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Dreaming Child
by [?]

There was a short period of his life in which Jens made the other children of the back-yard parties to his happiness. He was, he told them, far from being the half-wit barely tolerated by old Madam Mahler, he was on the contrary, the favourite of fortune. He had a Papa and Mamma and a fine house of his own, with such and such things
in it, a carriage, and horses in the stable. He was spoilt and would get everything he asked for. It was a curious thing that the children did not laugh at him, nor afterwards pursue him with mockery. They almost appeared to believe him. Only they could not understand or follow his fancies, they took but little interest in them, and after a while they altogether disregarded them. So Jens again gave up sharing the secret of his felicity with the world.

Still some of the questions put to him by the children had set the boy’s mind working, so that he asked Mamzell Ane,—for the confidence between them by this time was complete,—how it had come to pass that he had lost contact with his home and had been taken into Madam Mahler’s establishment? Mamzell Ane found it difficult to answer him, she could not explain the fact to herself. It would be, she reflected, part of the confused and corrupt state of the world in general. When she had thought the matter over, she solemnly, in the manner of a Sibyl, furnished him with an explanation. It was, she said, by no means unheard of, neither in life nor in books, that a child in the highest and happiest circumstances, and most dearly beloved by his parents, enigmatically vanished and was lost. She stopped short at this, for even to her dauntless and proven soul, the theme seemed too tragic to be further dwelt on. Jens accepted the explanation in the spirit in which it was given, and from this moment saw himself as that melancholy, but not uncommon phenomenon: a vanished and lost child.

But when Jens was six years old, Mamzell Ane died, leaving to him herfew earthly possessions: a thin-worn silver thimble, a fine pair ofscissors, and a little black chair with roses painted on it. Jens seta great value to these things, and every day gravely contemplated them. Just then, Madam Mahler began to see the end of her hundred rixdollars. She had been piqued by her old friend’s absorption in the child, and so decided to get her own back. From now on she would make the boy useful to her in the business of the laundry. His life therefore was no longer his own, and the thimble, the scissors and the chair stood in Madam Mahler’s room, the sole tangible remnants, or proofs, of that splendour which he and Mamzell Ane had known of and shared.

At the same time as these events took place in Adelgade, there livedin a stately house in Bredgade, a young married couple, whose nameswere Jacob and Emilie Vandamm. The two were cousins, she being theonly child of one of the big shipowners of Copenhagen, and he, the sonof that magnate’s sister—so that if it had not been for her sex, theyoung lady would with time have become head of the firm. The old shipowner, who was a widower, with his widowed sister occupied the two loftier lower stories of the house. The family held closely together, and the young couple had been betrothed from childhood.