Number 13 by
Among the towns of Jutland, Viborg justly holds a high place. It is
the seat of a bishopric; it has a handsome but almost entirely new
cathedral, a charming garden, a lake of great beauty, and many storks.
Near it is Hald, accounted one of the prettiest things in Denmark, and
hard by is Finderup, where Marsk Stig murdered King Erik Glipping on
St. Cecilia's Day, in the year 1286. Fifty-six blows of square-headed
iron maces were traced on Erik's skull when his tomb was opened in the
seventeenth century. But I am not writing a guide-book.
There are good hotels in ViborgPreisler's and the Phoenix are all
that can be desired. But my cousin whose experiences I have to tell you
now, went to the Golden Lion the first time that he visited Viborg. He
has not been there since, and the following pages will perhaps explain
the reason of his abstention.
The Golden Lion is one of the very few houses in the town that were
not destroyed in the great fire of 1726, which practically demolished
the cathedral, the Sognekirke, the Raadhuus, and so much else that was
old and interesting. It is a great red-brick housethat is, the front
is of brick, with corbie steps on the gables and a text over the door,
but the courtyard into which the omnibus drives is of black and white
wood and plaster.
The sun was declining in the heavens when my cousin walked up to the
door, and the light smote full upon the imposing façade of the house.
He was delighted with the old-fashioned aspect of the place, and
promised himself a thoroughly satisfactory and amusing stay in an inn
so typical of old Jutland.
It was not business in the ordinary sense of the word that had
brought Mr. Anderson to Viborg. He was engaged upon some researches
into the Church history of Denmark, and it had come to his knowledge
that in the Rigsarkiv of Viborg there were papers, saved from the fire,
relating to the last days of Roman Catholicism in the country. He
proposed, therefore, to spend a considerable timeperhaps as much as a
fortnight or three weeksin examining and copying these, and he hoped
that the Golden Lion would be able to give him a room of sufficient
size to serve alike as a bedroom and a study. His wishes were explained
to the landlord, and, after a certain amount of thought, the latter
suggested that perhaps it might be the best way for the gentleman to
look at one or two of the larger rooms and pick one for himself. It
seemed a good idea.
The top floor was soon rejected as entailing too much getting
upstairs after the day's work; the second floor contained no room of
exactly the dimensions required; but on the first floor there was a
choice of two or three rooms which would, so far as size went, suit
The landlord was strongly in favour of Number 17, but Mr. Anderson
pointed out that its windows commanded only the blank wall of the next
house, and that it would be very dark in the afternoon. Either Number
12 or Number 14 would be better, for both of them looked on the street,
and the bright evening light and the pretty view would more than
compensate him for the additional amount of noise.
Eventually Number 12 was selected. Like its neighbours, it had three
windows, all on one side of the room; it was fairly high and unusually
long. There was, of course, no fireplace, but the stove was handsome
and rather olda cast-iron erection, on the side of which was a
representation of Abraham sacrificing Isaac, and the inscription, 1
Bog Mose, Cap. 22, above. Nothing else in the room was remarkable; the
only interesting picture was an old coloured print of the town, date
Supper-time was approaching, but when Anderson, refreshed by the
ordinary ablutions, descended the staircase, there were still a few
minutes before the bell rang. He devoted them to examining the list of
his fellow-lodgers. As is usual in Denmark, their names were displayed
on a large blackboard, divided into columns and lines, the numbers of
the rooms being painted in at the beginning of each line. The list was
not exciting. There was an advocate, or Sagförer, a German, and some
bagmen from Copenhagen. The one and only point which suggested any food
for thought was the absence of any Number 13 from the tale of the
rooms, and even this was a thing which Anderson had already noticed
half a dozen times in his experience of Danish hotels. He could not
help wondering whether the objection to that particular number, common
as it is, was so widespread and so strong as to make it difficult to
let a room so ticketed, and he resolved to ask the landlord if he and
his colleagues in the profession had actually met with many clients who
refused to be accommodated in the thirteenth room.
He had nothing to tell me (I am giving the story as I heard it from
him) about what passed at supper, and the evening, which was spent in
unpacking and arranging his clothes, books, and papers, was not more
eventful. Toward eleven o'clock he resolved to go to bed, but with him,
as with a good many other people nowadays, an almost necessary
preliminary to bed, if he meant to sleep, was the reading of a few
pages of print, and he now remembered that the particular book which he
had been reading in the train, and which alone would satisfy him at
that present moment, was in the pocket of his greatcoat, then hanging
on a peg outside the dining-room.
To run down and secure it was the work of a moment, and, as the
passages were by no means dark, it was not difficult for him to find
his way back to his own door. So, at least, he thought; but when he
arrived there, and turned the handle, the door entirely refused to
open, and he caught the sound of a hasty movement toward it from
within. He had tried the wrong door, of course. Was his own room to the
right or to the left? He glanced at the number: it was 13. His room
would be on the left; and so it was. And not before he had been in bed
for some minutes, had read his wonted three or four pages of his book,
blown out his light, and turned over to go to sleep, did it occur to
him that, whereas on the blackboard of the hotel there had been no
Number 13, there was undoubtedly a room numbered 13 in the hotel. He
felt rather sorry he had not chosen it for his own. Perhaps he might
have done the landlord a little service by occupying it, and given him
the chance of saying that a well-worn English gentleman had lived in it
for three weeks and liked it very much. But probably it was used as a
servant's room or something of the kind. After all, it was most likely
not so large or good a room as his own. And he looked drowsily about
the room, which was fairly perceptible in the half-light from the
street-lamp. It was a curious effect, he thought. Rooms usually look
larger in a dim light than a full one, but this seemed to have
contracted in length and grown proportionately higher. Well, well!
sleep was more important than these vague ruminationsand to sleep he
On the day after his arrival Anderson attacked the Rigsarkiv of
Viborg. He was, as one might expect in Denmark, kindly received, and
access to all that he wished to see was made as easy for him as
possible. The documents laid before him were far more numerous and
interesting than he had at all anticipated. Besides official papers,
there was a large bundle of correspondence relating to Bishop Jörgen
Friis, the last Roman Catholic who held the see, and in these there
cropped up many amusing and what are called intimate details of
private life and individual character. There was much talk of a house
owned by the Bishop, but not inhabited by him in the town. Its tenant
was apparently somewhat of a scandal and a stumbling-block to the
reforming party. He was a disgrace, they wrote, to the city; he
practised secret and wicked arts, and had sold his soul to the enemy.
It was of a piece with the gross corruption and superstition of the
Babylonish Church that such a viper and blood-sucking Troldmand
should be patronized and harboured by the Bishop. The Bishop met these
reproaches boldly; he protested his own abhorrence of all such things
as secret arts, and required his antagonists to bring the matter before
the proper courtof course, the spiritual courtand sift it to the
bottom. No one could be more ready and willing than himself to condemn
Mag. Nicolas Francken if the evidence showed him to have been guilty of
any of the crimes informally alleged against him.
Anderson had not time to do more than glance at the next letter of
the Protestant leader, Rasmus Nielsen, before the record office was
closed for the day, but he gathered its general tenor, which was to the
effect that Christian men were now no longer bound by the decisions of
Bishops of Rome, and that the Bishop's Court was not, and could not be,
a fit or competent tribunal to judge so grave and weighty a cause.
On leaving the office, Mr. Anderson was accompanied by the old
gentleman who presided over it, and, as they walked, the conversation
very naturally turned to the papers of which I have just been speaking.
Herr Scavenius, the Archivist of Viborg, though very well informed
as to the general run of the documents under his charge, was not a
specialist in those of the Reformation period. He was much interested
in what Anderson had to tell him about them. He looked forward with
great pleasure, he said, to seeing the publication in which Mr.
Anderson spoke of embodying their contents. This house of the Bishop
Friis, he added, it is a great puzzle to me where it can have stood.
I have studied carefully the topography of old Viborg, but it is most
unluckyof the old terrier of the Bishop's property which was made in
1560, and of which we have the greater part in the Arkiv, just the
piece which had the list of the town property is missing. Never mind.
Perhaps I shall some day succeed to find him.
After taking some exerciseI forget exactly how or whereAnderson
went back to the Golden Lion, his supper, his game of patience, and his
bed. On the way to his room it occurred to him that he had forgotten to
talk to the landlord about the omission of Number 13 from the hotel
board, and also that he might as well make sure that Number 13 did
actually exist before he made any reference to the matter.
The decision was not difficult to arrive at. There was the door with
its number as plain as could be, and work of some kind was evidently
going on inside it, for as he neared the door he could hear footsteps
and voices, or a voice, within. During the few seconds in which he
halted to make sure of the number, the footsteps ceased, seemingly very
near the door, and he was a little startled at hearing a quick hissing
breathing as of a person in strong excitement. He went on to his own
room, and again he was surprised to find how much smaller it seemed now
than it had when he selected it. It was a slight disappointment, but
only slight. If he found it really not large enough, he could very
easily shift to another. In the meantime he wanted somethingas far as
I remember it was a pocket-handkerchiefout of his portmanteau, which
had been placed by the porter on a very inadequate trestle or stool
against the wall at the furthest end of the room from his bed. Here was
a very curious thing: the portmanteau was not to be seen. It had been
moved by officious servants; doubtless the contents had been put in the
wardrobe. No, none of them were there. This was vexatious. The idea of
a theft he dismissed at once. Such things rarely happen in Denmark, but
some piece of stupidity had certainly been performed (which is not so
uncommon), and the stuepige must be severely spoken to. Whatever
it was that he wanted, it was not so necessary to his comfort that he
could not wait till the morning for it, and he therefore settled not to
ring the bell and disturb the servants. He went to the windowthe
right-hand window it wasand looked out on the quiet street. There was
a tall building opposite, with large spaces of dead wall; no passers
by; a dark night; and very little to be seen of any kind.
The light was behind him, and he could see his own shadow clearly
cast on the wall opposite. Also the shadow of the bearded man in Number
11 on the left, who passed to and fro in shirt sleeves once or twice,
and was seen first brushing his hair, and later on in a nightgown. Also
the shadow of the occupant of Number 13 on the right. This might be
more interesting. Number 13 was, like himself, leaning on his elbows on
the window-sill looking out into the street. He seemed to be a tall
thin manor was it by any chance a woman?at least, it was someone
who covered his or her head with some kind of drapery before going to
bed, and, he thought, must be possessed of a red lamp-shadeand the
lamp must be flickering very much. There was a distinct playing up and
down of a dull red light on the opposite wall. He craned out a little
to see if he could make any more of the figure, but beyond a fold of
some light, perhaps white, material on the window-sill he could see
Now came a distant step in the street, and its approach seemed to
recall Number 13 to a sense of his exposed position, for very swiftly
and suddenly he swept aside from the window, and his red light went
out. Anderson, who had been smoking a cigarette, laid the end of it on
the window-sill and went to bed.
Next morning he was woke by the stuepige with hot water, etc.
He roused himself, and after thinking out the correct Danish words,
said as distinctly as he could:
You must not move my portmanteau. Where is it?
As is not uncommon, the maid laughed, and went away without making
any distinct answer.
Anderson, rather irritated, sat up in bed, intending to call her
back, but he remained sitting up, staring straight in front of him.
There was his portmanteau on its trestle, exactly where he had seen the
porter put it when he first arrived. This was a rude shock for a man
who prided himself on his accuracy of observation. How it could
possibly have escaped him the night before he did not pretend to
understand; at any rate, there it was now.
The daylight showed more than the portmanteau; it let the true
proportions of the room with its three windows appear, and satisfied
its tenant that his choice after all had not been a bad one. When he
was almost dressed he walked to the middle one of the three windows to
look out at the weather. Another shock awaited him. Strangely
unobservant he must have been last night. He could have sworn ten times
over that he had been smoking at the right-hand window the last thing
before he went to bed, and here was his cigarette-end on the sill of
the middle window.
He started to go down to breakfast. Rather late, but Number 13 was
later: here were his boots still outside his doora gentleman's boots.
So then Number 13 was a man, not a woman. Just then he caught sight of
the number on the door. It was 14. He thought he must have passed
Number 13 without noticing it. Three stupid mistakes in twelve hours
were too much for a methodical, accurate-minded man, so he turned back
to make sure. The next number to 14 was number 12, his own room. There
was no Number 13 at all.
After some minutes devoted to a careful consideration of everything
he had had to eat and drink during the last twenty-four hours, Anderson
decided to give the question up. If his eyes or his brain were giving
way he would have plenty of opportunities for ascertaining that fact;
if not, then he was evidently being treated to a very interesting
experience. In either case the development of events would certainly be
During the day he continued his examination of the episcopal
correspondence which I have already summarized. To his disappointment,
it was incomplete. Only one other letter could be found which referred
to the affair of Mag. Nicolas Francken. It was from the Bishop Jörgen
Friis to Rasmus Nielsen. He said:
Although we are not in the least degree inclined to assent to your
judgment concerning our court, and shall be prepared if need be to
withstand you to the uttermost in that behalf, yet forasmuch as our
trusty and well-beloved Mag. Nicolas Francken, against whom you have
dared to allege certain false and malicious charges, hath been suddenly
removed from among us, it is apparent that the question for this term
falls. But forasmuch as you further allege that the Apostle and
Evangelist St. John in his heavenly Apocalypse describes the Holy Roman
Church under the guise and symbol of the Scarlet Woman, be it known to
Search as he would, Anderson could find no sequel to this letter nor
any clue to the cause or manner of the removal of the casus belli. He could only suppose that Francken had died suddenly; and as there
were only two days between the date of Nielsen's last letterwhen
Francken was evidently still in beingand that of the Bishop's letter,
the death must have been completely unexpected.
In the afternoon he paid a short visit to Hald, and took his tea at
Baekkelund; nor could he notice, though he was in a somewhat nervous
frame of mind, that there was any indication of such a failure of eye
or brain as his experiences of the morning had led him to fear.
At supper he found himself next to the landlord.
What, he asked him, after some indifferent conversation, is the
reason why in most of the hotels one visits in this country the number
thirteen is left out of the list of rooms? I see you have none here.
The landlord seemed amused.
To think that you should have noticed a thing like that! I've
thought about it once or twice, myself, to tell the truth. An educated
man, I've said, has no business with these superstitious notions. I was
brought up myself here in the high school of Viborg, and our old master
was always a man to set his face against anything of that kind. He's
been dead now this many yearsa fine upstanding man he was, and ready
with his hands as well as his head. I recollect us boys, one snowy
Here he plunged into reminiscence.
Then you don't think there is any particular objection to having a
Number 13? said Anderson.
Ah! to be sure. Well, you understand, I was brought up to the
business by my poor old father. He kept an hotel in Aarhuus first, and
then, when we were born, he moved to Viborg here, which was his native
place, and had the Phoenix here until he died. That was in 1876. Then I
started business in Silkeborg, and only the year before last I moved
into this house.
Then followed more details as to the state of the house and business
when first taken over.
And when you came here, was there a Number 13?
No, no. I was going to tell you about that. You see, in a place
like this, the commercial classthe travellersare what we have to
provide for in general. And put them in Number 13? Why, they'd as soon
sleep in the street, or sooner. As far as I'm concerned myself, it
wouldn't make a penny difference to me what the number of my room was,
and so I've often said to them; but they stick to it that it brings
them bad luck. Quantities of stories they have among them of men that
have slept in a Number 13 and never been the same again, or lost their
best customers, orone thing and another, said the landlord, after
searching for a more graphic phrase.
Then, what do you use your Number 13 for? said Anderson, conscious
as he said the words of a curious anxiety quite disproportionate to the
importance of the question.
My Number 13? Why, don't I tell you that there isn't such a thing
in the house? I thought you might have noticed that. If there was it
would be next door to your own room.
Well, yes; only I happened to thinkthat is, I fancied last night
that I had seen a door numbered thirteen in that passage; and, really,
I am almost certain I must have been right, for I saw it the night
before as well.
Of course, Herr Kristensen laughed this notion to scorn, as Anderson
had expected, and emphasized with much iteration the fact that no
Number 13 existed or had existed before him in that hotel.
Anderson was in some ways relieved by his certainty, but still
puzzled, and he began to think that the best way to make sure whether
he had indeed been subject to an illusion or not was to invite the
landlord to his room to smoke a cigar later on in the evening. Some
photographs of English towns which he had with him formed a
sufficiently good excuse.
Herr Kristensen was flattered by the invitation, and most willingly
accepted it. At about ten o'clock he was to make his appearance, but
before that Anderson had some letters to write, and retired for the
purpose of writing them. He almost blushed to himself at confessing it,
but he could not deny that it was the fact that he was becoming quite
nervous about the question of the existence of Number 13; so much so
that he approached his room by way of Number 11, in order that he might
not be obliged to pass the door, or the place where the door ought to
be. He looked quickly and suspiciously about the room when he entered
it, but there was nothing beyond that indefinable air of being smaller
than usual, to warrant any misgivings. There was no question of the
presence or absence of his portmanteau to-night. He had himself emptied
it of its contents and lodged it under his bed. With a certain effort
he dismissed the thought of Number 13 from his mind, and sat down to
His neighbours were quiet enough. Occasionally a door opened in the
passage and a pair of boots was thrown out, or a bagman walked past
humming to himself, and outside, from time to time a cart thundered
over the atrocious cobble-stones, or a quick step hurried along the
Anderson finished his letters, ordered in whiskey and soda, and then
went to the window and studied the dead wall opposite and the shadows
As far as he could remember, Number 14 had been occupied by the
lawyer, a staid man, who said little at meals, being generally engaged
in studying a small bundle of papers beside his plate. Apparently,
however, he was in the habit of giving vent to his animal spirits when
alone. Why else should he be dancing? The shadow from the next room
evidently showed that he was. Again and again his thin form crossed the
window, his arms waved, and a gaunt leg was kicked up with surprising
agility. He seemed to be barefooted, and the floor must be well laid,
for no sound betrayed his movements. Sagförer Herr Anders Jensen,
dancing at ten o'clock at night in a hotel bedroom, seemed a fitting
subject for a historical painting in the grand style; and Anderson's
thoughts, like those of Emily in the Mysteries of Udolpho, began to
arrange themselves in the following lines:
When I return to my hotel,
At ten o'clock P.M.,
The waiters think I am unwell;
I do not care for them.
But when I've locked my chamber door,
And put my boots outside,
I dance all night upon the floor.
And even if my neighbours swore,
I'd go on dancing all the more,
For I'm acquainted with the law,
And in despite of all their jaw,
Their protests I deride.
Had not the landlord at this moment knocked at the door, it is
probable that quite a long poem might have been laid before the reader.
To judge from his look of surprise when he found himself in the room,
Herr Kristensen was struck, as Anderson had been, by something unusual
in its aspect. But he made no remark. Anderson's photographs interested
him mightily, and formed the text of many autobiographical discourses.
Nor is it quite clear how the conversation could have been diverted
into the desired channel of Number 13, had not the lawyer at this
moment begun to sing, and to sing in a manner which could leave no
doubt in anyone's mind that he was either exceedingly drunk or raving
mad. It was a high, thin voice that they heard, and it seemed dry, as
if from long disuse. Of words or tune there was no question. It went
sailing up to a surprising height, and was carried down with a
despairing moan as of a winter wind in a hollow chimney, or an organ
whose wind fails suddenly. It was a really horrible sound, and Anderson
felt that if he had been alone he must have fled for refuge and society
to some neighbour bagman's room.
The landlord sat open-mouthed.
I don't understand it, he said at last, wiping his forehead. It
is dreadful. I have heard it once before, but I made sure it was a
Is he mad? said Anderson.
He must be; and what a sad thing! Such a good customer, too, and so
successful in his business, by what I hear, and a young family to bring
Just then came an impatient knock at the door, and the knocker
entered, without waiting to be asked. It was the lawyer, in deshabille
and very rough-haired; and very angry he looked.
I beg pardon, sir, he said, but I should be much obliged if you
would kindly desist
Here he stopped, for it was evident that neither of the persons
before him was responsible for the disturbance; and after a moment's
lull it swelled forth again more wildly than before.
But what in the name of Heaven does it mean? broke out the lawyer.
Where is it? Who is it? Am I going out of my mind?
Surely, Herr Jensen, it comes from your room next door? Isn't there
a cat or something stuck in the chimney?
This was the best that occurred to Anderson to say, and he realized
its futility as he spoke; but any thing was better than to stand and
listen to that horrible voice, and look at the broad, white face of the
landlord, all perspiring and quivering as he clutched the arms of his
Impossible, said the lawyer, impossible. There is no chimney. I
came here because I was convinced the noise was going on here. It was
certainly in the next room to mine.
Was there no door between yours and mine? said Anderson eagerly.
No, sir, said Herr Jensen, rather sharply. At least, not this
Ah! said Anderson. Nor to-night?
I am not sure, said the lawyer with some hesitation.
Suddenly the crying or singing voice in the next room died away, and
the singer was heard seemingly to laugh to himself in a crooning
manner. The three men actually shivered at the sound. Then there was a
Come, said the lawyer, what have you to say, Herr Kristensen?
What does this mean?
Good Heaven! said Kristensen. How should I tell! I know no more
than you, gentlemen. I pray I may never hear such a noise again.
So do I, said Herr Jensen, and he added something under his
breath. Anderson thought it sounded like the last words of the Psalter,
omnis spiritus laudet Dominum, but he could not be sure.
But we must do something, said Andersonthe three of us. Shall
we go and investigate in the next room?
But that is Herr Jensen's room, wailed the landlord. It is no
use; he has come from there himself.
I am not so sure, said Jensen. I think this gentleman is right:
we must go and see.
The only weapons of defence that could be mustered on the spot were
a stick and umbrella. The expedition went out into the passage, not
without quakings. There was a deadly quiet outside, but a light shone
from under the next door. Anderson and Jensen approached it. The latter
turned the handle, and gave a sudden vigorous push. No use. The door
Herr Kristensen, said Jensen, will you go and fetch the strongest
servant you have in the place? We must see this through.
The landlord nodded, and hurried off, glad to be away from the scene
of action. Jensen and Anderson remained outside looking at the door.
It is Number 13, you see, said the latter.
Yes; there is your door, and there is mine, said Jensen.
My room has three windows in the daytime, said Anderson, with
difficulty suppressing a nervous laugh.
By George, so has mine! said the lawyer, turning and looking at
Anderson. His back was now to the door. In that moment the door opened,
and an arm came out and clawed at his shoulder. It was clad in ragged,
yellowish linen, and the bare skin, where it could be seen, had long
gray hair upon it.
Anderson was just in time to pull Jensen out of its reach with a cry
of disgust and fright, when the door shut again, and a low laugh was
Jensen had seen nothing, but when Anderson hurriedly told him what a
risk he had run, he fell into a great state of agitation, and suggested
that they should retire from the enterprise, and lock themselves up in
one or other of their rooms.
However, while he was developing this plan, the landlord and two
able-bodied men arrived on the scene, all looking rather serious and
alarmed. Jensen met them with a torrent of description and explanation,
which did not at all tend to encourage them for the fray.
The men dropped the crowbars they had brought, and said flatly that
they were not going to risk their throats in that devil's den. The
landlord was miserably nervous and undecided, conscious that if the
danger were not faced his hotel was ruined, and very loath to face it
himself. Luckily Anderson hit upon a way of rallying the demoralized
Is this, he said, the Danish courage I have heard so much of? It
isn't a German in there, and if it was, we are five to one.
The two servants and Jensen were stung into action by this, and made
a dash at the door.
Stop! said Anderson. Don't lose your heads. You stay out here
with the light, landlord, and one of you two men break in the door, and
don't go in when it gives way.
The men nodded, and the younger stepped forward, raised his crowbar,
and dealt a tremendous blow on the upper panel. The result was not in
the least what any of them anticipated. There was no cracking or
rending of woodonly a dull sound, as if the solid wall had been
struck. The man dropped his tool with a shout, and began rubbing his
elbow. His cry drew their eyes upon him for a moment; then Anderson
looked at the door again. It was gone; the plaster wall of the passage
stared him in the face, with a considerable gash in it where the
crowbar had struck it. Number 13 had passed out of existence.
For a brief space they stood perfectly still, gazing at the blank
wall. An early cock in the yard beneath was heard to crow; and as
Anderson glanced in the direction of the sound, he saw through the
window at the end of the long passage that the eastern sky was paling
to the dawn.
* * * * *
Perhaps, said the landlord, with hesitation, you gentleman would
like another room for to-nighta double-bedded one?
Neither Jensen nor Anderson was averse to the suggestion. They felt
inclined to hunt in couples after their late experience. It was found
convenient, when each of them went to his room to collect the articles
he wanted for the night, that the other should go with him and hold the
candle. They noticed that both Number 12 and Number 14 had three
* * * * *
Next morning the same party re-assembled in Number 12. The landlord
was naturally anxious to avoid engaging outside help, and yet it was
imperative that the mystery attaching to that part of the house should
be cleared up. Accordingly the two servants had been induced to take
upon them the function of carpenters. The furniture was cleared away,
and, at the cost of a good many irretrievably damaged planks, that
portion of the floor was taken up which lay nearest to Number 14.
You will naturally suppose that a skeletonsay that of Mag. Nicolas
Franckenwas discovered. That was not so. What they did find lying
between the beams which supported the flooring was a small copper box.
In it was a neatly-folded vellum document, with about twenty lines of
writing. Both Anderson and Jensen (who proved to be something of a
palæographer) were much excited by this discovery, which promised to
afford the key to these extraordinary phenomena.
* * * * *
I possess a copy of an astrological work which I have never read. It
has, by way of frontispiece, a woodcut by Hans Sebald Beham,
representing a number of sages seated round a table. This detail may
enable connoisseurs to identify the book. I cannot myself recollect its
title, and it is not at this moment within reach; but the fly-leaves of
it are covered with writing, and, during the ten years in which I have
owned the volume, I have not been able to determine which way up this
writing ought to be read, much less in what language it is. Not
dissimilar was the position of Anderson and Jensen after the protracted
examination to which they submitted the document in the copper box.
After two days' contemplation of it, Jensen, who was the bolder
spirit of the two, hazarded the conjecture that the language was either
Latin or Old Danish.
Anderson ventured upon no surmises, and was very willing to
surrender the box and the parchment to the Historical Society of Viborg
to be placed in their museum.
I had the whole story from him a few months later, as we sat in a
wood near Upsala, after a visit to the library there, where weor,
rather, Ihad laughed over the contract by which Daniel Salthenius (in
later life Professor of Hebrew at Königsberg) sold himself to Satan.
Anderson was not really amused.
Young idiot! he said, meaning Salthenius, who was only an
undergraduate when he committed that indiscretion, how did he know
what company he was courting?
And when I suggested the usual considerations he only grunted. That
same afternoon he told me what you have read; but he refused to draw
any inferences from it, and to assent to any that I drew for him.