Part 3 out of 4
was, for that matter, only a stable and a tinker's workshop.... She was
certainly on a wrong track if she was seeking any one there.
At this she turns her head away, and says: "I am not seeking for anybody.
I am only standing here; it was really only a whim. I" ... she stops.
Indeed, really, she only stood there, just stood there, evening after
evening, just for a whim's sake!
That was a little odd. I stood and pondered over it, and it perplexed me
more and more. I made up my mind to be daring; I jingled my money in my
pocket, and asked her, without further ado, to come and have a glass of
wine some place or another ... in consideration that winter had come, ha,
ha! ... it needn't take very long ... but perhaps she would scarcely....
Ah, no, thanks; she couldn't well do that. No! she couldn't do that; but
would I be so kind as to accompany her a little way? She ... it was rather
dark to go home now, and she was rather nervous about going up Carl Johann
after it got so late.
We moved on; she walked at my right side. A strange, beautiful feeling
empowered me; the certainty of being near a young girl. I looked at her
the whole way along. The scent of her hair; the warmth that irradiated
from her body; the perfume of woman that accompanied her; the sweet breath
every time she turned her face towards me--everything penetrated in an
ungovernable way through all my senses. So far, I just caught a glimpse of
a full, rather pale, face behind the veil, and a high bosom that curved
out against her cape. The thought of all the hidden beauty which I
surmised lay sheltered under the cloak and veil bewildered me, making me
idiotically happy without any reasonable grounds. I could not endure it
any longer; I touched her with my hand, passed my fingers over her
shoulder, and smiled imbecilely.
"How queer you are," said I.
"Am I, really; in what way?"
Well, in the first place, simply, she had a habit of standing outside a
stable door, evening after evening, without any object whatever, just for
a whim's sake....
Oh, well, she might have her reason for doing so; besides, she liked
staying up late at night; it was a thing she had always had a great fancy
for. Did I care about going to bed before twelve?
I? If there was anything in the world I hated it was to go to bed before
twelve o'clock at night.
Ah, there, you see! She, too, was just the same; she took this little tour
in the evenings when she had nothing to lose by doing so. She lived up in
St. Olav's Place.
"Ylajali," I cried.
"I beg pardon?"
"I only said 'Ylajali' ... it's all right. Continue...."
She lived up in St. Olav's Place, lonely enough, together with her mother,
to whom one couldn't talk because she was so deaf. Was there anything odd
in her liking to get out for a little?
"No, not at all," I replied.
"No? well, what then?"
I could hear by her voice that she was smiling.
Hadn't she a sister?
Yes; an older sister. But, by-the-way, how did
I know that? She had gone to Hamburg.
"Yes; five weeks ago." From where did I learn that she had a sister?
I didn't learn it at all; I only asked.
We kept silence. A man passes us, with a pair of shoes under his arm;
otherwise, the street is empty as far as we can see. Over at the Tivoli a
long row of coloured lamps are burning. It no longer snows; the sky is
"Gracious! don't you freeze without an overcoat?" inquires the lady,
suddenly looking at me.
Should I tell her why I had no overcoat; make my sorry condition known at
once, and frighten her away? As well first as last. Still, it was
delightful to walk here at her side and keep her in ignorance yet a while
longer. So I lied. I answered:
"No, not at all"; and, in order to change the subject, I asked, "Have you
seen the menagerie in the Tivoli?"
"No," she answered; "is there really anything to see?"
Suppose she were to take it into her head to wish to go there? Into that
blaze of light, with the crowd of people. Why, she would be filled with
shame; I would drive her out again, with my shabby clothes, and lean face;
perhaps she might even notice that I had no waistcoat on....
"Ah, no; there is sure to be nothing worth seeing!"
And a lot of happy ideas occurred to me, of which I at once made use; a
few sparse words, fragments left in my dessicated brain. What would one
expect from such a small menagerie? On the whole, it did not interest me
in the least to see animals in cases. These animals know that one is
standing staring at them; they feel hundreds of inquisitive looks upon
them; are conscious of them. No; I would prefer to see animals that didn't
know one observed them; shy creatures that nestle in their lair, and lie
with sluggish green eyes, and lick their claws, and muse, eh?
Yes; I was certainly right in that.
It was only animals in all their peculiar fearfulness and peculiar
savagery that possessed a charm. The soundless, stealthy tread in the
total darkness of night; the hidden monsters of the woods; the shrieks of
a bird flying past; the wind, the smell of blood, the rumbling in space;
in short, the reigning spirit of the kingdom of savage creatures hovering
over savagery ... the unconscious poetry!... But I was afraid this bored
her. The consciousness of my great poverty seized me anew, and crushed me.
If I had only been in any way well-enough dressed to have given her the
pleasure of this little tour in the Tivoli! I could not make out this
creature, who could find pleasure in letting herself be accompanied up the
whole of Carl Johann Street by a half-naked beggar. What, in the name of
God, was she thinking of? And why was I walking there, giving myself airs,
and smiling idiotically at nothing? Had I any reasonable cause, either,
for letting myself be worried into a long walk by this dainty, silken-clad
bird? Mayhap it did not cost me an effort? Did I not feel the ice of death
go right into my heart at even the gentlest puff of wind that blew against
us? Was not madness running riot in my brain, just for lack of food for
many months at a stretch? Yet she hindered me from going home to get even
a little milk into my parched mouth; a spoonful of sweet milk, that I
might perhaps be able to keep down. Why didn't she turn her back on me,
and let me go to the deuce?...
I became distracted; my despair reduced me to the last extremity. I said:
"Considering all things, you ought not to walk with me. I disgrace you
right under every one's eyes, if only with my clothes. Yes, it is
positively true; I mean it."
She starts, looks up quickly at me, and is silent; then she exclaims
"Indeed, though!" More she doesn't say.
"What do you mean by that?" I queried.
"Ugh, no; you make me feel ashamed.... We have not got very far now"; and
she walked on a little faster.
We turned up University Street, and could already see the lights in St.
Olav's Place. Then she commenced to walk slowly again.
"I have no wish to be indiscreet," I say; "but won't you tell me your name
before we part? and won't you, just for one second, lift up your veil so
that I can see you? I would be really so grateful."
A pause. I walked on in expectation.
"You have seen me before," she replies.
"Ylajali," I say again.
"Beg pardon. You followed me once for half-a-day, almost right home. Were
you tipsy that time?"
I could hear again that she smiled.
"Yes," I said. "Yes, worse luck, I was tipsy that time."
"That was horrid of you!"
And I admitted contritely that it was horrid of me.
We reached the fountains; we stop and look up at the many lighted windows
of No. 2.
"Now, you mustn't come any farther with me," she says. "Thank you for
coming so far."
I bowed; I daren't say anything; I took off my hat and stood bareheaded. I
wonder if she will give me her hand.
"Why don't you ask me to go back a little way with you?" she asks, in a
low voice, looking down at the toe of her shoe.
"Great Heavens!" I reply, beside myself, "Great Heavens, if you only
"Yes; but only a little way."
And we turned round.
I was fearfully confused. I absolutely did not know if I were on my head
or my heels. This creature upset all my chain of reasoning; turned it
topsy-turvy. I was bewitched and extraordinarily happy. It seemed to me as
if I were being dragged enchantingly to destruction. She had expressly
willed to go back; it wasn't my notion, it was her own desire. I walk on
and look at her, and get more and more bold. She encourages me, draws me
to her by each word she speaks. I forget for a moment my poverty, my
humble position, my whole miserable condition. I feel my blood course
madly through my whole body, as in the days before I caved in, and
resolved to feel my way by a little ruse.
"By-the-way, it wasn't you I followed that time," said I. "It was your
"Was it my sister?" she questions, in the highest degree amazed. She
stands still, looks up at me, and positively waits for an answer. She puts
the question in all sober earnest.
"Yes," I replied. "Hum--m, that is to say, it was the younger of the two
ladies who went on in front of me."
"The youngest, eh? eh? a-a-ha!" she laughed out all at once, loudly,
heartily, like a child. "Oh, how sly you are; you only said that just to
get me to raise my veil, didn't you? Ah, I thought so; but you may just
wait till you are blue first ... just for punishment."
We began to laugh and jest; we talked incessantly all the time. I do not
know what I said, I was so happy. She told me that she had seen me once
before, a long time ago, in the theatre. I had then comrades with me, and
I behaved like a madman; I must certainly have been tipsy that time too,
more's the shame.
Why did she think that?
Oh, I had laughed so.
"Really, a-ah yes; I used to laugh a lot in those days."
"But now not any more?"
"Oh yes; now too. It is a splendid thing to exist sometimes."
We reached Carl Johann. She said: "Now we won't go any farther," and we
returned through University Street. When we arrived at the fountain once
more I slackened my pace a little; I knew that I could not go any farther
"Well, now you must turn back here," she said, and stopped.
"Yes, I suppose I must."
But a second after she thought I might as well go as far as the door with
her. Gracious me, there couldn't be anything wrong in that, could there?
"No," I replied.
But when we were standing at the door all my misery confronted me clearly.
How was one to keep up one's courage when one was so broken down? Here I
stood before a young lady, dirty, ragged, torn, disfigured by hunger,
unwashed, and only half-clad; it was enough to make one sink into the
earth. I shrank into myself, bent my head involuntarily, and said:
"May I not meet you any more then?"
I had no hope of being permitted to see her again. I almost wished for a
sharp No, that would pull me together a bit and render me callous.
"Yes," she whispered softly, almost inaudibly.
"I don't know."
"Won't you be so kind as to lift your veil, only just for a minute," I
asked. "So that I can see whom I have been talking to. Just for one
moment, for indeed I must see whom I have been talking to."
"You can meet me outside here on Tuesday evening," she said. "Will you?"
"Yes, dear lady, if I have permission to."
"At eight o'clock."
I stroked down her cloak with my hand, merely to have an excuse for
touching her. It was a delight to me to be so near her.
"And you mustn't think all too badly of me," she added; she was smiling
Suddenly she made a resolute movement and drew her veil up over her
forehead; we stood and gazed at one another for a second.
"Ylajali!" I cried. She stretched herself up, flung her arms round my neck
and kissed me right on the mouth--only once, swiftly, bewilderingly
swiftly, right on the mouth. I could feel how her bosom heaved; she was
breathing violently. She wrenched herself suddenly out of my clasp, called
a good-night, breathlessly, whispering, and turned and ran up the stairs
without a word more....
The hall door shut.
* * * * *
It snowed still more the next day, a heavy snow mingled with rain; great
wet flakes that fell to earth and were turned to mud. The air was raw and
icy. I woke somewhat late, with my head in a strange state of confusion,
my heart intoxicated from the foregone evening by the agitation of that
delightful meeting. In my rapture (I had lain a while awake and fancied
Ylajali at my side) I spread out my arms and embraced myself and kissed
the air. At length I dragged myself out of bed and procured a fresh cup of
milk, and straight on top of that a plate of beef. I was no longer hungry,
but my nerves were in a highly-strung condition.
I went off to the clothes-shop in the bazaar. It occurred to me that I
might pick up a second-hand waistcoat cheaply, something to put on under
my coat; it didn't matter what.
I went up the steps to the bazaar and took hold of one and began to
While I was thus engaged an acquaintance came by; he nodded and called up
to me. I let the waistcoat hang and went down to him. He was a designer,
and was on the way to his office.
"Come with me and have a glass of beer," he said. "But hurry up, I haven't
much time.... What lady was that you were walking with yesterday evening?"
"Listen here now," said I, jealous of his bare
thought. "Supposing it was my _fiancee_."
"By Jove!" he exclaimed.
"Yes; it was all settled yesterday evening."
This nonplussed him completely. He believed me implicitly. I lied in the
most accomplished manner to get rid of him. We ordered the beer, drank it,
"Well, good-bye! O listen," he said suddenly. "I owe you a few shillings.
It is a shame, too, that I haven't paid you long ago, but now you shall
have them during the next few days."
"Yes, thanks," I replied; but I knew that he would never pay me back the
few shillings. The beer, I am sorry to say, went almost immediately to my
head. The thought of the previous evening's adventure overwhelmed me--made
me delirious. Supposing she were not to meet me on Tuesday! Supposing she
were to begin to think things over, to get suspicious ... get suspicious
of what?... My thoughts gave a jerk and dwelt upon the money. I grew
afraid; deadly afraid of myself. The theft rushed in upon me in all its
details. I saw the little shop, the counter, my lean hands as I seized the
money, and I pictured to myself the line of action the police would adopt
when they would come to arrest me. Irons on my hands and feet; no, only on
my hands; perhaps only on one hand. The dock, the clerk taking down the
evidence, the scratch of his pen--perhaps he might take a new one for the
occasion--his look, his threatening look. There, Herr Tangen, to the cell,
the eternally dark....
Humph! I clenched my hands tightly to try and summon courage, walked
faster and faster, and came to the market-place. There I sat down.
Now, no child's play. How in the wide world could any one prove that I had
stolen? Besides, the huckster's boy dare not give an alarm, even if it
should occur to him some day how it had all happened. He valued his
situation far too dearly for that. No noise, no scenes, may I beg!
But all the same, this money weighed in my pocket sinfully, and gave me no
peace. I began to question myself, and I became clearly convinced that I
had been happier before, during the period in which I had suffered in all
honour. And Ylajali? Had I, too, not polluted her with the touch of my
sinful hands? Lord, O Lord my God, Ylajali! I felt as drunk as a bat,
jumped up suddenly, and went straight over to the cake woman who was
sitting near the chemist's under the sign of the elephant. I might even
yet lift myself above dishonour; it was far from being too late; I would
show the whole world that I was capable of doing so.
On the way over I got the money in readiness, held every farthing of it in
my hand, bent down over the old woman's table as if I wanted something,
clapped the money without further ado into her hands. I spoke not a word,
turned on my heel, and went my way.
What a wonderful savour there was in feeling oneself an honest man once
more! My empty pockets troubled me no longer; it was simply a delightful
feeling to me to be cleaned out. When I weighed the whole matter
thoroughly, this money had in reality cost me much secret anguish; I had
really thought about it with dread and shuddering time upon time. I was no
hardened soul; my honourable nature rebelled against such a low action.
God be praised, I had raised myself in my own estimation again! "Do as I
have done!" I said to myself, looking across the thronged market-place--
"only just do as I have done!" I had gladdened a poor old cake vendor to
such good purpose that she was perfectly dumbfounded. Tonight her children
wouldn't go hungry to bed.... I buoyed myself up with these reflections
and considered that I had behaved in a most exemplary manner. God be
praised! The money was out of my hands now!
Tipsy and nervous, I wandered down the street, and swelled with
satisfaction. The joy of being able to meet Ylajali cleanly and
honourably, and of feeling I could look her in the face, ran away with me.
I was not conscious of any pain. My head was clear and buoyant; it was as
if it were a head of mere light that rested and gleamed on my shoulders. I
felt inclined to play the wildest pranks, to do something astounding, to
set the whole town in a ferment. All up through Graendsen I conducted
myself like a madman. There was a buzzing in my ears, and intoxication ran
riot in my brains. The whim seized me to go and tell my age to a
commissionaire, who, by-the-way, had not addressed a word to me; to take
hold of his hands, and gaze impressively in his face, and leave him again
without any explanation. I distinguished every nuance in the voice and
laughter of the passers-by, observed some little birds that hopped before
me in the street, took to studying the expression of the paving-stones,
and discovered all sorts of tokens and signs in them. Thus occupied, I
arrive at length at Parliament Place. I stand all at once stock-still, and
look at the droskes; the drivers are wandering about, chatting and
laughing. The horses hang their heads and cower in the bitter weather. "Go
ahead!" I say, giving myself a dig with my elbow. I went hurriedly over to
the first vehicle, and got in. "Ullevoldsveien, No. 37," I called out, and
we rolled off.
On the way the driver looked round, stooped and peeped several times into
the trap, where I sat, sheltered underneath the hood. Had he, too, grown
suspicious? There was no doubt of it; my miserable attire had attracted
"I want to meet a man," I called to him, in order to be beforehand with
him, and I explained gravely that I must really meet this man. We stop
outside 37, and I jump out, spring up the stairs right to the third
storey, seize a bell, and pull it. It gives six or seven fearful peals
A maid comes out and opens the door. I notice that she has round, gold
drops in her ears, and black stuff buttons on her grey bodice. She looks
at me with a frightened air.
I inquire for Kierulf--Joachim Kierulf, if I might add further--a
wool-dealer; in short, not a man one could make a mistake about....
The girl shook her head. "No Kierulf lives here," said she.
She stared at me, and held the door ready to close it. She made no effort
to find the man for me. She really looked as if she knew the person I
inquired for, if she would only take the trouble to reflect a bit. The
lazy jade! I got vexed, turned my back on her, and ran downstairs again.
"He wasn't there," I called to the driver.
"Wasn't he there?"
"No. Drive to Tomtegaden, No. 11." I was in a state of the most violent
excitement, and imparted something of the same feeling to the driver. He
evidently thought it was a matter of life and death, and he drove on,
without further ado. He whipped up the horse sharply.
"What's the man's name?" he inquired, turning round on the box.
"Kierulf, a dealer in wool--Kierulf."
And the driver, too, thought this was a man one would not be likely to
make any mistake about.
"Didn't he generally wear a light morning, coat?"
"What!" I cried; "a light morning-coat? Are you mad? Do you think it is a
tea-cup I am inquiring about?" This light morning-coat came most
inopportunely; it spoilt the whole man for me such as I had fancied him.
"What was it you said he was called?--Kierulf?"
"Of course," I replied. "Is there anything wonderful in that? The name
doesn't disgrace any one."
"Hasn't he red hair?"
Well, it was quite possible that he had red hair, and now that the driver
mentioned the matter, I was suddenly convinced that he was right. I felt
grateful to the poor driver, and hastened to inform him that he had hit
the man off to a T--he really was just as he described him,--and I
remarked, in addition, that it would be a phenomenon to see such a man
without red hair.
"It must be him I drove a couple of times," said the driver; "he had a
This brought the man vividly before me, and I
said, "Ha, ha! I suppose no one has ever yet seen
the man without a knobbed stick in his hand, of
that you can be certain, quite certain."
Yes, it was clear that it was the same man he had driven. He recognized
him--and he drove so that the horse's shoes struck sparks as they touched
All through this phase of excitement I had not for one second lost my
presence of mind. We pass a policeman, and I notice his number is 69. This
number struck me with such vivid clearness that it penetrated like a
splint into my brain--69--accurately 69. I wouldn't forget it.
I leant back in the vehicle, a prey to the wildest fancies; crouched under
the hood so that no one could see me. I moved my lips and commenced to I
talk idiotically to myself. Madness rages through my brain, and I let it
rage. I am fully conscious that I am succumbing to influences over which I
have no control. I begin to laugh, silently, passionately, without a trace
of cause, still merry and intoxicated from the couple of glasses of ale I
have drunk. Little by little my excitement abates, my calm returns more
and more to me. I feel the cold in my sore finger, and I stick it down
inside my collar to warm it a little. At length we reach Tomtegaden. The
driver pulls up.
I alight, without any haste, absently, listlessly, with my head heavy. I
go through a gateway and come into a yard across which I pass. I come to a
door which I open and pass through; I find myself in a lobby, a sort of
anteroom, with two windows. There are two boxes in it, one on top of the
other, in one corner, and against the wall an old, painted sofa-bed over
which a rug is spread. To the right, in the next room, I hear voices and
the cry of a child, and above me, on the second floor, the sound of an
iron plate being hammered. All this I notice the moment as I enter.
I step quietly across the room to the opposite door without any haste,
without any thought of flight; open it, too, and come out in
Vognmansgaden. I look up at the house through which I have passed.
"Refreshment and lodgings for travellers."
It is not my intention to escape, to steal away from the driver who is
waiting for me. I go very coolly down Vognmansgaden, without fear of being
conscious of doing any wrong. Kierulf, this dealer in wool, who has
spooked in my brain so long--this creature in whose existence I believe,
and whom it was of vital importance that I should meet--had vanished from
my memory; was wiped out with many other mad whims which came and went in
turns. I recalled him no longer, except as a reminiscence--a phantom.
In measure, as I walked on, I become more and more sober; felt languid and
weary, and dragged my legs after me. The snow still fell in great moist
flakes. At last I reached Gronland; far out, near the church, I sat down
to rest on a seat. All the passers-by looked at me with much astonishment.
I fell a-thinking.
Thou good God, what a miserable plight I have come to! I was so heartily
tired and weary of all my miserable life that I did not find it worth the
trouble of fighting any longer to preserve it. Adversity had gained the
upper hand; it had been too strong for me. I had become so strangely
poverty-stricken and broken, a mere shadow of what I once had been; my
shoulders were sunken right down on one side, and I had contracted a habit
of stooping forward fearfully as I walked, in order to spare my chest what
little I could. I had examined my body a few days ago, one noon up in my
room, and I had stood and cried over it the whole time. I had worn the
same shirt for many weeks, and it was quite stiff with stale sweat, and
had chafed my skin. A little blood and water ran out of the sore place; it
did not hurt much, but it was very tiresome to have this tender place in
the middle of my stomach. I had no remedy for it, and it wouldn't heal of
its own accord. I washed it, dried it carefully, and put on the same
shirt. There was no help for it, it....
I sit there on the bench and ponder over all this, and am sad enough. I
loathe myself. My very hands seem distasteful to me; the loose, almost
coarse, expression of the backs of them pains me, disgusts me. I feel
myself rudely affected by the sight of my lean fingers. I hate the whole
of my gaunt, shrunken body, and shrink from bearing it, from feeling it
envelop me. Lord, if the whole thing would come to an end now, I would
heartily, gladly die!
Completely worsted, soiled, defiled, and debased in my own estimation, I
rose mechanically and commenced to turn my steps homewards. On the way I
passed a door, upon which the following was to be read on a
plate--"Winding-sheets to be had at Miss Andersen's, door to the right."
Old memories! I muttered, as my thoughts flew back to my former room in
Hammersborg. The little rocking-chair, the newspapers near the door, the
lighthouse director's announcement, and Fabian Olsen, the baker's
new-baked bread. Ah yes; times were better with me then than now; one
night I had written a tale for ten shillings, now I couldn't write
anything. My head grew light as soon as ever I attempted it. Yes, I would
put an end to it now; and I went on and on.
As I got nearer and nearer to the provision shop, I had the half-conscious
feeling of approaching a danger, but I determined to stick to my purpose;
I would give myself up. I ran quickly up the steps. At the door I met a
little girl who was carrying a cup in her hands, and I slipped past her
and opened the door. The shop boy and I stand face to face alone for the
"Well!" he exclaims; "fearfully bad weather now, isn't it?" What did this
going round the bush signify? Why didn't he seize me at once? I got
furious, and cried:
"Oh, I haven't come to prate about the weather."
This violent preliminary takes him aback; his little huckster brain fails
him. It has never even occurred to him that I have cheated him of five
"Don't you know, then, that I have swindled you?" I query impatiently, and
I breathe quickly with the excitement; I tremble and am ready to use force
if he doesn't come to the point.
But the poor man has no misgivings.
Well, bless my soul, what stupid creatures one has to mix with in this
world! I abuse him, explain to him every detail as to how it had all
happened, show him where the fact was accomplished, where the money had
lain; how I had gathered it up in my hand and closed my fingers over
it--and he takes it all in and does nothing. He shifts uneasily from one
foot to the other, listens for footsteps in the next room, make signs to
hush me, to try and make me speak lower, and says at last:
"It was a mean enough thing of you to do!"
"No; hold on," I explained in my desire to contradict him--to aggravate
him. It wasn't quite so mean as he imagined it to be, in his huckster
head. Naturally, I didn't keep the money; that could never have entered my
head. I, for my part, scorned to derive any benefit from it--that was
opposed to my thoroughly honest nature.
"What did you do with it, then?"
"I gave it away to a poor old woman--every farthing of it." He must
understand that that was the sort of person I was; I didn't forget the
He stands and thinks over this a while, becomes manifestly very dubious as
to how far I am an honest man or not. At last he says:
"Oughtn't you rather to have brought it back again?"
"Now, listen here," I reply; "I didn't want to get you into trouble in any
way; but that is the thanks one gets for being generous. Here I stand and
explain the whole thing to you, and you simply, instead of being ashamed
as a dog, make no effort to settle the dispute with me. Therefore I wash
my hands of you, and as for the rest, I say, 'The devil take you!'
I left, slamming the door behind me. But when I got home to my room, into
the melancholy hole, wet through from the soft snow, trembling in my knees
from the day's wanderings, I dismounted instantly from my high horse, and
sank together once more.
I regretted my attack upon the poor shop-boy, wept, clutched myself by the
throat to punish myself for my miserable trick, and behaved like a
lunatic. He had naturally been in the most deadly terror for the sake of
his situation; he had not dared to make any fuss about the five shillings
that were lost to the business, and I had taken advantage of his fear, had
tortured him with my violent address, stabbed him with every loud word
that I had roared out. And the master himself had perhaps been sitting
inside the inner room, almost within an ace of feeling called upon to come
out and inquire what was the row. No, there was no longer any limit to the
low things I might be tempted to do.
Well, why hadn't I been locked up? then it would have come to an end. I
would almost have stretched out my wrists for the handcuffs. I would not
have offered the slightest resistance; on the contrary, I would have
assisted them. Lord of Heaven and Earth! one day of my life for one happy
second again! My whole life for a mess of lentils! Hear me only this
I lay down in the wet clothes I had on, with a vague idea that I might die
during the night. And I used my last strength to tidy up my bed a little,
so that it might appear a little orderly about me in the morning. I folded
my hands and chose my position.
All at once I remember Ylajali. To think that I could have forgotten her
the entire evening through! And light forces its way ever so faintly into
my spirit again--a little ray of sunshine that makes me so blessedly warm;
and gradually more sun comes, a rare, silken, balmy light that caresses me
with soothing loveliness. And the sun grows stronger and stronger, burns
sharply in my temples, seethes fiercely and glowingly in my emaciated
brain. And at last, a maddening pyre of rays flames up before my eyes; a
heaven and earth in conflagration men and beasts of fire, mountains of
fire, devils of fire, an abyss, a wilderness, a hurricane, a universe in
brazen ignition, a smoking, smouldering day of doom!
And I saw and heard no more....
* * * * *
I woke in a sweat the next morning, moist all over, my whole body bathed
in dampness. The fever had laid violent hands on me. At first I had no
clear idea of what had happened to me; I looked about me in amazement,
felt a complete transformation of my being, absolutely failed to recognize
myself again. I felt along my own arms and down my legs, was struck with
astonishment that the window was where it was, and not in the opposite
wall; and I could hear the tramp of the horses' feet in the yard below as
if it came from above me. I felt rather sick, too--qualmish.
My hair clung wet and cold about my forehead. I raised myself on my elbow
and looked at the pillow; damp hair lay on it, too, in patches. My feet
had swelled up in my shoes during the night, but they caused me no pain,
only I could not move my toes much, they were too stiff.
As the afternoon closed in, and it had already begun to grow a little
dusk, I got up out of bed and commenced to move about the room a little. I
felt my way with short, careful steps, taking care to keep my balance and
spare my feet as much as possible. I did not suffer much, and I did not
cry; neither was I, taking all into consideration, sad. On the contrary, I
was blissfully content. It did not strike me just then that anything could
be otherwise than it was.
Then I went out.
The only thing that troubled me a little, in spite of the nausea that the
thought of food inspired in me, was hunger. I commenced to be sensible of
a shameless appetite again; a ravenous lust of food, which grew steadily
worse and worse. It gnawed unmercifully in my breast; carrying on a
silent, mysterious work in there. It was as if a score of diminutive
gnome-like insects set their heads on one side and gnawed for a little,
then laid their heads on the other side and gnawed a little more, then lay
quite still for a moment's space, and then began afresh, boring
noiselessly in, and without any haste, and left empty spaces everywhere
after them as they went on....
I was not ill, but faint; I broke into a sweat. I thought of going to the
market-place to rest a while, but the way was long and wearisome; at last
I had almost reached it. I stood at the corner of the market and Market
Street; the sweat ran down into my eyes and blinded me, and I had just
stopped in order to wipe it away a little. I did not notice the place I
was standing in; in fact, I did not think about it; the noise around me
was something frightful.
Suddenly a call rings out, a cold, sharp warning. I hear this cry--hear it
quite well, and I start nervously to one side, stepping as quickly as my
bad foot allows me to. A monster of a bread-van brushes past me, and the
wheel grazes my coat; I might perhaps have been a little quicker if I had
exerted myself. Well, there was no help for it; one foot pained me, a
couple of toes were crunched. I felt that they, as it were, curled up in
The driver reins in his horse with all his might. He turns round on the
van and inquires in a fright how it fares with me. Oh! it might have been
worse, far worse.... It was perhaps not so dangerous.... I didn't think
any bones were broken. Oh, pray....
I rushed over as quickly as I could to a seat; all these people who
stopped and stared at me abashed me. After all, it was no mortal blow;
comparatively speaking, I had got off luckily enough, as misfortune was
bound to come in my way. The worst thing was that my shoe was crushed to
pieces; the sole was torn loose at the toe. I help up my foot, and saw
blood inside the gap. Well, it wasn't intentional on either side; it was
not the man's purpose to make things worse for me than they were; he
looked much concerned about it. It was quite certain that if I had begged
him for a piece of bread out of his cart he would have given it to me. He
would certainly have given it to me gladly. God bless him in return,
wherever he is!...
I was terribly hungry, and I did not know what to do with myself and my
shameless appetite. I writhed from side to side on the seat, and bowed my
chest right down to my knees; I was almost distracted. When it got dark I
jogged along to the Town Hall--God knows how I got there--and sat on the
edge of the balustrade. I tore a pocket out of my coat and took to chewing
it; not with any defined object, but with dour mien and unseeing eyes,
staring straight into space. I could hear a group of little children
playing around near me, and perceive, in an instinctive sort of way, some
pedestrians pass me by; otherwise I observed nothing.
All at once, it enters my head to go to one of the meat bazaars underneath
me, and beg a piece of raw meat. I go straight along the balustrade to the
other side of the bazaar buildings, and descend the steps. When I had
nearly reached the stalls on the lower floor, I called up the archway
leading to the stairs, and made a threatening backward gesture, as if I
were talking to a dog up there, and boldly addressed the first butcher I
"Ah, will you be kind enough to give me a bone for my dog?" I said; "only
a bone. There needn't be anything on it; it's just to give him something
to carry in his mouth."
I got the bone, a capital little bone, on which there still remained a
morsel of meat, and hid it under my coat. I thanked the man so heartily
that he looked at me in amazement.
"Oh, no need of thanks," said he.
"Oh yes; don't say that," I mumbled; "it is kindly done of you," and I
ascended the steps again.
My heart was throbbing violently in my breast. I sneaked into one of the
passages, where the forges are, as far in as I could go, and stopped
outside a dilapidated door leading to a back-yard. There was no light to
be seen anywhere, only blessed darkness all around me; and I began to gnaw
at the bone.
It had no taste; a rank smell of blood oozed from it, and I was forced to
vomit almost immediately. I tried anew. If I could only keep it down, it
would, in spite of all, have some effect. It was simply a matter of
forcing it to remain down there. But I vomited again. I grew wild, bit
angrily into the meat, tore off a morsel, and gulped it down by sheer
strength of will; and yet it was of no use. Just as soon as the little
fragments of meat became warm in my stomach up they came again, worse
luck. I clenched my hands in frenzy, burst into tears from sheer
helplessness, and gnawed away as one possessed. I cried, so that the bone
got wet and dirty with my tears, vomited, cursed and groaned again, cried
as if my heart would break, and vomited anew. I consigned all the powers
that be to the lowermost torture in the loudest voice.
Quiet--not a soul about--no light, no noise; I am in a state of the most
fearful excitement; I breathe hardly and audibly, and I cry with gnashing
teeth, each time that the morsel of meat, which might satisfy me a little,
comes up. As I find that, in spite of all my efforts, it avails me naught,
I cast the bone at the door. I am filled with the most impotent hate;
shriek, and menace with my fists towards Heaven; yell God's name hoarsely,
and bend my fingers like claws, with ill-suppressed fury....
I tell you, you Heaven's Holy Baal, you don't exist; but that, if you did,
I would curse you so that your Heaven would quiver with the fire of hell!
I tell you, I have offered you my service, and you repulsed me; and I turn
my back on you for all eternity, because you did not know your time of
visitation! I tell you that I am about to die, and yet I mock you! You
Heaven God and Apis! with death staring me in the face--I tell you, I
would rather be a bondsman in hell than a freedman in your mansions! I
tell you, I am filled with a blissful contempt for your divine paltriness;
and I choose the abyss of destruction for a perpetual resort, where the
devils Judas and Pharaoh are cast down!
I tell you your Heaven is full of the kingdom of the earth's most
crass-headed idiots and poverty-stricken in spirit! I tell you, you have
filled your Heaven with the grossest and most cherished harlots from here
below, who have bent their knees piteously before you at their hour of
death! I tell you, you have used force against me, and you know not, you
omniscient nullity, that I never bend in opposition! I tell you, all my
life, every cell in my body, every power of my soul, gasps to mock
you--you Gracious Monster on High. I tell you, I would, if I could,
breathe it into every human soul, every flower, every leaf, every dewdrop
in the garden! I tell you, I would scoff you on the day of doom, and curse
the teeth out of my mouth for the sake of your Deity's boundless
miserableness! I tell you from this hour I renounce all thy works and all
thy pomps! I will execrate my thought if it dwell on you again, and tear
out my lips if they ever utter your name! I tell you, if you exist, my
last word in life or in death--I bid you farewell, for all time and
eternity--I bid you farewell with heart and reins. I bid you the last
irrevocable farewell, and I am silent, and turn my back on you and go my
I tremble with excitement and exhaustion, and stand on the same spot,
still whispering oaths and abusive epithets, hiccoughing after the violent
crying fit, broken down and apathetic after my frenzied outburst of rage.
I stand there for maybe an hour, hiccough and whisper, and hold on to the
door. Then I hear voices--a conversation between two men who are coming
down the passage. I slink away from the door, drag myself along the walls
of the houses, and come out again into the light streets. As I jog along
Young's Hill my brain begins to work in a most peculiar direction. It
occurs to me that the wretched hovels down at the corner of the
market-place, the stores for loose materials, the old booths for
second-hand clothes, are really a disgrace to the place--they spoilt the
whole appearance of the market, and were a blot on the town, Fie! away
with the rubbish! And I turned over in my mind as I walked on what it
would cost to remove the Geographical Survey down there--that handsome
building which had always attracted me so much each time I passed it. It
would perhaps not be possible to undertake a removal of that kind under
two or three hundred pounds. A pretty sum--three hundred pounds! One must
admit, a tidy enough little sum for pocket-money! Ha, ha! just to make a
start with, eh? and I nodded my head, and conceded that it was a tidy
enough bit of pocket-money to make a start with. I was still trembling
over my whole body, and hiccoughed now and then violently after my cry. I
had a feeling that there was not much life left in me--that I was really
singing my last verse. It was almost a matter of indifference to me; it
did not trouble me in the least. On the contrary, I wended my way down
town, down to the wharf, farther and farther away from my room. I would,
for that matter, have willingly laid myself down flat in the street to
die. My sufferings were rendering me more and more callous. My sore foot
throbbed violently; I had a sensation as if the pain was creeping up
through my whole leg. But not even that caused me any particular distress.
I had endured worse sensations.
In this manner, I reached the railway wharf. There was no traffic, no
noise--only here and there a person to be seen, a labourer or sailor
slinking round with their hands in their pockets. I took notice of a lame
man, who looked sharply at me as we passed one another. I stopped him
instinctively, touched my hat, and inquired if he knew if the Nun had
sailed. Someway, I couldn't help snapping my fingers right under the man's
nose, and saying, "Ay, by Jove, the _Nun_; yes, the _Nun_!"
which I had totally forgotten. All the same, the thought of her had been
smouldering in me. I had carried it about unconsciously.
Yes, bless me, the Nun had sailed.
He couldn't tell me where she had sailed to?
The man reflects, stands on his long leg, keeps the other up in the air;
it dangles a little.
"No," he replies. "Do you know what cargo she was taking in here?"
"No," I answer. But by this time I had already lost interest in the
_Nun_, and I asked the man how far it might be to Holmestrand,
reckoned in good old geographical miles.
"To Holmestrand? I should think..."
"Or to Voeblungsnaess?"
"What was I going to say? I should think to Holmestrand..."
"Oh, never mind; I have just remembered it," I interrupted him again. "You
wouldn't perhaps be so kind as to give me a small bit of tobacco--only
just a tiny scrap?"
I received the tobacco, thanked the man heartily, and went on. I made no
use of the tobacco; I put it into my pocket. He still kept his eye on
me--perhaps I had aroused his suspicions in some other way or another.
Whether I stood still or walked on, I felt his suspicious look following
me. I had no mind to be persecuted by this creature. I turn round, and,
dragging myself back to him, say:
"Binder"--only this one word, "Binder!" no more. I looked fixedly at him
as I say it, indeed I was conscious of staring fearfully at him. It was as
if I saw him with my entire body instead of only with my eyes. I stare for
a while after I give utterance to this word, and then I jog along again to
the railway square. The man does not utter a syllable, he only keeps his
gaze fixed upon me.
"Binder!" I stood suddenly still. Yes, wasn't that just what I had a
feeling of the moment I met the old chap; a feeling that I had met him
before! One bright morning up in Graendsen, when I pawned my waistcoat. It
seemed to me an eternity since that day.
Whilst I stand and ponder over this, I lean and support myself against a
house wall at the corner of the railway square and Harbour Street.
Suddenly, I start quickly and make an effort to crawl away. As I do not
succeed in it, I stare case-hardened ahead of me and fling all shame to
the winds. There is no help for it. I am standing face to face with the
"Commandor." I get devil-may-care--brazen. I take yet a step farther from
the wall in order to make him notice me. I do not do it to awake his
compassion, but to mortify myself, place myself, as it were, on the
pillory. I could have flung myself down in the street and begged him to
walk over me, tread on my face. I don't even bid him good-evening.
Perhaps the "Commandor" guesses that something is amiss with me. He
slackens his pace a little, and I say, in order to stop him, "I would have
called upon you long ago with something, but nothing has come yet!"
"Indeed?" he replies in an interrogative tone. "You haven't got it
"No, it didn't get finished."
My eyes by this time are filled with tears at his friendliness, and I
cough with a bitter effort to regain my composure. The "Commandor" tweaks
his nose and looks at me.
"Have you anything to live on in the meantime?" he questions.
"No," I reply. "I haven't that either; I haven't eaten anything today,
"The Lord preserve you, man, it will never do for you to go and starve
yourself to death," he exclaims, feeling in his pocket.
This causes a feeling of shame to awake in me, and I stagger over to the
wall and hold on to it. I see him finger in his purse, and he hands me
He makes no fuss about it, simply gives me half-a-sovereign, reiterating
at the same time that it would never do to let me starve to death. I
stammered an objection and did not take it all at once. It is shameful of
me to ... it was really too much....
"Hurry up," he says, looking at his watch. "I have been waiting for the
train; I hear it coming now."
I took the money; I was dumb with joy, and never said a word; I didn't
even thank him once.
"It isn't worth while feeling put out about it," said the "Commandor" at
last. "I know you can write for it."
And so off he went.
When he had gone a few steps, I remembered all at once that I had not
thanked him for this great assistance. I tried to overtake him, but could
not get on quickly enough; my legs failed me, and I came near tumbling on
my face. He went farther and farther away from me. I gave up the attempt;
thought of calling after him, but dared not; and when after all I did
muster up courage enough and called once or twice, he was already at too
great a distance, and my voice had become too weak.
I was left standing on the pavement, gazing after him. I wept quietly and
silently. "I never saw the like!" I said to myself. "He gave me half-a-
sovereign." I walked back and placed myself where he had stood, imitated
all his movements held the half-sovereign up to my moistened eyes,
inspected it on both sides, and began to swear--to swear at the top of my
voice, that there was no manner of doubt that what I held in my hand was
half-a-sovereign. An hour after, maybe--a very long hour, for it had grown
very silent all around me--I stood, singularly enough, outside No. 11
Tomtegaden. After I had stood and collected my wits for a moment and
wondered thereat, I went through the door for the second time, right into
the "Entertainment and lodgings for travellers." Here I asked for shelter
and was immediately supplied with a bed.
* * * * *
Sunshine and quiet--a strangely bright day. The snow had disappeared.
There was life and joy, and glad faces, smiles, and laughter everywhere.
The fountains threw up sprays of water in jets, golden-tinted from the
sun-light, azure from the sky....
At noon I left my lodgings in Tomtegaden, where I still lived and found
fairly comfortable, and set out for town. I was in the merriest humour,
and lazied about the whole afternoon through the most frequented streets
and looked at the people. Even before seven o'clock I took a turn up St.
Olav's Place and took a furtive look up at the window of No. 2. In an hour
I would see her. I went about the whole time in a state of tremulous,
delicious dread. What would happen? What should I say when she came down
the stairs? Good-evening? or only smile? I concluded to let it rest with
the smile. Of course I would bow profoundly to her.
I stole away, a little ashamed to be there so early, wandered up Carl
Johann for a while, and kept my eyes on University Street. When the clocks
struck eight I walked once more towards St. Olav's Place. On the way it
struck me that perhaps I might arrive a few minutes too late, and I
quickened my pace as much as I could. My foot was very sore, otherwise
nothing ailed me.
I took up my place at the fountain and drew breath. I stood there a long
while and gazed up at the window of No. 2, but she did not come. Well, I
would wait; I was in no hurry. She might be delayed, and I waited on. It
couldn't well be that I had dreamt the whole thing! Had my first meeting
with her only existed in imagination the night I lay in delirium? I began
in perplexity to think over it, and wasn't at all sure.
"Hem!" came from behind me. I heard this, and I also heard light steps
near me, but I did not turn round, I only stared up at the wide staircase
"Good-evening," came then. I forget to smile; I don't even take off my hat
at first, I am so taken aback to see her come this way.
"Have you been waiting long?" she asks. She is breathing a little quickly
after her walk.
"No, not at all; I only came a little while ago," I reply. "And besides,
would it matter if I had waited long? I expected, by-the-way, that you
would come from another direction."
"I accompanied mamma to some people. Mamma is spending the evening with
"Oh, indeed," I say.
We had begun to walk on involuntarily. A policeman is standing at the
corner, looking at us.
"But, after all, where are we going to?" she asks, and stops.
"Wherever you wish; only where _you_ wish."
"Ugh, yes! but it's such a bore to have to decide oneself."
Then I say, merely for the sake of saying something:
"I see it's dark up in your windows."
"Yes, it is," she replies gaily; "the servant has an evening off, too, so
I am all alone at home."
We both stand and look up at the windows of No. 2 as if neither of us had
seen them before.
"Can't we go up to your place, then?" I say; "I shall sit down at the door
the whole time if you like."
But then I trembled with emotion, and regretted greatly that I had perhaps
been too forward. Supposing she were to get angry, and leave me. Suppose I
were never to see her again. Ah, that miserable attire of mine! I waited
despairingly for her reply.
"You shall certainly not sit down by the door," she says. She says it
right down tenderly, and says accurately these words: "You shall certainly
not sit down by the door."
We went up.
Out on the lobby, where it was dark, she took hold of my hand, and led me
on. There was no necessity for my being so quiet, she said, I could very
well talk. We entered. Whilst she lit the candle--it was not a lamp she
lit, but a candle--whilst she lit the candle, she said, with a little
"But now you mustn't look at me. Ugh! I am
so ashamed, but I will never do it again."
"What will you never do again?"
"I will never ... ugh ... no ... good gracious ... I will never kiss you
"Won't you?" I said, and we both laughed. I stretched out my arms to her,
and she glided away; slipped round to the other side of the table. We
stood a while and gazed at one another; the candle stood right between us.
"Try and catch me," she said; and with much laughter I tried to seize hold
of her. Whilst she sprang about, she loosened her veil, and took off her
hat; her sparkling eyes hung on mine, and watched my movements. I made a
fresh sortie, and tripped on the carpet and fell, my sore foot refusing to
bear me up any longer. I rose in extreme confusion.
"Lord, how red you did get!" she said. "Well it was awfully awkward of
"Yes, it was," I agreed, and we began the chase afresh.
"It seems to me you limp."
"Yes; perhaps I do--just a little--only just a little, for that matter."
"Last time you had a sore finger, now you have got a sore foot; it is
awful the number of afflictions you have."
"Ah, yes. I was run over slightly, a few days ago."
"Run over! Tipsy again? Why, good heavens! what a life you lead, young
man!" and she threatened me with her forefinger, and tried to appear
grave. "Well, let us sit down, then; no, not down there by the door; you
are far too reserved! Come here--you there, and I here--so, that's it ...
ugh, it's such a bore with reticent people! One has to say and do
everything oneself; one gets no help to do anything. Now, for example, you
might just as well put your arm over the back of my chair; you could
easily have thought of that much out of your own head, couldn't you? But
if I say anything like that, you open your eyes as wide as if you couldn't
believe what was being said. Yes, it is really true; I have noticed it
several times; you are doing it now, too; but you needn't try to persuade
me that you are always so modest; it is only when you don't dare to be
otherwise than quiet. You were daring enough the day you were tipsy--when
you followed me straight home and worried me with your witticisms. 'You
are losing your book, madam; you are quite certainly losing your book,
madam!' Ha, ha, ha! it was really shameless of you."
I sat dejectedly and looked at her; my heart beat violently, my blood
raced quickly through my veins, there was a singular sense of enjoyment in
"Why don't you say something?"
"What a darling you are," I cried. "I am simply sitting here getting
thoroughly fascinated by you--here this very moment thoroughly
fascinated.... There is no help for it.... You are the most extraordinary
creature that ... sometimes your eyes gleam so, that I never saw their
match; they look like flowers ... eh? No, well, no, perhaps, not like
flowers, either, but ... I am so desperately in love with you, and it is
so preposterous ... for, great Scott! there is naturally not an atom of a
chance for me.... What is your name? Now, you really must tell me what you
"No; what is _your_ name? Gracious, I was nearly forgetting that
again! I thought about it all yesterday, that I meant to ask you--yes,
that is to say, not _all_ yesterday, but--"
"Do you know what I named you? I named you Ylajali. How do you like that?
It has a gliding sound...."
"Is that a foreign language?"
"Humph--no, it isn't that either!"
"Well, it isn't ugly!"
After a long discussion we told one another our names. She seated herself
close to my side on the sofa, and shoved the chair away with her foot, and
we began to chatter afresh.
"You are shaved this evening, too," she said; look on the whole a little
better than the last time--that is to say, only just a scrap better. Don't
imagine ... no; the last time you were really shabby, and you had a dirty
rag round your finger into the bargain; and in that state you absolutely
wanted me to go to some place, and take wine with you--thanks, not me!"
"So it was, after all, because of my miserable appearance that you would
not go with me?" I said.
"No," she replied and looked down. "No; God knows it wasn't. I didn't even
think about it."
"Listen," said I; "you are evidently sitting here labouring under the
delusion that I can dress and live exactly as I choose, aren't you? And
that is just what I can't do; I am very, very poor."
She looked at me. "Are you?" she queried.
"Yes, worse luck, I am."
After an interval.
"Well, gracious, so am I, too," she said, with a cheerful movement of her
Every one of her words intoxicated me, fell on my heart like drops of
wine. She enchanted me with the trick she had of putting her head a little
on one side, and listening when I said anything, and I could feel her
breath brush my face.
"Do you know," I said, "that ... but, now, you mustn't get angry--when I
went to bed last night I settled this arm for you ... so ... as if you lay
on it ... and then I went to sleep."
"Did you? That was lovely!" A pause. "But of course it could only be from
a distance that you would venture to do such a thing, for otherwise...."
"Don't you believe I could do it otherwise?"
"No, I don't believe it."
"Ah, from me you may expect everything," I said, and I put my arm around
"Can I?" was all she said.
It annoyed me, almost wounded me, that she should look upon me as being so
utterly inoffensive. I braced myself up, steeled my heart, and seized her
hand; but she withdrew it softly, and moved a little away from me. That
just put an end to my courage again; I felt ashamed, and looked out
through the window. I was, in spite of all, in far too wretched a
condition; I must, above all, not try to imagine myself any one in
particular. It would have been another matter if I had met her during the
time that I still looked like a respectable human being--in my old,
well-off days when I had sufficient to make an appearance; and I felt
"There now, one can see!" she said, "now one can just see one can snub you
with just the tiniest frown--make you look sheepish by just moving a
little away from you" ... she laughed, tantalizingly, roguishly, with
tightly-closed eyes, as if she could not stand being looked at, either.
"Well, upon my soul!" I blurted out, "now you shall just see," and I flung
my arms violently around her shoulders. I was mortified. Was the girl out
of her senses? Did she think I was totally inexperienced! Ha! Then I
would, by the living.... No one should say of me that I was backward on
that score. The creature was possessed by the devil himself! If it were
only a matter of going at it, well....
She sat quite quietly, and still kept her eyes closed; neither of us
spoke. I crushed her fiercely to me, pressed her body greedily against my
breast, and she spoke never a word. I heard her heart's beat, both hers
and mine; they sounded like hurrying hoofbeats.
I kissed her.
I no longer knew myself. I uttered some nonsense, that she laughed at,
whispered pet names into her mouth, caressed her cheek, kissed her many
She winds her arms about my neck, quite slowly, tenderly, the breath of
her pink quivering nostrils fans me right in the face; she strokes down my
shoulders with her left hand, and says, "What a lot of loose hair there
"Yes," I reply.
"What can be the reason that your hair falls out so?"
"Ah, of course, because you drink too much, and perhaps ... fie, I won't
say it. You ought to be ashamed. No, I wouldn't have believed that of you!
To think that you, who are so young, already should lose your hair! Now,
do please just tell me what sort of way you really spend your life--I am
certain it is dreadful! But only the truth, do you hear; no evasions.
Anyway, I shall see by you if you hide anything--there, tell now!"
"Yes; but let me kiss you first, then."
"Are you mad?... Humph, ... I want to hear what kind of a man you are....
Ah, I am sure it is dreadful."
It hurt me that she should believe the worst of me; I was afraid of
thrusting her away entirely, and I could not endure the misgivings she had
as to my way of life. I would clear myself in her eyes, make myself worthy
of her, show her that she was sitting at the side of a person almost
angelically disposed. Why, bless me, I could count my falls up to date on
my fingers. I related--related all--and I only related truth. I made out
nothing any worse than it was; it was not my intention to rouse her
compassion. I told her also that I had stolen five shillings one evening.
She sat and listened, with open mouth, pale, frightened, her shining eyes
completely bewildered. I desired to make it good again, to disperse the
sad impression I had made, and I pulled myself up.
"Well, it is all over now!" I said; "there can be no talk of such a thing
happening again; I am saved now...."
But she was much dispirited. "The Lord preserve me!" was all she said,
then kept silent. She repeated this at short intervals, and kept silent
after each "the Lord preserve me."
I began to jest, caught hold of her, tried to tickle her, lifted her up to
my breast. I was irritated not a little--indeed, downright hurt. Was I
more unworthy in her eyes now, than if I had myself been instrumental in
causing the falling out of my hair? Would she have thought more of me if I
had made myself out to be a _roue_?... No nonsense now;... it was
just a matter of going at it; and if it was only just a matter of going at
it, so, by the living...
"No;... what do you want?" she queried, and she added these distressing
words, "I can't be sure that you are not insane!"
I checked myself involuntarily, and I said: "You don't mean that!"
"Indeed, God knows I do! you look so strangely. And the forenoon you
followed me--after all, you weren't tipsy that time?"
"No; but I wasn't hungry then, either; I had just eaten...."
"Yes; but that made it so much the worse."
"Would you rather I had been tipsy?"
"Yes ... ugh ... I am afraid of you! Lord, can't you let me be now!"
I considered a moment. No, I couldn't let her be.... I happened, as if
inadvertently, to knock over the light, so that it went out. She made a
despairing struggle--gave vent at last to a little whimper.
"No, not that! If you like, you may rather kiss me, oh, dear, kind...."
I stopped instantly. Her words sounded so terrified, so helpless, I was
struck to the heart. She meant to offer me a compensation by giving me
leave to kiss her! How charming, how charmingly naive. I could have fallen
down and knelt before her.
"But, dear pretty one," I said, completely bewildered, "I don't
understand.... I really can't conceive what sort of a game this is...."
She rose, lit the candle again with trembling hands. I leant back on the
sofa and did nothing. What would happen now? I was in reality very ill at
She cast a look over at the clock on the wall, and started.
"Ugh, the girl will soon come now!" she said; this was the first thing she
said. I took the hint, and rose. She took up her jacket as if to put it
on, bethought herself, and let it lie, and went over to the fireplace. So
that it should not appear as if she had shown me the door, I said:
"Was your father in the army?" and at the same time I prepared to leave.
"Yes; he was an officer. How did you know?"
"I didn't know; it just came into my head."
"That was odd."
"Ah, yes; there were some places I came to where I got a kind of
presentiment. Ha, ha!--a part of my insanity, eh?"
She looked quickly up, but didn't answer. I felt I worried her with my
presence, and determined to make short work of it. I went towards the
door. Would she not kiss me any more now? not even give me her hand? I
stood and waited.
"Are you going now, then?" she said, and yet she remained quietly standing
over near the fireplace.
I did not reply. I stood humbly in confusion, and looked at her without
saying anything. Why hadn't she left me in peace, when nothing was to come
of it? What was the matter with her now? It didn't seem to put her out
that I stood prepared to leave. She was all at once completely lost to me,
and I searched for something to say to her in farewell--a weighty, cutting
word that would strike her, and perhaps impress her a little. And in the
face of my first resolve, hurt as I was, instead of being proud and cold,
disturbed and offended, I began right off to talk of trifles. The telling
word would not come; I conducted myself in an exceedingly aimless fashion.
Why couldn't she just as well tell me plainly and straightly to go my way?
I queried. Yes, indeed, why not? There was no need of feeling embarrassed
about it. Instead of reminding me that the girl would soon come home, she
could have simply said as follows: "Now you must run, for I must go and
fetch my mother, and I won't have your escort through the street." So it
was not that she had been thinking about? Ah, yes; it was that all the
same she had thought about; I understood that at once. It did not require
much to put me on the right track; only, just the way she had taken up her
jacket, and left it down again, had convinced me immediately. As I said
before, I had presentiments; and it was not altogether insanity that was
at the root of it....
"But, great heavens! do forgive me for that word! It slipped out of my
mouth," she cried; but yet she stood quite quietly, and did not come over
I was inflexible, and went on. I stood there and prattled, with the
painful consciousness that I bored her, that not one of my words went
home, and all the same I did not cease.
At bottom one might be a fairly sensitive nature, even if one were not
insane, I ventured to say. There were natures that fed on trifles, and
died just for one hard word's sake; and I implied that I had such a
nature. The fact was, that my poverty had in that degree sharpened certain
powers in me, so that they caused me unpleasantness. Yes, I assure you
honestly, unpleasantness; worse luck! But this had also its advantages. It
helped me in certain situations in life. The poor intelligent man is a far
nicer observer than the rich intelligent man. The poor man looks about him
at every step he takes, listens suspiciously to every word he hears from
the people he meets, every step he takes affords in this way a task for
his thoughts and feelings--an occupation. He is quick of hearing, and
sensitive; he is an experienced man, his soul bears the sears of the
And I talked a long time over these sears my soul had. But the longer I
talked, the more troubled she grew. At last she muttered, "My God!" a
couple of times in despair, and wrung her hands. I could see well that I
tormented her, and I had no wish to torment her--but did it, all the same.
At last, being of the opinion that I had succeeded in telling her in rude
enough terms the essentials of what I had to say, I was touched by her
heart-stricken expression. I cried:
"Now I am going, now I am going. Can't you see that I already have my hand
on the handle of the door? Good-bye, good-bye," I say. "You might answer
me when I say good-bye twice, and stand on the point of going. I don't
even ask to meet you again, for it would torment you. But tell me, why
didn't you leave me in peace? What had I done to you? I didn't get in your
way, now, did I? Why did you turn away from me all at once, as if you
didn't know me any longer? You have plucked me now so thoroughly bare,
made me even more wretched than I ever was at any time before; but,
indeed, I am not insane. You know well, if you think it over, that nothing
is the matter with me now. Come over, then, and give me your hand--or give
me leave to go to you, will you? I won't do you any harm; I will only
kneel before you, only for a minute--kneel down on the floor before you,
only for a minute, may I? No, no; there, I am not to do it then, I see.
You are getting afraid. I will not, I will not do it; do you hear? Lord,
why do you get so terrified. I am standing quite still; I am not moving. I
would have knelt down on the carpet for a moment--just there, upon that
patch of red, at your feet; but you got frightened--I could see it at once
in your eyes that you got frightened; that was why I stood still. I didn't
move a step when I asked you might I, did I? I stood just as immovable as
I stand now when I point out the place to you where I would have knelt
before you, over there on the crimson rose in the carpet. I don't even
point with my finger. I don't point at all; I let it be, not to frighten
you. I only nod and look over at it, like this! and you know perfectly
well which rose I mean, but you won't let me kneel there. You are afraid
of me, and dare not come near to me. I cannot conceive how you could have
the heart to call me insane. It isn't true; you don't believe it, either,
any longer? It was once in the summer, a long time ago, I was mad; I
worked too hard, and forgot to go to dine at the right hour, when I had
too much to think about. That happened day after day. I ought to have
remembered it; but I went on forgetting it--by God in Heaven, it is true!
God keep me from ever coming alive from this spot if I lie. There, you can
see, you do me an injustice. It was not out of need I did it; I can get
credit, much credit, at Ingebret's or Gravesen's. I often, too, had a good
deal of money in my pocket, and did not buy food all the same, because I
forgot it. Do you hear? You don't say anything; you don't answer; you
don't stir a bit from the fire; you just stand and wait for me to go...."
She came hurriedly over to me, and stretched out her hand. I looked at
her, full of mistrust. Did she do it with any true heartiness, or did she
only do it to get rid of me? She wound her arms round my neck; she had
tears in her eyes; I only stood and looked at her. She offered her mouth;
I couldn't believe in her; it was quite certain she was making a sacrifice
as a means of putting an end to all this.
She said something; it sounded to me like, "I am fond of you, in spite of
all." She said it very lowly and indistinctly; maybe I did not hear
aright. She may not have said just those words; but she cast herself
impetuously against my breast, clasped both her arms about my neck for a
little while, stretched even up a bit on her toes to get a good hold, and
stood so for perhaps a whole minute. I was afraid that she was forcing
herself to show me this tenderness, and I only said:
"What a darling you are now!"
More I didn't say. I crushed her in my arms, stepped back, rushed to the
door, and went out backwards. She remained in there behind me.
Winter had set in--a raw, wet winter, almost without snow. A foggy, dark,
and everlasting night, without a single blast of fresh wind the whole week
through. The gas was lighted almost all the day in the streets, and yet
people jostled one another in the fog. Every sound, the clang of the
church bells, the jingling of the harness of the droske horses, the
people's voices, the beat of the hoofs, everything, sounded choked and
jangling through the close air, that penetrated and muffled everything.
Week followed week, and the weather was, and remained, still the same.
And I stayed steadily down in Vaterland. I grew more and more closely
bound to this inn, this lodging-house for travellers, where I had found
shelter, in spite of my starving condition. My money was exhausted long
since; and yet I continued to come and go in this place as if I had a
right to it, and was at home there. The landlady had, as yet, said
nothing; but it worried me all the same that I could not pay her. In this
way three weeks went by. I had already, many days ago, taken to writing
again; but I could not succeed in putting anything together that satisfied
me. I had not longer any luck, although I was very painstaking, and strove
early and late; no matter what I attempted, it was useless. Good fortune
had flown; and I exerted myself in vain.
It was in a room on the second floor, the best guest-room, that I sat and
made these attempts. I had been undisturbed up there since the first
evening when I had money and was able to settle for what I got. All the
time I was buoyed up by the hope of at last succeeding in getting together
an article on some subject or another, so that I could pay for my room,
and for whatever else I owed. That was the reason I worked on so
persistently. I had, in particular, commenced a piece from which I
expected great things--an allegory about a fire--a profound thought upon
which I intended to expend all my energy, and bring it to the "Commander"
in payment. The "Commandor" should see that he had helped a talent this
time. I had no doubt but that he would eventually see that; it only was a
matter of waiting till the spirit moved me; and why shouldn't the spirit
move me? Why should it not come over me even now, at a very early date?
There was no longer anything the matter with me. My landlady gave me a
little food every day, some bread and butter, mornings and evenings, and
my nervousness had almost flown. I no longer used cloths round my hands
when I wrote; and I could stare down into the street from my window on the
second floor without getting giddy. I was much better in every way, and it
was becoming a matter of astonishment to me that I had not already
finished my allegory. I couldn't understand why it was....
But a day came when I was at last to get a clear idea of how weak I had
really become; with what incapacity my dull brain acted. Namely, on this
day my landlady came up to me with a reckoning which she asked me to look
over. There must be something wrong in this reckoning, she said; it didn't
agree with her own book; but she had not been able to find out the
I set to work to add up. My landlady sat right opposite and looked at me.
I added up these score of figures first once down, and found the total
right; then once up again, and arrived at the same result. I looked at the
woman sitting opposite me, waiting on my words. I noticed at the same time
that she was pregnant; it did not escape my attention, and yet I did not
stare in any way scrutinizingly at her.
"The total is right," said I.
"No; go over each figure now," she answered. "I am sure it can't be so
much; I am positive of it."
And I commenced to check each line--2 loaves at 2 1/2d., 1 lamp chimney,
3d., soap, 4d., butter, 5d.... It did not require any particularly shrewd
head to run up these rows of figures--this little huckster account in
which nothing very complex occurred. I tried honestly to find the error
that the woman spoke about, but couldn't succeed. After I had muddled
about with these figures for some minutes I felt that, unfortunately,
everything commenced to dance about in my head; I could no longer
distinguish debit or credit; I mixed the whole thing up. Finally, I came
to a dead stop at the following entry--"3. 5/16ths of a pound of cheese at
9d." My brain failed me completely; I stared stupidly down at the cheese,
and got no farther.
"It is really too confoundedly crabbed writing," I exclaimed in despair.
"Why, God bless me, here is 5/16ths of a pound of cheese entered--ha, ha!
did any one ever hear the like? Yes, look here; you can see for yourself."
"Yes," she said; "it is often put down like that; it is a kind of Dutch
cheese. Yes, that is all right--five-sixteenths is in this case five
"Yes, yes; I understand that well enough," I interrupted, although in
truth I understood nothing more whatever.
I tried once more to get this little account right, that I could have
totted up in a second some months ago. I sweated fearfully, and thought
over these enigmatical figures with all my might, and I blinked my eyes
reflectingly, as if I was studying this matter sharply, but I had to give
it up. These five ounces of cheese finished me completely; it was as if
something snapped within my forehead. But yet, to give the impression that
I still worked out my calculation, I moved my lips and muttered a number
aloud, all the while sliding farther and farther down the reckoning as if
I were steadily coming to a result. She sat and waited. At last I said:
"Well, now, I have gone through it from first to last, and there is no
mistake, as far as I can see."
"Isn't there?" replied the woman, "isn't there really?" But I saw well
that she did not believe me, and she seemed all at once to throw a dash of
contempt into her words, a slightly careless tone that I had never heard
from her before. She remarked that perhaps I was not accustomed to reckon
in sixteenths; she mentioned also that she must only apply to some one who
had a knowledge of sixteenths, to get the account properly revised. She
said all this, not in any hurtful way to make me feel ashamed, but
thoughtfully and seriously. When she got as far as the door, she said,
without looking at me:
"Excuse me for taking up your time then."
Off she went.
A moment after, the door opened again, and she re-entered. She could
hardly have gone much farther than the stairs before she had turned back.
"That's true," said she; "you mustn't take it amiss; but there is a little
owing to me from you now, isn't there? Wasn't it three weeks yesterday
since you came?" Yes, I thought it was. "It isn't so easy to keep things
going with such a big family, so that I can't give lodging on credit,
I stopped her. "I am working at an article that I think I told you about
before," said I, "and as soon as ever that is finished, you shall have
your money; you can make yourself quite easy...."
"Yes; but you'll never get that article finished, though."
"Do you think that? Maybe the spirit will move me tomorrow, or perhaps
already, tonight; it isn't at all impossible but that it may move me some
time tonight, and then my article will be completed in a quarter of an
hour at the outside. You see, it isn't with my work as with other
people's; I can't sit down and get a certain amount finished in a day. I
have just to wait for the right moment, and no one can tell the day or
hour when the spirit may move one--it must have its own time...."
My landlady went, but her confidence in me was evidently much shaken.
As soon as I was left alone I jumped up and tore my hair in despair. No,
in spite of all, there was really no salvation for me--no salvation! My
brain was bankrupt! Had I then really turned into a complete dolt since I
could not even add up the price of a piece of Dutch cheese? But could it
be possible I had lost my senses when I could stand and put such questions
to myself? Had not I, into the bargain, right in the midst of my efforts
with the reckoning, made the lucid observation that my landlady was in the
family way? I had no reason for knowing it, no one had told me anything
about it, neither had it occurred to me gratuitously. I sat and saw it
with my own eyes, and I understood it at once, right at a despairing
moment where I sat and added up sixteenths. How could I explain this to
I went to the window and gazed out; it looked out into Vognmandsgade. Some
children were playing down on the pavement; poorly dressed children in the
middle of a poor street. They tossed an empty bottle between them and
screamed shrilly. A load of furniture rolled slowly by; it must belong to
some dislodged family, forced to change residence between "flitting time."
[Footnote: In Norway, l4th of March and October.] This struck me at once.
Bed-clothes and furniture were heaped on the float, moth-eaten beds and
chests of drawers, red-painted chairs with three legs, mats, old iron, and
tin-ware. A little girl--a mere child, a downright ugly youngster, with a
running cold in her nose--sat up on top of the load, and held fast with
her poor little blue hands in order not to tumble off. She sat on a heap
of frightfully stained mattresses, that children must have lain on, and
looked down at the urchins who were tossing the empty bottle to one
I stood gazing at all this; I had no difficulty in apprehending everything
that passed before me. Whilst I stood there at the window and observed
this, I could hear my landlady's servant singing in the kitchen right
alongside of my room. I knew the air she was singing, and I listened to
hear if she would sing false, and I said to myself that an idiot could not
have done all this.
I was, God be praised, all right in my senses as any man.
Suddenly, I saw two of the children down in the street fire up and begin
to abuse one another. Two little boys; I recognized one of them; he was my
landlady's son. I open the window to hear what they are saying to one
another, and immediately a flock of children crowded together under my
window, and looked wistfully up. What did they expect? That something
would be thrown down? Withered flowers, bones, cigar ends, or one thing or
another, that they could amuse themselves with? They looked up with their
frost-pinched faces and unspeakably wistful eyes. In the meantime, the two
small foes continued to revile one another.
Words like great buzzing noxious insects swarm out of their childish
mouths; frightful nicknames, thieves' slang, sailors' oaths, that they
perhaps had learnt down on the wharf; and they are both so engaged that
they do not notice my landlady, who rushes out to see what is going on.
"Yes," explains her son, "he catched me by the throat; I couldn't breaths
for ever so long," and turning upon the little man who is the cause of the
quarrel, and who is standing grinning maliciously at him, he gets
perfectly furious, and yells, "Go to hell, Chaldean ass that you are! To
think such vermin as you should catch folk by the throat. I will, may the
And the mother, this pregnant woman, who dominates the whole street with
her size, answers the ten-year-old child, as she seizes him by the arm and
tries to drag him in:
"Sh--sh. Hold your jaw! I just like to hear the way you swear, too, as if
you had been in a brothel for years. Now, in with you."
"No, I won't."
"Yes, you will."
"No, I won't."
I stand up in the window and see that the mother's temper is rising; this
disagreeable scene excites me frightfully. I can't endure it any longer.
I call down to the boy to come up to me for a minute; I call twice, just
to distract them--to change the scene. The last time I call very loudly,
and the mother turns round flurriedly and looks up at me. She regains her
self-possession at once, looks insolently at me, nay, downright
maliciously, and enters the house with a chiding remark to her offspring.
She talks loudly, so that I may hear it, and says to him, "Fie, you ought
to be ashamed of yourself to let people see how naughty you are."
Of all this that I stood there and observed not one thing, not even one
little accessory detail, was lost on me; my attention was acutely keen; I
absorbed carefully every little thing as I stood and thought out my own
thought, about each thing according as it occurred. So it was impossible
that there could be anything the matter with my brain. How could there, in
this case, be anything the matter with it?
Listen; do you know what, said I all at once to myself, that you have been
worrying yourself long enough about your brain, giving yourself no end of
worry in this matter? Now, there must be an end to this tomfoolery. Is it
a sign of insanity to notice and apprehend everything as accurately as you
do? You make me almost laugh at you, I reply. To my mind it is not without
its humorous side, if I am any judge of such a case. Why, it happens to
every man that he once in a way sticks fast, and that, too, just with the
simplest question. It is of no significance, it is often a pure accident.
As I have remarked before, I am on the point of having a good laugh at
your expense. As far as that huckster account is concerned, that paltry
five-sixteenths of beggar-man's cheese, I can happily dub it so. Ha,
ha!--a cheese with cloves and pepper in it; upon my word, a cheese in
which, to put the matter plainly, one could breed maggots. As far as that
ridiculous cheese is concerned, it might happen to the cleverest fellow in
the world to be puzzled over it! Why, the smell of the cheese was enough
to finish a man; ... and I made the greatest fun of this and all other
Dutch cheeses.... No; set me to reckon up something really eatable, said
I--set me, if you like, at five-sixteenths of good dairy butter. That is
I laughed feverishly at my own whim, and found it peculiarly diverting.
There was positively no longer anything the matter with me. I was in good
form--was, so to say, still in the best of form; I had a level head,
nothing was wanting there, God be praised and thanked! My mirth rose in
measure as I paced the floor and communed with myself. I laughed aloud,
and felt amazingly glad. Besides, it really seemed, too, as if I only
needed this little happy hour, this moment of airy rapture, without a care
on any side, to get my head into working order once more.
I seated myself at the table, and set to work at my allegory; it
progressed swimmingly, better than it had done for a long time; not very
fast, 'tis true, but it seemed to me that what I did was altogether
first-rate. I worked, too, for the space of an hour without getting tired.
I am sitting working at a most crucial point in this Allegory of a
Conflagration in a Bookshop. It appears to me so momentous a point, that
all the rest I have written counted as nothing in comparison. I was,
namely, just about to weave in, in a downright profound way, this thought.
It was not books that were burning, it was brains, human brains; and I
intended to make a perfect Bartholomew's night of these burning brains.
Suddenly my door was flung open with a jerk and in much haste; my landlady
came sailing in. She came straight over to the middle of the room, she did
not even pause on the threshold.
I gave a little hoarse cry; it was just as if I had received a blow.
"What?" said she, "I thought you said something. We have got a traveller,
and we must have this room for him. You will have to sleep downstairs with
us tonight. Yes; you can have a bed to yourself there too." And before she
got my answer, she began, without further ceremony, to bundle my papers
together on the table, and put the whole of them into a state of dire
My happy mood was blown to the winds; I stood up at once, in anger and
despair. I let her tidy the table, and said nothing, never uttered a
syllable. She thrust all the papers into my hand.
There was nothing else for me to do. I was forced to leave the room. And
so this precious moment was spoilt also. I met the new traveller already
on the stairs; a young man with great blue anchors tattooed on the backs
of his hands. A quay porter followed him, bearing a sea-chest on his
shoulders. He was evidently a sailor, a casual traveller for the night; he
would therefore not occupy my room for any lengthened period. Perhaps,
too, I might be lucky tomorrow when the man had left, and have one of my
moments again; I only needed an inspiration for five minutes, and my essay
on the conflagration would be completed. Well, I should have to submit to
I had not been inside the family rooms before, this one common room in
which they all lived, both day and night--the husband, wife, wife's
father, and four children. The servant lived in the kitchen, where she
also slept at night. I approached the door with much repugnance, and
knocked. No one answered, yet I heard voices inside.
The husband did not speak as I stepped in, did not acknowledge my nod
even, merely glanced at me carelessly, as if I were no concern of his.
Besides, he was sitting playing cards with a person I had seen down on the
quays, with the by-name of "Pane o' glass." An infant lay and prattled to
itself over in the bed, and an old man, the landlady's father, sat doubled
together on a settle-bed, and bent his head down Over his hands as if his
chest or stomach pained him. His hair was almost white, and he looked in
his crouching position like a poke-necked reptile that sat cocking its
ears at something.
"I come, worse luck, to beg for house-room down here tonight," I said to
"Did my wife say so?" he inquired.
"Yes; a new lodger came to my room."
To this the man made no reply, but proceeded to finger the cards. There
this man sat, day after day, and played cards with anybody who happened to
come in--played for nothing, only just to kill time, and have something in
hand. He never did anything else, only moved just as much as his lazy
limbs felt inclined, whilst his wife bustled up and down stairs, was
occupied on all sides, and took care to draw customers to the house. She
had put herself in connection with quay-porters and dock-men, to whom she
paid a certain sum for every new lodger they brought her, and she often
gave them, in addition, a shelter for the night. This time it was "Pane o'
glass" that had just brought along the new lodger.
A couple of the children came in--two little girls, with thin, freckled,
gutter-snipe faces; their clothes were positively wretched. A while after
the landlady herself entered. I asked her where she intended to put me up
for the night, and she replied that I could lie in here together with the
others, or out in the ante-room on the sofa, as I thought fit. Whilst she
answered me she fussed about the room and busied herself with different
things that she set in order, and she never once looked at me.
My spirits were crushed by her reply.
I stood down near the door, and made myself small, tried to make it appear
as if I were quite content all the same to change my room for another for
one night's sake. I put on a friendly face on purpose not to irritate her
and perhaps be hustled right out of the house.
"Ah, yes," I said, "there is sure to be some way I . . .," and then held my
She still bustled about the room.
"For that matter, I may as well just tell you that I can't afford to give
people credit for their board and lodging," said she, "and I told you that
"Yes; but, my dear woman, it is only for these few days, until I get my
article finished," I answered, "and I will willingly give you an extra
But she had evidently no faith in my article, I could see that; and I
could not afford to be proud, and leave the house, just for a slight
mortification; I knew what awaited me if I went out.
* * * * *
A few days passed over.
I still associated with the family below, for it was too cold in the
ante-room where there was no stove. I slept, too, at night on the floor of
The strange sailor continued to lodge in my room, and did not seem like
moving very quickly. At noon, too, my landlady came in and related how he
had paid her a month in advance, and besides, he was going to take his
first-mate's examination before leaving, that was why he was staying in
town. I stood and listened to this, and understood that my room was lost
to me for ever.
I went out to the ante-room, and sat down. If I were lucky enough to get
anything written, it would have perforce to be here where it was quiet. It
was no longer the allegory that occupied me; I had got a new idea, a
perfectly splendid plot; I would compose a one-act drama--"The Sign of the
Cross." Subject taken from the Middle Ages. I had especially thought out
everything in connection with the principal characters: a magnificently
fanatical harlot who had sinned in the temple, not from weakness or
desire, but for hate against heaven; sinner right at the foot of the
altar, with the altar-cloth under her head, just out of delicious contempt
I grew more and more obsessed by this creation as the hours went on. She
stood at last, palpably, vividly embodied before my eyes, and was exactly
as I wished her to appear. Her body was to be deformed and repulsive,
tall, very lean, and rather dark; and when she walked, her long limbs
should gleam through her draperies at every stride she took. She was also
to have large outstanding ears. Curtly, she was nothing for the eye to
dwell upon, barely endurable to look at. What interested me in her was her
wonderful shamelessness, the desperately full measure of calculated sin
which she had committed. She really occupied me too much, my brain was
absolutely inflated by this singular monstrosity of a creature, and I
worked for two hours, without a pause, at my drama. When I had finished
half-a score of pages, perhaps twelve, often with much effort, at times
with long intervals, in which I wrote in vain and had to tear the page in
two, I had become tired, quite stiff with cold and fatigue, and I arose
and went out into the street. For the last half-hour, too, I had been
disturbed by the crying of the children inside the family room, so that I
could not, in any case, have written any more just then. So I took a long
time up over Drammensveien, and stayed away till the evening, pondering
incessantly, as I walked along, as to how I would continue my drama.
Before I came home in the evening of this day, the following happened:
I stood outside a shoemaker's shop far down in Carl Johann Street, almost
at the railway square. God knows why I stood just outside this shoemaker's
shop. I looked into the window as I stood there, but did not, by the way,
remember that I needed shoes then; my thoughts were far away in other
parts of the world. A swarm of people talking together passed behind my
back, and I heard nothing of what was said. Then a voice greeted me
It was "Missy" who bade me good-evening! I answered at random, I looked at
him, too, for a while, before I recognized him.
"Well, how are you getting along?" he inquired.
"Oh, always well ... as usual."
"By the way, tell me," said he, "are you, then, still with Christie?"
"I thought you once said you were book-keeper at Christie's?"
"Ah, yes. No; that is done with. It was impossible to get along with that
fellow; that came to an end very quickly of its own accord."
"Well, I happened to make a mis-entry one day, and so--"
"A false entry, eh?"
False entry! There stood "Missy," and asked me straight in the face if I
had done this thing. He even asked eagerly, and evidently with much
interest. I looked at him, felt deeply insulted, and made no reply.
"Yes, well, Lord! that might happen to the best fellow," he said, as if to
console me. He still believed I had made a false entry designedly.
"What is it that, 'Yes, well, Lord! indeed might happen to the best
fellow'?" I inquired. "To do that. Listen, my good man. Do you stand there
and really believe that I could for a moment be guilty of such a mean
trick as that? I!"
"But, my dear fellow, I thought I heard you distinctly
"No; I said that I had made a mis-entry once, a bagatelle; if you want to
know, a false date on a letter, a single stroke of the pen wrong--that was
my whole crime. No, God be praised, I can tell right from wrong yet a
while. How would it fare with me if I were, into the bargain, to sully my
honour? It is simply my sense of honour that keeps me afloat now. But it
is strong enough too; at least, it has kept me up to date."
I threw back my head, turned away from "Missy," and looked down the
street. My eyes rested on a red dress that came towards us; on a woman at
a man's side. If I had not had this conversation with "Missy," I would not
have been hurt by his coarse suspicion, and I would not have given this
toss of my head, as I turned away in offence; and so perhaps this red
dress would have passed me without my having noticed it. And at bottom
what did it concern me? What was it to me if it were the dress of the Hon.
Miss Nagel, the lady-in-waiting? "Missy" stood and talked, and tried to
make good his mistake again. I did not listen to him at all; I stood the
whole time and stared at the red dress that was coming nearer up the
street, and a stir thrilled through my breast, a gliding delicate dart. I
whispered in thought without moving my lips:
Now "Missy" turned round also and noticed the
two--the lady and the man with her,--raised his
hat to them, and followed them with his eyes. I
did not raise my hat, or perhaps I did unconsciously.
The red dress glided up Carl Johann, and disappeared.
"Who was it was with her?" asked "Missy."
"The Duke, didn't you see? The so-called 'Duke.' Did you know the lady?"
"Yes, in a sort of way. Didn't you know her?"
"No," I replied.
"It appears to me you saluted profoundly enough."
"Ha, ha! perhaps you didn't," said "Missy." "Well, that is odd. Why, it
was only at you she looked, too, the whole time."
"When did you get to know her?" I asked. He did not really know her. It
dated from an evening in autumn. It was late; they were three jovial souls
together, they came out late from the Grand, and met this being going
along alone past Cammermeyer's, and they addressed her. At first she
answered rebuffingly; but one of the jovial spirits, a man who neither
feared fire nor water, asked her right to her face if he might not have
the civilized enjoyment of accompanying her home? He would, by the Lord,
not hurt a hair on her head, as the saying goes--only go with her to her
door, reassure himself that she reached home in safety, otherwise he could
not rest all night. He talked incessantly as they went along, hit upon one
thing or another, dubbed himself Waldemar Atterdag, and represented
himself as a photographer. At last she was obliged to laugh at this merry
soul who refused to be rebuffed by her coldness, and it finally ended by
his going with her.
"Indeed, did it? and what came of it?" I inquired; and I held my breath
for his reply.
"Came of it? Oh, stop there; there is the lady in question."
We both kept silent a moment, both "Missy" and I.
"Well, I'm hanged, was that 'the Duke'? So that's what he looks like," he
added, reflectively. "Well, if she is in contact with that fellow; well,
then, I wouldn't like to answer for her."
I still kept silent. Yes, of course "the Duke" would make the pace with
her. Well, what odds? How did it concern me? I bade her good-day with all
her wiles: a good-day I bade her; and I tried to console myself by
thinking the worst thoughts about her; took a downright pleasure in
dragging her through the mire. It only annoyed me to think that I had