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 The Goloshes of Fortune


A big party was going on in one of the houses in East Street in Copenhagen not far from King's New Market. The conversation was quite lively. One of the topics was the Middle Ages. Some of the guests considered it a very much better time than our own; indeed Councillor Knap was of the opinion that King Hans's reign was the best and happiest ever. While all these issues were being discussed, two maidens, one young, the other older, sat down in the ante-chamber where the cloaks, sticks, umbrellas and goloshes had been placed. They were two fairies. The younger was Fortune; the other, who looked inexpressibly sad, was Care. "I must tell you something: I have been given a pair of goloshes for my birthday which I am to pass on to mankind," said the young girl to the older one. The goloshes have the power to instantly transport the wearer to the place or time in which he would prefer to live. So people down here will at last become happy. I shall now place them here near the door; somebody will put them on by mistake and will have all the good fortune." Picture 114. Copenhagen in the Good Old Days It was now late at night. On his way out, Councillor Knap was still immersed in the time of King Hans and it so happened that instead of getting into his own goloshes, he put on those of Fortune and stepped out in them on to East Street. Through the magic powers of the goloshes, he found himself transported back into the era of King Hans, which is why he found nothing on the street but mud and mire, for at that time the streets were not paved. A few people passed by dressed in the garb of olden times. "What strange characters! They must be coming from a masked ball!" He suddenly heard the sound of fifes and drums. The Councillor was astonished to see a bizarre procession wend its way down the road. The most distinguished looking person was a senior cleric, who he was told was the bishop of Zealand. "Good heavens - that must be his ghost! Didn't the bishop of Zealand live 300 years ago?" cried the Councillor. Deep in thought he walked through East Street and across Highbridge Square. But the bridge which spanned Castlestream was nowhere to be found. All he could see was the flat bank. The best thing would be to take a carriage, he thought, but where could the carriages be? There wasn't one to be seen. I had better return to King's New Market and no doubt there will be some there. Otherwise I shall never get out to Christian's Harbour! As he walked back down the street, he took a closer look at the houses: most of them were half-timbered and many had only a thatched roof. "I only had one single glass of punch, but it is obviously not good for me. Should I return to my hostess and tell her how miserable I feel? - Picture 115. An Odd Stranger Isn't that appalling - I do not recognise East Street! All I see are miserable, dilapidated huts. I really must be very ill. But where in the world is my hostess's house? This is not it! But at least there are some people inside who are still up." He finally found a door that was ajar behind which he saw lights. It was one of the typical inns of long ago. People of the more prosperous classes such as sea-captains, Copenhagen merchants and also some scholars were sitting there with their beer-mugs engrossed in animated conversation. Nobody took much notice of the newcomer. "Pardon me!" said the Councillor to the innkeeper's wife, who approached him. I have been suddenly taken ill. Would you be so good as to get me a carriage to Christian's Harbour?" The woman looked him up and down and shrugged her shoulders. The Councillor thought she perhaps did not speak Danish, so he repeated his request in German. This together with his clothes convinced the woman that he must be a foreigner. She soon noticed that he was ill and so she brought him a jug of water, which tasted salty. "Is that today's evening newspaper? " he asked, seeing the woman put down a big piece of paper. She did not know what he was talking about and handed him the paper. It was a woodcut showing a manifestation that had been seen in the city of Cologne. "That is very old!" said the Councillor. "Wherever did you find this rare piece? The Fall from the 16th into the 19th Century It is most interesting, although its subject is a mere fable. Such phenomona are nowadays explained in the context of the northern lights and they are probably caused by the permeation of electricity into the atmosphere." Having heard this conversation, one of the men at the next table arose, bowed low to the councillor and said with immense respect: "You are indeed a truly learned man!" - "Let us drink mead and wine!" another guest cried, "and we invite you, learned Sir, to drink with us!" The Councillor was quite desperate. After he had sat there for an hour, drinking and making learned conversation, one of the men told him he was drunk. When he asked one of them to get him a carriage, they all thought he was talking a foreign language. The desire to return home became ever stronger, and he let himself fall under the table in the hope of escaping. But his disappearance was noticed, and he was hauled out by the feet. Thereby, fortunately, the goloshes fell off and all the magic was over. "Good Lord! Have I been lying on the street dreaming?" wondered the Councillor, once he had come to. He looked around, and everything was familiar again. A night watchman was sitting opposite him, fast asleep, whose goloshes had fallen off. Two minutes later, the Councillor was sitting in a carriage, singing the praises of contemporary life, which he now considered to be so much better than the Middle Ages.

But now listen to the story of what happened to the nightwatchman. When he opened his eyes, he saw above him a splendid night sky. A cloud of shooting stars were passing across the heavens leaving a shining trail behind them. Leap to the Moon"That's where they went!" he said, still half asleep. "It must be wonderful to get a close view of such things, especially of the moon. Could it really be true that when we die we fly from one celestial body to the other? That is probably not so, but it would be marvellous. Oh, if I could just take one small leap outside, then I wouldn't mind if my body remained behind on the steps!" The nightwatchman attempted to stand up. "By Jove - there's a pair of goloshes lying there!" and in no time at all he had the goloshes of Fortune on. Everybody knows about the speed which steam has put into travelling: most of us have tried it out, either on the railway or we have crossed the sea on a steamer. But this kind of travelling resembles the rambling of a sloth or the crawling of a snail in comparison to the speed of electricity. If dispatched by electricity, souls only need minutes to fly from one cosmic body to another. Picture 116. The Nightwatchman on the Moon And so the night watchman, who had only just uttered his wish to visit the moon, was able to travel the 52,000 miles there in a few seconds, having put on the goloshes of Fortune. The moon is, of course, made of lighter material than the earth, and is as soft as newly-fallen snow. He found himself on one of the innumerable mountain craters in a strange-looking city. The earth hovered like a large fiery red ball over his head. He saw many creatures that bore some resemblance to humans, but they looked very different to us. They spoke a language which the night watchman's soul understood quite well. They were talking about the earth and doubted that it was inhabited, as they thought the air was far too dense for a reasonable moon creature to be able to live there. They believed that the moon was the only place capable of accommodating living beings, that it was the only celestial body on which the citizens of the universe were able to dwell.

But we must not not forget East Street: let us see how the body of the night watchman was doing. It was sitting lifeless on the stairs. "What time is it, watchman?" a passer-by inquired. But there was no answer out of the night watchman, and so the man with the question pulled his nose gently. That was the end of the watchman's precarious equilibrium: his body fell down and he lay there, dead. A report was written and he was brought to hospital the following morning. The first thing that happened there was that his goloshes were removed, and at once the soul flew back into the abandoned human form. The man came back to life. He assured them it had been the most terrible night of his life, but that he had fortunately survived. He was allowed to leave the hospital the same day, but the goloshes remained behind, where they were to lead a young doctor to the strangest adventures. The young doctor who had put on the goloshes wore them when he went out to enjoy himself in the evening. Picture 117. The X-Ray Glasses He attended a performance in a well-known theatre for connoisseurs. Inspired by a poem recited in the course of the evening, he meditated on the benefits of having glasses which would allow one to see into people's hearts. "Oh!" he sighed, "if only I could see what the hearts of the people sitting here in front of me are like!" Lo and behold, that was enough for the goloshes. At once there was a pair of glasses on the man's nose and he embarked on a highly unusual journey right through the hearts of the audience. The first heart that he walked through was that of a lady, and it seemed like large and most beautiful flower garden. But then he had to go on into the next heart. This was a very modest little attic room in which cleanliness and contentment reigned despite poverty. But then he slipped into the heart of an elderly matron, which resembled an old dilapidated pigeon house. Her husband acted as weathercock: he was merely ornamental and not allowed to crow. In like manner the doctor passed through the hearts of all the people in the audience and he got several bad frights. When he withdrew from the last heart, he took off the glasses, dazed from the ordeal. "God!" he sighed, "one should not be able to look into the hearts of other people. It could drive one to despair". It took him a long time to come to terms with this experience. It suddenly occurred to him that the goloshes might have something to do with the magic, and he therefore handed them over to the Lost Property office of the police.

Poet and Writer

It so happened that a clerk in the Lost Property office mistook his goloshes for those of Fortune - for even a police clerk can on occasion make a mistake. On his way home, he met a young poet who enthused about a marvellous summer journey. "You have a great life!" said the clerk, "travelling and writing poetry - that must be such a joy!" The poet and clerk shook hands and went their ways. "They are a race apart, those poets!" mused the clerk. "I would love to be a poet like him!" The magic goloshes at once began to take action. A warm delicious fragrance coming from exotic southern lands fanned his cheeks, which the airless police office had made pale and wan. Picture 118. The Writer as a Lark"My goodness! What marvellous spring air, and a laughing sun! I feel an irresistible urge to travel." Filled with enthusiasm, he reached into his pocket, and found a bundle of papers there. They astounded him. "Sigbrith, A Tragedy in Five Acts", he read. "What is this? Did I write this play? Surely not: a poet must have put it into my pocket. Wait - there is another letter here!" The director of the theatre wrote - and none too politely - that the tragedy had been rejected. "Hm, hm!" said the clerk, sinking down on to a seat. "I must be asleep and dreaming!" His gaze turned to the twittering birds hopping merrily from branch to branch. "Ah," he sighed, the letter weighing on his spirits. "If only I could rise up from this leaden earth like those lovely larks over there!" That very moment his sleeves and the tails of his coat spread out as wings, his clothes turned into feathers and his goloshes to claws. He was aware of what was happening and smiled at his funny dream. And now the clerk took off into the air as a lark, chirruping jubilantly. When he flew down and landed on a meadow, the leaves of grass seemed to him to be as tall as palm trees. The Bird-Catcher But he only saw them for a short moment, and then suddenly dark night descended upon him. A boy had thrown a large cap over him. A hand reached in under it, catching the clerk by the wings. He squeaked loudly: "You saucy rascal! I am a police officer!" But all the boy heard was: "Squeak, squeak!" The boy ran quickly with the bird into the nearest house in Goth Street. "It is a good job that I am dreaming!" twittered the clerk, "otherwise I really might become rude! First of all I was a poet, and now as a lark I have fallen into the hands of this blackguard of a boy." And before he knew what had happened, he found himself sitting in an empty bird-cage which was hanging near a window. Close by he saw a large green parrot and a canary also in cages. The parrot, who was called Little Daddy, was a droll chatterbox. "No!" he squawked at intervals in the middle of a lot of talk, "let's be human!" The chirruping of the canary was incomprehensible, but the clerk, who was now himself a bird, understood every word. "You small, grey bird, and you a native of these parts!" twittered the canary. "And yet you are a prisoner too! It must be cold out there in the forests, but that is where freedom lives, so fly away! Picture 119. Flight through the Open Window They forgot to close your cage: the upper window is open. Fly away, fly away!" And that is what the clerk did - whoosh and he was out of the cage. Just then a black cat came into the room and at once started chasing the clerk. The canary in the cage fluttered up and down, the parrot beat its wings and called interminably: "Let us be human!" The clerk got a terrible fright and flew out of the window, over the houses and streets. Finally he had to take a rest. The house opposite seemed somehow familiar; one of the windows was open and he flew in. It was his own room, and he landed on the table. There were two shadowy figures in the room: we know them both - it was the fairy of Care and the messenger of Fortune. "Look at that", said the fairy of Care, pointing to the clerk, who was cowering on the table in his grey feathers. "What good fortune did your goloshes bring to this man, sister?" - "You are quite right: it would be a sad story if this police clerk didn't get into his office in time tomorrow." So Care and Fortune agreed to release the clerk, and they took the goloshes off his feet. The clerk, now once again in human form, jumped from the table and wanted to seize the goloshes and throw them out the window. But the "Goloshes of Fortune" had vanished.