Return to the Learned Man (The Shadow Part 2)

After fleeing his owner, The Shadow returns to visit the learned man. He relates his travels and his wealth, and discloses his intention to marry.

Where we left off:
“Nay; I cannot recover from my surprise!” said the learned man. “What is the meaning of all this?”
“Something common, is it not,” said the shadow. “But you yourself do not belong to the common order; and I, as you know well, have from a child followed in your footsteps. As soon as you found I was capable to go out alone in the world, I went my own way. I am in the most brilliant circumstances, but there came a sort of desire over me to see you once more before you die; you will die, I suppose? I also wished to see this land again—for you know we always love our native land. I know you have got another shadow again; have I anything to pay to it or you? If so, you will oblige me by saying what it is.”
“Nay, is it really thou?” said the learned man. “It is most remarkable: I never imagined that one’s old shadow could come again as a man.”

Return to the Learned Man (The Shadow Part 2)

The Shadow - Learned Man“Tell me what I have to pay,” said the shadow; “for I don’t like to be in any sort of debt.”

“How canst thou talk so?” said the learned man. “What debt is there to talk about? Make thyself as free as anyone else. I am extremely glad to hear of thy good fortune: sit down, old friend, and tell me a little how it has gone with thee, and what thou hast seen at our opposite neighbor’s there—in the warm lands.”

“Yes, I will tell you all about it,” said the shadow, and sat down: “but then you must also promise me, that, wherever you may meet me, you will never say to anyone here in the town that I have been your shadow. I intend to get betrothed, for I can provide for more than one family.”

“Be quite at thy ease about that,” said the learned man; “I shall not say to anyone who thou actually art: here is my hand—I promise it, and a man’s bond is his word.”

“A word is a shadow,” said the shadow, “and as such it must speak.”

It was really quite astonishing how much of a man it was. It was dressed entirely in black, and of the very finest cloth; it had patent leather boots, and a hat that could be folded together, so that it was bare crown and brim; not to speak of what we already know it had—seals, gold neck-chain, and diamond rings; yes, the shadow was well-dressed, and it was just that which made it quite a man.

“Now I shall tell you my adventures,” said the shadow; and then he sat, with the polished boots, as heavily as he could, on the arm of the learned man’s new shadow, which lay like a poodle-dog at his feet. Now this was perhaps from arrogance; and the shadow on the ground kept itself so still and quiet, that it might hear all that passed: it wished to know how it could get free, and work its way up, so as to become its own master.

“Do you know who lived in our opposite neighbor’s house?” said the shadow. “It was the most charming of all beings, it was Poesy! I was there for three weeks, and that has as much effect as if one had lived three thousand years, and read all that was composed and written; that is what I say, and it is right. I have seen everything and I know everything!”

“Poesy!” cried the learned man. “Yes, yes, she often dwells a recluse in large cities! Poesy! Yes, I have seen her—a single short moment, but sleep came into my eyes! She stood on the balcony and shone as the Aurora Borealis shines. Go on, go on—thou wert on the balcony, and went through the doorway, and then—”

“Then I was in the antechamber,” said the shadow. “You always sat and looked over to the antechamber. There was no light; there was a sort of twilight, but the one door stood open directly opposite the other through a long row of rooms and saloons, and there it was lighted up. I should have been completely killed if I had gone over to the maiden; but I was circumspect, I took time to think, and that one must always do.”

“And what didst thou then see?” asked the learned man.

“I saw everything, and I shall tell all to you: but—it is no pride on my part—as a free man, and with the knowledge I have, not to speak of my position in life, my excellent circumstances—I certainly wish that you would say YOU to me!”

It is the custom in Denmark for intimate acquaintances to use the second person singular, “Du,” (thou) when speaking to each other. When a friendship is formed between men, they generally affirm it, when occasion offers, either in public or private, by drinking to each other and exclaiming, “thy health,” at the same time striking their glasses together. This is called drinking “Duus”: they are then, “Duus Brodre,” (thou brothers) and ever afterwards use the pronoun “thou,” to each other, it being regarded as more familiar than “De,” (you). Father and mother, sister and brother say thou to one another—without regard to age or rank. Master and mistress say thou to their servants the superior to the inferior. But servants and inferiors do not use the same term to their masters, or superiors—nor is it ever used when speaking to a stranger, or anyone with whom they are but slightly acquainted—they then say as in English—you.

 

 

“I beg your pardon,” said the learned man; “it is an old habit with me. YOU are perfectly right, and I shall remember it; but now you must tell me all YOU saw!”

“Everything!” said the shadow. “For I saw everything, and I know everything!”

“How did it look in the furthest saloon?” asked the learned man. “Was it there as in the fresh woods? Was it there as in a holy church? Were the saloons like the starlit firmament when we stand on the high mountains?”

“Everything was there!” said the shadow. “I did not go quite in, I remained in the foremost room, in the twilight, but I stood there quite well; I saw everything, and I know everything! I have been in the antechamber at the court of Poesy.”

“But WHAT DID you see? Did all the gods of the olden times pass through the large saloons? Did the old heroes combat there? Did sweet children play there, and relate their dreams?”

“I tell you I was there, and you can conceive that I saw everything there was to be seen. Had you come over there, you would not have been a man; but I became so! And besides, I learned to know my inward nature, my innate qualities, the relationship I had with Poesy. At the time I was with you, I thought not of that, but always—you know it well—when the sun rose, and when the sun went down, I became so strangely great; in the moonlight I was very near being more distinct than yourself; at that time I did not understand my nature; it was revealed to me in the antechamber! I became a man! I came out matured; but you were no longer in the warm lands; as a man I was ashamed to go as I did. I was in want of boots, of clothes, of the whole human varnish that makes a man perceptible. I took my way—I tell it to you, but you will not put it in any book—I took my way to the cake woman—I hid myself behind her; the woman didn’t think how much she concealed. I went out first in the evening; I ran about the streets in the moonlight; I made myself long up the walls—it tickles the back so delightfully! I ran up, and ran down, peeped into the highest windows, into the saloons, and on the roofs, I peeped in where no one could peep, and I saw what no one else saw, what no one else should see! This is, in fact, a base world! I would not be a man if it were not now once accepted and regarded as something to be so! I saw the most unimaginable things with the women, with the men, with parents, and with the sweet, matchless children; I saw,” said the shadow, “what no human being must know, but what they would all so willingly know—what is bad in their neighbor. Had I written a newspaper, it would have been read! But I wrote direct to the persons themselves, and there was consternation in all the towns where I came. They were so afraid of me, and yet they were so excessively fond of me. The professors made a professor of me; the tailors gave me new clothes—I am well furnished; the master of the mint struck new coin for me, and the women said I was so handsome! And so I became the man I am. And I now bid you farewell. Here is my card—I live on the sunny side of the street, and am always at home in rainy weather!” And so away went the shadow. “That was most extraordinary!” said the learned man. Years and days passed away, then the shadow came again. “How goes it?” said the shadow.

“Alas!” said the learned man. “I write about the true, and the good, and the beautiful, but no one cares to hear such things; I am quite desperate, for I take it so much to heart!”

“But I don’t!” said the shadow. “I become fat, and it is that one wants to become! You do not understand the world. You will become ill by it. You must travel! I shall make a tour this summer; will you go with me? I should like to have a travelling companion! Will you go with me, as shadow? It will be a great pleasure for me to have you with me; I shall pay the travelling expenses!”

“Nay, this is too much!” said the learned man.

“It is just as one takes it!” said the shadow. “It will do you much good to travel! Will you be my shadow? You shall have everything free on the journey!”

“Nay, that is too bad!” said the learned man.

“But it is just so with the world!” said the shadow, “and so it will be!” and away it went again.

The learned man was not at all in the most enviable state; grief and torment followed him, and what he said about the true, and the good, and the beautiful, was, to most persons, like roses for a cow! He was quite ill at last.

“You really look like a shadow!” said his friends to him; and the learned man trembled, for he thought of it.

“You must go to a watering-place!” said the shadow, who came and visited him. “There is nothing else for it! I will take you with me for old acquaintance’ sake; I will pay the travelling expenses, and you write the descriptions—and if they are a little amusing for me on the way! I will go to a watering-place—my beard does not grow out as it ought—that is also a sickness—and one must have a beard! Now you be wise and accept the offer; we shall travel as comrades!”

The final part of The Shadow will be published next week (18 July).

 

 

 

I wrote a few children's books... Not on purpose.”
Steven Wright