since the early Middle Ages to be told to light them at night. There they hung that it slept soundly, could not possibly yet, every rusty link squeaking dolefully take a night's rest without it. It lay in the wind that never ceased blowing awake dreading all sorts of unknown disfrom the sea. Coal-oil, just come from asters. Universal insomnia threatened it ; America, was regarded as a dangerous and within a month, on petition of the innovation. I remember buying a bottle entire community, the council restored the of “ Pennsylvania oil” at the grocer's for songsters, and they squeak to this day. eight skilling, as a doubtful domestic ex- This may sound like exaggeration ; but it periment. Steel pens had not crowded is not. It is a faithful record of what out the old-fashioned goose-quill, and took place and stands so upon the official pen-knives meant just what their name minutes of the municipality. implies. Matches were yet of the future. When I was in Denmark last year, I We carried tinder-boxes to strike fire with. looked over some of those old reports, and People shook their heads at the telegraph. had more than one melancholy laugh at The day of the stage-coach was not yet the account of measures taken for the past. Steamboat and railroad had not defense of Ribe at the first assault of the come within forty miles of the town, and Germans in 1849. That was the year I only one steam factory—a cotton-mill that was born. Ribe, being a border town on was owned by Elizabeth's father. At the the line of the coveted territory, set about time of the beginning of my story, he, hav- arming itself to resist invasion. The citiing made much money during the early zens built barricades in the streets—one years of the American war through fore- of them, with wise forethought, in front of sight in having supplied himself with the drug-store, “in case any one were to cotton, was building another and larger, faint " and stand in need of Hoffman's and I helped putting it up. Of progress drops or smelling-salts. The women filled and enterprise he held an absolute mo- kettles with hot water in the houses flanknopoly in Ribe, and though he employed ing an eventual advance.“ Two hundred more than half of its working force, it is not pounds of powder " were ordered from the far from the truth that he was unpopular next town by foot-post, and a cannon that on that account. It could not well be other had stood half buried a hundred years, wise in a town whose militia company yet serving for a hitching-post, was dug up drilled with Aint-lock muskets. Those and put into commission. There being a we had in the school for the use of the scarcity of guns, the curate of the next big boys-dreadful old blunderbusses of village reported arming his host with the pre-Napoleonic era—were of the same spears and battle-axes as the next best pattern. I remember the fright that seized thing. A rumor of a sudden advance of our worthy rector when the German army the enemy sent the mothers with babes in was approaching in the winter of 1863, arms scurrying north for safety. My and the haste they made to pack them all mother was among them. I was a month in a box and send them out to be sunk in old at the time. Thirty years later I batthe deep, lest they fall into the hands of tled for the mastery in the police office the enemy; and the consternation that sat in Mulberry Street with a reporter for the upon their faces when they saw the Prus- “ Staats-Zeitung" whom I discovered to sian needle-guns.
be one of those invaders, and I took it out The watchmen still cried the hour at of him in revenge. Old Cohen carried a night. They do, for that matter, yet. The Danish bullet in his arm to remind him of railroad came to town and the march of his early ill-doings. But it was not fired improvement struck it, after I had gone in defense of Ribe. That collapsed when away. Century-old institutions were ruth- a staff officer of the government, who had lessly upset. The police force, which in been sent to report upon the zeal of the my boyhood consisted of a man and a Ribe men, declared that the town could
be defended only by damming the river there was a worse story to tell. Then the and flooding the meadows, which would town butcher went upon the causeway at cost two hundred daler. The minutes of daybreak with the implements of his trade the council represent that that was held to to save if possible, by letting the blood, be too great a price to pay for the privilege at least the meat of drowned cattle and of being sacked, perhaps, as a captured sheep that were cast up by the sea. When town ; and the citizen army disbanded. it rose higher and washed over the road,
If the coming of the invading army the mail-coach picked its way warily could have been timed to suit, the sea, between white posts set on both sides to which from old was the bulwark of the guide it safe. We boys caught fish in the nation, might have completed the defenses streets of the town, while red tiles flew of Ribe without other expense to it than from the roofs all about us, and we enjoyed that of repairing damages. Two or three ourselves hugely. It was part of the duty times a year, usually in the fall, when it of the watchmen who cried the hours to blew long and hard from the north west, it give warning if the sea came in suddenly broke in over the low meadows and flooded during the night. And when we heard it the country as far as eye could reach. we shivered in our beds with gruesome Then the high causeways were the refuge delight. of everything that lived in the fields; The people of Ribe were of three classes: hares, mice, foxes, and partridges huddled the officials, the tradesmen, and the workthere, shivering in the shower of spraying people. The bishop, the burgomaster, that shot over the road, and making such and the rector of the Latin School headed stand as they could against the fierce blast. the first class, to which my father belonged If the “storm flood ” came early in the as the senior master in the school. Elizaseason, before the cattle had been housed, beth's father easily led the second class.
For the third, it had no leaders and noth- Jewess saw it and tried to turn the coning to say at that time. On state occa- versation from the religious topic. sions lines were quite sharply drawn “Well, dear friend,” she said, soothbetween the classes, but the general ingly,“ some day, when we meet in heaven, kindliness of the people caused them at we shall all know better." ordinary times to be so relaxed that the The barrier was reached. Her friend difference was hardly to be noticed. Theirs fairly bristled as she made reply : was a real neighborliness that roamed “What! Our heaven ? No, indeed ! unrestrained and without prejudice until We may be good friends here, Mrs. –
brought up with a round turn at the barrier but there—really, you will have to excuse of traditional orthodoxy. I remember me." well one instance of that kind. There It may be that it contributed somelived in our town a single family of Jews, thing to the ordinarily democratic relations well-to-do tradespeople, gentle and good, of the upper-class men and the tradesand socially popular. There lived also a people that the latter were generally wellGentile woman of wealth, a mother in the to-do, while the officials mostly had a runstrictly Lutheran Israel, who fed and ning fight of it with their incomes. My clothed the poor and did no end of good. father's salary had to reach around to a She was a very pious woman. It so family of fourteen, nay, fifteen, for he took happened that the Jewess and the Chris- his dead sister's child when a baby and tian were old friends. But one day they brought her up with us, who were boys all strayed upon dangerous ground. The but one. Father had charge of the Latin